Another late night for the kids on this our second full day in our new place. It’s been slightly more productive today in that we managed to organise our Internet and cable TV to be hooked up on this coming Saturday. Although there is the slight complication that we don’t currently own a TV. However a trip to Costco will sort that out tomorrow.
We decided to shower this morning as we bought some cheap towels from Walmart yesterday but yet another minor issue arose when we realised we don’t have gas connected yet and therefore a hot shower wouldn’t be on the cards. So we skipped the showers and headed straight out to the Newcomers Centre before breakfast. We were greeted with enthusiastic queries regarding our need to take an English test and quickly realised that we were not really part of the target demographic of the service. Nevertheless we were given some forms to fill out, the kids deposited in a playroom at the back, and plenty of help in the way of free phone and Internet as well as a discussion with someone about our problems getting established due to lack of Social Insurance Numbers (equivalent to an Aussie Tax File Number, a British National Insurance Number, or an American Social Security Number).
Whilst there we managed to beg and plead with the gas company and the nicest woman in Canada, who happened to be at the other end of the phone line, pulled some strings and arranged for a gas connection to happen tonight. I discovered that I’m going to have to have my visa amended to show I’m allowed to work on campus as without this I can’t get a SIN. And we stumbled upon the realisation that Catholic school may be on the cards for the Dude as it’s closer to home. But apparently the bus comes to pick up every kid for school anyway so there is no issue with the school local to this area being further than we’d like. I’m not sure how I feel about the Dude going to school on the bus by himself but we’ll see what happens there.
Anyway, after the partial success at the Newcomers Centre we went to Tim Horton’s for breakfast. “Timmy’s”, as it’s sometimes known, is a Canadian institution. They sell coffee-type beverages (it’s totally nothing like any real coffee you’d get in Australia), donuts, chilli, sandwiches of all sorts, muffins, danishes, breakfastish type egg and bacon muffins, etc. There are odd things like “biscuits” (they look like they’re halfway between a burger bun and a cracker but I’m pretty sure they’re actually scones) but the French Vanilla coffee is pretty awesome. It’s the kind of thing I know I’m going to need when it’s minus 15 and I have to travel to uni. It’s sweet, caffeinated, and we discovered today you can even ask for extra espresso so the sweetness is balanced out a bit more. The food is a bit fake and processed but I am a Tim’s convert, it’s good. And highly addictive!
After that we went to a fairly lame mall nearby as we needed to sort out phones and Internet. We talked to a few companies and discovered that not only is it hellishly expensive, they may not even let us have an account due to our lack of SINs. Even for prepaid! So strange but it’s fairly typical of the way a lot of stuff happens here, just archaic, hasn’t been updated in decades. We did get wifi and cable with a TiVo box organised though.
When we got home it wasn’t long before our realtor arrived. This is a guy we’ve been in touch with for months, who helped us find this place. He has been nice so far, helping us find a house and sign papers and all the stuff that goes along with it. But this afternoon he rocks up, so nice, Walmart gift card in hand, goes round checking all the stuff that isn’t right in the house, taking pictures of all the problems. He isn’t even responsible for fixing anything – in fact he doesn’t even need to be here, his work finding us the place is done. But he goes out and comes back with the carbon monoxide detectors that are legally required with our heating/cooling system and he even installs them for us! He explains a whole bunch of weird Canadian shit like why there’s a switch in the living room that looks like a light switch but actually turns on an exhaust fan upstairs, or how we get mail as there’s no mailbox at the house and instead we have to check a funny little box in a bank of boxes up the street that aren’t numbered according to the houses because that would allow you to be targeted. Weird. He was even going to take us out to dinner but we couldn’t go because we had to wait for the gas company dude to come.
Now just a little word on Canadians. They really are the nicest people in the world! We’ve experienced our fair share of kind people along the journey here, although perhaps they were extra nice because of all the crap we had to deal with. But there’s something extra special about Canadians. I guess it began when we arrived in Toronto and had to sort out our lost baggage. Even though it was nearly midnight, the three people at the American Airlines counter were so very nice and happy to talk to us about Canada. Then there was the immigration officer, such a lovely man, I can’t fathom how someone that nice could ever not issue a visa! He talked about children and sports and made us feel so welcome. The guy at Service Canada, so helpful, so good at his job. Our dear friend A who has bent over backwards to help us settle in and find our way to the new house, all the while dazzling us with her smile and charming us with her wicked sense of humour. There was the guy who called out to us in the street and gave us ideas about what to do next after we left the bank frustrated at not being given the assistance to open an account. Another random guy in Denny’s who was so keen to help us with directions. The cool Cogeco (cable TV company) people who were so friendly and open and generous. Even the people at the bank did everything they could to get us accounts and entertain our children at the same time. The gas dude, who finally got here at 9:10pm when we’d given up hope of him arriving, was kind and courteous and did his job so well, explaining everything so clearly. Everyone is down to earth and real “true blue” Canadians have this wholesome, salt-of-the-earth, grounded feel about them. They are tough without being arrogant and confident without being mouthy. I like them. I like them a lot.