I have to find something to say about Ottawa.

Something.

I’m not completely out of ideas and energy but I feel anaesthetized, and it’s not just the snow, the ice and the bitter cold.

Because yes, in case you were wondering, it’s officially winter in Canada.

I’m hearing this familiar noise again as I’m typing this, a distant beep announcing a chorus of beeping and scraping. The truck is rumbling up and down the street. It would be anywhere else in the world, I’d be worried about a terrorist attack or at the very least seriously concerned about someone’s driving abilities. But in Canada, this sound brings a sigh of relief—the city did budget for snow plowing, roads and sidewalks may be cleared and open for traffic by tomorrow morning!

Where was I… Where am I… oh yeah, Ottawa.

I used to like Ottawa. Or at least, I didn’t mind Ottawa. But my world, probably just like your world, was turned upside down and the many, many changes are not exactly positive.

When did my life in Canada become so unnecessarily expensive and complicated?

I can’t pinpoint it exactly. The pandemic, probably.

Twenty years ago, I ended up in Canada by chance and I stayed because there were opportunities. Life was affordable compared to France. I remember being amazed I could buy clothes and takeout food even though I was making minimum wage back then. We used to explore Canada, eat out, and go to concerts. We worked hard but we had fun too, two immigrants living the Canadian dream.

The fun is mostly gone, everything costs too much money for what it’s worth. I’m tired of not being able to get around easily—you’d think public transit would have improved since we’re supposed to save the planet but instead, service is being cut and bus fares are ridiculously high ($3.70 for a ticket!). I’m tired of not being able to access healthcare. I’m tired of rising food prices, supply issues and overall terrible food. I’m tired of so many things, inconsequential or more concerning.

I liked the old version of Canada. I’m worried about this new, definitely-not-improved version.

Over the past three years, many of my immigrant friends packed and went home after living in Canada for a decade or two.

I can’t “go home”, this is the curse of a multicultural family.

But I know Canada isn’t the place to be for me if I want to get inspired and happy again. People change but places too—I’m learning this lesson.

First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
Juliette vs. blizzard (clearly, I lost), Ottawa, November 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023
First snowstorm of the season in Ottawa, December 4, 2023

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20 Comments

  1. Julie Valet December 5, 2023 at 6:14 am

    Comme je te comprends…

    Reply
    1. Zhu December 5, 2023 at 11:09 pm

      I know you truly do! 😆

      Reply
  2. Lexie December 5, 2023 at 6:35 am

    This first snow storm was beautiful. What is your plan for this year ? Are you going somewhere ? Does Feng feel the same ?

    Reply
    1. Zhu December 5, 2023 at 11:10 pm

      The first snow is always amazing (yes, even to me, even though I hate winter!). We were lucky too, no wind so everything was just white and still.

      Feng feels exactly the same…

      Reply
      1. Martin Penwald December 6, 2023 at 7:22 pm

        And is moving at least within Canada out of question ?

        Because Vancouver and its surrounding area has a warmer climate especially in winter. I know that there is less employment opportunities for a translator, but if you’re that miserable in Ottawa, maybe it could be a possibility, no ?

        Reply
        1. Zhu December 7, 2023 at 12:37 am

          Nah, on est vraiment coincés à Ottawa. On a un logement et les parents de Feng, en gros ce sont les deux raisons. Ça fait dix ans que je ne veux plus vivre à Ottawa, dix ans qu’on n’a pas vraiment trouvé la solution. Je ne peux pas trop me plaindre, on voyage, quand même… en fait, c’est comme ça qu’on tient. De toute façon, je crois qu’on n’aurait jamais acheté une maison et qu’on se serait jamais vraiment installés quelque part, c’est un peu contre nature pour nous. Disons que les possibilités ont disparu avec la crise du logement, Mark et les vieux qui vieillissent. Et que mon ras-le-bol s’amplifie avec plein de trucs qui se cassent la gueule au Canada. Je n’ai jamais aimé l’hiver, mais je trouvais mon compte ailleurs dans d’autres aspects de la vie ici. Maintenant, je trouve juste mon compte ailleurs 😆

          Reply
  3. Steve Kelly December 5, 2023 at 1:28 pm

    After an early life lived in Hamilton Ontario followed by 5 years in NY, then 10 years in Wisconsin and finally 22 years in Ohio I can say I’ve paid my dues to cold. Your photos are a good reminder what real cold is. Before Global Warming upset weather patterns beginning 10 yests ago Ohio winters were nearly as bad as Hamilton back in the 60s and 70s. Now I’m traveling in Rondônia and the temperatures are 31 degrees every day. What a contrast.

    Reply
    1. Zhu December 5, 2023 at 11:12 pm

      OMG, you did pay your dues! It doesn’t look like it but I did spend quite a few winters in Canada as well, especially from 2000 to 2010. I *know* what it feels like and I *know* I hate it. Sometimes I’m tired to justify myself… I’m not built for the cold and I’m not good at hibernating.

      Give me 30C and I’m thriving!

      How is life in Rondônia?

      Reply
      1. Steve Kelly December 6, 2023 at 10:29 am

        Everyone I’ve met is genuinely friendly, chatty and humble though some seem wary of an obvious outsider. Nice qualities after so much American cynicism. But the relentless heat just isn’t me. Interesting lifestyles out here living on small dairy farms.

        Reply
        1. Zhu December 7, 2023 at 12:32 am

          Rural Brazil is another world, for sure.

          I don’t know how I’ll feel living in a tropical country. I don’t mind the heat, I love it actually. But would I miss the change of seasons? No idea.

          Reply
  4. Katherine December 5, 2023 at 5:07 pm

    I hear you about the winters in Canada, and the cost. I often think these same things and wonder where is the ideal place to live. It seems like the hybrid/snowbird approach you take is a good solution. I have followed your blog for many years and actually called out to you last fall on Preston street but you had your earphones in and didn’t hear me and my son and I were walking in the opposite direction. Maybe we can meet for coffee in the New Year?

    Reply
    1. Zhu December 5, 2023 at 11:19 pm

      OMG, I’m sorry I didn’t hear you! Yep, walking with earbuds on is quite typical from me. And to be honest, since nobody ever calls my name in the street in Ottawa, I don’t think I would have registered!

      We should definitely meet for coffee 🙂

      Reply
  5. Isa December 10, 2023 at 10:26 am

    I feel the same for both my native and adoptive city. I want to invent another way for our family.
    Plein de pensées et d’amour et tu as mon mail si tu as besoin <3

    Reply
    1. Zhu December 11, 2023 at 3:10 am

      Tu as déjà fait un truc énorme pour moi, tu m’a fait rencontrer une équipe incroyable avec laquelle je travaille encore! 😉

      Where about do you live now? The last time we talked, you were in the countryside… and how is life? SGee, it’s awful, I’m realizing that I was so used to blog updates for years that I forget email is a thing as well. It’s almost as if emailing another blogger is intruding. But hey, nobody is blogging anymore, I really should just… you know, email to get news.

      Reply
      1. Isa December 11, 2023 at 3:17 am

        <3 <3 <3

        Reply
        1. Zhu December 11, 2023 at 3:21 am

          I’m getting old, I had to put on my translator hat for smileys 😆

          I do think of you quite often. Damn, i’m sending an email this week, that’s it!

          Reply
  6. Gail at Large December 10, 2023 at 4:41 pm

    I think some people are not built for staying in one place, and you’ve been based in Ottawa a long time. It was bound to drive you crazy.

    But to feel stuck in one place due to circumstances, this is a terrible feeling in of itself. I have known this feeling in the past and it’s frustrating and at times depressing. There are situations easier to change than others, but I know what it’s like when it’s not within your direct control and you have to live with it.

    I don’t think about Canada much on a day-to-day basis, but I do remember cursing snow while scraping it off of my car to get somewhere outside of the city. My last 7.5 Canadian years were spent in Toronto which has “real winter” (unlike Vancouver), but due to its size there are always plenty of diversions from the most annoying parts of winter.

    It’s probably easy for me to say this, considering I’m flying to Hong Kong in a day and a half. Then Vietnam. When I left Canada I swore I would never work for another company again so I wouldn’t have to ask anyone for vacation days. It took a while to build a company, but I finally did and can run it remotely which was the plan all along.

    Travel keeps me sane, which is why I’m still trying to catch up on all the travel I missed during the pandemic.

    Reply
    1. Zhu December 11, 2023 at 3:20 am

      I have zero regrets about coming to Canada and I did love it for a long time. I still do to a certain extent… I mean, parts of me *are* Canadian. I’ve always had mixed feelings about Ottawa but we ended up here and stayed for several practical reasons. These days, I ressent how complicated life in Canada has become, and it’s not just about winter weather. I leave the country often enough that I can compare and every time I come back, it’s a life downgrade.

      We’re travellers and I doubt we would be happy for decades anywhere in this world. I just wish we could move more easily. My life is portable now. Much like you, I swore I’d never ask for vacation days ever again. My freelance life is what is it but I absolutely love my job and I do make a living so I consider myself lucky. But there’s a difference between the whole digital nomad life alone and as a family. Alone, I’d probably bum around the world or travel and live in France the rest of the time. With Feng and Mark, it gets tricky, especially with school. So compromises are constantly made. It’s not perfect but overall, I like our life.

      Are you still happy in Portugal? Or would you consider moving somewhere else?

      Have a super fun trip! Please report and blog more often 😉

      Reply
  7. Shandara December 13, 2023 at 5:25 pm

    Well, what can I say… at least you take beautiful pictures in the snow! Who knows, maybe one day, there will be an opportunity for you. Pour le moment, enjoy tes voyages au Brésil et ailleurs, c’est déjà beaucoup (oui j’avoue je suis jalouse). Joyeuses Fêtes à vous trois! XX

    Reply
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