50 Days in Canada

August 30, 2023

Well, to start, things are going better than I expected! I'm not sure what I expected, but I had heard that moving back home after living abroad could be hard... so I was mentally prepared for the worst, just in case -- reverse culture shock, awkwardness, overwhelmedness, possibly even regret and yearning for Korean life. Moving back hasn't been without its struggles, but so far everything is pointing to this move being the right choice for us. 

We're finding our routine - Settling the kids into a new routine (new place to eat meals, new place to sleep, new activities to do in their free time, having access to snacks 24/7 at grandma's house) was initially rocky but I think we've mostly settled in and we're getting the hang of things. Having more space here is physically more tiring (Hannah needs help coming down the stairs) but it's giving us all (me) a chance to breathe by not being on top of each other all day long in the same space. 

After living in such a small space for so long, however, I'm adjusting to not having my kids within eyesight at all times and shaking off the absurd guilt I feel for leaving them alone in another room to entertain themselves. I've come to realize how isolated we were while living in Korea. Both kids went to daycare and kindergarten every day, but our home life was very much just us... very close to each other.

Grocery shopping sucks - I've never liked grocery shopping no matter where I've lived. In Korea, I would order groceries and side dishes to be delivered each week but there were next to no service fees, no added tax, and no tip. Korean kids typically eat the same things each meal: rice, some kind of soup or curry, and 2-3 side dishes. Just as eating Western food in Korea is too expensive, eating Korean food in the West is also expensive... so we've been doing a mix. Thinking of meal ideas has been a bit difficult especially when trying to figure out what Canadian kids usually eat, which of those my kids may eat, and which options are the healthiest. When I last lived in Canada, I was a university student, and concern over my nutritional intake (let alone the nutritional intake of children) was not high on my list of priorities. But, generally, the selection of groceries here is wider and cheaper so it'll just take time to get used to.

Ontario is small - I think this has been the most jarring to me. While I absolutely love returning home and raising my kids where I was raised, my hometown is filled with ghosts. I saw a tiktok a few months ago (which of course I can't find now) of a woman describing her partner visiting her childhood home and she feels surrounded by ghosts of her past self but he isn't able to see them. That's exactly what it feels like living here, but it's an entire town/province. There is a memory tucked in every corner of this teeny tiny town ... and it's neither a positive or negative thing ... and it doesn't even make a difference in practical terms ... but it's just never felt quite this small before.

I feel like an imposter - I did an okay job of assimilating to Korean life ... I spoke the language and I eventually knew how to get around properly and respectfully ... but anyone looking at me would know that I didn't belong there so if I did do something weird or incorrect, I got a pass because I was a foreigner. Now I'm finding myself questioning how to do small talk and how close/far to stand to people while waiting in line... and if I do it weird or incorrectly, I'm not an outsider I'm just an a-hole. 

The smells are different - Fresh cut grass and camp fires are obvious ... and warm asphalt after rain is a good one ... but there are smells that I didn't know existed. Public elevators smell different. Grocery stores smell different. Humid, Korean air has a certain aroma in the summer which I certainly don't miss. 

The air quality is great - Since MJ was old enough to run, he would cough so I assumed he had a mild form of asthma. I was happy to finally move to Canada and have space for the kids to run around but I was also worried that we would be faced with more coughing fits... but he hasn't coughed once since being here! Everyone knows that Canadian air is cleaner than Korean air but it's a pretty stark contrast. 

The internet sucks - I thought Korean internet was normal because images and websites loaded immediately. Maybe it's just my provider but it turns out that isn't the case. I won't even start on the fact that Canadian stores are evidently made of lead and are data dead zones. PH and I went shopping and lost each other for like 20 minutes!

So that's how things have been going so far. PH returned to Korea three weeks ago (he's finishing up some work stuff before visiting again in December) and I feel as though I've been mostly successful in keeping my head above water while solo parenting. The kids will begin school in 6 days (but who's counting) so I'm anxious for that transition for them but also really, really looking forward to having brain space again. 


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