Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ottawa and overcoming homesickness

Hello everyone! There has been a radio silence because I have been on a series of vacations, or an epic vacation. This epic vacation schedule looked like this:
Going to Ottawa 5-11th.
22 hour layover / rest day/ in Madrid.
Flying to Munich 13-15th.
16th rest day in Madrid.
Taking the AVE to Barcelona 17-19th.

While on the road I found that I could not blog well from the Ipad. well, I could blog, but I could not post pictures. Looking back I should have written up some post picture-less in Ottawa and posted when I got back home. Because now this trip seems like it happened so very long ago. So I am going to do the unfair thing, and make my 5 days in Ottawa post only one post with highlights. The other trips will be posted shortly.

This blog will have the dialogue posted in-between the pictures but not really related to the order. Please look at the captions of the pictures for information.

The river looking toward the Quebec side from Parliament hill.

I was in Ottawa for the simple reason that my DH had a conference there. This meant that his flight, food and hotel were paid for and all we had to do for me to come along is pay for my flight out. I was very eager to go to be in North America again. I was also very curious to see the differences and similarities between the US and Canada from the perpective of someone who has been in Europe a while. I was very homesick, so I probably was not overly objective in viewing their similarities. Meaning I probably saw more then there was.

National Gallery seen from Parliament hill

Ottawa was a very impressive city to me and there was much to be admired. It is a clean city with a mostly bilingual population, a punctual bus system, old buildings, cute markets, it's own china town, and lots of yarn shops. But I am afraid for the first couple of days I was not looking at Ottawa and it's attributes I was looking for the North American similarities and dealing with homesickness. As I had mentioned, DH was there on a conference, so after the first day of exploring together I was wandering the city alone. I would not have done it any other way. It was a good experience to be alone and it really helped me to come to peace with my home sickness. My homesickness will always be there and and at times it will be painful, like when I miss a momentous event. But now I feel like it is only a small tug instead of an all-consuming obsession.

ByWard Market, an open air merket with stalls, small artisan stores and restaurants
The bridge that cross over to Quebec
and the tan building is the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
The banners are for every providence.
In this trip I took buses to different yarn stores across the city. This allowed me to get out of the city center and see more of what Ottawa looked like, and of course, buy yarn.

On these small trips across the city I had gotten to the point where I was looking out the window at things that no North American resident probably ever sees. "AWW American suburbs, I miss American suburbs, AWW look at the way the plumbing pipes and the meter are sticking out of the building, I miss that, AWW look at that trashy house with old cars rusting on the lawn, I miss that...." When it got to the point that I actually shed a tear over seeing a corn field (one yarn store was further out). I finally came to the point where I gave myself permission to miss these things and miss them deeply, but without the pain of something that is gone forever. It is ok to be homesick, but it should not be an overwhelming feeling. I have a new home now that is very far away and different, but it is my home. Now, when I leave Spain I will now always miss it too. Ex-pats are a different culture of people. Once you become an Ex-pat you will never truly belong to a culture or country again. You have changed from the person who you were in your home country and will always be different (even if slightly) from the culture or country you now live in.

I had known this theory for quite some time, but the importent thing about this journey is that I realized that it is "OK". I am finally at peace with being an Ex-pat. I have more cultures / countries to love now. Sure I will always miss the US, and especially Colorado, but that is natural and OK too.

The parliament tower, I loved this building it is so impressively graceful.
There were many castle looking buildings downtown,
I think this one was a government building.

Now, Ottawa. The Capital city of Canada, and one I had never been to before. There is a river that runs through the city that separates Ontario from Quebec. Which means that a good portion of the population are completely fluent in both languages. This means no accent in either language, ahh, to be this fluent I am so envious. 

We got there late at night on the 5th, so we rested and were up disgustingly early (local time) to explore the city. We were staying at the Westin near the convention center so we were in the heart of downtown. We were in walking distance of ByWard market so we went and found an 24 hour dinner in which to have breakfast! (I miss those too.) Then we walked around downtown until 10am when the National Gallery opened. They were having a Van Gogh exhibit, and it was awesome. The way that man chose his colors will always fascinate and amaze me.

National Gallery with it's famous spider statue. 

Then we had Thai food. One of the US things I might the most is the "international" restaurants and sections in the grocery stores. We had to eat out a lot in this trip, and tried to eat at a restaurant with a different nationality each time, it was glorious! We went to Yarns Etc that afternoon which was a very nice yarn store with a very nice owner. She has a lovely selection and we had a very nice chat, and then it was time to go and get ready for the conferences registration / opening reception. 

The main Parliament building

The next day I was on my own and I use the time to go to yarn stores and explore the city. I am afraid that I might have stocked up a bit on yarn at every store during this epic vacation, and I might need to find somewhere in my tiny apartment to store it. The first store was Wabi Sabi which had just reopened from vacation. Which was a very nice store with another very nice employee to chat with. This store was the only one I went to that had spinning fiber, but I was too afraid to drag it through both US and Spanish customs on the way back. It turns out that I shouldn't have been worried I walked merrily through both. Spanish customs has a hallway marked "nothing to declare" and you just walk through.

It was so nice to be able to talk to someone in a store easily (i.e. in my native language). Also it was a relief to "fit in" for a while. Most people assumed that I was from Canada, apparently I have a very BC accent.

A fountain at the Museum of civilization looking towards the Ontario side.

The next store was Wool Tyme. This was the one out in the suburbs. It is HUGE. It was a little overwhelming. Remember that I had already been to two yarn shops in the past 24 hours, and had my "coming to peace with my Ex-pat status experience", and had MASSIVE jet lag. All I remember is that it was huge, and it seemed well organized.

Another castle, this time a hotel.

Sunday was my DH's talk in the morning, and really Sunday I did not do much, I was so tired.
Monday we saw the changing of the Guard at Parliament. A free event that involves bag pipes. It was very intricate, and maybe a bit too long (30 minutes to change).

The rest of the trip was basically eating resting, and shopping for books, and clothes. Also going to conference events.
It was a good trip, and I value it mostly for what I learned about myself.

The changing of the guard.


  1. Kaystir, I'm so glad you got to go hoard at some nice N.American yarn shops, eat international, and adore your quaint little sentimental things (cars rusting on lawns? lol !) I would love someday to go way up north to Quebec, and I'd be the one following the bag-pipers around . :) I hope you got to drink in a good drink of homeward longitudes. Lovely heart-felt post, makes me want you to beg to come back again soon.

  2. A wonderful heart-felt post. I'm reading it late, as I have been so busy this month. Best to you!