August 27, 2005
Getting excited: My brother is coming into
town - and it's his first time in Canada!
Well, you probably all know by now that I grew up in Austria and
came to Canada when I was about 20 years old. I don't really have
much family left over there, the only people left are my brother
and my sister-in-law. In fact, my brother is my only living biological
relative as both my parents were single children. So no cousins,
no aunts, no uncles. I often say in jest that my family tree is
Coming to Canada by myself at the tender age of 20 wasn't actually
as hard as one would think. Although I didn't know anybody I had
a one year work permit and a job lined up, so I had a place to go
to. Getting adjusted and dealing with the language was not the greatest
obstacle either since I always had an enormous interest in foreign
cultures and I love learning languages. One of the most difficult
things was the weather (winter drags on into March and April), and
of course the lack of mountains - that was definitely hard to accept
for an Alpine enthusiast like me.
My brother Ewald and me in Ronda, Spain
When I came to Toronto I already spoke decent English, but of course
in Austria we generally learn British English (or what Austrian
high school teachers think is British English), so the main thing
was I had to change my accent around and lose words like "bonnet"
(British English for "hood") or "boot (instead of
"trunk") and get rid of my highly sophisticated yet fake
English accent that I had so lovingly nurtured during my high school
During the first 9 years of my life in Canada I frequently travelled
back to Austria to visit my father, grandmother and brother. My
mother had passed quite tragically at a relatively early age in
1987. My brother is 9 years older than me, and he moved out early
on, so I never really had a chance to develop a very close relationship
with him, although I would have liked to.
1995 was a major year in my life, since both my father and grandmother
passed away that same year, and combined with other factors, these
two events ushered in an extended dark phase in my life. As a result
of many sad memories I had no desire to travel back home for a long
time and I did not go and visit my home country for 8 years, from
1996 to 2004.
My husband, brother and sister-in-law in Nerja, Spain
Finally in the spring of 2004, my husband and I connected with
my brother and sister-in-law in the south of Spain. It was my husband's
first time in Europe, and my brother and sister-in-law had driven
all the way down from Austria by car to the south of Spain. It was
also the first time my husband and my brother met and we spent a
fabulous 12 days together. It was great to have everyone together
during that vacation in Spain, particularly since my brother had
never visited me in Canada. For him, not having flown in an airplane
since the early 1980s probably had something to do with it.
But during my trip to Austria last
November (first time back in 8 years) I spent a really great 9 days
with my brother and sister-in-law and on the last day we had a little
celebration that included our neighbours from my home town, a married
couple in their 40s. And all of a sudden I sprung the idea: Why
don't the 4 of you come to Canada together next year?
An exciting idea was born. All 4 people were getting excited about
the idea of travelling to Canada together to visit us. This was
big news for all of them since their main travels up to this point
had been restricted primarily to driving vacations to Italy, Croatia
and the south of France. So jumping in a plane and coming to Toronto
was a big step for all 4 of them. It would be everyone's first time
in North America.
Austria, November 2004, with the neighbours
Well, today is the day, when my Brother Ewald, my sister-in-law
Anneliese, and my two Austrian neighbours Luis and Isabella are
going to arrive, and they are going to be greeted by my husband
Nigel and me, on our home turf right here in Toronto. The last 2
weeks have been extremely busy restructuring the house so it would
hold sleeping quarters for 4 guests (2 of whom can't sleep in the
same room because one snores and the other has light sleep), so
we had to create 3 private sleeping areas in the house.
But one pull-out couch, one futon and one inflatable airbed later,
we'll be able to house all of them quite comfortably and I am really
looking forward to spending 9 days together in Toronto, showing
them around my new home town and introducing them to the New World.
I'll keep you posted.......
Hello from Toronto (1)
- A driving tour through the city
Hello from Toronto (2) - Exploring
the waterfront by bike & the CN Tower
Hello from Toronto (3) - Exploring
Niagara Wine Country and Niagara Falls
Hello from Toronto (4) - Exploring
Toronto's west end neighbourhoods
Hello from Toronto (5) - Novice golf,
exploring the Kawarthas, and a final bike ride
Here are my reflections
after my European visitors left