As usual, it’s the small stuff that makes a spontaneous trip extraordinary. Happy Reading!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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)!
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!
What do they both have in common?
They both represent the best and worse in their chosen field!
Olympic season is upon us!
What a perfect opportunity for everybody in the retail and hospitality industry to dress up their old offerings in the spirit of the games and to sell them with the title “excellent ” attached to it. Further more, columnists at various publications are taking advantage of the event to add their pearls of wisdom. Just like my favourite guy from our local Maple Ridge Weekly. On first sight it was funny when I read about “my new relationship with our new plasma TV”, or “leaving the house only to stock up on beer and necessary food items (i.e. tortilla chips and dips).”
At second glance, not funny at all. As a general rule, we (writers) have to relate to our readers – even if it means to put ourselves down at times. Depending on the topic we are writing about this can be quite funny indeed. Let me get this straight: My favourite columnists sits on his butt for days on end, watches the best of the best the world has to offer and is happy and content to portray himself as a tortilla -chip- munching- couch potato? What is wrong with him? Why isn’t he inspired and motivated by the excellence he watches for hours every day? (or he is a very clever man indeed: he only pretends to behave like many of his readers).
Too many bags of greasy nibbles mixed with liquor leads me to my second observation: My first encounter (in our new home country ) with the less desirable face of modern civilization – the opposite end of excellence: trailer trash!
Yes, we spotted and experienced them first hand right here at the local swimming hole! I am born and bred European – I can testify we (Europeans)are quite open minded and tolerant towards certain topics. I.e. I am no stranger to the concept of e.g.the legal use of marijuana, gay marriage, nude beaches, a low drinking age (16 is the common age to drink beer in most European countries) or pornographic publications. Under normal circumstances pierced body parts or excessively tattooed body sections leave me stone cold. A dress too tight or too small squeezed over too much body flubber may get a second look from me at the most- but no more. Cheap wine straight from the bottle can be fun or even romantic. Loud conversations are annoying but could be entertaining – sometimes. A kiss among lovers is not worth mentioning. Tolerance turns into raised eybrows when I have to witness excessive french kissing in a public place. I get embarrassed when obscene, very suggestive, sexual moves are added to the french kiss (still in front of my eyes – and I couldn’t leave. The exit was blocked). I I can’t take it when cheap wine is the reason for loud, vulgar, rude conversation and I get severely pissed when fat, loud and vulgar mixes together!
Dear visitors to the swimming hole: “Behave like this at home but not in front of me and my children!” In this instance I wished these folks had read the column of my favourite columnist and followed his example: stay at home with your cheap wine, do your french thing on the couch and leave the TV on for some Olympic highlights. You might catch a glimpse of excellence and inspiration! I sincerely hope there is extra-ordinary in all us! Oh, I nearly forgot: I prefer to get inspired- and I try to live my life to prove it!
P.S. abdominals are getting better by the day! Upper arms are still shaping up and the book? I will tell you next time!
First things first::
I decided to save my immigration fund and hit the road of pre-promotion for the book alone! With all the information at hand I figure, How hard can it be? Honestly, I don’t believe in short cuts: I have to put the hours in, make mistakes and figure out which way suits me best!
On the shrinking waistline? It is definitely not shrinking yet! Last week the bike was my best friend: Just going down to the grocery store equals a mini “Tour-de Maple Ridge!” It is all mountain terrain! The thighs are becoming more muscley but the love handles found their spot on my body they really like…..to be continued!
Our chosen country is a melting pot of different nationalities! Immigrants from all over the world are calling Canada their new home! Which is cool, because it is all about globalization! We are all part of one big family, regardless of colour, accent or upbringing. One of the major differences between here and let’s say Germany (where I grew up) or The Netherlands (where we lived for 12 years) is the attitude towards being different!
Here ONE CELEBRATES DIFFERENCES, whereas in the two European countries,
YOU NEED TO FIT in to be accepted!
Let me elaborate. Among the many acquaintances we met along the way and friends we made I am definitely not known as a fashionista! Far from it! I never know what is in fashion, I only know what feels comfy and what not to wear if you have short legs, a no bra size and.-now- wobbly upper arms.
Where we lived in our little village in Holland, the ladies look fabulous!!! They spent lots of money on the items displayed – and it showed! Name brands, the newest styles, well-groomed from tip to top! Believe it or not, these ladies know how to cycle in their high heels, how to balance their grocery bags and their kids on the front and rear seats of their bike AND still look good! It was a pleasure to watch, but put on a lot of pressure to “fit in!” Personally I believe as long as it is clean and not torn, put it on! Oh well, it is easier said than done! Especially there! Germany is the same. Even if people don’t mean to, you are being judged and looked up and down upon if you don’t display some sort of style! But this was then, this is now:
Imagine our relief when we heard on the radio that Vancouver still ranks among the top 5 places in the world to live, but is named “most unfashionable city in the world” by the people who should know!
One of the items Dominic (the “fashionable” husband) was stressed out upon arrival, was the added expense to buy a brand new wardrobe for our new life here in Vancouver! Actually, we live in Maple Ridge,a still undiscovered gem in high fashion circles, ignored by any species slightly in tune with fashion!
Maple Ridge is a mecca for horse lovers, it is the rainforest of BC, the area of choice to bring up your children. Considering these facts one finds residents displaying their flip-flops, rain boots or track suit bottoms more than anything else! Judging by the amount of sports wear seen in the street, one can come to the conclusion that the locals are among the fittest, healthiest, most active people anywhere (don’t know if this is true or not)!
Dominic is in heaven, he can finally live out his honest summer style, inspired by Forest Gump, and nobody gives him a second look! I am in heaven, because there is no need to buy any new clothes whatsoever!
Either way of living and attitude towards fashion is just fine. You have to decide how to deal with it on a personal level.! But here is the dilemma I am facing:
It is too easy to fall into the trap of “no-fashion”. It is too easy to put on the loose-fitting bottoms, crocs and hit the road. And the best thing is: Nobody cares! In order to keep some personal pride and get a sense of being ” extra-ordinary” I make sure to put on my European outfits every day (if they still fit over the expanding waist) and get fabulous compliments!