January in Canada

In January 1970, my parents boarded a plane in London, England and flew 3,550 miles to Toronto. They then drove another 2 1/2 hours to a town of approximately 400 people (404 when we arrived) called Arkona, Ontario.  They brought with them a 26-month old (me), a six-month old (my sister) and, according to them, not much else.  They left behind their parents, their siblings, their homes and everything they had ever known.


Dad 70s

My mother had been born and raised just outside London.  She was 28 and had just finished medical school and her residency. She had never been to Canada, or anywhere in North America, before she carried her two girls onto that plane and set off for an unknown life.

It is cold in Canada in January. There is snow; lots of it.  When they arrived at their little (very little) house, which they had never seen before, and did not “chose,” there was probably not much to see in Arkona except snow.  By mid-January winter is also not that pretty in Ontario.  It has lost the sparkly newness of December.  Christmas is over and there is a long (long) time before the next holiday (Easter) and the next warmth (often long after Easter).  It is a difficult time.  Bitter cold and short days making everything feel lifeless and dark.

propsect winter

Our street in London, Ontario circa winter 1975 – a lot bigger than Arkona…

My Dad, who had graduated from medical school the year before my Mum, had a job at the local clinic.  When they arrived my mother did not have a job.  My parents had opted to put her brand new – and hard fought – career on pause and move to Canada for the opportunity afforded by my Dad’s new job, hoping that once they arrived she too would be able to find work.

If my Mum wanted to talk to her mother – or father, or brother, or best friend, or anyone from England – she had two options: an airmail letter carefully scripted on vellum-thin blue paper and trusted to the Canadian Postal Service, or a very expensive long distance call with awkward pauses and echoing words across the Atlantic.

air mailtelephone

As we embark on this life of perpetual relocation, I am fascinated thinking about my parents in those early days.  Particularly thinking about my mother.  Alone in a cold, unfamiliar place with very little to do and two small children.

I don’t remember a thing about our immigration to Canada, just like, I suspect, C will not remember living in Charlotte, moving to D.C. and, in a few months, moving to Kinshasa.  But, nevertheless, I feel for my mother when C breaks down in tears and asks about her friends, or her old house, or her old bed, because, whether she remembers it or not in 20 or 30 years, right now it is a trauma for her and is, no doubt, having an effect on her.  I suspect, likewise, I was not that easy to live with right after we came to Canada.

On the days when I’m feeling particularly weepy and missing our friends and Charlotte, I wonder “how did she do it?”

I have Facebook, and Skype, and text messaging, and basically free long distance.  When I get bored in our apartment, I leave. I get on the Metro and go into one of the most fascinating and amazing cities in this country (if not the planet), with amazing restaurants and museums and an endless list of things to do, not to mention many of my dearest friends.  My child is in a daycare she loves where she is, in turn, loved and taken care of so B and I can do the things we want and need to do each day.  I know moving to the DRC will be very different – I will not have the freedom to wander around the city and explore it, but, then again, I’m going to be stepping into a fully formed community of U.S. Embassy families who will help us navigate the streets, culture, stores and newness of Kinshasa.  They have a blog that I can read right now to find out what sorts of events are going on (Happy hours, a Burger Burn and the Marine Corps Ball…to name a few), for heaven’s sake.  My mother had none of that.

And, hand in hand with my mother, I also think about all the FS families who have gone before us.  Who have stepped into the unknown of a new post without the internet, Amazon Prime, Skype and mobile phones.  And it makes me realize that hardship is a wholly inaccurate and very relative term.   What B and C and I are facing will be different, definitely, but hardship? “Severe suffering and privation”? No. It will not be that.

And so, when I look out my window at the streets of Arlington, and I’m homesick for the streets of Charlotte, I try and picture the streets of Arkona, with grey skies and lots of snow, and I remember how lucky I am, and, as well, how thankful I am that my mother (and Dad) braved the view (or lack thereof), the snow, the homesickness and sadness they felt, in order to give our family the amazing life we’ve had.  I hope one day C feels the same way.

Finding our D.C. Groove

We’re starting to fall into a groove now that we’ve been in Washington for two months. Our weeks are full of school and work and French, and our weekends have been full of visits with friends and family.

Last weekend we did “Halloween on the Hill” (really Eastern Market) on Friday with one of B’s friends from high school (who is also an FSO) and his wife and son, then we had some amazing bbq pig (in the true NC pulled pork fashion) on Saturday night with dear friends from law school, and on Sunday we had another Kinshasa-bound FSO (from the 177th A-100) over for dinner.  The weekend before that we did a quick tour of D.C. while we followed my sister-in-law around while she ran the Marine Corps Marathon.

We’re headed to Pennsylvania this weekend to visit with our friend J who is in the U.S. for a few weeks before moving to Morocco (yes, we will be living on the same continent, but the logistics of getting from Kinshasa to Agadir are, well, stupidly difficult).  Next weekend my parents are in town, then the holiday season starts and we’ll be all over the place visiting family and friends.

Thinking about my lists and all the things I *probably* need to be doing in preparation for July has been low on my list, though I suppose at some point it will have to move up.  But for now I’m enjoying getting into our groove.



Miller’s groove.


Run K, Run!


Can you tell who is more exhausted by “school” these days?


Hello Mr. Lincoln.


C believes this is “her” Washington Monument


Cousin love (and disgusting ice cream novelty love)


B’s groove.


C & C Halloween fun!

I dont like my costume

I don’t want to wear my costume (I’m Doc McStuffins)




The summers I spent at camp were spent sleeping in tents in the woods, not, as seems to be the norm today, in cabins.  The younger kids were grouped together, but as we got older we became more and more isolated until, as CIT’s (counselors in training), we found our tents a good distance from the main lodge and all the other campers.

We would often have campfires in our isolated little area and sit around until the fire died down and the embers glowed, but barely cast any light.  We would lie in the dark and talk and watch the stars above us.  Inevitably though (we were teenage girls after all) there were nights when some topic or other jump started our desire to be fully awake again and we would bank the fire and do our best to rekindle it so we could get back in its warmth and light.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that rekindling lately.  The isolation and stir-craziness I sometimes feel being in our apartment pretty much all the time (living and working) has prompted me to get out when I can to do lunch with old friends who, at some point or another, have found their way to D.C.


Love reconnecting with old friends – 10 years later (hello 1994!)

A couple of weeks ago, I went to lunch with two of those friends and we had such a lovely time that one of them promptly invited us both (and our “entourages” (B & C for me)) to dinner at her house with her family.  As we drove home that night it felt like that rekindling of the warmth and light from a fire and I wondered how I had managed to let these people get away from me and fade into soft glows over the years.  I am feeling a tremendous sense of loss for something that I haven’t had for about 10 years (the number of years since these people left Charlotte).  These are fabulous, interesting people who I can talk easily with, who I share some history with, who are, despite our lack of contact for many years, dear to me.  And now, just as I am rekindling them and our friendship I am realizing that I’m going to leave.  Suddenly, despite our desire to get on our way, 9 months doesn’t seem like long enough to be in this city.  It doesn’t seem like long enough to bank these fires and get them roaring again.

Add to this the (almost) equally strong desire to build up the new friendships we have made through B’s A-100 class and our calendars don’t seem nearly large or open enough.  Now that B is in language training (in a class of 3 people instead of a class of 84) there are not as many opportunities to hang out with all these new fascinating people who are also contemplating their new lives in the FS – and some of whom are only weeks, not months, away from moving to their first posts (one person in B’s class has already left!)  So we find ourselves juggling the rekindling of past friendships with the building of new friendships – and, while I recognize that it’s a good problem to have, it is, nevertheless, a problem.  Perhaps I should go back to my teenage days of believing that a good conversation with my friends lying under the stars was worth the sacrifice of a good night’s rest, and hope that once we get to Kinshasa we’ll have plenty of time to catch up on our sleep.