Since Ian returned from Baghdad in the summer of 2020 we've been empty-nesters, but the feeling is definitely a little different now that we're "abroad." The border is actually a thing! While we lived in Northern VA and then in Carlisle, PA, if we wanted to see family it was just a decision to make and either a drive or a flight. Last weekend we drove 90 minutes to Buffalo, NY and had to bring our passports. What kind of nonsense is this?
It's particularly weird because Canada doesn't feel different than the U.S. We live in a highrise in Toronto with a whopping 9-minute walk to the Consulate. There are markets and shops, restaurants and entertainment on every corner. We have to remind ourselves to drive the car periodically. The view from our balcony is a sea of buildings, a reflection of the CN Tower (yeah, we're facing north), and at one particular angle we can see some of Lake Ontario. Our apartment is delightful and small, perfect for two people. The building has a car elevator to reach the parking levels. It's only different for us in that we've never lived inside a big city.
This isn't Haiti. Haiti would feel familiar to us as a post. There are expected struggles. There's a house ready and waiting, and a built-in community. We'd both be working in familiar areas. Canada doesn't feel different, but settling in definitely is.
When we packed out of Carlisle in June, we were limited in our shipments. Haiti had created a carve-out for household goods shipped by air, because getting anything into the country by the port was proving nigh impossible. So we had roughly two thousand pounds of must-haves packed up and the rest crated for the warehouse. When Haiti went on ordered departure and we faced the same predicament as Baghdad, we made the hard choice to break our assignment and take a Now position in Canada. Don't laugh - it was a hard decision, and we still ponder the what-ifs.
In June we packed for sunny climes, a provided and furnished home, and lots of time and space. In August our Now position was to a wintry clime, an unfurnished apartment we'd have to find ourselves, and no job waiting for me. Thank goodness we hadn't sold our car already as we'd planned since another change in Haiti meant we could no longer bring a vehicle (they all go through the port). We had given our cat to my parents as he couldn't come to a country with no veterinary care.
September and October were all about changing our expectations. After all, we'd already been outlining R&Rs (we don't get any from Canada)! Instead, we flipped through our shipping manifest to see if we could find the winter clothes boxes on a list that just marked everything as clothes (apparently we didn't as it didn't come), and also hoped we picked the right cartons that included all the parts to put together our couch and beds (again a miss, the parts to put our bed together didn't make it). We shopped for coats as we expected an October arrival in Canada might require them. We reached out to a realtor to help us find a place to live. We heard our whole family's sigh of relief that we weren't going to Haiti.
We moved into our apartment on 3 December, after three different temporary places and nearly six months of suitcase living. In June we were so blessed to spend a week at Virginia Beach with all the kids and their significant others, as well as bringing us all together with my parents who moved down south in August 2022. It was such a special week that I treasure. But it was offset by our first ever holidays with not a single family member to share it with. The 2023 holidays were just the two of us. We're OK, probably better than OK as we're not in Haiti and causing everyone consternation, and our Christmas video chat with everyone was a balm for the heart. This is our new normal, but I think for both of us we were reminded that we don't want it as our all-the-time normal. We're already considering a road trip in the spring to see all the kids and my parents.
And you know, we may be empty-nested of offspring, but the cat can live in Canada so the cat is going to move to Canada. Come on you grumpy furball, it's time for your next adventure.