Friday, September 21, 2012

About Time....

I had intended on keeping this blog more current, especially given the dramatic shift our lives have recently taken, but all I really have to show for my intentions are half-written posts that read more like a completed “to-do” list than a blog. Hey, if I got bored reading through some earlier drafts then I can guaran-damn-te that you would too. So if you haven’t checked in in a while and are wondering how I jumped from life is peachy in Eugene to now living in a new country, don’t worry, I will try to bring you up to speed.  
Here’s the Cliffnotes version of the past year:
October 2011 Jim and I made our first trip to Vancouver to check out schools and see if there was even a possibility about enrolling boys in school for 2012-2013 school  year. We had expected the answer to be no, until my permanent residency status cleared, but were instead told yes because Jim is a citizen. Oh my gosh! We made monthly trips up here looking at schools and neighborhoods and pretty much honed in on both school and neighborhood rather quickly. Days in between spent figuring out the logistics of actually making such a move. Mostly this was a smooth and very easy process with the occasional, WTF are we doing thrown in, you know, just to keep it real. Craigslist is our friend! Scoped out a few places to rent and made a blitz trip up one weekend to attend some open houses. Knew after the first house that that was the one. Applied. Accepted. Woot, woot! July moved our furnishings and other household items into our new digs and promptly returned back to Eugene. August, I finally spent more than one night in Vancouver while Jim and the boys went canoeing with some friends in BC Rockies. LOVE it here. September was spent co-habitating with our friends who are temporarily renting our Eugene home while their home is being built. We were a family of 10 for nearly three weeks. Worked out way better than I would have expected, which makes me think that co-housing isn’t such a bad idea after all. September 4th moved up here officially. September 5th, boys first day of school in the pre-IB program at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School.   
So now that you’re up to speed I can do my normal random thought ramble. I’d have to say it’s too early to say that this feels like “home” but I also don’t feel like a complete foreigner. It helps that English is the common language and the driving rules are the same, but there are also subtle differences that I’m starting to notice after a few weeks of calling this Home #2. I guess I should first back up a bit and reiterate that while we are living in Vancouver and very much intend on making this home, we are by no means uprooting ourselves from Eugene. No, we enough love to plant ourselves in two places simultaneously. It is different for Quinn and Logan as they aren’t traveling in between Eugene and Vancouver like me and Jim, but they very much feel like Eugene is a part of their lives, even if they’re not daily participants. This is definitely where technology works in our favor (or should I write favour?) With Facebook and Skype, the boys are able to talk and touch base with their friends, who are scattered all over really. I will say that we’ve been somewhat surprised at how easily the boys have been absorbed into the social fabric of Vancouver. Jim and I had prepared ourselves that this could be the area that would create stress on the boys and take a while to establish. To our delight it was within days that the boys were being invited to this or that, and the group of kids at their school have been so welcoming. Of course it will take some time for the meaningful relationships to develop, but what a wonderful start Q & L have had thus far.
Prior to starting school the boys were very nervous about the intensity of the program (programme?). They’re finding that while it is more demanding than what they left behind, they are also ready for the challenge. One of the main reasons for making this move was for their education. From what we’ve seen so far, we’ve made the right choice. It’s no surprise to our friends who have kids in school back in the states, that our education system is in crisis. We can sugarcoat it all day long, but you can’t tell me that an Algebra II class with 64 students is effective, or that a French II class with 50 students is going to yield much learning. Add to the fact that the boys couldn’t get full schedules and it just became clear that we needed to explore our other options. 
No it’s not all unicorns and rainbows here regarding education, but it is still an intact system that is valued by its citizens, whether or not they have kids going to school. People really do understand that every child needs a solid foundation upon which to build their futures.  This is the first year that the boys have NO classes together. This has become increasingly important as they’ve grown older. Being identical twins has many advantages, but most important is the opportunity to grow and develop as individuals. That is much harder to do if you don’t have any time apart. So no classes together this year; they have full schedules, meaning 8 classes; and the largest class they’re in has 30 students. I get the sense that they’re really going to be educated here, not simply taught. Their math teacher requires strong mental math abilities, no matter that they’re having to solve square roots and more complex formulas without the aid of a calculator. I can tell I like her philosophy already. There is no English spoken in their French classes (Quelle Surprise!), they have P.E. classes in which they are required to change into PE uniforms (or strip, as they’re known here) and are learning golf, tennis, lacrosse, ultimate, volleyball, basketball, among other sports that they’d otherwise have no real exposure to playing. The list goes on and on. It feels like we just set the dial back 50 years. I remember my parents talking about when their high schools offered drafting, wood shop, metal shop, auto shop, sewing, cooking, etc., well, all these classes and then some are still available here. It’s funny because until those things are gone do we realize what value they have to society as a whole. It’s not perfect, but what’s important to me and Jim is still valued and funded here. Sure there’s still school fundraising and budget crunches going on, but what seems to be different is that people from young to old understand that a strong and stable society doesn’t happen without a solid education and all the opportunities that provides.    
I’d say that the boys have found a daily rhythm, whereas Jim and I are still figuring ours out. We may not find a pattern in our lives as we’re still here and there, but even this feels okay. Living abroad last year taught us how to get out of our ruts and honed our street-skills, so-to-speak.  The ambiguity and schedule-less days up here are taking some getting used to, but I’m confident that we’ll settle into a routine that will feel more natural. Although, I’d have to say I’m liking the routine of getting together with my friend Karen and drinking cocktails at lunch!
What are the boneheaded moves I’ve made since being here? Well, I naively volunteered to manage Quinn’s lacrosse team, for starters.  I initially thought that it would be a good way to meet other parents and help with getting Quinn established socially. This may have been true with younger kids, but when dealing with a U16 team, there is not a lot of parental engagement, so really all I’ve done is agree to work my ass off and send 1,000 e-mails a day to this group of people. Oops. Of course, being a recovering Type-A personality means that I’m going to be the Valedictorian of team managers! Let’s just say when the season ends in late February, I’m hanging up my hat!  The other oops, is that I didn’t connect with the rowing club soon enough and there isn’t a slot for Logan until next season. It never even occurred to me that 1.) the Olympics generate a lot of enthusiasm in a sport that Canada often does well in and 2.) that these clubs are, shall we say, a bit more structured than what we’re used to back in Eugene.  So Logan is drifting a bit without a sanctioned sport. We’ll get him signed up at our local community centre where he can work out, but he is pretty bummed about not rowing.
So life continues to move swiftly along here in Vancouver. This city just keeps offering up the goods. I promise I’ll be more consistent in my posts (thank you Leslie for the gentle nudges!) and remember that we LOVE visitors, so come pay us a visit! We look forward to sharing this lovely part of the world with you!