Dear Mum and Dad,
Some time late last year, before any of us knew quite where in the world Saskatoon was, I dropped a bit of a bomb on you. There was good news – I got a job! Hooray for me, years of hard work and lab labour paid off! I’m going to earn a real salary and have a real career! You raised me to be an effective adult member of society! But oh, the bad news… It’s in Canada. As in, Canada. I’m moving. To Canada. I’m moving to Canada.
I could not have asked for more support from you. You were so excited! So pleased for me! You helped us emotionally, financially, practically. You even let me store a few precious items that I couldn’t bear to part with in your shed. And through all the preparations, you didn’t once make me feel like I shouldn’t leave, like I was abandoning you, like you would miss me too greatly. Like I was throwing this crazy explosion of spanners into the works.
But we did immediately start planning for you to visit. Since we thought ~6 months would be peak homesick time (it is), and since you weren’t really keen on visiting during winter (probably fair), you booked a trip for midsummer.
And so it was that in July of 2016, Canada was blessed with the presence of two of the best Aussies – you guys!
You brought gifts!
Such treasures! A Massive Milo (I know we have it here, but it’s not quite the same as the original – it has different solubility properties or something…); a brand new Vegemite (the original jar we were gifted by Erica is looking sad); and… a box of Ural! Hooray! Thanks Mum :).
Oh! And our enormous Atlas! It wouldn’t fit into our bags when we first moved here, and for a moment it looked like we would have to leave it behind; but you stepped in and helped us out (again) and dragged all 7kgs of this guy over for us. Now we can start post-it-ing all of our big Canada adventures!!
Thank you. For squishing the items into your suitcases and giving up your baggage allowance and carrying them all this way. I’m so, so grateful.
While you were here…
We saw Saskatchewan!
We had so much fun! I got to show you around Saskatoon and all our little haunts, you rode the bus like pros and we had a lovely cabin adventure. Let me recap…
Your first weekend here, we rented a car and drove north (props to Enterprise for upgrading us to a Santa Fe – in hindsight, the Camry I booked probably wouldn’t have cut it!). We drove from Saskatoon to Prince Albert, and then on to Lake Waskesiu: a particularly beautiful spot in Saskatchewan’s only National Park, Prince Albert NP. I didn’t forget which side of the road to drive on, and I only drifted off the road once – and even then, it was only a very little bit.
Waskesiu is super lovely. It’s the summer break destination of choice for many Saskatoonians, so we were lucky to get a cabin; the wonderful people at Kapasiwin Bungalows had a spot for us. Our cabin was right on the edge of the property, with a deck that looked out across the playground and into the forest. It was rustic but charming, and the plethora of chattering squirrels made it utterly delightful (although I could have done without the mozzies).
Despite my fervent desire, we didn’t spot a moose – but we did have a four-legged visitor at dusk one afternoon (you can see him above). And although we didn’t get a chance to go paddling on the lake, Bren did have a chance to kick my butt at giant chess. Don’t worry Dad, you’ll get better with practice! Sorry I beat you…
There’s not a lot of overnight hiking in Saskatchewan, so we opted for a few short walks – we didn’t encounter any bears, but we did spot some fresh bear poop! And lots of lovely wildlife.
Speaking of wildlife – you met a couple of Sask beavers! Once back in Saskatoon, but while we still had a car, we popped down to the river to go beaver spotting; nestled in the same river bend where Bren and I had found them last time, we caught a few happily jaunting around the banks. Super cute, so Canada.
Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, The Prairie Lily and the WDM
Saskatoon has so much going on in summer! Events, festivals, and general fun and excitement aplenty – and we tried to experience as much of it as possible! We visited Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan and watched a pretty awesome interpretation of “Julia Caesar” (you’re so funny, Mum – “Why do they have to look so ratty?”… Because it’s post-apocalypse! They had to make their own clothes out of possum furs! Hashtag high standards… Love you). We took a trip on Saskatoon’s wannabe paddle steamer, the Prairie Lily, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery down the river (except it’s not really a paddle steamer, because the river gets too shallow for a real paddle to go round!). The views up the river and back were stunning, and the commentary was great – watch out for that horn, though.
We visited the Western Development Museum (affectionately the WDM),a fantastic tribute to the early settlers of Saskatchewan in the form of a fully decked out “Boomtown”. Dad, you and I spent half an hour chewing the ear off of the real-life blacksmith and learned all his trade secrets, and Mum jumped when the old bloke sitting outside the blacksmith turned out not to be a statue, and moved his hand. I think my favourite was learning that the church in Boomtown is the only building that wasn’t custom made for this exhibit, but is an actual church which was moved here when Boomtown opened – you can even get married there! Oh – and I need to learn how to make pumpkin pie…
U of S and the Canadian Light Source
Once the sun came out, you did get a chance to visit the University without getting soaked, and we had a fun afternoon wandering around the beautiful campus. Dad, you even wrangled yourself a talk at the physics department! I was so impressed by your ability to just walk in and talk them into letting you present your work. And by your work, of course :).
And we had a tour of the Canadian Light Source, Canada’s only synchrotron!
We caught a thousand taxis and we walked for miles along the shores of the river, and you got saturated walking to visit me at work (partly because you took a wrong turn and what should have been a 5 minute walk turned into a 45 minute escapade). But you did manage to find my house and get off the bus at the right stop (even when I accidentally put you on the wrong bus home!). All in all, I’d say we had a pretty successful month seeing everything that Saskatoon has to see.
Food, glorious food
I’m not ashamed, nor do I think would I surprise anyone to say, that we ate our way around Saskatoon. Partly I wanted to show off what our little town has to offer, but mostly I wanted to take you to all the places I frequent, so that in times to come, I could say, Hey! I’m blogging at Museo! And you could see me sitting here, in your mind’s eye.
We had half-price pterodactyl wings at the Hose and Hydrant; we ate brunch at the Broadway cafe; we had elk burgers at the Yard and Flagon. We ate great Italian at Ninos and delish Family Pizza on our back deck, and we visited Grainfields for their amazing breakfast menu (it has since become our brunch restaurant of choice!!). We had plenty of Timmy Ho’s (Tim Horton’s for the uninitiated… but I know that’s not you guys), and a few visits to Starbucks. And of course, mum and I ate those delicious bacon waffles at Underground cafe, and got our fill of Saskatoon berries at the Saskatoon Berry Brunch! We did leave dad and Bren behind a lot, didn’t we?! But we did take both of them out for birthday celebrations at Fionn MacCool’s, where we ate poutine and Guinness pies (I won’t mention the spilled beers, though).
Probably the best part of your being were here was being able to introduce you to all the new friends we have made. My boss Maurice was so kind and generous – he threw a BBQ for you and all of my workmates at his home, in honour of your visit! Not only did you have a wonderful time, but I was also so glad to be able to show you what a warm, familial environment we have there, and how safe, happy and supported I am here in Canada. I hope it went some way to alleviating your concerns for me here (out in the big bad world!). And of course, now you can put faces to names when I regale you with stories from my week. Mum and I (well… you did it, really) made best-bake-ever mini pavlovas and impressed the pants off of everyone.
You also got to meet the 3 Canadians! Well, some of them. In case you’ve forgotten the story, I met Greg and Vanessa back in April when I accidentally ripped them off on a desk we’d bought from them through Kijiji. They weren’t home at the time, and after making some ridiculous jokes to their daughter about pinching the money and telling her dad I hadn’t paid her, I left with $20 still in my pocket. Poor girl. Anyway, somehow they forgave me and in order to give them back their cash, we ended up having a few (too many) drinks, met their equally lovely friends Dave and Roseanne, and had a grande old time. And now I get to introduce these guys as “the friends I met on Kijiji”!
Being such genuinely lovely people, while you were here G&V not only hosted us all for a meal at their place, but took you shopping for some Rough Riders paraphernalia (that’s football, for those of you thinking otherwise), took us to an ice hockey game, taught us the magic of clamato juice, and bought us some crazy cocktail called a CoronaRita! I’m afraid I had to leave most of mine behind…
Ok, deep breath – this is the serious bit. Travel is an inherently selfish thing. That’s not to say that it’s a terrible thing – it is a wonderful thing for personal growth, personal experience, personal gain. It shapes and moulds and expands us. When we go, we come home more than we were. But there’s no way around the fact that when we leave, we leave people behind.
For me, travel meant work, a career, some stability that I maybe would not have found in Australia. But I can’t pretend that it didn’t also mean an adventure. A chance to follow a dream that I have had for a long time, even if I never really admitted it to myself or believed it could be real. Was it brave? Not really. I mean, in some ways it was a little scary, but I knew that we would be OK – we had each other, we had Morgan, we had the love and support of our families and friends. But leaving my family behind to make a life somewhere else in the world has been more difficult than I expected. I want to live my new life, but I don’t want to miss out on what’s happening at home. I’m scared to find out that because I wasn’t there, I wasn’t there for someone – in a time of need, in a time of joy.
I’m so lucky to be doing this in an era of technology that’s all about connecting people – I can follow my loved ones’ lives on social media, I can see your beautiful faces on Skype, and I can communicate with you instantly through emails and messages. Gosh, I can keep you updated with my own adventures by writing this blog! And I’ve also been lucky to have such a terrific network of people to greet and take care of us here. But I hope you all know that while I am thrilled to be here, having this beautiful adventure, I am thinking of you all. Even though I am making wonderful new friends and having a grand old time, and I really am loving Canada and Saskatoon in particular – I miss you. Not in a grandiose, regretful, pained way – but simply enough to want you to know.
Thanks for visiting, Mum and Dad. I wish I took more photos :).
Love you. Jx