Second Month Theme: Hot Mess and Confusion

After the euphoria of the first month wore off, some things went upside down for a while. Here’s what really stood out:

Meltdown:

Even if everything went perfectly with the move, I still would have had a meltdown eventually. It happened when I moved before and I know different things have the potential to set it off. For me personally, it’s normal for me to have a meltdown after a month or so in a new country. I can’t speak for other expats though. I think there should be more transparency about the are ups and downs in the process because immigrants aren’t robots.

My first post-international move meltdown was two months after moving to England. I was in school and I hated it because I was being bullied for my accent. I didn’t expect to have a meltdown after repatriating to the USA because it was my home country and I wasn’t expecting to go through culture shock. Soon after I wrote my post about the theme for my first month here in Canada, I had a meltdown.

The thing that set me off was: a toxic American. It hit me that Trump has brought out the absolute worst of Americans. It takes different forms, but the fact of the matter is, it’s been traumatizing dealing with it for the past four years. I got to the point it’s been hard to distinguish rhyme from reason. I have lost friends who I initially thought were good people, but then it was like they had turned bad almost overnight. People aren’t who they say they are. That’s what you get when you’re part of an entire culture of people who are hurting for one reason or another.

I’m not saying I’m perfect though. I have lashed out too. Generally, I like to be low-key and get on with life. However, it doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes. I have forgiven the people who have hurt me though, and even though I wish I could be forgiven for my mistakes, I have accepted it might not happen.

It hurts me to see a country I used to love imploding. I asked my Mum, “Why does this hurt so much??” And she said, “Because you care.” I never thought of that before. Even so, I’m not going to put myself in a situation where I have to deal with toxic Americans. I have put up my own personal boundaries and I. AM. DONE.

The most important thing I can do when I’m having one of those meltdowns is to listen to what my intuition is trying to tell me. For example, when I was in England, my intuition was saying to me, “I don’t want to stay here forever.” When I repatriated to the US, my intuition said to me, “Maybe this was a bad idea.” Now, when I had a meltdown, my intuition said to me, “I CANNOT go back to the USA! I just can’t!” And get this, my intuition has ultimately been right. I didn’t stay in England forever. It was a bad idea to repatriate. And now, I have been thinking about what I can do so that I don’t have to return to the USA. While I was going through the meltdown, I didn’t have the room in my feelings to say that I love Canada. Once I felt better, I was able to express the fact that I genuinely love it here and I’m going to do everything I possibly can to stay!

I was also incredibly lonely. It’s not like I can go out and meet people because of the pandemic like I used to before. I missed my friends and just being around people.

Getting Settled:

I’m going to be real with you. It takes a MINIMUM of two months to get settled in a new country! I kid you not, it took almost a year to feel settled when I repatriated to the US. Of course, there is more to getting settled in a new country than meets the eye.

Getting settled goes faster if everyone involved pitches in and helps. If you have a job or have to study, it goes slower. Even though getting physically settled makes a difference in how you feel settled mentally, there is a mental side to adjusting to a new country that takes a lot longer.

I have been taking advantage of counselling services this time while I’m in transition. I have never done that before, but I knew I had to this time. Since I’m new to Canada, I am still trying to figure out what services to find and where. I was able to find crisis counselling where you get six free sessions. My counsellor has told me how I can find expat resources and other important information that citizens use too.

When you’re getting settled in a new country, there is a considerable amount of running around and doing chores. During our mandatory quarantine, we had to buy everything we needed online which was less tiring but also had its disadvantages. Once we got out of quarantine, we were going outside almost every day. We were feeling under pressure to get things done because we had no idea how COVID restrictions were going to change. Even the days we’re at home, there are still a lot of chores to do online.

My Mum and I have been efficient at getting chores done, but we also realized we burned ourselves out. We’re deliberately going to have a low-key, quiet Christmas and make a point of taking a break for a while. COVID restrictions have tightened in Alberta anyway, so we think it’s best to lie low for a while.

Additionally, I have had some issues going independent on my blog, so I’m going to take some time to improve it when I’m laying low. I’m hoping I can do some posts and also work on the book I hope to publish in a year! We’ll see though. I need to do some improvments.

COVID-19:

Speaking of COVID, if the pandemic situation in Calgary was as bad as California, it would have taken a lot longer to get settled. Since starting my pain treatment, I have had to go out a lot more, and my treatment plan has been switched up so I am seeing more healthcare providers. I don’t worry about COVID when getting treatment. It’s just that usually we stop at stores to get whatever we need. Although, I am happy that I will be getting a bit of a break for treatment soon. In some ways, these restrictions are going to affect my treatment, but I’m okay with that.

Since the end of our quarantine, my Mum and I have had a couple of scares where we thought we might have been exposed. My biggest scare happened when I went to the post office. The guy at the desk said he didn’t normally work at that branch. He had been called in because a couple of days before, the post office had to close because one of the regular staff had contracted COVID. I was glad I had my KN95 mask on. When I left, I went to the nearby mall and practically washed the skin off my hands!

Now, we’re prioritizing our outdoor chores more carefully. We decide if we both need to do them and we spread out the time between them.

I will say this about dealing with the pandemic in California. My family had some emergency N95/KN95 masks on hand long before the pandemic because we’ve been getting once-in-a-generation wildfires every year! Who wants to breathe that crap from the fires or contract the virus? Not me! 

I have noticed my bandwidth has been a lot lower overall from getting settled. Someone hacked one of my social media accounts because I didn’t spot the warning signs. Normally, I don’t fall for scams, but I guess this was a clue to how vulnerable I was. I found myself checking the weather forecast a lot during this time because I kept thinking, “Where’s the snow? I need something beautiful!”

Last week, we had a chinook that broke an 81-year-old temperature record! Did I bring California winter with me?

And then we finally got a bit of snow! For me, that’s a better end to a rough month! Will there be a White Calgarian Christmas? Watch this space!

First Month Theme: Is This A Thing?

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 1

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 2

Self-Care

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 1

At this point, Mum and I only have a few more days of quarantine left and so far, we’re still healthy! We have found this time of quarantine to be a good time for us to recover from the journey and set up house and get used to things overall. It’s a more quiet and less harried time of getting settled in a new country than it normally is because we can’t go outside to do chores.

I read something once from women who are part of cultures that require them to isolate during their period. Those women say they really enjoy that time because they don’t have to take care of their families and they can relax and have some quality Me Time. This quarantine period reminds me of that.

To anyone who thinks periods are gross, sorry, not sorry! I’m all about ending period taboo since 1. It’s natural 2. Humans wouldn’t exist without it.

So, what things have happened the first week of quarantine? This won’t include my trip experience because that’s a post on its own, and there are parts that I’m not ready to share just yet.

It was hard to sleep that first night because we were sleeping on the floor. When I woke up, apparently FedEx had tried to deliver the things we had ordered from IKEA at 6:30 am! I had tried to request FedEx to deliver the packages the day we arrived, but it hadn’t worked out. I didn’t have a local number yet, and I got a hard time over it. I decided to leave my cell phone on that night in case it happened again, but it was a pain to say the least!

I suddenly missed my friends like crazy and texted them on WhatsApp to tell them I needed to talk. For me, WhatsApp is the BOMB for staying in touch with people overseas! You can still text your friends and not get charged! I was not okay after the journey and there’s a part of the story I can’t talk about without crying.

All I remember doing that day was unpacking my bags and setting the stuff up, talking to my friend and taking a nap. Plus, I remember our landlord stopping by to get our papers. We needed change for the laundry, and we exchanged a $20 CAD bill for it. YYC didn’t give me change when I got money there. The best thing about the first day: it started snowing! I hadn’t seen snow in years and it made everything beautiful! 😍

I hoped the second night would be better, but no. Even though I left my phone on, FedEx STILL didn’t deliver! I woke up feeling like I had hit my head against a brick wall again! FedEx eventually delivered though, and we were happy. We realized that it’s difficult to get deliveries at our apartment though and we just have to work with it.

We opened our IKEA boxes, excited to finally get our table and chair set and other supplies! We have depended on IKEA for furniture when we moved before because it’s so easy to assemble and you don’t need tools. To our dismay, we discovered we needed tools this time! Fortunately, we have kind friends who lent us some tools a couple days later.

I had noticed when I ordered from IKEA that you can request assembly service. I overlooked it though because I thought it wasn’t important. Then, I remembered that IKEA is under new management now and the founder had died. I had heard of their new sustainability initiatives, which was nice, but I hadn’t heard of them making it necessary to have tools to put it together.

To anyone who is moving and needs new furniture, be aware of this new development! I haven’t tried their assembly service, so I can’t speak for it, but it’s not the efficient assembly it once was!

Traveling had been such an adrenaline high and I didn’t start coming off it until the second day. I have anxiety and PTSD from being an expat and it started to hit. It was then when my Mum and I made a rule that we DON’T want to talk about what’s happening in the US right now! It’s better for us mentally that we don’t know, especially with the election happening in 3 days. I have found if I get up at night, I check my phone to see if I have any messages from my friends in the US. It gives me peace of mind that if I hear from them, they’re okay.

I have some essential oils which I have found to be balancing at times like this, and they did help. I had hoped I would sleep well with the oils, but that didn’t happen. I had a panic attack in the middle of the third night and Mum and I had a talk about the stressors we’ve been dealing with.

Since I am the highly organized person in my family, I bore a lot of the burden. I figured out how to get into Canada because of our chronic pain issues. It was highly detailed, but no one can obsess like I can! I have been in charge of jobs that don’t have an end in sight like finances, and my cell phone was our only source of internet for a while. I paid a high mental health cost for my work though and my Mum agreed to relieve me of some of the burden.

I couldn’t be happier that I’m with my Mum, but I also feel guilty leaving family and friends behind. My Mum said people need to realize in their own time that it’s really not a good situation in the US and that emigrating is a good life choice to make under the circumstances.

The next day, I was impressed that the snowfall had continued straight for 3 days! I have lived in snowy climates before, but never had I seen it snow for so long! I have stepped outside from time to time to take the garbage out (when no one’s around and wearing a mask of course) and I was able to wear a hoodie in temperatures of -10°C! Our apartment is rather overheated, so having the windows open at that temperature was quite pleasant.

I called another friend in the US. I haven’t shared my story of my journey much, but it seems like everyone I told was shocked by what happened. I think it’s a new reality for US expats. I read an article that the US is losing its passport privilege. I believe it! I am really touched by the support I have received and how welcoming people are! Thank you! You know who you are! ❤❤❤

Mum and I did some cleaning and ordered some more stuff. We had been researching how to find a good internet service and decided on one we wanted. I was happy that we would get it soon and we didn’t have to depend on my phone. Things were looking up!

By the fourth day, Mum and I had established a routine of cleaning, organizing and ordering what we needed to get. We each got a call from the IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) to check that we were complying with the quarantine regulations. They were kind and respectful with their questions and comments and were even up for a little talk! I didn’t just answer their questions. I provided them some extra information too. They also checked that we’re getting food and fresh air, which was nice of them. Apparently, they are working seven days a week because of the pandemic, and like all other essential workers, I appreciate what they do!

Mum and I put together our table and chairs and they looked great! It took a while, but it worked. One more step to getting settled and making this place a home!

Day 5 was rather quiet. It was the day it stopped snowing, so by then, I was quite impressed with the length of the snowfall. You would think by now, we would have got our beds, right? Wrong. We were still sleeping on the floor. We were used to it, but it still hurt considering our pain issues. We had been taking afternoon naps in the bathtub because we were able to use our duvets to make it softer.

I had ordered our mattresses from Overstock Ca two weeks before and they told me I would receive them in 11-14 business days. I heard this week that the mattresses were being delayed at customs. I know COVID has delayed a lot of mail and deliveries at customs. I had to renew my UK passport a while ago and even that got delayed at customs. I kept looking for updates on my Overstock account, but still felt desperate for beds!

By Day 6, the snow was melting. There’s a chair in the back yard that got all this snow on it and when it melted, it formed these icicles that reminded us of the snail monster in Monsters Inc that fell through the grate in the sidewalk and said, “Oh great!”

Chair Monster!

I have started collecting cool Canada memes and one of my Canadian friends on Facebook posted this:

Source: Facebook

Definitely part of my collection now along with the cat meme I have in my post What I’m Looking Forward To!

I had been taking a nap in the bathtub for a while now, so I finally decided to take a selfie of me lying there. Okay, yes I know I haven’t shown a photo of myself yet, so here you go now!

Sleeping in the tub

By Day 7, the Overstock mattress situation was looking ridiculous! I know there are border delays, but come on! Is this Brexit or something? We called to see what was going on, only to find out that we basically weren’t going to get our mattresses this week. We caved and ordered the mattresses from Amazon. For the record, I use Amazon in a pinch because I have issues with how exploitative they are, but desperate times call for desperate measures!

Looking back on it, I should have done a price comparison of the mattresses before buying them. Overstock’s cheap prices would have jumped out at me as suspicious.

First seven days are up! Did we get out mattresses? Only one way to find out! Watch this space for part 2 of my quarantine diaries in Calgary and what my new adventures will be after I am done with quarantine!

Tips on Self-care For Expats While Moving Abroad

Self-care has become a buzzword of our time. You can find advice on self-care from a simple Google search. I’m not going to give you advice on how to do your own self-care. However, I can’t emphasize this enough: You need to take care of yourself when you’re doing an international move. If you need Me Time, whatever that involves, take it. Want to eat a certain food? Do it! If you can’t bear to pack your books before reading some of them, go for it! Need to sleep 12 hours a night? That’s okay! You’re exhausted and your body is telling you how much sleep it needs. 

Problems I have had:

I exhausted myself when I was preparing to repatriate to the US from London. I would spend a long day packing and dealing with logistics. Then I would pig out on Chinese food watching House M.D. and then sleep for 12-14 hours. That wasn’t the way to handle the move. I had two months to get ready to move, but I could still have made time to take care of myself. By the time the move was complete, I was burned out. That experience made me indecisive about moving to another country again. 

What I do now:

It’s not about the amount of the things you have to do before you do an international move. It’s about how you plan to do those things and taking care of yourself along the way. When I was moving to the US, I was not good at taking care of myself. If anything, working myself to death was a badge of honor. Now, I know how to take care of myself, so I’m more consistent about planning relaxation into my day. I take regular breaks and treat myself now. So far, that has helped me immensely in coping with any unpredictabilities about moving abroad.

To be honest, writing this blog is a good self-care thing for me. It’s a common thing for me to need to sleep a lot when I’m moving. Making time to chill during the day doesn’t completely alleviate my fatigue. That can be scary because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I have been staying at home, but I still worry if my fatigue is normal preparation fatigue, or if I’m sick! So far, it’s been my paranoia talking. I love listening to an audiobook or music while I’m packing. 

Nature is a great stress reliever as well. Sometimes I forget to go outside and get some fresh air regularly, so I keep some photos on hand to enjoy. I have included them in this post for you to enjoy as well.

Pet Peeves:

The hardest things for me to deal with during an international move are a sudden change in plans. Normally, I am adaptable, but being fatigued about moving tries my patience and adaptability. Sometimes I need to vent, cry, or express any feelings about notifying another company that I’m moving overseas because it was unexpected! I let myself do it though. Sometimes, certain unexpected things aren’t emergencies, so I can watch a movie, take a nap, or read until I feel better and then take care of the problem. If it’s a high priority item, I can grit my teeth, sort out the problem, and treat myself afterward.

When I am packing I set small goals for a day and remember to treat myself. If I don’t know the next step with packing, I take a break until I know what I want to pack next. I don’t spend a whole day packing anymore because there will always be time to take care of it.

A Word About Unsupportive People:

One thing I would suggest as a self-care move to anyone moving internationally is to reach out to other expats or have someone you can talk to. International moves create their own set of problems and pet peeves that only people who have been through the process can understand.

Sometimes, people can be unsupportive or ignorant, even if they don’t realize it. When I moved to London when I was 10, the people I told usually responded with, “You’ll hate it!” but they would never say why I would hate it. It can be hard to tell people why you want to move to a new country. There is always someone else who finds a reason to disagree with you. It’s hard to express your hopes and desires for what you want to achieve in your new country, because those same people tell you something along the lines of, “You can do that here!”

On behalf of expats, I would just like to say to those people’s faces, “I’m glad you think so”. I also want to say, please don’t do this. It’s unsupportive because our feelings and reasons for moving are not up for debate. It’s starting to become common knowledge to use language to listen and not dismiss people’s feelings and experiences, so please apply what you know about that. You don’t have to understand why people want to move to another country. You just have to be supportive of people’s reasons and listen so they feel heard.

To my fellow expats past, present and future, hang in there! I know it’s stressful to deal with this stuff from people who don’t understand, even if they are your closest friends.