Lately I’ve been feeling like the days are flying by, but the truth is, we haven’t even been in Canada for a month yet! Thank you for joining with us on our journey – I’ve been blown away that so many of you have read our first two blog articles and are interested in what’s happening in our lives. This blog is more of a diary for our family, to keep track of and to remember these new and exciting memories clearly (something that the children may want to read one day), but we are thrilled that it’s also been a way for us to keep in touch with all of you. Win win! 🙂
There’s a nice warm pot of chicken stew on the stove, Summer is sleeping, the house is clean and the washing is sorted. I feel like it’s one of those days I’ve completely nailed (haha)! I’ve been taking a bit of time to adjust to the new day to day lifestyle, but we are getting there slowly. It’s not so much the climate or the people or the cultural differences – my biggest challenge so far has actually been transitioning from a full-time working Mom to a stay-at-home Mom (more detail on this in a later post). With that being said, there are still a few challenges or differences that we’ve noticed, and we wanted to take some time and update everyone on a few things that have been happening with us over the past two weeks 🙂
1. We are home!
We are settled into our new home in the neighbourhood of Evergreen… and it is wonderful! We moved out of our Johannesburg home on the 11th January and stayed in a bed and breakfast for four nights before leaving on a plane via Paris for a one night stop over, on to our final destination of Saskatoon. We arrived in Canada on the 18th January and stayed in a hotel for two weeks, before settling into our new house on the 1st February. That’s three whole weeks of not being home! For some of you, that may not sound and feel that dramatic or long at all, but not being able to really cook whatever meal you want and to not feel at home is actually quite tough. Especially with small children.
Summer seemed to be coping fine with all the change until recently. She was a real trooper moving from place to place, and it really didn’t seem to affect her sleep or routines at all. However, recently she’s been asking to go home (to our new house) when we are out, as I think she’s nervous we are taking her to yet another house! This is it baby girl. We are settling into this home and have no plans to move anytime soon (maybe God has other plans though, who knows :)). We have been really blessed to be staying in a super modern fully furnished 4 bedroom house in Evergreen, a fairly new development in the east of Saskatoon. We bought all new small kitchen appliances and everything else we needed for the kitchen, as well as linen, towels and a new bed for ourselves, and a few other things we can’t live without and actually need. Besides that, everything was taken care of and our landlords are amazing. They are relocating to Europe for at least three years so we can see how we go and make decisions down the line, but right now this is home for a good while. Yes!!!
For those of you who are interested in details of the house… here you go 😉 For everyone else, feel free to zone out now. The house is a typical Canadian home – as you enter you see the open plan living room, kitchen and dining area on the main floor (with a guest loo too); upstairs are three large bedrooms, along with our ensuite bathroom and the kids’ bathroom; in the basement there is a large living room and a playroom for the kids (so much space!), and a full toilet, separate guest room and the laundry (which also houses the central heating equipment which I know nothing about). There is a patio front and back, and a nice little garden, and the new garage is also in the process of being built. Summer and I have loved playing in the snow in the garden, with the sun beating down, even in minus twenty to thirty degree weather.
Here are a few quick snaps of the house so that you have an idea in your mind (decor and frames and other bits and pieces still to be added):
*Lounge and Kitchen
*Main bedroom, closet and en suite
*Summer’s bedroom, and her play room in the basement
*Adrian shovelling snow off our back porch, our neighbourhood, back yard
2. How’s the weather?
We’ve had a long few weeks of freezing temperatures (most days temperatures have ranged from -15 to -30 degrees), with wind chills or ‘feels like’ temperatures of minus twenties and thirties. Yesterday morning the wind chill temperature predicted was minus forty degrees – ouch – and reports were saying it was the second coldest day so far in 2018!
Today (Tuesday) is the first day in a long while that the predicted maximum temperature is above zero, so I’m excited to be able to possibly take Summer out for a longer than usual walk outdoors in the afternoon (she usually lasts around ten to fifteen minutes outside in the freezing temperatures) 🙂 We haven’t battled too much with the extreme temperatures, but we definitely haven’t stayed outdoors for long stretches. The other day was actually seriously cold and Summer wanted to come back inside during our walk, after three minutes! It’s rather manageable though because the indoor central heating systems are obviously completely geared towards keeping the house insulated and toasty. We haven’t gone crazy (yet) being cooped up inside, mostly because Summer’s play room (and the house in general) is quite spacious, and we keep busy with many activities and crafts (and baking, cooking and cleaning) and take some trips to the shop or indoor play areas to stay sane.
The thing about Saskatoon in Winter, is although it’s freezing, the sun is out! We have only had about three days where the sun hasn’t made a nice appearance. I’m not quite sure how I’d cope with the climate change in areas that don’t see the sun daily. Blue skies and sun is always so good for the soul!
3. You can’t take the South African out of me
Feeling safe and not having to worry about crime is something very strange for me, and I have actually really battled to adjust and feel “free”. Strange I know! I just think it takes a while to stop looking over your shoulder or feeling nervous when you’re pulling into your driveway at night. We don’t have a fence, no burglar guards, no alarm, no security gates, we don’t live in a complex with 24 hour security – it’s plain weird. I know it’s an obvious thing and you’re probably thinking well obviously you knew that you’d at least feel safer in Canada, but I can’t switch my South African danger-radar off.
An example of this is something that happened about two weeks ago when Summer and I were getting into the car to leave the hotel to go on a play date. A man, who looked decent and friendly enough, approached our car once we had just closed our doors, and he was trying to tell me something or perhaps ask me something. He was probably wanting to inform me about something (maybe I left something on top of the car, maybe our tire was flat?), but I just could not open the window or door to hear him out. I couldn’t. I just froze at first. I then kept waving my hands and pointing at Summer as if she was going to help me get out of this awkward situation, and eventually he gave up and walked away. I know right, how embarrassing… Canadians are such nice people and he probably didn’t mean any harm and perhaps he was just asking for a ride or for some money, or trying to tell me something. Whatever it was, I could not shake the South African off me and I’m not sure I ever will be able to. I felt guilty for days and actually saw the same young man again in the local mall a few days after this. We just walked past each other like nothing happened. I am not quite sure what I learned from this or what I could do differently next time. I would really like to think I would at least open my window slightly and let the man speak next time, but from where I’ve come from, I am just not ready to do that yet! My context is very different and I guess I don’t need to apologize about that too much while I get used to the new norm. This has been my biggest culture shock so far – the freedom.
Little disclaimer: I’m never going to become one of those South Africans who only ever share sad or depressing news coming from SA, or who meet other South Africans overseas and just sit and complain all day about SA and how glad they are that they’ve left. I miss my Africa, a piece of my heart is there and it always will be. You have permission to put me in line if you hear any negativity coming from me about my home country.
4. Our family
Adrian’s been working hard and things seem to be off to a great start, with him getting his first official order – amazingly quick I know! He’s got a few travel plans this month – he’s off to Sudbury for a night for meetings with a colleague, and then has a five night trip planned to the States for a conference.
We’re 27 weeks pregnant now – it’s seriously flying by. The healthcare system is quite different here, but I have my first scan booked for next week 🙂 We also went to a hospital information evening last week and feel really happy and content with the hospital we will be birthing at. This little boy is keeping me up at night (already) by kicking powerfully mostly between 10 – 12pm and from 5am onwards; he also seems to have a little kicking party about six or more times every hour without fail. Wow.
Little miss sassy Summer is entertaining us more than ever. The sayings this child picks up from us is just too much. The latest is “Summer’s coming, Mommy. No have to shout!”. This was learnt when she would scream and shout for me and I explained that there is no reason to shout when she calls me, but she can just call me nicely. Now, no matter if I’m just calling her in a calm tone or more feisty one, she still responds with the same phrase – such sass! Must get that from her daddy 😉
*It’s baking time
*It’s never too cold for arm bands and ice-cream
5. Culture shock?
A new friend of ours in our community group at church recently asked us what our biggest culture-shock has been so far. Great question! I gave this a lot of thought over the last few days and I definitely think the culture-shock aspect has been less than I ever envisioned.
There are a few things we need to get our heads around – things are definitely different. I wouldn’t say that anything is so extreme or so hard to adjust to that I would call it extreme culture-shock though. Adrian and I are quite quick to adopt change and embrace new cultures and groups of people so I didn’t ever think it would be a major deal for us. There are a few things worth noting though and I’m sure there will be more to come as we adjust to life here.
The education and schooling system is very different – preschool starts from age three and before that Moms either stay home with their little ones or send them to daycare. In South Africa we have such fantastic play school options and I am not getting the sense that daycare here is at the same level. I may be completely wrong though – this is just from conversations with people who live here, and from my own research. I have learnt that the philosophy is more about having children home with their parents and siblings until preschool starts – that children don’t really need formal teaching before age three, and they learn more by play and exploration. A fear of ours is definitely the social implications of this as Summer was learning a lot by playing with other children at play school in SA, but we have been going on play dates here already and will continue to do so. Summer seems to really be thriving being home, even though some days I am ready to hand her over to someone else by bedtime 😉 We’ve provisionally found a preschool we’d like to send her to starting this September, which is three times per week for three hours at a time.
One very normal thing to do here when entering someone’s home, is to take your shoes off. This is weird at first but makes complete sense. Everyone in Canada cleans their own house (there is no luxury of having someone help out with that unless you want to pay the earth), and you don’t want to bring in unnecessary snow or ice and walk in their home. You’re also often wearing big snow boots so it’s not that comfortable keeping your shoes on inside. Adrian already learnt this previously, so we are pros at this and haven’t gotten any weird looks for not being cultural normal as yet (that we know of)! Most people have a closet as you enter the home and you just pop your jacket, gloves and shoes in there and then walk around in your socks. Note to self: make sure you are wearing clean no-hole socks when leaving your house 🙂
The food. Let me just take a moment here (for those of you who don’t know me well), to mention how much I adore food. I have been known to have wept when eating my favourite cheesecake. I am also a creature of habit and don’t particularly like trying new foods when eating out at my favourite restaurants because of FOMO – imagine ordering something new and pining for that delicious favourite meal while eating a new not-so-great meal (blah!). So for me, the many different grocery shops and restaurants and take away options are mildly overwhelming. I have also had to adapt many of my home cooked meal recipes because I can’t find certain cook in sauces or spices or other ingredients that I used in South Africa. It’s all part of the experience, and seriously not very life changing and dramatic, but it’s been part of our transition that’s for sure. Life goes on though, and I’m sure someday I will be able to get over my Milo and Knorr Greek salad dressing cravings 😉 There is a South African shop we will visit at some point for supplies and we have a few visitors making their way to us this year, so we may need to ask them to check in an extra bag full of our favourite treats.
We’ll chat soon. Much love,
Sumandrian (Summer, Mandi & Adrian)