Friday, 2 September 2016

Discovering the Ottawa Area

Canadian Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian Museum of History), Gatineau

Blog 36

When I look back on all the trips we took at the beginning of my stay in Canada, I am glad we had the chance to discover this beautiful country. When we moved to Ottawa in August 1995, we were able to visit another province, Quebec, which was just on the other side of the Ottawa River. Crossing a bridge to Hull (now Gatineau), we felt like we were in another country - without crossing a border. Before we had visited Ottawa, I had hardly seen any signs in French. All the merchandise had bilingual signage but in daily life, we were hardly confronted with any French. Then we came to Ottawa, where everything was marked in two languages. In Hull, we saw the other extreme. Once we crossed the bridge, there was nothing but French.

Over the first weekend, we made a lot of use of our roller blades. I was surprised about the many parks and green spaces. The pathways along the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal were great. It would take us a long time to discover the best spots. Unfortunately, we had to leave our tandem in Mississauga, so were not able to go on bike rides.

After we had experienced the weekend traffic, we decided to return to Mississauga right after the long weekend to get the rest of our stuff. We had a Ford Escort at the time which did not offer a lot of space to transport our belongings. We had only slightly more than we could fit into the two suitcases each of us had brought over from Germany, but Ingo's PC took a lot of space (incomprehensible when you look at today's sleek computers), so we still had to leave some of our clothes behind.

Ingo's mother was more than surprised to see us back so early, but she was in for an even bigger surprise when Ingo told her in passing that we did not only plan to buy a house before year's end, but also would get married in October. She was the first one who found out about our plans. I do not remember my mother-in-law's reaction but I was speechless how cooly Ingo announced the big news. As it had been too expensive to call from the hotel apartment, we had not informed anyone about our wedding plans until then.

In the evening, we celebrated with Ingo's parents and his brother Heiko. We did not have champagne, but that did not matter. Ingo and I were happy and glad that Ingo's family was looking forward to welcoming me officially into their family. I could hardly wait to inform my family.

After dinner, we went to a convenience store where I bought my first bridal guide. I felt excited about looking for a wedding dress. Most of what I saw was much too frilly for my taste but I still had lots of time to find a dress worth of a princess without spending a fortune.

When I finally reached my family the next day, the reaction was ambivalent. My sister was totally excited when I asked her whether she would like to be my bridesmaid in her fall holidays. My mom was rather bewildered and upset, until I assured her that the church wedding would be in Germany the following summer. At the end, my parents were happy about our decision and hoped to be able to make arrangements with their business partners to be able to come to the wedding.

Even though we only wanted to have a small civil wedding in Mississauga, we had to step up our preparations. There was no time to waste. We went to get our marriage licence, talked to the pastor of my in-laws congregation who would conduct the civil service, set the date for the wedding, and booked the chapel of the Mississauga city hall – all in one day.

Getting the marriage licence was the biggest ordeal: the lady at the Registry Services typed in the speed of a snail. Until she had all the typos erased the document had a little hole. In those days, most people still used typewriters instead of computer. So our licence was a piece of real strenuous manual work.

We were back in Ottawa by Thursday evening. The following morning, we watched the Changing of the Guards at Parliament Hill which was just minutes from our apartment. Then we drove to the St. Laurent Shopping Centre to look for wedding rings. We did not like what we saw: they were either just simple bands or contained big diamonds for both woman and man.

We did not waste our time, but explored the Beacon Hill area with regard to a possible house location. I was fascinated by a grocery shop where electronic signs displayed the price per 100g as well as savings in case of a sale. We were pleased with the transit connections, schools, and shopping centres. The next day, we looked at two houses that were for sale in the neighborhood. The first one did not have a garage, something that seems to be a good investment considering the Canadian winters. The second one had tiny rooms that would not even accommodate my sofa.

We were not in a hurry to find a house right away as my furniture was still stored in Germany. Ingo had lived in a furnished apartment in Germany and had only invested in the typical guy: toys, a car, motorcycle, TV set and sound system. All of these things he could not bring to Canada. Besides, the apartment downtown was very central. I just wished we had a balcony. The August days were very hot and the humidity in the apartment was so high that pieces from the ceiling kept falling down.

I was also a little reluctant to invest in a house because I found out that Ingo's period of notice was only two weeks. While I had already heard from Ingo's brother that a short period like this was very common, it did not comfort me at all. In Germany, most people have a three months period of notice. If you are in a higher position, it is not uncommon to have a six months period of notice. I had a six months period of notice. However, I have to admit that is hard to be committed to a company for such a long time after you have given your notice. On the other hand, you have much more security.

The following week was Ingo's first week at work. We finally had to get back to a daily routine. If you would like to find out how we adapted after three and a half months of vacation, please return to my blog next week.