Preparing for Winter 2021

Yes, I know it’s September, but the leaves started to turn in mid-August! Word is that it has to do with the drought and heatwaves that we had this summer. So, this year I’m not going to be caught off guard when it comes to winter. I’m already thinking through things I need to buy and do before the snow starts to fall. Plus, I’m wearing warmer clothes now!

I’ll tell you this though. At least I don’t need to worry about when to get winter tires! I have no idea when I will drive again, but someday, I will experience this funny part of Canadian culture that involves putting on winter tires!

Example of Winter Tires Culture:

Before we moved here, we asked our friends in Canada about driving. The FIRST THING they said to us is your insurance is void in the winter if you don’t have proper snow tires! Since then, I have noticed it’s a common piece of conversation. One of my favourite films to watch is called Being Canadian. It features Rob Cohen who is travelling across Canada with a goal to find out what it means to be Canadian. He ends his journey in Vancouver on Canada Day. When he’s in Ottawa, it’s snowing. One person he attempts to interview for the movie is Prime Minister Stephen Harper. But when he arrives at 24 Sussex, the PM’s security detail says that Harper is out buying snow tires! That says more than any interview with the Prime Minister ever could! Since then, I have heard some funny anecdotes about winter tires!

Okay, no winter tires this year, but it’s still funny!

What AM I Doing to Prepare for Winter Though?

I learned last winter that I have to keep my cold-weather items in good condition and monitor them. I’m checking to make sure all my winter items are okay and going to replace certain items. Additionally, winter requires A LOT of skincare, especially in a dry climate! I will do a separate post about that. Bottom line: you need to take care of your skin more than you think you do. I’m glad I know how to take care of my feet after being in ballet for years and I can help my Mum with it too. After I left ballet, I didn’t care about my feet because frankly, I HATE feet! It has been very good for me to live in Canada because I can get into the habit of taking care of my feet again and enjoy it.

Beautiful Autumn Leaves:

Since August, I have been on standby to take photos of the foliage. Here are some pics I took last week! I know the first day of Autumn is on the 22nd. Um, not here it isn’t!

Additionally, I was walking by this certain church last week. As a bit of a backstory, discoveries of mass graves at former residential schools were being reported last summer. Indigenous people were throwing red paint on church doors, sometimes with the words, “We were children”. This particular church said they weren’t going to remove the paint nor press charges. And they have been good to their word. One time, I walked by there and noticed people left flowers by the door and tied orange ribbons to the railings. Someday, nature is going to leave her contribution by dropping orange leaves on the church. I didn’t take a photo because I want to be respectful.

September 30 is the first Truth and Reconciliation Day. I like how it’s happening at a time when leaves are turning orange. For those of you wondering why orange, it’s a symbol of Indigenous children who had their culture and identities stripped away from them. You can read more here. Some provinces aren’t observing Truth and Reconciliation Day, which just shows you how some people in charge need to be more woke!

Books:

I’m planning what I’m going to read this winter. Reading is non-negotiable during a long winter! It stops you from going crazy or at least delays it a bit longer. When I moved here, I only brought two books with me. One was The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson and the other was Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran. I didn’t want to read either of them while I was dealing with culture shock, but I’m fine to read them now.

I didn’t read during the summer because I was spending more time out of doors. Also, I didn’t want to admit it, but I got separation anxiety from the books I left behind. It doesn’t matter how much I move overseas, books are VERY hard to donate, leave behind, ship separately or put in storage. Yes, I have done all four. When I get separation anxiety, I can’t read for a while because I feel like I’m being unfaithful to the books that have gone with me from country to country. Here are the books I just got at the library

Books!

I let myself have separation anxiety this summer and then I went to my local library and realized, “I’m over it! Now I want to get off this toxic internet!”

I am going to do a post about a summer recap because I stopped doing my X-Month Theme posts. I didn’t have a lot of time to do the monthly recap posts as well as my parks posts and apply for PR at the same time. My Eighth Month Theme post was the last one.

It’s also been 20 years since 9/11 and I’m working on a post about that. I had more revelations this year, especially from living in Canada that I wish to share.

One Last Thing:

As many of you know, Canada is having a federal election next week. I haven’t said much about it, or other things affecting Canada right now because I’m not a citizen. Please don’t ask me about it because I’m not in a position to talk about it! I am having conversations with people I trust, but I keep it on the down-low. Additionally, since 2016, elections make me sick! I know I throw shade at the US and UK, but they are my passport countries, so I can just go there with them! I’m still a guest in Canada, but I am encouraging others to talk about it. Sometimes I say, “Say it louder for the people in the back!” I feel like I’m walking a double-edged sword right now because I can’t vote, but it matters just as much to me as it does to citizens.

I did watch the French and English debates and I actually enjoyed the French debate. Yeah, there was some catfighting, but, well it sounds better in French. This year, I have been trying to understand QuΓ©bΓ©cois French so the debate was a great way to work on it. I’ll do another post on what I have learned about QuΓ©bΓ©cois French this past year. Anyway, I’m trying not to be American and talk about politics all the time.

What are you doing to prepare for winter? What is autumn like for you?

Eighth Month Theme: Blogversary, Second Shot, and News

Before I start this post, I wanted to say that it’s officially my blogversary! Yes, my blog is one year old and I have 100 followers too! I keep thinking back to a year ago when I was preparing to move to Canada. It was at that time that I was discovering what it means to be a Third Culture Kid. This move has been a journey of self-discovery for me and I feel doing a blog has really helped with that. I’m not kidding, there is very little stuff out there that talks about being a TCK. Okay, I have to ask, and please be honest, how many of you knew what a TCK was before you read my blog? If you didn’t know what that was, how much do you think you have learned from reading my blog?

Anyway, I wanted to talk about what my experience was with my second COVID-19 shot. Plus I have an update on the virus situation in Calgary. I haven’t been up to posting as much because of my health. I am getting ANOTHER dental procedure soon and I am SO done with this! This dental procedure will mark my TENTH appointment at a dentist’s office for this past year. I know a lot of people who have postponed their dental appointments this past year or so because of the pandemic. I can honestly say there was nothing to worry about. They are super careful at dentist’s offices because they know patients can’t do masks and social distancing while in the appointment.

Second Shot Logistics:

If you didn’t read my post about my first shot, here it is. Due to supply issues, Canada was prioritizing first shots over second shots, and extending the time between the doses. I wasn’t expecting to get my second shot for 3-4 months. At first, I was concerned about the time frame. Thankfully, my Dad is a scientist, so he knows how to read and interpret scientific studies and can cut through the crap. After I consulted my Dad, he said it’s okay to extend the time between doses. I did research too and agreed with that too. He taught me well!

On June 1st, Alberta opened up second doses to anyone who had their first shot in March. It was in March when the province announced they were stopping second doses, and my Mum got her first dose right of AstraZeneca right after that. At the time, I had to wait until June 14th to book my shot. Canada had just announced that you can mix and match shots, so my Mum decided to get an mRNA shot for her second dose. She got Pfizer at the TELUS Convention Centre.

A Word About Healthcare Here:

I got a surprise right after that. My periodontist’s receptionist contacted me because the local pharmacy had got a supply of Pfizer shots. She wanted to know if Mum and I were interested in getting an appointment. Here’s where it got awkward. When I gave her our information to pass onto the pharmacy, she asked for our Alberta Health numbers. I told her we have temporary ones because we haven’t qualified for healthcare yet. Even though we have temporary healthcare numbers, we couldn’t get the shot through the pharmacy. Our only option to get the shot was booking through the Alberta Health system. We were really bummed out. Still, it was super kind of my periodontist’s receptionist to try and help us.

I have certainly found some things can be awkward when you haven’t qualified for healthcare yet. We’re in a weird situation in terms of qualifying for healthcare. Even though we have lived here for over 6 months (which is one requirement), we’re still on visitor’s status. The other requirement is to have certain work visas to qualify for healthcare. Okay, I completely understand why Canada has the 6-month residency requirement. A lot of Americans travel to Canada to get cheaper healthcare and/or prescriptions, so of course, Canada’s going to have a residency requirement for healthcare. At least I haven’t heard any propaganda here that immigrants are bankrupting healthcare as I have heard in other countries where I have resided. Healthcare eligibility requirements for immigrants aren’t perfect in a lot of countries, and that needs to be changed.

My Mum’s Experience:

When my Mum got AstraZeneca, she didn’t feel any side effects at all. Adding the Pfizer shot 8 weeks later was a different story. I had heard of the second shot causing a lot of fatigue, but my Mum slept for 21 hours with a few breaks in between! I was able to talk her through the other side effects because I had already had one dose of Pfizer. It took her a few days to feel normal again, but she has been keeping up on sleeping.

I wrote my post about the first Pfizer shot very shortly after getting the shot, so I didn’t include the fact that something happened to me four days after the shot. I don’t want to say what it is, but I do want to say that I couldn’t ignore it. Seeing my Mum go through the side effects reminded me of what happened to me. I realized I needed help with getting the second shot. I’m not kidding, I was THIS close to saying no to the second shot!

I went to my doctor about my concerns and he assessed whether it was too risky for me to get the second shot. In the end, he said it was minimal risk, so I was happy about that. When I was studying econometrics, I learned about this study a university did on their students to assess how to boost vaccination rates. The study compared a group who were given leaflets about vaccinations versus a group that got a vaccine consult. They found the vaccine consult group had a much higher vaccination rate. Seriously, if I was in charge, I would incentivize doctors’ offices to prioritize vaccine consults for patients. There is no shame in needing a consult.

So I Booked My Shot:

Alberta opened vaccinations to people who got their shot in April four days earlier than they originally said. I booked mine as soon as possible because the first shot rate was pushing 70%. Once the vaccination rate reached 70%, it would start a two-week countdown to full reopening in Alberta. My goal was to be fully vaxxed (antibodies kicked in and everything) by the time reopening happened. I went to the TELUS Convention Centre for my shot again. I thought I was going to have to wait in line for an hour like I did last time. Appointments for second shots were increasing like crazy, but it didn’t affect waiting in line at the TELUS Convention Centre. My Mum wasn’t allowed to come in with me, for some reason. It probably depends on who is the security guard at the door.

Waiting in line to book my shot

I had the best nurse that I could have asked for with this shot! I was honest with her about the problems I had with the first shot, so she did the shot in a private area in the clinic. Lying down while getting the shot was a new experience. I highly recommend it! The nurse stayed with me for the 15 minute period after the shot as well. When I said Canada is the fifth country I have lived in, she said, “I’m curious now! Where have you lived?” I gave her the long version of my TCK story. She had some cool stories too. She had been travelling around to different vaccine clinics in Alberta and told me about a bear in the clinic parking lot in Banff.

Side Effect Time!:

I was feeling happy after my shot. I’m glad that even though the TELUS Convention Centre is a mass vaccination site, they take care of patients who have problems with the shot. After an hour though, I started to feel it. I went home and slept it off. Before I got my shot, I took two ibuprofen. It helped immensely because the nausea wasn’t so bad and it stopped my arm from hurting so much. I have never had a shot hurt my arm more than the Pfizer shot. The other side effects lingered for about 36-48 hours, but the fatigue stayed. At first, I thought I was okay, and then I had to SLEEP! It took me NINE days to feel normal again!

I have a theory why the fatigue lingered though. I have had a major viral infection before, as well as a major bacterial infection. When I was at university, I got hand foot and mouth disease at the time when outbreaks were happening on university campuses. Plus, I have had appendicitis. Both those things took a LONG time to recover from! I get impatient when I’m sick and when I got impatient with the above health issues, I physically crashed. I’m pretty sure my body remembers that, so it was telling me to sleep off this shot. Am I glad I got the shot? Yes! Am I ecstatic that I got through a pandemic without getting sick? I can’t even describe it!! Am I enjoying the amazing wifi thanks to the 5G implant from the shot? Heck yeah! You know I just trolled a conspiracy theorist there right?

A Reflective Time:

Now that I’m fully vaxxed, I have been reflecting a lot on what I want to keep from the pandemic and what I want to reject. On June 18, Alberta announced that it hit the 70% first dose rate, and it’s now in the two-week countdown to reopening. The announcement went like this:

I wish that had actually happened though!

How do I feel about that? Well, cautiously optimistic. The Calgary Stampede is happening as scheduled from July 9-18 and who knows if the vaccination rate will be enough? The Delta variant has already hit Calgary. As far as I know, it’s under control, and cases are still going down. Even so, experts are saying it’s too early to have the Stampede. One singer who used to be a pediatric nurse said he won’t perform at the Stampede until it’s safe.

What’s the best thing about being fully vaxxed? I can now explore Calgary more! In fact, I am doing a challenge. My idea for this challenge came from a talk about how Calgary was designed for walking. Parks and green spaces are a point of pride here. When I looked at the city of Calgary website, it said there were 73 parks in Calgary. So, my challenge is to see a new park every 7-10 days. I am going to randomly select (when possible) where to go next and once I have done the walk, I will do a post about it. I just went to a new park and I will be posting about it soon! Watch this space!

Cultural Adjustment Update:

Remember how I said in my post about my seventh month that I was going through the phase where I don’t like my new country? Well, it went on for about two months. I did what I could to help myself through it and gave myself space to think through things. Even so, there was only so much I could do. So, I was waiting for a moment that would let me know that things would be okay here. I kept waiting and trying to be patient. Then, when I helped those goose parents reunite with their goslings after they were stuck, I realized that was the moment that made everything okay.

The bench where the geese were

Additionally, I saw this comedy routine from comedian Darryl Lenox that really hit home for me. As someone moving from the USA to Canada, there were some things that were just so real! I can’t find the routine on YouTube though, so I have to tell you what it said that was so relatable.

Darryl Lenox was talking about how he learned this calmness that Canadians have. He saw this news story in Winnipeg about this young guy who was raising dangerous snakes. One day, a snake went down his plumbing and ended up in the toilet of this guy who was about 65 or 70 years old. The reporter asked the older guy what he did when he saw the dangerous snake and the guy replied, “Close the lid”. Darryl Lenox talked about how that phrase became a metaphor. Sometimes you just have to close the lid. He also did a story about how things would have been completely different in the Bible Belt of the southern USA.

What I Learned:

I keep watching that comedy routine whenever I need it, but even before I saw it, I started closing the lid. I don’t engage with trolls or any insulting or spamming comments on my blog or my IG page anymore. You want to unfollow me? Bye! I’m just going to close the lid. I got to the point I can’t live in this state of constant anxiety anymore and I had to detox from that as well.

Darryl Lennox describes how this NFL player got hammered drunk at a Kenney Chesney concert and started a racist rant. He said thanks to his new prairie found calm, he was able to think through how he felt about it more clearly.

Even though there are tough things going on in the world, sometimes the prairie calm is the best thing to do. The important thing to ask is, “At what point do you just close the lid?”

Latest News from Canada:

Before I proceed, here’s a heads up. I am going to talk about finding these mass, unmarked graves of Indigenous children from residential schools. So, don’t feel like you have to read about that if you don’t want to. That’s a content warning in its own right. Additionally, please keep comments respectful on this subject. We’re talking child victims of cultural genocide who died of grievous abuse here.

Last month, a mass, unmarked grave of 215 Indigenous children was discovered near a former residential school in Kamloops, BC. Since then a few more mass, unmarked graves have been found. The latest one was in Saskatchewan of 751 children, which brought the total to 1,323. After the Kamloops discovery, there were vigils around the country and flags were lowered to half-mast. Plus, there were lots of other calls to action.

There was a vigil site outside Calgary City Hall. My Mum and I went there to pay our respects. We agreed when we were there we would do a two-minute silence as we do on November 11 at 11 am. There were poems, signs and 215 pairs of children’s shoes. The report said the kids in the Kamloops grave were between 2 and 15 years old, and the shoes fitted that typical age range too. I thought the shoes were a good touch. When you looked at the shoes, you get an image in your head of children running, jumping or moving around like kids do. It was like seeing the ghosts of children who never met family members in their community and parents that never got to see their children doing kiddy things. I didn’t take any photos of the vigil site out of respect for the situation.

A Seismic Cultural Shift:

I have experienced enough cultures to know that Canada is in the middle of a seismic cultural shift here. Usually, cultural shifts happen gradually, but sometimes, they can happen like a volcanic eruption. The eruptions happen because the country has been suppressing something for too long. Ergo, when it explodes, it EXPLODES! This is like Krakatoa here.

Last I heard, the International Criminal Court has taken a case to investigate Canada and the Catholic Church for cultural genocide of Indigenous people. I guess we’ll find out soon how this will go. Additionally, Canada Day is coming up on July 1st. A lot of areas have cancelled their celebrations out of respect for this time of mourning among First Nations. Other people are planning a day of reflection out of respect, and that’s what my Mum and I are doing too. There is a certain amount of resistance to cancelling or changing Canada Day celebrations. At first, I didn’t know what to think because this is my first Canada Day and I am still learning the norms, but the culture is changing, so I decided to roll with it. It’s not the first time I have had to adapt to something like this.

Thanks for reading and remember to close the lid!

Lest We Forget πŸŒΊπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸŒΊπŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦πŸŒΊ

It’s Remembrance Day tomorrow! I wish I could experience all the regular traditions here, but I know the public celebrations are cancelled because of COVID-19. Still, I have made a resolution to learn more about Canada’s role in WWI and WWII once things calm down with getting settled. Okay, I know the flower emoji I’m using in the titles is a hibiscus, but I looked it up and it said that’s acceptable to use it in replacement of a poppy for Remembrance Day. Meanwhile, tech companies need to catch on and create culturally appropriate emojis to make them available for different cultures.

Note: I’m saying Remembrance Day in my post because that’s what it’s called in Canada, except when I’m talking about England. One thing that is making me chuckle right now is learning the meanings and slang terms of different words in Canada. Sometimes, I have to learn another term for something, when I already know two other forms of it in American English and English English! Remembrance Day is one of them because it’s called Armistice Day in the UK and Veterans Day in the US. I won’t say much about how it’s celebrated in the US, because frankly, it pales in comparison to both the UK and Canada, as far as I have seen.

I’m rather embarrassed to admit this, but I never bought a poppy in England. I made up for it this time and got a poppy last week! Next time I’m in England in November, I will get a poppy! I like how the poppies look here. It’s different from England though. In England, the poppies have a stem on them and they have that definite European poppy look. I think that’s fair considering you see those poppies all the time in Europe.

My Canadian Poppy

It snowed last weekend. I took a walk in a park near where I live and took some pictures. I noticed when I looked at a selfie that I did that it would be nice to put a poppy frame around it, so I did! I’m glad the snow came back! I think it makes a difference in the photo.

Me in the snow with a poppy photo frame

I noticed one thing that is unique to Canada a few days ago. November 8 was Indigenous Veterans Day. I thought that was really cool, considering we don’t have that in the US. I hope someday the US creates a holiday to honour its Indigenous veterans too. Plus, I think they should have days to honour their Black veterans and immigrant veterans.

I ran into this news item a few days ago saying that Whole Foods (which is now owned by Amazon) said their Canadian staff couldn’t wear poppies because it violated the dress code. They thought poppies were a political symbol. I know there was already a backlash from employees this year who were punished for wearing Black Lives Matter masks. I flipped out when I heard about this! Poppies are NOT a political symbol here, or in any country that wears them for November 11! Thank goodness the Canadian government told Whole Foods to reverse the ban on poppies!

It’s not the first time, I have seen cultural controversy about poppies though. In November 2010, David Cameron offended Xi Jinping when he went on an official trip to China despite being asked not to wear it. Poppies are offensive in China, because of the opium wars. It’s one of those cultural mistakes that could have been avoided if David Cameron hadn’t been so bloody proud! Sometimes, I think individual expats and Third Culture Kids are more culturally sensitive than global businesses or governments.

I want to take a step back here and talk about what I remember about Armistice Day in England.

When I first moved to England, I noticed things around me that were reminiscent of WWII. In school, we observed the 2-minute silence at 11 AM on November 11. One time, I was at my local library, and all these people who had lived during the war were having a discussion about rationing. I didn’t really pay attention to the things around me that were reminiscent of WWII for a while, and I didn’t understand the poppy symbolism for a while either. Plus, after coming from a country that had engaged in all these useless wars, and then instituted a Patriot Act after 9/11, I was against anything pro-military.

Then, when I was 16, I became really good friends with my neighbour who was a little girl during WWII. She told me all the stories she had about it. Some of them were funny. Some of them were sad. Overall, it was a very personal and human experience.

I had a complete change in mindset about the war too. Both my grandfathers were in the US Navy, so up until I moved to England, I had a US perspective on the war. After I had lived in England for a while, I was rather disgusted when I said to one of my grandfathers that England had won the war, and he said, “But they didn’t!”

My neighbour shared that she didn’t mind the Americans coming because they were needed to help win the war. She remembered the Americans were always giving the kids gum! She did say, in a culturally sensitive way, that there was a lot of resentment towards Americans for showing up late AGAIN and then taking the credit! I saw it for myself too. I could see that England, as a culture, has a lot of pride in what they did to stand up to Hitler. They deserve to have that pride. They got hit hard with The Blitz and rationing, but they came together and stood up to fascism. What they went through was far different than the US, who sent their boys overseas. Now, I am very pro-England when I hear about WWI and WWII history, and I adopted that when I became a British citizen. One of my favourite shows about England during WWII is Foyle’s War. It’s a wonderful tribute to that war generation.

One thing I like about Armistice Day in England is that people still stand outside stores and sell poppies. It’s great for older people to do an activity like that, especially since a lot of them were of that war generation. I had a friend who was born shortly after the war, but she loved selling poppies every November! She was very sociable, so she got a lot of customers, plus she had the endurance to stand in the winter rain! She was one tough cookie! My friend died almost two years ago of cancer. At her funeral, her colleagues from the Royal British Legion laid a poppy wreath on her grave to thank her for her volunteer service. I’m remembering both my neighbour and my friend at this time.

Since I am still learning about Canadian WWI and WWII history and Remembrance Day traditions, I don’t feel I am in a place to say too much about them. I’ll do a post about it next year though. I’m looking forward to learning how that fits with the British part too and celebrate those sides of myself.

In closing, I’m going to put a link to the poem that started the poppy tradition. It’s been at the forefront of my attention now that I know it was written by a Canadian. Please enjoy the work of physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae!

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

    That mark our place; and in the sky

    The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.



We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

        In Flanders fields.



Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

    The torch; be yours to hold it high.

    If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

        In Flanders fields.