To celebrate our 730th day in BC today, I objectify you.
Or more accurately: steaming hot coffee on the go. You must come and have coffee in Vancouver. Or Toronto. Or anywhere in Canada, preferably in below 10 degree weather to get the full effect. It doesn’t matter what kind and how designer it is. Everything will fall into place once you walk into cold Raincouver with that steaming hot paper cup in your hand. There isn’t a scene on earth more perfect for coffee drinking than this.
I’m a professional writer and yet – back home, I couldn’t afford to buy new books! There are books that make you feel like you belong to humanity once you read them, like LOTR or Game of Thrones, and sadly, I had to borrow them all from friends. But in Canada, I am able to read them all for free, thanks to a public library account that can be accessed on my e-book reader called Kobo. I have since been able to read some zeitgeist books like The Martian, Room, Talking To Strangers, So You Want To Talk About Race, and some Mary Oliver heartbreakers, so I feel less out of touch with humanity now.
Back in Manila, the mantra was “bawal ang magkasakit” (being ill is forbidden). Well, health care works here, so you can let go a little. But you absolutely can’t let your waist go. I see so many Canadians running, biking and doing the outdoors. It’s the culture, and I’m glad that my fitness goal aligns with it. I cannot afford the wardrobe change that comes with even the slightest weight gain! So every morning, I weigh myself, walk my 10,000 steps by doing my errands and break my fast with just coffee and toast. It keeps my sanity, my savings, and ehem, my love life fairly intact.
4. Bare walls and low light
Minimalist walls and ceilings are a Canadian thing. Many Canadian homes don’t have ceiling lights, just standing lamps. For renters like us, it’s a cost thing; for homeowners, it’s the sensibility. You can’t just make pukpok your bookshelves onto the walls or you will have to pay the price when you move out and all the damages are assessed. But I love the low light orange glow of Canadian homes in the evenings and the empty ceilings that inspire you to look up and visualize a game of chess…
Most, if not all, Canadian homes have a bathtub! To me, it’s the ultimate luxury. I’ve seen it in movies: a woman in a chignon, luxuriating in fragrant suds with a glass of wine in one hand. The first time I realized that a tub could save a life was during a short trip to Shanghai. I was literally frozen, my hands and feet were white from the extreme cold. A hot shower wasn’t working, so I filled the tub with hot water and stayed there for a while. Thank you tub, I can still use my hands to write this. Now I know what to do when I get hypothermic in Yukon or Nunavut or Newfoundland.
In case you couldn’t figure it out, it’s bubble bath soap!
As an immigrant, you won’t be able to help it: after a spell of trying out all sorts of exciting multicultural dishes here, you will still go back to your default taste: Filipino food. Bagoong, isaw, tapsi, Binondo, Maginhawa, Jollibee, Chow King, Goldilocks (huhu no Jollibee in BC yet). Thankfully, Walmart and T&T Supermarket carry Southeast Asian items (Walmart even has a Filipino food section) and my pantry always has packs of kare-kare and sinigang mix ready for use. Don’t you just love how our sinigang mix sounds so sosyal in French (the other official Canadian language)? Say oui!
We used to have clocks everywhere in our house back in Manila. But since we can’t really hang a lot of things on our wall here (see #4), we have been fortunate to have Google around instead. We got it as a gift from our Canadian besties Beth and Lala, and quickly realized how useful it was. We ask it everything: time, outdoor temperature, and music to play when everything is too quiet, timer to remind when to take our clothes out of the dryer. My husband has set it up so that it calls him “Master.” It sounds very funny in Tagalog too.
8. Red Chair
Canadians are a paradox: they have bare walls and ceilings, but have Too.Much.Stuff. Which they leave outside in the rain when they have no more use for them. We have salvaged still mint-condition furniture (and even a small organ!) from the outdoors so they can have new lives with us. Eighty-percent of our house is filled up with pre-loved items from family. We are lucky to have family here; we’ve heard of newcomers having to sleep on makeshift carton beds for a spell.
9. My daughter
Every day, we live with our children, 19 and 13. Our youngest in particular looks and feels like an anime character: fun, vibrant, deeply intelligent, witty, gives me 3000 hugs a day. Back in Manila, a village of sisters and friends raised my kids: Jenny, Lukring, Cely, Ems and Les. Now here in Canada, it’s just me. I do 80% of the housework and cooking and looking after them and I’ve grown closer to them as a result. I realized I have missed out on a lot of things by not having looked after them full time, but it would have been very difficult to compose music and words for a living if I’d also had to be a full-time housewife back in Manila. So thank you, Canada. Thank you for giving us many reasons to enclose our children in the warmest embrace we can provide. Cheers to 730 days and counting!