My hiatus from the blog sphere can be best described as tiring and stressful. Spent the last month in Canada spending time with new friends (finally!), packing and dealing with the retarded moving company. At least we didn’t have to pack our stuff into a UHAUL van and drive back and forth from the Edmonton Airport to our place.
Once our suite was cleaned out and our tiny car was packed, we drove out of Alberta and across the Saskatchewan plains into North Dakota and beyond. The drive was so miserable that I was actually glad to greet the US Customs Agent when we reached the border. I was SO grateful the agent did not make us get out of our car and open our hatchback trunk: our tiny car was tightly packed to the point that it surpassed a clown car’s capacity.
Cutie and I arrived at his parent’s compound, happy to be greeted and to rest after a long week. I knew I missed the US when I was happy that my father-in law provided a bag of Cheetos to snack on. Or when we went to a Walmart Superstore in the nearby town and gasped at the size of the store and the variety of food there. I was happy when we made a stop at the small liquor store and managed to buy a 6-pack of my favorite beer (that I haven’t drank in a year!) and not pay $15 for it (Canada has high alcohol tax). Cutie and I became more relaxed as we indulged in home cooking and worked on the property: he helped his dad build a fence while I pulled thistle weeds.
Cutie insists that the move to Canada was not a bad idea. He is right: living abroad sounds romantic but it is a huge and challenging learning experience. What I learned from living abroad in Canada:
1- Food restrictions. This is why when I went into a store at the West Edmonton Mall, a 12 pack of Cherry Coke was selling for $25! Canada restricts a lot of the ingredients found in processed foods in the US. But that hasn’t stopped the Canadians wanting certain brands and paying up the nose for them.
2- Canadianitis: I have encountered this attitude several times among acquaintances and friends who truly believe that Canada is the best country in the world. I understand that the land has blessed them with a good life, but the grass is always greener on the other side. Especially when that side has been fertilized with chemicals. I love my country, but it will be never be #1 in the world.
I have worked with immigrants and Canadians and found that they have similar economic and social problems as in the US. Except Canada has less corruption. I saw how the Great Recession has not hit Canada and that although the shopping sucks, there is a least one store for every designer brand that exists in the universe. Like all cycles, this one will also come to an end and will force everyone to hunker down.
3- Urban and road planing is ridiculous and stupid. Damn the construction season! No kilometer markers, closed main roads and the gas stations are not found near the roads. Cutie and I had to make 30 min detours into small towns just to gas up. What annoyed me the most are those bikers riding at the lane exits. In the US they are banned from riding near exits or along the interstates because cars can and do run over them.
4- I understand why some of my Canadian friends are going to use their vacation time just to shop in the US: EVERYTHING is more expensive in Canada. Food, housing, items, gasoline…EVERYTHING. Even with the exchange rate, the variety of good available in Canada is limited to the point where I barely bought anything there. We bought chairs at IKEA because we gave up our dinning table and sofa before moving to Canada. I am looking forward to paying less for everything again.
5- Good Asian food. I found lots of exotic Asian food ingredients to use in my cooking. But finding food ingredients off season proved to be a challenge, especially during the winter months. Cutie and I indulged on cheap sushi at a restaurant nearby.
6- Lack of cojones. For some reason, a lot of the people who work in manual labor have a chip on their shoulder of some sort. A cashier at the Safeway refused to take my groceries out of the basket to place them on the conveyer belt (could it be a union thing?). Some plumber parked his van behind our car while we were about to leave. Cutie made the guy cow down and move his van. The guy, for lack of cojones, ran to the landlord and complained to her about us being “rude”. I didn’t apologize : I have gotten blocked in my own garage so many times by these contractors that Cutie and I just got tired of being nice. A man in the US would rather be caught dead than to run to a woman to complain about an incident that would have been solved among men. But not in Canada.
7-Living conditions are laughable and are considered normal in Canada: paying $800 a month of a basement suite with a shared kitchen with other tenants is considered a good deal in Edmonton. Or how the Temporary Foreign Workers are so used to being ripped off by rent by their fast food employers (think 8 people in a 1 bedroom suite). If it weren’t for Cutie and I saving for years for this “adventure” we would have been stuck living in a similar situation as these folks. We’ve lived with roommates before and have gone past that point as a married couple.
8- Appreciating my country more: I like the US more now that I have lived away from it. I now enjoy the small things that I once did not care about because I took them for granted. Not to mention the comfort of using US currency instead of Canadian dollars and not gritting my teeth at how expensive the basic necessities are.
It’s good to be back.