When Ingo and I arrived in Toronto in the afternoon of April 21, 1995, we were greeted to a landscape which looked more or less the same like the one we had left at the beginning of January. While the spring flowers were already past their bloom in Germany, there was hardly any sign of the approaching spring visible in Toronto; It was depressing.
However, we were greeted warmly by Ingo’s family who tried hard to make me feel welcome. Nevertheless, the transition was very difficult. I got homesick very fast. Except for a six month stay in the Stuttgart area where I was doing a practicum in preparation of studies of fashion design, I had always lived close to my parents and friends. This time, I knew that I would not see them again for six months. Technology was not as advanced as today. Almost no one had Internet access. The only ways to keep in contact were the phone or mail.
The telephone rates were still comparatively high, and due to the time difference of six hours it was not always possible to reach my parents. I wrote lots of letters but had to wait weeks for a response. By then, so much more had happened.
Having been used to living in my own apartment, it was difficult to adjust to living with people who were very friendly but still strangers to me. I felt totally out of place. They had their own routine and I felt like an extra, standing in their way. It was hard that there was no place to retreat except for a crowded bedroom.
I hated that we had to ask to borrow a car if we wanted to do something, and was quite relieved when we finally found a silver Ford Escort. However, I was not able to drive it as it was an automatic. I had always driven a standard, except for the one driving lesson when I tried driving an automatic, and almost drove it into a tree because it started moving forward all by itself. While I managed to drive the car pretty quickly, I felt overcome with the sheer amount of traffic, my lack of orientation, and was nervous that I would miss the traffic lights which are mounted on the opposite side of the street instead of right next to the stop line. This makes it actually a lot easier to see them once you are used to it.
To get out of the house, Ingo and I checked out the local gyms. We had actually met at a gym, and I liked working out with weights as well as doing Aerobics. However, what we saw was not what we were used to from Germany where the gym was designed for everyday people. The gyms in Mississauga looked either like muscle men's training areas or were very upscale with separate areas for women and men. That was not what we were looking for. We were happy when Ingo’s parents gave a tandem as an engagement gift.
Another very disappointing undertaking was the search for a dance school. I had been very active in a dance school in Germany, going dancing twice a week, and even assisting the instructor. Every weekend, they had dance parties to practice the dance moves we learned during the classes. When we came to a dance school in Mississauga, it was more like a restaurant with a dance floor. Instead of young people there were some old couples sitting on a table looking rather bored. That was the last time we set a foot into a dance school.
While almost all teenagers visit a dance school in Germany to learn the basic standard and Latin dances, it is a shame that hardly anyone learns to dance here in Canada.
It was not long until we could demonstrate our dance skills at my first social event here in Canada: the wedding of one of Ingo’s friends. I will tell you all about this experience next week.
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