Saturday, March 7, 2009

on the prairies

My computer crashed over reading break so I haven’t been online as much as usual--hence the silence. Re: the computer, David was able to hook my hard drive up to our spare computer so that I could get all my files off of it, and I went out yesterday and bought a new laptop so all is well. And on that note of praising my boy’s technological genius in getting my files back, I shall return to our life in Edmonton.
If you read anything written by Mennonite immigrants, you learn that life on the prairies is hard (but God provides). And you think that it is hard because they didn’t know the language, had little money and few resources, and were living about 70 years earlier than you were when you moved to the prairies. And all that is true--I certainly don’t want to downplay the experiences of my family and others who immigrated to Canada, or pretend that our suffering was quite as much as theirs. That disclaimer said, life on the prairies IS hard. Or at least WAS hard. In fact our first four months there were probably the most stressful thing I’ve ever faced in my life at that point.

First off, we were essentially broke when we arrived. I had enough money to see me through for about 6 weeks, and David was in school and waiting for his money to come. And his money just would not come. He spent hours in lines and hours on the phone and hours doing whatever he could and one bureaucratic bungle after another meant his documents were always being not sent or not stamped or or or! To top it off, the U of A also sent one of his scholarships to Uvic by mistake…. Meanwhile I was out looking for work, and for a “real” job at that, and it was not quite as easy as I’d hoped. I’m not saying it took me long to find work, but just that it was hard to find something I wanted to do and that wanted me. A lot of places said I was overqualified, for example.

Then a wonderful day happened in which I had three interviews and got two job offers and a temp position. So I did the logical thing and took the higher paying job that was in an office, instead of the temp job or the cool retail position at Gordon Price Music (that was willing to pay me quite a bit but not quite as much as the office). And I discovered that being a receptionist was a) the most boring job in the world and b) really hard when you aren’t trained properly or given much work to do. And this isn’t the place to go into it here, but it turned out that they were just using me, and I got fired the day before my birthday. It was pretty awful, because my six-weeks of money were almost gone and now I had no job and no money and was out looking for work again.

I took my birthday off from looking for work and we had a lovely evening at the symphony (my present from David) and I got to open my lovely birthday presents from parents and parents-in-law (wedding china, early!)…and the next day I sat down to look for work and was called in for an interview at High Speed Printing about an hour after I emailed them, and was hired the same day about three hours after that. I mention this because God is good! David had promised that everything would be alright as well.

So I had a job, for less pay than I’d wanted but enough that I could pay my share of bills and my student loan payments etc. But the jerks that fired me also neglected to give me my pay for the two weeks of work I’d put in, so I had to take them to the Employment Board, and it took almost a month to get my owed pay. And David still had no money aside from the bit he made off his TA job at the university, an amount which did not even cover bills. And even once I had my missed pay and the pay from my new job, I did not have much more than $100 spare at the end of the month to help out, so it was worrisome. Finally, around the beginning of November, all his paperwork had gone through and we could relax. I remember spending four hours making a fancy lasagne on Remembrance Day. It was very snowy outside and we were getting ready to sit up to a warm, comforting meal. Then the phone rang and there was yet another snag on his money being released. It was easy to fix, but words cannot even describe the waves of discouragement that washed over us at that moment of thinking we were finally in the clear and then realizing there was another hill to climb.

One of the most touching things, for me, that happened during this time was the day David sent me to the salon. I’ve never been one to care over much about my hair, but one day in December it was just driving me nuts. It was long and super-dry from the prairie air, and I just couldn’t take it any more. So I was sitting around complaining about it and the next thing I knew David had opened his wallet and given me a bit of money with the instructions to put it toward a haircut at the salon that afternoon. There is something incredibly amazing to me about this man who, having hardly enough money to buy a case of beer or a new book, hands me some money so that I can go out and feel a little better about myself. So I went out, and it was perhaps the nicest time I’ve ever had getting my hair done. I went to Aveda and they pampered me with tea, a massage, an awesome haircut, and some makeup on my way out the door. It was just awesome, especially because of my means of going there.

By the time I went home that Christmas I was emotionally exhausted. I couldn’t even think of life in Edmonton without feeling ill. All was not black, however. Experiencing such stress together really brought us closer, and it strengthened our faith as well as when you cannot rely on yourself or your partner you are forced to rely on God in a way you don’t normally have to. I had seen more miracles happen for us in those four months than I ever had before--small things, sure, but ones nonetheless. We had survived something very difficult on our own, and it did not break us up, it just made us stronger. I’ve never regretted moving to Edmonton.

2007. We had some tense moments when David’s spring fund disbursement was to come, but that went through with no problem. I got a raise at work that spring as well, and it brought my salary up to what I’d wanted it to be. My job was very stressful and the office environment was often toxic, but I did well at my work and I really enjoyed proofreading. David was proving himself brilliant at school, and winning the acclaim of his professors.

Life began forming a calm and settled pattern. We only really socialized with David’s sister and her boyfriend, but that was fine by us (good company and all that). Most of our time we spent together, just enjoying each other’s company--exploring Edmonton or reading at home. I took up cooking with a vengeance, we kept up our opera subscriptions, and we began creating our own life. Life was peaceful. We began to speak more and more of the future, and getting married. We’d survived a nightmare and come out stronger, and in the aftermath we had a life of peace, not conflict. It boded well for a future together.

So the months passed. Summer in Edmonton is almost like paradise, at least compared to the eight months of winter. David was able to work and I had my raise so we had some money to play around with. Family members made various trips out to see us, which allowed us to also meet more of our Edmonton-area family. I particularly loved the 9 days my family spent with us because we spent so much time playing tourists. I know that it really helped my family get to know David--they rarely get to see him since we both have family obligations over vacations home and Port isn’t near enough to Victoria to make it easy, so these vacations together have been quite nice. My family went home mid-August. After that both of us knew that our summer break was over and it was time to focus on the next milestone in our life--applying to grad schools and facing the possibility of spending the next 3-6 years apart.

After my trip to the salon.

David carrying home groceries in -30c (there are more groceries on his back)

An evening at Sarah's.

David's collection of books littering the floor in my room.

Prairie Couple

No comments:

Post a Comment