Fourth Month Theme: Okay, It’s Cold! Wake Me Up in Spring!

I just lived through temperatures in the -20s and -30s for the first time ever! How did it go? Read on to find out.

My Winter Project:

People have told me to start a project in the winter because there is a lot of time to work on it! It does help to get settled in a new country during a long winter. I decided to start thinking of a business idea during the winter. One reason I wanted to move to Calgary is that it’s an entrepreneurial city. When I got here and saw how popular small businesses are, it made me want to get in on the action. It took a while to find an idea for a business though. Eventually, I found something! Right now, I am in the creative process and I need to get through some roadblocks with immigration. All I will say about it is it’s a business to provide a service to expats. I am SUPER excited about it!

Personal Anecdotes During The Cold Snap:

There was a cold snap for about 10 days where it stayed in the -20s. Windchill was in the -30s. The first day of it was a blizzard and I had to go out! It actually went better than I thought, but I was glad I wore a minimum of two layers of everything! Kind of funny that there was talk of double masking at that time too because of the new COVID variants.

I didn’t take many photos during that cold snap because I refused to take my gloves off! Although, here’s one that I managed to get.

Windchill was -35 C ish! No outdoors for me!

Yep. I made a point of “hibernating” for a while. There was a point where it felt exhausting to go out, and I didn’t see much point in going out if it was for less than 20 minutes. I discovered it takes a LONG time to layer up for these conditions. That’s why I decided not to go out if I was only going out for a few minutes.

Another day that I went out in these temperatures was when I had to go to my physiotherapist. At first, I thought about going on public transportation because I’m a Londoner (wink!). Then, I decided to Uber, and I was glad I did! I had my gloves off for two minutes to get Uber and my hands got PAINFULLY cold! That wasn’t the first time I misread the signs. I was taking the garbage out and I didn’t take my gloves. The bins had a HUGE amount of snow on them, which I had to wipe off with my bare hands! I almost doubled over trying to warm my hands up. The night before, we had got the cold weather warning that said the words “frostbite” and “hypothermia” in it. When I saw it, I admit I did get a little cognitive dissonance about it. After the garbage can incident, I thought, “Okay! They are NOT messing around here!”

Here are the only photos I was brave enough to get with my gloves off for a couple of minutes.

Frozen River with Footprints

Facts About Extremely Low Temperatures:

I was glad to wear a mask (or two) in these low temperatures. It kept my face warm. Plus, using logic and a little common sense, I figured that if there was any risk of getting COVID, it would be during a cold snap if I didn’t keep my immune system primed. I had heard all about breathing in and your nose getting frozen shut at -30 or below, but I figured that wasn’t going to happen this year. Then, we absolutely HAD to open a window because our apartment was overheated. I put my face near the window, and guess what? My nose practically got frozen shut! At least I was able to get the idea of it in the privacy of my own home and I wasn’t weakening my immune system.

One thing that surprised me was when it wasn’t snowing, but still freezing, cars were driving at pretty much normal speeds. It wasn’t like getting a big dump of snow and cars getting stuck all the time. Also, when you put salt on the pavement, it doesn’t melt the snow when it’s in the -20s/-30s.

Now I can expect to feel sluggish and SAD-y when it’s an extreme cold snap. Still, I would rather deal with that here than in London. Overcast, high humidity, no snow AND cold? No thanks! I’m definitely happy about the sunnier, drier, snowier climate. Honestly, Calgary has surprised me with how much sun there is. Whenever it’s sunny, carpe diem!

I did take some other photos to illustrate how cold it was.

YYC Hot Chocolate Fest:

I discovered another thing that is super cool about Calgary! During the month of February, local businesses sell hot chocolate as a fundraiser for Calgary Meals on Wheels. It’s called the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest.

This is the 10th year this has happened and there were over 40 small businesses participating. I suggest following them on social media too. If there wasn’t a pandemic on, I would have gone to a lot more businesses to try their hot chocolate. Next year! I did get hot chocolate when I went to my favourite patisserie though because I know they really try to keep customers safe. It had passionfruit in it and it was to die for! They also had a gift card giveaway every week, and I won one of the gift cards! Can’t wait to use it!

To die for!

Note to my readers outside Canada, YYC is the airport code for Calgary International Airport. It’s a thing here to refer to cities by their airport code. I have never seen a country do that and I am learning the airport codes for the different cities in Canada so I don’t get confused when I see YVR or YEG. I know, it’s weird to me too. Would I see something in San Francisco referred to as SFO, or London as LHR or LGW? That would be a no. And if London did do that, how could they decide because it has more than one major airport?

That’s all for now.

Finances: Part II- In Transition

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!

Previous Experiences:

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 and read the fine print of what it 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 works very well actually because it’s a good time to get acquainted with a healthcare system.

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!

Final Notes:

The way I see it is 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?

Third Month Theme: Rest, Reflect and Observe New Things

I’m about 80% settled here! There’s more time to relax! I can reflect more on how the last three months have gone. It was kind of been a blur up until Christmas. This is the point where I can observe and absorb my new country now.

Calgary Baptism of Fire

Here’s another weird Calgary weather story! I had to go out at about 8 am in mid-January. I checked the temperature on my phone and didn’t see indicators of the previous day’s forecast of snow in the morning. It was still, clear and looked like it would be sunny later. Yes, in mid-January, the sun STILL rises late! It wasn’t too cold, so I was on the fence as to whether I needed my down parka. I decided not to wear it and left my hat behind too…

Ten minutes out the door I was suddenly hit with this bone-chilling Arctic wind and hail! “HOLY S**T!!!” was my first thought! It was too late now to go home for my parka! Fortunately, I had a cashmere sweater that I pulled over my head as I walked. The blast didn’t last too long though. Calgary had JUST avoided a blizzard! The temperature dropped too. In other words, I saw an immediate barometric pressure change firsthand!

Okay, what just happened? Was this a baptism of fire for living in Calgary or something? What did I learn from this? Check the radar map too if I’m going out! Checking the current forecast, temperature and windchill are not enough! Weather reports are never entirely reliable, especially on a cell phone. Regardless, I need to know how much to layer up. I learned the phrase, “Don’t like the weather? Wait 20 minutes.” within my first month here. You can replace “don’t” with “do” in that sentence too. I laughed before. I have actually lived it now! It’s VERY real for me!

Everything Else is Boring by Comparison

Just kidding! The temperature is dropping more. We’re in the -10s and sometimes the windchill makes it feel in the-20s at this point! I hear a lot about the -30 degree temperatures but haven’t experienced it yet. Watch this space! Walks help me learn what I should wear at what temperatures before I have to go do chores. One example was when I took the photos for this post. It was -14 degrees with a windchill of -18 and it was hard to leave my gloves off for more than a minute or two! I tried buying gloves that had a grip on them for your cell phone screen, but it was a rip off!

Recently, we got a dusting of new snow along with hoarfrost. I can’t imagine anything more beautiful! When I walked by the river, there was a stretch that was completely frozen. The river gets more frozen by the day. I have never lived anywhere where the river freezes before. I was tempted to walk on it but decided not to. I’m not fully Canadian yet, so I don’t have the intuition to judge ice thickness.

I see SO many geese flying over every day to congregate at the river! It’s crazy! Why haven’t those birdbrains flown south yet?

I Admit That I Wished for Snow

Be careful what you wish for, hey? In Calgary, you’re more likely to get it! There was a reason I wished for it. I had a flashback to a time in London that was an incredibly stressful and miserable time in my life. I feel like I can heal from it now that I’m in Canada partly because there is snow that makes everything beautiful. My Mum said it says a lot about Canada if I feel safe enough to think through this garbage and heal from it. I agree with her on that.

Additionally, I was exhausted for a few days, so I stayed in bed. It was due to my move. There comes a point after moving overseas where I have had to sleep it off! It doesn’t happen right away. It creeps up on me. There are some stressors that don’t end for a long time (if at all). Once there’s a time to breathe a bit more, the fatigue hits! It was time to press the Reset button! I was so tired I didn’t give a crap about Inauguration Day in the US!

A Word on How I Feel About US Politics

Honestly, I’m still numb. I still have this strong part of me that says “I do NOT want to talk about it!” When I moved to Calgary, I had to be strict on that boundary. I broke that norm when I did my post Storming the Reichstag 2.0. My personal boundaries on talking about it still stand. I’m feeling more emotionally resilient than I was when I first moved here though. I am in a new country though and I want to respect their own cultural norms when it comes to politics.

Had Another TCK Moment about US Politics

I was 10 when I moved away from the US for the first time. Politics was boring adult stuff for me. 9/11 happened and I learned of ripple effects from the US around the world. Then, I came across a challenge that many TCKs face.

Politics didn’t come up a lot while I was living life outside my home in London. UK politics doesn’t get discussed nearly as much. I didn’t fully understand how UK politics worked, frankly. News shows were cryptic and I gave up learning it after a while. When I studied for my citizenship test though, it finally made sense to me!

My Dad has always talked about US politics incessantly at home. It gets so tiresome! Because of the cultural conflict between my home and life outside in England, I didn’t understand it. When you’re having a conversation in the US, sooner or later, you will start talking about politics. I didn’t realize that until I repatriated to the US. There is an unhealthy obsession with politics in the US. People from other countries really don’t understand that. A friend of mine pointed out that the US stands out in the world as an exception to the norm. She’s so right!

I think other cultures making politics a taboo topic can be healthy under the right circumstances. People have been taking breaks from politics because of the amount of depressing stuff going on. Cultural structures can act as pre-imposed boundaries on the amount of political discussion. I am breaking my habit of talking about US politics because I’m not there anymore. I do feel peer pressure from other Americans to talk about politics sometimes. My response is, I am in another country, and we aren’t obsessed with politics. Being a TCK can be a powerful thing.

Push and Pull between Cultures

When I move to a new country, I get this push and pull effect between my last country and my current country. As a TCK, I need to reconfigure balancing all my cultures now and then. Moving to a new country is one of those times to reconfigure.

Here’s one example. I have been loving the winter SO much! There are different things that are new to me about a sub-Arctic winter! There’s a push from the US and a pull towards Canada. That feeling is strong and deep! I am bracing myself for someday needing to go to California. I have to sort through a room full of stuff that I left behind. When will that happen? No idea. People I know have false hope that I’m returning for good. I have to squash it.

Sometimes, you get updates from your loved ones in your last country that make you wish you were there. That’s the biggest pull of all. Problems can be increased in severity by a factor of 10 when you’re overseas. Other times, people from your last country can say things that feel like peer pressure to return.

A Note on Peer Pressure

A word to the wise: if you know someone who is living overseas, please don’t ask, “when are you coming back?” They either might not know, or they may not want to do so, or both. Additionally, please don’t say, “when you come back”. I have had people do both to me and I hate it!

I am understanding of people who do this because they haven’t lived overseas. They don’t know how things work. Things can get complicated or plans can change for whatever reason. Take my situation about needing to go to California someday. I thought that was going to go back in April. Now, I know I can’t, and I have to apply to extend my stay. I don’t want to go to California until I know for sure that I would be allowed back into Canada. I told people in California that I would be there in April, but I didn’t know my situation would change.

What I hate though is people being unsupportive. I can tell the difference between someone not knowing how things work and them being unsupportive. The best example I can think of this from Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Okay, spoiler alert: Kim Baker breaks up with her cheating boyfriend. He blames the fact she’s been in Afghanistan. That hits home! I saved her line of, “Go to (insert something bad)! It sucks! You’ll fit right in!” It’s EXACTLY how I feel at moments like that!

People who have been the most sensitive are the ones who let me talk about my situation first. If they ask questions, they do it respectfully. If I mention that I might be visiting, we can randomly say we can do some fun things when I do. That is the best!

A Word on Getting Settled in A New Country

The question, “Are you settled yet?” is rather disconcerting for me. I’m going to do a more detailed post about what getting settled in a new country really means to me. I will probably stay at 80% settled for a while, frankly. There are circumstances beyond my control that will keep me from being 100% settled. Additionally, if my immigration status isn’t what I call solid, it’s hard to feel 100% settled.

That’s it for now. What do you think of what I said about my expat/TCK life here? I’m open to discussion! Any further tips on sub-Arctic winter would be welcome!

My First Holiday Season in Calgary! And it was beautiful!

My Mum and I knew from the day we arrived in Canada that my Dad couldn’t come to visit us for Christmas. We had tentatively talked about it before, but then we got through Border Control and everything changed. They asked us if we had any future travel plans, and we mentioned my Dad might come for Christmas. After we said that, we knew that it might not work, and that could get us in trouble. We called my Dad to tell him, and he said he wouldn’t try to visit us for the sake of not jeopardizing our chances in Canada. Comedians often joke about their immigration experiences, which I enjoy. However, some things can’t be joked about because it’s too insensitive. I honestly can’t see myself joking about my experience with Border Control this time.

It was a mixed bag of emotions knowing that this would be my first Christmas without my Dad. I felt like it would be an interesting experience to see what my Mum and I did together to make this season special. Plus, I didn’t want to feel too sorry for myself. I don’t want to get into my relationship with my Dad either. That’s something I save for those near and dear to me. Although, I will say that before I left, there were some things he did that were very hurtful to me emotionally. Part of me was glad to leave and is still glad that I didn’t see him for the holidays. On the other hand, I really missed him on Christmas Day.

And then there was the COVID situation:

Another reason I didn’t want to feel too sorry for myself is that the holidays weren’t going to be normal for anyone this year. We have all had a bad year, and we have all had a loss in one way or another. Some of us have suffered worse than others though. If I think about it, I haven’t suffered as much as others I know. I have been processing my losses because it’s mentally healthy and I can be there for people who have suffered greater losses. The best thing I could do was to send love to the people I know. Love is the main thing we need right now. It’s easy to give and receive it and costs you nothing, but it’s important to take care of yourself too so you don’t exhaust yourself.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, we had a COVID scare! We needed some emergency plumbing done. Then, the plumber who worked on our place was exposed to someone who was also exposed to someone who had COVID. That made me and Mum level 4 of possible exposure! We decided to buck the trend if any. The best thing we could do was a semi-lockdown. We decided to stop going for our chronic pain treatment and limit going out for a while. Luckily, we didn’t get sick. I think it’s good we kept a certain amount of the paranoia we got from living in California during the first part of the pandemic. It would be the biggest irony of all to get sick after leaving a country whose COVID cases are off the charts at this point!

Then, We Had A Wonderful Surprise!

We got 10 inches of snow a few days before Christmas! A couple of days before the snowfall, we got a snow warning. It said to let someone know if you plan to go out and carry a cell phone with you. At that moment, I knew, “Okay. They are not messing around here!” My Mum said, “There’s winter. And then, there’s Canada.” She’s so right! On the day the snowfall started, we were in the southern part of Calgary. Aka: Any further south and we would have been out of the city on the way to the US border. I will talk about Calgarian suburbia more in a future post.

We were travelling home (by public transportation I might add) at the time when it started snowing. It was beautiful to see the snow falling, but I was grateful for being so well bundled up! Plus, visibility was disappearing from the snow fog and the setting sun. We proceeded with caution near the roads. People were driving home in droves. I learned that it can take drivers a while to get used to the snow season, and accidents can happen. We saw a driver nearly get rear-ended because he stopped for us to cross the street and the driver behind him had underestimated the stopping distance! Still, I’m a Londoner and a Public Transportation Odessey never hurt me. I’ll say more about days with deep snow in a future post, but I can honestly say I have thoroughly enjoyed it!

Also, even though it was -8 C, I was able to go outside without gloves! Not bad, hey?

Jazz Hands!

Christmas Eve

We have a tradition on Christmas Eve that we open one present. I chose a present that was both for me and my Mum, which was reading socks! I had stumbled on them as I was discovering the delights of Indigo bookstore (sp: !ndigo). Mum was delighted! We discussed the fact that you don’t really notice that your feet can get cold while reading. Also, this was definitely a creative moment with cultural significance. You’re more likely to notice things like cold feet when reading in a cold-weather/sub-Arctic climate, and someone was creative enough to find a solution for it! I love my reading socks! I’m wearing them as I’m writing this!

We watched some videos of the Halifax Comedy Festival before going to bed. I’m starting to develop a love for Canadian humour, and this has been a great introduction to it.

Christmas Day:

It was another beautiful day! My Mum was elated by the presents I found at !ndigo. I got us a crossword puzzle book of Canadian things as a family present. I feel like this will help us get a better understanding of the culture. We had a lovely Christmas dinner with different cheeses and charcuterie. Then, we had a panettone for our dessert. I wished everyone I knew the best Christmas possible. We have all had a hard year this year, but some have had a worse year than others. That night, we stayed up late and watched a new TV series. I’m not sure about this, but from what I have observed, Christmas night is the big night in Canada. In both the US and UK, it’s Christmas Eve. I guess I will find out more the longer I stay here.

After Christmas:

I started feeling depressed. In 2020, I struggled with depression on and off because of deliberately locking down for seven months. A fact about me as a person is that I love to get out and stay active. If I am forced to remain indoors from either illness or injury, I get depressed. So, naturally, 2020 was a hard time for my depression.

I found myself questioning everything I do during the day and feeling overloaded. It didn’t help that something happened that made me wish I was back in the US! It’s amazing how it’s easy to feel overloaded when the internet and media constantly demand your attention. One of my reasons for moving to Canada was to have a more deliberate life. Living near Silicon Valley felt more like System Overload Valley. Then, I remembered that this year, there is going to be the launch of The Great Reset Initiative. So, I said, “I need a Great Reset for my life!” One reason why I was taking a break from posting is to figure out what I need to do for my Great Reset. More on that later.

By the way, I’m not trying to say that I blindly agree with everything UN institutions are doing. One thing I did at university in my International Finance class is to study how UN institutions work and debate what they do. It was extremely informative, and it’s a practice I still continue today. I subscribe to World Economic Forum newsletters for precisely this reason. Honestly, I developed a passion for economics early on in my studies because of how it opened my world. I chose a fun major and a practical major. Even though Economics seems like my practical major at first glance, it was actually my fun major!

So, I decided to act on Past Precedent:

Next week is my birthday, but I made a decision to delay celebrating it until I felt ready. Sometimes, it can be hard to have a birthday soon after Christmas because you can overwork yourself. Additionally, I remember three years ago, I had appendicitis right before Christmas. My parents basically dropped everything to take care of me. I was home for Christmas, but the day wasn’t much because I was still very sick. We decided to celebrate Christmas on a day that I felt better. I learned that there can be too much pressure to celebrate things on the day. It’s okay to celebrate things later if you physically or mentally can’t do so on the day!

New Year’s:

I started feeling better on New Year’s Eve. A year ago, we started a tradition of doing stand-up comedy during the holiday season. This year, I got my first audience apart from my family! I’m part of this TCK community, and I did my routine for them! My theme was being a TCK, and also Canadian life so far. I am starting to learn what I can use as a common theme in my comedy.

There was something I was NOT looking forward to on New Year’s Eve: Brexit. I heard it was customary to say, “Happy Brexit”! Okay, do NOT say that to me please! Just don’t! I feel this so hard because I went to all this trouble to get dual nationality. I voted to stay in the EU to maintain my citizenship rights and I knew that it would be a big mess if England DID leave the EU. Now, I’m not an EU citizen and it turns out I was right! The only thing that makes me feel better about it is this:

Actually, John Oliver makes me feel better about Brexit in general. I recommend watching his three shows (so far) about Brexit! He can summarize the mess up better than I can!

There is one thing I can celebrate though. Today, I am 10% of the way to permanent residence in Canada! I’m not leaving anything to chance though. I have a plan for staying, and I’m just hoping it works. This month, I have been thinking about how much I have learned about life in Canada so far, and it’s amazing! Multiply that by 10 and who knows where I will be by the time I get permanent residence!

Resolutions:

I’m not one for making empty New Year’s Resolutions or trying to hold myself to impossible standards. I do make resolutions I believe in, but I am also accommodating of obstacles along my way. Some of these have to do with being new to Canada. The others have to do with my own Great Reset. Let me share a few:

  1. Explore more of my beautiful, new country! Whenever I move to a new country, I make a resolution to see more of it! Of course, it depends on the COVID situation, but I do have plans for a trip this summer!
  2. Improve on Canadian French. I am familiar with French French and Swiss-French, but this is a whole other dialect!
  3. Finish the draft of my book by the end of the year. Watch this space!
  4. Learn to drive in Canada. I have driven in England, and in California, but driving in Canada during the winter is a whole other set of skills to learn!

One last thing: If you haven’t filled out the survey for my blog, can you please do so? I am closing the survey on January 15th. Thank you to all of you who have filled it out! I appreciate your feedback!

https://forms.gle/UdcZMnoiaXnDqfjm7

Weird Winter in Calgary so far. Um, what? Normal, hey? 🤔

I wonder if this post will bust some stereotypes about Canadian winters. So, here goes!

Before I Moved:

Okay. I admit it. I fell for certain stereotypes about Canadian winters. Living in California for seven years after living in London didn’t help me to challenge those stereotypes. When I did tutor training, I watched this TED talk called The Danger of the Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I watched it again after I moved because I knew I was going to have experiences that challenged my preconceptions about Canada. What really resonates with me is how honest she is about the times she has fallen for the Single Story. She also talks about how she has been treated because other people had a Single Story in their minds. Here’s the video of The Danger of the Single Story below if you’re interested.

What I initially thought about Canadian Winters:

Okay, a disclaimer before I show these photos! It doesn’t help stereotypes to always have snow in memes when you’re talking about Canada!

Expectation:

Expectation of Canadian Winter
Source: Facebook

Cold right? It’s also funny!

Reality:

Source: Buzzfeed

Okay. 5 degrees isn’t exactly shorts and sandals for me personally. I can go out wearing a down jacket and carrying a sweater with me just in case it gets colder. There was no need to layer up though. I was rather proud of myself for taking the garbage out in my hoodie at -10 degree weather during my quarantine period and I wasn’t even cold! My friends in California balked when I told them! I did think that winter was going to be constant sub-zero temperatures. My imagination told me I would need to layer up every time I go out, and that there would always be thick layers of snow. Boy, was I wrong! 😱 One good thing is that I have friends in Calgary who did tell me a bit about the winter before I moved. They didn’t tell me everything though, which I appreciated because I wanted to discover some things on my own. I knew about the need to layer up when it was subzero though. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos on the subject. My friends talked about chinooks too but didn’t say too much about them. I learned more after moving. Read on to find out what I have learned so far this weird winter!

October Weather:

As many of you know, I arrived in Canada in mid-October. You can read my first impressions of Canadian winter in my following posts:

Flying Internationally and Locally during COVID-19

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 1

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 2

First Month Theme: Is This A Thing?

After I arrived, it snowed for 3 days straight! I was just pissed off that I couldn’t go out for a walk to enjoy it because I was in my mandatory quarantine period! I figured there would be more big snowfalls later on, BUT so far, there haven’t been any other snowfalls as big as that! If you have questions about driving in the snow, I can’t answer them right now. I made the decision to not drive this winter. First of all, I have to figure out the process of getting a driver’s license. It’s dependent on your immigration status. Second of all, the only time I drove in the snow was when I spent a Christmas at Yosemite. My plan is to get used to driving in Canada in the “summer” (such as it is)😂. That should give me time to learn about things I need to do before winter hits again.

November Weather:

After my Mum and I were done with quarantine, we had to pick something up at Best Buy. The guy who helped us noticed we had US government I.D. He welcomed us, asked where we moved from, and then asked how we liked the weather. I said it was beautiful! He said, “You like our weather? Wait 20 minutes.” Now I know that’s a common thing to say in Calgary. He ended up talking our ears off about the weather and climate in Calgary and Alberta! The main points were that he has seen it snow in July, and people sunbathing in November. This was the first time we found out that chinooks can give you migraines because of the sudden change in barometric pressure. I got him talking about the weather in Alberta when I told him about this reel I found on Instagram!

He said Lake Louise gets much deeper snow than Banff. I am hoping I can experience all of that and more in the winter soon! The snow that fell during my quarantine stayed for a long time, and we did get a bit more snow in the second week of November. Here are some more snowy November photos, but they weren’t taken all at once.

My favourite time was when I was taking a morning walk and the trees were covered in hoarfrost!

What I really love about Calgary is it’s sunny! I wasn’t expecting that as much because Calgary is 51 degrees North. It’s the same latitude as London and I would describe that city as anything but sunny. If the temperature is low, it doesn’t really have an effect on melting the snow. I was at the Co-op once and I saw this bit of clever advertising from Cal & Gary’s. 👏👏👏

Later in the month, I was kind of curious why we weren’t getting as much snow as I thought we would. My Mum and I went through a rough time in late November. It would have been super nice to have had some snow to make things beautiful!

December Weather:

The month changed and I was still incredulous about the weather. Were we going to get snow soon? I felt like Calvin and Hobbes when Calvin is simply desperate for snow! I read this article about speedskaters practicing on a lake in Alberta, and I thought, “What?” There was no sign of it snowing in Calgary, much less the river freezing!

Then, I remembered that Calgary has its own microclimate that has actually been significant in its history. The Blackfoot and the Métis would hold gatherings where the Bow and Elbow rivers intersect. If you think about the rest of Alberta’s climate, you begin to understand why they chose this nice little microclimate!

In the first week of December, we had a chinook! I’m not kidding. I used to think they happened in the spring, but apparently, there were some warm temperatures around Canada that week. The temperature broke an 81-year old record. I heard that in general, Calgary gets 2 or 3 chinooks in a winter. Last year, I heard they got about six chinooks. I feel sorry for the people who get migraines! I personally don’t get migraines, but my Mum does. I get ear pressure though, which is pretty painful! During the chinook, I popped my ears and got a nosebleed. I kid you not, AccuWeather has a migraine monitor. I find it useful to look at even if I don’t get migraines because I can plan for ear pressure too. It did eventually snow, but it wasn’t a long snow shower. The overall temperature is colder now though.

Final Thoughts:

A friend of mine told me there are four seasons in Calgary: Almost Winter, Winter, After Winter and Roadworks. I would say after December’s chinook that we went from Almost Winter to Winter. There is a standing joke here about only being able to tell what the weather is going to be by looking out the window. Okay, I don’t really get it right now, so bear with me, please!

I got some weird questions about life in Canada during the winter after I moved. I never miss a chance to nicely tease my California friends for asking me those questions though! 😏 One of my theories for this weird winter is that I brought some California weather with me to hold us for a while! To my fellow Calgarians, you’re welcome!

I have learned not to say anything about future weather predictions, particularly for snow. No jinxing for me! Any time someone says we’re expecting some kind of weather, I say, “What are you talking about? What… (fill in the blank with either chinook or snowfall)?”

A Word on Canada Geese:

I thought when I moved here that the geese would have migrated and I would miss seeing them. Not true. There are still some geese here who haven’t flown south yet. Don’t believe me? The photos below were taken this month! The reason why I thought they would be gone was that in the movie Fly Away Home, they go south with the geese in late October.

I often take walks along the Elbow River, so I see geese congregating there before they fly south. What’s really strange is I hear them going south when it’s dark out, and I’ve only ever known them to be diurnal.

I love seeing the city wildlife here! I’m actually doing an Instagram series of photos and videos of what I see. Follow me @winteroseca or follow my hashtag #discoveringcalgarywildlife you can see them!

So, there you have my weird and wonderful Calgarian winter! What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments!