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Guest Yvonne

We decided to leave SA

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Guest Yvonne

We decided to leave SA in 1997, after Yvonne had been attacked by armed men who forced their way into our home in Kempton Park (the neighbours heard the screams and came over. The attackers, who had a knife and a gun, were apprehended. They were given R50 bail, and they did not appear in court.), and our daughter had her bicycle stolen at knifepoint in broad daylight in the center of town. We were concerned about the future for our kids, the violence and crime, the likelihood of AA putting us on the street, etc, etc. After researching all the English speaking countries and choosing Canada, we decided that Vancouver was where we wanted to stay. Further research indicated that job opportunites in the Toronto area were likely to be much better than in Vancouver, so we changed our first stop to Toronto.

We arrived in Toronto in April 2000. We had no friends, family or job, and enough money for 4 to 6 months. We had booked a B&B for a week beforehand, so after the "Welcome to Canada" from the immigration folks, we took a taxi to the B&B. (We had to 'borrow' a quarter from a friendly Canadian to get a luggage trolley.) One room with 2 beds for the 5 of us, with ten suitcases, in a hot and humid city, with no air conditioning. That May in Toronto was like January in Durban. Everywhere we looked, we saw maple leaves. On the flags, on the doors at the airport, on the pavement (oops, sidewalk!), fluttering from homes! We were surprised at this level of pride Canadians had in their country.

The first task was to open a bank account (I had opened a non-resident account on an earlier LSD (Look, See , and Decide) trip to Vancouver, but it apparently was not like a normal chequing account). Then SIN cards and health card applications. The government officials we dealt with were helpful and polite, and we were impressed by their efficiency.

Then find more permanent accomodation - the best we could do was a year's lease (we wanted 6 months) in North York with 6 months down-payment. This was a shock, but we had no option - no credit record,etc,etc. I had brought a laptop PC with, so as soon as we had the front door open I was on the internet looking for a job. We bought a TV and beds for the kids, and we slept on the floor for 2 months, until a kind neighbour gave us a rollaway bed.

The TV was fascinating - 60 channels of ads and an entire channel for weather (how absurd that seemed at the time). Yvonne got the kids into local schools. An ex-SA gave us a basket with some cups, plates, cutlery and pots - which helped get life started. We discovered garage sales, and scoured them for things like a microwave, a desk, a toaster. Our two boys (12 and 13) seemed to take the move as an adventure, but our daughter (16) was not impressed with this wrench away from her friends and relatives. She was very unhappy at this time, and there seemed to be little we could do to help her understand what we were doing and why. Teenagers have such a hard time adjusting to changes in their own lives, let alone a move to a strange country.

I think that the first month was so busy and unusual it was more like a holiday than a new life in a new country. The public transport was like a dream (neither Yvonne nor I drive). We found out that English in Canada is indeed a foreign language, and created our share of confusion with tickey boxes (Call boxes, Rosey), robots (traffic lights, would you believe?), and geysers (water heaters, not the old folks)! We went for walks after dark, and felt safe everywhere - even in the seedy parts of Toronto. The telephone company did not provide a telephone ("You have to buy your own phone???"), and the townhouse was full of furnaces and heat exchangers and filters and stuff we had never seen before. Not to mention, thay were made of wood and ceiling board. We were terrified the boys would destroy the place unintentionally.

We discovered that we needed a credit history for everything, that our SA credit history, bank records, tax records etc meant nothing here. We discovered Tim Horton's, and that there were dozens of types of 'bread' and 'milk' here, not to mention several varieties of potatoes (like yellow and red).

I found out that, without Canadian experience, I had effectively no experience - 20 years in the industry in SA meant nothing here. Neither did my MSc. At this point our initial elation started to become disillusionment. Why did we have to have such high qualifications and extensive experience to get into Canada if it was worthless here? We started to feel increasingly lonely, missing almost everything that was 'normal' in SA, and our friends and family. I went to the employment offices, did the free courses, Canadianised my resume, and applied for every job I could do. Then for some that I probably could do. Then for those I might be able to do.

Our container arrived and we had no job, no home. We had to have it stored until we we had somewhere to unload it. We were quite demoralised at this stage, but there was no turning back. We just had to make it work. One thing that helped us keep focused and sane was the message boards from Soft Landings and CanadaCoffeeClub. These message boards provided a valuable link to others with similar experiences, just as they helped us cope with the Long Wait after submitting our application to the CHC in Pretoria. Many thanks to all the folks who contributed to those message boards, and those who operated them. We only discovered Sacanada.org later.

After 10 weeks, I was offered an interview in Guelph (which I had never heard of). The job was several levels lower than my last position in SA, but we had to start earning C$ as soon as possible, to avoid depleting our Rands. I researched the company, analysed every word on their website, and studied every public record about it. I identified their major computer and business software systems and learned what I could about them. I think that the only reason I was offered the job was that I knew more about the company than any other applicant. Three days after the interview, I was offered the job. I had to get a Canadian doctor to confirm that I was able to do office work, as I had told them I have epilepsy. (They had no idea of the medical hoops we had to jump through before leaving SA!).

I moved to a furnished room in Guelph and started work two days later, while Yvonne stayed with the kids in Toronto. I found the first few months at work extremely humiliating (eg "We use computers to communicate between employees here, with "email". Did you have "email" in Africa?") I had spent my whole career in SA with a huge corporation (Eskom, like Ontario Hydro was), and I found it particularly challenging to adapt to the ways of a small municipal electricity utility. For three months, I lived in Guelph during the week, then took the bus home to Toronto for the weekends. During this period I lost my wallet. KFC phoned me at work to tell me that they had picked up my wallet and would I please come and fetch it (This would be very unlikely to happen in SA!) My SIN card, bank card and money were still in the wallet. I was amazed.

We still had 9 months on the North York lease, but then discovered the Tenant Protection Act and a way out of an unwanted lease. We were looking for someone to take over the lease when the owner decided that we could leave, but they would NOT refund any part of the 6 months rent we had paid up front. We decided to accept that loss. We found a 3 bedroomed house to rent in Guelph (with the owner's son and girlfriend in the basement) and the family moved to Guelph at the end of August. We had our container delivered, and with the boxes of familiar things we started to feel a little more at ease. We had not shipped our furniture over, and in retrospect it is one thing I would have done differently. We had not realised how expensive good furniture is here.

As soon as Yvonne got to Guelph, she went to the Adult Education program to start work on her high school diploma. (In SA, we had tried for 20 years to get some way for Yvonne to further her education, but the few possible facilities were out of reach as we had no transport. Yvonne suffered brain damage in an accident as a child, and did not have the opportunity to complete school.) In November it started snowing. Our kids had never seen snow before, so the first time was very exciting. Snowball fights, snowpersons, snow angels. And the sidewalk clearing. (Not such fun.) Two friends Yvonne met at Adult Ed brough us a Christmas hamper and gifts for the kids on Christmas Eve - this was a lovely welcome surprise. If it was not for them, our Christmas would have been bleak.

We again took advantage of the Tenant Protection Act to get out of the lease, by getting someone else to take it over, and six months later we bought a townhouse in Guelph, using the remnants of our life's savings as a barely adequate down payment. I think that a gradual improvement in our feelings about the big move to Canada took place after we had our own home. We are considerably less affluent than we were in SA, with a tiny townhouse, compared to the 300m2 house we had in Kempton Park, but we have also learned that we do not need those material things - they are far less relevant to our lives than they were a few years ago.

Almost 4 years later now. Our daughter has completed high school and moved out to a friend's basement, and is working and studying at college. Yvonne has completed high school at Adult Ed, and is now preparing for a college course. The boys seem to have settled in to the new, more permissive school society here (we find the lack of discipline rather disturbing). I am still unsettled at work, but slowly making progress. I have registered with OACETT as a Certified Engineering Technologist, and when I can afford it, I will try to get registered as a Professional Engineer. I think we are over the worst. Before leaving SA I was sure we would be totally settled in within 6 months. Now I think it takes 3 to 5 years before one feels reasonably at home.

Andy & Yvonne

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Guest Yvonne

Andy got a job in Burnaby ( Vancouver) and started on the 29 May 2004. Andy come to Ontario to fetch me and we both came back to Burnaby. We left Ontario for Vancouver on 11 July and stayed in the basement apartment for a week with our two cats.

On the 17th of July we moved into our new townhouse. We slept on the floor till our furniture arrived from Ontario on the 27th. We were able to arrange the closing of the Burnaby townhouse purchase to be 3 days after the closing of the Guelph townhouse sale, so the logistics worked out well, not requiring an intermediate rental, and allowing a transfer of the mortgage with a nice low interest rate. As usual, there were some unexpected moving costs - the largest of which was the property transfer tax in BC, which we had not encountered before. Apparently there are coyotes in the forresty areas near our place, so our cats (Dimwit & Pongo) are now definitely 'inside' cats ! Lots of arachnids too, mainly outside.

Our kids all chose to stay in Guelph - and since they are all over the age of 16 we have no choice but to let them stay. They have grown to see Guelph as home in 4 years, and are not keen to be uprooted again. We are not entirely happy to leave our youngest there. Maybe the coming Ontario winter will change some minds...

People have welcomed us here in many ways. When we moved into the house, a colleague at Andy's work lent us some household essentials for a few weeks. About a week after we arrived, our nextdoor neighbours invited us for tea, and the next day they invited us for supper. Our townhouse is just north of Sperling skytrain station, an ideal location for us. We have enjoyed the lovely weather and gone on outings whenever we could. We have been up to the Capilano bridge - great fun.

All we need now is a good old braai ....

Yvonne & Andy

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Gautenger

Thanks for sharing your experiences with us guys, it helps at lot.

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shaun

Yvonne & Andy

Hell guys I take my hat off to you two. You make it seem so easy. Good luck in BC (I still envy you guys).

Shaun

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patche

Yvonne - if the need for a good old braai gets big enough, e mail me, we love new/more excuses to have another one....(or two or three...) :D We live in Coquitlam, so not too far from your place.

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Guest Yvonne

On Friday 20 August, We went to the Sunshine Coast to the Welcome Inn B & B . We took the skytrain to Granville station where we caught the bus to Horseshoe Bay, the BCferry to Langdale and the bus to the B & B, the owner’s are Joan & Mike. That night we went to the Gumboot Restaurant for supper. On the 21 August we went to Sechelt. On 22 August Andy and I to Gibsons they had a art fair two blocks away from the Gibsons marina, after looking at the arts we went to the Marina after the marina we walked up a very, steep hill to Sunnycrest Mall. Then we caught the bus to Davis Bay where we had supper then caught the bus to Langdale then got on the Bcferry to Horseshoe Bay, a bus to Granville station got on the skytrain to Burnaby and got home at 12:10am. At Sechelt we saw this interesting flag in a shop window

post-433-1152491779.jpg

Yvonne

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Deonm

Hi Yvonne-Well I can imagine how nice the trip to the Sunshine Coast must have been.We visited the same area last year,and travelled exactly the same route as you did.The only difference being that we stayed with our friend in Davis Bay (the Davis Bay B+B)for 3 days.Errol who co-owns the B+B is an ex SAfrican who prides himself that he can still speak "die taal".

Whenever we return,the Sunshine Coast will be high on our agenda.

Deon Meyer

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Guest Yvonne

Joan & Mike from for welcome Inn B & B are also ex SAfrican.

Yvonne

Edited by Yvonne

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Guest Yvonne

Sechelt at Sunshine Coast

post-433-1152491835.jpg

Edited by Adele

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Hendie

Thank you very much for the pictorial journal of your travels Yvonne, you seem to be enjoying yourself!

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Ann

Yvonne, I love your T-shirts. Where did you get them? Tell me please. :P

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Guest Yvonne

Hi Ann

We bought our T-shirts at the Rafters Restaurant

in Glen Marais, Kempton Park, on the evening that

we left SA.

Yvonne

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Guest Yvonne

Andy & I are going to San Diego on the 7th September.

Yvonne

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Guest Yvonne

We arrieved back from San Diego. We went on a tour of the US MIDWAY.

post-433-1152492082.jpg

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Guest Yvonne

On the 30 October Andy went to see

Eternal Egypt Royal BC Museum in Victoria.

post-433-1152492133.jpg

post-433-1152492153.jpg

post-433-1152492203.jpg

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Guest Yvonne

Good news! Our boys decided to come to Vancouver after about six month's living 'on the streets' in Ontario.

On the 9th October, Byron came to stay with us in Vancouver. On the 12th of October Andy went to Toronto for a course. On the Friday he went to Guelph to see Henry & Talitha, but only managed to see Talitha. He come back on the 16th. On the 13th November, Henry came to Vancouver. It is quite a squeeze in our house now, but we are so glad to have them here. It would be great if our daughter decided to come to BC too!

Yvonne & Andy

:rolleyes:

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Harry

That's great, Yvonne!

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Andy & Yvonne

Well, we passed the 5 year mark and I suppose it is time for an update.

On the 17th July will be our first anniversary in our townhouse in Burnaby. We never mentioned how we come about getting our town house. Well here it goes: About a month before Andy left Guelph we had corresponded with a Real Estate Agent (who is ex-SA). She sent us some newspapers ads for houses, furniture and groceries. Andy moved to BC by himself. In the meantime I was in left in Guelph to try and sell our townhouse, and get our mortgage renewed and transferred to BC. Andy found the ideal townhouse for us in Burnaby quickly and we were able to arrange the sale of the Guelph house and purchase of the Burnaby house at the same time, so we could transfer the mortgage and move in to the Burnaby townhouse without renting in between houses.

..........

As you know, our 3 kids all stayed in Guelph when Yvonne left in July. Our daughter had a job and a basement apartment there. Our two boys, both over 16, decided to stay in Guelph and complete school there. Although we made arrangements for accomodation for both of them, they chose to live 'on the street'. This was a very difficult time for us, as we were not happy with leaving our youngest to fend for himself - but we could not force him to come to Burnaby. However, it seems there is an entire industry in Canada devoted to these 'street kids'. Our boys spent much of the next 6 months at a youth shelter in Guelph called 'Change Now'. We kept in contact with the shelter, which provided the boys with basic necessities of life and the lesson that there are rules everywhere - even on the street. Henry stayed with a friend at times while Byron toured southern Ontario's youth shelters. There were times when we did not know where he was. The start of winter brought some sanity and both boys decided to come to Burnaby in October and November. Both of them seem to have matured during their 6-month adventure, avoiding the worst that could have happened, and have

survived it with less trauma than their parents.

I think we had completely underestimated the effect of a second major move on the boys, at a time when they needed some stability. They had just regained some degree on normality in Guelph when we decided to move to Van. Anyway, they went back to school here almost halfway through the school year, with different subjects and requirements, in a school system that seemed to care even less than the Ontario system did. They slowly returned from a state of total rebellion to normal teenagers again, although the school year was not a success. After a lot of skipped periods, uncompleted assignemts and one suspension from school for 3 days, I think we are back on track and next year will be a success.

Henry went back to Guelph for a visit two weeks ago (3 days and nights on the Greyhound!). He will be coming back next week. He has realised that both he and his friends have changed, and the Guelph we lived in for almost 4 years has moved on. Byron did not want to go back for a visit.

.........

And so, 5 years in Canada and one year in Burnaby. I can say that Yvonne and I feel very much at home in Canada, and at last we are in Vancouver, which was our first choice as a destination. We have had some experiences we had not even dreamed possible. We feel in our hearts that we can close the "Emmigrating to Canada" chapter of our lives, and concentrate on our future as Canadians now.

Bringing up teenagers is a daunting task for most parents. Emigrating too is a challenging adventure. Doing the two together is not for the timid. We wrote all this as a caution to those contemplating emmigration with teenagers and an encouragement to those already on this journey. There is light at the end of the tunnel!

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Karen

Andy and Yvonne,

Well done on surviving all the traumas of the early years. Now, just get on with life in beautiful BC and put all past experiences behind you and move forward in good health and happiness.

I think emigrating with teenage children must be the hardest thing, and after reading your story, I am really pleased I made the move with young children. Even then, it did take them a while to really feel settled and at home, but they are totally Canadian.

Come to think of it, in early September, I will have spent half my married life here in Canada already. Where does time go to...?

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Andy & Yvonne

Thanks, Karen

Re-reading our last post, it sounds a little negative - but it is not intended to be. Having been a good Boy Scout with the "Be prepared" motto drilled into my skull from birth, we had anticipated many of the challenges of emigrating, but somehow we overlooked the huge impact it would have on our kids. They simply could not comprehend the reasons that forced us from South Africa or drew us to Canada. Forewarned is forearmed.

Can't believe it is already five years. Well, it is time to put aside my objection to shelling out yet more money, and get Canadian citizenship. Home at last - and what a beautiful part of the world to call home !

Andy & Yvonne

B)

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Harry

I know some of our members are living through the very massive trauma of having to explain to their teenagers why they need to leave SA at just the exact time that they have all their friends neatly sorted out and linked up. This can be unbelievably rough on the kids.

As we all know, having been there once ourselves, teenagers are the true experts on all matters of life, but somehow are a little reluctant to think things through to a conclusion.

I think the Good Lord ( or whatever deity people believe in) intentionally designed homo sapiens in such a way that man shall never understand woman and teenager shall never unnderstand parent, no matter how much experience the human race documents. I think these contrasts are hardwired to ensure the survival of the species somehow. It just seems such a pity that there sometimes has to be huge pain in the process of relearning all the known lessons. I guess teenagers are designed to "jump the nest" and explore. However, in doing so they are designed to "run in packs"...a little like young male lions stick together and learn to hunt for themselves. Unfortunatly the jungle out there can be unforgiving of dumb moves.

I'm glad it has worked out for you guys, Andy & Yvonne. I just hope our other members see this issue coming and can avoid the trauma.

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