Category Archives: Banter

Things I want to say

We come from a land down south

I’m trying to pick one event that stands out as that ‘defining moment’ that perfectly and neatly captures our time here in Canada. That moment when we knew this felt right, that this was home. And I’ve got to say, I’m not sure if there is one. There may be many. But there may also be none. Let’s review.

We’ve been in Canada for 8 months now. Two thirds of a year. We’ve been through winter, spring, summer, and autumn, and that was just today! We’ve also had a few tornados today but that’s probably a different story. We’ve bought the t-shirt and worn it. Then we shrank it in the tumble dryer and had to buy a new one. But that’s ok, because there are so many more t-shirts to see and we’re super excited to wear them all (I think that metaphor lost me somewhere).

When we landed, I don’t think we were completely prepared for how different our lives were going to be here. Obviously we knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore, and that it snowed in Canada, and that we would drive on the right hand side of the road. We knew the obvious things, the stuff you read on the interwebs and that you can learn through research. We’re not totally useless and I like to believe we have the street smarts! But there are tons of less superficial, more implicit things you learn as you begin to acculturate. And that process involves making the conscious decision to identify with the culture of your new home. It doesn’t happen automatically and many people choose not to become part of their adoptive country’s culture. Some people choose to go only part of the way and hold onto their old cultures and cultural identities.

We have gone out of our way to absorb the Canadian-ness around us. We want to belong. We want to fully and totally be a part of this incredible country. That’s not to say we will forget where we came from, it just means that now, Canada is home. And we will throw ourselves into it completely by doing the following:

  • Drink coffee. All. The. Time.
  • Send our kids to learn how to ice skate and play hockey.
  • Enjoy the weather when it’s a pleasant 5 degrees C in winter.
  • Talk about the weather at every opportunity.
  • Barbecue in the garage.
  • Spend many many hours outdoors.
  • Park our car just outside the garage in the driveway or on the road by our house.
  • Walk late at night around the quiet neighborhood.
  • Call the bathroom the ‘washroom’.
  • Turn the basement into a playground for the kids to enjoy on the days when it’s too cold to stay outside for too long.
  • Take a train to work.
  • Use the library, parks and conservation areas.
  • Clean our own home, do our own washing and look after the garden ourselves (although, to be totally honest, we have engaged the services of a cleaning company that comes twice a month).
  • Decorate our porch and the outside of our house with the appropriate decorations every season. This month it’ll be pumpkins and such.
  • And ALWAYS have maple syrup in our pantry.
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A parade, a fair and a giant teacup

It’s always good to have a specific goal when you want to do something. It’s even better if you can visualize what you want to achieve. When Roger and I made the decision to move to Canada it was a completely intangible goal. We’d never been to Canada; it was just a concept. So we created some visual goals for ourselves.

I’ve made it sound far more deliberate than it actually was. To be sure, Roger and I very rarely sit down and plan and visualize anything – except maybe supper. Or cake. And beer. But I digress. We are horrible planners. And even worse doers. It’s an absolute miracle that we managed to transfer our entire lives from one continent to another. I’m still not quite sure how we managed. What we did do a lot of was talking about Canada and imagining what it would be like. We also spoke a great deal about what we were looking forward to.

One of the things we were looking forward to the most when we got to Canada was that feeling of community. Yesterday, as I sat working at my desk, I happened to look up out of the window as Roger mowed the lawn in front of our house. Our neighbors were outside chatting to him and their children were playing with our children. To be fair they might have seemed rude had they stayed inside, since Roger was cutting their grass too. Our neighbor to the other side was sweeping our adjoining patios and joining the conversation. It was lovely. Such a small thing, but it it was the affirmation of an achievement.

The second visual goal was something Roger and I had been
speaking about for years. Before we even decided to leave South Africa. It was something that represented the lifestyle we wanted: a family oriented, safe lifestyle. Today we got to Experience that. A parade! Our very first parade in our new country. And it didn’t disappoint. There were bagpipers, firemen, old men dancing, fancy cars, and people lining the streets waving Canadian flags. The kids loved it, so we loved it even more! It was a promise fulfilled.

There are so many more of these events that we’ve spoken about and are looking forward to. People may take them for granted; they may not even notice them anymore. But for the Bloom family, they’re the realization of a dream.

April showers bring snow plowers

Over a period of about 20 years, Roger and I built a life. I met Roger when I was in matric (Grade 12). He taught me to drive and I bought a pink Beetle. Her name was Deliliah and she would break down/run out of petrol at least once a week. Roger and I moved in together, slowly collected used furniture, and cheap plates and mugs. Later, we upgraded our things as we could. We both had jobs and cars; we bought a house; had a child, then another. We went on holiday to the US, and renovated our house. Over 20 years. Give or take.

We have been in Canada for three months. In that time we’ve stayed in two houses, found a school for Holly, bought a car, and got a driver’s license. We’ve seen and become people of Walmart (running, screaming kids will do that to you). We’ve learnt how to shovel and salt the snow. We’ve learnt which ketchup tastes good, where to find $3 butter, and that Fortino’s (it’s like a fancy Thrupps) makes the tastiest bread and has the freshest veggies. We aspire to become Fortino’s people.

We’ve learned that the 401 highway is jam-packed in rush hour, but the 407 is empty (because you pay to use it, which explains our $800 bill!) and you need to get a transponder for your car. We know that a Loonie and a Toonie will almost buy you 1.96 liters of milk. That’s two gallons. We use the metric system here but it’s complicated. People still want to use imperial so, in order to accommodate everyone, both units of measurement are used. We just recently learnt too, that spring is spring in name alone. In spring this year we had an ice storm that almost shut southern Ontario down!

We’ve learnt that despite the strong and ongoing propaganda, Tim Hortons coffee is in fact horrible; Starbucks coffee wins every time! (Shots fired!) Canadian Tire sells so much more than tires (and it’s one of Canada’s Top 100 Employees for 2018!) – it’s a giant man-shop (as opposed to a giant-man shop) but one that women like, too. A bit like Builder’s Warehouse but one that sells sports equipment and supporters’ clothes too. I haven’t actually experienced a Canadian Tire, but the blissed-out expression on Roger’s face told me everything I needed to know.

We’ve also learnt that there’s so much more to learn! This country is like the United Nations. When we take the children to the local playground we hear almost as many different languages as there are people there. No one twitches when they hear a different accent. And with each of those different cultural groups comes a festival or an ethnic supermarket, and a whole host of different stories and experiences.

We truly are privileged to be here and to be able to enjoy everything this incredible country has to offer. It took us 20 years to get to where we felt like we were acing it! We’ve had to fast-track all of that life stuff into just over three months. We’re not quite there, but we’re getting a little closer every day. Hopefully the Bloom’s adventures in setting up our lives will continue to entertain you.

Boobee with a chance of meatballs

‘Boooobeeeee! Boooobeeeee!’ he yelled with his head thrown back and a maniacal grin on his face. ‘Boooobeeee!’ This was at approximately the halfway point in our first IKEA shopping excursion. And to be clear, this was almost-two-year-old Eli, not his father. At this point I’d completely lost my sense of humour. With the little one demanding a boob and not taking no for an answer, and the big one crying because I wouldn’t let her choose a king-size sleigh bed and a cot for her bedroom, I was ready to throw in the grey towels I’d gathered and order an Uber. A note on that.

We do not have a car in Canada. We cannot buy a car until we have insurance. We can’t get insurance until one of us has an Ontario driver’s license. So until we can write the driver’s test, pass the actual driving test and get insurance, and buy a car, we’re dependent on Uber. Or walking to Walmart to buy groceries (this deserves a whole other post).

With Eli’s skinny little arm thrust far down my shirt, his war cry of boooobeeee ringing out through the mazes of hell, I hunted down a minion in yellow and blue. The directions to the ‘nursery’ sounded something like this: ‘Ya wanna know where the nursery is? Okay. Right. Go down there and turn right. Walk past the beds on the left and turn right then turn left. At the workstations turn left, then left and left again and follow the arrows right. That should take you right to the front entrance past the checkout with the nursery on the right.’ Somehow we found the nursery. Despite the directions! Eli was reunited with booooobbbeeee and, when he was done, danced a little jig to the music being played thoughtfully through the speakers.

Following this interesting little detour, our posse regrouped at the beds and we began the task we’d set out to accomplish approximately 90 minutes before: finding beds and trying out mattresses that we could order and have delivered ready for our first night in our brand new, empty house.

When we left Dante’s nine circles of hell (thanks for the reference, Ian Burt) it was snowing. But we left armed with veggie ‘meatballs’, a totally useless and unnecessary cushion my eldest decided she couldn’t live without, and some towels. So it wasn’t a complete bust.  

Six weeks to go!

6 weeks until we leave. I’m simultaneously thrilled and petrified. We have so much to do still to prepare! Stuff to sell and give away, things to buy, people to see …

Our passports currently living in a safe with our visas to the US, UK and Canada

In preparation for our leaving we’ve been selling the contents of our house. In the beginning this was difficult because everything is a part of our story, our 20-year, two-child journey together to this point in our lives. We had to emotionally disconnect before we could get rid of things. Now, though, we’re throwing things at the highest bidder! Discounts given to the person who can collect soonest. Here – have a free pile of books!

Dining room table gone, couch gone, rugs gone, nice curtains gone

I’ve met some interesting people during this process. We chat first on social media then we move our relationship forward and connect on WhatsApp. We organise a time for collection. It’s like a strange kind of date where pleasantries are exchanged for goods. When people hear that we’re emigrating we get all kinds of responses: encouragement, envy, justification why they aren’t leaving, political ramblings, and anger at the state of the nation. We always steer the conversation away from the negativity and emphasise that we’re leaving for a new adventure. It’s true. We want our move to be about what’s positive, exciting, new and full of opportunity. We don’t want to leave South Africa under a pall of negativity and shrouded in resentment.

Part of the preparation for the move has been figuring out what type of accommodation we’ll need and for how long. We’ve literally spent weeks slogging through Air B and B listings, Kijiji.ca, and random Google searches looking for a comfortable home for the first part of our stay. We need a place for 10 days while we’re looking for more permanent accommodation. But when you’re traveling with two shrinkies in the depths of winter there is much to consider! After hours of searching, clouds of sighs, and countless keyboard-inflicted blisters, we found our Air B and B match! We will no longer be homeless when we arrive in Canada. You’re welcome kids.

With flights and accommodation organised, at least for the first 10 days, we can turn our divided attention to our leaving date: 12 January. But before we can climb into the plane and settle in for the first season of our new lives, we need to clear out this damn house and buy ourselves some warm clothes! Leggings and a tunic just won’t cut it in -40c.  Anyone need salad bowls?

The piles of boxes we’re collecting to get rid of stuff and some lonely Tupperware containers a ‘time waster’ left behind

The first of many

Tonight I cried for the first of what will undoubtedly be many times until we leave in January 2018. I cried because I missed my best friend who left South Africa for Qatar more than a year ago. I cried because I was listening to music with her but we’re on opposite sides of the world. I cried because people were bemoaning the high levels of crime in the country. I cried because a friend experienced a random act of kindness when a stranger paid for her groceries. I cried because I don’t see my friends as often as I should and I don’t always know what’s happening in their lives. I cried because we have to find new homes for our dogs and we’re their people – we’re their people! I cried because I know my daughter is having so many feelings about leaving that she doesn’t know how to deal with. I cried for all of these reasons. But the main reason I cried was because I’m scared.

I’m scared of leaving all the familiar things. I’m scared of leaving the comfortable life we’ve worked so hard to build. I’m scared I won’t have this life and these comforts in a new country. I’m scared of flying to a country I’ve never been to, to start a whole new life without the security of a job. I’m scared because the support system we have here, though small, will not be coming with us. And, as much as I tell myself I’m not scared – it’s all a lie. I’m very scared.

But I know this new adventure is the right step for us. It’s the best path for our little family. This new adventure will give my family so many new opportunities. This adventure will give us so many exciting experiences. I know it’s the right decision. But I’m still scared and I’m still crying.