RECOMMENDED CHARACTER TRAITS

for SUCCESSFUL IMMIGRATION INTO CANADA

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A new year is about to start. Will it become a year to start a new life in a new country? If your goal is to immigrate to Canada, if your intention is to make a fresh, extra-ordinary start here in British Columbia and you want  to make this transition as smooth as possible, please take a minute to read through this compilation of character traits – you never know, it might helpI If you don’t want to immigrate, no harm in reading further either.

The successful candidate

– Must be loaded in order to participate in the great outdoors (e.g. skiing in winter, zip-lining, golfing or sailing in summer).

Born to board

– Should be a lover and admirer of casual wildlife found in their own backyard. We are talking bears, cougars, squirrels or deer. Needless to say, this doesn’t apply to you folks in downtown Vancouver.

– A Master’s degree in household economics and accountancy is required. Household and school excursion bills arrive on a regular, irregular basis. You need to stay on top of the situation and pay them on a regular, irregular basis.

– Can be deaf, or at least display a high threshold for beeping household appliances. I swear to you, every household item in our house beeps, rings or makes noise in one way or another. It beeps to let me know it’s time to get up, to let me know the coffee is ready, the laundry is done or dry, the oven has reached its temperature or the microwave popcorn is ready. One word of warning, stay away from the singing egg timer! You will never hear the end of it! This egg starts singing after 5 minutes in boiling water and doesn’t stop- even after you take it out of the water!

–  Can have a short attention span and a weak bladder when it comes to watching tv or going to the movies!  Leave it to program makers to interrupt any nail biting scenes to air commercials to tempt, educate, scare and annoy you! But of course, this is the perfect opportunity to hit the washroom (WC, toilet).

I have the sneaky suspicion movie theatres aren’t worried about our bladder. All they care about is how much popcorn and coke they can sell to us during a break in an 80 minute long movie!  I might be wrong, just saying…

– Needs to redefine the European definition of cosy (England), gemuetlich (Germany) or gezellig (.Holland). Here, a cosy pub is situated within a purpose built building, displays an open fire safely tucked behind a glass wall and has several tv screens(?) running! (Exceptions are the rule)

– Should know exactly what one needs and hold a tight grip on the wallet. Temptation is all around us: “Deal of the week, Specials of the day, Groups of 4 Deal, January clearance sale, pre-sale, end-of-line-sale, liquidation sale, stock clearance sale, pre-Christmas sale, Boxing Day sale, Boxing week sale, summer sale, midweek sale, pre-Easter bargain, Halloween specials…”

On the other hand, it is your choice to be part of the consumer driven society or not!

– Doesn’t necessarily need to speak fluent English. Mandarin or Punjabi will do just fine!

If you posses any of these characteristics, I highly recommend you pack your bags and come on over If you don’t,  pack your bags.anyway. Regardless of what you just read and how it sounds like, our whole family loves it here in Beautiful British Columbia and we are looking forward to our next, extra-ordinary chapter her.

Whoever you are, wherever you might be, – whatever your decisions will be for the NEW YEAR, I wish you a HEALTHY, adventurous and prosperous 2013!

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I am looking forward to connect to many more of you wonderful blogging and reading individuals. Warm wishes,

Christina

 

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SALMON RUN

All salmon spawn in fresh water, usually in streams. Many salmon, especially Pacific salmon spend their adult lives in the ocean, returning to their native streams to     spawn. Unlike other salmonids, Pacific salmon die after spawning. They are     famous for their ability to home precisely to their place of birth to spawn.I found this at: www.kanada-british-columbia.de/en/salmon_run/index.htm

 

You most probably know this!                                                                                                                                    As embarrassing as it sounds, I was blissfully ignorant of the spawning habits of Pacific salmon until we moved to British Columbia. Until our relocation, salmon were an expensive delicacy on our dinning plates. Now, with the new gained knowledge I have tremendous respect for these swimming creatures. Today, whenever I eat them I can taste the added flavours of respect, admiration and the slight hint of sadness.

What I want to know is this:  Do the salmon actually know they are going to die after they spawned? Do they know they are paying with their life for ‘reproduction’? Come to think of it, I don’t believe fish rank high on the evolution ladder (dear fishermen or salmon experts, please correct me if I am wrong!). 

Why am I telling you this?                                                                                             This extra-ordinary behaviour is in full swing and it is happening right in front of our door steps!

On our way to school we are walking along the Alouette River.

As soon as we get close to the water our children accuse me of having a ‘gastro-intestine’ problem. How often do I need to say it:” It is not me, it is the fish! The stink comes from their dead bodies, plugged apart by seagulls or left, half eaten, by bears.

Let me take you on a tour to prove my innocence:

The river runs for app. 100 km until it reaches the Pacific Ocean – i.e. for this length the adult fish swim and fight against the current to reach their original “breeding” ground.

This in itself is a major accomplishment. If you add the current heavy rain falls, the thought of swimming against a very heavy current just to spawn is extra-ordinary indeed.

I can’t leave you with the image of dead fish! I will keep it fishy, but will switch from real life to the silver screen: Whenever you feel like having salmon, try this one:

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen:

Full of wicked British humour, spiced with silky smooth Scottish accents, embedded in beautiful scenery!  It is delicious!

TOO MUCH TIME

 RANDOM & (EXTRA-) ORDIONARY THOUGHTS during a bus ride

From Coquitlam to Burnaby

                                                                                                                                                       To fully appreciate Justin Bieber you need to be a teenage girl! Our male dominated household is a “Bieber-Fever – Free Zone!”

Blame it on my ears:  Katie Perry, Kelly Clarkson & Carly Rae Jepsen sound like one to me!

The movie”JACKASS” should be renamed into ‘Dumb Asses”.  Honestly, who comes up with this dangerous, disgusting stuff? Men?                                                                        While I am thinking about movies:  I don’t see the attraction of ‘The Walking Dead” either

 On the other hand, I think Peter Griffin is cool!  “Family Guy” beats “South Park” any day!

 What is it with men and their obsession with black socks?

 Forget about reading “50 Shades of Grey”. See what 50 shades of black socks do to your libido when you try to match them back together!

Best invention in the sock department: The ones with the names of the week printed on.    Or buy hiking socks.   They make it even easier to get the right foot into the right sock: They have the letters written on them!  This is a wonderful no-brainer for early in the morning.

The best invention for homemakers who are in charge of the laundry: Colour catchers! These sheets of paper changed my life! They save so much time and deliver what they promise!

Is it too late to teach our boys home etiquette? They need some fine tuning! Why can’t they compliment me on a job well done when I present a new dish? Instead they are yelling: “Don’t like it”.

Joey’s mom in Korea, (he is our exchange student) you did something right here: Your son would NEVER, EVER say something like that to me.  If he doesn’t agree with the new dish he quietly reaches for the ketchup bottle! He is a clever one.

 Mom was right when she told me fewer, but thicker rolls of toilet paper last longer than single sheet rolls.

Please anti-wrinkle cream – manufacturers, tell the truth, are your creams really working? I have reached the age where I want to believe your promises!

What happened, can’t “multi-task” anymore!.  I was able to read an e-mail, respond to it, answer the phone, watch TV and talk to Dominic – all at the same time!  Now I need quiet and peace to do one or the other! BUT, I am still able to make yoghurt and crunchy flakes at the same time!

Blueberries and pumpkin spiced lattes are an acquired taste.

Why should you drive with 16 and drink with 19? The other way around makes so much more sense to me..                                                                                                                                                                            Drink when you are 16, get shit faced many times over, puke and get it over with. Then become a responsible driver with 18. You won’t have any desire to drink anymore (or at least not so much).

I wonder where I will find Cruz’s well hidden birthday present. Probably at my next spring cleaning.

It was brilliant how Brando cracked the combination lock of our new suitcase. He watched YouTube got on with it. Scarry what teenagers know and learn from their downloads. But in this case, very helpful indeed – and easier than you think!

Wouldn’t it be nice to become Penny’s roommate and hang out with Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj? Would love to meet Howard’s mother …

Don’t know whom I am talking about? It’s the Big Bang Theory!

Would you like to add to this random rambling?  Please let me know!

Plan Ahead & Seize the Moment

 I love having a plan or spending time on making one! And since I became a mother I also like to have plan B and C in case plan A falls through.

It is Monday morning. After some strategic planning, the day was all accounted for.  The plan kept me moving and talking from 8.45 in the morning till 3pm in the afternoon.

By 9am, 15 minutes into my first appointment I realized there was no plan anymore: My lady friends stood me up! One due to flu and the other one due to miss-understanding!

I could have gone home, feeling sorry for myself and finish vacuuming the basement – the  Hoover was still out.                                                                                                                                                                

Instead, I thought “Sod it” and set off on my own (the basement will still be dusty when I come back). I did what I planned for the morning:  a brisk walk through our wonderful nature. This was a wonderful opportunity to have some ‘me’ time while trailing through rocky, muddy and wet terrain.  Ignoring the bear warning signs, I set off into unchartered territory.

If I have nobody to talk to, my brain has vivid conversations with itself. Marching through the morning mist, inspired by the colours and beauty around me, I couldn’t help but thinking:” How many meanings are there for the word “Snicker doodle?” (E.g. Have you been snicker doodled before?)  How will I celebrate when my book “Very Berry Extra-Ordinary” will hit the No.1 spot at Amazon .com?  What is the best strategy to get onto the Oprah Show? (I should get her phone number and call!)  If somebody will hand me one Million Dollars, what is the first thing I would buy?”(Pay off the house first or rather go on a cruise- or better still pay off our parents homes and then go on a cruise?) Ok, this is not mind blowing, world changing stuff, but these issues needed to be addressed anyway.

What am I saying?

Plans are good – but be prepared to have them changed!

And more importantly, seize the moment!

Like the previous Friday when I decided to reinvent myself as the next master chef!  The day started off with no plan, and all of a sudden there was one! The rainy morning was a perfect excuse to hang out at the library and stock up on weekend reads, i.e. cookbooks.

The Cauliflower Gratin caught my eye and after following the instructions step by step, the dish looked exactly like the picture in the cookbook.

Or on Saturday when I was forced to change my Saturday afternoon plan for our teenage son.  It involved a 45 minute car ride to pick him up from his soccer match.  He inconvenienced me – again- because he forgot one of our family rules: communicate with your parents if you need their help!  But, this trip turned out to be a blessing. Forty-five minutes alone in the car with your son can be turned into bonding time if you ask the right questions and keep the radio on low.  In Holland our children were always on their bikes and went everywhere on their own (much shorter distances, bicycle paths and street lights everywhere). Here, they still need us to get from A to B.

If we always wait for somebody else to join us, or if we need constant reassurance from somebody else, or if we ask permission to does something then will never get things done!

We don’t need to wait till the 31th of December to reinvent ourselves or to change a habit or to start something new. Let’s do it right now. The right moment, the right time, the right circumstance doesn’t exist! The right time is now!

We all should do what we planned for today – even if it means we have to do it alone!

To me, this is what being Extra-Ordinary is all about!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10-10-10

This is my tenth blog, this is our tenth month in Canada and here are 10 wonderful adjustments we made to our previous, European life:

                      

No more random ‘drinking’!

I am still not over it and have to stress it over and over again: The liquor prices are ridiculously high!  Just looking at them makes my eyes water! If we want to stay on track with our immigration fund, we have to suck it up: Intoxicating liquids are for special occasions only.  Luckily, there is always something to celebrate! On the other hand, the big bonus is when you have a spontaneous get together, everyone brings their own grog!

Coffee – to – Go! 

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” True to this saying I am blending in: My thermos filled with delicious home brewed blend follows me wherever I go.

Cycling

My bike has turned into a tool for recreational purposes only. Gone are the days when I used it purely for transportation. Blame it on the distances! The upside of conquering the steady inclines and steep declines? It beats an indoor spinning class any day!

Let it rip

Not any more- at least not on the Autobahn. The speed limit on highways is between 80 – 110km/h. No wonder it takes forever to get anywhere.  Surprisingly, hardly anybody drives within these limits, but still enough drivers do and it forces us to slow down!

Good-bye repairman / Hello handy husband

No more expensive maintenance and replacement costs for household appliances. Follow these simple steps to get your new part within 24 hours (written from the mechanically challenged woman’s view):

Let your husband find out what’s wrong with your dead appliance.                                                                                           

     Take out the broken part, find the serial number, order and pay for the item over the phone, pick it up the next day and let your husband finish what he started!  

The following is the Dutch or German protocol for getting an appliance fixed:                                       

  Make a phone call, stay on hold for at least 10 minutes, make an appointment, (lucky you if you  get a date within 5 working days) and receive an allocated time slot for the repair man to show up e.g. between 9-12pm. On day in question take time off to stay at home, (don’t leave the house for any reason whatsoever!), the repair man arrives (normally at 11.55am), he will fix the part – or order a new one- which can take up to 10 days and he leaves. If your appliance doesn’t have warranty anymore you are stuck with the bill for the repair man and the new part. Oh, and I nearly forgot: Ladies, no chitter chatter with the friendly repair hunk, keep to the bare minimum: Companies will charge you for every minute their representative spends in your house!

 

Asian Influence

 Our fourth official language at home is now Korean (next to English, German and Dutch).                                        

    We added chop sticks to our array of forks and knives.                                                                             

    Our children are getting a beating in the daily ping-pong tournaments. But in time they will get better and will be champions in their own (Caucasian) League.

Bargain shopping

As I mentioned in “The Move”, costs of living are high.  But here is another trick learned while being the conscientious housewife: Collect coupons and follow the trail of weekly deals!

 Value Village is a paradise found. It’s my favourite spot to go whenever I have some time to kill (a community charity store with everything you can imagine on offer – and more).

Shopping across the border is much cheaper in every possible category. If only the border control officials were friendlier…

Lessons learned: The local Farmers Markets are for treats and not for stocking up on fresh fruit and veggies! Of course you can buy your heart out if you truly believe in supporting the local producers of organic, pesticide free goods – bear in mind you will be charged up to 4x the common prices.

Emergency Help

If one of your children happens to break an arm (as our youngest son did), go straight to the Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. Don’t waste your time with any other hospital which doesn’t have a paediatric department! Simple reason: the anaesthetist won’t treat your child- the risks are too high if they are not trained and specialized. In our case we received calming (morphine), soothing pain relief (gravol) but had to travel to another hospital to receive special care (an operation on our son’s arm)!

Added sugars

When you take the time to read food labels you will notice that most pre packed food items have additional sugar added to it. In order to get back to my former, tight, 6-pack tummy I was forced to start cooking again with fresh ingredients only. I never said I am a Martha though…

TV in small doses

We stopped watching regular TV! The frequency of commercials is driving me crazy! I prefer Netflix: You pay $8.oo/month and have access to TV shows, movies, documentaries… whatever the heart desires. The disadvantage: They are not new, but the big Plus is, no commercials and no week long waiting time to watch the next episode. Our first addiction was “Prison Break”- (we are talking long, long nights, every night for three short weeks). To this day it still puzzles me how anyone could stand the suspense and wait one week for the next episode? Our next Netflix project is “Damages” – which falls under our category of “a great night in!”

These were truly 10 wonderful, extra-ordinary months. Have you made any adjustments recently? Do you have thoughts to share? Please let me know! I would love to hear from you!

Until the next time – with an update of one of my favourite events of the year: Halloween!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAMILY REUNION

Since the beginning of September we are the proud parents of our fourth boy and our children are the proud brothers to a brother from a different mother and father. I am talking about Joey, our Korean exchange student who will live with us for the next 10 months. If this wasn’t enough to adapt to, my parents from Germany arrived at roughly the same time for their first ever visit to Canada.

This is what you need to know about these two grey, but still highly active grandparents:

My father speaks basic English only, my mom speaks none. My husband speaks only English and with my parents limited English skills the three of them form a harmonious trio. I often wonder why my parents haven’t taken a language course at Community College!  Let’s hear the logical reason from my mom:”Why doesn’t Dominic (aka husband) learn German instead?”

My Dad conveniently forgot his driving licence for this trip, my mom doesn’t drive at all. They brought a Vancouver travel guide, but so far forgot to open it.

Therefore, I am the chosen tour guide. For the last two weeks Mrs. Google and Mr. Tom-Tom have been my closest friends – together we navigate the big unknown!

My parents are still young enough, very active, healthy enough and like going places. My mom is right when she says: “We didn’t come all this way just to sit at home.”

Needless to say, life as I know it has come to a standstill. I don’t know about you, but with my parents to visit I am doing things I normally wouldn’t consider doing – like sitting in the BIG RED TOUR Bus, exploring the sights in Vancouver.  But I must admit, sitting on top of the bus was an eye opener. Now I know that Vancouver is not big, not old, not historic, but its beauty comes from its location: The scenery is mind boggling wherever you look!

On Granville Island Dad was magically drawn to the Kaiserhaus Bratwurst und Sauerkraut. But surprisingly he opted for the sweet sour Chinese noodles instead. He recognized the dish from his Chinese restaurant back in Germany. My German Mom, the more adventurous part of the duo, opted for French Crepes (?) instead.

I also persuaded them to go on a beautiful bike ride along the river dykes in our neighbourhood. This round trip normally takes me three hours, but with my active 60 plus bikers in tow it took us nearly six hours! I must hand it to my mom: after cycling during the immense lunch time heat, after giving her German buns a grilling workout and her hard assed daughter only allowing one pit stop, I only heard her complain once! Aren’t they amazing? I am exhausted, I don’t get things done, and our children have to walk home from school alone because I am so preoccupied with their grandparents.

The only ongoing complaints about their trip are the ridiculously high prices for alcohol. This German couple can’t refuel on coffee and hot chocolate alone! And when they finally find a pub they get a near heart attack when they receive the bill for two pints of beer: $16.00! With this fatal beer experience they figured: “We could have gone to Scandinavia instead – drinks are as expensive there, but we are much closer to home!” Of course they are kidding, they won’t find their grandchildren there!

After two weeks of non-stop action I finally followed Dominic’s advice: I will put them on the train with the city map in my father’s hand.  Mom remembers the one place closest to her heart: Robson Street!  A happy place for strolling shopaholics!

On this note I will raise my glass to my very extra-ordinary parents who have their flaws, their die-hard habits and who can drive me crazy to say the least!  But they are my parents, I feel very blessed to have them- and I love them for who they are.

Childhood Memories, Nordseeinsel SYLT: Blessing or a Curse?

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This awesome picture is my Past

Dear Island, You are responsible for shaping my early childhood memories.

I blame you for setting a high standard for every other island I visit.

You are the reason why for example I prefer eating shrimp fresh from the boat and not at a fancy restaurant.

Subconsciously you make me compare every beach I walk on. Every other one is too hard, too dark, too muddy or has too many pebbles.

My mother is convinced your wonderful, healthy air is responsible for my overall good health (North Sea air contains a high amount of salt- which in turns equals healing power!)

This is not your fault – I should blame my parents for dragging me to you, year after year. But even now, as a “mature” woman the love affair continues. I left Germany over two decades ago, today I live in Vancouver, but the memories remain!

It has to stop, right here and now!

Believe me:  Nothing compares to you- nothing compares to these wonderful Nordtfriesen islands up in the top left hand corner of Germany.  The Friesen-style houses only look good on the islands; sunsets look spectacular when you watch them from your Strandkorb with a glass of cooled white wine in your hand.

Friesen House

You are the love of my life, always will be, but it’s time to give something else a chance to shine, to  be extra-ordinary!

The following is your lesson I have to learn from you:  If I want to fully appreciate the beauty of something else I have to stop comparing!   Sylt, you are not better, you are only different!

Sylt, I imagine we can form a harmonious partnership – but this may also be the reason why I never attempted to live with you! In my mind you are perfect- and I don’t want to be disappointed. I’d rather live with the illusion than be proven wrong by reality.

Instead of living with you permanently, I will enjoy you in short spurts whenever I return. And when I visit you it will be with another bottle of wine from “Gosch.”(The islands most popular fish and wine bar) It’s fun to watch the rich and beautiful (in Germany that is) strut their stuff.- Or shall I rephrase this: the many wanna – be rich and of average looks waddling past.  The idea of paying to walk along the beach is still unheard anywhere else in the world, but then, you have your reasons for charging us!

This was then, this is now:

Pender Island is one of the Southern Gulf Islands, lining the coast of Vancouver.

Like the rest of Vancouver, Pender is understated. If Vancouver holds the trophy of one of the worst dressed city in the world, Pender Island needs an award for “Easy Going” and “Hippy Chic”!

These two islands are worlds apart – but oh so special in their own unique way!

On Sylt you are judged by the clothes you wear, the size of your wallet and the colour of your AMEX card.

On Pender you don’t show off, you are not here to shine with your new trophy wife – you come here to just be yourself!

Pender is a rough beauty, raggedness on an unprecedented level.

Nothing cries “chic” or “sophisticated” here. Nothing eludes arrogance. Everything is so nice and refreshingly normal on Pender. Let it be the local residents or the day visitors.  I have seen and tasted more organically produced fruit and veggies on Pender, I have noticed more hand produced – or – crafted items here than I have ever noticed on my childhood friend.

If Pender is the rare diamond found on water, then Sylt is the fine cut and polished sister. And I love them both!

Extra-Ordinary places are found around the world and yes, my heart is big enough to carry them all!