Keeping the house, the kids and the hubby without breaking the bank, the earth, the people I love, or myself.

Culture Shocks for an American in Canada

I suppose it was foolish of me to think I would not experience culture shock when I moved four hours away from Ohio to Ontario, Canada. Foolish or not, I was wrong.

Language Differences
My husband, who is Canadian by birth and lived most of his life in Canada, has no accent or strange speech habits.  I've heard the "eh" jokes in reference to Canadian lingo most of my life and didn't get it when I became a resident.  I've almost never heard "eh" in conversation.  I have heard it, but not much.  There are other things though.

Some pronunciations are different.  For instance when I pronounce "been" it sounds like bin.  But Canadian newscasters and educators say it like I say "bean."  It makes my ears tickle.

Like Bostonians, the accepted proper Canadian pronunciation of pasta is "pass-tah".  With an emphasis on the the first syllable.  Again:  ear tickles.

The article "a", as in I ate a single grape is pronounced the same as the a in apple.  My youngest children learned to read in Canada and each would correct me when I'd correct them over their pronunciation of the article "a".  It seems odd to me to say "a" like apple and not like ape. I don't hear this in everyday conversation, though.

The letter z has a name and it is not Zee.  It is Zed.  If you say Zee you are outing yourself as an American. (Though I cannot help but see an elderly, white-haired wizard anytime "Zed" is mentioned.  "Bags!" Now if you get that reference, you're a nerd like me ;) ) 

The other ear tickler is the word drama.  It's pronounced DRAM - uh here with emphasis on the first syllable and the first "a" is clearly an apple "a", unlike what I'm used to hearing which is more of a soft "o" sound or shortened "aw" sound.

Again!  Oh man, this is like a gain.  I'm used to uhgen with a hard g.  Nope.  They really emphasize that long hard A sound in the second syllable.

Sorry...actually I think Canadians probably pronounce things more like they should be pronounced based on the sounds of English letters, but still, I'm accustomed to different pronunciations so "sorry" to me sounds very much like sari but in Canada it's like sore- ee.

I'm sure there is more but I'll stop there and move on to something else.

Canadian Cigarettes
To an American these are weird.  The Canadian government has gone to great lengths to curb smoking and prevent prospective new smokers from ever wanting to pick up the habit.  In Canada the standard pack size contains 30 cigarettes (they do sell 20 packs, but people only buy those when they're short on cash.) Canadian cigarettes are very expensive.  $10 a pack for decent ones.  $7 a pack for economy ones.  If you're adventurous you'll buy what's called "reserves" but I'll discuss that later.

Many years ago the Canadian government required cigarette manufacturers to cover HALF the cigarette package with graphic health warnings.  Those warnings are:

These are on every pack of Canadian cigarettes.  On one side they're in English, on the other side they're in French.  Same pictures.  My favourite is the impotency one.  I'm a girl and impotency doesn't scare me so much.  I hate the bloody brain, rotting teeth, and diseased lungs ones though.

Canadian cigarette packs also list all their toxic emissions and the percentage of each chemical:  Tar, Nicotine, Carbon Monoxide, Formaldehyde, Hydrogen Cyanide and Benzene. 

Those who wish to avoid the $10/pack fee for cigarettes, and those with Native status, will buy their cigarettes on a Native Reserve for about $15/carton.  They come in giant ziploc bags which contain 200 cigarettes (pictured on the bottom two shelves):
There has been a large anti-reserve cigarettes campaign, however, with warnings about the dangers of these "unregulated" cigarettes.  (They are unregulated because they're made in factories on Native Reservations, which are sovereign from the Canadian Government so unregulated by the Canadian Government.)  According to billboards and print ads that have been appearing all over Canada these "Cheap Smokes" "contain insect eggs, mold and human feces." I suspect the Canadian Government is somewhat annoyed that it's not collecting its $7 taxes per pack that it does on other cigarettes sold here. (I have to admit I do wonder how exactly human feces can be in cigarettes....?  Then I try not to think about it any more!)

And by the way, nobody smokes "cigarettes" in Canada -- they're called "smokes" here.

Highways and Byways
In the states I was accustomed to routing many drives many different ways.  Going between two main cities, I could choose a few different routes based on traffic or construction or scenery if I wanted.  That's not very likely here.

Canada's got a couple highways. I do mean a couple. There seems to be one going north to south in Ontario and another going east to west across the entire country. There are no more. That's it. Want to find a quicker route from Niagara to Toronto? Want to avoid the holiday weekend traffic?  Want to avoid the construction?  HA! Unless you're swimming or flying, there is ONE WAY to drive it and one way only.

And for those who weren't aware, Ontario is the center of the universe. Just so ya know. Other Canadians are a bit miffed that darned near everything in Canada is in Ontario, but it seems to have worked out that way. Sorry. I didn't do it. I just enjoy the benefits of it.  (40% of Canada's population resides in Ontario.  In a way this center-of-the-universe thing makes sense once you know that.)

Hopefully no one thinks I am poking fun at Canada.  I love it here.  I love the land, the scenery, the people, the sense of community in every community I've lived.  There's more, but I'll save it for another day.


Bzzing about Danactive

No, that's not a typo.  Bzzing is what a Bzzagent does.  BzzAgent is a word-of-mouth marketing company.  Bzzagents are people who receive products or offers to try products and then review and bzz about those products.  Bzzagents can earn rewards for their bzzing, but we are not paid to say nice things about products.  In fact, we're expected to be honest.

If there is a fault I have (okay, one among many) it is brutal honesty.  When I bzz about anything, whether I was introduced to it by BzzAgent or stumbled across it all on my lonesome, that bzz is my honest experience.

About a month ago I received the DanActive bzz kit which included several DanActive coupons, one for a free 4-pack, and a stack of cards containing contest pins for a current DanActive contest.

Danone (Dannon in the states) tells us that DanActive promotes a healthy immune system with its proprietary probiotic culture L. Casei Defensis(TM).  Actually, I phrased that rather mildly.  Danone tells us that DanActive "strengthens our bodies' natural defenses to harmful bacteria from our environment."

I've seen the commercials for ages.  What did they make me think?  Snake oil!  They're selling some snake oil on the heels of a snake infestation!

Danone assumes that people don't know about healthy gut bacteria.  Yes, our guts -- meaning our entire digestive tracts from top (mouth) to bottom (bottom ha!) -- contain a wealth of bacteria.  Good bacteria and bad bacteria.  It's best to have more good than bad.  That's just common sense.  Things can throw this balance off -- long term, high-dosage antibiotics for instance will often result in a yeast infection.  Yeast is a bad bacteria that lives in our guts.  Another good bacteria (L. acidophilus) fights yeast bacteria overgrowth.  Antibiotics kill good bacteria so yeast gets to grow uninhibited and you end up with a yeast infection.  (It's not the only way to get a yeast infection.  I'm trying to be brief here.)

Danone didn't go out and create a brand new bacteria.  L. casei has been around a long time.  L. casei Defensis is simply Danone's special blend.  I really don't understand how Danone's L. casei can be any more special than the L. casei I could easily replicate in my kitchen, but I'm not a biologist or chemist or whatever kind of scientist it takes to create "special" bacteria.

L. casei is a good bacteria.  It does support healthy immune functioning and healthy digestive tract flora.It lives in our mouths, stomachs, intestines.  A baby's saliva will contain L. Casei. 

My verdict:  This was incredibly sweet. It was palatable, but ridiculously sweet.  My mouth is not accustomed to this kind of sweetness.  I avoid products containing added sugar like the plague that sugar has become to Western society.  Find your live, active bacterial cultures in natural yogurt that contains no added sugars.

Because of the extremely high sugar content of Danactive, it will never be a feature in my diet.  69% of the calories in Danactive are from sugar.  (There are 14 grams sugar in a bottle of vanilla Danactive.  There are 63 calories in 14 grams sugar.  Danactive Vanilla contains 80 calories total.  13.5 of those calories are from fat.  This is all packed into 3.3 OUNCES (93 grams) of yogurt beverage.)  That's ridiculous.  Would you pour 4 teaspoons sugar into 3 ounces of any beverage?  I wouldn't.

And while Danone's "immunity" hype is actually true, you can get L. Casei from many other sources including cheddar cheese!


Conversations with a Five Year Old

My five-year-old son is still learning the rhythm of conversation.  Each night during dinner our family discusses our day, events, news, and all sorts of things.  Often my five-year-old, Ky, will interrupt another person's speaking, but most often he simply bursts out with something seemingly from nowhere.  These moments leave me wondering about the mechanics of his thought process and chuckling at some of the results. 

The other night, during a conversational lull, Ky burst out with "Kung Hay Fat Choy!"  I knew what it meant, but I like to know what my children's grasp is of their lessons so I asked, "What's that?"

Ky tells me "It's 'Happy New Year' in Chinese!"  He goes on to tell me that it's still 2009 in China and the Chinese haven't yet had 2010.  Red is a lucky colour in China and did you know that Canadian dragons are mean, fire breathing, destructive dragons but Chinese dragons are good dragons who bring good luck and help it to rain. 

I am always amazed at the wealth of information he is able to absorb in a day.  Later that evening, he read his daily message to me.  (Each day the teacher sends home a one-page message in the form of a letter.  This is the kindergartners' daily reading assignment.  I think it's one of the most brilliant ideas a teacher could have for learning readers.) After the date information, the letter begins "Dear Monkeys and Ram".  I stopped my son at this point as usually the letter begins with "Dear Boys and Girls" or "Dear Good Friends" or some variation of those two.  I asked Ky, "What is up with your teacher calling you monkeys and ram instead of boys and girls?"   

He matter-of-factly explains "We are Monkeys and a Ram!"

"What is a monkey?"  I ask. 

"A monkey is an animal with a tail who likes to eat bananas."  He replies adding an eye roll for emphasis. 

"Oh.  So you are an animal with a tail who likes to eat bananas." 

"NO moooooooooom.  I'm not a mon-KEY, I am a HUMAN. A monkey is an ANIMAL. I am a HUMAN." 

"A human is an animal, too, honey.  You just told me you were a monkey and now you're telling me you're not a monkey.  I'm confused." 

He sighs a long, exaggerated sigh and explains, "Boys and girls born IN THE YEAR OF THE MONKEY are called monkeys, but they are not animal monkeys, they are just CALLED monkeys."

"OHHHHHH.  I get it now.  So you are a boy who was born in the year of the monkey and that is why your teacher called you a Monkey."

He smiled as wide as the monkey's banana and confirmed, "YES!" 

After he finished reading his daily message, I informed him that I was a Rooster.  He giggled and told me, "No you're not.  You're mom"  in that don't-be-silly tone of voice that children do so well.

Meanwhile, my husband was across the room pulling faces.  Ky laughs at him and his daddy tells him to guess what he is.  Ky first guesses Rabbit but is wrong and immediately figures out that daddy is mimicking a rat.  Yet another thing to make me wonder how on earth his mind works as I don't think I would have guessed it correctly if I hadn't already known my husband's Chinese zodiac. 

At bedtime Ky tells me that Monkeys are smart.  Of course they are.  Mine sure is. 


Update on the baby kits and our other foster cats

Simon and Stephen graduated from bottles to soft food several weeks ago and from soft food to hard within a few days of that.  Small kittens cannot chew standard kitten kibbles so they started out on this stuff:

 Which is the cutest, tiniest kibble I've ever seen:

Normal cat food is on the right, and the babycat(TM) kibble is on the left.  

Now that you think I'm completely daft for getting all silly over kitten kibble, I'll show you adorable pictures to make you forget how daft I may or may not be.  

This is Simon at about 7 weeks.  Simon is a little love.  He likes to climb up on me, nuzzle my chin, sleep under my chin or just nuzzle on me while getting his noggin scratched.  I have never come across so affectionate a kitten as Simon.  

Simon likes to hug, too:

Simon will make someone a very good companion. 

Steven is also an affectionate one, as evidenced by his nap with my son.  

Both Simon and Steven are happy, playful kittens full of love and exuberance.  They have no health concerns or negative behaviours and will be wonderful additions to any home.  

I am so going to miss them!  

They burrowed into this blanket themselves and had a nap! 
As for my other foster cats....

Allow me to introduce 11-07 ("eleven-oh-seven").  
Odd name, you think?  Can you see why?  

Yes, she has very clear 1107 markings on both her sides!  11-07 is a bit skittish, but I think she will relax in a quiet home.  She is used to children as she's been with us since infancy.  While she does spend time with my 10 year old, she could not be bothered with my five year old.  Younger kids tend to be unpredictably loud at times and she does not enjoy loud noises.  

This is Blondie.  We named her Blondie for her blonde-coloured eyes, pale colouring and the fact that she seems a bit dense at times. (In this photo she is stalking and swatting the black shoes.  You can make of that what you will.)  I think she's actually just very skittish and her nervousness pre-empts her intelligence.  She's a funny one, that's for sure.  Blondie is still not fully socialized, despite the fact that I've been working with her for a very long time and she came to me as a kitten.  Blondie will be staying with me a bit longer as I give socializing her one more go before she goes to another home for more intensive socializing.

This is Princess.  She is completely black -- not a spot of white on her anywhere!  Princess came to me as a one year old extremely skittish cat.  She hid for the first week in the rafters of our basement.  I decided to cage her when I realized that she would live in those rafters until eternity if I didn't force her hand.  While caged I would daily remove her, hold her, stroke her, scratch her head and talk to her.  At night she would cry and cry to be let out of the cage.  Finally I gave in and let her out of the cage, but barred her access to the basement.  It took seven long months of coaxing before Princess ever let me touch her after uncaging her.  She simply came to me one day, lay down at me feet and meowed at me.  She wanted scratched!  Now she comes to us all the time for back scratching.  She does not like to be held, but will sit next to you (never on! she's not that kind of cat!) on a sofa and allow you to pet and scratch her.  She's a very well behaved, but quite skittish cat.  She needs a quiet home and will most likely have a period of adjustment when she gets to that home.  She will hide and come out only when she is comfortable.  Coaxing will not work with this girl.  If you are a local reader, I would like you to consider whether you or someone you may know would be interested in adopting Princess.  She will make a wonderful pet.  After all the work we've done with her to socialize her to humans, children, and other cats, I would hate to see her sit in an adoption center's cages before being adopted.  I think that would cause her to regress.  I know she will have an adjustment period regardless, but I think it would be FAR FAR less traumatic for her to transition directly into her forever home.  If you or someone you know is interested and serious about adopting Princess, please contact me via the comments section.  I would be happy to facilitate her transition to a forever home.  

Simon, Steven, and 11-07 will be available for adoption this weekend, February 13th at the PetSmart on Vansickle Ave. in St. Catharines. 


About This Blog

Saving money. Saving graces. Raising children, husbands and, sometimes, cats. Laughing. Living. Thinking. Doing. Life in the Niagara Region of Ontario.

About Me

I am a happily married woman with four children and various cats and kittens (fosters). I love to read and my favourite authors are George RR Martin, Thomas Hardy, Raymond Carver, PD James, Kurt Vonnegut, J. K. Rowling, and Margaret Atwood. I know there are only three women in that list (and none of them American), so if you'd like to suggest some I'm willing to give them a shot! And yes, I am an American living in Canada. (Hence the nick -- CannedAm.) I like it here. There are things about the states that I miss, but my love is here and this country has things to offer that my own does not. Things that make my quality of life much better than it ever was in Ohio. Guess I'm stuck here. Though there's a nice spot in the Appalachian hills where I'd love to spend my retirement.

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