Saturday 9 September 2017

US. Eh!(?): A Culture-Shocked Canadian in Colorado

I moved to the States one time before. Then it was to Boston and on to Berkeley, and that time too, I found myself in tears in the Bank of America.

I thought it would be different this time. I moved here for grad school, with a clear purpose and a ready-built community.

But there's still the matter of temperature. I mean, 101 degrees means nothing to me unless you're trying to say, 'just slightly over boiling'. That would probably be nice for a hot tub, but how am I supposed to dress to go outside? Nor have I overcome my resistance of the word 'restroom', or eliminated my 'eh' (may there never come a day!)

I'm constantly speeding or holding up traffic because I can't yet think in miles-per-hour, and my Alberta plates just don't fit in here (don't EVEN get me started on the DMV and the registry...)

The health care (and by that I clearly mean the lack thereof), banking and politics seem to sneak up on me daily, reminding me that as similar as my home country is, I'm really not at home anymore.

But back to the aforementioned matter of Universal Health Care. I know it wasn't popular when Kiefer Sutherland's grandpappy Tommy Douglas brought the concept to Canada back in the sixties. But now I'd hate to live without it. And I hate for my neighbours to have to live without it. You know what they told me at the International Students' gathering when I got here? 

'Don't go to the emergency room'.

Let's pray none of us have to.

Then there's my sexy Prime Minister. He's a hard guy to walk away from. I mean, look at him. Let's just call him JT. The man always says the right things. When asked about his motives for instating our first gender-balanced cabinet, he simply replied, 

'Because it's 2015'.

The phrase has basically now become a mantra amongst us for any step in the direction of justice.

After two weeks of irritation and self-imposed isolation, I finally stumbled upon a diagnosis for my current condition while researching a school paper. It seems that I'm experiencing culture shock. (I know, it's shocking. Borders, as we all know, are arbitrary and I've hardly even crossed any lines of latitude.) But it's real. I can check off every common symptom:

    • Extreme homesickness. (check)
    • Feelings of helplessness/dependency. (check)
    • Disorientation and isolation. (check)
    • Depression and sadness. (check)
    • Hyper-irritability, may include inappropriate anger and hostility. (check)
    • Sleep and eating disturbances. (check)
    • Excessive critical reactions to host culture/stereotyping. (check)

I literally feel like a plant that's been moved into a much bigger pot and my roots are still all tied up in themselves. (Also, my new pot has far less donuts and poutine and more actual pot. Oh, and much tastier burgers - READ: looser food safety regulations.) But now that I can name this thing 'culture shock', I'm finding it a whole lot easier to manage.

And it's really no wonder I feel this way, I mean I left a lot of really good folks behind.

And I've covered a lot of miles (kilometres)

But all for good reason. Like, check it out, this is my classroom.

We sit in circles and are actually required to meditate in order to graduate.

So I've learned one of my most valuable lessons before even setting foot in the classroom. An experiential reminder of how transition feels. Of how unsettling (and expansive) it can be to step outside of my comfort zone. That it's good to feel uncomfortable sometimes. That maybe that's where life (& growth, which is life, right?) actually happens.

And now that I can name my issues (oh, I know, there are many more there to name!) I have freed myself to fall in love with this place. And believe me, there's a lot to love about Boulder, Colorado. Stay tuned to this channel for the next instalment on what I love about the USA.

But for now, I'll close in saying that this move has been hard for me. Now consider that I have a ton of support and speak English. I can't even imagine what it would be like to arrive under duress, or to have to flee my home country. I will certainly be bending over backwards from here on in to roll out the red carpet for other newcomers. And I'm already emerging from this experience with a whole new level of empathy and compassion. And what could be better than that?