….we arrived in Saskatoon. We walked through the gates at Arrivals, tired, emotional, apprehensive and unsure of what to expect. Seven people, nine suitcases, nine pieces of hand luggage and a determination to embrace this new adventure and make the most of it. Looking back now, I’m so glad that I will never have to do that first month again. It’s hard to describe how utterly overwhelming it is to arrive en masse to a new city in a new country. The little things were constant reminders of the huge differences between Ireland and Canada; the cars and trucks drew pointed fingers and exclamations – the huge articulated lorries that look like the Christmas Coca-Cola ad, the big shiny pick-ups, the muscle cars and 200-carriage trains. The heat was incredible, and mosquitoes were a new and unpleasant experience. Grocery stores were huge and filled with strange foods and too many choices. The city seemed enormous and I thought we would never be able to find our way around it. Watching others drive was a complete nightmare; the wrong side of the road, unfamiliar signs and signals, three- and four-way stops and multiple lanes. School supply lists were unfathomable, and the time difference between us and Ireland only emphasized how far we were from home.
365 days later, and Saskatoon has become so familiar to us. It’s small, compact, simple to get around. We know where to shop for everything we need, and have embraced the Canadian tradition of foraging at garage sales. We’ve met so many people and spent time in Canadian homes and gardens, toasting marshmallows and having the craic. The children love school, the park, their sports and activities. There have been countless ups and downs, and many moments when we wondered what the hell we had done, but there is a sense of achievement today in marking our Canadian anniversary. We miss home, our families and friends and our house in Bree, but day-to-day life here brings its own contentment and routine. We’ve enjoyed a Canadian fall, survived one of the worst winters in the last fifty years, barely remember the Spring (which lasted about a fortnight), and come full circle to our first summer of heat, sunshine and outdoor living.
There’s an unimaginable amount of things that we haven’t experienced yet. We want to travel around Saskatchewan; to the capital Regina, to the underground tunnels at Moosejaw and the sand dunes at Cypress Hills. The north of Saskatchewan is full of lakes and provincial parks; we want to fish, swim, go kayaking and sailing. Alberta has a wealth of places to see as well; Edmonton has the gigantic West Edmonton Mall (and Ikea!), Calgary and the Rockies are within striking distance, and Nicholas is hellbent on the dinosaur utopia of Drumheller and the Dinosaur Provincial Park.
Canada is amazing. It’s so vast and contains so much, that it’s impossible to imagine ever exploring it all. Saskatoon is brimming with opportunities and choices, and while it might not be our forever home, we’re going to make the most of it while we live here. The children are becoming more Canadian by the day; their accents are changing and their vocabulary is amassing more Canadian expressions all the time. They don’t talk about home as much as they used to, and Michael and I have come to the realisation that we can’t really plan our next three/five/ten/twenty years. They will be moving up through the education system, going to high school, maybe to college, and uprooting them again might never be the best option. It means that the future has become very fluid, and it’s nice in a way to relax into that and go with the flow. The Canadian chapter of our lives has a way to go yet.