Cold and Confused

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Ottawa, Experimental Farm, March 2018

“How is your day going so far?”

“Confusing,” I blurt out before remembering too late that this question doesn’t need to be answered.

“A muffin with your coffee?” replies the barista without missing a beat.

There are stranger characters than me at Starbuck, after all—training probably includes tips to stay cool, hip and upsell when facing caffeine-deprived individuals who may behave erratically.

Brutal honesty—muffled by espresso machines—occasionally happens before the first sip.

“No thank. And the coffee… make it a medium, actually.”

“And by medium, you mean…”

“Yes, that one. Tall. Right.”

Gosh, I’m such a newbie. I can’t even speak Starbucks anymore.


But it is a confusing day. I barely slept during the ten-hour flight because I was busy crying, not enjoying Air Canada food and not watching movies I had zero interest in. There’s snow everywhere. It’s cold—not just “wow, that’s quite a temperature difference!” but actually cold by Canadian standards. The fridge is full of stuff we don’t eat because my in-laws stocked it. I have million of things to do but no energy and no idea where to start. I’m sad. I don’t have a phone because it needs to be charged. I can’t find my many pairs of gloves. I feel clumsy and awkward in my winter clothes. I don’t have Canadian dollars, does anyone take pesos here?

Words in Spanish, Portuguese and more strangely Mandarin—I’ve just seen my in-laws—come to mind randomly but somehow, I manage to express myself in English—I think.

I’m not even comfortably jet lag-spacey because there’s only an hour difference between Santiago and Ottawa.

The coffee isn’t helping.

I head home.

I have to start somewhere and I should probably multitask for maximum efficiency. Laundry. I should start with laundry. I can tackle another task while the washing machine and the dryer are running. Doing loads of laundry is the most rewarding chore ever. All you have to do is dump dirty clothes into the washer, add detergent, press a button and walk away feeling like a domestic goddess.

Crap. I have to unpack to find dirty clothes. I ran out of detergent. Where is the laundry basket?

Never mind, I’ll just open the mail. Nothing says “welcome back” like a lovely stack of mail waiting to be read. Oh, I have to renew my health card! Wow, five credit card offers, really? One cheque from a client, cool. Okay, how do I renew my health card? Wait—do I really want to do this today? Yeah… no.

The stack of unopened mail turns into a stack of opened mail.

What’s next?

Mark is busy rediscovering his toys. I envy him. I didn’t miss anything special in Canada. I could claim I missed my friends but I don’t hang out regularly with anyone, it can be weeks or months between our coffee dates. I didn’t miss working because I completed assignments while travelling. I didn’t miss the house we live in. I didn’t miss winter. I… huh… I ran out of my fancy face wash I can only buy in North America. Yes, that’s what I missed. Lame.

I came back because I had to, not because I wanted to.

A little part of me still believes that if I try hard enough, Canada is the place to be for dreams to come true.

I’ll bite. I’ll give it another shot.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Hahahah this post is just hilarious!!
    Well you might have not missed anything but we surely missed you a lot.. i dont comment much here anymore (sorry!!) but i never miss a single post from you
    WELCOME BACK!! and remember.. summer is just around the corner
    hug & kiss

    • I must admit I thought of you when I typed the “how is your day going so far” 😉

      Let me put on my European hat. There. How are you (knowing that I do care about the answer!)

      It’s always nice to read a comment but I don’t expect people to comment all the time. Heck, I would run out of things to say too… and there’s a life outside!

      • Hi!!
        Okay just a sec let me put my own European hat on too, ok here goes..

        I’ve been doing GREAT thank you so much for asking (really appreciate it and i mean that). Well guess what? Pretty soon it’s going to be 2 YEARS since I moved here I cannot even believe it… time just flew by! So far I’ve made a ton of friends, managed to get promoted at my first job here and what I’m most proud of I have survived my first notoriously brutal Canadian winter (-40C OMG)… So yay for me!

        How have you been? No really? Like I said I don’t comment much here any more but I never miss a single post from you. Not to be creepy but I kind of wish we lived loser so we could catch up on life over coffee sometimes 🙂

        Thank you for sharing your travel pics, I got to “travel” a bit through your lenses 🙂
        I’m really glad you’re back though, been missing your Canadian posts.
        Oh.. and and keep your head up, the right publisher will be worth waiting for!

        • I can’t believe it’s been two years. I mean, obviously, you know better than me but… HOW? WHEN? That’s crazy! I still remember your pre-landing emails! I must be getting old, the whole “time flies” makes so much sense these days… Anyhow, congratulations because yes, it is an achievement! The first couple of years are definitely the hardest and it sounds like you did a great job. Surviving two winters in a row deserve a box of maple candies and your promotion… wow. That’s awesome! It means you’re recognized and accepted and yes, this takes work as a newcomer.

          A+. Soon, in a year (… and that’s going to go by fast, I feel it!) you’ll be able to apply for Canadian citizenship, if you choose to 🙂

          I also do wish we live closer! I’d definitely have coffee with you. Multiple cups too, because I think we could chat for quite a while! Damn. There are times when this country is too big. In Europe, you can realistically say you may swing by your friend’s place or city, but here… as much as I want to meet you, I have yet to explore like 3/4 of Canada!

          Other than that, I’m actually doing pretty well 🙂 Busy at work right now, which is great for a freelancer!

  2. Martin Penwald on

    I’m in Texas, close to the Mexican border, and my A/C pump failed. It is pretty annoying. Especially the $500+ bill that will probably come with the repair. That being said, you went back just after the snow storms that affected northeastern America last days. So, it could have been worse.

    • Ah, merde. En plus, j’imagine que tu n’apprécie pas des masses la chaleur, si chaleur il y a … Est-ce que c’est mieux que d’être coincé dans l’autre bled du Nord Dakota (? Je ne me souviens plus exactement…)? Peux-tu te rendre utile en attendant, en faisant passer des immigrands illégalement, par exemple?

      • Martin Penwald on

        La nuit, ça va, il fait encore frais, et en journée, ça reste aux alentours de 30, mais avec le soleil qui tape, ça chauffe vite. Je serais mieux à Minot, ND.
        Sinon, faire passer des immigrants, c’est niet. On risque très gros si on se fait prendre, et ça rapporte très peu. Quelques milliers de dollars pour un déplacement, c’est ridicule, ‘faut vraiment être idiot pour risquer son avenir pour des cacahuètes. Pareil pour le passage de drogues, d’ailleurs.

        • MINOT! Voilà le nom que je cherchais depuis hier! Ouf.

          Oui, non, effectivement, ne ramène rien du Mexique. Pas de gens, pas de drogues. En plus, c’est pas leur rendre service… je crois qu’on est mieux au Mexique qu’aux USA.

          • Martin Penwald on

            D’autant que même en comptant les illégaux, le solde migratoire entre le Mexique et les U.S.A est en faveur du sud. Il y a plus de Mexicains qui rentrent chez eux que de Mexicains qui tentent leur chance, légalement ou illégalement aux États-Unis.
            Cela dit, la menace des cartels de la drogue spécialement dans les zones frontalières ne me semble pas en faveur de la qualité de vie au Mexique.

          • D’après mon expérience au Mexique, c’est vraiment la frontière qui craint depuis quelques années. Et ça n’a même pas toujours été comme ça… sauf à Ciudad Juarez, qui craint depuis toujours :-/ Bref, en dehors de ça, le Mexique, ça va franchement.

  3. Ok… I almost laughed when you said it was cold….
    Like, I feel like it’s summer here every afternoon because it’s minus 2.

  4. Welcome back 🙂
    I hear ya, must be hard coming back after such a long trip!
    You’ll get used to normal again I’m sure, and summer is coming (or so I keep telling myself as we have snow this morning)

    • I know, it’s unusually cold here too :-/ But I can’t complain about the weather, I didn’t suffer too much this winter. I’ll leave that to Canadians who sucked it up!

  5. It’s funny because a French woman I know who is in the U.S. for three months said that all the French people she knows who weren’t doing great in France had a lot of success in Canada and the States. She talked about this guy who moved from city to city in France but couldn’t get a permanent job and didn’t have luck with relationships, and then he moved to Canada and his career took off and he got married and had kids (and then got divorced… and then remarried, so for her, a happy ending). I told her that it was nice to hear that but I didn’t quite agree because I know a lot of people here who are struggling to succeed in their pursuits. Interesting the perception we form of countries and people in them. Anyway, I strayed a bit from your topic, but– I hope it warms up for you soon! Good job opening the mail.

  6. I just renewed my health insurance card too (I guess it’s because our birthdays are pretty close?). I love coming back from holidays and rediscover my things just as Mark does, but I get how you feel too, I always feel like a stranger. As if I had changed during my trip but the world outside didn’t notice. The temperatures will rise again soon, don’t worry!

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