I have to admit any time I see Dutch athletes, I always say, “Even the Dutch army don’t wear orange!” The Olympics is so fun!
Congratulations to all who guessed correctly on my round of Where to Invade Next! You guys are good!
Some Other Updates:
The Netherlands isn’t going to be a permanent solution. It’s the best option in the EU for now. The Netherlands has the Dutch American Friendship Treaty which is a good pathway into migrating to the EU. I guess you never know when one of your passports will come in handy. I want to get my EU citizenship back, and the Netherlands doesn’t allow dual nationality. While I am living there, I will be able to assess different countries in the EU that do allow dual nationality and move to one of them someday. It shouldn’t be too hard to get permanent residence in the EU either. They might take into account that we have lived in the EU (including pre-Brexit Britain) for about 15 years. So, we might get fast-tracked to permanent residence. We are building a strategy, but we know laws can change at the drop of a hat.
I can’t say for sure when we will be moving, but it will definitely be sometime this year. Additionally, my Mum needs a hip and knee replacement this year. We are going to go to another country to get it because there is no way my Mum can get that surgery in Canada. There is a two-year waitlist, which she can’t get on yet because we don’t qualify for healthcare and she can’t wait that long to get it.
We also found out even Canadian citizens have to pay about $28,000 CAD for orthopedic surgery. Note: Other surgeries in Canada are paid for through the healthcare system, but orthopedic surgery has recently changed. It’s the most expensive type of surgery and now requirements for paying for it out-of-pocket are being implemented. We met someone recently who had gone to Lithuania for a hip and knee replacement at a fraction of the price and two months after the surgery, he was walking in the snow and ice!
Another note: this information keeps changing and it’s what we have found out right now. So, don’t take it as the Alpha and the Omega.
Before I leave, I will do my best to finish my Parks Challenge. Additionally, I have a few other posts about Canada and expat/TCK life that I still want to do. I will also be doing posts on learning Dutch. I know that they learn English to a high level there, but so what? Moving to another country and not bothering to learn the language, or travelling without trying to learn some basic words and phrases of their language is rude. That’s a universal rule. Frankly, people like that get on my nerves and I question their upbringing.
Note: I am going to be honest about why we have had to leave. When I hear the Canadian government talking about how they want to welcome more immigrants, I laugh! There are problems on provincial and federal levels! We just got a survey from Statistics Canada about healthcare, and my Mum and I let them know if they want highly skilled migrants, they need to do a better job! Highly skilled migrants know how to compare countries and they will go elsewhere!
That being said, some of my readers seem to be under the impression that I don’t like Canada anymore. That’s absolutely not true! My emotions have been rather intense since concluding we had to move. It’s not the people or the culture that’s the problem. It’s immigration, healthcare and economic systems that are not in our favour. Although that seems to be true for anyone in Canada, regardless of whether they are citizens. I am going to come back to Canada for the eclipse in 2024, and for other things. Canada is one of my homes now, and I have no regrets at all about moving here!
Whew! I have a lot to say on this subject. Dealing with medical emergencies while abroad is one thing in life that I wish came with an instruction manual. I’m coming down from dealing with a medical emergency that happened right before I marked my first year in Canada. For those of you who don’t know what happened, my mother got appendicitis. I mentioned it in my One Year in Canada! post. What I haven’t talked about is that she had a rare complication a week after her appendectomy. Fortunately, she’s home and recovering well. Here’s my story, which I wanted to write while this was still fresh in my mind.
I will do another post or two on tips for current and prospective expats on dealing with emergencies while abroad. I wish I could provide a rulebook, but I hope sharing my stories and personal tips will help. My posts will also include tips for native-born citizens who want to know how best to support migrants when they are dealing with emergencies.
Please note, I am going to be brutally honest here because this subject is not often discussed. If you don’t wish to continue reading from here, I won’t hold it against you. Disclaimer: I will be discussing medical things and mental health problems that some people might find disturbing. That being said, if this post helps someone else through an emergency while they’re abroad, I will have done my job!
Some Relevant Things I want to Mention:
I had appendicitis a few years ago, and I still remember vividly how it presented. It was my first hospitalization experience and I had trauma to work through in counselling afterwards. I learned the hard way that you MUST go to the Emergency Room if you have abdominal pain! If you talk to anyone who has had appendicitis, you will see that they have an intense fear in their face. Appendicitis generally happens when you’re under 30 years old and it’s normally someone’s first hospitalization experience. It sure was with me, anyway. So, I’m not surprised to see people who are part of the Appendix Free Club look scared when they remember their experience.
A month ago, the hospitals in Alberta reached a breaking point with the Delta variant. They were short-staffed and the military and Red Cross were called in to help. Additionally, when Alberta introduced a proof of vaccination program, Covidiots were protesting outside hospitals! Fortunately, that was made illegal, but it wasn’t done out of concern for people on hospital premises. Anyone who wishes to rant about this in the comments, please do! Mum and I decided to be vigilant because we didn’t want to have to go to the ER under those circumstances.
How Things Started:
Canadian Thanksgiving was on October 11. Mum and I had a great day cooking and listening to music from Canadian singers while we worked. It perplexed me though that Mum didn’t feel like eating much. The next morning, Mum thought she had a stomach ulcer, but the things we tried didn’t work. Later that day, I called the nurse at our family practice for a phone assessment. When Mum said the words “abdominal pain” and described certain symptoms, a warning bell went off in my mind. Even though the situation in the hospitals had improved a bit, I felt like I needed to talk to the nurse before taking Mum to the ER for abdominal pain! Under normal circumstances, I would have taken her as soon as she said the words “abdominal pain” HANDS DOWN!
The nurse told me to take Mum to the ER and I asked her which one is best to go to, considering the circumstances. She assured me all the hospitals have super strict triage protocols. We almost felt bad for imposing on an already strained hospital system, even though it was a genuine emergency. When I took Mum to the ER, they told me I couldn’t go in with her because of COVID-19 protocols. I had a hunch Mum had appendicitis though, so I encouraged her to ask to be tested for it. She’s not in the normal age range for it, but it’s not unheard of for older people to get it. I have said many times though that appendicitis is a young person’s disease. This study says the same thing.
I know some older people who have had appendicitis and they have struggled with it or were misdiagnosed at first. That was not happening to my mother!
My hunch was correct! To be clear though, I have no medical background at all. I just have vivid memories of my own appendicitis experience. Plus, I have had a lot of conversations with others about appendicitis. We got the diagnosis late at night and Mum was in surgery the next day. I wanted to visit her, but I couldn’t. They would only allow me in if it was an hour before surgery, but we had no idea when that would happen. By now, my Fuck This Pandemic List was a mile long! I know we all have our lists these days, but I was so livid that I threw something across the room! That never happens. Let it be known that the Covidiots, who find new ways of acting entitled, took away my opportunity to be with my mother when she needed it most!
I was able to bring Mum home the same day she had surgery! Sometimes, things just work! I bought a cake for the ward that took care of Mum to thank them. If I said I was ecstatic, that would have been an understatement! I was proud of Mum for not only going through this but doing it during a pandemic when I couldn’t be there to hold her hand! There was a certain amount of guilt and flashbacks too. I have often said how grateful I am that I didn’t have appendicitis during the pandemic. I don’t know if I would have been able to deal with it. At this point, I was also hoping Mum wouldn’t have any complications because of the hospital situation. I threw myself into taking care of her and decided to deal with any mental health repercussions later.
Things Were Only Beginning
After Mum got home, we discussed whether we wanted my Dad to fly in to help out. Ultimately, we decided we didn’t need him to come unless something else went wrong. At first, things seemed okay, but there were some warning signs. I was confused about what to do sometimes, and Mum kept asking me questions about my own experience. I could tell she needed major reassurance. We called this 24-hour line where you can speak to a nurse, which, in retrospect, we did too early. A week after she came home from the hospital, we had to call our family practice nurse again. Mum mentioned something that set off a warning bell for me. Plus, our doctor calling us back didn’t help.
I spent the night trying to help her with the concerning thing. I knew if it didn’t work, it was back to the ER. The writing was on the wall though, because since she had got home, she had barely eaten and was tolerating liquids at first, but then that stopped. I was considering force-feeding her, if necessary. The dread I felt when Mum went back to the ER was penetrating. Mum tried to reassure me by saying, “Think of me just going to Banff for a weekend.” Or, “I likely will only be in the hospital for a day.” Somehow, I knew that wasn’t true. I felt terribly guilty like I had let her down.
The Next Day:
I was able to visit my Mum the next day for an hour. The nurse said the current diagnosis was a paralytic ileus and Mum had a nasogastric tube to drain her stomach and relax her digestive system. Yes, that is as bad as it sounds. Plus, she couldn’t wear a mask. Surgery was a possible treatment option, but we didn’t know if that was necessary. Mum was super happy to see me! It did us both good to see each other. I asked her if I should tell Dad to fly in to help us, and she said yes. I was already about to tell my Dad we needed him anyway, but I wanted to make sure Mum wanted it too. As soon as I left the hospital, I called my Dad and told him to come as soon as possible.
Later on, Dad said that he would arrive in two days and stay for a week. He had the option of extending it if he needed to. I started counting down the hours until I saw him again! He called me later to tell me he had a problem getting a required travel COVID-19 test before flying though. Apparently, it’s hard to get COVID-19 tests for travel at such short notice. For a minute, we thought Dad would have to change his flight. I contacted my friends in my TCK group and one of them told me that SFO was doing rapid COVID-19 tests that met the requirements for international travel. After grumbling about the fact that SFO charges a premium on their travel tests, Dad decided to go with that. As he said, “They wear you down into paying the costs.”
Then, It Got Serious:
I went to see Mum the next day. She had a CT scan and was awaiting the results. She seemed emotionally better, especially after seeing me the previous day, but I was concerned that physically, there was no change. I hoped the CT scan would give us an answer. She seemed happy when I told her Dad would be coming in less than 30 hours. She knew what I was up against with logistical problems, so she encouraged me to prepare for Dad’s arrival and pick him up at the airport. By the time I left the hospital, I knew I wouldn’t be seeing her the next day. So, I said a variation of Mama Imelda’s line from Coco, “Mum, I give you my blessing to get better, be strong, and never NEVER forget how much your family loves you!”
There were some nice things that happened that day. I called my Dad in the afternoon to update him, and our neighbour was over talking to him about looking after the cat, so I talked to her too. Later on, my aunt surprised me with a phone call! We talked for about half an hour. That made my day! She and Mum email each other frequently, and she got worried when she didn’t hear from Mum for a week.
I was happy for a while, and then Dad called the hospital that night. They found out Mum had a hernia and she was about to have emergency surgery! Then, everything good about the day came crashing down around me.
An Emotional Day and The Worst Night:
That day was a super emotional day. I had been hiding my feelings behind a wall for so long, and then it broke like the Oroville Dam. Before I saw my Mum, I had a chiropractic adjustment and then started crying. One of the receptionists at the chiropractic office gave me a hug. At this point, I was like, “To hell with COVID-19! I NEED a hug!”
That afternoon, I didn’t know how to feel about seeing my Dad again after a year apart. I watched YouTube clips from movies about kids seeing their parents again after such a long time apart. I needed some tearjerkers. The one that REALLY got me going though was a music video from one of my favourite bands. It’s SO TCK!
To those of you who are either experiencing an emergency while abroad or have done so, this music video is for you!
I went to bed knowing my Mum was having a life-saving operation. I had questions floating around my head and I was shivering. Even though I had tried everything in my anxiety toolkit, it got to the point nothing worked. I was alone in a foreign country worried that I would get a call from the hospital in the middle of the night. My sleep was interrupted by panic attacks. At 3:30 in the morning, a few of my friends in my TCK group were having a call and I jumped on. I am not the only one in that group that’s been going through something lately. So, we all just talked and held space for each other. I don’t know what I would do without that group sometimes! Once I hung up, I was able to get some sleep.
When I woke up, I called the hospital. I told my Dad to call me from SFO so I could give him an update on Mum. When the nurse spoke to me in a happy voice and told me Mum was stable and recovering well, I was fighting back tears of joy! She had made it! They were going to take the nasogastric tube out later! YAYY!! I also talked to Mum and she was already sounding better. I told her to sleep and that I would visit her the next day at the hospital, possibly with Dad!
Mum told me to get some treats at our favourite patisserie for the ward and the surgical team that saved her life! I did it without hesitation! You would not know that the hospital staff were under so much pressure with COVID-19! Any time my Mum said that she or I were vaccinated, the response was always, “Thank you!” EVERY. SINGLE. TIME! Whenever Mum felt right, she would always have words of gratitude for her healthcare heroes. They truly ARE heroes doing what they do during a global pandemic and being screwed by the institutions they work for and people who deny there is a pandemic! I don’t have the words to say how grateful I am to the heroes that saved my Mum’s life!
I did a dance for joy and suddenly had a burst of energy for the rest of the day! It was quite a coincidence that it happened the same day that my Dad was due to arrive. I happily relayed the news to Dad when he was at SFO and told him I would meet him at YYC! Then I set to work preparing for his arrival.
A Note about Logistical Problems:
Every emergency has logistical problems. I had to plan my day when I called the hospital in the morning. I had some logistical problems with getting to the hospital. When you’re a caregiver, time is of the essence, so I would Uber there. I didn’t even have the bandwidth to check public transport options. Plus, the first time we went to the hospital, we had to go on one of Calgary’s famous trails. The trails are connecting roads in the city, which turn into mini-freeways. I find using public transport to be difficult when trails are involved. Either you get windy routes or infrequent service. That’s not good if you’re a caregiver. Every day, I wondered if Mum going to have surgery, or if I would be bringing her home. If either of those answers was “Yes”, I wouldn’t visit her.
I didn’t know if I was going to get my Dad from the airport until the morning of his arrival. I didn’t know if I would be visiting Mum the same day Dad arrived or have other stuff to do for her on top of preparing for Dad’s arrival. By the time my Dad arrived, I had been in limbo and running on empty for over 10 days, even before Mum went back to the hospital. I didn’t know if I was going to be ready for Dad to arrive either. Fortunately, Dad said that if I didn’t have everything done, he would help me when he got there! The relief!
Ready or Not:
Thank goodness for that burst of energy that I got that morning! I had less than 8 hours to set up our small apartment to fit another person before I had to leave for the airport! Mum and I were planning to do a massive clean of the apartment, but then she got sick. So, I had to improvise, find stuff that I needed in the weirdest places in the house, stress over whether we had too many plastic bags, and move everything to a convenient location.
Meanwhile, I kept checking the time, my text and email messages, and the real-time flight tracker. I kept making sure I had the route to and from the airport planned out. It rained the whole day and I was hoping it would clear up before Dad got here! No such luck. I tried to rest because I had time to do so. Nope. Too excited and wondering what would happen to have Dad here. Finally, it was time to leave.
I took two buses to get to the airport and whenever I was at a certain point in my journey, I would take a guess on where Dad was flying over. That’s one excuse to keep looking at a flight tracker, I guess.
When I got to YYC:
I hadn’t been to the international terminal before. I had arrived at the domestic terminal when I moved to Calgary because of doing a layover in Vancouver. Therefore, I had to take a photo of this beautiful glass sculpture of the Canadian Rockies! It calmed me a bit too. I had a certain amount of nerves about seeing my Dad again. Fortunately, I was texting with my friend Hilary Tan from Sereneluna! I want to give her an extra special shoutout for her unconditional support during this time! At one point, I said, “Fuck COVID! I’m hugging my Dad!” She said, “Do it!” I am so grateful for you continuing to check in on me and being there to text whenever, Hilary!
PSA for international travellers! Even if this might not be applicable to every travel situation, take note! I had told my Dad that I would meet him at the baggage area, but when I got to YYC, they had a COVID-19 testing line and I couldn’t go past it. At the time, I didn’t know what that was for since they don’t even let you on the plane if you don’t have the required tests to enter a country. I kept hoping, “Dad! Please put two and two together here!” Fortunately, he did because I saw him in the line to go past security. I jumped and waved to make sure he saw me! When he saw me, he told me he had been selected randomly for a COVID-19 test. Because of course, he did. I hung around all irritated that I had to wait to greet my Dad properly.
I gave Dad an extra long hug!!! And then on the way home, we didn’t stop talking. We were like the magpies we feed every morning having their little corvid party… Lol. It was getting dark as we left the airport, but I was still able to point out a few things, like Chinatown and the Calgary Tower. Dad insisted on calling it the Space Needle. Oh well, we’ll get there, eventually. It was after 8 pm when we got home. When I called Mum in the hospital, I told her no, even with today’s technology, I didn’t do a three-way voice call using my cell phone and our home phone with Dad. He was really here! Even though it was a long day, I still had to go over living logistics with Dad. We relaxed with the first two episodes of Schitt’s Creek before going to bed.
Mum said later on that she was moved to a private room before surgery. She had tested positive for MRSA. The room overlooked the city and the night Dad arrived, she felt well enough to watch the sunset. She watched the time knowing that Dad was arriving and I was picking him up at the airport. Somehow I knew that Mum was there with us in spirit. That was a tissue moment when we shared that!
Visiting the Hospital… With A Twist
Dad was able to visit Mum with me! They asked him a few more questions at the screening area and he had to show his documentation. I also brought the treats that Mum told me to get. I got a lemon meringue tart, a box of 24 macarons and some little boxes of chocolates at my favourite patisserie! When I dropped them off at the nurses’ station, the looks on their faces were priceless! I also told them to pass some on to the surgical team that saved Mum’s life. I wasn’t allowed to hug Mum because of the MRSA, but I was happy to see her eating and looking MUCH better! There was talk of her being discharged the next day!
Then, I told Mum I had a surprise for her and went to get Dad. We were only allowed on the ward one at a time. I let them catch up for a while. In the last ten minutes, I talked to Mum and she told me why she was in emergency surgery. Apparently, her bowel had got into the area where they had removed the appendix and started twisting. It’s a rare complication that has only happened four times in the history of the hospital! The surgeon that saved Mum’s life said he had only seen it once before.
Dad said he was able to walk around and see the views from the hospital. There was the city on one end and the Canadian Rockies on the other. I knew he couldn’t leave without seeing that! He’s SUCH a Montana boy! When I shared the photos below with my friends, they asked me if the hospital rents out rooms!
Mum’s Finally Home!
I was able to get Mum the next day! I felt like I was about to explode! When I was pushing her in the wheelchair out of the hospital, I calmed down though. As my Dad said once when he was pushing me in a hospital wheelchair, “Let’s try not to break any speed records here!” I added another phrase to use when going into an elevator, “Excuse me, precious cargo here!” I didn’t get to use it this time though.
For the next 5 days, Dad helped me out with whatever major chores I needed help with and tag-teamed with me on caregiving duties. Whenever we had some quiet time, we either watched Schitt’s Creek or slept! We managed to get through all six seasons of Schitt’s Creek before Dad left! I can’t tell you how grateful I was that Dad dropped everything and came to help out! He could only stay a week though because our cat is living with him and she gets separation anxiety if we leave her too long. There are times I wish he could have stayed longer though. We’re still exhausted from this experience, and I estimate that it’s going to be at least a month before my Mum even starts feeling normal again.
We’re getting to the point though that people assume we aren’t struggling anymore. In reality, we still have problems. When you’re going through an emergency, people who normally give you toxic positivity cool it for a bit, but then when the danger ends, it resumes. People ask me if I have any fun plans coming up, and I say not for a month at least and move on. That being said, I am still super grateful for the outpouring of love I have got from family and friends!
I wanted to give a shoutout to my TCK community at TCK Global and my followers here and on Instagram for their support and love! I know I said I am taking a break, but I wanted to write this post and share it with you all.
One important thing I forgot to say is when my Dad was visiting the hospital, he was enjoying the views from an empty room. He told me that someone had defaced a patient whiteboard with comments such as “Lies, lies, lies!” and “Covid is a hoax!” Now that you have read my story, look me in the eye and tell me that! If you had seen our healthcare heroes go out of their way for their patients to give them quality care despite being screwed by Institution X and Covidiots, you would have more respect for them than ever! You would not know they were under so much pressure and risk. I may never meet the people who saved my mother’s life, but my gratitude for them will stay with me forever!
What was even more touching was giving the ward and surgical team treats to say thank you. Mum said that after I did that, the surgeon who saved her life came up to personally thank her! Apparently, the box of macarons went to the surgical team and the ward had the cake. I don’t know who got the chocolates. As Mum says, “It’s not every day when someone saves your life.”
To those of you who are struggling with a medical emergency while living abroad, my heart goes out to you. I hope this post gives you strength and peace.
Hey everyone! I just wanted to say before starting this post that I have had trouble with my self-hosted website system. So, thanks to those who have notified me about not being able to interact on my blog. I will be switching to a new host soon, so bear with me! Fingers crossed it works out this time!
This is a continuation of my posts on expat finances. I am learning a lot as I go, especially now that I’m an adult and have more financial responsibility than I did when I previously moved to another country. See my previous post Finances: Part I- The Basics for my first post on this subject. Now, without further ado, let’s bust these money taboos!
I was really young with my first two international moves. However, when I was old enough, my parents told me stories of their money experiences while transitioning and adjusting to a new culture.
When I repatriated to the US, things were relatively easy for me. I didn’t have assets in the UK, so I decided to move all my money to the US. Additionally, the exchange rates were favourable between the US Dollar and the Pound Sterling at that time.
Financially Transitioning to A New Country:
There is a common misconception that Third Culture Kids are wealthy because of their mobile lifestyle. Family wealth is not always a factor in being able to move overseas. There are a variety of factors that make a mobile lifestyle possible. Companies can pay expenses for transitioning overseas, and include other perks for expats, so that’s a big deal. Additionally, it depends on where you are moving and how you move. Believe me, moving across an ocean and most, or all of another country can really compound the costs of moving. Plus, everyone’s situation is different, and people handle money differently.
As an example, I had to cancel my cell phone number in England before I moved. So far, I have been able to keep my US number while living in Canada. I had to upgrade my cell phone plan to allow calls within Canada and also be able to call the US when I have needed to do so. My initial plan was to change to a Canadian cell phone number after a month. However, Canada has some of the most expensive cell phone plans of any country, and I still have to make calls to the US now and then. I decided to keep my US cell phone number for a little while until I feel more financially stable.
Open A Bank Account Before or After Moving?
That’s a critical decision. When I moved to the US, there was no urgent need for me to have money there, so I waited until after I moved to open a bank account. However, with moving to Canada during the pandemic, I knew that I would have to quarantine for two weeks and I needed to be sure I had a bank account there. My Mum decided to wait to open one until after we arrived.
I bank with HSBC, so I was able to set up a bank account in Canada to be ready for when I got there. I had to go through an application and setup process that took some time, but it was worth it. Plus, I was able to sort out any problems before I moved! On the other hand, I couldn’t get a debit card for the account until I had arrived in Canada. After quarantine, I had to go to my branch to sign a couple more papers, and then I could get a debit card.
We realized later that I had the right idea all along. Additionally, we learned that the finances with moving to another country never really end, and it’s too much for one person to bear. Mum decided to take on extra tasks with moving so that I would have more bandwidth to deal with the finances. The reason why the situation ultimately worked out was that my Mum and I communicate well.
Striking A Balance:
When you’re in transition, it’s not a time to cut corners. If you need to pay for something, suck it up and do it! I’ve had to pay more for my US cell phone plan, but so what? It works here in Canada and that’s all I ask! Plus, in my Quarantine Diaries Week 1 and Week 2, I talked about my Mum and I not getting our mattresses from Overstock. I caved and ordered them from Amazon because we had been sleeping on the floor for NINE days! We needed mattresses so badly we didn’t care about buying them again. Overstock delivered the mattresses a month later.
At the same time, unimportant costs can add up. As I said in my Finances Part I post, you are one decision away from making a financial mistake. I learned over the years to save any potential discounts for a time when I might really need them. There is no better time to use discounts than doing an international move.
Want to know how much it cost me and my Mum to fly from San Francisco to Calgary via Vancouver? Nothing. We saved our credit card points for a time we really needed them. Of course, I offset our carbon emissions, and I was happy to put a little money towards it. My attitude was, “Sorry Mother Earth! I know you’re hurting, but my Mum and I need to get out of a crappy situation! Here’s a little something for you to say thanks.”
What You Need to Get Settled:
Again, it depends on your personal circumstances. You need to decide how much furniture you need to get and whether you actually need it. If your place is already furnished, great!
Sometimes, you can’t know what you need until you actually get there. My Mum and I had to buy PROPER winter clothes when we arrived. When my Mum was talking about getting winter clothes in California, I said, “You don’t go to California to get winter clothes.” Get what I mean?
Additionally, you have to get used to what shops are around when you move to a new country. I had to ask a Canadian friend what the difference is between Canadian Tire and Home Depot. Plus, when I discovered Co-ops in Calgary, I felt like a kid in a candy store! It was the best Co-op I had ever seen! Your general daily expenses are not going to settle until you decide where you like to shop and for what.
A Note on Healthcare:
Getting used to a new country’s medical system is something you need to budget for! Different countries have different rules for when new immigrants qualify for healthcare. That is if they have a government healthcare system.
In the UK, it took about a year to qualify for healthcare. Although, from what I saw with my family and friends, they don’t give quality healthcare to new immigrants until they have paid taxes for a while. In the US, you have to pay ALL medical bills until you get insurance! You absolutely MUST read the fine print of what your insurance covers! Plus, medical costs there are sneaky! You learn a lot of soft skills to save money on healthcare costs. For example, I decided early on what hospital I would want to go to if I had an emergency. I was certain of their quality care, but they didn’t charge me any out-of-pocket costs for using their resources like a hospital gown, or soap. It pisses me off that hospitals charge unreasonable costs that your insurance doesn’t cover!
How I feel when I hear about being absurdly overcharged for out-of-pocket costs:
Canada has a law that you cannot enter without health insurance. Plus, you have to live there a minimum of six months and one day to qualify for their government healthcare. That system works well because it’s a good time to get acquainted with a healthcare system before you qualify for care.
There are Cultural Ways of Dealing with M0ney:
You CANNOT ignore this! Countries will have different ways of banking, managing and transferring money and you have to work with it. It can feel overwhelming at times.
Before my Mum and I moved to Canada, we had to put a deposit on our new apartment. The landlord told us how to send the money, but at first, I didn’t understand the instructions. I thought it was a simple wire transfer and the instructions didn’t make sense. Google didn’t help too much when I tried to find “what does ______ mean??” I figured because my ISP was in the US, I couldn’t access it.
Eventually, I figured out the banking feature I had to use was called Interac eTransfer. Even though I had my Canadian bank account, I hadn’t really explored the features since I was busy moving. Then, I suddenly had to do a rent deposit and I was FREAKING OUT!!!! Plus, it seemed counterintuitive to me that there is actually a banking feature that doesn’t charge you fees for using it?! What kind of a country IS this where they don’t charge you for every banking service you use?! After a failed attempt at the Interac eTransfer the first time, I was going to blow like a volcano! Finally, I found a page on HSBC Canada about Interac eTransfer that explained it.
Mum said, “you’re going to love this service someday!” She was right. There was so much stress the first time, but now I love it! Now, I look back on this story and laugh. That story is another reason why I was glad to open a Canadian bank account before I moved there. I don’t know what I would have done about the deposit if I didn’t have a Canadian bank account!
Bottom line: It takes a MINIMUM of a few grand per person to get settled in a new country. The more you move to a new country, the better you get at making financial decisions. Mistakes don’t completely go away, but you’re less likely to make a serious one if you go by past precedent.
Additionally, it was a lovely surprise to find the best French patisserie in Calgary. Whenever someone does something nice for me or my Mum we get a box of macarons. When you’re an expat, you need a lot of help, and it’s really touching when people come through for you. There’s no better reward than seeing their faces light up when we give them macarons. You’re probably asking, “You have money for that?” The answer, “Yes, I have money for that.” I’m new here, and I’m building connections. Sometimes, I have moved and really been thrown into the deep end because people weren’t willing to help. Canadians are among the most generous people I have had the pleasure of living with, and I have given out a lot of boxes of macarons to say thank you!
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with what I have to say about finances as an expat?
In mid-November, I got a library card at the Calgary Public Library! One way I feel like I’m really settling in somewhere is when I’m at the point I can get a library card! Because of COVID, I can’t go to any in-person events they have, or volunteer. However, they do have some online events I can participate in. The first event I participated in was the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival. They showed a movie every day, and at the end of the movie, they interviewed one of the people behind the creation of the movie. Here are the movies they showed for the week, as well as my personal commentary on it.
Warning: Contains spoilers!
Content Warning: War, enslavement, animal harm, rape, displaced people, AIDS.
This movie struck a lot of personal chords with me, especially because I’m new to Canada. They interviewed Vietnam and Iraq War veterans who sought refugee status in Canada to escape the draft (for Vietnam) or resist the horrors of war. The Vietnam War veterans had better luck with their refugee status than the Iraq War veterans.
During the Harper Administration, some Iraq War veterans were deported and had to spend months in prison under inhumane conditions. The movie talks honestly about the struggles Iraq War veterans faced with their immigration and the ensuing social activism to protect them. There are some things that I don’t feel I am in a position to comment on at this time.
I want to give a shout-out to the fact that social activists mentioned a lot of these veterans are LGBTQIA+. Additionally, the movie showed what the Vietnam veterans have been doing to contribute to Canadian society. A majority of them ran for office, and one of them is a judge who advocates for Indigenous communities. Of course, one of the veterans couldn’t be interviewed because he had severe PTSD, but you felt sympathetic about it.
The movie ended by saying that tens of thousands of US citizens moved to Canada in 2017 after Trump got elected. I know I moved later, but it still hit me hard that so many US citizens feel the same way I do. I think this movie is honest in talking about the past. Plus, it makes you think about what Canada can do to help US citizens who have recently emigrated and don’t feel they can repatriate.
I think the parts that resonated with me the most were how the veterans talked about adjusting to life in Canada. My own adjustment period has been up and down emotionally, particularly because I’m detoxing from a toxic country. Like those vets, I feel less American as time goes on. It gave me hope though that I will adjust. I’m determined to have a life like those Vietnam vets! I will become a productive citizen and give back to a country that I love that welcomed me when I needed it!
Servitude, or Servidão, is about human trafficking in Brazil. It was a thoughtful and thorough examination of Brazil’s history. Apparently, it was legal to keep those of African descent enslaved in Brazil decades after other countries had made it illegal. After enslaving people became illegal, corporations in Brazil found a way to keep millions of citizens working below poverty wages. Not only does this keep people in poverty, but those people are under orders to do tasks that destroy the rainforest, which creates its own social issues. Human trafficking clearly needs to be part of the discussions on how to stop deforesting the Amazonian rainforest. Now, I realize that stopping deforestation is much easier said than done.
Fortunately, there were organizations that resisted human trafficking and got millions of people out of enslaved labour. Unfortunately, when the far-right government was elected a few years ago, people were being trafficked again.
There was an interview with the director, and they asked him what he thought of the history of enslaved people in the USA compared to Brazil. I think he answered it as best he could, but he definitely got a couple of facts wrong. I also think it was an unfair question because I could tell from his answer that Brazilians know just as much about the US as Americans do about Brazil. I think more than anything, this movie showed the importance of understanding a country’s history before judging them for issues like destroying the rainforest. After all, several wise people have said those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.
This movie showed sockeye salmon are being overfished and illegally poached. It explained how large corporations that fish the salmon and poachers affect the ecosystem of the Kamchatka peninsula and the livelihoods of local fishermen. The group that filmed the movie do a lot of education and outreach to the citizens of the Kamchatka peninsula, particularly the children. I wasn’t too familiar with the issue of disrupting salmon migrations and how it affects local ecosystems. The person they interviewed at the end was a biologist in British Columbia who studies the effects of disrupting salmon migrations and climate change. She was brutally honest about the fact that farmed fish is not a good solution to the problem of overfishing and declining salmon populations.
The International AIDS Conference started in Durban, South Africa in 2000. Mass advocacy for universal access to AIDS treatment started then and continues to this day. The movie interviewed five people who are on the front line of advocating for universal access to healthcare in South Africa, Guinea, Spain, India and Hungary. The activists spoke honestly of the social stigma of AIDS and what social structures are affecting access to healthcare. I felt the saddest thing was in South Africa, women are highly likely to become infected with HIV by the time they are 16 because they are more likely to be raped by that age.
Additionally, US drug companies are withholding their newest treatments and finding ways to defund healthcare systems in other countries. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely surprised by that because I know what is happening with England’s healthcare system. The movie basically sent the message that citizens need to start advocating to keep their country’s healthcare systems providing equal access to quality healthcare.
This movie was another one that I got a lot of feels about because my university was in Oakland. The movie talks about how the racial and ethnic diversity in Oakland has given the city its unique identity. The community worked with artists who wished to celebrate that identity on a massive mural. After the mural was painted, some Karen decided to protest it by having a temper tantrum at city officials and media. Additionally, gentrification started happening because of tech workers moving into Oakland. The mural was one of the driving forces behind the movement against gentrification.
When I was at university, the activism against gentrification was in full swing. I have seen the mural with my own eyes, and it’s one of those things that I like to stop and admire and consider the messages behind it. I had to leave my campus quite suddenly because my classes went online last March thanks to the pandemic. I do miss Oakland, and I am keeping up to date on what’s going on there with the anti-gentrification movement.
Never Going Back or Para No Volver is about this Honduran family with two girls who seek asylum in Mexico. It was an honest portrayal of culture shock and missing your home. I admit though, I had to stop watching it at one point. The family tries to enter the USA and they know they risk being separated. Anyone who has read my past posts knows how I feel about those deplorable Trump Administration policies that separate families, so I won’t repeat it.
Indebted to All Women or En Deuda con Todas is about the social effects of El Salvador’s laws restricting access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. Many women are interviewed in this movie who have done time for having babies who were stillborn. They were prosecuted for killing their babies when in reality, their bodies were just doing their job. These women almost died themselves giving birth but the law completely ignored that. Additionally, the lack of access to sexual and reproductive healthcare has disproportionately affected low-income girls and women. More girls get pregnant because they were raped and the rate at which they are raped is disgustingly high! This movie is another example of expanding equal access to women’s reproductive healthcare that must include ending rape culture and toxic masculinity. From Durban to Tomorrow had the same theme.
Overall, I think the festival did an excellent job of showing documentaries that covered a range of social issues. These movies made you think about how they were relevant to other countries, not just the ones portrayed. Since these documentaries are portraying stories of human suffering, I think they were tactful and respectful in their interviews, visuals and information. I have seen documentaries and TV shows that weren’t so respectful and I don’t think that’s an effective way to help your audience learn. Disturbing things can turn your audience off and documentaries can walk a fine line with portraying their subjects. I find documentaries that decide what are the points of the movie, portray their points clearly, succinctly and respectfully, and then move onto the next point are more effective in helping me learn about what’s going on. I have seen gory and disrespectful portrayals in documentaries and shows that just keep making the same point over and over. That makes me think, “Was that necessary?” Ultimately, I would find another way to learn about the subject.
Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised that the film festival had a clip of Land Acknowledgment before every movie. I have noticed Land Acknowledgment is more of a thing here in Canada. I didn’t even know what Land Acknowledgment was until 2018 when I transferred to university. My university did Land Acknowledgment during their ceremonies. Apart from that, I never noticed it at all during my time in California. I think the prevalence of Land Acknowledgement in an area or region is a sign of the prominence of social activism. I’m not saying things are perfect, but I am saying there is more of a respect for social activism when you see little things, such as practices like Land Acknowledgment.
Overall, I think the festival had a great selection of movies that covered a wide range of issues. I also noticed this festival is only a few years old. I found movies they have shown in previous years. If I can’t find them online, I will make a point of watching them once I can watch DVDs again.
If you are interested in seeing what movies were shown in the previous years, please click the following links:
I have been here a month now, and the most common question I ask myself is, “Is this a thing?” I ask myself that because it’s surprising to me, not because I think it’s good or bad. Then, I try and find out if it is a thing and I withhold judgement until I have more information! Here are some things I have experienced living here that have made me ask that question and the answers I have got. I’m probably going to be asking myself that question a lot for a while at least. So, if anyone has anything to contribute to my possible “things” please let me know in the comments!
On a different note, I have been making changes on my page because I’m going independent. If you’re having problems with my interacting on my blog, please let me know either in the comments or through my contact page. Bear with me please with this transition!
What I have noticed about Canadian TV shows is that they are very real and don’t have that in-your-face that US TV shows and movies have. Every country puts its stamp on their TV shows, and I like the personal and transparent aspect of Canadian TV shows. I fell in love with English comedies while living in London. They will always have a special place in my heart!
I was pleasantly astounded that Schitt’s Creek put LGBTQIA+ representation front and centre of their show! No wonder they have won several awards for that! As much as I would love to see that happen with US TV shows, I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon, since conservatives have quite the grip on media.
I have got some good recommendations for other Canadian shows, so I’m looking forward to seeing more of them in the future! I have found TV shows and entertainment are an excellent gateway to understanding a culture. Plus, right now, I can learn a lot about how people speak and spell words here in Canada. At this time, I am a little overwhelmed with that considering I am already fluent in both American English and English English and I’m trying to figure out how and when to relate to which dialect or when to abandon the rules with both dialects completely with Canadian English.
Currently, I am watching movies from the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival, which I can do for free through my local library. I will write a post on that later. Right now, I’m still trying to find out what’s a “thing” with Canadian TV and movies, but I’ll get there!
I’m in love with the food here! I discovered the joys of the Co-op and Cal & Gary’s my first day out of quarantine! Still exploring what they have to offer at this point, but I’m hooked! I’m really into organic, local and ethically sourced foods since I’m a trained chef, and it appeals to my French side. I know this sounds crazy, but it doesn’t feel like the food is slowly killing you here because corporations get away with putting SO much crap in it! I know a few things about Canadian laws on food and trade with the US, but I’m still learning about it. Frankly, I think the fact that the US just lets corporations do whatever they want makes the population more unhealthy, even if you personally take care of yourself. Plus, giving corporations free rein strips people of their livelihoods, and that’s one of the things that has lead to that orange baboon being in the White House for four years. I told my Mum that and she hadn’t thought about that, but she thinks I’m right.
It was a weird thing to realize that you can’t get completely cold water from the cold water tap! I have lived in Colorado, where the pipes would freeze sometimes, but you could still get cold water. I joked with my Mum that the tepid water from the cold tap is like the tepidarium in Roman baths!
Winter Infrastructure and Lifestyle:
I used to take my water bottle everywhere with me back in California. It helped with getting my required 2L per day of liquid to carry it around. Now, there is no way I can take it with me without the water freezing, so I have to drink as much as I can before and after I go out! I also started drinking 2.5L of water a day because of the dry climate. Additionally, I have been using lotion and chapstick a lot more! Every store I go into has Burt’s Bees chapstick, and I can see it’s for a good reason.
I can tell if it has snowed during the night because someone comes by with a snowblower at about 6:30 am and it’s loud and stinky! Worst alarm clock EVER! It makes me pull the blankets over my head and hope I fall back to sleep!
I’m doing fine acclimatizing to subzero temperatures, and so far, I have learned how to deal with -10 C ish pretty well! I come alive whenever there is snow! I have missed that feeling after living in California and London. Lately, I heard that California is getting “cold”, so I created a meme. Basically, no one in the US is getting any sympathy from me when they say it’s cold! There are a few exceptions, but this meme sums me up pretty well.
Most of all, I love taking walks in the winter weather and seeing other people taking walks and enjoying the outdoors. Life seems more deliberate here, unlike the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley, which is a recipe for burnout, and why people are doing a mass exodus of the Bay Area.
I could write an entire post about winter lifestyle here (including what I see when I take a walk), but so far, I just want to mention those few things. More later!
I wanted to say a few things to follow up on my post about Remembrance Day. First of all, I noticed on Remembrance Day a nearby flag was flying at half-mast. I got this feeling that I have only ever had in England whenever I saw Armistice Day customs. It’s a feeling of realization that it really was world wars you’re talking about here.
Additionally, I was outside the day before Remembrance Day. When I passed the monument to an unknown soldier, I noticed a flame burning and people laying a poppy wreath. I smiled respectfully to myself and lowered my head as another memory of England cropped up. I went to that memorial again when I visited a local library. I saw the eternal flame burning and took some photos of the memorial with the poppy wreaths. I definitely felt an overwhelming sense of nostalgia for England, and also a realization that Canadians really love their country!
The US doesn’t fly the flag at half-mast on November 11. The US used to call November 11 Armistice Day, like in England, but they changed it. My Mum remembers when that happened, and my grandparents were really upset with the name change. To them, it was a slap in the face to get rid of a name that signified the termination of The War to End All Wars. It’s like changing the name made the US forget about the sacrifice during the World Wars and isolated themselves further from the world. My Mum told me to NEVER forget that the US did that, and I promised her I never will!
After my mandatory 2 week quarantine upon arrival, it was weird for me to go outside and find out how many places have successfully reopened with COVID measures in place! I avoided stores like the plague back in California. I only went to Costco a few times in the seven months we were on lockdown. I trust a lot of stores here in Calgary since they are transparent about what they are doing about COVID procedures.
When I was in Safeway and found that they have arrows on the floor to indicate where to go, I was like, “Wait, WHAT?” 😮 I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. It was just inconceivable to me that stores would do that. I have had to get used to that though and be conscious about it. I was at the Co-op the other day and it slipped my mind briefly to check the arrows, and I got told off before going down an aisle in the wrong direction. I deserved that. Now, my Mum and I keep reminding each other to watch the arrows until it becomes routine. Lately, there have been some more restrictions, so I can see businesses are being more careful, and I’m completely willing to respect that!
Additionally, when I found out I could subscribe to updates to restrictions on the Alberta government website and there’s a contact tracing app, it blew my mind! 😮Can you blame me after coming from a country whose COVID response is nothing short of pathetic?
Overall, I feel I can relax a bit here when it comes to COVID. Cases have been going up in Alberta recently, so we are still careful when we go outside. When we left California, we figured out that you basically can’t go outside without being borderline paranoid anymore. So, I had a bit of paranoia at first when I went out for the first few times in Calgary, but a bit of perspective has helped. I go out more often than I did back in California, especially since it’s more of a necessity as a preventative measure for Seasonal Affective Disorder. I still have no idea how it’s going to affect me yet since I had it really bad in England! Plus, it’s a nice treat after being among the good people in the USA who have been sheltering in place for seven months and staying disease-free! Note: I’m NOT getting complacent though! The last thing I want is COVID!
If you have seen my Quarantine Diaries posts, you will know I was amazed to find black squirrels here! I have seen more city wildlife since then, like rabbits and magpies. Whenever I go for a walk in the park, the rabbits come right up to me! I have noticed people feeding them, so I get why they are tame. One of our friends did warn us that rabbits are pests in Canada, so I’m not so sure about feeding them until I know for sure that it’s a thing. The rabbits kind of remind me of the squirrels at UC Berkeley. The squirrels there are just as tame and they know the students give them nuts. When I did a summer class there, I always had nuts on hand for the squirrels. Plus, those squirrels are the subject of many UC Berkeley memes, beside bears.
I haven’t seen so many magpies since England! There’s a superstition on how many magpies you see, “One for sorrow. Two for joy. Three for a girl. Four for a boy.” I gave up on that superstition though because I see so many lone magpies here, I’m just like, “Whatever!” Still, there are three magpies that frequent the front and backyard. We call one of them Belle and the other two are clearly a couple, so we call them Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie since they strut around like they’re a celebrity couple!
We have started putting birdseed out for the birds since we know from living in England that not a lot of animals make it through the winter, and England’s climate is less harsh than Canada’s.
The other day, I was walking home and it was snowing, and I saw SO many rabbits out! It makes me wonder if they go and grab as much food as possible when it starts snowing! Thing, or not a thing? 🤔
Disclaimer: This is just my own personal experience so far!
I have successfully resumed my chronic pain treatment and it’s been going so well! One of my observations is that there are so many chiropractic centres around here. Clearly, chiropractic has more recognition as a healthcare profession in Canada. In the US, I have had some bad experiences with chiropractic care, and even the good chiropractors aren’t at the same level as chiropractors in Canada. Legally, chiropractors can’t diagnose your problems in the US. Additionally, even though I have had some good chiropractors in the US, the care didn’t provide any more than just occasional pain relief. My treatment and care recommendations have been sticking more than before, which is great!
Additionally, I went to the dentist since I needed a check-up and a problem that needed attention. It was the most thorough appointment I have ever had! The hygienist saw me before the dentist did (it’s the other way around in the US). I got some excellent oral care tips from the hygienist, which was also a first! The dentist explained possible steps in my care very well. I understand that a good dentist is a good dentist, and maybe that would have happened where I was getting care before, but who knows?
Diversity and Representation:
I grew up in a multicultural neighbourhood in London, and the diversity enriched my life like nothing else! When I repatriated to the USA, I wondered if I would ever have that again. I got some diverse, multicultural experiences in the USA, but it wasn’t to the same extent as London. I guess one of the defining factors for me leaving the USA, was not just that lack of diversity in my life, but also living at a time of terrible polarization the last four years. Someone who was your friend before, could become your enemy overnight.
Before I moved to Calgary, my friends told me Alberta was rather white, so I was kind of bracing myself. I’m white myself, but because I identify as multicultural and multiethnic, I’m not white by US standards. If anything, white Americans have explicitly said to me that I’m not American if I have spent any part of my life overseas and ostracized me in other ways too. My reaction is, “Fine. I would rather be an expat anyway!”
I was pleasantly surprised to move here and find it was more diverse than I thought it would be! I have connected with other immigrants, and I have already met another Third Culture Kid this past month! (Doing a little dance right here!)
Another thing I noticed is there is more representation overall. Since I have had to buy some good winter clothes, I have been looking at clothing websites a lot. All these websites I have visited have racially and ethnically diverse models. Plus, I have seen some ads from time to time and they have diverse representation, and minoritized groups are portrayed in a positive way. I can honestly say I’m impressed! Go Canada! 👏👏👏🇨🇦🇨🇦🇨🇦