Friday, 27 September 2013

50 days in.. we're still going!

I don't think I'll be able to do a daily update of what's been going on, at least not for the last 37 days since my last post, you cannot imagine how much has been happening.
We've been planning this move for years, researching it, getting things ready in advance, and still it's been pretty much non-stop since we arrived. The weather for the first 6 weeks has been amazing, which meant that any time we weren't doing important stuff, we were sightseeing somewhere.
I'd love to do a detailed report on what we've been up to, but that will have to wait until I win the lottery, retire and have time to write a book about this adventure. I'll summarize it as best I can briefly..
When I left you with the last post, we'd just been to Canmore, having been here for three days. Wow, that seems a long time ago, I think we were still jetlagged then.
Since then, mostly we were occupied with house hunting. Grandma did a sterling job of looking after at least one of the children, sometimes both, whilst Olga and I went to view houses with our realtor, Eric. We saw 16 houses, some in Cochrane, some in Calgary and some in Airdrie. After a week we narrowed it down to second viewings of two houses, one large condo apartment in Cochrane, and one modern townhouse in Airdrie. We opted for the modern, 3-storey house in Airdrie, it was built in 2009, needed no work doing to get it ready (the Cochrane house needed the basement finishing), and the seller was happy to move things along quickly. We made an offer (at the asking price, this was not a situation to start quibbling) on the afternoon of Thursday 15th August, it was accepted that evening, and our proposed date for closing the sale (when we would get the keys and it would be our house) was accepted - Friday 30th August, just 2 weeks later.
That two weeks was hectic, as Olga and I had to start back at work, as well as organise house insurance, complete the mortgage formalities (thanks, mum!) negotiate buying a car, sort car insurance, health cards, social security numbers, nursery for Danil, school for Lara, visiting the dogs. This required many trips to and from Calgary during the week, and because the weather was so nice, at the weekends we went to the mountains or to Calgary, or to Airdrie for more recon trips. This meant that in the nearly three weeks that I had a hire car from Avis, I drove over 3000km, or 1800 miles, more than twice the distance from Lands End to John O'Groats. Good job driving is easy here, and cars have cruise control. Our new (used 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan) car has a DVD player for the kids to watch in the back, and that is proving to be worth its weight in gold.
It included trips to Banff, Lake Louise and Canmore, where we'd stayed when we came over at Christmas and New Year, so it was very interesting to see it in Summer as well as Winter.
Back to the house purchase - the seller was so comfortable with the deal that they signed their bits of paperwork within 48 hours of accepting our offer and went off on holiday for 2 weeks! That seems to be how business can be done here.
The other not-so-minor thing on our radar was our 40-foot container with all our stuff. The shipping company at this end had contacted me to say that it would arrive on a train into Calgary during the weekend of the 24/25th August, so 4 weeks from when it left Bury. They were happy to hold it until Saturday 31st, so when our house purchase completed as planned on Friday 30th August, it was all systems go for the container to be delivered the next morning. This house is around 1400 sq feet, and the house in Bury was nearer to 1800 sq feet, so there's a lot of stuff that's gone into the garage here, but things are starting to find  a home slowly. As I type now, four weeks into this house, we're about two-thirds unpacked.
The house has four bedrooms, one on the ground floor that we use as an office, one three on the top floor. The dogs have the ground floor pretty much to themselves, although we let them come to the living room and kitchen diner in the evening once the kids have gone to bed. The dogs seem to be absolutely fine, just their normal selves, and we've even taken them to one of the local, dedicated "off-leash" parks where they can run about in complete safety off the lead, which is something we daren't let them do in the UK.
Dan is in a nursery here in Airdrie, their hours are 6.30am to 6.30pm. We try to get Dan there early, by 7am, but we are also trying to pick him up by 5pm if we can. He's settled well, though he's had three days off nursery this week with a high temperature. Given the new environments and people he's been exposed to recently, it's a surprise he's lasted this long before catching something.  His walking is very good now, as is his climbing. Talking is coming on, his favourite word is definitely "no", which he uses a lot, along with very amusing facial expressions to back it up. But he's also very good with "Mama", not too bad with "Papa" and his "Wara" is coming on a treat. He understands instructions now, so "come here", "lie down" and "please don't put that in there" - relating to anything that might go in an electrical socket - usually get the desired result.
Lara is happy in her school, she's in a French Immersion class, which means the whole school day is conducted entirely in French! It's like this for three years before they start doing things in both languages. She loves the whole idea of the yellow school bus, and it seems to be working well, she's not missed it yet! We have to get her packed lunch ready each morning, so that's a new experience, as she was on school dinners in Bury. She already attends swimming lessons at the local leisure centre, and today she started a one hour class of "All kids of sports" there too, which she'll go to once a week. In October her ice skating lessons start, and soon we'll book her in for more skiing lessons, so she'll certainly not get bored.
I do catch her saying things in French, and it's almost becoming automatic already, especially simple things - she's saying "Merci" now instead of thanks without thinking about it.  She knows numbers, colours, and letters and all this in less than a month. It'll be wonderful to see what she can say in 6 months time.

I think we're about up to date, I've been a bit more verbose than I thought I'd be. I'll do a couple more posts now with some photo albums to show what we've been up to.

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