Friday, 26 August 2016

Popping the Question

 Blog 35

After Ingo and I had avoid a decision about whether or not Ingo should accept the job offer in Ottawa for the longest time, we decided to give it a try for half a year. We were sure that we would be able to find out within six months if we liked living in Ottawa, whether Ingo like the work and the company. and whether I would get bored staying at home.

However, this decision only solved part of our problem. The part that had not really been a problem. We had never doubted that Ingo would be able to find work. His acceptance of the position in Ottawa meant that we finally had money coming in to enable us to find our own apartment. This was a major step to getting back our independence. As our belongings were still stored in Germany, we were looking for a furnished apartment in Ottawa. We were happy to finally have a place for ourselves again. I was even looking forward to cooking, which is not one of my favourite pastimes.

We left for Ottawa on August 4, the Friday before the long weekend. In retrospect, I have no idea why we picked that day of all days to travel. It took us more than two hours to get just out of Toronto. When we decided to leave the 401 for the highway 7, we were delayed due to a bad accident ahead of us. As we were so far behind our schedule, we decide to give the guest house we had booked a call to inform them of our delay. It turned out that they could not find the reservation. They told us they did not have a double room for the night and gave us a higher weekly rate than we had booked. In an age where cell phones were not affordable for the public, we did not have any opportunities to find another accommodation.

Therefore, we decided to go to the guest house and discuss matters on site. We were certainly in for a surprise: the two men at the reception were not apologetic at all about the mistake. They did not care. One of the men first offered us a double room in another hotel, then withdrew the offer. Suddenly, one of the double rooms became available because two young men had decided just at that moment that they did not want to stay overnight after all. I found that very suspicious. Ingo asked them whether the room would be cleaned for us and would have its own bathroom. They assured us that that would not be a problem at all. I am almost sure that did not even know what we were asking them as their English was very poor.

The room they showed us looked like a sleazy room of a junkie. There was only one bathroom in the whole building, and part of the railing in the staircase was missing. I would have slept in the car before staying in that dump. Even Ingo was shocked. We were in a real jam. It was past 9 pm on the Friday of the long weekend in August, and after a seven hour drive were beyond tired. Luckily, someone gave us the name of the Algonquin Hotel Apartments, where we rented a one bedroom apartment. We were very happy. The apartment was very simply furnished, but it was situated minutes from Parliament Hill and Ingo' s new work.

The first day at our new location, it was raining non-stop. We did not mind as we were looking at houses to see what was on the market in the area. The first house had purple carpets and was smelling strongly of smoke; the second one was beautiful, but right next to a main street that was just in the process of widening to four lanes. We knew that we would not buy a house in the next couple of months, but you see how fast things started to move. Suddenly, we took action and were not the couple anymore who just waited to see how things were going, reluctant to commit.

This was, however, where the second part of our problem, the real problem, needed to be addressed. I was still in Canada as a visitor which meant that I was only allowed to stay in the country for six months, namely the end of October. There were means to get around this, for example by leaving the country and reentering, but that was definitely not a long-term solution.

Can you guess what was our conclusion? Not very romantic and certainly not an idea I could have warmed up to just a couple of weeks earlier. However, suddenly I got all excited about the prospect of getting married. This would help to facilitate my application as a landed immigrant, a status that would not only allow me to stay in Canada but give me work permission.

I was also very excited about the prospect of a reunion with my parents and sister. Even though we had already decided on the date for the wedding, which would be during my sister's fall vacation, I wanted to inform my family and friends not before Ingo had officially proposed. We would have a civil wedding in Canada, and then the big white wedding the following year in Germany with all our family and friends.

I did not have to wait long to make the announcement. Ingo asked me the following evening while we were out roller skating at the Belvédère Rockcliffe Lookout during a beautiful sunset. There were many people around us so I hurried to accept because Ingo jokingly threatened that he would ask me loudly in front of all those people. I would have to wait three days before I was able to reach my family with the happy news. In the present age of cellphones and social media, this seems just incomprehensible. Spreading information – both good and bad – has certainly became a lot easier in the last 20 years.

If you would like to find out how things continued for us in Canada's capital, please return to my blog next week. Thank you for following my adventures. I appreciate the wonderful feedback I got so far. If you know anyone who would be interested in my story, please forward my blog. Thank you in advance.

Friday, 19 August 2016

The Big Decision

Blog 34

After Ingo received a job offer, we only had a couple of days to make our decision. If you read last week's blog, you know that I did everything to postpone the inevitable. There was no more time to waste. We had to make a decision about our future. While I had assumed I was the only one who was unsure, Ingo also had his doubts. If he had been all by himself, then he would have decided in favour of staying in Canada without any second thought. He was worried that I would get fed up in no time without my family and work.

At the end, we make a list stating the advantages and disadvantages, and even weighed every aspect according to importance. Canada gained a lead of three points. We both hoped to talk this decision through with our parents, but were unable to reach any of them. They would not be able to make the decision for us, but they would give us some good advice. I also hoped that their reaction would give me a hint whether they would even be able to deal with the separation.

Luck was on our side: When Ingo called the company representative in Ottawa, he was away from his desk. As it was Friday afternoon, we hoped that he would not call back until Monday.

Ingo and I had tickets for the Muskoka Summer Festival in Port Carling which was great timing as it had started raining in the afternoon. I actually enjoyed watching the rain while relaxing with my knitting because we had a whole week to enjoy the cottage life.

Our luck did not last long, as the return call came just as we wanted to head out for the festival. We were already late as another power outage had made it difficult to get dressed for the evening. At least Ingo was able to postpone the final decision by asking for more information about some contract details.

Ingo's future supervisor made him a couple of different offers, which gave us more options that we had to discuss. This also gave us the chance to talk to our parents over the weekend. I had not talked to my parents in more than three weeks, and I was missing them.

“Babe Ruth Comes to Pickle River” was a nice distraction. The two actors of the play, a sentimental comedy, were fantastic. I was very happy that I understood almost everything. It certainly helped that we had watched a movie about the baseball player Babe Ruth a couple of weeks earlier.

The next day, we got to witness how far the Canadian obsession with Christmas goes in Bracebridge. On a hot July day, “Santa's Parade” took place to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Santa's Village. It seemed like a carnival procession - the only difference was that everything was decorated with a Christmas theme, and instead of “Helau” (German carnival salutation) people shouted “Merry Christmas”. I found the whole event absolutely ridiculous, especially considering the scorching heat. If the theme was “Christmas in July”, the organizers should at least have decorated the streets with Christmas trees (even if they had been the fake kind) and scheduled the parade in the evening. On the other hand, if I consider that some of the costumes for the German carnival are rather skimpy for the winter months, maybe having a Christmas parade in July is not any more absurd. It certainly has nothing to do anymore with the message of Christmas, but reduces the Christian holiday to a marketing spectacle.

So where am I going with all this? You are probably wondering how long we could still stall before making our final decision. Ingo had until Monday morning to accept the job offer. I talked to my parents and my sister. Even though they wished for us to return to Germany, they advised us to look where Ingo would have the best work opportunities. Very typical! Even though I had my degree as Diplom-Betriebswirt (graduate in business management) from the University of Applied Sciences, it was more important for my parents that Ingo would have good career chances. Despite my mom's crucial part in my dad's business success, they still held on to the traditional role expectations.

At the end, we decided to give it a try for half a year. Ingo would start on August 14. We did not have anything to lose. Ingo did not have any career opportunities at his former employer, and I did not want to return to the company I had worked for.

We argued that we would be able to find out within six months if we liked living in Ottawa, whether Ingo like the work and the company, and whether I would get bored staying at home. I could still apply for jobs in Germany.

To convince myself that this was the right decision, I even made the following calculated in my journal:

I usually saw my parents 4 hours/week which resulted in 208 hours/year. If I wanted to spend as much time with them in the future, I would have to visit them for about 17.5 days every year, assuming I would spend 12 hours/day with them.

Seeing this in my journal now, I can hardly believe how naive I was. What a silly calculation! I did not even include time with other family members and friends. I also wanted to visit my parents and sister every second Christmas. It did not work that way. I usually visit them every second year, and spent my last Christmas with them in 1996. Although, we are very lucky that my parents come regularly to visit us, about two or three times a year.

This was, however, only one part of our decision. Can you guess what the other part was? You have to return to my blog next week to find out.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Avoiding the Subject

Blog 33

It was time to make the important decision about where we wanted to continue our life. I had done a lot of brooding over the question of whether to stay in Canada, or to return to Germany. I was torn and felt overwhelmed. When Ingo finally got the offer, he asked me for my decision. I told him about about my struggles.

At first, he was pulling away and went for a lonely trip in the canoe. I was shocked about his reaction. I thought we would sit together to talk about our doubts and make the decision together. I assumed that he had already figured out by our several discussions that I was not too thrilled about the idea of staying in Canada.

While he was gone, I threw myself into washing the dishes. When I suddenly saw the beautiful sunset, I dropped the dish cloth, grabbed my painting equipment and hurried to the deck to capture the sunset. I was quite happy with the result which just shows that painting is a great stress reliever.

When Ingo returned, he wanted to discuss the move to Ottawa, but I put him off because I was afraid that the discussion would get me so upset that I would brood over all the challenges throughout the night. Instead we played a round of “Mensch ärgere Dich nicht“ (a German board game similar to “Sorry”) which Ingo won as always.

The next morning, we were up early, as we had heard that power would be cut for a couple of hours. We continued to avoid the necessary discussion. Instead, we went canoeing on the Muskoka river, followed by a drive on the “Lady Muskoka”, a passenger boat that takes tourists along the Muskoka river and lake. When we passed the “millionaires row”, I could hardly keep my eyes from bulging. Most of the cottages at Lake Muskoka were quite a good size but those millionaires' cottages looked like palaces. Even more important than the actual size of the building were the number of boat houses a family owned. Some families owned their own islands including a guest house and a house for the housekeeper. This house alone was often at least twice as big as the cottage of Ingo's parents. I was hard to comprehend all this wealth.

It goes without saying that we passed Santa's Village, which is indeed only an amusement park for small kids. We not only saw one of Santa's Village boats with Christmas songs blasting from the sound system, but also Santa with his long white beard. However, instead of his red robe, he wore a black swim trunk and dark sunglasses when he passed us in a motor boat.

In the afternoon, we were lounging on the cottage's patio. What a luxury! I appreciated our time off. How many people could have afforded such a long vacation?

While all this helped to distract us from the important decision we had to make, and I even managed to postpone our discussion for another day. We still could not avoid talking about the big challenge in front of us. It was time to take a clear step, and get out of the doubtfulness.

You are probably wondering why I always get away from the topic of our decision of whether Ingo should accept or reject the job offer in Ottawa. I was thinking about just writing the blog with the facts of how we finally came to a decision, but decided to write it in chronological order instead to show how reluctant we both were to commit. I hope you will return next week to find out how we finally made up our minds.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Time for a Decision

Out of Control, 12" x 12" mixed media

Blog 32

The day for the big decision was approaching because Ingo had received notice that the company in Ottawa was close to making him an employment offer.

The call left me very unsettled, and caused a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. On the other hand, I wanted the decision to happen fast so that I could prepare myself for the new situation. We had talked about the pro and cons so many times that it was time to get our act together. We could not continue to afford our vacation much longer. We had to get back to a daily routine and into a work environment.

I had suppressed the idea of not returning to Germany. Even though Ingo and I had talked about it many times, it was just a theory for me. However, suddenly this theory seemed to become a definite possibility. All of a sudden, there was the possibility that I would stay a far distance apart from my family and friends. Those relationships were (and still are) very important to me. I had missed both my family and friends terribly during the three months since we left Germany. I started to panic.

Could I even do this to my parents and my sister? I did not want to hurt them. I felt really bad. I had told them about Ingo's interview. However, we had basically told them after the first discouraging meetings with job hunters that the chances were in favour of coming back to Germany.

On the other hand, I was tempted by the fascination of doing something extraordinary and unexpected. How many people have the chance to just pack their suitcases and start all over in a new continent? Today, I realize that many have the chance, but most people do not even consider this possibility.

I have to admit that after a couple of years in a very stressful job and some issues with bullying, the possibility of not having to work and being able to do activities that were really important to me was very appealing. Even if I would marry Ingo to make it easier for him to sponsor me as a “landed immigrant”, this process would take time – probably over a year. A year full of meaningful possibilities! Would I even be able to find work in my field at all? All my degrees were from German institutions. At least I had worked for a big American bank, so my reference was in English.

My chances to find work in Germany were probably also very slim for the current year as most companies hired employees at the beginning of each quarter. As my return flight was only booked for the end of October, I would hopefully be able to find a new position for January 1996. This would allow me to be financially independent again.

There were also other considerations. To be able to buy a house in Germany, both spouses have to earn a good salary if you do not want to live only to pay off the house, or if you want to have a family.

I was very torn, and not sure what I should tell Ingo. He needed my decision soon, and I felt very overwhelmed to make this big decision that would change my life – no matter what I would decide.

If you would like to find out how we finally decided, please return for my blog next week. Thank you for following my journey of discovering Canada. If you know anyone who might be interested in my story, I would appreciate it if you would share my blog. Thank you in advance for helping me to increase my audience.