When I was young, time crawled by – but with each decade, the days and weeks seem to have gotten shorter and shorter – now they whiz by so fast, I can hardly keep track.
It is December again – how can that be – I mean REALLY!
Except for two weeks in September, I’ve been living in Canada since June. I like it there, but I have missed Jorge, my children, my Merida friends, my home of 40 years and my garden.
And yesterday, after 20 hours of travel, I arrived back in Yucatan. I unfolded my weary bones out of Seat 15F, and filed along with the crowd towards Immigration and Customs. I knew I’d soon be runited with my husband – and felt excited for that moment – but I was bereft knowing that I’d not be seeing my children too. They will be in Norway this Holiday Season, and it turned out that they had booked a flight on the exact same plane I had just arrived on… If only we’d coordinated our itineraries differently!
I kept going and to my surprise, I saw Carlos and Maggie looking out through the window of their departure gate. They appeared to be searching for someone – and when Carlos saw me, he nodded his head up and down and took off in the other direction – Maggie ran over to me.
I could see Carlos had the attention of a young airport employee, who quickly followed him over to where Maggie and I stood – our hands pressed together on either side of the glass. Hanging around the airline agent’s neck, I spied the key to my heart – literally THE key to my heart. She inserted it into the lock and gave Carlos, Maggie and me just enough time for a take-my-breath-away embrace. OMG, I wanted to hug her too. I felt so grateful, and only the thought of Jorge waiting further along made me turn away.
The reunion Jorge and I enjoyed was not quite as emotional but it was equally wonderful – and within an hour of my arrival at MID, I found myself walking through the rooms of my home, checking out the garden and dipping my toes in the pool. The water temperature did not invite me to plunge right in, but Jorge’s smile certainly did. In all the important ways, slipping back into the “Merida Me” felt as easy as changing my shoes.
Many friends (and strangers too) have asked what it has been like for me to live in Canada again, after such a long time in Mexico. Have you adjusted – What do you do – Do you still have friends there – Don’t you miss your family?
Obviously, my move to part-time residency in two countries is a BIG change. Before actually arriving there, I didn’t know how it would all work out. But I figured I could leave at any time, so why not try?
Over the years, I have experienced both wonders and challenges in Merida. Jorge and I raised two bicultural kids, we built a college, and we’ve both contributed to our Yucatecan and international communities. Nonetheless, my western Canadian identity has always remained strong – I never stopped missing my family and my life there. While my children were small, while I was working, and had other responsibilities, I could not be in Canada except to visit. And that was OK – I belonged in Mexico with Jorge, Carlos and Maggie. But once I retired, I wondered – why not live in both places? Jorge’s ties to his hometown and culture are bound by steel cable. Although we both wish the day-to-day logistics wer easier to resolve, he understands my need for time in Canada. We’ll just have to keep working at it, until we find the solution that works best. After all, BIG changes take time to fine tune.
And, getting back to the initial point of this post – what is it like to live in Canada after all these years in Mexico?
Vancouver, the city where I was born and raised, has grown from a secondary coastal hub into a teaming international metropolis. English used to be the only language I ever heard in my North Vancouver neighborhood, and now native English speakers are a minority there. Drivers, once so courteous, seem to be on a mission to get where they’re going as fast as they can – and if you are dawdling – you’ll soon hear horns blasting. Right away, I determined I would not be living, or even driving in Vancouver.
Vancouver is expensive too. Very expensive. Rents average $2,500 a month for a one bedroom apartment – if you can find one. Eating out is at least $25.00 a pop, without alcohol or desert. A modest grocery bill for one person is $150.00 a week. Last time I looked, gas was nearly $1.30 a liter at the pump. With the traffic, it takes hours to get anywhere, so just the fuel cost of running a car is considerable.
Kamloops, an inland city of 90,000 – 3 ½ hours east of Vancouver turned out to be just right for me. It is slower-paced and yet it has all the services I need. There is good shopping in small shops, in malls and in markets. Daily cultural events are interesting and varied – all summer I attended free nightly concerts in the riverside park. On Seniors’ Day (Wednesdays) entrance to the current first-run movie and a complementary bag of popcorn is just $10.00 – that’s the best deal I found. The library and the university both host free or almost-free courses and workshops. As my small apartment is located right downtown, I can walk everywhere. When I need to go further afield, I can take the bus. If company comes, I can rent a car.
Most of all, I have loved being closer to my brothers and sisters, other extended family and old-time friends. When I first arrived, they helped me settle in and since then, we have enjoyed so many dinners, walks and day trips. I have also made some new friends.
The weather is well-suited to me. It is a lot drier than in Yucatan – and much less humid. Canadians consider Kamloops’ summers to be unbearably hot, but I laugh at that! In the fall it cools off quickly – I immediately bought a warm coat and boots , and turned on the fireplace. It heats the apartment efficiently – so I have kept toasty and warm.
Of course not everything is perfect in Canada. There were surprises – in some ways, it is not at all like the country where I grew up. I already mentioned the size and faster pace, which seem to have ushered in cultural challenges. Although the majority of Canadians I encountered have been courteous and friendly, especially in Kamloops, a subculture has grown.
Drug use is definitely a problem and there is a visible homeless population in Kamloops. To me it looks like many in this group are mentally ill. Concerned individuals do what they can, but the issues are as complicated as the people who need help – they won’t “get better” with methadone treatment, shelters or “Chili and Coats” provided free from time to time. Most of the indigent population lives downtown, and I talk a bit with some of “the regulars”. I sense they want to change, but it’s a long, painful process, and they fear both long-term and pain.
Fair and equitable reconciliation for aboriginal Canadians is another dilemma that the government and citizens struggle to resolve. But I must say, Canadians try – they try hard to find fair solutions – and meanwhile they do the best they can.
And isn’t this what it’s like for all of us? No matter where we live or what our situation, life isn’t a cake walk for anyone – we do our best to enjoy what works – and we work on improving what isn’t. I call this the pursuit of grace.
The Serenity Prayer, written by the theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr pretty much sums up my feelings about adapting to the changes in our personal lives and addressing those we face as members of global society.
God, grant me the serenity –
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.