Heatwaves and Thunderstorms
The end of summer is drawing closer. The weather is as reliable as anything else in this crazy 2020 world. We’re rapidly swinging between intense heatwaves and incredible thunderstorms. The news cycle frantically churns with the same old themes repeating themselves. Here a bizarre comment from Trump. There a surge of covid-19 infections. The only constant is that nothing is normal right now.
In Montreal, the infection rate is still not great. Since the pandemic started, downtown Montreal became a pale shadow of what it once was. Saint Catherine -once a hub of activity- was almost deserted last month when I had to take the metro in for an appointment. Walking the streets amongst the few people that were out was an unpleasant experience. There was zero ambience on the terrasses. They would usually be heaving in the summer, with a long queue of people waiting for a spot. It was hard to see how downtown Montreal would recover from this year. It certainly won’t bounce back fast. Most of our beloved brunch spots have closed and many stores have gone online, closing all but a handful of their shops.
However, masks are finally mandatory on the metro and public indoor spaces. Usage on the streets is mixed, but you can be confident of masks and hand sanitiser for all the shopping centres and stores that are open. Last weekend the streets were busy like they haven’t been since last February. Businesses are still suffering. Many stores lie vacant. Others have very little stock to show on their shelves. However it feels more like the city it was. Even down to the construction work still choking the busiest streets in the height of summer.
Things seem a little more positive. It’s nice to be able to go to a shopping centre and pick up a few things that are difficult to find online. Even if it’s limited to only a handful of stores. Even wearing a mask for 3 hours without a break in the constant heat and humidity.
The next big hurdle this year is the impending return to school. Homeschooling groups are flooded with anxious parents asking the same questions over and over. They don’t know where to start with the complicated process of homeschooling under the current government. Meanwhile, the Quebec education minister repeats his message that not going to school is more dangerous for children’s mental health than the risk of getting infected. We’ll all agree to disagree on that one.
For our family, we were already expecting upheaval this year before covid struck. In January we had made the tough decision that it was time for us to join many other immigrants that have fled (or been pushed out of) Quebec in recent years. We expected it to be at least the end of the year before anything concrete would happen, but we needed the kind of stability that Quebec can’t provide for us under the current government.
Then COVID-19 happened. Stability become an even bigger priority. All the negatives of being visitors in a foreign country were amplified. Things could be worse – we have been living in a relatively safe region during a time of much panic and fear in the rest of the world. However we’re also conscious that we have limited rights here. It would be at least another 2 years in limbo here before that could change, with visa renewals that could be refused at any point along the way.
As luck would have it, an opportunity we thought we would be waiting longer for came up during the initial lockdown phase. A relocation to Vancouver on the other side of Canada resolves a number of issues for us. It was not a tough call to make. We had been for a short visit last summer, and the entire family have positive feelings about starting afresh there.
The new job has started, remotely. We put our home on the market in the middle of one of the many heatwaves, and have been working through the painful legal paperwork to get things in order for our departure. We’re liaising with our ‘moving team’ to organise everything after that. Coincidentally we have the same moving coordinator that brought us from Dublin to Montreal.
It’s a strange time to be leaving Montreal. It’s hard to have many regrets about leaving what has been our home for the past few years. Lockdown Montreal is a very different place to the city we arrived in a few years ago. It feels like covid-19 has robbed us of all the best parts of living a life here, leaving only the dregs.
The thought of what next winter could be like in Montreal for our family is depressing. I don’t expect offices to open, or activities to be running. Normally the winters are harsh, but there are things to do and people to see. That’s not likely to be the case this year. I feel a great sense of relief to be moving to a milder climate where we can at least pull on our rain clothes and go jump in some chilly puddles if there’s nothing else more appealing to do.
So here we are. 4 more weeks to figure things out, pack it all up, and get on a plane to start all over again. We’ll be taking all our experiences and best Montreal memories with us. Along with a lot of hope and excitement about a change of scenery after all these lockdown months.