Archive for the “Canada” Category
Five years ago today, I woke in up in a castle, slipped on a white dress, and then walked down to the shores of Banff Springs with my fiancé. As the sun rose above the Rocky Mountains, I held his hands in mine, while exchanging vows and exchanging rings. After the small ceremony, we went wildlife watching and discovered a mother bear with two baby bears trundling through the forest.
It was a special and enchanting day, symbolic of our marriage. Adrian continues to be an attentive husband, and I continuously feel as if I am his first priority. Even while he leads a world-class medical research laboratory, he consistently makes time for me and ensures that I have enough time to myself.
He is ceaselessly discovering ways to make me happy. During the week, he gives me two hours a day to play with Hayden, then takes care of him the rest of the time so that I can work and play and nap. During the weekend, he takes us out for meals and strolls and festivals. He finds thoughtful and charming gifts to make me smile, and always complements me on my appearance and my accomplishments.
It has been a wonderful five years of marriage.
Happy Anniversary, my love.
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Posted by: Lydia in Academia, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Choosing our new home, England, Family, Moldova, Public Health, Seattle, USA, Ukraine, USA, tags: accomplishments, future, past, pride, Seattle
We welcomed in 2008 on a flight back to Seattle, unaware that it would be our last year in the USA. We both worked very hard during out post-docs in medical science, and we both made novel discoveries and uncovered some of the mysteries of the development and function of white blood cells. Adrian had his work published in some excellent journals, and I learned that the paper from my post-doc “may be suitable for publication, pending revisions” in a great journal. Adrian has been offered a professorship, and I am investigating some interesting jobs in clinical trials. We experienced the freezing winters of the North that will never make me consider Canberra to be a cold city ever again.
I attended MacWorld and witnessed Steve Jobs give his last keynote and unveil the Macbook Air to the world. We explored more of the USA in dribs and drabs – Arizona, Nevada, California, and Hawaii – as well as exploring the Ukraine and Moldova.
The biggest issue that we faced in 2008 was the decision about where we would live in 2009. At first, it was between Maynooth (Ireland), London (UK), Montreal (Canada), and Brussels (Belgium). We visited all four places, and it came down to a battle between the two bilingual cities, Montreal and Brussels, and then Brussels won due to employment and travel opportunities. We celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary in the country that was to become our new home, and Adrian will starting his own lab at the University of Leuven from February 2009.
We finished up our post-docs in Seattle in November, made huge progress towards completing our Masters of Public Health degrees, and finished up the year visiting extended family in Australia that ranged from Brisbane to Adelaide. After nearly two years outside of Australia, we are able to see our birth country with new eyes, and appreciate its charms as well as its challenges. It is a country of relative compassion and opportunity, but is also isolated and monolingual. The weather is nearly always warm with blue skies and extraordinary wild-life, but the water crisis is hitting hard and many of the main rivers no longer reach the sea.
In a few weeks we fly off to Brussels, to begin our new home in Belgium. My goals for 2009 are:
- To find a short-term furnished apartment
- To get a residency permit
- To find a job
- To start learning Flemish
- To get a work permit
- To start my job
- To start learning French
- To buy a house
I think that’s enough to keep me busy for twelve months or so. It is a bit overwhelming to be faced with so many changes, but I realise how lucky that we are to have this opportunity, so the main emotion I feel is excitement. We had a great time in North America over the past two years, and while I think we are better suited to Europe, I am very thankful for all the happy memories that we have of the United States of America.
We had always dreamed of living in Europe, however Montréal called to us for many of the same reasons. The people there have an excellent work/life balance, it is a bilingual city with stunning architecture, and a socially responsible government.
We began our first day with a tour of the Institut de recherche en immunologie et en cancérologie (Institute for Research into Immunology and Cancer – IRIC), the component of the Université de Montréal that has offered Adrian a job for next year. It is a brand new building, with state-of-the-art facilities, full of light and well designed for the art of science. We had lunch with the students, and they seemed bright, happy, and enthusiastic. They all spoke fluent English for our benefit, but in side conversations alway spoke French.
As I would like to learn French, the other working language of the UN, Montreal would mean my immersion would be quite deep. There are excellent French schools that are cheap, and Adrian’s job may help to cover this. Also, as English is the other official language (not Dutch like Belgium), I would only have to learn one new language, not two. It actually appears that it will be quite easy for me to find a job in Montreal. IRIC will pay for a head-hunter to find me an interview, taking most of the stress out of that worry.
In the afternoon, we were given a tour of the city by Robert Turgeon, the President of Heritage Montreal and Dinu Bumbaru, key advisor to UNESCO’s World Heritage. Adrian and I spoke of some of our favourite World Heritage moments – getting engaged in Dubrovnik, married in Banff, and recently visiting Kiev and Lviv in the Ukraine. The parks were beautiful – in summer serving as a venue for picnics and puppies, and in winter the pond becoming a huge ice-skating rink for the whole city. Although out of all the candidate cities it has the lowest number of days above freezing (58%), it also has the highest number of days without rain (61%). I am told that the winters are still bright, despite the cold. In our other cities the winters would be grey and rainy. The attitude of the locals seems to be that they survive the winter every year (all four metres of snow), and that’s enough.
We had dinner in Little Italy, savoring the food and admiring the huge farmers market bursting with fresh produce.
Adrian’s friend Sylvie, a fellow immunologist, very kindly hosted our visit. We were able to stay with her for the weekend and experience what it is like to be a scientist in Montréal with a family. We spent the day in Old Montreal with Sylvie and her two children, Valerie and Loïc. The weather was stunning, and I was able to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the bustle of the “Just for Laughs” festival. During summer, there are non-stop festivals. During winter, there is ice-skating and cross-country skiing, and numerous winter festivals. The family seems very happy here, the children already speaking French and quickly learning English.
In the afternoon we wandered through Plateau, and marvelled at the beautiful stone Victorian townhouses that are somehow in our price-range, due to the very low cost of living in Montréal. We could live in a vine-covered mini-castle, with wrought-iron frills, parapets and turrets, opposite an open park and metres from a metro station. Even many of the old churches are being converted into condominiums, and we could even live in a home with a spire. The low cost of stunning housing in Montreal is a definite plus.
On Sunday we watched Wall-E at a local Cinemaplex. The movies are shown in both English and French, one just chooses the appropriate session. Valerie and Loïc obliged me by joining us in the English session. It was a relaxing and enjoyable end to three days in Montreal, and we both realised that we could be very happy living in this town, and eventually becoming Canadian citizens.
However, despite appearances, Montréal is on the opposite side of the Atlantic to the rest of Europe. No quick trains to Paris or London, no long weekends in Spain or Amsterdam. There are direct flights to over 120 destinations (New York in 90 minutes), but on rails we could only reach Ottawa, Toronto, Quebec City, and Halifax. Do we want to share a border with the USA?
Why elope to Canada?
With family and friends all over the globe, we thought an intimate ceremony was best. We chose Canada for its equitable and inclusive marriage laws, and Banff for its beautiful scenery.
We flew up to Banff on the Friday night and stayed in the beautiful Fairmont Springs, the fairy tale castle of the Canadian Rockies. On Saturday we went on a few wildlife trips around the Montane forests of Banff. The forests are mostly Lodgepole pine and Spruce, with a few groves of Aspen. It was really interesting to hear how the flora was shaped by the geography (the harsh weather and alkaline soils blocks the growth of most other trees) and fires (Lodgepole pine cones need the warmth from fires to germinate). The previous fire suppression tactics have caused a lot of problem by building up the fuel in the forest to the point where the fire burns too hot, killing the cones, so burnt areas are turning into meadows. The fire suppression has also given a large pine bark beetle problem. The extra meadows, however, are perfect habitat for many of the grazing animals of the Rockies. Trembling Aspen also have an interesting reproduction tactic – it is not know how new trees sexually reproduce, because all of the known Aspens grow from ancient colony root systems, springing up new trees as the grove expands. The colonies in Banff are 3000 years old, which makes them relatively young compared to Pando in Utah, which is an 80 000 year old Aspen colony of 47 000 stems.
We saw two white-tailed deer, an elk, a very close Bighorn sheep, a pair of nesting Loons (which can only live in large still lakes since their solid bones require a long smooth runway to take off), an Osprey and a bald eagle, a pika and a few very cute Colombian ground squirrels.
In the afternoon we also went in and signed for our wedding licence, affirming that we understand that marriage does not make the other person your property, and that every person has the right to a marriage free of violence.
On Sunday our wedding day was suddenly here. Lydia had been hiccuping all day Saturday, but woke up on Sunday thankfully spasm free. In our room in the Fairmont Banff Springs, we had a romantic breakfast of Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes. Lydia got dressed in her ivory halter-neck dress and Adrian in his black suit and ivory tie. We picked up our flowers, and walked hand-in-hand down the lobby of the hotel.
Other guests at the castle would smile, applause and congratulate us as we passed them. One little girl asked her mother why Lydia was dressed like that, and she told her it was because Lydia was a princess. Lydia felt very royal in a beautiful gown in her very own castle.
We met our celebrant, witness, and photographer in the lobby, and proceeded down to the Bow Falls at the base of the hotel. We found a very picturesque spot on the shore of the river, and our celebrant conducted the ceremony that we had written ourselves. Lydia was nervous and excited, while Adrian was simply happy and excited. As we exchanged vows, we fell into each others eyes with love and adoration. Adrian gently took Lydia’s hand, and slipped on her wedding ring, and then Lydia did the same for her groom. The celebrant pronounced us husband and wife, and we celebrated the moment with a kiss.
We signed the paperwork, and we were officially married as husband and wife. Our celebrant presented us with a bottle of sparkling apple juice, and the newlyweds were toasted to a long and happy marriage. We fare-welled our celebrant and witness with hugs, smiled, and thanks.
Next, our photographer took us to some of the most beautiful places in the rockies, where we could stand together to celebrate a love that was both grand and majestic. We had a fun and romantic time, clambering upon rocks and over bridges to find the perfect backdrop for a kiss. Adrian gently held Lydia as she braved the boulders and cliffs in her wedding dress and shoes.
After we had traipsed through the wilderness, it was time for the bride and groom to return to their castle. We explored the nooks and crannies of the historic building together, embracing on marble staircases and in antique elevators, and running through grand ballrooms hand-in-hand.
Then, sadly, Lydia had to swap her long gown for a short white dress for their afternoon adventures, while Adrian exchanged his suit for jeans and a shirt. After a quick and delicious lunch, we caught our wildlife tour to Lake Louise and Lake Moraine. It was a magical afternoon, walking along aqua and sapphire lakes, watching golden mantled ground squirrels, chipmunks, Clarks nutcrackers, bald eagles, and ospreys.
On the trip back we even were lucky enough to see a mother black bear with three very cute baby cubs. We watched the tiny bears clamber up the meadows, though the wildflowers and over the logs. Lydia wanted to give them a big hug, but she wasn’t permitted out of the bus.
We were both filled with love and delight at being able to announce our love to the world. We returned to our hotel so that Lydia could dress up in her gown again, accompanied by her sharply dressed groom. We promenaded down to the Bow Valley restaurant and enjoyed a delicious dinner courtesy of some delightful old friends from Sydney.
We toasted to the next chapter in our life with some Canadian chardonnay, and finished up with a selection of cakes and some dessert wine sent to us by a generous couple from Louisiana we had met that day. We left the restaurant to the applause of the other patrons, and finished off our perfect weekend with a gentle stroll along Bow River.