Is the second move really any easier?

Well that’s what people kept telling us anyway.

“Oh you’ve done it before, you’re pros at this now”

“This isn’t the big move, leaving Scotland was your big move”

“You’ve done the hardest part already”

“You’ve already left your families behind, this move will be a piece of cake”

“At least you’re not leaving Canada, that will make things less stressful”

Hmmm….. All well meant words of reassurance I know but also I’ll be honest, all a load of BS. No, moving isn’t any easier the second time, in fact I actually found it harder this time. Yes we might have already left behind our families and best friends in Scotland when we moved to Montreal back in 2015, but that didn’t mean that it was any easier to leave behind the lives we had built in Montreal. We weren’t moving down the road or to the next town, we were moving to the other side of Canada, 2200 miles and a 5 hour flight away, to a whole other time zone and an entirely different province who do things very differently from everything we had known.

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I know that people didn’t mean any harm and that the ‘Have you settled in yet?’ messages a week after we arrived in Calgary were meant with kindness but they made me feel like I was failing when a week in, eh no, we hadn’t settled in. We were in temporary accommodation, living out of a suitcase, in a city we didn’t know at all and where we didn’t know a soul. We had a million and one things to sort out (somewhere to live, the removal company, buying a car, getting car insurance, health insurance, driving licenses, phone contracts, health care, working out how to get a prescription, a dog license, a vet etc etc) and we were surrounded by so much bureaucracy that made everything we tried to do seem impossible. Settled in? You must be joking! Just getting through each day in those first few weeks was hard.

Five months on now I can look back on those first four weeks and feel proud of what we achieved and how we coped, even when everything around us was going wrong. But no, they weren’t easy. They were really, really hard. I was riddled with anxiety. I cried a lot. Surprisingly at no point during this time did either of us think we’d made the wrong decision, but I mourned for the life I’d left behind, the people and the places I loved. I craved the normality of my life in Montreal; for a time and a place where I knew what to do and didn’t feel like every day and each small task was an uphill struggle.

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We had some really rotten luck in those first few weeks, where anything that could have went wrong basically did. We can laugh about it now but at the time we were both very far from laughing. Mark started work on our third day in Calgary so while he had the stress of adapting to a new job I was left in our temporary accommodation trying to make my way through the maze that is Canadian government processes. Don’t be fooled that because we had came from one Canadian province things would be the same here, everything was completely different.

Around three weeks in, I hit my lowest point. Full of a chest infection, which I couldn’t seek any medical help for, because we couldn’t access health care till we had our health cards, which we couldn’t even apply for until we had proof of a permanent address in Alberta…..(a prime example of how things were going) I found myself crying down the phone to the woman at Virgin mobile after a 2 and a half hour phone conversation where I spoke to 6 different people, about them wanting to charge me double the amount of money for the exact same phone contract I’d had in Montreal, I found myself wailing at her “Why do you guys have to make everything so difficult here?”

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I don’t remember feeling any of this when we arrived in Montreal. I don’t know if time has just made me forget the stress of those first few weeks and focus on the good parts or maybe we were just so excited and naïve the first time.  We definitely didn’t have any of the bad luck then that we had this time around which probably helped. The naivety from the first move was definitely gone though, we knew everything that needed to be done when moving and in a way that probably made things harder.

Even things like moving into our new house was much harder this time. In Montreal we had a furnished apartment; but that seems not to be a thing in Calgary, furnished properties are very few and far between so we moved into an unfurnished 3 bedroom house with only a couch to our name furniture wise. We had to buy everything from scratch, not a cheap, quick or easy process, especially when you don’t even know where the nearest shops are. When we moved into our first home together back in Scotland our family and friends all rallied round to help us unpack and build furniture; here it was just us and despite having no furniture initially we still had a full containers worth of belongings we had brought from Scotland plus everything we had accumulated over the last two and a half years, to unpack and in the coming weeks a house full of flat packs to build. Yes, in a way that made it special as we did everything ourselves, it’s all ours, but it also made it really hard graft.

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The last 5 months in Calgary have been an adventure and we’ve made some fantastic memories but they’ve also been a hard slog, both mentally and physically. Now though that we’ve come back out the other side I can see what a wonderful city Calgary is and I know that we will be really happy here.  And yes, now I do feel like we’ve settled in but despite what people seem to think this isn’t something that happens overnight, you have to give it time. You don’t just wake up one day and think ‘I’m settled!’. It’s gradual, it happens bit by bit. Suddenly you know how to get a prescription, where does the best coffee and where you can buy stamps nearby. You meet people and you have interactions that make you smile. You start to form friendships and before you know it a whole week has passed without you thinking ‘where the hell do I go for this?’ And little by little you start to build a life for yourselves. It’s a period of adjustment, you’re giving up everything, your home, your job, your city, your friends, and everything you know and starting all over again somewhere new. So, no, it’s definitely not any easier the second time around, but it is worth it.

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No matter how old she is, a girl still needs her Mum.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you lovely mums out there. Mother’s Day is one of those days when I wish I could teleport myself back to Scotland to spend the day with my own Mum. Sure I send cards and a gift and I’ll FaceTime, but it’s not the same as actually being with her, and being able to give my Mum a hug today.

A lot of what Mums do is often taken for granted. Of course we love and appreciate our Mums but we don’t necessarily always give them the thanks or credit they so greatly deserve. It’s only once something happens, that we stop and take stock of how important they are to us. For me, that was moving away.

Leaving my Mum and Dad behind in Scotland as we moved to Canada was undoubtedly the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. No longer being able to pop over for a cuppa anytime I wanted, or turn up unannounced and know I could stay for dinner, or pop round for a hug after a bad day; all things I had previously taken for granted, made me quickly realise how important my Mum and my family was to me and how much I missed these simple things. This is something that as the years have went on, has never got any easier.

My Mum and I have always been very close but I feel that moving away has brought us even closer, ironic isn’t it? People say that absence makes the heart grow fonder; I actually don’t really agree with that, but I do think it makes you realise who and what really matters. Our limited time together means we don’t have time to waste on bickering and squabbling about silly things like we used to. We have to make the most of the time we get to spend together. Leaving made me realise how much I relied on my Mum and how much I missed having her there to chat to after a crap day at work. I miss not being able to go for afternoon tea, spa days and shopping trips with her whenever we want.  I miss not being there to be her guinea pig for her new recipe creations. I miss so much about just spending time with her.

I know how much my Mum struggled with me leaving, and still does each time we say goodbye and I know how much she misses not having me physically there. The feeling is very mutual. Despite this though, her and my Dad (he is equally wonderful), have always been so incredibly supportive of us. They have always gone out of their way to put me first and made sure I had every opportunity in life. And their support was never more evident than when we told them we were moving to Canada.

I can’t imagine how it must feel when your child tells you they’re moving abroad, but right from the start they put their own feelings aside and were nothing but encouraging and positive about the move. And over the years since we have left they have continued to be so supportive and so interested in our lives here. I’m sure they never planned on having Montreal as a recurrent holiday destination but they tirelessly visited us and delighted in being a part of our lives there and meeting and spending time with our friends. They are genuinely happy for us and I think that is the most selfless act; to be happy for your child’s happiness even when it negatively impacts your own happiness.

I’ve learnt so much from them both over the years; they are truly wonderful role  models. If I ever have children I hope I will be even half the Mum that mine has been to me. She is wonderful, kind, thoughtful and selfless and the support she gives me, even across an ocean, is something to be marvelled at.

So, I might not be with you today Mum but I hope you know how much you mean to me and how much I appreciate everything you’ve done for me over the years and continue to do even now. You truly are a Mum in a million and I’m grateful every single day that you’re mine.  I’ll see you in 17 weeks and I’ll be saving up your hugs till then. Happy Mother’s Day Mum. xx

Sorry for the silence.

I’ve been a little quiet on here for a while, for a good few months in fact; not because I haven’t had anything to say but because I’ve had so much to say that I didn’t really know where to start.

Since I last wrote we’ve moved from Montreal to Calgary. In the first weeks and months after the move my head was so full of everything that was happening; the uncertainty of how our new lives were going to look, mourning the life we had left behind and the day to day struggles (of which there were plenty) that come with uprooting your life and starting over somewhere new. I struggled to know how to process it all, never mind how to explain it to anyone else. It’s not that I haven’t been writing, I have, a lot actually, but it wasn’t in a coherent enough manner to share with anyone else before now. My words, much like my thoughts have been scrambled, muddled, somewhat erratic.

Now though, that the chaos of those first few months is over, I feel like I can finally look back on this time with some clarity and hopefully in the coming weeks, rewrite some of my ramblings into blog posts and share them with you to explain what our first few months in Calgary have been like, the good, the bad and everything in between. Thanks for bearing with me 🙂

25 years with Diabetes

I’m sure not many people can remember what they were doing 25 years ago today. I can. I was 7 years old. I was always tired and had an uncontrollable thirst that I couldn’t quench no matter how much I drank. After a holiday to Florida where I’d drove my parents round the bend needing to find a bathroom every 5 minutes, they made me an appointment at the doctors. I can still picture the doctor’s room as I sat there beside my mum, and heard the doctor tell her she had to take me to hospital right away, “I think she’s got diabetes.”  It’s one of those flashbulb memories, something so vivid and life altering that you never forget it. My life changed forever that day.

Thankfully for me I was too young to be scared. I had never even heard the word diabetes before so I had no idea what it meant and naively I was quite excited about going to a hospital. I can’t imagine though the fear that my parents must have felt that day. It’s something that as a child I was oblivious to, but now as an adult I can’t even appreciate how scared they must have been. Back then there was no internet or social media and we didn’t know anyone with diabetes so their knowledge on it would have been minimal and I imagine they would have thought the worst.

I spent the next 9 days in hospital. I remember parts of this time. I remember the nurses giving me an orange and a syringe to practise injecting; the pressure needed to puncture the skin of an orange is supposedly the same as that needed to puncture the human skin. I remember my best friend Jillian coming to visit and us playing kitchens with the box of plastic food that the nurses had given me to help me learn how to count carbohydrates. I remember being allowed out with my mum and dad for the afternoon and going to pick a cabbage patch doll which I named after my favourite nurse, Susan. I remember the nurses taking it in turns to come in and play with me and do my cabbage patch doll’s hair.

I remember one nurse, Sister Brown, who I’m sure was lovely but at the time I was scared of, wanting me to take my injection in my stomach and for some reason this really freaked me out and I remember crying. She promised me if I was brave and let her do it there just once she’d give me a gold star. I succumbed and true to her word she brought me a large gold star, something that I kept for years. I’ve never done an injection on my stomach since that day though. I remember my mum and dad taking it in turns to sleep on the pull out bed in my hospital room. I suppose actually I remember quite a lot of those 9 days when I was 7.  I don’t remember a lot of the struggles that I’m sure my parents do though. I also don’t remember ever being scared (other than that injection on my stomach).

Most of all though I remember the most wonderful nurse, Sister Leitch, who gave me the best advice anyone ever has. She spoke to us openly and frankly about diabetes, she didn’t speak to me like I was young and stupid,  which I wasn’t; I was a pretty savvy 7-year-old, and I remember being grateful that she spoke to me so honestly. She didn’t shy away from what a serious condition it is but she told me that I had to make a decision, I could either sit back and let this thing rule my life or I could choose to rule it. Her words have stuck with me over the last 25 years.

My parents, despite how worried and scared I’m sure they were, were wonderful. They never let on. They stayed so strong and matter of fact in front of 7-year-old me that I never felt I’d any reason to be scared. They learned everything they could about diabetes and how to manage it and they adjusted our lives accordingly. They never treated me as though I was any different and as a result I never felt the need to behave like I was. And so the years moved on.

I know a lot of diabetic teenagers rebel against their diabetes, stopping taking insulin and trying to manipulate their illness. I never did this. I never even contemplated it. Not because I’m perfect; I probably didn’t test my blood sugars anywhere near as often as I should have, and I could definitely still work on getting my overall control down, but simply because, to do that would have been to let my diabetes win, and I had no intention of doing that.

My diabetes put me in hospital once; 9 years ago this month I ended up in high dependency suffering from DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis) and it was the most terrifying experience of my life. I remember once I was on the mend a  consultant I had never met before coming round and asking me, in such a patronising tone; “Did you just not bother taking your insulin?” If I’d had the energy I wouldn’t have thought twice about punching him. I have never, in 25 years, just “not bothered” taking my insulin. I’d had a violent sickness bug where I couldn’t keep anything at all down and because I wasn’t eating I’d underestimated how much insulin I needed. We all make mistakes and this one almost cost me my life, but for him to insinuate that I’d just “not bothered” taking my insulin was, for me, the most offensive thing anyone has ever said to me.

I often get frustrated and angry at how diabetes is portrayed on TV shows and in the media, and diabetic jokes make my blood boil. Not because I don’t have a sense of humour around it, you have to to survive but because they’re so often filled with such ignorance. Eating sweets or cakes doesn’t give you type 1 diabetes. My pancreas doesn’t work how it’s supposed to, it doesnt produce insulin and without insulin you would die. This is why I have to inject myself with insulin up to 7 times a day. There is no known cause for type 1 diabetes, it cannot be prevented so jokes on how I must have eaten too many sweets as a child are not only very offensive but entirely inaccurate.

Being diabetic isn’t something I speak about a lot, not because I’m ashamed of it, I’m not at all, it’s part of who I am, but just because I don’t always feel the need to. I can’t abide with the ‘woe me’ attitude I often see relating to diabetes. No it’s not always been easy and even now some days are hard. A few fluctuating blood sugars can leave me feeling terrible, but that’s life. Everyone fights their own battles and diabetes is mine. If it wasn’t that, it would be something else so there’s no point in sitting moaning about it. It’s an illness I have but I’ve had it for so long now that it’s just part of me, I can’t even remember what life without diabetes was like.

So why write this? I guess because 25 years seems a pretty big milestone. As much as I take it in my stride I’m not a fool and I do know how serious a condition it is but I guess I just want to show other people that you can still live a normal, happy life with diabetes. I know that a lot of the way I react to my diabetes is due to the way my family managed it as a child and to the excellent support we had from our hospital diabetes team, and in particular Sister Leitch, and I will always be so grateful for that.

I strongly believe that in the future they will find a cure for diabetes, I also believe though that this is unlikely to be in my lifetime, and I’m okay with that. As I get older diabetes gives me new obstacles and challenges to face but I intend to face each of them with the same attitude as I’ve had since I was that little 7-year-old girl sitting in her hospital bed, ready to rule it and not let it rule me.

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving, on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll back again.

When we left for Montreal two and a half years ago it never occurred to me that one day I would end up feeling the same about leaving it as I did then about leaving Scotland. In fact, if anything, I’m struggling with this move much more than I ever did with our initial move from Scotland to Montreal.

These last weeks in Montreal have, for me, been quite difficult. I’ve found the prospect of leaving here much harder than I ever imagined I would.  I’m devastated at the thought of leaving the city that I love. This is no reflection on my feelings around moving to Calgary, because I am also just as equally excited and happy and bursting to see what our new life in Calgary will bring. I may have only had a very flying visit to Calgary but my initial impression was very positive. My feelings around Calgary might be positive but that doesn’t mean I don’t still feel sad at the prospect of leaving here. I knew I would miss Montreal but I actually feel quite bereft now at the thought of it.

When we left Scotland I didn’t know what to expect, but Montreal was everything and more than we could possibly have hoped for. A city that previously I had no desire to even visit, never mind to live in, has ended up being the best thing that could ever have happened to us, so understandably I’m sad to leave it.

While I was devastated about leaving my family behind when we came here, I didn’t feel the same nostalgia about leaving the place itself. I think this could have been because I knew that we would always go back to Scotland. Our family and friends are there so of course we’ll always visit. We also still have a house there meaning that, should we wish to, we can move back to Scotland at any point. Whereas leaving here feels a lot more final. Our families aren’t here so we won’t have the same pull to return each year to spend time with them. Yes I’d like to think that we’ll come back one day to visit friends but many of them too either already have, or are now, moving on, so the Montreal we leave will unlikely be the same place we would return to. This move is final. We may visit but we know we won’t ever live here again. It’s officially the end of that chapter of our lives and that seems quite a daunting thought.

I know that we’ve given Montreal everything we had though, we have literally done everything we wanted to do here and made the absolute most of our time and for that I am very grateful. Our Montreal bucket list is ticked off and we’ve revisited all our favourite places one last time. I know that it’s now time to say goodbye. But I also know that doing so is proving to be much more emotionally challenging than I ever expected it to be. I am so sad to be leaving here, the city that has now became our home. I know that as we board the plane to Calgary on Sunday I’ll likely be in floods of tears, not because of what we’re going to but because of what we’re leaving behind. I also know that in time I’ll move on, though I’ll always be so grateful for the time we had here, the experiences Montreal gave us, the people it made us become and for those that it brought into our lives. Thanks for the memories Montreal, it’s been an absolute pleasure.

 

The Next Chapter

If you know me personally, or follow me on social media you’ll probably have heard our news by now, but if not, we’ve made the decision to leave Montreal and start anew out west, in Calgary. To say this decision was difficult would be an understatement. We sat up many nights until the small hours weighing up the pros and cons but at the end of the day we just couldn’t argue with the fact that, despite how much we love it here,  Calgary can give us a future in Canada that Montreal never can.

I’m confident that in time I will love Calgary but I know that Montreal will always be my favourite Canadian city, probably now my favourite city anywhere in the world. It was the first place we lived abroad and we have made so many happy memories here that I’ll always think back on our time here so fondly. But despite this, I do believe that we’re doing the right thing.

This has always been my greatest wish; that we would know when the time was right to leave. That we wouldn’t out stay our welcome. That we would never become bitter or start to resent our time here and that we’d leave on our terms, knowing we’d done as much as we could here and yet still with love for the city. Because loveable it is.

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Montreal is unlike any other city I’ve ever visited in my life. It’s vibrant, it’s multicultural, it has more going on in terms of arts and festivals and entertainment than anywhere I’ve ever been. It has more restaurants per capita than any other North American city, other than New York, and it has a thriving nightlife (probably too thriving at times). It has an arrogance about it that on some days I find so frustrating, but that most of the time I love. I feel like Montreal sticks two fingers up to the rest of the world. It really doesn’t care what you think of it; it’s confident, self-assured, and more than a little bit sassy and it definitely doesn’t take any crap. But despite this you can’t help but fall head over heels in love with it. It really is the most beautiful place; North American but with a strong European influence, the architecture is stunning, the parks are tremendous and it takes my breath away regularly. So, why are we leaving? A question that I have to admit right now I ask myself daily.

Well, Montreal is the perfect home for us…. now, but long-term it just won’t be the right fit for us. The language barrier means that unfortunately our life here will always have an expiry date. When the project my husband is working on ends he will undoubtedly have the same issues as I did, meaning he is unlikely to be able to find other work in his field, without being entirely fluent in French and while our French may certainly be a lot better than when we arrived, we will never be fluent. The “Frenchness” of the city, which is partly what makes it so wonderful, is also essentially what means it can never be our forever home.

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I feel, for us, Montreal is like a fling. A short-term, fun relationship that you enjoy immensely but it’s someone you know you can’t have a long-term future with. Despite how much we love it, it is somewhere we can’t remain forever. The fire will eventually, for us, fizzle out. Calgary is different. It has the potential to be marriage material. English being the first language means that my husband has been able to secure a new post and it should give us both better opportunities career wise in the future.

It will also give us the chance to look at the big picture regarding our future and think about whether we wish to stay in Canada long term or not. We may still decide to return to Scotland in a year, or two, or five but if we do at least in Calgary it should be on our terms, because we wanted to and not because we had to, like it would end up being if we remained in Montreal.

People keep asking me if I think this is a forever move. A rather difficult question to answer when my time in Calgary thus far has been limited to around 12 hours. I genuinely don’t know. We may love it, we may hate it, but I know we’ll give it our all just like we have with our life here. However we feel about Calgary in 6 months or a years time and however much we may love our new life there, I do know that I’ll always miss Montreal.

Now that our departure date is looming, I feel like the city is doing everything it can to remind me quite how much I love it here (we had three weeks of 30+ degree weather at the end of September, I mean are you kidding me!) The place has literally never looked more beautiful, basking in the glorious sunshine as the leaves start to change colour and fall. Give me a break, this is hard enough already!

And hard it is; to leave a place you love and people you love, to start fresh somewhere new; where you know nothing and no one but each other. That isn’t easy. But you know what, the last time we did that it worked out pretty bloody great! See you in 3 weeks Calgary!

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What am I doing here?

What am I doing here? The thought that won’t stop running through my head as I sit on the couch and cry my heart out after saying goodbye to my Mum and Dad who have just left for the airport. Why am I here? Why am I choosing to live over 2000 miles away from the people who mean the most to me in the world? Why?

All rational thought is gone right now and I hate my life choices. I hate that it’s my fault that I’m having to say goodbye to them at all. I hate that it’s my fault that they’re upset. I’m the one that made the decision to leave and now the consequences of that decision are what are causing the tears to pour down my face. I know that tomorrow I’ll be more composed, probably still not happy; that will take a few days but by tomorrow I’ll be able to reign my feelings in more and remember why I am here. I’ll remember that living abroad has given me so many amazing opportunities and that I love my life in Canada. But not today.

Today, the day that they leave is awful. I held it together quite well this time. Normally I cry on the day they leave from the second my eyes open that morning but today I managed to hold it together until their Uber was ordered and they were pulling their packed suitcases into the hall before I crumbled and became a sobbing mess.

It’s never long enough. Their two-week holiday should have been plenty of time but it wasn’t, it positively flew past. A sign of what a wonderful time we had. We did and saw so much and spent so much quality time together and I know that they had a great holiday but I guess I’m just greedy because I just wasn’t ready for them to go. I’m never ready for them to go.

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“You’ll see them again soon.” The most well-meaning but unhelpful platitude you can be offered at this time. The last time they left it was seven months before I next saw them. Okay, this time I actually will see them again soon, very soon in fact. I’m travelling back to the UK for a wedding in six weeks time and while there I’m planning to go back to Scotland for a few days. A very fleeting four days in which I’ll try to fit in seeing them and also all of the family and friends I haven’t seen in almost a year, but still four days is better than nothing. But right now the fact that I’ll get to see them in six weeks doesn’t help, like i know it should. Because today all I can focus on is the fact that they’re gone. That I won’t see them for the next 6 weeks and when I do it will be only for a brief few days and then I’ll not know when I’ll next see them again. I told you, today I can’t be rational.

I take this hard I know I do. I know friends here who are pretty good at the whole saying goodbye thing. I’m not one of them. I’m terrible at goodbyes,  I always have been. I hate saying goodbye to anyone. I even hate watching other people say goodbye so it’s not unfathomable how much saying bye to this, such important, pair upsets me but I do wish it was easier. I’ve written previously about homesickness and how most of the time I can rationalise my feelings of homesickness but this day, the day they leave, this is the day where the homesickness overwhelms me. Where I can’t eat, I can’t watch TV, I can’t even think straight I’m so overwhelmed by the sadness I feel that they’re gone.

A friend and fellow blogger wrote an excellent post recently about how to manage the sadness you experience as an expat when visitors leave (http://kathrynrelocated.com/stop-feeling-sad-after-visitors-leave/ ) and I will dutifully follow her tips, knowing that she’s right and they do work, and in a few days I’ll be back to my cheery self. But just not yet. Today I will wallow in my sadness (the post says that’s allowed too, I should acknowledge the sadness that I’m feeling).  So today I will cry as much as I want and feel the loss that their absence in my Canadian life, and even just in my apartment leaves. The silence kills me. It feels so quiet and empty without them here. The sadness of my dog Max, who doesn’t have to talk to show how heartbroken he is at their departure, makes it even worse, though at least I know I’m not alone in my feelings.

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I have written previously of the rollercoaster of emotions that them visiting brings, tears of happiness to tears of despair in a short two weeks. I know that it is worth it. The time we shared and the memories we made were amazing but today I can’t look at pictures from the last two weeks, they make me too sad and remind me of what I’m missing. Tomorrow though I will look at them again. I will smile at the wonderful memories we made. I will count down the days until I see them again. I will make plans for the coming weeks and months. I will return to my life here, visit my favourite places, meet up with friends, do chores and carry on, making the most of our life here and remembering why we chose to move here and why we choose now more than two years on to continue living abroad. But just not today. Today I will cry and resent myself and my life choices. And hug my dog, who understands.

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Change…

In my previous life, back in Scotland (sometimes it really does feel like that), I spent a lot of time thinking about change and more specifically change management. I worked in mental health services and was acutely aware of the impact (often negatively) that change could have on the vulnerable service users we worked with and how to do everything we could to successfully support them to transition through it. Moving to Montreal I became aware once again of the impact of change, this time though relating to ourselves and the huge changes that were happening in our lives. This time the change brought about both positive and negative impacts but it was still stressful. Now two years on, we’re going through change again.

As human beings most of us are programmed to not like change. Some change is of course for the good, new opportunities in life, new adventures, travels, but all change whether good or bad still inevitably brings with it a certain degree of uncertainty and anxiety. Personally, I’ll admit that I’m not very good with change; ironic from someone who moved halfway across the world I know. Actually though that change I was okay with, as it was our decision. Where I’m not very good is when I have no control over the change, where it’s outwith my hands. I’m a little bit of a control freak and so having that control taken away from me causes me all sorts of issues.

In the last five months our apartment which we rent in Montreal went up for sale and this immediately caused an uneasiness to wash over me. Now before I sound like I’m just being dramatic I am aware that there are other nice apartments in Montreal, plenty of them, in fact many probably much nicer than ours. So, why was I so bothered at this news? Well, because I love my home. It’s nothing particularly fancy, its a nice apartment yes but that’s not it, it’s because it is our home. It became a sanctuary in a city that we didn’t know. The place I’ve felt safe, the place we’ve been happy, the place where we celebrated our first Christmas in Canada, where we have sought refuge after the bad days and celebrated after the good.

It was the first and only apartment we viewed when we arrived in Montreal, as I knew within seconds of walking in the front door that it would become our home. Mark thought I was being ridiculous when I insisted that he had to come back and view it with me again that same evening, telling him, “It’s ours! I can feel it!”, until he too walked through the door, and smiling gave me the nod of agreement. We signed for it there and then. And ‘home’ it has been now for over 2 years but I know that one day soon when the apartment sells it will become someone else’s home and we’ll need to find a new place to live. I also know that I’ll probably grow to love a new apartment and area just as much and the nostalgia I feel towards here will fade over time but I still can’t help but feel sad at the fact that we have to leave here and uneasiness at the change that is coming.

Like many things in life (buses, bad luck and such like) change seldom occurs as a one off event but often comes in threes. At the same time as our apartment went on sale we also became very aware that our visas were due to run out at the beginning of May. There was a lot of uncertainty for a few months as we waited to hear, firstly if Mark was needed for the second stage of the project he is working on which would determine whether his contract in Canada would be extended and then secondly whether we would get a new visa which would allow us to stay, and this too brought a lot of unease and anxiety. Sometimes just the suggestion of change is enough to bring about these feelings and on top of the prospect of having to move, this became a challenging time as we didn’t know what the future held for us. Thankfully Mark’s contract has been renewed and we received a new 3 year visa, which certainly takes some of the pressure off.

The last change we’ve experienced in recent months has been our best friends moving away. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts we have been so lucky to have made wonderful friends here. We have a fantastic social circle and I feel so grateful to have met these people from all over the world and know that many of them will now be friends for life. There was however one couple who we became particularly close with. We met them the weekend they arrived in Montreal, which was exactly 4 weeks after we ourselves arrived. Within minutes of meeting I knew I had found a friend as we bonded over our love of Mulberry handbags and matching bracelets we had. We, by total chance, ended up living a couple of blocks apart and because we met them so early into our Montreal adventure they have very much been a part of this whole experience with us. So many of my best memories from here involve them and I know that Montreal will inevitably change for me now they’re gone. I do still have many wonderful friends here and I know that we’ll create many more amazing memories but their absence will still definitely be felt.

Two years might not seem like a long time to know someone but the expat friendship is not a normal friendship. You are so far removed from your comfort zone and everything and everyone you know, that friendships accelerate so much quicker than they ever would/could in normal circumstances. These friends become your family in a country where you don’t have any family or any childhood friends. The highs and lows are magnified in this situation and she saw me at my very best and also at my very worst, on the days when I am so grateful for this experience and throw myself wholeheartedly into everything and on the days when I cry because I just want to be able to see my Mum and Dad. She’s been there for it all. The day a few weeks ago when we said goodbye I cried inconsolably because I felt an actual physical loss. I know that technically nothing will change, a small matter of an ocean between us now won’t change our friendship, we have a bond now that we’ll have for life but I will still miss not physically having them both here though, for the big events and also for the little things. This is however not the first time we’ve had to say goodbye to people we care about though and I’m sure it wont be the last either. That is both the wonder and the price of the expat journey

Accepting change may not be the easiest thing in the world for some of us but like it or not it is something we all have to deal with in life. It’s important though to acknowledge the feelings that we are experiencing, understand that it is okay to feel like this but not to dwell on them and instead to find a way to accept the change for what it is, and move on.

Two Years On….

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Two years ago; this one, the pup and I, all got on a plane to Montreal with no idea what would be waiting for us on the other side, yet with a naïve hopefulness that it would be something good. We were lucky. Or maybe we weren’t lucky, maybe it was that unfaltering optimism we had that things would be okay which meant that they were. Regardless, in Montreal we found not just a city that we love but a home and wonderful friends but more than anything we found an adventure that brought out the best in each of us and also brought us closer together as a couple. There’s been plenty of bad days too, of course there has, but for the most part they’re still very much outweighed by the good.

Two years has gone by in a heartbeat. When we first landed in Montreal and had that two year visa stapled into our passports I remember thinking that two years felt like an eternity. I suppose in some ways it has been, it’s hard to imagine a life now where we didn’t live here but in other ways it has completely flown by. The fact that today our two years are up seems unbelievable. I was so sure back then that I would be ready to return to Scotland at the end of the two years but it would seem now that that isn’t quite the case.

Our future is still uncertain and I suppose it might always be. We don’t know where we’re going to be in a year, or 5 or 10. At some stage we may just wake up one day and think, “We’re done! It was fun while it lasted but we’re ready to head back home.” Because as I’ve said before Scotland will always be home to us. Whether we return in a year, 10 years or only ever for holidays it will always be home.

For now though, despite how I anticipated two years ago I would feel at this point, we aren’t ready to leave Canada. For now, it is our home, providing us with the opportunities and quality of life that we’re looking for. Despite the difficult days, the homesickness and the days when you wish so badly you could just magic yourself back to your mum and dad’s for a cuppa, we are happy and that’s not something to take for granted in this life.  So for now we’ll be raising a glass to toast the next stage of our Canadian adventure, whatever that may be and for however long it may last.

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Ta Pies, A Little Taste of Home

Living abroad there are many things about Scotland that we miss, other than obviously our friends and family, and I have to say food items are very high up on that list. Some of this is specific items; for me, diluting juice, diet Irn-Bru, potato scones and British chocolate but others are home cooked meals that no one can make quite like family, or favourites from local eateries. Something that is definitely missed by my other half is a pie, primarily a steak pie.

A pie is very much seen as comfort food in the UK, and is something that us Brits eat on a multitude of occasions;  in winter, for Sunday dinner, New Year’s Day, it’s also perfect hangover food and it of course tastes so much better when someone else makes it for you. However it’s something you don’t really get here in Montreal, at least not in the same form as we do back home; or at least so we thought, until we discovered Ta Pies.

Located at 4520 Avenue du Parc, just off the corner of Parc and Mont Royal, Ta Pies has most definitely in recent months filled a void for us and many of our expat friends. It specialises in Australian and New Zealand cuisine but it seems that the Aussie/Kiwi version of a pie is very similar to ours back in the UK. Pie Gods we thank you!

The shop itself is small but there is a couple of tables if you’d prefer to sit in and tuck into your pie there and then. There are options to buy their pies hot, ready to heat or frozen and in small individual form or in a larger family sized pie.

When it comes to variety of pie there are so many different types that there is sure to be one to please everyone – steak, steak and Guinness, steak and cheese, steak and mushroom, butter chicken, lamb rogan josh and for the vegi’s amongst us there are 3 different options – spinach, ricotta, tomato and mushroom;  sweet potato and curried vegetable (my personal favourite) and vegetable chilli.

They also offer all the trimmings – mashed potato, mushy peas, gravy and a variety of sweet treats from Oz including lamingtons, anzac biscuits, afghan cookies, as well as my favourite the Yoyo, a shortbread cookie with a passion fruit buttercream filling.

They also stock some goodies such as Vegemite and Branston Pickle and also some Cadbury’s chocolate (the good stuff not the Canadian version).

Price wise you’re looking between $5-$6.75  for an individual pie or between $15-$18 for a family sized one. A trio of mash, mushy peas and gravy will set you back a very reasonable $4.50. Trust me though it’s all worth every penny. They get extra bonus points because they also deliver through the Just Eat app, or you can call them directly for delivery on 514-277-7437…… hello perfect Sunday dinner with zero effort required. So if like us you’re missing a little bit of British home comfort food I highly recommend you check this place out.

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