To commemorate the 1-month anniversary of our move, I have compiled a list of observations made living in a new place where we know absolutely no one:
1. On Thanksgiving Day, we found it funny to find that one mall in all of Canada remained open, that being The Pacific Mall. If you are unfamiliar with the Pacific Mall, all you need to know is that it's "the largest Chinese indoor mall in all of North America" - and they're not kidding. The mall contains no known brands - no Gap, no Toys R Us, no Body Shop. But there are over 400 stores, each of them more like cubicles than actual retail spaces. Many sell only a few products, and can fit only a couple of people at a time. And though it was almost 9 on Thanksgiving (Monday) night, the place was hopping. In fact, we had to wait a very long time to make a right turn into the place, during which time Jason played "count the Toyotas" but then got bored when he realized it wasn't much of a challenge - they're all Toyotas. There were a few different kareoke bars, lots of unfamiliar spices, and an awful lot of stores selling DVDs of movies I'm pretty sure are still in theatres (if you're not Asian, you can only purchase these if you're accompanied by an Asian friend...otherwise, expect to purchase a blank CD). Anyway, we were packed like sardines on an escalator, which is a big no-no for me, but we were unable to find stairs, when Jason remarked "Do you realize you are the only blonde in this entire building?" That was eerie, but not so eerie as when we realized that Jason had to duck in order not to whack his head on the light fixtures which, though lovely, were hung so low that anyone over 6' could not safely pass below them.
2. Our first weekend here was Jason's birthday. I made him chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. In doing so, I managed to set off the smoke detector. Luckily, it was 11:30am, so I don't think I woke anyone out of their beds, but I felt guilty that this was what I, the new girl, would now be known for. Setting of the fire alarm is particularly bad because:
a) When ours goes off, everyone's goes off.
b) Our apartment has no less than 4 sprinklers built in (keep in mind, it's a pretty small space). No one has told me just how sensitive these sprinklers are, and I really don't want to learn the hard way.
Anyhoo, I continued to feel embarrassed about this incident for about 3 days, until someone else set all the alarms off. We were still asleep that morning, and in our only half-awakened state, we immediately began opening our windows and fanning the air...for quite some time until we realized that this made no sense whatsoever. And a week after that, someone set them off at 12:30 at night. So we've been here a month, and we average 1 alarm per week, only one of which was caused by me. Phew.
3. We soon learned that we lived in "Phase 1" of a new composting endeavour - every week the city picks up our recycling and composting, but only picks up trash every two weeks, and even then, we're only allowed 1 bag of trash. At first I thought this was just a crazy Markham thing, but have since discovered that it doesn't encompass all of Markham at this time, but it does seep down past Steeles, so I have no idea who all is included in this exclusive Phase 1, but I think it's safe to call us all the "guinea pigs." Not that I mind. I am rather fond of the effort, and Jason and I are not great trash producers to begin with. Plus, knowing that they currently transport 50 000 tonnes of trash down to Michigan every year, I can kind of see where they're coming from. However, when the landlord was explaining the green bin program, I was greatly unsettled every time she'd list the compostables: tissues, food waste, nail clippings. But each time she came upon nail clippings, she'd look at me and lick her lips. I mean, you'd be frightened too, right? Anyway, these green bins come with their very own instructional DVDs, which claim the bins are rodent proof. No word on whether they're landlord-proof though, so we secure ours with bungee cord. Just in case.
4. The neighbours around here have complex names, at least to me. Guess how long it took me to learn those names? Actually, I still would not know them had I not finally seen them in print. I was beginning to think that these would be nodding-neighbours only. The best Jason could do was recall with some vagueness that "the girl name sounds like a car." Generally speaking, Jamie and Jason are not hard names for North American tongues, but we do wonder whether they struggled as much with ours as we did with theirs. Jason has also informed me that we probably smell like kraft dinner to them. Neither of us can remember the last time we ate that crap, but apparently this is our lot in life. You see, this particular area is known as one of the few places in North America where white people are the minority. Being from Ottawa, I am used to French and English. Here, there is no French at all, and few signs in English. There's a whole lot of Cantonese though, which made looking for stamps wayyyyy more of an adventure than it's ever been before!
5. As you know, I love to go on looong walks. However, out of the last 20 walks, I've gotten lost a good 19. There was one time I didn't get lost, but that's primarily because it started raining before I reached the end of my street, and I had to turn back. Luckily, the bread crumbs hadn't washed away yet. But every other time, I get lost. Not hopelessly, hug-a-tree lost, but just the kind of lost where I don't know where I am. I try to keep Steeles and McCowan as reference points, but if I get onto a street that loops, boy am I in trouble! My inner ear prevents me from knowing my North, South, East, or West. Especially west. That one's a real bugger. Getting mildly lost is one thing, but I've also gotten in the habit of walking right by my house, unnoticed. You see, I live in a large neighbourhood full of cookie-cutter houses. Every single one of them looks the same, and there are thousands of them! Once, I was strolling along happily, when I noticed that someone had the same ugly trash bin that we do. And then I noticed that our address was printed on the side of it. In my handwriting, with my Sharpie. And then I noticed that it was indeed my house that I was standing in front of. I felt like an idiot. I am an idiot.
6. As mentioned above, Jason and I are in the minority here. I thought I had encountered pretty much every accent there is, when I worked with tourists for the government. Boy was I wrong. I have this one acquaintance, Ricardo, who I somehow manage to bump into on a regular basis. He's a talker, and I'm a talker, but lord almighty, I have no idea what that man is saying.
Ricardo: Wha wha wha
Jamie: Pardon me?
Ricardo: Wha wha wha
Jamie: Um, what?
Ricardo: Wha wha wha
Jamie: Oh. 5 o'clock.
Seriously. I have this 2-whats-rule, and if I can't decode it by then, I just throw out an answer, and hope it applies. In all probability, this is what our conversations consist of:
Ricardo: Can you believe this weather we're having?
Ricardo: This weather. It's so warm, can you believe it?
Ricardo: This weather!
Jamie: Oh. 5 o'clock.