On Moving to Quebec

I have moved 10 times in my life. Considering that I’m only 21, that’s quite a few moving trucks and boxes. It’s also a lot of garage sales, Sharpie pens, empty rooms, stuffed rooms, and dust bunnies. I wouldn’t call myself an “expert”, per se, but I would consider myself “practiced.” But of all my moving, this recent move has been the most drastic. Not only did I move across the entire continent, but I moved into a house half the size of our former, and from the lush country suburbs to the heart of a concrete city. As always, this adventure has been a learning experience. I’ve included pictures for your own enjoyment. If, however, our house appears too ugly or we appear much too plain (we’re sweating like pigs here!), feel free to ignore them.

So allow me to provide my insights on this Zmak family venture:

The Ten Commandments of Moving to Quebec

1. Know Thy Neighborhood
This is critical in Montreal. If you’re not careful, you could wind up in a French, Italian, or English neighborhood. All three have very different cultural and political realities. We’re fortunate enough to live smack (Zmak?) in between the two English areas — Notre Dame de Grace and Westmount. This makes it easier on my no hablo español California familia.

Then, once you’ve picked a language zone, you’ve got to take in the day-to-day realities. For us, this meant living near the Metro. It gets really cold in winter. Like, “friggin’ cold,” to quote my father. We picked a home within sprinting distance of the underground subway system. (In case you were wondering, Montreal even has underground malls connected to the Metro. My mama will never have to go outside, except for that five minute run from the house!) Other factors played into our decision as well. We considered the sound quality (vrooooom), the closeness of our neighbors, and our proximity to shopping, coffee, and Church. (One thing we quickly learned about Quebec is the minuscule Christian population. In fact, Quebec has the smallest Christian population in North America, and missionaries from Langley, BC, plant churches here!)

Here Mother, Rachel, and I chill in our local air conditioned Starbucks after our walk to and from church, breakfast, and a friend's home.

Here Mother, Rachel, and I chill in our local air conditioned Starbucks after our walk to and from church, breakfast, and a friend’s home. Location, Location, Location — you can change everything, but! (p.s. My favorite part of this photo is the tango-ing/swing-dancing man in the background)

2. Do Not Underestimate Thy Essential Supplies
Moving is a disgusting process. We have never, ever moved into a home as clean as the one we left. This is partly because my mother is a clean freak, and partly because removing one’s crap from one’s home is dusty, grungy, and dirty. Really, really gross.

Moving also reveals all the flaws of a home. That massive painting you admired on the house tour is probably covereing a crack in the sheetrock. The stove between the counters actually has age-old grease drippings down its sides (trust me — I know). And, especially in our case, we discovered (upon the removal of the stair’s carpet) that the moldings have never been cleaned. Never. Be sure to admire the picture below. 

This unfortunate reality means that you should move prepared for battle. Keep your cleaning supplies and basic tools on the top of a box, or — better yet — hand carry them to the new house before your boxes arrive. In our former homes, we’ve always deep-cleaned the kitchen before we unpack. Unfortunately, in this home, we just ripped the entire friggin’ room out. Oops.

For moving, my favorite grab-ready supplies are painter’s tape (perfect for labeling drawers, labeling rooms, attaching impromptu documents to the fridge, etc.), hammer and nails (there is no safer place for your paintings than off the floor), Murphy’s Wood Soap (I’m very biased because our stairs are so gross here, but this is perfect for cleaning all the surfaces that you will be touching on a daily basis), a broom (because dust bunnies love moving too), and a Sharpie marker (it’s amazing how many uses a good, black pen has. My particular favorite is a bold, must-have-ASAP Home Depot list).

Can you tell which part I've cleaned and which part I haven't?? Eww, gross.

Can you tell which part I’ve cleaned and which part I haven’t?? Eww, gross.

3. Know Thy Cash (Limits)
Moving is expensive. There’s a price tag on the labor, the gas, the cost of replacing the broken lamp/shelf/rear view mirror, the tubs of pity-me ice cream, the emergency purchases from Home Depot to replace the essential lamp/shelf/rear view mirror, the meals out, the beer, and the order-in pizza. And just so you know: if you’re moving across Canada, it’s about $1 per pound in shipping. EEESH! Be prepared to cough up a lot of dough after selling all your heavy heirlooms in a garage sale.

Here we are, feasting on our very first at-home dinner. Say hello to BBQ'd hot dogs! (On fresh French buns, mmmm)

Here we are, feasting on our very first at-home dinner. Say hello to BBQ’d hot dogs! (On fresh French buns, mmmm)

4. Know Thy Starbucks
First things first: map out the locations of your favorite coffee shop. Trust me. You’ll be visiting at 7:00 am when you realize you packed the coffee machine. You’ll visit again at 11:00 am when you realize your wireless has been disconnected. You might visit again at 1:00 pm when your spouse is driving you nuts. And you may visit at 3:00 pm when you’re hot, sweaty, and thirsty, and you need a pick-me-up because you just broke the lamp/shelf/rear view mirror. And that was only the first day! You still have the rest of your life, and we all need a good coffee every now and then.

5. Do Not Covet Thy Neighbors’ Home
I guarantee that when your home is filled with card board boxes, the original 1980s carpeting, a bio-hazardous kitchen, and the occasional dinosaur-crustacean-centipede-bug-thing with waaaay too many legs, your neighbor’s home is going to be looking p-r-e-t-t-y darn nice. But remember that the grass is always greener on the other side (and actually, our neighbors do have greener grass.) The good news? Soon your house will be home. Just not today.

Yeah, but I bet the neighbor's house doesn't come with such good lookin' girls.

Yeah, but I bet the neighbor’s house doesn’t come with such good lookin’ girls.

6. Know Thy Garbage Day
This is essential. Garbage comes twice a week in Montreal, but all the information signs are in French. Figure out the garbage days and write them on your heart. Don’t do what we did and kill the front lawn. It’s amazing how the dead grass rings match the shape of the plastic garbage bags exactly. Mother is thrilled. “Think of them as crop circles, Ma.”

The cool thing is that the garbage men take everything here. They take rotting kitchen cabinets (trust me, we know), yard cuttings, 1980s carpet (we hope), and the kitchen sink (literally and figuratively). It’s really impressive, actually. We look forward to watching the truck relieve us of our crap.

You may notice the lack of a kitchen. The garbage man took it.

You may notice the lack of a kitchen. The garbage man took it.

7. Keep Thy Translator App Close
There are several free language apps that let you translate French to English. Download them all. After all, how else will you figure out garbage day? It took my mother and me (OK, mostly me) a good 20 minutes of wishy-washy debate over which day lundi translates to (It’s Monday, by the way).

Thanks to my translator app, I can now translate the color of our future door. Yay?

Thanks to my translator app, I can now translate the color of our future door. Yay?

8. Thou Shalt Balance Fun and Work
If nothing else, balancing work and fun is a good stress reliever. If your idea of “fun” is a trip to Starbucks (Me), a walk down the tool aisle at Home Depot (Dad), a repeat-playing of the Pride & Prejudice theme song (Rachel), or evenings spent playing Words With Friends (Mom…ok, fine. Mom & Me), take the break. The boxes, mess, filth, lack-of-a-kitchen, and garbage piled in the yard really wears you down. We took off half of the Fourth of July to visit Burlington, Vermont. It was great fun.

Here's a summary of our July 4 trip to Burlington, Vermont: rain, great architecture, small cars, and not-very-Mexican Mexican food!!

Here’s a summary of our July 4 trip to Burlington, Vermont: rain, great architecture, small cars, and not-very-Mexican Mexican food!!

9. Moveth the Storage Containers
I strongly advise you to know where your stuff is going to end up. It’s much easier to unpack when you’ve got a place to put it. Otherwise, organizing is impossible and the house’s mess descends into Hell in a vicious cycle. Granted, unpacking and organizing is a slow process for me. I’m not necessary the professional in the household (*cough cough* Mom *cough*). However, I am so grateful to have under-bed storage tubs, a handful of wicker baskets, a laundry basket to pile/carry homeless belongings in, one as-big-as-it-gets dresser, and my bulletin board. I don’t know how I would have unpacked if I hadn’t brought these with me.

Of course, you can take “storage container” to an all-new level like my parents did. We call it The Pod and it is the bane of the neighborhood. Sometimes we sit in the window and watch the expressions of those walking by. One woman was simply repulsed at the sight of this massive, white shipping container in the driveway. The garbage men take everything, and I think she was sorry they missed The Pod.

10. Thou Shan’t Look Back
It does no good to regret moving, miss where you’ve come from, or wish you’d done something different. It’s too late. Jump with both feet and don’t look back. What good is saying, “Man, I hate it here.” You will only make yourself blue. Look at my family’s situation: we moved from the beautiful city of Vancouver, divinely placed between the ocean and the mountains, world-famous for its healthy living, polite people, and pure water. Then we moved to Montreal, best known for its role in the Quebec Sovereignty Movement and secession-from-Canada vote. But it’s also known for it’s “little France” atmosphere and great baguettes. I’m clinging to the baguettes for my dear life. Actually, I’m loving the chocolate croissants here. THEY ARE SO GOOD. 

But, back to the final commandment. Embrace the adventure. Consider it like a visit to the dentist: it hurts, there might be blood, you’ll be lectured by people you don’t know, but you’ll get a free toothbrush in the end. Oh, sorry? You don’t get excited about the free toothbrush? Fine. Retry: “…you’ll be lectured by people you don’t know, but your teeth will thank you.” OK – I KNOW. Sucky analogy. I got a B in screenwriting; I don’t do well with theatrical writing, apparently. Not that I’m bitter.

But when it’s all said and done, don’t get yourself down.

This picture poetically represents "looking back." I was actually walking forward towards Ben & Jerry's when this photo was taken, but that doesn't fit with Point 10. This was taken in Burlington, VT.

This picture poetically represents “looking back.” I was actually walking forward towards Ben & Jerry’s when this photo was taken, but that doesn’t fit with Point 10. This was taken in Burlington, VT, on Independence Day.

Let me end with a joke: 

Knock knock.
Who’s there? 
Woo hoo. 

Get it? :) It’s better said out loud. Trust me.



7 thoughts on “On Moving to Quebec

  1. LOL! Emily you crack me up. This is a keeper. A must read for Grammy and Papa who move on the 12th and Uncle Mike and and Sue who move at the end of the month. I love your humor.

  2. Love you lots! You guys are such troopers! Way to go!! Though it doesn’t compare, I remember last year when I moved 4 times in 3 months and I laughed and realizing how many of your commandments rang true!!

  3. Laughing out loud. It took my iPad a few try’s to load your blog but it finally did so I read it to Papa as we drove past the Salton Sea with a load of our moving/working/cleaning tools loaded in the trailer behind us. Who would have thought we needed them three months ago when we left here. We will take your sage moving advise to heart. Too funny.

  4. Oh Sweet Emily! I loved this :) You have a fantastic family and I love that spirit of adventure! Although this is still good to read now I wish I would have read this when I first moved to OK! It was so wonderful to see you are the wedding and I am excited for all the fun things going on in your life. Send our love to the fam :)

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