BRAD     |     EMILLIE

Thursday, February 23, 2012

All these things into position

Today I don't know what to blog about. And in the same breath, today is the day I must blog.  Yet my mind comes up blank.  It is coming up blank about nearly everything... what should I cook for dinner... what should I wear... what should we do today... I think my main issue is homesickness.  It really is making it hard to motivate myself in a forward direction towards anything.

I feel like an oddly displaced person.

Officially "I am back home". Unofficially, Victoria is a city that we lived in for just one year prior to moving to Ireland.  How could I be back home when I lived in Maynooth for nearly double the time?  My connections to Vancouver are plentiful... between all the family and friends we have there we didn't even get enough time to see everyone in the few days before we moved to Victoria.

And here we are back in Victoria.  Don't get me wrong, we have friends in Victoria. But the small splash we briefly made before leaving for just over two years means that we have really very few strong connections.  I know that it will take a few months to find ourselves on the other side of the boredom that comes from loneliness.  In the meantime we must be patient... and relearn the friendship dialogue of Canada.

Certainly Nikolai has suffered the most social disjointedness in this new culture.  Although we weren't sure if he had developed an accent before leaving Maynooth, it took a full 3 weeks before anyone over here could understand what he was saying.  He still sounds odd, but he's adjusted his vowels enough to be understood by the general public.  And the games he plays are all wrong:

-In Ireland, kids are allowed to be rough and tumble. No one is really upset by a younger sibling being accidentally knocked over.  In Canada, children are encouraged to express creativity, as long as they are sitting still while they do it.

-Superheros and trains were cool in Ireland. We've been reading books on dinosaurs non-stop just so Nikolai can catch up.

-No one seems to care about Postman Pat or Fireman Sam or even Peppa the Pig.  And while we still watch Hubble through the RTE portal, I doubt Nikolai will have any friends who share his interest in Ogie and Emma.

My greatest challenge is in figuring out how people communicate with each other, because it's certainly NOT through texting.  It seems like half the people I've met so far don't even have cellphones, and those that do don't seem to engage in the steady flow of conversational texting that I've grown use to.  Clearly I need to get back in the habit of exchanging email addresses rather than phone numbers.

Now to end on a more upbeat mode! (Lest my doting family start to worry about my mental health!) We enjoyed the company of Dylan and Nancy over the past weekend before they left for two weeks in Hawaii.  Although that mainly benefits THEIR mental health, they did leave us with the use of their car for the intervening period. Basically they live a 3 hour drive Up Island and are storing their car at our house. However, we've been putting it to good use picking up used furniture and general supplies. It's a relief to finally have a furnished house! 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Constantly swimming against the tide

It is impossible for me to sit down, to pause for a moment, to catch my breath. I haven't had the time to respond to emails, or deal with the bureaucracy of moving back. At the moment I feel like every step forward results in the addition of at least two more items on my lengthy list of things that Must Get Done.  "It's important! Add it to the list!" is not helpful since it really is just a list of things that are forever to be left undone.

Previously I would have wondered about what kind of person doesn't bother to change their address within the month after moving.  Now I know the answer... because I am the lazy delinquent who can't get anything accomplished.  But I am an organized person... coming from a family of organized people... and an extended family of organized people (I'm guessing it was my neanderthal ancestors who were busy wrapping twigs up into a broom so that they could sweep out the caves).  So living with a chronically mounting To Do list does not feel all right.

So today's blog is therapy. Well, maybe not therapy... but a chance to list my excuses in a vain attempt to assuage my own sense of disarray.

Excuse #1: The Government of Canada does not provide free preschool.
In Ireland Nikolai went to preschool five days a week for three hours a day.  In Canada, preschool for a 3-year old is only two days a week.  If you want your kid to go more days, then you need to put them in daycare (creche). This loss of preschool time just happened to coincide with Nikolai finally giving up his nap. So all of a sudden I only get four hours of alone time A WEEK. 

Excuse #2: Brad has very little free time.
Right before leaving Maynooth Brad had four papers accepted for publication!  Yahoo! However, that meant that the required editing of the papers would have to be done after our move. Then there's the fact that Brad volunteered to be on the organizing committee for a conference... and the review period for conference submissions just happened to coincide with our move.  Lastly, Brad entered his new job during a period of project chaos.  As the new guy, his overtime hours were limited to just a few evenings. Regardless, the sum total of Brad's commitments has meant that he has very little time to spend assisting me with domestic pursuits.

Excuse #3: Our shipment has not arrived.
In fact, we were honoured with an email on February 7th informing us that our shipment had just left Dublin port. JUST LEFT, as in THAT DAY!  I am left to wonder at what Careline was doing with our shipment for the previous EIGHT weeks.  They picked up our boxes and charged us on December 16th!

But fear not, our boat finally arrived in Canada yesterday! The only trick is that it arrived in Montreal for processing and bureaucratic importing paperwork that will only serve to further delay it's arrival. Having already been required to show the list of declared items to the customs agents at the airport, I can say that "assorted stuffed animals, a wooden train set and other miscellaneous children's toys" were generally declared to be valueless.  While the government may not care about that collection of children's toys, I am anxiously awaiting it's arrival.

My three year old may be creative and imaginative, but he is sorely missing the company of his favorite toys. As it turns out, I am his only playtime alternative. So my list languishes with unaccomplished chores while I explore our new neighbourhood, play hide-and-seek and create an imaginary world out of the few toys we have left.

At this rate, it will probably be July before we finally get around to changing our addresses! Now, I'm off to get ready for our first set of visitors.  I hope they don't mind sleeping in a room full of boxes!  I'll let you know their review of our hospitality next week in the hopes of inciting all our Irish friends to make their way to our guest room in Victoria.

The picture above is from a shipping yard just a short 15 minute walk from our house.  Unfortunately this boat is full of logs and not our boxes! Below is some local seals begging Nikolai for food.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Water, water, all around

Our first week back in Canada was a week of rain. A very typical Vancouver-style rain, in that it was persistent and heavy. Similar to the sort of rain that flooded Dundrum and the Dart in Dublin last fall.  In a Vancouver winter that sort of rain occurs more often then not. 

Jet lagged, having just arrived from relatively sunny Ireland, the bleak greyness of the sky combined with the bleak grey of the pavement below to cast all the buildings in a grey hue.  I went from beautiful, rolling, green countryside to a grey horizon of modern glass high rises and rundown single story commercial strips.  Our trip over to Victoria proved to be equally dismal.  We were subject to wet feet and an encompassing feeling of having moved into a bland and bleak existence. 

However, I have since had reason to change my outlook on my fate.  Victoria is about as rainy as Dublin in the winter, and often suffers from droughts in the summer.  In other words, it is a much, much sunnier place than Vancouver.  Last week I was too frantic in my unpacking and grocery shopping (final bill for last week alone totalled over $1000!) to enjoy the sunshine.  However this week is a different story, and I have come to realize that James Bay is a wonderful place to live! 

Last Friday we headed to the east of us to explore the HUGE city park of Beacon Hill (just two blocks away). On Saturday we walked north into downtown Victoria to do some shopping (we're five blocks away from the Parliament Buildings).  And today we walked to the water that borders the west and south sides of James Bay.  It is a small community, bounded by geography, and its expansive waterfront was something we needed to explore.

So I packed a picnic lunch and picked Nikolai up from preschool with the firm intention of finding a beach to rest upon.  Nikolai was more than game to follow in my plan, so we headed for the ocean, a mere four blocks from the James Bay Community Centre and Primary School (and to think we'd never even seen it!). At that point along our journey, we were high up on a break water.  The view was terrific, and I am determined to return on a clearer day for a better view of mountains (from a quick look at maps.google it appears that they are located in the USA).
However, the break water eventually opened up at Ogden Point to give us a rocky, log-strewn beach to have our picnic on.
From there we continued our walk down past the small port and cruise ship terminal to fisherman's wharf.  Fisherman's wharf is clearly a tourist trap, but on a Tuesday in February we had it all to ourselves.  It is a "floating village" that mainly comprises floating restaurants, whale watching tour providers, sea kayak rentals and hippy/artsy housing.  We bought chips from one of the two restaurants still open in the off-season and watched the local seal population beg for food.  Since I was the only tourist around, I decided to take more than my standard fare of photos. 

The first photo is one that Nikolai took, and the others are of floating houses that peaked my interest.











Friday, February 03, 2012

And suddenly I'm shy

Moving is always difficult.  Our last move into the apartment with a castle view... without the furniture... and only a few carloads of stuff... was easy.  However, this move definitely is the most difficult we've ever gone through.  The logistics are all too complex.

To start off with, a good portion of our day-to-day items are on a boat... hopefully floating their way up along the Pacific Coast after crossing at the Panama Canal.  There's the piles of clothes and things we cared enough about to carry with us in suitcases.  Then there's the Storage Locker.  The Storage Locker deserves the italicized proper noun status because it truly is that ominous.  Everything we stored had a value that somehow made it worth it's place in the locker.  We didn't pack for practicality, we packed for our emotional connection to The Stuff.  And we densely filled that 7 cu.ft. space with so much Stuff that there wasn't an inch of wasted space.

So here I am on the receiving end of all this stuff that I loved.  And that's the punch line of it... I loved that stuff two years ago... but now... I'm wondering why we bothered keeping the set of martini glasses when we gave away the wine glasses?  What the hell were we thinking?  So instead of owning practical things like a bed frame or pots and pans, I am confronted with an antique ice block refrigerator and Brad's collection of old t-shirts.
My whine doesn't end there... oh no! I need a time machine to go back to my pre-Ireland self, and tell myself off for not thoroughly labelling boxes.  Like right now, I could really do with the computer speakers (music would make the chore of unpacking much more bearable).  I know we must have kept them, because I found the bass... but I've looked through nearly all the boxes in a desperate search for some music... and I've found a ton of stuff we don't need... fish bowl, lava lamp, Turkish coffee cups, Japanese tea cups... but no cooking pots and no freakin' speakers.

However, I don't want to leave everyone wondering about our welfare... trapped in a life without home cooked food (which would probably be my ultimate punshiment).  A friend of mine dropped off a complete set of well-used, but still quite nice pots, that should tide us over until we get our lives sorted out.

And just in case you were wondering... which you probably weren't, but hey, this is my rant... I've been to four different grocery stores and bought more than $500 worth of groceries, and I still barely have enough food to make a meal.  Mental note: buy salt tomorrow!

Photos: Above is the view from the ferry.  The funny thing about moving somewhere rainer than Ireland is that both Brad and I had wet feet nearly all of last week.  Below is only about half of my stored collection of antique jars... seriously WTF.