Radu Luchian(ov): Pastime: Commentary
My experience in Canada

"One of the worst things in life is not how nasty the nasty people are; you know that already. It is how nasty the nice people can be."
-- Enoch Powell: The Book of Common Prayer

I used to think that life in the North Americas is simpler; but it was a hassle to find a place to live, work for Irena, day care for Christopher, the health insurance was unexpected and very expensive, etc.

Actually, from watching and talking to American professors at AUBG, from their conversations and the problems I kept overhearing, as well as from the many movies mass-produced in tinsel-town and mass-advertised all over the world, I had formed a bad opinion about the current state of Irena's "North American dreamland":

  • decadent(),
  • a patchwork of positive and negative extremes(),
  • self-absorbed(),
  • mostly narrow-minded(),
  • and most of all violent (on many levels: ).

    Name-calling? Maybe, but since I lived here, in the "calm Canada" for a while now, I got a bitter confirmation to that opinion. Ever since we arrived, we ran into problems after problems, which were further complicated by the fact that we don't have a car, thus we can't run around town fixing things, and I was totally busy with coursework. In fact almost everything we bought and almost every service we subscribed to had a problem.

  • this place's a money-drainer (I sold the apartment Dad bequathed me in order to get the 10,000USD the embassy required to let us in; they knew what they were talking, because as you'll see below, this money was drained in less than six months)
  • very strict Customs personnel at the Canadian embassy ()
  • could not take all I needed (though we came in with more luggage than it was allowed, I still left at home many of my specialty books, lots)
  • luggage problem on the way here (in Montreal... which made us 4h late -- poor Leo and Heather, who were waiting for us! Also, I think some computer parts got shuffled out of our luggage at some point -- a very good microphone, a Mormon bible, a cople of books)
  • over-expensive apartment (very small and 50% more than we expected based on ads)
  • low landlord support (dirty unit, lots of defects, slow response, disrespect)
  • health insurance troubles (unexpected and very expensive, slow delivery, wrong names)
  • terribly inactive job market ()
  • day care: unavailable and expensive ()
  • dysfunctional recharger and clock ()
  • over-expensive (second-hand!) phone and answering machine ()
  • disrespectful treatment by public employees (bus drivers, cashiers, support clerks at Bell, Prince of Wales Complex, the mall-like complex across the street, various stores in town)
  • phone card from Bell sent to someone else ()
  • double-charged by Primus ()
  • dysfunctional Corel Linux ()
  • defective TV/VCR unit ()
  • weird UPS crash ()
  • over-charged by Rogers ()
  • weird Bell HSE modem behavior (several things here: even though I requested a win98 install kit, they sent me a Mac one; I keep getting blue screens of death when their connection software crashes my system every few hours; there's modem activity and nobody from their tech support was able to tell me whether that's from a trojan (virus) or from their server checking up on my computer; what's really frustrating is that while I'm out of a job here, their support personnel is totally incompetent: they simply go through predefined steps which it's obvious they don't understand and I have to tell them why some things happen: what's a DNS and why it can't respond when IP address pinging doesn't go through, etc.)
  • on the same topic, I have too many computer crashes (much more often that ever before; are they software problems as the computer vendor keeps saying or is it the fault of the crammed i810 motherboard and poor motherboard drivers?)
  • It turned out that most of my computer crashes were due to poor technical support from the company where I bought the computer. After a crash which cost me a week of very precious academic time, and after buying a new OEM license from them (cos they said they don't deal with previously owned operating systems), they finally found a problem in the RAM bank.
  • As if the computer crash was not enough distraction during the final paper-writing period, our barely-found nanny had problems with her teeth, so I was left to babysit while trying to write papers and work on projects.
  • I get to pay double taxes (here and in Romania)
  • low demo-software availability ()
  • most of my resources are left in Romania (books, data, software, friends, assets)
  • almost no RO and BG -speaking community that we can find ()

    True, there were people who helped us -- and they're listed at the end on my thank you page. We could not have done it without them, but that's also true at home and everywhere I've been (Romanian saying: "In any forest there are dead branches;" but in this world of ours it seems the forest is mostly dead; that's why I like Role-Playing.) Everywhere I've been there are some good-doers and lots of evil() or simply ignorant() wrong-doers. Irena thinks that once we start getting more money, life will definitely seem easier than it was back in Eastern Europe. I have my strong doubts about that. I think that happiness comes from the inside; if you don't have it, you're toast. There may be a culture-bound personality trait-thingie in these North Americans, though. For example, when I mentioned to my advisor that personal life is the most important to me, he hinted that once started, the academic career is a powerful candidate to, if not THE most important thing. Just as exactly two years before, my boss in studioVISIA commented that the professional career is the top of the list. On the positive side, though, since we came to Canada:

  • Irena's happier
  • Andy Brook, Leo Ferres and Heather, Zoltan and Aniko, Luke Jezykiewicz, Jackie Tweedie helped us a lot with moving, furnishing, clothing and toys for Cman, they shared good feelings, spent their time and gas to shelter us and move us around.
  • Leo and Heather picked us up from the airport (major thanks!) and drove us to town when we arrived;
  • later on they gave Cman a crib and many toys
  • Andy kept us for a couple of days in his house (major thanks!), drove us around and lent me money, then
  • Zoltan found us temporary shelter in their apartment complex
  • I am advancing (though slowly), in my academic work
  • most professors are understanding when my crazy schedule's keeping me from meeting deadlines
  • some discussions and lectures in the Cognitive Science program are interesting and challenging
  • we (esp. Cman!) get to speak English much more often, with native speakers
  • they have FREE technology magazines!! (computerPaper and OttawaComputes)
  • second-hand books (in English) are in good supply and much cheaper than I was getting them in Romania or Bulgaria; not to mention first-hand books and the wonderful all-night-long Chapters store downtown (where I got, among other things, 9 Terry Pratchett books!!!)
  • we get paid in a more stable currency (so it's easier to get books, technology, and software)
  • our apartment is close to the University
  • some clerks ARE polite (even overly so -- extremes all over)
  • Bell does have pretty good long-distance deals
  • DSL is reasonably fast
  • there's plenty of good peanut butter!!

    And now? I need to get Irena off the crazy schedule she's doing and I need to go on with my dream and my life... Since big companies (Nortel, Cognos, Microsoft and...) didn't respond to my CV, I'll have to go into business by myself. All I need now are a couple of big projects or to create some very useful freeware for which rich people will be happy to pay $20 for support. Then I can get some of my friends to help and Monicsoft may shine again! :)

    (I would have hated to end on a negative note)


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