Monday, September 29, 2008

Just When I Was About to Give Up on Canada

So it is not surprise to readers of this blog that I'm struggling a bit getting used to things. Much though I may joke about the milk in bags and meat in grams, I have been feeling a bit down and a bit lonely. I miss my husband and I miss my friends. Moving to a new country is hard, even if that country is, apparently, called the hat of the country you used to live in. (I found out tonight that people in Britain and Europe call Canada the U.S.A's hat-- there is something just great about that.)

To assuage my loneliness and to preempt my tendency to wallow in self pity, I made a new rule for myself starting this week: that every day, I have to spend 1-2 hours outside of the apartment, unrelated to work or school obligations. It can be to go shopping, it can be to knit, it can be to work out, it can be (as I did tonight) to relocate my studying from my sofa to a Coffee Culture. But I have to go out and be open to talking to new people.

So tonight, I was at Coffee Culture, drinking my coffee and reading Kant's The Critic of Judgement, I noticed a guy with a John McCain bobble head. Now I, in my liberal haze, assumed that anyone who would own such a thing would only have it in irony. This is sort of what it looked like, although it was of a younger McCain in a flight suit:
Yeah, pretty silly, right? The dude wasn't being ironic at all-- he loves McCain and he loves Bush. As opposite me politically as a guy can be, but he invited me over to the table where he and a fairly large group of guys were gathering after having a more organized discussion at the library across the street. So there were all sorts-- I was the only American, but not the only liberal. There was an older man who was wearing a button that said "Abolish Personal Property," and a bunch of other men. I met London's town crier, who also maintains a list of over 2000 people that he calls on their birthdays. I'm on his list now.

I got to talk to grown ups about something other than music or music faculty gossip for most of an hour. It was awesome. It was a free exchange of ideas, it was surprisingly like what I used to get out of knitting group. (I'm still trying to find the knitters in London. I've found the one yarn shop I visited dissapointing. Maybe I'll get to the other that's actually in town over the weekend with Sally.) They invited me to join their formal discussion next month (apparently they meet on the last Monday of the month to discuss philosophy and politics and whatever else they find interesting) and then the informal event (like what I crashed tonight) after.

So the act of faith that was leaving the house was rewarded. I'm not saying I have made friends, but I did get to spend the evening with people who saw me. And I feel more like I might belong here, in my own way.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Culture Shock Part II: Obtaining Provisions and Sustinence

So the grocery store is weird. I always find them a little intimidating, but here, it seems particularly so. Things aren't what I expect them to be, and the there is the pesky metric system, and on top of everything is bilingual, and frequently this means one side of the package is in English and the other is in French, so if the box is turned to the French side, I don't always know what it is. 3 semesters of French at MTSU does not make me a competent grocery shopper when accounting for the possibility that a rouge Huguenot might be roaming my local grocery store.

Let's start in the dairy isle. They sell milk in bags here. Yes. In bags. Apparently the idea is that you put it into your own pitcher and recycle the bags. Every Canadian I've spoken to about this thinks it is the most logical thing ever. Every American I've talked to about this with thinks its the weirdest freakin' thing ever.

Also they have homo milk, and by that they mean homogenized milk, not milk for the gays. But Americans giggle, while the Canadians look at us like we're weird.

Secondly, things sold by weight are generally (but not always) sold in 100 gram units. Lets take the example of lunch meat. I know that 1 pound of sliced turkey is about a week of sandwiches for 1 person. This is about, according to my computer's unit converter tool, 450 grams. Since I don't bring my laptop to the grocery, and I have an abysmal memory, I don't always remember this. The particularly odd thing is that at the farmer's market, stuff is sold in pounds. Now I'm even more confused.

Finally, the cereal isle, which I don't always like in the best of US supermarkets, because it can be cognitively overwhelming. There are colors and ads and cartoon characters and whining children and competing health claims. It is sensory overload, pure and simple, something I'm overly prone to at the best of times. My problem with it here, in addition to all of that is that, I don't recognize very many of the cereals. I mean there are the typical kids brands, but I am trying to eat healthfully, and frankly, the only cereal I recognize is the raisin bran. Not that it is unhealthful, but maybe I'd like something different, too.

So I feel as though I have been left in a strange country unsure what I should/could/would like to eat. I'm seriously considering giving up and subsisting on wine, cheese and frozen pizzas.

The good news is that Costco is pretty much the same. My same membership even works. The bad news is that I have 36 rolls of "bath tissue" or "papier hygienique" that I do not know where to put.

And in all seriousness, I like my new home. I love discovering other cultures. But it can be thoroughly exhausting; I'm just glad I get to use my primary language.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Calvin Moves to Canada

So, I'm in trouble. I told Mommy that I would do this over the weekend, but I was at Riley's house, and we were having too much fun for me to post to her blog. She's still been nice enough to put in some pictures and check my spelling.

(He's a smart dog, but the camera requires thumbs)

We live someplace else now. I liked our old house, because it had stairs and sunny spots, and Granny lived nearby, and I knew a bunch of the dogs in the neighborhood, and it was super fun. Now, we have another house, and Daddy isn't here, and that makes me sad. I think it makes Mommy sad too, so I keep looking for him, but I haven't found him yet. I hope he gets here soon.

Just like at our old house, I have my crate, and I sleep there, and that's where I hang out when Mommy goes away. I have my blankie, and it isn't bad, but I'm super happy when she comes home or gets up in the morning. I like my crate, but I like running around and playing better. So when we get up, we go for a walk, and our new neighborhood is pretty neat-- there are lots of squirrels, but I'm not allowed to chase them, and that's no fun. Last weekend, Riley and I caught one, and we were so proud of ourselves that we hid it and tried to play with again later.

When Mommy and I go walk, I get to explore and smell things and claim them as mine. We walk and we go to a big green space where there are people who sometimes pet me and other doggies who I get to meet, although since we are all on leashes, we don't really get to play. I'm hoping that we'll get to go somewhere where I can run around and wrestle with other dogs soon, and Mommy says that might happen this weekend. It is really fun, and if it isn't raining we walk all the way around.
Then, in the mornings, after we get home, we both eat. Mommy puts out my food before we go walking, but I wait, so I can eat at the same time she does. It only seems nice.
It takes her longer than in takes me, which I don't understand, because her bowl is smaller than mine.

Sometimes, after we eat, Mommy has to leave right away, and I go into my crate and she goes away. She doesn't go in the car like she used to, which is weird for me, but I think she likes that.

Sometimes, though, I have a very good day, and we get to sit together in the bed or on the couch for a little while. We do this at night, too, and this is my favorite. I love cuddling. It is super fun. Anytime I think Mommy is extra lonely, I cuddle even closer, since I think it makes her feel better.

Sometimes, we go to visit Riley and his people, and that's fun. They have a big yard, and he's super fun to play with, even though sometimes he tells me what to do.

I'll give the blog back to Mommy for next time.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Culture Shock

So I've been in Canada for a few weeks now. I've decided that Canadians are a bit weird. I'm not sure I can explain it any better.

I'm sure a trained professional would call it culture shock and say that I'll move on and adjust to my new culture, but I'm going to go with Canadians are weird. Of course, I walked all over the planet today so I'm thoroughly exhausted, but in this single day, I have seen so many fashion faux pas that I can't even begin to cope with the rest of my day.

I didn't take any photos, because how can you do this without alerting the person that indeed you think they look like a complete fool.

The first thing (and this I've seen on many people, so no one individual is guilty of it) is leggings with a napkin-sized skirt over them. I'm sorry, but this just looks stupid. You might as well put a napkin on. Yikes. I mean, if you are a little kid and want to wear a skirt but also play on the monkey bars, maybe, but if you are a woman over the age of 18 (which I assume the violators I saw today were, as they were University students) don't wear this... if you wouldn't wear the skirt without leggings, don't wear it with them.

The second thing is the increasing prevalence of the leggings with a large top look. Maybe I'm against this because I did it the last time it rolled around, I'm not sure, but it makes you look like an ice cream cone, or an 80s pop star. Neither is aspirational, I assure you.

The final person I saw (and this was one specific person, I don't think this is a universal Canadian fashion-ism) was wearing green leggings and a snug t-shirt representing the band Death Cab for Cutie. No one's butt looks good in leggings. I think maybe she lost a bet with her roommates and was forced to leave the house looking like that.

There are other things that have me in the throes of culture shock. I'll blog about those later. Since I've been somewhat lax about my blogging, I've recruited a guest blogger for later in the week... please be kind, he doesn't spell well.

Anyway, it is time for me to make my dinner and pretend to do homework.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Knitters, knitters everywhere!

This morning on the bus, it was too crowded to sit when I got on, and while I can ride a bus while standing and I can knit a sock while standing, I can't knit a sock while standing on the bus. All of those dire warnings about lost eyes and impalements would be the natural result of me attempting this. I do, however, carry my sock in progress on my bag in a pouch, as such:

because when I do get a seat I can get in about 20 minutes of knitting on the sock between home and work. It keeps me from mercilessly mocking the undergraduates in their $400+ sunglasses.

So after I crowded on the bus, I was standing in front of an older woman who flashed me her sweater and the pattern. She didn't say anything, but she pulled her needles and sweater-in-progress out, a lovely silk (I think, I thought it would be weird to touch it), and then she showed me her pattern. That was it. It was such an interesting knitterly moment. It was lovely.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

So I'm Here

So I made it to Canada. I've made it to my apartment (although it is still absolute chaos). Perhaps I have just relocated the chaos, I don't know. I've made it to campus, and it turns out that in a comforting moment of sameness, there are tools and hosers everywhere. The week of orientation for undergraduates is surpisingly consistent-- matching t-shirts, going everywhere in groups and so on.

I have conquered government officials-- at the Social Insurance Office (think social security, kids), Immigration, and Customs. I am also the owner of a shiny new cell phone and today I will get a bank account. Most importantly, I have found a shopping mall and a wal mart.

I have a bus pass and an office. The bus pass is useful. There is a bus stop near my house that is right in front of a Starbucks and then the one I get off at on the way home is in front of a McDonald's, so I think Canada (or at least London Transit) is conspiring to make me fat.

My beloved husband is still in Nashville, so I'm lonely. This weekend, however, I'll alleviate that some by picking up my dog, who has been staying at my dad's house. Pictures soon! (Once I find the darn cable).