Saturday, 24 October 2015

Adapting to New Things...or Not!

Today marks a month since we left Canada to start a new life in Phoenix. I’m surprised how quickly a month has passed by, but I have to admit that the transition from Calgary to Phoenix has been difficult – far more so that moving from Stoke to Calgary almost 4 years ago.

The past month has been good and I certainly can’t complain. Phoenix is a really nice city, there are plenty of regional parks with lots of trails to hike or run on, and I’ve even found some decent running routes close by. The dining out is fantastic, people seem to be friendly, and we even found a dog park that was just a 10 minute drive from home that Wilson and Brandy frequent at least once daily.

So what’s making things difficult for me at the moment? I guess the easy answer is that Calgary felt like home. I loved the house there, I always felt safe, the weather suited me – yes, even the crazy cold winters and snow! – I was able to get out for runs with my dogs more frequently and even if the days were warm, there was guaranteed rivers or lakes that they could swim in to cool off. I was able to go to the mountains almost weekly for hikes or runs, I had friends in Calgary albeit far fewer than I had whilst living in the UK – but in the short 3 ½ years in Calgary, I had lots of fun with them and they are one of the reasons where I felt completely settled. Some of those friends were extra special and they helped to make our wedding day the most perfect day ever when they witnessed Andy and I exchanging our vows on the shores of Lake Minneswanka on a cold and snowy February day earlier this year.

Of course, there were lots of other happy memories, and even looking at the many photos of us north of the border, I can still recall the joy and happiness we felt living so close to the “great outdoors”. I love mountains, forests and rivers, I love how the thought of bear and moose conjure up images of the wilderness, and thinking back to everything I love in life, Canada fitted the bill perfectly. I’d always dreamt of becoming a Canadian citizen, always dreamt of swearing my allegiance to this great country that I has fallen in love with many years ago when studying travel and tourism at college, and we were thrilled when we were recently granted permanent residency – except it came too late. We’d already packed up our things and arrived in Phoenix along with all of our belongings. Had PR come through sooner, I’m pretty sure that things would have been different., but having received notification on Wednesday that our house in Calgary had finally sold and that the contract of sale was complete, it really felt like the door was closing on our lives in Canada which made me feel extremely sad.

This past 3 or 4 days, I’ve gone through a bad patch. Andy has been working away – ironically in Medicine Hat, Alberta – and I was so wishing that I was there with him. I’ve been at home alone for the past week, and whilst I have applied for a work permit here, it’ll take up to 3 months before I get a decision. In the meantime, I can’t work and so I have to keep myself entertained everyday. In Calgary that wouldn’t have been a problem – the house belonged to us as there was always gardening or cleaning to be done. Here we are renting a property that is already furnished, so apart from our clothes and a couple of other items, we don’t have any of our stuff here with us. Not working of course means no contact with anybody, and as yet, we haven’t been able to build up that social network that makes you feel like you belong. We never see the neighbours – they are hiding indoors because it’s too hot to be outdoors – and the only contact I’ve had with people has been at the dog park which usually consists of people chatting about their dogs rather than really getting to know each other.

In Calgary, it was never too hot to take the dogs out, never too hot to go for a run, never too hot to go for a hike in the mountains. Here in Phoenix, it’s too hot during the day to do anything so running and walking with the dogs has to be done very early morning or in the evening. Being up very early makes the days exceptionally long, and after an hour or so of walking or running, I’m stuck indoors until early evening when it’s cool enough to go out again. Come the spring and summer, things will only start to heat up even more, and of course we then have issues with the wildlife – snakes and lizards, spiders, scorpions – you get the picture. It’s bad enough being paranoid about being stung or bitten ourselves, but with 2 curious dogs in tow, it’s even more stressful worrying about their welfare at the same time. The critters are out morning and evening – the time of day when I want to run with or walk the dogs – I won’t deny, I am so scared of one of the dogs being hurt, and I’m getting so twitchy and stressed out trying to protect them. Wilson has already been stung by a scorpion in our own house – and there are no end of stories about rattlers and other snakes turning up in people’s back yards during the summer months. I have looked into snake avoidance training, but whilst I’ve tried to contact people to arrange a date for the dogs to be trained, nobody has yet got back to me.

That’s what else upsets me. Wilson and Brandy have always been free to wander outside in the back yard, having a roll in the grass, go for lots of walks regardless of the time of day, and I the only concern I ever had was making sure I kept them on leash whilst in the wilds to prevent them from harassing wildlife, or from the wildlife harassing them. Here, regardless of whether they are leash or not, they can still get hurt, and I cannot control things and protect them like I used to be able to. I feel cruel that their lives have had to change too, even though they never asked for it. They trust us to know best, but I know I will never ever ever forgive myself if anything happens to them now we’ve moved here.

I suppose I’m being a little melodramatic here, and I know that you have to give things time to know whether it’s the right thing or not. But what if it isn’t? What if I find I can’t settle here, that I do want to move back to Canada? That’s where I’m torn. Andy is very happy in his work and for him, it’s the happiest he’s been for a long time. He gets to travel both in North America as well as Europe and the Far East, and even though he started his job in May this year, he’s probably only spent a month of that time in Phoenix. So where does that leave things? If Andy is working away a lot, and I’m not feeling settled here, what do we do? All our stuff is here and it isn’t practical to move it all back to Canada again so soon.

I guess all I can do is give things more time – at least until after Christmas when our lease on the rental comes to an end. By then hopefully I will know where I want to be, and hopefully in that time all of us will stay safe and well. The thing is, Phoenix really is a great city with some fantastic running and hiking. Admittedly from my perspective, it doesn’t come close to the Canadian Rockies but it’s still beautiful nonetheless. 

Today I forced myself to go out for the 15km run that my coach had given me as part of my prep for my forthcoming marathon. It was a gorgeous sunny day if a little hot, and I headed over to nearby Deem Hills to hit the trails. I've ran here regularly since I found the trails and it really is a great place - close enough to houses if you encounter any problems, but gives you the solitude needed for some deep thinking about the meaning of life. The views were once again exceptional and I was grateful that I was able to live and run in such amazing places.

Clearing the mind at Deem Hills today - but still too much going on in there!

I’ve had so much thinking time this past week and have thought through so many different scenarios, coming up with different solutions for each of them, but with nobody to discuss them with at the moment, all it’s done has caused restless nights and tears of frustration. Andy is thankfully home tomorrow and I’m hoping that we can sit down and talk things over. One thing is for sure though – I don’t want to lose my Canadian Permanent Residency and I have to spend 2 years over the next 5 years in Canada. On that basis, I’m either going to be moving back at some point, or will be spending a lot of my vacations up north!

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