Camping or real life? (originally posted July 18/09)

I had been intending to write about the weirdness of going camping just for a couple of days. Before we came out to Canada, camping was a thing you did for your holiday, either because you were a nut, or you were on a budget. I camped with my parents, because we were on a budget, with the Scouts because we were nuts, and once with Mrs Dim because were were on a budget. It’s never been as much fun as coming home afterwards, so the idea that you just throw your camping gear in the back of the car, and take off for a couple of days seemed bizarre. Camping just for the sake of camping? But it works here. The campsites are good, and we spent two days up at Golden Ears, where there’s a beautiful lake. We hired a canoe, sneaked Moose in (No dogs! No dogs on the boats!) and found ourselves a secluded beach on the far side of the lake where the weasels could play in the water and Moose could dabble her paws. After a couple of days of woodsmoke (oh yeah, you can’t usually light fires at UK campsites…), burnt marshmallows and drop toilets, we piled back into the car and came home. And each time we do this, the next time is easier. We know what to take, what we didn’t need, how to pack better…

But that wasn’t what I was going to write about when I woke up this morning. I had one of those moments, thinking back over the four or so months we’ve been out here, and then I thought about what I had expected life to be like.

We emigrated for quality of life issues, I suppose. We couldn’t afford the kind of house we wanted, weren’t sure about the education our weasels would receive, worried about the amount of house and road-building going on…basically, we saw in Canada the kind of place we’d rather be, and so we took the chance. I expected it to be difficult. I thought we’d feel lonely, cut off from everyone back in the UK, adrift in a strange place. I thought there would be lots of practical adjustments, like driving on the right, earning a licence again, finding a job. I thought the kids would struggle with new schools, with being the odd kids with the funny accents. I secretly feared my work (such as it is) would suffer from being on a different continent to my writing partners.

If I’m honest, none of these fears have been realised. Yes, I worry about my parents being so far away – I wish they could visit and see how good things are here. I also feel the distance from our friends, people we would have dropped in on in the last few months who haven’t seen us because we’re here. But the internet has been an amazing compensation. The dreaded Facebook has been a source of the regular gossip we might have kept up with through phone calls. It’s been handy for odd comments, real messages, posting photos and giving out updates without bombarding folks with long, round-robin e-mails that they might not want in the first place. We’ve used Skype and the webcam to talk to our families, and it’s worked (I don’t have a great history with technology, so this has been a pleasant surprise). The kids have slotted into their school with no real problems – Middle Weasel needs some help, but then she needed the same help in her last school, and she wasn’t the only English kid there. Tiny Weasel will start Kindergarten if September ever arrives, and I can devote more time and attention to my work, and maybe even finish some projects.

It’s a scary thing to admit, because we don’t want to jinx things, but we haven’t suffered anything like the way we thought we would. We had this noble idea that we would sacrifice our own comforts, the familliar and safe things to give our kids the chance to do the things they’re doing now – skiing, climbing mountains, seeing bears, going to summer camp, being outdoors more often than not – but there hasn’t really been any sacrifice. I have my own space down there in my garage, recently christened “Dad’s Fortress of Solitude”. It has Wifi, a desk, a light, all my paintings on the wall, all the little models and toys I had no space for back in the UK…This is only our temporary house, and it suits us better than most of the houses we lived in before.

The only thing we thought was becoming a problem was Mrs Dim’s struggle to find employment, and now we realise that only seemed like a struggle because we were too close to it. We’ve known people who were out of work for six months or more, desperate to find work. Mrs Dim was, in effect, on holiday for nearly three months before she found a brilliant job. And then they gave her another month before she has to start!

 

So when people ask me how things are going these days, I tend to be a bit apologetic. “Sorry, it’s all going really well. We’re having a wonderful time, everything is great. How are things with you?”

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