Vancouver – A Fresh Start
It’s been two weeks since we started our new suburban life in Greater Vancouver. It feels like a lifetime since we left our urban Montreal condo. Starting afresh is happening at a much brisker pace than last time – mainly by necessity. In Montreal we slowly dipped our toes into the new culture. We spent a lot of time just exploring the new environment. There was no rush to settle into a new way of living.
Vancouver is less new to us, though this town we now live in is. There’s no language barrier slowing things down, and we’re familiar with most of the brands and the bilingual packaging. The crucial thing though, is we’re in the middle of a pandemic.
Relocating during a pandemic when you know a second wave is incoming makes you very conscious of not wasting time. Both Ireland and Montreal had been hit with more lockdowns and restrictions by the time we arrived here. It was only a matter of time before things would start to change. I was ready to rush out to any outdoor homeschooling meet-ups I could find before that happened. Arriving in a new place where you don’t know anyone is a challenge normally. Potentially spending a few months isolated without any friends in your time zone is a worrying prospect.
It’s draining putting yourself (and your kids) out there, even more so after a long year where we haven’t met any new people at all. We’re rarely even seen friends as we followed a much stricter lockdown than most others. I worried that it would be a difficult transition for the kids to be thrown back into socialising with strangers at a frantic pace.
I spoke to the odd homeschooling mother online before we relocated. We need a tinder for homeschooling families. Matching up family age groups, locations and interests is complicated and strange. Where do you draw the line between adults you feel are your kind of people, versus the ones who have the ‘right age’ kids that yours will enjoy spending time with?
Our first week we had two outdoor group meet-ups in two days. It felt like a lot to take on. We rushed out the door, hoping we could find our way to new locations on time. Then we wandered aimlessly in the cold eyeing up strangers that might be part of the group, trying not to stare at them too obviously. I would then cautiously approach people to ask if they were who we were looking for.
I stood around awkwardly with the kids hanging out of me. They didn’t look particularly enthusiastic about talking to anyone else. I wondered if the other families there were also strangers, or part of already established friendships. It might be tough to find a way into these relationships within the space of a couple of hours in a park. If we blew these chances we might not have any more before covid shut everything down.
The kids did better than I had expected. There was the expected initial hiding and distracting me with complaints when I was supposed to be paying attention to the group dynamics. Gradually the familiar rituals began – a slow circling of other kids to size them up and decide whether to make an approach or respond to one.
Left to their own devices they soon got caught up in exploring the environment and making small talk, forgetting that they didn’t know these people. Both kids were off and running about in record time with whoever was available to play. Their obvious delight was a spur to make sure we left with some names to try and connect with afterwards.
The effort paid off relatively quickly. Ultimately, all you really need is one other family to meet up with on a weekly basis and provide a little outdoor play and socialisation. A very tiny bubble will see us through the next few months. We left behind a couple of good friendships in Montreal. It’s a relief to see that we will have something to replace them with.
Already we are settling into a new routine, watching the daily covid numbers rise, and accepting that this is as good a start as we could possibly have made during a particularly challenging year. When covid is eventually no longer such a big threat we will have a second start in Vancouver. Right now, we’re extremely thankful for the what we’ve already found here.