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Home, Sweet Home

Oookay, so we just moved to Canada! Whoo-hoo!

Danny's birthday cake, 4 days before our flight

We’ve been very busy in the last days and I’m tired... I apologize upfront that this post is more of a long collection of random ramblings about our experiences here so far; but I know that many friends are interested and asked us for an update, so here goes... :-)

First of all, before moving in, we had a long inexplicable attack of stupid. It went like this: we have a lot of stuff, but Google pays for the transfer and all. So we kind of assumed that they will reimburse us for the overweight, if there is any. Or we could cough up the money ourselves, no biggie. Yeah, that was our thought process... :-) We didn’t check: 1) If Google actually does this 2) How many suitcases are allowed per person 3) Is there a weight limit on each suitcase 4) How much an extra item costs.

So, we get to the airport, and discover that we need to 1) repack 2) purchase an extra suitcase 3) leave some things to mom; and 4) still pay $450 for the extra items.

Mom, dad and Danny at the airport. Dad is leaning on our swords!

Yeah. I don’t really know how to explain this, except to say that we are normally not morons. I don’t know what happened... I guess that Danny’s brother, Natan, said it best: “You guys are paid to think. That’s what you do. This time, you were not paid. So you didn’t think.” :-)

So our emigration started with basically throwing a few hundred bucks out the window. Okay. It could be worse. Next, we spent 30 minutes with Canadian customs, looking like imbeciles. It turns out that there was a little piece of paper I should have filled when I came to Canada to get my permanent resident status. It was a form stating that there will be goods following (even after 3 years...) So now, we might have to pay taxes for all our stuff! We shouldn’t have to, it’s all because I didn’t fill out some stupid form years ago... Luckily, the custom officer eventually took pity of us and let us go with our suitcases, but we still will have to solve this problem when our container arrives.

So, it’s evening, we just had a 12 hour flight and received too much evidence of own stupidity, we’re exhausted, and the person who was supposed to meet us at the airport isn’t there. Figures -- it did take us longer than usual to go through customs. So, we need to get to Kitchener with all our 8 suitcases. We could rent a car, but they won’t fit, we’ll have to do two trips... arhg!!! And we can’t rent a large car, because Google will only pay for a standard size. Luckily, they make BIG cars in America... We took a Dodge Charger, which is the biggest car I’ve ever seen (from the ones which are supposed to be standard family cars, I mean). It’s friggin’ huge. Right away we began to fondly call it “гроб на колёсиках” (coffin on wheels). We packed all our stuff in there easily.

Many things in the car surprised us. For example, it doesn’t have a key! You press a button to start/stop the engine. Amazing! They dared to change the interface that was standard for more than 100 years! “Press button to drive”. It... makes so much sense!
Another thing: it took us a while to figure out how to lock the car... It turns out that it simply uses a sensor. When you have the activator nearby, you can open the door. As soon as the activator is out of the sensor’s range, it locks. Very simple.

When it turned out that we also have an activator to open the garage door automatically, we began to feel like barbarians on their first encounter with civilization. “Whee, it senses us coming! It be magic!” :-)

This tank burned through $100 of gas in less than a week, though. Okay, we will be needing a smaller car...

Cars here are unbelievably cheap (by Israeli standards). It turns out that we could buy one even now, if we wanted to. All the cars here are at least twice cheaper than in Israel. Funny fact: they are also all bigger! They don’t make what is called the “compact model” cars here. Danny looked into it, and it turns out that the small cars they do make are actually more expensive! To be fair, they also make the roads a lot wider. (One would find it difficult to drive a standard American car in Israel -- the streets, lanes and parking slots are usually more narrow.)

One last remark about driving: the left turns here are annoying! In Israel, when you have a green light, you go; red light, you stop. Left, straight -- doesn’t matter. Here, if you need to go left on a green light, you still must wait for the cars going toward you. So, on a busy intersection, you could have a problem turning left at all! To compensate, though, you can turn right on a red. Go figure :-)

Ah, no, that was actually the one-before-last remark on driving. Danny and I could face a real problem getting our Israeli licenses recognized. It’s one small bureaucratic glitch: in North America they have what is called “driving history”. It is a document listing your driving infractions, and you can easily obtain it just about anywhere. In Israel, there is no such thing. There is no way to obtain a paper stating how good a driver have you been! It’s impossible. And since Canada requires this document in order to grant us local driving licenses, we might be in trouble. Well, worst case, we will have to redo everything from scratch...


As we are driving into the sunset, I get all excited about a flock of geese flying above the road. “Danny, look!”, I shout. “Geese! Geese!” I imagine people get similarly excited when they first see camels by the roadside in Israel. Several days later, I still surprise the locals -- staring with wonder at geese, squirrels and seagulls, caressing the birch and maple trees, smiling lovingly at the grass. That’s just the way it is here, eh? Wonderful...

It reminds me of a funny routine my friend Tzachi used to do on people abroad. When he was, for example, visiting some European country, he would go: “Wow, it must be really tough to water all this forest. Getting a tube to every tree, connecting them all to the supply, wow, a lot of work you did here!” The local would blink, unsure what to say. Tzachi would continue: “And I really love those little flowers and shrubbery decorating each tree. Very good design!” and then “Must be really big pumps supplying water to that waterfall there, right? Looks expensive. And did you build the mountain out of the leftover materials from digging that river? The snow looks really great on it, how do you get it all up there?” etc. etc. Eventually they would get the joke, and laugh in understanding. This is the way nature just is here! And we should be very thankful for it.


We arrived at the corporate housing apartment that Google rented for us, completely exhausted and very hungry. After taking a shower, we decided that we have to eat something. Ha! Turns out that it’s not that easy to get food at 11PM in Kitchener. We were driving around, and the city was dead! Everything closed! In Haifa, when I came out for a jog in Neve-Shaanan at 3AM, people were sitting in the cafes, eating; cars were driving by. That’s real nightlife. And I’m not even talking about Tel-Aviv -- there, by the crowds walking on Rothschild street, you wouldn’t be able to tell if it’s 7PM or 2AM. Here, things are very different. By now we learned the location of the 24-hour Wendy’s and McDonald’s; but that first night, we didn’t find anything, and after an hour returned hungry and fell into bed.

The next day, we went to the grocery store to get some essentials:

These are bagels and smoked salmon cream cheese -- the perfect breakfast! For me, it’s a childhood memories thing. Fifteen years ago, when I first came to US, my aunt, Anna, gave me this for breakfast -- warm bagel spread with salmon flavored cream cheese. And it was... no, I can’t describe in words how amazing it was, every time. That taste has since then been associated in my mind with North America, childhood, and happiness. I haven’t been able to find these bagels anywhere else; they are typical North American food. Every time that I came to US afterwards, I got them for breakfast. And now, I can eat them every day! I was munching a bagel, thinking “Wow, I’m really here! This is for real. I am in Canada. We are in Canada. This is actually happening!”

There might be a problem here, now that I think about it. I mean my resolve to start eating healthy in the new life. Well, it does say “light” on the cream cheese; this means I can have as many bagels as I want, right? :-)

No, really, this will be a serious problem later on. Many things can be said about the problems with North American food industry, but I would say that the most serious issue is that they make unhealthy food that is outrageously delicious! It's very difficult to pass up on. For example, look what Danny and I had to deal with today:

Yes, these are french fries, topped with bacon, melted cheese, green onions and sour cream. Mmmmm... but you know it's gonna kill you. And that was just the starter, mind you! For the main course, we had this:

And the fabulous Canadian cocktail, Ceasar, to wash it down:

We will have to set up some rules, or something, or we're just going to balloon out of all proportion...


Other essentials that we had to buy had their own store:

Here, liqueur is sold separately. We didn’t buy much: one small bottle of Absolut (pictured), a few (12) beers, some wine, some Ceasar mix... Unfortunately, they didn’t have arak (although, to his credit, the owner knew what arak was). Arak is one of my favorite drinks. I still hope to find it here somewhere; would be too funny to ask mom to bring some from Israel.

Btw., the flag we got from a friendly waitress at Red Lobster (mmm... lobster...) when she heard that we moved here.

This is local produce from the St. Jacobs farmers market:

The size of these cherries, eh? Really good stuff!

The firm that deals with our relocation booked us a few hours with a very nice girl, Rachel, who gave us a tour to the city, answered all our questions, and accompanied us to the bank (to open our accounts) and to see some apartments for rent. It was really great! Just getting recommendations for, like, 15 places where to eat in Kitchener -- priceless :-)

We opened three accounts: one joint, and one separate for each of us. It’s the easiest way to share expenses. Turns out we won’t even need a separate debit/credit card for this -- here, you can use one card for two accounts! But the more amazing thing was to discover that banking services are free of charge. Yes, seriously. If you have some money in the account, there is no monthly fee -- not on the account, and not even for the credit card! To people from Israel this sounds incredible. Our banks charge you left and right...

Another great thing about banking here: there is no "local branch" concept. In Israel, almost everything you ever need from a bank (that can't be done online) needs to be done in your local branch (the one where you opened your account at). Yes. That one branch. The other branches of the same bank won't service you. Sometimes they will TRY, you know, out of courtesy, but they have to do everything through your branch (so it takes days, and they charge you extra). So if you move to another city -- you're screwed! It may sound unbelievable, but Danny actually had to go from Haifa to Beer-Sheva (200 km.) whenever he needed something from his bank! (And no, you can't move your account from one branch to another. It is too complicated, or so we've been told when we asked.)

Here, there is no such bullshit -- we have an account at TD, and that means we can get the exact same service at every branch of TD in Canada. We deal with the bank, not with the branch. And another great thing is that there are bank branches and post offices open on Sunday.


This photo is from McDonalds, I just thought it was too funny not to share:


We need to get used to dollars, feet, pounds, and degrees Fahrenheit. Getting used means that we need to stop translating them into shekels, meters, kilograms and degrees Celsius, and instead to start feeling them... I prepared some charts to help us along the way:

°F           Meaning
-40         Jack London, “Smoke Bellew”, spit freezing in midfall. Same as Celsius.
0            Cold winter, piles of snow, scarf around the face
30          Snow begins to melt
77          Room temperature, nice weather
85          A bit too hot
90          Summer in Israel
105        Summer in Eilat

Lbs.       Meaning
0.8         Decent steak
1            Big steak! Yum!
2.2         Liter of water
10          Wrist curls (I have bad joints, okay?)
20          Bicep curls
55          Damn, these groceries are heavy!!
125        Should be me
138        Me
160        Danny
195        Danny, not too long ago
2500      A car

Length   Meaning
1’’            Finger phalanx
5’’            Average
7’’            Big
1’             Floor tile
5’2’’         Me
5’8’’         Danny
7’1’’         Shaq
17’x17’    Big living room!

6 mi         Can run
9 mi         Probably can run
20 mi       Half hour drive
5775 mi  12 hour flight (Tel-Aviv to Toronto)

Price $     Meaning
$3              A frozen meal
$10            A fast food meal
$50            A private BJJ lesson, or a monthly gym membership
$80            A decent restaurant meal
$800          A decent one-bedroom for rent
$15,000    A car
$155,000 A house


Our most time consuming quest was to find an apartment for rent. Luckily, it is easy here. In the west there is such a thing as apartment complexes: buildings built specifically with apartments for rent, not for sale. These buildings have one owner (typically, a large company), who takes care of everything; they usually have many amenities, such as swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, laundry room, library, patio, etc. In Israel, this concept doesn’t exist. All apartments for rent are privately owned; and, in general, there are very few of them. Here, in Kitchener-Waterloo area (of about 500,000 people), a new ad for an available apartment to rent is published approximately every half hour (I’m not kidding: see http://kitchener.kijiji.ca/). People rent a lot here. It is a difference in mentality: in Israel, it is presumed that you need to buy, not to rent. Renting is relatively rare. Everyone needs to buy a place! So what if it is expensive? Take a mortgage! Not enough? Take another mortgage.
Recently, there has been public outrage in Israel over the high cost of living. Protesters were walking around with signs “Disgrace! Young couples cannot afford to buy apartment!”
And we were thinking: Fellow Israelis! Really, we don’t know who told you that a young couple should be able to buy an apartment! These were lies. You rent, that’s what you do. You rent, and you save. And then you buy a house.
Of course, they could reply that the rent is also ridiculously high in Tel-Aviv. But it is high because of the vicious circle -- there aren’t many apartments for rent, since people aren’t renting. That’s why nobody builds huge apartment complexes for rent, like commonly found in the west.
But maybe we don’t know what we’re talking about. Our views come from the general -- I wouldn’t call it philosophy, rather a rule of thumb -- that you should first have money, then purchase, not the other way around. But to each their own.

We were looking for a one bedroom apartment, with living room big enough to throw grappling mats on (at least 10’x10’), and still have room to put a couch and a table. We found what we were looking for; hopefully, we’ll be the first ones to apply. It’s a real hunt here; some apartments are gone the same day the ad is published. I’ll post pictures if we get it; it’s a really nice place.


What is most difficult to describe is the feeling of home that I have here. These days have been an euphoria, really. I walk around with an imbecilic smile on my face: “Canada! Finally, I’m here. It really happened. We did it. I am at home!”

It’s hard to explain, but I always knew that I belong here. Somewhere around here, anyway. North America. There is this weird internal compass, that has always been telling me that. When I came to Israel aged 10, Israel did all it could to win my heart -- and all it could do was cheesy over-the-top propaganda that bombarded the newcomers from day one. Songs over the radio: “My heart is here, my home, after two thousand years, my exile is over” and bullshit like that. History of the Jewish people in schools. “Why we love our country” classes. Boy, did I hate it! (To this day it amazes me that this approach worked on some people -- I thought that such blatant brain washing could only result in intuitive resentment, but I was wrong). From the day my family came to Israel, I knew that it was a sad mistake, and that I would need to correct it and emigrate. (Now I know that it was no mistake either. It was a result of a masterfully performed secret operation sponsored by the Israeli government -- in the 90’s, they pulled many strings to prevent the massive amounts of emigrants from the SU from getting into US. It was done with deceit, bribery, and whatnot. We didn’t want to come to Israel. We were tricked into thinking we had no choice!)

When I came to visit my family in Detroit, aged 15, I first felt the tingle of that internal compass. I still remember it: looking at the green grass, the sky, the trees, and thinking: here. Here it is, close now, much closer than before. Home! The real home. I remember crying when the plane landed back in Israel...

Much later, 3 years ago, when Danny and I went to Canada to get my permanent resident status, I remember getting that feeling again: it was evening, we were driving back to our hotel, and it just felt wrong -- why are we going to some hotel? Why aren’t we going home? We are supposed to go home now! Everything is exactly as it should be, my love and I are in our car, speeding on a highway, with sun setting over green hills and a flock of geese flying overhead -- except that we must leave for some reason and go back to some other country. It felt so strange, it hurt...

But now we really made it, didn’t we? We are here, we are really here.
This country isn’t screaming at me “Love me! Love me! You have to love me!”

But I already do.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 8th, 2011 10:50 am (UTC)
Замечательно написала! Дай-то бог вам там не разочаровываться! Я с тревогой думаю о коротких, темных зимних днях и длинных холодных вечерах, под завывание канадских вьюг. (Вспомните еще наш солнечный Израиль! )
Короче, надо вить гнездышко поуютней, чтобы зиму пересидеть! :)
Aug. 8th, 2011 01:25 pm (UTC)
Да, нас уже предупредили, что маленькую машинку брать нельзя. Обязательно 4-колёсный привод, и потяжелее. Водить в гололёд, оно так...

Про гнёздышко узнаем сегодня вечером. Буду держать в курсе! :-)
Aug. 8th, 2011 01:34 pm (UTC)
Ох, люди бають, что еще и цепи какие-то на колеса одевать надо будет - ох-хо-хонюшки...
Sep. 28th, 2011 04:39 am (UTC)
Ерунда это про тяжелые машины и полный привод. Если страшно, можно зимнюю резину... на любую машину :)
Sep. 28th, 2011 05:08 am (UTC)
И такое мнение нам высказывали. Будем посмотреть :-)
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 8th, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Enjoy your trip, post photos on G+!
Aug. 8th, 2011 03:47 pm (UTC)
Я в итальянском не очень силён, но многое понял. Особенно на фотографиях. Желаю удачи и счастья на второй исторической.
П.С. Кроме цепей можно ещё кандалы использовать!
Aug. 8th, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
Спасибо! :-*
Aug. 8th, 2011 04:28 pm (UTC)
I am very happy for you :)
Aug. 8th, 2011 04:29 pm (UTC)
Aug. 8th, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC)
Wow!! What a great post!

I love this: “Canada! Finally, I’m here. It really happened. We did it. I am at home!”

I am so glad you feel that way and hope things go well as you settle in.

Thinking about you and hoping that our paths cross soon.
Sending love.
Aug. 8th, 2011 11:18 pm (UTC)
Seana, thank you so much!! I was just thinking about you! If you want to, we can meet this week -- we have one free week before we start working!
You can find me on Skype by my name (or on Google+, here), or send me your phone numer on Facebook :-)
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 9th, 2011 01:57 pm (UTC)
"US, Canada are different because they are not national states."

Yeah, that's exactly it. Canada proclaims that in order to be a Canadian, the only thing you need is the willingness to work there and be tolerant to others. That is what makes you Canadian. It is the true "melting pot" -- Israel proclaims itself to be a melting pot, with the reasoning being "no matter our differences, we are all Jews", but it doesn't work. To me, the "we are all Jews" part defeats the purpose. For one, I am not Jewish, and neither is Danny (by the halacha and by common sense, not by some anti-semitic fuckwits). But even if we were Jewish, we just don't want to live in a "national state", as you called it (and Israel is one). We are cosmopolitans.

On rent vs. buy: you're right. Moreover, even now the best thing economically is to buy -- you pay more per month, but in the end it's yours. The thing is: it's like that with almost everything else, too. The more expensive things (the better ones) are economically better, because they serve longer. So, more often than not, poor people pay more for things in the long run, because they can't afford to pay a big sum upfront. Of course it's better, money-wise, to buy an apartment rather that rent it; but there are other things to consider. Do you want to be in debt throughout most of your life? Do you want to be tied down to a specific place -- how certain are you that you'll be able to sell the apartment at a reasonable price, if you need to move? For some people, the answer is still "buy", and that's fine. But we, most likely, are only going to buy a house once we have the money to pay it all in cash, and if that's 10 years from now, then so be it. We have a strong aversion to debt.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 9th, 2011 03:43 pm (UTC)
"I personally don't see anything wrong with Israel being a national state after all it is a norm not an exception"

Absolutely! I don't say it's wrong, only that it doesn't suit me, personally. I wouldn't live in France, either :-)

"Be open minded on it like you on other things, maybe you will discover that it much better to buy house now instead of saving for 10 years. "

You're right, we might change our mind on this.

What bugged me about that protest sign was the sense of entitlement. You guys happened to have 70% of that apartment cost ready. That's a lot of money! I'm sure you didn't have it when you just finished studying -- that money took some time to save. Our other friends have the same situation, too -- they bought a great place, and it was a very wise decision. It's something they can now afford. But I see people who just finished their degree, and they expect to already be able to buy a place -- they consider it the government's problem if they can't do it! I just can't agree with that.
Aug. 9th, 2011 01:48 pm (UTC)
Привет из Детройта.
Олюшка, замечательно написала! А цепи используют только в горах. И вообще - все не так страшно, особенно долгие зимние вечера... Ждем в гости.
Aug. 9th, 2011 01:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Привет из Детройта.
Спасибо, Анечка, обязательно!
Aug. 11th, 2011 10:14 pm (UTC)
Canada does use the metric system, lol. Most of us (me in particular) translate because we have friends/family in the states who don't know how to do the conversions.

ie. 62 mph = 100 kph or approximately the same amount of time it takes to drive to Toronto.

In other news.....I'm free Sunday morning if you'd like to get together to do something.....walk in the park, talk, sight see, what ever the mood dictates.
Aug. 12th, 2011 03:12 am (UTC)
Sure, Sunday morning is cool! You and the boyfriends, or just the three of us?
Aug. 12th, 2011 08:39 am (UTC)
I'll have to double check with them to see if they have any plans. I'll let you know later today.
Aug. 13th, 2011 01:31 pm (UTC)
Sunday is Square2square. King Street downtown will be closed from about 11 am from City Hall (King & Ontario Streets) to King and Victoria where it will be partially closed, allowing traffic and then closed again from Union Street to Central. It's approximately a 3 km length of road. It's to help promote alternative forms of transportation like walking and biking. Would you like to do that? It'll give you a chance to see some of the local area at a more leisurely pace and allow you to maybe walk off some of that delicious junk/fast food you've recently discovered :D.

There are also free concerts and stuff at Waterloo Town Square tonight.

Just an idea :).
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )