But after a few months of flat out confusion, I started to get my bearings and began to really like Montreal. Over the subsequent two years, personal crises aside, I found friends, a community garden, favorite stores, favorite parks--all the things that come with feeling like you really live somewhere.
Recently, however, I've started to become increasingly irritated and impatient with all of the complicated things I still have to navigate--steps toward becoming a permanent resident, international taxes, school boards (if we decide to go with public school instead of home schooling), etc. I find myself making broad generalizations about the city and its programs and making mental, non-verbal threats during which a part of my brain says "forget it, just leave this place."
While I was reflecting on this the other day, I started to have the distinct impression that I wasn't blazing a trail but rather following the path of many an immigrant before me, almost to the point of being a stereotype or caricature. So I googled something like "stages of an immigrant" and found this:
"1. Honeymoon Phase.
Most people begin with great expectations and a positive mind-set. There is excitement, new sights, new smells, new tastes and the early problems are experienced as quaint - as part of the newness - anything new is intriguing and exciting. And, anyway, there are more pressing problems to deal with, like opening bank accounts, getting drivers licences, finding schools, doctors, dentists, gynaecologists. These are usually handled with the accompanying euphoria of having overcome each of these first hurdles successfully.
2. Rejection Phase.
The honeymoon phase comes to an end as the newcomer has to deal with transportation problems (buses that don't come on time), shopping problems (can't buy their favourite foods or soaps or whatever) or communication problems [...] Little things come up but it may start to seem like people somehow no longer care about your problems. They may help, but they don't seem to understand your concern over what they see as small problems. You might even start to think that the people in your new country don't like newcomers and often you may begin to feel aggressive and start to complain about the new culture/country - 'Australians are ' ', or 'The system is ''. It is important to recognize that these feelings are real and can become acute. This phase is a crisis phase in the 'disease' of culture shock and is called the "rejection" phase precisely because it is at this point that the newcomer starts to reject the host country, complaining about and noticing only the bad things that bother them. At this stage the newcomer either gets stronger and stays, or gets weaker and goes home (physically, mentally or both).
3. Regression Phase.
If you have struggled with phase 2, you may find yourself moving into regression - moving backward - and in this phase of culture shock, you spend much of your time speaking your own language, watching videos from your home country, eating food from home. You may also notice that you are moving in social circles which are exclusively made up of people from your own background [...] You may spend most of this time complaining about the new country/culture and its strange and senseless ways. Also in the regression phase, you may only remember the good things about your home country which may suddenly seem marvellously wonderful; all the difficulties that you had there are forgotten and you may find yourself wondering why you ever left. You may now only remember your home country as a wonderful place in which nothing ever went wrong for you. Of course, this is not true, but an illusion created by your culture shock crisis."******
You can find various versions of this all over online. Stages two and three apparently last two to five years. I now remember reading about this in college when I briefly studied the teaching of ESL and volunteered teaching a family of Bosnian refugees to speak and read English. So there you have it. I'm apparently a stage 2/3 immigrant.
But here and there I have little experiences that pull me out of my irritation. Like this morning. The chicks and I had some errands to do, and I decided to take us out to breakfast. I don't often do this as it's not really in our budget (that whole working-part-time-from-home-single-mom thing), but I decided to do it today. We found what I've missed for years now: an artery-clogging, diner-ish breakfast place.
We stumbled upon the Resto Cafe Oxford and I knew before we walked in the door that this was a place for us. It's extraordinarily tiny, with just two long rows of mostly two-person tables. The window is lined with planters full of overgrown spider plants, and piles of free papers and a large grill greet you at the door. I hadn't realized how long it had been since I'd been to a place like this until the owner walked over and poured coffee into a mug already waiting at our table. Coffee is free until 11:00 AM, and it's pretty much expected that you'll have it. That, I have to say, feels like home to me.
The menu looks just like those in the breakfast places a midwestern girl finds herself in after waking up on a Saturday or Sunday morning, eating a huge breakfast while reviewing with her friends the previous night's festivities. Only this time it was me eating with my most frequent, very small, very messy companions. And I'm thrilled to say that they were welcomed with open arms (and a high chair), something I struggle with as children seem to be unwelcome in many places here (see above paragraphs on stage 2/3 immigrants...)
After eating our delicious breakfast, we went for a walk and discovered a charming used book and record store. The chicks and I sat on the floor in the children's section for 45 minutes poring over the varied and lovely used books, searching for a few to take home with us.
It was a good day. I guess I can stay in Montreal.