I am in Canada! It’s been a hectic few days, made more confusing by jet lag and extreme humidity, but I’m enjoying things. Linked to my last post, it has been motivating to meet lots of international students both at immigration, where hundreds of us were queuing for study permits, then here at Western. Many of them are half my age, but are brave enough to tackle leaving home, starting university and moving abroad simultaneously. Even for me, speaking English and with more life experience and a bigger bank balance, things are daunting. Here are few of the things that have amused and confused me since arriving:
Crossing the road. See title. It’s undoing the habit of a lifetime. It’ll probably become natural just before I go home for Christmas.
The French factor. Lots of announcements, packaging and road signs are bilingual. I can’t help thinking that calling washing up liquid ‘L’affaire est citron’ is a bit OTT though.
The trash. My apartment block has a chute, complete with a sign forbidding the inclusion of pizza boxes. Accordingly, ‘taking out the trash’ feels like being in Friends.
(not prison) Cells. Mobile numbers have the same local codes as landlines. I was further thrown when they asked me if I wanted to choose a particular number! Apparently phone numbers here are a bit like personalised number plates. Internet access in my apartment, however, is less modern. It’s via an ethernet cable and I keep tripping over the wretched thing. I’ve already broken my new thunderbolt adaptor with such antics.
Security. I bought a padlock at the rec centre since handbags aren’t allowed in the yoga room. It is one of the most complicated gadgets I’ve ever owned, with a complex combination of codes, dial-turns and pagan chanting required to open one’s locker. You know all those tormented characters in high school movies? They were probably driven to drink/drugs/cheerleading by the stress of padlock operation.
Buying stuff. I’ve got Canadian bank notes sussed, so I keep paying for things with paper money. The notes are brightly coloured and it’s a real pleasure to use them. Problem is, my collection of change is ever heavier and I can’t recognise most of the different coins quickly enough to actually use them. It’s further complicated because US currency is accepted here, so I keep finding American coins in my purse and getting completely baffled again!
Actually getting stuff. Next day delivery is unheard of, Canada being such a large country. After a bleak 48 hours with absolutely no furniture, I procured a garden table/chairs set and a wicker arm chair. My IKEA order arrives in about ten days (there was no ‘express’ option). That gives me ten days to make friends with people who can put IKEA furniture together. In the mean time, I’m sleeping on the floor. I’ve been eating extra cake rations to increase cushioning.
School spirit! Today was move-in day for freshers living in halls, which I hadn’t realised until the cheering started. And I mean cheering. As each car pulls up outside the hall, a huge team of upper-year students do hall routines (complete with costumes, banners and dance moves) to welcome the new student and their family. They then form a human chain to move the student’s belongings into their room. It was delightfully un-British to watch and was yet more evidence that Canadians are very friendly. I’m starting to miss sarcasm though.
So my orientation events start tomorrow and I guess that means I’m actually a student again. What a fantastic sentence to write – as long as there are no padlock/coin recognition/speaking French elements to the course!