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The adventure began with nine week solitary stretch for me from May to July.

Montreal skyline from the Jacques Cartier pier

Sharing a three bedroomed house with natives of Florida, Shangai, and Beijing. Selecting, and moving into, a renovated family house with a borrowed mattress on the floor and a black bag as a wardrobe. Staring at the ceiling every night after pasta and pesto wondering what sort of mistake I had made and was it too late to reverse out of it.

Since then the family unit has been disassembled, fragmented, then finally pieced back together under the unforgiving white light of a new culture, new coins, new language, and new road signs. Like us all standing in a snow globe, being shaken upside down and now, at last, the snow is settling and we can see clearly.

Lou Reed died a couple of weeks ago. No more delicate piano lines wrapping themselves up in the narcoleptic bliss of a perfect day. Liver failure. Some liver, some failure. A reminder of the reasons behind a move like this: no second chances in American lives. (F Scott Fitzgerald). We won’t get asked twice. Do it, move on. Accept the consequences but make the decision.

This is not supposed to be a reflection of the ways in which the small stuff differs over here. Our world, lensed through a laptop or phone screen, ensures you already know that the kids go to school on a yellow bus with lollipop indicators flopping out each side. You’re aware Hockey Night here lasts six hours for only two matches. The players get penalised for taking off the helmets during a fight, not for throwing punches. And everyone knows maple syrup is sucked out of the trees and gravity-pumped down the tree-covered mountain in tubes the width of a John Player Blue.

Irish sensibilities are awoken over pricked over a multitude of humdrum things. Something familiar to me now, but it’s taken six months of exposure:

  • Queueing is the national sport after hockey. Never, but never are you allowed queue in anything other than single file. If this means a 50m long bus queue, so be it.
  • The kettle takes ages.
  • Every conversation ends with have nice day/afternoon/evening/weekend. Every conservation. Every. Single. One.
  • The taxes are savage, sneaky, and convoluted.
  • Corruption: 2005 footage of a councillor (post-meeting) stuffing thousands of dollar bills into his socks in grainy black and white video. Gone through four city mayors in a year for a city with a $3.4 billion dollar budget and the highest number of elected officials of any city IN NORTH AMERICA (capitals deliberate).
  • Toy libraries – devastatingly simple idea, keeping kids entertained for the entire week until Friday comes again and back you go with your numbered toy to swap.
  • Entire street conversations with one person speaking fluent French and the other replying in fluent English.

Having said all that, the core belief remains the same. If the motivation is right to go, you can go. If it’s right to stay, you can stay. Comfort zone is a foreign country to me now and they do things differently there. Playgrounds are fraught with small talk to hovering parents where you’re not quite sure of the social laws.

Fear. I think when we last spoke I had mentioned it. Fear of surrendering to the fear of inactivity drove us into the arms of British Airways and across the Atlantic to Trudeau International Airport west of Montreal. Fear of not settling in drove us into the parks, playgrounds, and schools of this city with open minds and curious natures. It’s a positive and a negative, but you control the sign. Plus or minus, it’s up to you.

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