Friday, May 27, 2011

Ferns and Turtles and Soccer (oops, football) - oh my

The Top 10 things I've learned in 3 weeks:

1)  I know it's football everywhere but in the U.S. I'm slightly insulted when others say, "Oh. It's soccer to you".  Hey... I can adapt, people... it's just a vocabulary thing, right?

2)  There are resurrection ferns in the vegetable department at WalMart! People eat those?! Oops... I missed that little "Product of the United States" tag. Ummm..

3)  Turtles walk across my backyard. Are they coming from or going to the river? Either way, I must keep the dog otherwise occupied. (There are bullfrogs out there, but we will never speak of these again.)

4)  Canadian geese don't faze my dog. They squawk, they fly, they run. Snow cares not.

5)  Dogs can get laryngitis. You don't want to know how I know this... She barks; I laugh.

6)  Canadians are friendly, although my jury is tainted thanks to Rogers Communications.

7)  I'll never complain about the price of anything in the States again. Ever.

8)  The same recipes I've made for decades taste different here. (And, no, it's not the cook.)

9)  Skechers will not change your body, regardless of what Kim Kardasian says. They will, however, cause you to trip more easily.

10) Breaking the habit of saying, "in the States..." is harder than I thought it would be.

Slow and Steady but why SO slow?

The mailer we received today said "lightning fast internet speeds" and offered us 3 Mbps - another gentle reminder that we're "not in Kansas anymore" - and we've adjusted to that. We are living in another country, albeit in close proximity to our own. My new OCC-Canada associate, Ben, said, "if you pass through, visiting, you're not likely to see the difference", and he's right.

We all flit from place to place on vacation but rarely "see" the every day life of people. I think that's why our family presses in to tour guides to ask the real questions. Islam, our guide/now friend, in Egypt taught us not only about the history of his country but also gave us so much insight to the lives of 20-somethings there. We bonded - something we need to do wherever we go or live.

Isn't that the whole point of traveling and life? We need to get close to people. What are we afraid of, and why are we slow about it? Rick Steves thinks everyone is out to pick our pocket; I think I'd rather pick their brains and their hearts. Are you ready, my friends? Let's get to know each other.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

That's What They Think...

"Oh, you're from where it's nice" said the workman as he looked at my car's Virginia plates. I found myself saying, "it's been beautiful here" to which he responded. "just wait".

"We don't have 'free' health care; in fact, it's not "health care" at all - unless you're not sick. Americans don't 'get' that..." said our neighbor who was recently treated for his cancer, in Michigan, after the system here told him they could see him in 18 months. I was struck, as he pressed the point, that people in the U.S. are naive about how socialized medicine actually works.

"Want to keep your job? Buy locally" read the NAFTA-inspired bumper sticker on the car in front of me. The optimistic patriot in me thought, "oh, that's nice... I believe in buying locally" before I realized the sticker was almost threatening in its tone. Ouch.

Here's what I think, and you know how I love politics... Americans live under the freest government on the planet and yet we find plenty to complain about, don't we? If you've ever read The Light and the Glory you know we, as a nation, were predestined to be a light to the world. What an honor.

I feel privileged to be an American. It's not just the creature comforts that make me miss the U.S. All countries have a sense of national pride, and they should. But God (don't you love that phrase in Scripture?) predestined me to live in the home of the free and the land of the brave. I don't need a holiday to remind of that.

God plants each one of us exactly where He wants us - regardless of nationality. Where I come from is part of who I am, but where I'm going is part of who He is.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's farther than I thought

I’m struck by the fact that we, as Americans, consider Canada “a lot like us”. We assume that because Canada is just north of the US that our countries are alike. Is that pompous of us or just presumptuous? I admit it never occurred to me how stark the differences might be.
Canada is much more European, its people more laid back and private, and its technology much less advanced than I’d imagined. This country of 35 million, one-tenth of the US’s population, simply does not have access to much of what we take for granted in the US.
Long distance calls here are to anyone outside your area code. Organic chicken at Costco? They thought I was crazy. Fast internet? Bell offered me speeds of 2 Mbp... (does everyone remember dial-up?) Here’s a kicker - you pay for internet by usage!  No sitting around and surfing the web, or streaming TV shows, unless you want an enormous bill. This is not a bad thing when you think about it. 
Here’s what I’ve learned... I’ve been pressing for the wrong things. I’ve been expecting the same things in a different place. Why would I? Yesterday, while unpacking, I stepped around an upside-down plaque. Walking past it, I was immediately struck not only by its familiar shape but also by how God immediately pressed, from my memory, what it said: “The Will of God will Never Take You Where the Grace of God Cannot Keep You”.
I’m not where I was - I am where God has sent me. I am not in the familiar, nor should I be looking for that. This is different. Canada is different. I am different. This isn’t about geography. It’s about God moving me - pushing me, pressing me, reminding me, to rely on Him and not what makes me ‘comfortable’.   

Friday, May 6, 2011

Canada is not a Third World country, right?

I consider myself fairly adept at getting things done. However, I have met my match in Rogers Communications. After 14 phone calls, and 415 minutes on the phone (no joke), we have an account but no service. How that works is a mystery to me... I even had a call today from their Collections Dept.; the poor woman was dumbfounded as to how I could be in "arrears" after having an account, but no service, all in under 8 days. Trust me, she was no more flabbergasted than me. I'm happy to report that, after talking to 3 customer service (?) reps and 47 minutes on hold, I now have a $50 credit on an account for which I have no service!

The weather has been rainy and cold, but when the sun comes out, it's beautiful here.  Oregon taught me to appreciate the sun more than I ever did when I took it for granted in Florida. Again, the lesson is being relearned; how quickly I forget so many of the things that God tries to teach me.  I learn quickly, but, as my mom says, "I don't forget things; I just fail to remember them in the first place".

We're headed to shop in Detroit tomorrow. Crossing that border makes me giddy, but I am learning what to love here in Canada as well. The people (Rogers employees excluded, bless their hearts) are friendly and keep wishing me an enjoyable stay. It's wonderful to hear them wanting us to like their country. I fully understand.

Having an actual phone number (Rogers, are you reading this?) will enable me to get started with Operation Christmas Child here. I am SO ready for that challenge, as OCC-US has poured into me and prepared me "for such a time as this".  Can't wait to meet, learn from, share with, and encourage people here to pack shoeboxes and change a child's life forever.

Off to put flannel sheets on the beds...

Will we all regret this?

Philippians 3:12 says: It's not that I've already reached the goal or have already completed the course. But I run to win that which Jesus Christ has already won for me.

It seems this verse is my life's struggle and goal. I'm pressing on daily in my walk with Christ, and that's exactly where I want to be. Pressing in, pressing for more. Pressing to find what needs to be (constantly) corrected. Those of you who know me, know I love to iron. It's true; I confess it. There is something soothing, rhythmic, and fulfilling about 'pressing' clothing. It can be addicting, and, yes, I have been known to iron even t-shirts (just ask our sons...).  Following Christ is like that - rewarding, soothing, challenging, and addicting. He is the Finisher of all things about me.

My sister, Ronna, is the writer in the family, so I'm not sure how I dare take on a blog. I'm pressing on through your encouragement - or curiosity - to blog "the Canada experience". I'm a diehard American patriot, living in Canada through no fault of my own. How could a country so close to my own be so different?! I admit I'm very surprised, which, for an information junkie like me, is saying something.

Friends will also appreciate that we have no TV, no home phone, no Canadian cell phone, and no internet - yet! My gift of administration has been slapped at every turn, but I will 'press on'. The reasons abound, but suffice it to say that Canadian businesses are in no hurry to get anything done. They're friendly enough when they tell you 'no'; I'll give them that.

So, here I sit, on Boblo Island, in a darling rented home, in the quiet. Truthfully, silence can be golden....