A third-culture kid (TCK / 3CK) or trans-culture kid is "someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more cultures other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture."


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Canada - Sweet Home Ontario

The day finally came to leave Santiago. Our personal effects were already packed and shipped off only to reunite with us upon our arrival to Ottawa. Leaving Chile meant leaving my friends, my school and all the other elements of my daily life I had grown so accustomed to. I was separated from a city I had grown to love as my own. As I sat in the waiting area at our departure gate with my family, I remember trying to memorize my surroundings, my people, my countryside, as this would probably be the last chance I had to be at peace with my adoptive country. I was not thinking at the time about Ottawa and the brand new adjustment process. Boarding time eventually caught up to me and this brought about a feeling of leaving the love of my life behind. I persistently prayed for our flight cancellation during my interminable captivity watching the plane from the waiting area. I was utterly powerless to change this date with destiny. Once we boarded the aircraft, it obeyed the instructions of its pilot, continuing its purpose leading us out of our haven. This was goodbye, probably forever. I had to watch out window of the plane, my usual portal to the world as a passenger, as Santiago became smaller. The cordillera seemed to bid me farewell and all I had left now were only the memories of the past three years.

Canadian Airlines aircraft at Pearson International Airport, Toronto, Canada

Our Ontario saga began amidst a wonderful summer season. Two summers in one year in 1992. Our port of entry once more was the Pearson International Airport and the ensuing customs routine. The officers were kind to remind us in a condescending fashion - on each and every occasion they could - that we were not extended any diplomatic privileges upon entering their jurisdiction. These comments did not affect me personally as the excitement of reuniting with the Toronto Chapter of the Bickford Clan prevailed. We were guests once more at my Uncle John and Aunt Amy's lovely home in Etobicoke, a stone’s throw away from the airport. The kind of reception we were subject to eased temporarily many of my concerns of returning to Canada. I have always considered Uncle John to be my Canadian Dad and Aunt Amy my Canadian Mom. They were the first recognizable faces upon setting foot on Canadian soil. There was a similar feeling regarding my Tati Annie and my Uncle Fernando on my mother's side of the family which I will delve into in depth in the not too distant future. There was another element that may seem odd to some but contributed to feeling at home with them. Their home as always had a refreshing scent which I discerned on every circumstance as soon as I walked through the front door. If clean had a smell, it would smell like that house.

Our stay was not packed with activities but extremely entertaining. We sat around my uncle's living room increasing our fine repertoire of jokes and hearing stories of my Dad and his brother growing up in the Maritimes. I could relate to some level to their anecdotes as they were both born in the UK and immigrated to Eastern Canada. They moved from one exciting town to another every few years and each place had a specific highlight. I am positive that this kind of lifestyle in those years must have involved fewer political and social risks than we had encountered, but living in scarcely populated townships was a challenge all on its own. Towns and cities in England seemed to be isolated yet nowhere close in comparison to the distances experienced in Canada. Once you have lived long enough in the Great White North, a 500 km drive seems like nothing at all. Just a day trip perhaps. Furthermore, our imperial brother possesses a much better developed transportation network due to population density, something we are not exactly blessed with here in the tundra. They have trains, we have VIA Rail. Not the most encouraging method of transportation if you have had the pleasure to try out other rail services around the civilized world. Most of us here get from A to B using Henry Ford's favourite invention, which brings me to the most important item on the agenda of our triumphant return: the new family car.

My Dad's primary objective was to purchase a new car before leaving the big smoke on the 401 East. We browsed through few dealerships around Etobicoke in search of a van or station-wagon. I favoured the idea of the van, especially the big ones, for example the Aerostar. The station-wagon in my eyes was a failed design by automakers. As a passenger, the Aerostar gave me the impression of being in a mobile lounge. I certainly confirmed that riding along for the test drive. What a beast! My Dad kept mentioning that he felt he was driving a truck. I was enthused about the Aerostar and I am sure I bombarded my father with many pros regarding this purchase, of course without thinking about the price tag. After all, why would I be concerned with a price tag if I had not bought anything in my life. The van did not bare the same value for both of us. The dealer had managed to sell me the fine vehicle, though I had not purchasing power. My Dad was not convinced, mostly thinking about whether a car that monstrosity had the clearance to fit in the garage in Ottawa. Again, as a child, why did I care if it fit in the garage? It was the Aerostar! The answer to my Dad's concerns came afterwards when we entered the showroom in Islington Chrysler. The 1992 Plymouth Voyager SE. The inside did not resemble the inside of a conference room, a great disappointment. A major sales point was the removable seats and the then futuristic look about the vehicle. He later disappeared into a mountain of paperwork to complete the purchase while we waited, hoping to leave the premises in our new sky blue (not the same as Maui blue) Voyager. I did not realize we actually had to wait before actually being in possession of the recently purchased van. I somewhat approved the acquisition but it was not the Aerostar.

Snapshot of a 1992 Plymouth Voyager

Our Plymouth Voyager's maiden voyage was to Kingston. Amherstview to be precise. Now we were invading Grandad's house for a few weeks causing all sorts of mayhem. Actually, we spent most of the time watching movies, playing games and attending the Sunday mass. William "Bill" Bickford (my Grandad) was an Amherstview celebrity/superhero: an Aikido sensei on weekday evenings and a United Church of Canada Minister on weekends. He provided demonstrations on his martial art tricks on both Brian and I which he thoroughly enjoyed. Since Granny's passing, he must have invested more energy and time out of the house. He had equipped his country home with many options to entertain his grandkids. Brian and I discovered the brand new world of satellite television and computer gaming, especially while my parents left us behind on a few day trips to Ottawa. They had to meet their real estate agent to sign some papers so as to be able to move in to our new home quickly. As soon as my parents were able to obtain those blessed keys to the house, our new lives would begin. A new era in Ottawa, a city I did not remember after Venezuela and Chile. We had only briefly returned to the nation's capital during one of our winter trips up when my parents were house-hunting. This is when they bought the Gillespie Crescent house. None of us had ever lived there but it was a great house nonetheless. My parents thought it was important to stick to Hunt Club, the Ottawa-South neighbourhood  so Brian and I could identify it as home base.

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