Post Tagged with "Canada"

Picture Postcards: A room of books

Book tower

This photo is by Loozerboy on Flickr and was snapped in Toronto, Canada. I can just imagine a cozy chair inside to sit and read, can’t you?

A reading room at Ana’s house
The oldest public library in Paris
The children’s cultural book section in an Auckland library

June 10, 2013 Comments disabled

Learning as much as Teaching: A Canadian in Mexico.

Let me introduce you to a woman with true itchy feet (a need to travel). While she has previously changed careers to allow living in a new place, she has now found a job that makes travel not just possible, but practically necessary. Maggie is a Canadian with a deep love for her mother’s British heritage. She’s worked for the past few years as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher. As of this week, she lives in Pachuca, Mexico. And I, personally, know just how itchy her feet are, for she is my mother and that need to see the world for one’s self was passed down!



Let’s start by finding out where you have lived before.

I lived most of my life in Canada: I grew up in Southwestern Ontario and moved to British Columbia as a young adult. After raising my children, I moved to the Yukon. I have also lived in Russia (4 months) and Mexico (18 months to date).


What made you choose the Yukon? …. Mexico?
My move to the Yukon was, for lack of a better explanation, a whim. I had always wanted to visit the far north but knew that a short visit would not suffice so made the decision to move there for one year to ‘check it out’. That year lead to an eight year residence — with a few absences. I was captivated by the lifestyle, the sense of community, the vast wild expanses, and even the weather.
My move to Mexico was precipitated by my desire to teach English as a Foreign Language. I had done one short stint in Russia and had decided that this was to be my life. Having visited Mexico once in the past, I knew that it was a culture and a country about which I wanted to learn much more.My first teaching position was in San Luis Potosí, SLP – a beautiful, colonial city with plenty of green spaces to spend a relaxing afternoon in. The plazas came alive at night and I was regularly entertained by clowns, an orchestra having its weekly rehearsal, Aztec dancers, break dancers, and the general hustle and bustle of the inhabitants.
I currently work in both Pachuca and Tulancingo in the state of Hidalgo. One of the pleasant surprises for me was the fact that Hidalgo, with its mining history, has adopted the popular fare of the Cornish miners who came here to work in the past. Cornish Pasties have been given a Mexican flavour and are as easy to find as fries and gravy are in Canada.

I have enjoyed exploring the region and still have much to see. The Prismas Basálticos (Basalt Prisms) are a particular favourite of mine and I have been to see them twice.


What drew you to teaching ESL?

I chose ESL as a career fairly late in life. I have always wanted to travel but knew that my dream of doing so would remain just that unless I found a way to earn a living. ESL provides me that living. While I will never get rich doing this work, I am able to settle in a country (or a region of a country) for a given amount of time and be immersed into its culture and language. I learn as much as I teach while I perform my daily tasks of shopping for food, dropping clothes at the local laundry service, renting hotel rooms in towns I visit, ordering meals in restaurants, and arranging travel by bus. I consider the life I lead to be rich, indeed.


Tell me the hardest part about living abroad.

The obvious and easy answer to this is that I miss my family and friends back home.

The answer aside from that is that there is a language and cultural barrier. I am studying and able to understand and to speak more and more of the language here but still feel the frustration of not being able to communicate with most people in a meaningful way. Adapting to the culture of another country can also be trying. It is easy and tempting to say, “In Canada we would just do it this way”, but I have to remember that I am a guest here and that they have their own ways that work for them. If I want to be a member of the community here, I must adopt the ways of the country in which I have chosen to live.


Describe your daily life as a ESL teacher in Mexico.

Because the company for which I work has schools in both Tulancingo and Pachuca, a commute is a big part of my day at present. This week I am scheduled to work in Pachuca each day. I rise at 6 am and am on a combi (local bus) by just after 7. During the trip (one hour) I either work on lesson plans, or – more often – enjoy an episode of The Big Bang Theory on my laptop.

My morning in Pachuca starts with a visit to the near-by Starbucks – one of the very few places here to get a cup of tea. I continue on to the school where my work day begins. My first class is at 9:00, 9:30, or 9:45 – depending on the day - and can be a class of beginners, intermediate or advanced adult students. My co-workers (American and British) and I are rotated amongst the classes to allow our students to hear varied accents, benefit from assorted teaching methods, and learn about different cultures while they learn English.

I have a long break between morning and afternoon classes – often 5-6 hours - during which I develop curriculum, plan lessons, take a long lunch break to catch up on my recreational reading and correspondence, and enjoy the sunshine. I will be moving to Pachuca within the next couple of weeks and will then be able to spend some time at home relaxing between classes – unless I have to commute to Tulancingo!

My first afternoon class is a children’s class. This is followed by an early evening class (or two) of adults. My day ends at 7:00 or 8:30 pm when I start the commute back home. Dinner is often a paste (pastie), eaten on the bus.

There are two mornings per week when I have a Spanish class in Pachuca (delivered by one of my students). I have just started my lessons here and hope to become more able to communicate soon.

Friday and Sunday are my days off. My Saturdays are free after 1pm so I still have lots of time to wind down and/or have a weekend adventure.


What have you learned about yourself, your values, and your priorities while living abroad?

One thing I have learned is how strongly I feel about being Canadian. I love to share my culture, my stories and my photos of my country with my students. I appreciate more, those things we might take for granted in Canada — Universal Healthcare, Employment Insurance, Programs for Seniors, Women’s Programs, and Social Nets for those who might need them.

My family has always been my mainstay and is more so since I have chosen to live in other places. They are my anchor in this great big world and a constant reminder of where I come from and what that means.


What has been the most vastly different thing you have adjusted to? 

In Russia, I was unable to adapt to one particular cultural norm. I am used to walking along the street and smiling at, nodding to, or greeting those I pass. In Russia, smiling and greeting is reserved for friends and family and neither is considered normal behaviour on the street. I am afraid that I could just not help myself and was on the receiving end of many strange looks in Russia.

On the practical front, I am also used to having the right of way as a pedestrian. This is not the case in Mexico – nor was it in Russia. I have had to adjust my thinking and my behaviour when I am out and about on the city streets.


Do you have a different or more defined idea of what it means to be Canadian?

Being Canadian means being a member of a multi-cultural society. Here in Mexico, I see very few people who are not Mexican. While I am enjoying the culture here, it is a little disconcerting to be exposed daily to only one.


And last, as you are a dreamer, where do you want to go next?

There are many places still on my list. I have yet to explore Europe. I would also like to go further south and spend some time in Central & South America.

There is also a lot of the United Kingdom left to visit. The most pressing would be Europe.


Read more

Aisha Ashraf, a British expat in Canada

Secrets of an intercultural supermom

Gabriela: Born in Pakistan, raised Dutch and French, now living in Canada

February 14, 2013 2 comments

Picture Postcards: Winter in British Columbia, Canada

Another beatiful capture of water for you, this one of the frozen variety. Our contributor in Canada has sent this in saying, “This is a river that divides Whistler mountain from Blackcomb mountain. Whistler-Blackcomb is a famous ski resort here in British Columbia, Canada.”

Read more:
Canadian Honeymoon
Canada’s Birthday
Aisha Ashraf: A British expat in Canada

January 21, 2013 Comments disabled

Canadian Honeymoon

I recently got married, and my wife and I decided to take our honeymoon (a post-wedding vacation) in the Canadian Rocky Mountains near Banff, Alberta.  We stayed in a small chalet abutting a roaring “creek”, (a river, where I come from!) next to train tracks that cut through the valley, with the Transnational Canadian Highway on one side, and the old Bow Valley Parkway on the other.

The trip was amazing; we saw caribou, ground squirrels (who act just like prairie dogs… they even whistle!), herons, ravens, grizzly bears, black bears, Canadian geese (in Canada!), black-billed magpies, gray jays, ospreys, chipmunks, and various other critters. I was really hoping to see a marmot, but no such luck.  We were a bit apprehensive about the bears, until we realized that apparently other tourists had never heard that bears or other wildlife could be dangerous, and would get out of their cars and get way too close to them.  So we just stayed behind the idiot tourists, and felt pretty safe.


August 22, 2012 3 comments

Picture Postcards: Colours of Ontario, Canada


This delicious photo was taken by our Contributing Editor, Ana, at the Mississauga Farmers Market in Ontario, Canada.

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May 28, 2012 1 comment

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police

I do not imagine there are many places where one can hear, “And then the cop pulled up next to me on his horse”, and not break a stride. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or RCMP, are our national police force. Though they no longer carry out typical duties from horseback, horses are ridden ceremoniously or in more picturesque scenes. They are still on-duty police officers


The full Mountie uniform.

Our Mounties, as we prefer to call them, wear a bright red jacket and black pants. The look is completed by a wide-brimmed hat and boots. Inside sources say these boots are handed to new recruits as black boots which they then must polish until they become the brown we all know and love. These outfits are, though, not used within regular duties, as they are not practical once in a car or walking the beat.

The RCMP have been around officially since 1920. They are a national symbol. In fact, souvenir shops are filled with little Mountie figurines and various Canadian wildlife dressed in wide-brimmed hats.

Mounties go through an intense training program in central Canada, where they learn not only discipline and loyalty to the force, but extreme driving skills, police tactics, and how to take pepper spray to the face. Extra training can include taser use.

RCMP trainees parading.

RCMP trainees parading.

As the RCMP services the majority of Canada (a few cities and provinces use their own policing force), Mounties can be deployed any where in the country once they have completed training. Typically, rookies spend their first 4 years in less desirable locations- in the north and smaller towns far from home. Within their career, they will move between many locations. The hope is, especially in smaller towns, that they will not bond past the ability to properly police residents; or create enemies due to their need to arrest or fine individuals.

The RCMP mascot, because it's not Canadian until it includes a bear or a beaver.

The RCMP mascot, because it's not Canadian until it includes a bear or a beaver.


Read more

The 4-Way Stop Courtesy

A Wedding on Yukon Time

How to Be a Canadian

May 23, 2012 6 comments