In 1983, my father had completed his three-year posting in Brazil, so the family was to relocate to Ottawa, my first Canadian home. We lived in a quiet suburb called Hunt Club, similar to the neighbourhood in Brasilia except for the jungle and the wildlife that goes along with it. My initial culture shock was that my understanding of languages had changed somewhat. My mom was still speaking French and my father English. For some reason, everyone else did not seem to understand Portuguese. I suddenly got furious that I could not interact and went on a temporary vow of silence. Through my brother and neighbourhood kids, I realized the language in practice was now English and French.
|Brian and I in our basement in Ottawa.|
I began my education in Ottawa, starting at the Hunt Club Riverside Community Centre. My fellow classmates were mostly French speaking and we had really fun activities, which I do not tend to practice much these days, such as naptime. The pre-school classes became my world as well as the neighbourhood kids until my first winter. I was unable to go outside and play as freely as I used to because the temperature would drop to a balmy average of 15ºC or 20ºC below 0ºC, without the wind-chill factor. For those who do not live in the frozen North, wind-chill is that refreshing breeze you get out of nowhere. Sometimes this air can be felt while walking, or even hiding in a bus shelter, and I imagine a similar feeling would be thousands of daggers and needles hitting your skin. Furthermore, if you are out too long in the cold and cannot feel so cold anymore, alarm bells should be ringing. I believe an appropriate term for this is frostbite. Anyway, I am sure there are better authorities on coaching newcomers for Canadian winter survival.
|Dad, Brian and myself trying out the newest fashion trends in menswear.|
I then became old enough to attend preschool where I went to Georges-Etienne Cartier, a French-speaking public school close to our home. My first friends were French-Canadian and I began to identify with my mother, as she was my key French interactor. Scholastic excellence was based on story time, sing-alongs, marbles and drawing. I remember having to dress as a lumberjack singing folksongs “Alouette”, “Frère Jacques”, "La Bastringue", “Le bon Roi Dagobert” and other timeless classics.
After building my solid repertoire of music, my love for Scooby Doo and a solid network of play buddies in Ottawa South, we were off again to South America in 1986 looking forward to start a brand new experience.