Momentum is building …

Organising

Well this week has seen more progress in our relocation to Canada than the last 2 months put together!  We now have a relocation package on the table which has been agreed, and as such, flights for our orientation visit are now booked and seats reserved.  It’s next week (I know – hardly time to shop, but I’ll try my best 😉 ) and we fly out of London Heathrow to Edmonton, Alberta; for a 2 week period.  The intention is to try to view the area, see as many available properties as humanly possible, and research into the local schools such that after the 2 weeks and upon returning to the UK, we can sort out the physical move and relocate over there as fast as we can (ideally, before the snow arrives).

 

In terms of the work for my husband, it’s off and running.  He’s busy and has been over there for the last 2 weeks.  Unfortunately, the fates have conspired against him and he’s currently ‘stuck’ halfway between Edmonton and Manchester (namely, Toronto), as he missed his connecting flight yesterday.  Putting new meaning to the term ‘globetrotter’, in a bid to return home before we depart back to Canada – he’s having to fly via Germany (never saw this as being en route to the UK from Canada before), but it means he gets home at some point in the near future.  ‘Helpful’ suggestions from myself about seeing the sights of new cities, have been met by stiff tongue and cold shoulder – I’m sure his mood will brighten when he returns to 3 hyperactive and excited ‘kids’ all vying for his immediate attention.  (Bet the prospect of a quiet trip round Frankfurt will sound positively appealing to him upon reflection)…..

Plan construction

For my part, like a bullet from a gun, I’ve kicked into full speed ‘organiser mode’ and have been busily securing us accommodation in which to stay whilst we’re over there.  Not the easiest when we’re looking for availability less than a week from now for a family of 5 at the height of the summer season.  However, not to be deterred and like a dog with a bone, I’ve managed to secure us rooms in a selection of hotels across various locations for the duration of our stay.  I’ve been keen to build in some fun and downtime for the kids in-between all the orientation shenanigans which are obligatory if we’re going to get the most from our time over there before the flight departs to return us back to the UK.

I’m trying my hardest not to get distracted from the job in hand, but when you see the absolutely fantastic places to visit, attractions to see, and scenery that I’m told is ‘to die for’, I’m starting to think 2 weeks will be nowhere near long enough!  I have to keep reminding myself to keep things focused as we’ll have acres of time once we’ve relocated over there to take in the full extent of what Canada has to offer.

 

As a form of incentivisation for the ‘kids’, I’ve saved the last 2 days of our stay as their ‘treat’ – comprising of a stay in the ‘Fantasyland Hotel’ in Edmonton, situated in the largest shopping mall in the world, with the 2nd largest Water Park (23 slides in total), an ice rink, an aquarium sea-life centre, attraction park with thrills and spills, all under one roof!  For the observant amongst you, you’ll spot a few of these items as being included in our bucket list from an earlier blog – so I’m getting them in early!  One thing’s for certain – 2 days will never be long enough, but it should make the trip memorable for the ‘kids’, give them lots of fun, and create a desire to get back there as soon as possible to try out all the things they won’t get chance to do on their first visit.

 

On the plus side, we should only be local the next time we’re there …..

It’s a small small world …

1116173_85350837

You’ll be relieved to hear that I resisted the strong temptation to download the Disney tune to accompany the title of my blog!  ‘It’s a small small world’ has been a big theme for us this week.

Plans are getting firmed up – there’s a relocation proposal on the table, and we’re in the midst of arranging the flights for our orientation visit to Canada in early August.  One thing has been absolutely staggering to me though throughout the process so far – and that’s how many people I’ve spoken to who have been to Edmonton, have friends/family who have relocated there or thereabouts, or have contacts who are based there.  Without fail, every single one has offered to put us in contact with them, help us in some way, and generally be supportive to us during our relocation.  It’s a fantastic testament to the human species, in their inherent willingness to help others 🙂

Even new acquaintances have offered support with contacts they have out there – and the range of opportunities, skills to draw off and knowledge of what to do and how to do it, gives us encouragement and eliminates any nerves about the impending change of life we’re about to embark upon!

inuit

Let me throw you a few examples.  One of my best friends has family just south of Edmonton and after sending me their details, we’ve been emailing and exchanging thoughts on schools and areas to live in.  A work colleague who has a friend recently having relocated to Edmonton, has given me her details so we can meet up when I’m finally over there.  She’s given me some helpful tips on ‘the things she wished she’d known before moving out there’ so I’m well prepared.  And a client, who upon discovering that I was about to relocate, explained she had also moved there to live before having to return to the UK 2 years ago.  She will put me in contact with her friends and business contacts out there – and gave me superb advice on the best places to live, trucks to drive, and events to attend.

City Hall's main pyramid and fountain. To the ...

Edmonton’s City Hall main pyramid and fountain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then there are examples of the wonderful Canadians who my husband has met over there in the last 2 weeks alone.  He mentioned to one of the Canadian team he’s working with about our oldest ‘kid’ being a competitive swimmer and wanting to make sure she joins a club in Edmonton who trains seriously and competes externally.  It turns out this lady’s husband is a swimming coach in Edmonton, and has coached swimmers in the last 2 Olympics!  What are the chances of that!  Needless to say, she’s kindly passed on his details to us……

Another Canadian gentleman has a brother who is a realtor in Edmonton.  He’s confident that finding a property isn’t going to be a problem and emails have already been exchanged.  A final example, is a Canadian who my husband met during a business meal last night.  He’s a consultant based in Calgary and working in the same field of consultancy as me.  He’s keen to meet up and discuss potential opportunities.  I’ve already sent him my contact details.

 

It’s exciting.  But it has made me marvel at the coincidence of so many people, having so many contacts, in a place so far away.

Just goes to show.

It’s a small small world 🙂

Best places to live in Canada? Big isn’t always best …

 

Official logo of St. Albert

Official logo of St. Albert

Given the size and epic scale of Canada, you’d think there would be a natural gravitation towards larger cities as being the better places to live.  Whilst Calgary certainly factors up there in number 2 spot for 2014 (Moneysense 2014 survey of best places to live), a much smaller town appears in the number 1 position – St Albert.

Luckily for me, it’s a small ‘town’ to the north-west of Edmonton in the state of Alberta.  It’s a small community with a population of 64,000, unemployment is low, incomes are amongst the highest in Canada, crime rates are low, and whilst the winter is extremely cold and long, it’s sunny all year round.  20 minutes drive from Edmonton (who, incidentally, was placed 8th overall, 3rd best largest city to live in after Calgary and Ottawa), St Albert has an abundance of open spaces, active areas for sports of all types, and for those with ‘kids’ it seems to tick all the boxes, and is a parents’ dream.

St Albert Clocktower Downtown. Originally post...

St Albert Clocktower Downtown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

St Albert has been mentioned to me by many people as ‘the’ place to live when we relocate.  My husband visited it for the first time last week and (as instructed), came home at the weekend weighed down with maps, leaflets, newspapers and general ‘bumf’ about things to do, places to stay, where to eat, schools to attend.  In fact, the most noticeable feature when you look at the street map, is the amount of play areas, parks, woodlands and sporting facilities there are available.  He described walking around almost every corner to be greeted by another ‘park’ with climbing frames to die for – in fact, based on my middle ‘kids’ recent exploits and ability to fracture her wrist from some monkey bars (see previous blog), she’d be able to break almost every bone in her body each week for a year from what he saw in the play areas and the range of stuff to climb and generally have fun on.  (Better make sure the medical cover is up to date 🙂 )

 

As in the UK, the weather was hot last week in St Albert, with paddling pools in abundance and fountains spraying water over pre-school children who were clearly in their element.  These turn to ice rinks during the winter months when the snow arrives.  There are basketball courts, rugby fields, soccer fields, tennis courts, athletic tracks, cross-country skiing facilities, BMX parks, canoeing, water parks and of course, swimming pools.  Ice hockey pitches, fishing, golfing and nature trails also appear.  And all this, in an area with a population size of 64,000.

St Albert Playground

64,000 people doesn’t sound a lot, and when I look at places I’m familiar with in the North-West of England, it’s equivalent to the population of Bury, a town just north of Manchester (yes, the one with the 2 football teams), and the place I was born and brought up in.  I can probably recollect a few of the facilities in the list above being available, but certainly nothing the size and scale of leisure and active sports Canada seems to offer.

On the accommodation front, I hear it’s a busy market with properties not appearing and staying long on the open market before being snapped up.  Not surprisingly, if the range of facilities is anything to go by, the sheer number of schools built to educate the youngsters, and the promotional material advertising it’s place in the top spot, it sounds like a prime location and let’s just hope we manage to secure even a tiny spot for the 5 of us.

I’m sure there’s a little space …

Now … it’s my turn!

GoatThings are starting to progress and my husband is now over in Canada as the work is finally starting to take some momentum. It puts a whole new meaning to ‘commuting to work’ as he’s flying back to England this weekend to return back to Canada within the space of 48 hours (my usual gripes and groans about the bumper to bumper traffic on the Runcorn bridge pale into insignificance by comparison).  Still, it’s only for 2 weeks as the rest of us will join him early August for our orientation visit and hopefully during this time, we’ll be able to source somewhere to reside and start making all the final arrangements for the physical move.

 

Given our imminent departure and transfer across the globe, I’ve probably waited long enough before responding to the questions I’ve asked the ‘kids’ and it’s time to capture my own responses and thoughts.

 

So, without further ado…. in moving to Canada, the most important things to me are:

  • Getting the family settled
  • Feeling a sense of belonging and welcome
  • Exploring new places

 

1.  What excites me about the move?

  • I love change
  • I love the new and unknown
  • Unpredictability

I think this move ticks all the boxes!

 

2.  What interests me about Canada and what would I like to find out about?

  • I love beautiful scenery, epic mountains and vast lakes. I’d much rather explore a place and area than sit on a beach for 2 weeks. In fact, I don’t sit still.   Ever.   So the prospect of relaxing by just ‘relaxing’, makes me uncomfortable and I have to conjure up reasons for ‘doing stuff’. I’m expecting everything I’ve seen in all the books and in photos – my expectations are high – don’t let me down Canada!
  • For those who know me well, foreign languages have never come easy to me – even a work assignment in Wales had me mispronouncing place names that I’ve never lived down – and Wales is right next door! So, it is with great relief that English is the language of choice and I’m in with a chance of being understood – and understanding others too! I think everyone on both sides of the Atlantic can breathe a sigh of relief.
  • Lifestyle and pace. I’m quietly hoping that the whole way of life and pace of living is much less than it is in England. I’m constantly dashing from one thing to another – I’ve often thought of hiring a ‘tardis’ with multiple versions of me demonstrating with ease the art of being in 4 places at any one time. I’m not going to miss the hectic and frantic way of living in England – but I’ll let you know if it’s any easier in another continent!

inuit

 

3.  What am I hoping it will be like?

  • That it is the best thing we’ve ever changed in our life. Say no more.

 

4.  When we return to England, what do I think it will be like?

  • Green
  • Wet – constantly
  • Busy and crowded – I’m expecting to notice this the most
  • Quality TV and radio. I hate adverts and do love the BBC and all it stands for. It’s a lot for the Canadians to live up to – but I live in hope 🙂

 

5.  What am I most worried about?

Coming home before we’ve seen the things we want to see, before we’ve really got settled, and before we’re ready. I’d love to exhaust everything so I’m not coming home to England and wishing I was still in Canada.

 

6.  If I can only take 5 things with me, what would they be?

  • My family (obviously)
  • My Mum & Dad (so they can experience something new together with us)
  • My cat (she’s 19 and will probably outlive me at this rate)
  • My friends 🙂
  • Earl Grey tea leaves – a strange item you may think, but I’m from the North of England where a cup of tea solves every problem known to human kind (that’s a fact) and generally replenishes the very soul

 

7.  If I had to describe in 1 word what I feel about the move …

inspired

It’s probably noticeable that I haven’t mentioned anything about the kids or schools or sports. For me, this goes without saying and getting that all sorted will be the first thing I start to organize and will ‘just happen’. They’re givens rather than things I’m really looking forward to or concerned about. Equally, they’re all within my gift to sort out and make happen – the only one who can influence this significantly is me, and it’s at the top of my agenda.

 

Better get started …

School’s out (well, almost!)

Girl drawing back to school

It’s the final week of the school year for my ‘kids’ this week and if all goes to plan, the next time they return to school, it’ll just be transitionally as we’ll be packing up and relocating to Canada as quickly as possible.  It’s also quite strange too.  Not knowing whether they’ll see many of their friends when they return in September is a very odd sensation.

It’s a big year for lots of reasons.

My middle ‘kid’ moves into the ‘Juniors’ (year 3) in September and they get ‘perks’ with such a move.  They don’t have to wear a blue top any longer – they get to wear a blue shirt and tie (and a proper one at that – so it’ll test my technique of attempting to show her how to tie one), plus they have the option of buying ‘toast’ mid morning, so she’s very excited at the whole prospect.  I just wish she showed as much enthusiasm at our daily breakfast time when we all stock up our supplies for the day and a mouse has a better feast than she often does!

My youngest ‘kid’ is due to start school in Reception class – something she has been counting down to for the last 10 months.  She has well and truly outgrown nursery – in all senses of the word – being the tallest by a long way in her nursery class, plus with a birthday early in the school year, has felt ready for school for a long time now.  She has resorted to teaching herself how to write letters and count numbers based on what her sisters do for their homework and mimicking their work.  She also gets to wear a uniform and I’ve had to cover all bases by ordering her one for her school in England – even though we’re not planning on being here for much longer.

Alphabet

The end of the school year sees lots of key events coming together over the last final weeks.  The older ‘kids’ have had music evenings, sports day, toy day (later this week), the summer school fair, the school disco and celebration assembly for all to attend.  It’s hectic and the weeks have flown by lurching from one event to the next.

School reports came out last Friday and they are certainly thorough in their content and presentation.  My Dad dug out my old school reports just as a comparison – and there really isn’t one.  35 years ago, all I received was 1 side of A4 with a handwritten note from the year teacher saying ‘she tried very hard and was a pleasure to teach’.  Not that I’m disputing the essence of the message being conveyed – in fact, my girls now get a very similar one.  However, they also receive very thorough observations, evidence, constructive advice and further opportunities for development highlighted throughout the many pages of the report plus the ‘kids’  have the delight of including their individual sentiments for what they feel they have personally gained and enjoyed during the past year.  It gives you a real insight into what they value as ‘kids’ and the major events which have resonated with them over the past 10 months.

School bus

It is a big year.  Moving to Canada, my ‘kids’ will resume their education over there and I’m interested to see how the English education compares to it.  I’m expecting a full curriculum – much as they get here – but with a much stronger multi-cultural flavour with wide ranging topics that will hopefully stimulate and really challenge my ‘kids’ into thinking about the world and different ways of living in a completely new way.  I’m anticipating a stronger vocational feel to learning along with an academic one.  I’m sensing there will be a drive to encourage independence – in thought and deeds, from an earlier age much greater than we do nowadays in England – and that won’t be a bad thing.  Harnessing talent, realising potential and building confidence are life skills that I’m hoping Canada fosters in each and every one of them – and in me too.  There’s always something each and every one of us can benefit from along life’s great path and I’m also looking forward to a form of ‘education’ and change that affects me equally as much as my ‘kids’.

‘School’s out’ (or nearly anyhow) for this year, but for me and my ‘kids’, our education is just beginning.

 

Bring it on 🙂

A swimmer’s dream

 

Swimmng

As I write this, I’m sat watching my 10 year old ‘kid’ do her usual 2 hour swimming training.  She trains for 2hrs a day, 6 days a week.  The only difference today, is that once a week, she travels 30 miles each way to the Manchester Aquatics Centre – which was built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.  It’s a wonderful facility and a chance for her to train in a 50m pool rather than the usual 25m, ‘short course’.  It builds stamina and tests endurance over a longer distance.  The session sees them swimming in excess of 120 lengths – I’m tired just watching.

It’s a strange environment as the ‘training pool’ is directly underneath the main aquatics pool – almost buried in a ‘crypt’.  There are no windows and with only 4 lanes wide, it certainly concentrates the mind.

English: Manchester Aquatics Centre

Manchester Aquatics Centre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Symbolically, as you make your way down the stairs to pool, the walls are covered with photographs of British Olympic swimmers and the medals they’ve won – it’s a fantastic way to visually motivate each and every individual swimmer.  Once you arrive in the ‘crypt’, there’s a digital board with a second by second countdown clock providing a visual display of the number of  ‘days to Rio 2016’.  Now that’s inspirational!

Canada has a worldwide reputation for sports, having hosted the Winter Olympics on 2 occasions and the Summer Olympics once. Canadian swimmers are up there on the world stage as some of the very best.  This year alone, they are 9th in the world rankings out of 45.   It boasts a superb level of investment in facilities as well as the sheer range of sporting opportunities for Canadians to participate.  In a recent study about the level of children’s activity in sports, 84% of Canadian kids aged 3 – 17yrs participate in some type of sports with 60% doing it on an organised basis.  Given the clear health benefits of undertaking physical activity and adopting healthier lifestyles, this is clearly reassuring.

One of the ‘conditions’ my oldest ‘kid’ requires as part of our relocation to Canada, is for a ‘very good swimming team’ which she can join and continue to train with as part of her desire to be a leading competitive swimmer.  She’s most concerned that in her time away from the UK, if she doesn’t enter competitive swimming galas, she won’t receive ‘official’ times for any of her strokes across a variety of distances – these provide a direct and immediate comparison of how well she’s progressing, and how well she compares with others.  Without a doubt, she’ll be keen to join the Edmonton swimming club and become an active member as soon as possible after our arrival.

 

World Waterpark, West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton,...

World Waterpark, West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, serious swimming aside, those who have read our ‘Canadian Bucket List’ will have spotted item number 32 which is ’to visit the largest swimming pool in the world’.  I stand corrected – it’s actually the second largest (after Germany) and is based in Edmonton, Canada.  It opened in 1986 and is the second largest waterpark in the world.  In terms of key stats, it hosts a maximum of 40,000 guests, has an average temperature of 28 Celsius, and has the world’s largest indoor wave pool with a capacity of 12.3 million litres.  That’s huge.  It covers 5 acres, is one single pool, and harbours 23 water slides – offering different levels of adrenaline ‘hits’  and there’s a least one to suit every age and swimming capability.  As a form of entertainment and enjoyment, it’s a ‘must do’ and just goes to show what Canada can offer is on epic proportions.

Looking up from my laptop, the training session is nearing completion and whilst there’s an element of tiredness kicking in, as the kids make their way out of the pool, they are chatting away, clearly invigorated by the exercise and smiles all round.

I’m smiling too 🙂

Canadian ‘Bucket’ List

One of the things I’m most mindful about when relocating to Canada, is that there’s a danger we’ll get so submerged in just ‘living’ in a new country, that by the time the ‘kids’ have enrolled and attended school, my husband has focused on his new job over there, and I’ve got a house and everyone settled – time will have gone by.  Before we know it, we’ll be on our way home and the 12, 18, 24 months will have passed in a heartbeat.

Trying to make the most of this fantastic opportunity, we’ve sat down as a family and developed a ‘bucket list’ of things we have to do whilst we’re there and before we come back.  For each one, we’re going to ‘capture the moment’ as a blog, document the evidence in the form of photos and/or videos, and we’ll ‘tick off’ what we’ve completed as we go along.  It’ll also act as a form of bingo, and only when all are completed will we be able to call ‘house’ and return to England!!!!

Happy to add to the list too.  I’m sure there are loads of things we haven’t listed or don’t yet know about and will want to do whilst we’re over there.  But, as a list goes – it’s not a bad start!!!

The Story

We’ve come up with some categories to group the different bucket items by that sums up the activities they contain:

– Canadian ‘must do’s’

– Canadian ‘jaunts’

– Adrenaline junkie husband outings

– ‘Kids’ rule

 

So, without further ado, here’s our initial bucket list of 31 items:

Canadian ‘must do’s’

1.  See a grizzly bear
2.  Learn to ski
3.  Try curlingCanada flag
4.  Go up the Calgary Tower
5.  Watch an ice hockey match
6.  See a mountee
7.  Drive in 6ft snow
8.  See a moose
9.  Go kayaking
10. Buy a fur hat
11. Drive a truck
12. Take a school bus
13. Take a train journey into the mountains

14. See ‘tumbleweed’

 

Canadian ‘jaunts’

Peyto Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Peyto Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

15. Drive across the Island Parkway

16. Go up to the arctic circle
17. See the northern lights
18. Visit every province
19. Visit Price Edward Island
20. Go to the Calgary Stampede
21. See Lake Louise
22. Visit Banff National Park
23. Visit Jasper National Park
24. See Niagara Falls
25. Visit Baffin Island
26. Edmonton Folk Festival

 

Adrenaline junkie husband outings

27. Ride up Whistler on my mountain bike
28. Sprawl the Rockies

29. Drive a monster truck

30. Play ice hockey

 

‘Kids’ rule

31. Do snow angels in really deep snow & sink!
32. To visit the world’s largest swimming pool in Edmonton

33. Make a massive snowman & record how long it lasts without melting

34. Hunt for fossils in Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park

35. Go taboganning

 

That’s not bad for starters.  We’ll add to it as we get new ideas, suggestions – and of course, experience the reality!