Expat gone soft

Toronto Ice Storm 2013

How soon we forget!  A couple of days prior to Christmas, Toronto was hit by a major ice storm.  The weight of the ice broke many power lines, as well as trees overhanging the power lines, resulting in a major power outage affecting 300,000 customers for several days.  As we awoke to a cold, dark house, my heart sank as I realized how poorly prepared we were. 

Toronto Ice Storm 2013

When we lived overseas I’d always had a back-up plan for water cuts, power cuts and even, heaven forbid, an evacuation plan, but settling back into a comfortable life in Canada, I’d oh-so-quickly let myself backslide.

All I had at my disposal was a bag of tea lights and flashlight with a fading battery.  No alternate heat source, no means to cook or heat water, no “magic socket.”  My heart sank.

After a joyless breakfast of peanut butter on crackers and a glass of water (no COFFEE!!!!!) we set about assessing our situation.  What was quickly apparent was our increasing dependence on electrical appliances.

I picked up the phone – cordless – not working.  Thank goodness we still had an old-fashioned corded phone in the bedroom.  No wifi, but at least I had cellular data on my phone, as long as the battery lasted.

We had a fridge full of food, but no means to cook it.  On the bright side, with sub-zero temperatures we were able to stash the contents of the freezer in plastic storage bins in the garden shed.

Toronto Ice Storm 2013

By 4pm in the afternoon the indoor temperature was 13C and falling as fast as my spirits.  Sitting in our overcoats as dusk approached we contemplated a dinner of cold canned food and sleeping fully dressed under our duvets.  But help was close at hand.  An angel, disguised as my friend, Shila, phoned to check on us.  On learning our plight, all she said was “Come.”  A delicious dinner, warm bed and hot shower never felt more luxurious.

Toronto Ice Storm 2013

Late the following day our power was back and life quickly returned to normal.  But a month later I’m left with a nagging concern that repatriation has turned me “soft.”  Where has that pioneering expat independence gone?  I need to toughen up and, quite literally, get my house in order.  Storms lanterns and a primus stove are on my shopping list.  And of course maintaining my friendship with my Christmas angel 😉


16 thoughts on “Expat gone soft

  1. Yikes – all that snow! I was married (so was my wife!) in Toronto in the middle of winter 1966/7, and I’ve never lived anywhere as cold. We still laugh about the rigmarole of putting on clothes and taking off clothes every time we went outside to the car. And putting our rubbers on and off – and I hope no American reader is rude enough to laugh at that, please…! As soon as we could we moved to somewhere warm, and that meant the Caribbean – where we’ve been (on and off) ever since.

    • Gordon thanks for reminding me about rubbers! British readers please note we’re not talking about erasers, and American readers, we’re not talking birth control 😉 Rubbers are a curiously Canadian phenomenon which I remember well from when I first arrived here in 1979. They are rubber overshoes which were worn, mainly by men, over their regular footwear to protect them from snow, salt and slush. They were particularly popular with office workers. Every office had a boot tray outside and in winter they’d be full of ugly black things. Fortunately they’ve now pretty much gone the way of the Dodo, and everyone now wears regular winter boots. But yes, Gordon, dressing for winter is still a PIA. Roll on spring!

      • Thank you for clarifying what a rubber was in this context 😉 I knew of it being an eraser, and a condom…. now another definition! I love it when English speakers misunderstand each other. 🙂 I can’t believe how cold it’s been – love the pics – they really put things in perspective. Sounds like it’s been a really rough winter. It was in the 80s (30s) here today.

  2. Yay for the angels in our lives! And for camping equipment in the garage…..
    We have never quite left evacuation plans behind us – our first year in Sydney after China involved bush fires close to home so the kids got good at packing their “special things” bag and every few years we have had to repeat the process. What goes in the special things bag changes now thanks to cloud storage and a reduced need for cuddly toys, but the medical stuff has increased and the need for cash is constant.
    I find it easier to imagine dealing with bush fires than a freeze like you had though -so cold!! Come on down here and share my days of 30 degrees!

    • Those bush fires are incredibly scary. At least I knew my house would still be there when I came back! I agree, a “running away” bag is a good idea no matter where you live.

  3. What a story! I remember how well prepared we usually were overseas, or at least how we knew how to deal. Now, with another load of snow on the way here in West Virginia, I am hoping not to lose electricity. We won’t even have water then because we have a well with a pump. We have a few days of wood for our wood stove. Problem is, when you get a big load of snow out in the boonies here, you can’t even get out to escape to stay with family or friends.

    I am so tired of this winter! Now I hope the airport will be open in a few days so we can escape to France.

  4. This year cold looks like will never ending it’s just that much is too much even I like snow in the winter but hey! we are in spring but no signs of spring for some places very sad :(( But at least in that hard situation I’m happy that you get your Christmas angel through a good friend you are really luck :)))

  5. Nice to meet here Judy and thanks for making contact on my blog. I relate to this very well as we’ve just repatriated (though hubby in and out of Kazakhstan) back to Calgary after 23 years away. We’ve had a vacation house in BC for five years, but living day to day through the winter here is another matter all together (think frozen pipes.) Good luck with ‘toughening up’ and everything that encompasses; I’m doing the same out West!

    • I’m so sorry I didn’t get to meet you at FIGT this year but I’m delighted to have discovered your blog. You certainly chose a doozy of a winter for your first one back in Canada!

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  9. When the kids were small, my feeling of being responsible and “in charge” was much stronger – and at that time, living in Japan, we HAD to be prepared to whatever could happen (and there were detailed guidelines to follow). Now that the kids are much older (still with us though), and we are back living in japan I feel much less concerned about the preparations and it took me 6 months to get the stuff we are supposed to be keeping to be safe (and I am still missing important stuff… such as portable toilets !). It’s almost as if I am relying on the kids to keep me safe !

    • That’s interesting, Benedicte. Are you preparing for earthquakes? Do you think you are just a little blasé, having lived there before without incident? I remember once reading that security experts say that can be a real risk, particularly with long-term expats – the “Oh don’t worry, they don’t start shooting until after lunch” attitude.

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