Why do some of your traffic lights have two green AND an orange light before moving to red?
I’ve been in Canada for ninety days. Still, adding the holidays feels a bit like cheating: no vacation is an immigration. On the other hand, the vacation was a lead up to the international move, usually my parents and I don’t cry so much when I leave for a holiday.
The training wheels came off pretty recently, though. Today it’s fifteen days in my own studio, twenty-one days at the job. It feels too early to say anything about anything. Do I like Ottawa? The small part I’ve seen of it, yes. Do I like the people of Ottawa? Eh, the ones I interacted with, yes, mostly? Do I like living on my own? Yes, although the dinner thing is still something I struggle with. Today I had my first laundromat experience, and I wonder if I’m ten years late with all these small on-your-own situations.
I miss friends, and family, and dog, and something to do when I’m not at work (I’m so starting with that MOOC tomorrow), but right now the Look At Me, Doing This feelings are still outbalancing the missing. I’m giving myself another 71 days to see how the balance will move. Until then, more new experiences: today I had my first Canadian pedicure, tomorrow I’m going to get my first (Canadian) hair cut.
I have yet to discover the One Canadian Accent (I only heard -eh and aboot from two people) and I’m pretty sure I never will, because there isn’t one. Combine that with Ottawa being filled with Canadians with other origins, and things turn into Guess Where From.
But in a polite way, of course. This is Canada outside Toronto.
A customer added two sentences of apology and three of explanation before asking where precisely my accent was from. Not me, my accent. It somehow feels sweeter than the American “you’re not from around here, are you?”.
The majority of the guesses are correct (no, it isn’t Scandinavian, Queen’s English or Irish), which means I have to adjust to the idea that not all Dutch English sounds awful (right?) and that my kiwi accent may never be restored again. And that the Dutch really get freaking everywhere, how else would a Canadian recognise their accent?
Until now the question only leads to a nice conversation abut travel, language, and New Zealand. If that’s all there is to being recognised as not-Canadian, I’ll take it.
Once you’re completely on your own, with feeding yourself being the sole responsibility ..you may discover it to be a bit overwhelming, especially in the world of North American grocery stores. First of all, there are so many. Secondly, they offer so much.
It’s easy to go wild like a kid/student in a candy shop/doing groceries for the first time. Eat whatever I want, whenever I want, how often I want it, yes!
But I’m not a kid nor a student, and although I am lazy, I like my meals proper and complete. Vegetables and fruit, I mean by that. Growing up in a very food- and health conscious family probably does that to someone.
So, groceries involving veggies and fruit. That’s easy, it turns out that preparing for one is just terribly dull. Why set out for a great meal when it’s just you sitting there, forking it in while reading a book? And it’s so much cheaper as well to just have soup (and bread) for the rest of the time. Fills you up just as well. Usually.
This means that I’m still finding my dinner rhythm (breakfast is fine/fun, lunch doesn’t really happen). Maybe set myself some challenges, follow some recipes, pretend that I’m an appreciating customer as well, and not just the chef.
Until then? Well, my vegetarian risotto wasn’t that bad. I just need to more actively start aiming for good, tasty or Holy Shit, Did I Make This.
And there I am. A station for the next five months. A place where everything can be unpacked because daily life and seasons changing will be experienced here. Now I have a sock drawer and cards on a wall and a bathroom, completely for me.
Now I’m alone, but not lonely (yet). I’m in the attic of a three story building and it’s clear that my tower isn’t ivory. The stairs creak, the neighbour downstairs has a bird, the school buses outside make the floor tremble lightly. I’m closer to the city centre, closer to bustling life. I’m free of showing my best for every interaction with a house-mate.
I bought towels, yesterday. I still need a few plates and maybe I’ll get some pillows, because there’s no couch and I want to keep a little distance between me and full time bed lounging. My place, because I can call it mine for the next five months, is small, but like a good fit. No room for intruders nor noticeable absences.
Yes, I’ll very probably never be able to show any friends and loved ones around (the international ones, anyway). I don’t know if I’d even want to. This is my set of training wheels, and I want to make them my own before I show off the stunts I can do with them.
I left the AirBnB on Tuesday and it feels like another year. I left the farm a month ago and it feels like another world. I’m here now. New place, new stuff, evolving me. Maybe the best thing right now about this “own” apartment is what a present reminder it is of what I can do. I can research, settle and take care of things. I can make meals, get up for a job, participate in something. I am a someone because I’m part of a few things. It’s a strange feeling to be conscious of, but we’ll see where it goes. I’m going to keep moving, no matter on what level.