Posted in #yyc, repatriation rant

Calgaryversary and that very brief repatriation

I have to confess something: When I listen to the radio, I'm listening to the livestream from CBC Radio One in Calgary. I know there is something ridiculous about listening to the Calgary Eye-Opener morning news and traffic reports when I'm fixing dinner for my family in Al Khobar, but I'm fond of the program hosts and it feels good to keep up with Canadian and Alberta news. 

Yesterday evening, I made pizza from scratch; layering pineapple and turkey (none of that haram ham in this place, of course) over my pressed-out dough and sauce while listening to the hosts talk about how it was two years ago that the Bow and Elbow rivers overflowed and parts of Calgary flooded. And the flood of 2013 is an anniversary day for us; two years ago we came back to Canada from Vietnam. 

That was only two years ago. And – good grief – we're not even there anymore!

Sure, there were a lot of days in the last two years when I really wanted out of Calgary. I'd be quite angry over how no one de-iced their sidewalk on the way to school in the winter, how kindergarten was even less than half-day, how it felt like I was always busy in a car going somewhere (even when I wasn't). But we landed at the airport two years ago thinking that we were home for three or four years, at least. We bought a car that I love, we lived out of suitcases for six months while our house underwent both repair and renovation and turned into something structurally sound and aesthetically ours , and I fell in love with the local elementary school. We were able to be a normal Canadian family for eighteen months, and even though I missed the slower pace of my former life, there was something comfortable about slipping on my Canadian coat (ahem … goose-down parka) again. It was good to see my kids doing the things that kids in Canada do. It was good to live a life less temporary and just more ordinary.

In all the important ways, I'm happy that we came to live in Saudi Arabia, but I also feel that we were a little bit robbed of our time in Canada. We meant to enjoy our house a little longer, and the same goes for the public schools, the farmers' markets we'd frequent, camping trips in the prairies, and our barbeques and roasted marshmallows in our backyard.

I think it's okay to miss the Calgary future that we thought we'd have, but actually don't. 



Posted in Idle Chatter, repatriation rant

isn’t summer supposed to be lazy?

On paper, this week looks pretty good in terms of free time for me, because both of my kids are in day camps. In practice, it's kind of crazy, because one kid gets dropped off at nine, one kid gets dropped off at ten, and then I do pick-ups at noon and three. Working in travel time, the net result is that I'm home for a period no longer than two hours. This isn't exactly the best week for me to undertake a big project like un-wallpapering the tv room in the basement or deep clean the closets. 

The camps, however, are being thoroughly enjoyed by the kids. 

I do have enough time between chauffeur stints to contemplate our big decision for the month – whether to move again later this year or stay here in Calgary for another 12-24 months. I have reasons for not wanting to move again right now – we just moved into our current home about six months ago. I'm very fond of it – we renovated much of this place and the gorgeous and functional lockers and cupboards in the mudroom? They weren't there before; we put them in for us. The double sinks and separate shower in the main floor bath? Again, we put that in especially for our family. I might even cry a little when I think of abandoning the kitchen because I love the tile and the dishwasher and the big apron front sink. 

It doesn't make much sense to be that attached to material objects, and in the big scheme of things, this house doesn't rank that highly, anyways. I think that it's just affecting me so because we just moved in a few months ago and our personal investment still feels high. 

There are some compelling arguments for moving overseas again. The school that me kids would attend does not have the sort of budgetary issues that the schools in Calgary have, so more specials, full-day kindergarten, smaller class sizes. International schools take cool field trips to places like China, instead of less-cool field trips to the Spyhill Landfill (as Madeline did with her fourth grade class). The location is rather ideal for future family vacations in Europe, Africa, and Asia, which is probably the most exciting element for me. And based on our previous time overseas, our lives were a little less rushed, and it would be lovely to have more downtime together again.

It's weird, but this decision feels like has more variables to consider than it did when we voted affirmative for Thailand back in 2007. 

Whatever we decide, that ugly wallpaper in the basement still needs to be taken down, so we'll be rather busy no matter what we decide to do 🙂

Posted in #yyc, ex-pat confidential, repatriation rant

hardship assignment

Back in the spring, when I grudgingly posted on Facebook (and admitted to friends not on FB) that our next assignment was going to put us back in Calgary, the general response was "How exciting" and "Welcome back to civilization" and other similar things that made me cringe. 

I'd lived in Calgary for six years before, the same as I had in SE Asia, and I had a preference. It's not the one that people probably would have guessed if they'd been reading either of my blogs back in 2007 when we moved to Thailand. I'm getting a little tired of hearing that I should be thrilled to be back in North America from people who … well, don't really have the same lived-there-for-many-years basis for comparison. 

I don't like the notion that life here must be so superior. I could easily argue that it isn't.

Sure, Calgary (and Canada or the USA) has some material things that I appreciate, like better quality food (even if our fruit and vegetables are shipped in from far away for part of the year). I like knowing that the milk isn't adulterated with hormones and that the plants outside having been doused in DDT. It's nice having our own car. It's nice being able to purchase children's medication at the drugstore and not have to wonder if it's counterfeit.  It's nice that my kids can take lessons in gymnastics and ice-skating. Internet is way faster. Netflix exists

But I miss the slower life that we had overseas. We had more down-time as a family – here, busy-ness is a terribly contagious disease. Our kids' friends in Asia lived nearby instead of commuting to our local school from the deep south, so after-school playdates were possible/easily planned. There were always people to befriend, and seeing how challenging that is here, that was a really lovely thing about living in an international community. It's not hard to find people with similar interests to mine in Calgary, but finding people who can spare five minutes to talk isn't always easy because they're busy, busy, busy.  

It's really an odd feeling to be back in the country that I grew up in, and feel like it's a strange place that I have to get used to living in. One of Chris's co-workers from Saigon emailed him a few days ago to report on how much downtown Saigon has changed in the months since we've been gone, and I'm surprisingly sad that we aren't there to marvel or curse about it.