It was great to connect again with Guy, and meet Yan Yan and Jing when they visited from Brooklyn this week. Guy and I went to Grad school together in Taiwan and haven’t really been in touch, with the exception of one social or another, since.
It was great to connect again with Guy, and meet Yan Yan and Jing when they visited from Brooklyn this week. Guy and I went to Grad school together in Taiwan and haven’t really been in touch, with the exception of one social or another, since.
The last time I went to the post office, I thought I just met an employee that was having a bad day and had a penchant for exaggeration. It turns out that that is her normal demeanour. It also turns out that they were quite serious about automatically returning mail-to-sender if there is no post office box in front of the address.
Before we managed to secure this PO Box, a client needed to send me a package, and since I didn’t know where we would be living, I thought the safest bet was to give our new address. Unfortunately, at some expense, they sent it by priority post and not by courier. They notified me yesterday that it was returned to sender. Embarrassing.
The same happened with some legal documents that were sent to our address.
I’m not sure what the employees at this particular Canadian post office do, but I can confirm that they don’t sort mail.
We bought our first lawnmower recently. Another indication that I must be putting down roots. Our house came with a ride-on lawnmower, but I am determined never to sit my ass on one of those things ever.
I wanted to cut the grass immediately, but Sheryl kept reminding me to think of the bees, think of the bees. So we waited. And there is a bee who comes around a lot, so I will plant some flowers for it later.
Then after filling the new fresh, out-of-the-box lawnmower with oil and gas, I tried to start it, and it wouldn’t start. We both tried repeatedly but had no luck. We were defeated by the most simplistic of machines (I wanted to buy a battery-powered one, but I don’t think they are ready for a field like ours.)
Then the rain started. And the grass continued to grow.
After the grass turned to dandelions, we got our neighbourly welcome note in the form of a letter from the town stating that our grass was too high and must be dealt with or we will be fined.
It’s a somewhat derelict area except for an Airbnb whose owner naturally lives elsewhere and, as such, isn’t a neighbour or neighbourly at all. So I suspect they complained, so we will not sully the look of their $ 450-a-night rental.
Dandelions are a terrible look.
I don’t know if this is the norm for every home across the Island, but where we moved, you must get a community mailbox before receiving mail. So shortly after closing on our house, I went to the nearest post office and asked:
“Hi, I would like to get a mailbox, please. We just moved in up the street.”
“Ok, before I can give you a mailbox, I will need to see one piece of ID and mail with your address on it.”
“I don’t have mail with my new address on it because I can’t receive mail until I get a mailbox.”
We went back and forth with this a couple of times until I suggested I come back with something stating I lived at the address in question.
It took a few weeks to return because they close at 5 pm. But they reluctantly gave us a mailbox (we arrived 10 minutes before 5) but with a stern warning – “We don’t sort mail at the post office. We return to sender if you don’t include the box number in your address.”
I get the feeling that there is some stress at our new local PO.
It’s interesting to be confronted with something different, like values and interests. I’m thinking this as I sit in an otherwise peaceful location as motorcycle after motorcycle thunders by, breaking the peace and disturbing all nearby.
I get motorcycles. It’s fun. But I don’t get the need for the modifications to make them as noisy as possible. The revving to accentuate their power. Especially when they know that it bothers others. Maybe that’s the point(?).
Perhaps, it’s similar to buying an $85,000 big truck when all you ever haul is a bag of groceries or two.
I suspect it’s mostly men. There must be a more constructive way to express your masculinity than by giving the middle finger to those around you.
We are moving. I’ve written a number of different versions of this over the past month, but due to time and procrastination, they were never finished and now reside in my day-one diary.
At the end of this month, I’ll vacate my Victoria Row office for temporary digs until a more semi-permanent solution is finished.
Next month we leave our apartment in Stratford (finally) for an old house full of old house problems, but problems that we will own. I admire character homes for their quirks, and I look forward to trying to make it an interesting place to live.
The road to this decision was long, starting with whether or not we would continue living here. Health care, the cost of living on a small island, services, etc., have changed since we arrived. Changed for the worse.
We have no ties here, and we’re free to leave, but Sheryl has a job she loves with great people, so that tipped the scales to the side that said stay.
After that quick decision came the realization that every home we looked at was selling for 2 or 3 times what it would have sold for 2 years prior. That’s a tough pill to swallow. Timing is everything, I’ve been told.
Owning this home has taught me that a new vocation may be in order. Goodbye user experience, podcasting or writing children’s stories. Hello, carpentry. The house needs work, and contractors are like unicorns; you are more likely able to find a unicorn in the woods than someone available to help fix something. Despite the shortage of workers, there is only one course on Prince Edward Island to teach the skills you need, and it’s a full-time program at Holland College. Luckily we have Youtube.
I’m now off to the hardware store to buy a drill because my 92-year-old Uncle said that all men need one, and I’m sure there will be lots of drilling in our new old house.
Catriona and Camren have been talking about specific goals for a couple of years, and it’s wonderful to see that they have achieved them.
For Catriona, this means embarking on her first solo trip to Taiwan this summer. She’s planned, arranged and paid for everything herself, and aside from visiting friends, eating good food and doing the usual touristy activities, she plans to set aside a day for a health check-up. She finds the medical system here as dysfunctional as I do.
Camren will start working as a lifeguard on the North Shore and is spending hours each week taking more courses in preparation. His days of working at Sobeys on Allen Street have come to a close.
The environment they’re growing up in is more challenging than when I was their age, which makes me all the happier that they can still follow and achieve their dreams.
March felt like a difficult month. Perhaps because I was out of my groove due to all kinds of distractions, it may have also had to do with the lousy virus I suffered through and the then lack of any kind of meaningful exercise. Or perhaps I am just tired of winter. While my March sucked, it certainly doesn’t compare to Catriona’s.
One of the factors influencing our decision to move back home was to provide better educational opportunities for the kids. COVID ruined that for a time, and now the UPEI faculty strike is having much the same effect.
I haven’t been generally impressed with the classes that Catriona has been taking at UPEI. Some were online only, others were “just read the PowerPoint,” and others seemed like a complete waste of money. Catriona’s very introverted, so it goes against her nature to continually chase her professors for answers to her questions. Her introversion also makes for a sub-par social experience, though I’m not sure what opportunities there are for that anyway.
With the strike, I’ve tried to convince her to seek education elsewhere, but she’s not ready to leave home yet. She doesn’t also share my views towards the classes she is taking and generally supports the faculty’s efforts towards better treatment from the administration. The emails she receives from the administration about the strike are so asinine. I can’t imagine why they bother sending them.
While I can’t convince her to seek a better education elsewhere, there is no doubt that Camren won’t attend UPEI in the fall. He sees the experience she is having and will go abroad to experience something more.
The Maritimes are recovering from the freezing cold we experienced last Friday into Saturday – lots of frozen pipes. Against common sense I decided to run to CrossFit Friday night across the Hillsborough bridge. I did so because I didn’t want to, if that makes sense, and to experience a new challenge. At early evening we hadn’t hit peak cold yet and luckily the wind was for the most part at my back.
The next day Sheryl took Camren to Sackville for a swimming session across the other bridge returning just before they closed it down. It wasn’t a pleasant drive.
Stafford takes great care in making sure all the sidewalks and trails are safe for walking during the winter. Charlottetown considerably less so, and it’s easy to see which buildings in the downtown are short/long term rentals as they seldom take care of the snow in front of their properties. My traction aids have been an important part of me staying upright so far this season.
I had no idea who the person behind this phrase, “no one is coming … to help you,” that the Instagram algorithm kept serving me for some time. Her interesting sound drew me to find the person behind the voice.
Her message is the same schtick that many keep proposing on social media. Which was something we lived through for all those years in Taiwan. The government was at arm’s length, we had no social safety net, and in the early days, if we lost a job, we had to leave within 2 weeks. We lived under constant threats of natural disaster and Chinese sabre rattling and raised two kids constantly exposed to various endemics. We did have access to the world’s best healthcare. Self-reliance was required.
Returning to Canada, we thought we could relax now that we were under the umbrella of a comprehensive social safety net, but it has been proven on a few occasions that this is not necessarily true. Especially tonight when the City of Charlottetown has made more effort to ensure that people know that no help is coming from the city during the coldest night in memory. For those in need in Charlottetown, truly, no help is coming.
Taken this morning when it was a relatively balmy -10 or so. I’ve got multiple layers for the run home, but with the windchill threatening to bring the temps down to the -40 range, running across the Hillsborough bridge to Stratford might not be wise. At that temp, my exposed skin might suffer frostbite.
Taken during yesterdays running commute to the office. The weather has made running an adventure. The day before (?) I was wading through ice cold water that was up past my ankles, yesterday I was climbing snow banks in search of a sidewalk. Stratford does a great job of maintaining their trails but once you get off the bridge the sidewalk ends and you are on your own until you find a maintained sidewalk or take the risk of running on the road. Today we have another rain storm, which I didn’t feel like dealing with, and so I drove the car.
One of the many reasons we left Taiwan, specifically and life abroad generally, was the desire to have a sense of permanence that we didn’t feel we had where we were living.
We wanted a home. A physical and emotional place that we knew would be there whenever we returned from where we had been. Taiwan provided that, but there was always this undercurrent of uncertainty and the feeling that despite our best efforts, we might forever be considered “honoured guests.” We had an extensive social network there, were involved in the community, and knew the place better than perhaps this Island we again call home.
I knew the costs of leaving. I had access to my mother’s finances and knew the cost of living here was much higher. Amongst many things, we would likely have to forgo the luxury of cheap fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat and fish. My mother was always amazed that we could comfortably afford to eat salmon and steak regularly at breakfast and dinner.
Other places in the world had a lower cost of living and much better health care, but none could compete with the desire to return home after over 20 years abroad.
We created spreadsheet after spreadsheet to help plan for the move. Was it possible to live the lifestyle we were accustomed to? Not entirely, but it seemed close enough. Most of our decision-making has little to do with numbers and more to do with emotion. In work and life, I have always preferred qualitative measurements vs. Quant.
None of our thinking or calculations could have foretold a pandemic and the rocketing cost of housing.
When we finally realized there was a housing supply problem, we considered buying a house sight unseen. But we have become risk-averse, and most places we saw were houses, not necessarily homes. We never really understood the Canadian obsession with real estate as an investment. So we decided to wait.
Since then, houses we might have bought before have doubled in price. Some tripled. And with nothing in the way of upgrades that might justify such a lofty valuation. We have terrible timing.
We are now in a position where we are ready again to buy a home. Where we live now has served us well financially, but I get the feeling that no matter where you rent on the Island, you will always face with some regularity neighbours who seem hell-bent on making other neighbours’ lives difficult. That’s been our experience.
But I am faced with a question. Is it worth it? If we are fortunate to live so long, over the next 20 years, we could spend over $500,000 to live in a small house on the Island. That’s a heady increase over what it was just 3-4 years ago. And with the high cost of living and lack of health care, it gives me pause.
I don’t have a definitive answer to that question. The quant side of my brain says no. The qualitative side is unsure.
It’s great to be relying on my feet again to get places. We drove to Halifax on Friday in the midst of a snowstorm which added an extra 90 minutes to an already long drive. It must be 20 years or more since I’ve driven in that kind of weather.
It’s a strange world we now live in.
Sheryl is suffering from a nasty respiratory infection, which, while not life-threatening, makes sleep difficult, prolonging the whole getting well process. Attempts to find medicine to provide relief failed, with one pharmacist telling me she expects more supply in April. Not being able to find basic cold meds is something we have never experienced before, one of many weird firsts since returning to The Island.
I tried to book her an appointment with a doctor, but you have a greater chance of winning the lottery than getting into a walk-in clinic in Charlottetown.
Fortunately, when out buying groceries last night at the Superstore, I saw in the distance a couple of stray packages amongst the out-of-stock stickers in the medicine aisle. It felt like I had found gold.
Hopefully, this medication will bring her some comfort so that she gets some rest (the only real medicine) and finds herself back to normalcy.
Much of the Island is closed today due to weather. The run across the bridge to the office wasn’t so bad, but the poor visibility meant running on Water street was not a risk I thought I should take. I slide across Water to Grafton in search of a sidewalk of some sort, and eventually found one when I arrived at Holland College. Running in weather like this beats driving and I’m happy that I live close enough to my office that it’s possible to do so.
This was taken yesterday as we experienced what I consider the first real winter day of the season. Today crossing the bridge into Charlottetown Siri stated that the windchill was a chilly -16˙C. The run wouldn’t be possible without tractions aids snapped on to my running shoes, it’s too cold to salt, but at least the active pathway was plowed and safe. Where the sidewalk off the bridge connects with the rest of Charlottetown is a bit iffy as there is nowhere to run but the road or a snowed in patch of grass.
It’s unseasonably warm today. Weather like this might be unusual but I prefer these warm temperatures to the freezing temperatures of years past.
6 years ago, I ran the Xiamen marathon. 5 years ago, we all went for a fun run in Jhubei, and in years past, we either spent an afternoon drinking coffee at our favourite coffee shop or hiking in the mountains.
When I was younger, New Years’ day was a time for family, with large gatherings for dinner. Later BBQ’ing in the snow was thrown in the mix. Most of our elders have passed, and the cousins are dispersed and disconnected, so family gatherings are a thing of the past.
Since returning to the Island, we have been searching for new traditions, and nothing has really stuck. We are lucky that our kids are still close and willing to spend time with us, particularly if a meal is involved.
The day started with a dip in the water for Camren. I may summon the courage to join him next year. Next, we discussed attending one or more Levee’s but making small talk with strangers is not always something I enjoy beyond superficial social niceties. Levees are more for extroverts.
After a bit of reading, it was time for a chilly run in the rain, followed by a feast of pork dumplings, which led to the kids reminiscing about their place of birth.
It was, all in all, a fine New Years’ day, much quieter than years past, but that is a feature of Island life, not a bug.
It’s getting difficult running to work as the temperature gets colder, what with the windchill when I cross the bridge and my general aversion to cold. The views remain as nice as ever.
My goal for running in winter is to stay upright, nothing more.
A wonderful Christmas was had, but there were no other plans for the holiday other than trying different pour-over recipes, running and reading. I had hoped to finish a couple books. We may have a trip to Nova Scotia at the end of the week, but that’s more work than pleasure.
I sat at the kitchen table this morning trying to think of some activities that didn’t involve shopping or spending money, and I came up blank. I don’t find the Island the most exciting place in winter, and there isn’t enough snow to try killing myself on skis. Almost all family we would have spent time with have passed away or moved to distant locales. So what is left is idleness or light work. I’ll always pick doing something over doing nothing.
Humanity vs. Efficiency
I don’t understand the role of this Bridging humanity and efficiency video from Health PEI — is it marketing? celebration? politics? education? — but it’s well-produced, and uncommonly clear for health system communications. Dylana Arsenault should be put in charge of talking to the public.
I see it as a damning indictment of our healthcare system.
When Dylana states that only 1.6% had their operations deferred with a smile, it undermined the whole premiss of the video. That statistic has a person attached, a person who likely had been waiting an egregious amount of time for surgery.
Not for me, at least. The first photo was taken a few hours earlier, a week ago, when the weather looked far more seasonal than it is today. Tonight high winds and rain are in the forecast, which almost inevitably means the power will be out. After Fiona, I lost my mind and ordered a solar panel and battery to keep our devices charged. This, although not having power for such an extended time, meant we spent every evening together playing board games. The first time in years. A solar panel won’t be very effective in the dark or when it’s raining.
I post these photos almost daily to Instagram as I take a break from my run. A distance that used to serve as a warm-up is now a work out.
Just when I thought all fundamental problems with designing for the web had been solved, I come across a significant misstep on the part of the Charlottetown Police.
Last week Sheryl and I were working late and driving up University avenue behind an obviously grossly inebriated driver. Luckily he did not go over 30km/h, but he was utilizing both lanes to make his way north.
I decided that a call to the police was in order before this driver, who turned out to be an older man who probably shouldn’t be driving in the first place, killed someone or himself.
I don’t have the police department on speed dial, so I searched my mobile browser for the Charlottetown Police, which led to their Wikipedia page, and, finally, their website. Nowhere on their website could I see the word contact. Nor could I see a phone number. This is all in plain sight on their desktop version.
So I hesitantly called 911, and we followed the driver as I gave directions to the police dispatcher. By this point, the man had left his truck at Swiss Chalet, failed to navigate the glass fence around the front of the restaurant, hit his head, and got back in his truck. Then driving over the sidewalk, he went up University until he turned right at the Sobeys, where the police quickly arrived to pull him over.
I have no idea what the proper use case for the 911 service is – I assume it’s for someone breaking into my house with an assault rifle kind of emergency.
What I do know is that no one thought that a person would want to contact the police via their phone. And may want to find their number via a simple Google search. Particularly someone who might have middle-aged eyes and be under stress or time constraints. Seems like an obvious situation to design for to me.
This view is the start to my work day. Its getting cold and once the snow starts it’s not always possible to find traversable sidewalks in Charlottetown, especially across the bridge, so I am enjoying this view while I can. It’s also a good way point for my run/walk routine as I reacquaint my body to running once again.
When I was in grade school the teachers used to report that I complained too much, a habit that hasn’t really abated now that I am older. In fact, it’s likely increased since we moved back to the Island with my common refrains about how everything here costs far more than where we lived before or larger Canadian centres as well. I also have a gift for exaggeration.
We have been lucky enough during this period of increased prices to be affected primarily by the increased cost of fuel. Sheryl drives to Souris for work. That effect has been minimized by lots of carpooling and the fact that I run to work every day. As we buy food based on cost, and not by whim or habit, we have managed to keep our grocery bills within acceptable increases. Variety has taken a hit and I miss some fresh foods.
But with a swimmer in the house and most meets being off-Island there seems to be no escaping the high cost of travel.
Camren has a meet in Montreal in December and the team has decided to not go up together – in part due to the bus rental costing $11,000 – and in part due to some parents surprisingly enjoying driving in Northern New Brunswick in winter. I don’t. They all have large SUVs and being kind offered to allow him to ride with them. But alas he needs to be there earlier, he and one other swimmer qualified for a couple long-distance races which occur before the others arrive.
The only way to get him there is to fly. Unfortunately, the cost of flying out of Charlottetown has reached the level of ludicrousness. The price I was given for a return flight for the both of us was not far off what we would have paid to fly from Taiwan and return in years past. We often talk about returning to Taiwan, so out of interest, I checked those prices out of Halifax as well. They are double.
Porter has some far more reasonable fares out of Moncton, but they leave at 6:30AM, which in addition to paying the bridge tax and gas, means an incredibly early start to your day.
It’s pretty hard to justify all this for a single race.
Our savior may be Aeroplan. I have accumulated enough points that he and I could fly there with only a small service fee. I had planned on using these to fly us all someplace warm in Asia, but with the high costs of travel that doesn’t seem possible in the near future. I have little faith in Air Canada but I’ll hope that when we get to the airport they will actually have a seat on the plane for us.
I’ve been attending a writing workshop held by Doug Malcolm at the Charlottetown Learning Centre these past weeks. I had no real goal in attending other than getting help with the fact that “I write all the time and yet I have no idea what I am doing”.
These classes are the first time since the pandemic that I have sat around a table with a group of strangers. How novel to sit around a table with a group of people and discuss something of interest!
I haven’t learned anything related to writing yet, though the paragraph writing exercise he had us do did lead to the story Chef Shan and the Cabbage Rebellion that I released on Stories Pod. Having to read something written on the spot was terrifying.
This is a great chance to discuss writing and to learn how others think via their writing. Last week no one showed up, which I assume is a common problem (and a reason I wouldn’t put on a workshop myself), but I hope the meetings continue. It’s a welcome break from my routine.
I admit that I never entirely understood housing as an investment, preferring perhaps the idea that you buy a house because you want a home.
One of the many reasons we left Canada so many years ago was a desire to not follow the rules of what I refer to as the game – all the things you need to participate in until you can no longer. Buy a car(s), house(s), insurance, and investments, and stay in the same place and job so that you can retire and then live. We traveled, did interesting work with interesting people, and sent our kids to cool schools instead. I guess some could do it all, but when I was in my 20s I didn’t see how.
Before we can home, we thought of buying a house. We got approved for a mortgage but they wanted 50% down because our income was from “the FarEast”. Buying a house sight unseen seemed risky. Even when I said, here is a tiny one for 100K, we demurred (one of those just sold for $350K with nothing more than new paint).
We lived in a bubble in Taiwan for much of our time there – I had no idea what was happening here and what other people did to live their lives. I could see whole cities being built in Taiwan and China, only later to realize that they were beautiful ghost towns. People would buy real estate as an investment. Renting an Airbnb wasn’t a thing in my experience. The result was that it created soulless districts that eventually looked overgrown with weeds and unkempt. It also drove up the price of housing so that now in Taiwan, young people can’t afford to buy, and they delay having families until the last possible moment.
Unlike many of our family and friends our age, we are asset poor but experience-rich. It has been at times a difficult choice to make.
This is a long-winded way of saying that it’s fine, and in my view desirable for a community to say that homes within that community should be for those who want to live in them. Empty homes suck the life out of a city. Surely there must be other easy investments for those with the leverage to buy multiple dwellings.
There is a municipal election in Charlottetown and Stratford. The two main candidates in Charlottetown are comprised of the incumbent, who at every opportunity deflects responsibility for all matters to other levels of government (except arenas), and a pro-landlord and likely by extension pro-short rental candidate. As such, I doubt we will see meaningful change unless more grassroots groups like Charlottetown Mutual Aid rise up to force those old white men like myself to make change. They are too invested in their current way of thinking to do so by themselves.
I’ve lamented on many occasions the reliance on surveys, especially poorly formed ones, to gather data to guide public policy or to direct business strategy. Their use is not always misplaced, but they have become so easy and prevalent everyone thinks that simply gathering data of any kind is enough, no matter if what they are gathering is irrelevant quant., when it should be qual..
But never in my wildest dreams would I expect an organisation to use a survey to determine whether or not the respondent receives aid so that they can buy food. Aid that was specifically donated so that people could receive it. What makes matters worse is that no where in the survey, to the best of my recollection was it explicitly stated that this would inform future aid.
This leaves me wondering, can this Provincial government do anything right? The most effective organizations are those who understand the people and the problem, not those sitting comfortably warm in their second or third home, far from the problems at hand. Thats why grass roots organizations, like Charlottetown Mutual Aid, who are actually talking to people, and use a no questions asked approach to dispensing aid, are far more effective.