The Lonesome Postdoc - Part III: Putting down roots
After a few months of living in your new home you get comfortable and develop a routine. You buy all those necessary little items, and then you start to buy non-essential items. Some people show more restraint in this area than others, some people really do stick by the “you only live once” (or YOLO for all the young kids) motto and splurge more often. In the first 6 months I lived by the “is this absolutely essential?” rule in pretty much every aspect of life. I would deliberate with myself at the grocery store. Did I really need that bottle of soy sauce, how much stir-fry could I eat in 1 year? Was having multiple towels a luxury? I mean I could always wash the one anytime and it was only me, I certainly wasn’t expecting guests in my tiny one bedroom apartment. I did go and buy the most serious winter boots and coat that I could find, these were essential! I was convinced that I would freeze to death when it hit -40°C.
During my ‘minimalist’ phase I started to recover some of the money I had spent relocating. I had a
few friends and was quickly becoming an aficionado of Canadian beer, poutine and half price wine nights (this would never happen in Australia!!). I also decided to make my ‘working holiday’ just that – I embraced the opportunity to travel around North America whenever I could because in my mind, and according to my contract, time was ticking and I didn’t know when I would be back. I went hiking in the Rockies, I went to Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia… I even helped a friend move to Mississippi which was a great road trip. Work kept the mind busy and these little adventures kept the soul happy.
I missed things though. I missed hearing an Aussie accent. I missed people understanding me when I
talked rather than looking at me like I spoke some foreign gobbly-gook because I had used some slang words like 'squizz'. I missed vegemite, cherry ripes, meat pies (TORTIERE IS NOT THE SAME!), light switches that weren’t backwards, healthier options on menus, old friends especially, and various other things. I started to get semi-regular shipments of some of these things to make me feel better. The best remedy was when I forced my lab-mates to celebrate Australia Day by taking in a bunch of Australian food items and subjecting them all to taste tests. One friend even brought in a floatie for me so it would feel more like summer – even though it was probably -30°C at that point.
Around the 12 month mark I was told that my contract could be extended and I decided to stay on for another year. I had to get a new visa. That was a pain because now I needed a proper work visa. Good
bye to another $500. I also decided to move in with a friend – I was getting a little sick of the crying newborn twins that lived above me, anyway. I bought a car from a fellow lab-mate and called it Poops (because it was a piece a s***, but hey, it ran). I learned to drive stick (manual transmission) on the other side of the road. I’m sure this terrified some! (I swear I only drove on the wrong side once for about 30 secs). I also had to learn all this ‘plug in the car in winter’ business. I had so many questions about this! When do you have to plug it in, all winter? No, turns out most people plug in when it hits -20°C or below. How long do you leave it plugged in? I learned most people plug in for the night. I also learned that you need to remember to unplug before starting the car and always pack away the car plug neatly or risk dragging it along the road. I mastered the art of driving on packed ice and snow for months – Edmonton doesn’t plough much.
By the end of the second year I had accumulated even more! I bought a snowboard and all the gear to go with it. I am a foodie and cooking fanatic so I had also bought a bunch of kitchen stuff. I had an elliptical to drag around with me and a chaise lounge because I had always wanted one. My contract was running out and this time I had not been told if it would be renewed. Things were looking ominous! Thankfully I had the foresight to apply for Permanent Residency as soon as I could. I may be unemployed but I couldn’t be deported!
Applying for PR is a royal pain in the butt. It’s awful. Not only is it expensive, time consuming and
invasive, but it also takes forever. I applied as a skilled worker so it was a little easier than some other routes. I needed more federal police clearances, letters from my employer stating my work duties (these need to be very precise!), medicals, language competency tests. Nearly all of these things cost money too. The language competency was by far the biggest waste of money and time in the entire process. I come from an English speaking country and was employed as a researcher writing high-level papers in English, yet I had to prove that I could speak and understand the language… for the amazing price of $500!! (Yes, I am still bitter).
Evidence that I can speak/understand my mother tongue!
By year 4-ish I had even more stuff. This time it was a human. I had joined the league of wanna-be-academics with the ‘two body problem’. Things were going good. As Canadians would say, I had lucked out (if you click the link you will understand why I always find this term difficult to understand).
Then we were both offered jobs in Australia.
Life was about to get complicated… again.
Jump to the other Lonesome Postdoc posts:
Part I - moving abroad for a postdoc
Part II - living like a local... or trying to
Part IV - uprooting (again)
Part V - the importance of friends
Part VI - is working remotely really that great?