Back to the Grind


We’ve been home for a couple of weeks now, and the questions on everyone’s minds seem to be: Is it surreal being back in Canada? How are you all adjusting?
I’ve also been asked at least a dozen times whether or not we’re experiencing culture shock. I have to say the answer is not really—I’m still too busy reveling in hot showers, clean bathrooms and all of this space—although I was momentarily gobsmacked the day we arrived when I tried to buy two packs of gum at a gas station and was told the total would be a whopping $4.03. (What?! You could buy a couple of meals for that price in most of Asia…)

For the most part, there were no re-entry problems. Chloe was so happy to be home that she welled up with tears of joy as our plane approached the Ottawa airport, where she could see patches of snow-covered farmland on the outskirts of the city below. When we walked into our house again, Ciaran managed to haul out nearly every toy he has ever owned and spread them everywhere in one giant play session. Both kids are already well-entrenched on the birthday party and playdate circuit again, and are fitting in quite well in their respective classes at school.

But even if there was no culture shock, what we are experiencing is schedule shock. In Asia there were no hockey practices, soccer tryouts, music lessons, birthday parties, dinner parties, field trips, dinners to cook or chores to do. There were no phone calls, meetings, work projects or deadlines. Our two main responsibilities anywhere we went were simply to make sure the kids ate safe food and didn’t get run over. (Easier said than done, in both cases).

We had many discussions during our six months about how we could make our lives less hectic upon our return. But as the months ticked by, we found it amazingly difficult to come up with realistic solutions. Reducing our overall activity level would require unplugging the kids from many of the sports and other extracurricular activities they so love. After just two short weeks back in Ottawa, it’s abundantly clear that it’s going to be nearly impossible for us to change the pace of our normal lives dramatically.

What we’ve concluded is that we’ll need to ‘embrace the pace’ while reminding ourselves not to over-commit to social activities. We’ll confine the kids to a maximum of two sports at a time, each season. We’re making more time for our own fitness as well—both of us have taken up running. We’re watching less TV and spending less time on mindless Internet surfing.

But the big epiphany really concerns family vacations: we figure we have maybe five summers left before our oldest will no longer be interested in leaving her friends behind and joining us on holidays, and we know that holidays are where the best, most lasting memories happen. So we’ve made a list of the places we’d still like to take the kids—everything from epic sailing adventures in Greece to one-week ski vacations at nearby hills—and the goal is to make sure they happen. The years are flying by, after all, and there will be plenty of time to relax when the nest is empty.

For now, there are still boxes to unpack, medical and dental check-ups to be done, souvenirs to be distributed and scrapbooks to be created. I guess we’ll get all of that done gradually as we juggle all the usual commitments of a busy family. I just hope the scrapbooks will be finished before we set off on our next grand adventure—wherever that may be.


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