Sunday, November 6, 2016

Choose Your Own Adventure - Moving to Canada

If I were to compare our lives to one book it would be the not-well-written-but-mildly-interesting 'Choose Your Own Adventure Books' that I owned and read (and re-read) as a kid.  Not high art, but like life, you get choices, and sometimes you choose wisely and the story continues happily, or you choose unwisely and the the story stops.  In the rereading, just like in life, you remember the choices you made and, if they led to a dead-end before, you hopefully choose a different ending.  If you made all the right choices the first time, (because you were lucky, or just figured out the formula), perhaps you went back to try the not-so-safe choices.  Maybe a little riskier but more interesting.  On a somewhat mundane level, that's how it feels like we landed here.  I've stopped believing there is a single "right" path for each person, or that someONE directs my moves from offstage.  There is definitely still mystery involved in how we get where we are going, and who we touch along the way.  But I do feel at this point it's mostly about choosing to do or go somewhere, whether all (or any) signs lead there or not.

Choosing to move to Montreal was both a long-deliberated plan and a last minute decision.  We'd been considering moving to Montreal since college 16 years ago, and then as part of a Plan B when the convent plans started to fizzle (or were basically snuffed out by a higher bidder!)  Staying in Chicago with all the beautiful souls we'd connected with, and all the institutions that we were part of was so appealing.  It felt like home.  But if we were planning to be self-employed teachers for the long run, wouldn't it be better to teach in a land where our health-care wasn't in peril, and where our children could go to the local school without fear, and where they could learn a second language, and where they could go to university for $4,000/year? We'd been discussing these issues for so long, that in July we asked "Now or next year?"  I'm the person who prefers to get the pain over with immediately, so here we are, 4 months later, with our new Quebec license plates.

The journey here was filled with minor miracles, not least the gallon jug of vinegar I found cap-less in a cardboard box while upacking that had remained upright for the entire move.  Realizing the movers had packed our passports and important documents in the 36 foot moving van the night we were to drive across the border, and then finding them two hours later after minimal unpacking of the truck was another.  Chasing down a UPS driver in Michigan to retrieve the deed to our car counts, I believe.  (Nothing like realizing the day before you export your car that you never received the title!  Thank goodness for a kind, if a bit grumpy, woman at the DMV who expedited it.)  Having my CV land on a desk at McGill the day they posted an (unknown to me) request for a Suzuki teacher, and answering a call for an interview within five minutes of leaving Montreal on one of our trips in late August was another serendipitous event.  And probably the biggest gift from the universe was the reinstatement of my permanent residence status this summer after 16 years away.  Apparently most of the officers in the Canadian government don't even realize this is possible. Thankfully we found one person that did.

Montreal is strangely familiar and it doesn't often feel foreign to me.  I could get by with never speaking a word of French because everyone here glides so effortlessly back and forth between languages.  That will make sharpening my language skills so much harder, but there's my challenge.  The rhythm of the city is similar to Chicago, the green space along the river feeds the same part of my soul that the Point did.

I'm trying to get the pulse of my new country, but I still feel so tied to the U.S.  I am nervous about the upcoming election and sent my ballot in weeks ago, even though my health care doesn't hang in the balance anymore.  I check the Chicago Tribune daily, comparing the 17 murders per weekend to the 17 murders per year here, and feel a dual sense of sadness and relief.  I miss the relationships I tended over the last decade in Chicago, and feel a twinge of envy when I check Facebook.  (It takes twice as long for me to translate the Quebecois mom's groups that I belong to, so halfway through I revert to gazing back on the life I left!)
The two things that are, in my opinion, worse than childbirth are:  a) moving and b)purchasing a house.  I hope to never do either again.  If someone tells me I have to move, I may cry for a very, very long time, and then I will disappear until it's all over.  I do feel chastened for these thoughts, though,  when I consider what refugees across the world are dealing with right now.  I am thankful for what we have, and thankful to our parents who have helped us in ways we will never be able to repay.  With that in mind, our home is always open to whomever wants to come and stay.  I'd like to stay put for awhile, so please, come visit me in Montreal!