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Canadian winter tips

Coming back to cold weather was not particularly fun, but I’m learning to deal with it. I’ve got the thermals, the sweaters, the jackets, the scarves… There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to figure out how to cope with winter. =) Anyway, here are some tips for people who are new to Canada or other cold places:

2014-01-06 Canadian winter tips

Canadian winter tips

If you like this, you might like my 2009 blog post with some more notes on what makes winter better.

Other winter notes: My insulated winter boots have sprung a leak. I still have a pair of leather boots and a pair of rubber boots (in bright red!), so I think I’ll make it through this winter. I shopped around for a replacement pair this weekend and didn’t find anything I liked, despite the sales. I was thinking about whether I should get a pair for when these boots wear out, but I’ll probably move away from wearing insulated boots and move towards thick socks and hiking shoes or regular boots instead. It’s also a good time to see if I can repair the boots I have. Oh well!

Submitted my application for Canadian citizenship!

After allowing a few months just in case there was any doubt about the residency calculations, I’ve finally sent in my application for Canadian citizenship. This is important to me because I don’t want to ever get stuck on the wrong side of an immigration counter, or to sweat over renewals and paperwork like I did before. Both Canada and the Philippines permit dual citizenship, so I don’t have to give up being Filipino (as if that were possible! ) in order to have that certainty. It’ll be nice to be able to vote for bike lanes and libraries. :)

The government website says 80% of applications are processed within 19 months. Time enough to learn history and geography and politics.

I’ve lived in Toronto for a little over seven years now. I’m getting the hang of where things are, and have gotten to the point of also having old friends here. I know! Boggle. The multicultural diversity of Toronto means I don’t feel out of place, although I’m conscious that I don’t hear or speak as much Tagalog as I probably should. Always a little awkward with it even back home, except in the relaxed and freeflowing company of friends, and here, just unexpected conversations at banks and on the street. Facebook and blogs and Skype chats with family, news articles and charity and trips home… If I don’t have those spontaneous connections, I just have to make my own.

All people who move find their own balance.

A braindump of tips for other new immigrants from the Philippines

For Anna Simbulan (welcome to Toronto!) and others this can help along the way. =)

  • Winter and clothing

    Toronto can be cold. Dress in layers. Long underwear, sweaters, gloves, and hats can help you keep warm. Thinsulate is better than knit when it comes to blocking out wind. Layers are better than a big coat because you can adjust the warmth depending on changes in weather, physical activity, etc.

    Winter can also be pretty grey and depressing. If you’re finding it hard to get through the day, get plenty of sunlight. Sometimes colourful things can be helpful, too.

    Things might look pretty expensive, particularly if you do the CAD-PHP conversion and think about how much cheaper you could get things at ukay-ukay or bazaars. Check out second-hand stores like Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Value Village. You can usually find perfectly good clothes, coats, and household items for much cheaper than the retail price.

    If you need to walk around downtown Toronto, check out the underground PATH.

    Find something to enjoy about winter. I’ve learned to think of winter as a season for cooking, baking, hot chocolate, and early(ish) bedtimes.

  • Home and society

    Be prepared for homesickness. It’s a natural part of moving.

    Be prepared for cultural differences. Avoid making jokes or statements that are racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise politically incorrect.

    It can feel pretty lonely when your barkada and social support networks are half a world away. Check out classes, go to activities, meet people, make new friends.

    Free video-calling programs like Skype and social networking tools like Facebook help you keep in touch with old friends.

    If you want to cook recipes from home, you can find many of the ingredients in Chinatown or even in some of the larger supermarkets. For example, you can find Skyflakes, ampalaya, bagoong, and halo-halo ingredients in Chinatown. The No Frills supermarket in Dufferin Mall has Skyflakes, too.

    There aren’t that many Filipino restaurants downtown, though. Definitely worth learning how to make things at home. You may find some neighborhoods with Filipino stores (including places where you can buy balikbayan boxes). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Manila#Toronto

  • Resources

    The Toronto Public Library is amazing. Sign up, get your library card, and use http://torontopubliclibrary.ca to get books delivered to the branch closest to you. It even has a number of books in Filipino. Check out the e-books, movies, music CDs, and graphic novels as well.

    The library has many seminars for newcomers and job-seekers. There are many other newcomer organizations, too. Take advantage of the services and training they offer, such as networking events and free training.

    Public transit works pretty well. You can even use maps.google.com to plan your route.

  • Work

    If you’re applying for a job, it’s worth reviewing your resume and using the Canadian conventions. For example, people here don’t indicate their age, marital status, height, or weight on resumes.

    If you get stumped by employers requiring Canadian experience, consider volunteering or working in a different position for some time in order to pick up that experience.

  • Finance

    If you’re having a hard time getting a credit card, get a secured credit card first, then use that to build your credit history. When I started, I got the TD Green Visa card. I deposited some money and that deposit was used to secure the card. Once you qualify for a better card, you can switch to something like PCFinancial Mastercard (equivalent of 1% rewards) or MBNA Enrich (3% cashback on groceries, 1% on regular purchases).

    Compare prices online. Buying textbooks or other things? Check ebay.ca and other sites before buying things in person. You can often find significant discounts online, too, and shipping is reliable. Look for free or cheap stuff on craigslist.ca or kijiji.ca, or join a Freecycle group.

    Keep some savings in a checking account as an emergency fund / buffer and the rest in a high-interest savings account. Don’t overload yourself with credit card debt. Pay off your credit card every month, if you can, and plan your spending so that you don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck.

    Enjoy life. =) There will probably always be things and people you will miss, but maybe Toronto can become a second home.

    —-

    What other tips would you add?

Backyard trades

We live in a semi-detached house and often chat with our immediate neighbors, Dan and Jen. Their kids sometimes come over to play with J
-. When we make jams or jelly, we share it with them, and they share other interesting things with us.

Dan recently bought a smoker because he was pining for the briskets of his Texan youth. He made pulled pork recently, and he brought over some for us. We sprinkled it on pizzas, sandwiches, and other yummy treats. When we finished it, I washed the container and filled it with freshly-picked jalapeno peppers from our garden. (We have too many to eat, and not enough to make jelly.)

It’s nice getting along with your neighbors, particularly when there’s food involved. =)

2010-08-21 Sat 10:13

Cool mornings

2010-07-31 Sat 08:00

Fall doesn’t officially start until late September, but these mornings and evenings are pajama-cool, duvet-cool, un-summer-like. For the first time I am not troubled by the thought of wearing turtlenecks and sweaters in August. Time to unpack the clothes I stored a few months ago: layers of warmth and wicking, cashmere sweaters, coats of varying weight.

I have found other things to call fall and winter, to take the edge off the chill. It will be baking season, cooking season, sewing season. I’ve found a balance between the seasons for outdoor pursuits like bicycling and woodworking, and the seasons for indoor ones. Unusually cool or warm days give me a chance to enjoy activities from the other half of the year.

The garden will continue to grow for a bit. I may have time to sneak a crop or two in. Radishes grow quickly. The cooler weather is kind to lettuce and peas.

I’m learning not to fight nature. Little changes have made life smoother. So what if it doesn’t feel like the tropical summers of my childhood? It is its own self.

2010-07-31 Sat 07:36

Always look on the bright side of life

P1310073 

The winter chill is tough.

But it does mean that pork and vegetable wontons, buns, and other frozen food are sold on the sidewalk in Chinatown. It’s like having a big outdoor freezer, and not having to worry that your groceries will spoil.

Always look on the bright side of life! =)