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Relocating to Royal Roads University and back to Victoria: when what is familiar is unfamiliar after all

August 28, 2014
Dr. Julia Jahansoozi

Due to my father’s profession I was moved about a fair bit – Middle East, Europe, North America. Specifically, Iran, the United Kingdom, and Canada. And within these countries we also moved around.  As a result I am fairly comfortable with moving and change in general and was very excited about joining Royal Roads University, the School of Communication and Culture, and relocating back to Victoria from the UK. I thought it would be the simplest of moves to date.

During the past 14 years whilst initially studying and then living and working in the UK, I had moved 13 times so you might think I was a bit of an expert in the moving process.  However, I found moving back to Victoria after an absence of 14 years to be both very easy and difficult. It was difficult precisely because I knew the city well – or thought I did. Having lived in Victoria from mid-1989 until 1999 and having made fairly regular visits (nine of them) to Victoria to see my parents whilst I lived abroad was where my confidence that it would be an easy move came from. I figured there’d be no culture shock and that I’d seamlessly pick up where I had left off. Needless to say there were a few differences I hadn’t paid enough attention to which might have prepared me better had I thought about it and planned in more detail.

In the months leading up to my relocation back to Victoria I was busy wrapping up at the University of Stirling with my teaching and doing my best to leave the programs I was responsible for in good shape for my colleagues who’d be taking them on. I knew they’d hunt me down if I didn’t do this, as the world is a fairly small place in my academic discipline.

The one thing I did do very early on (in February) prior to our move in June was to put my little 3 year old on the waiting list for a day care spot as I knew from my experience in Scotland that there could be lengthy waiting lists to contend with. This proved to be critical and resulted in my son having a place in a great day care (my first choice).  Other than this I was fairly relaxed. Perhaps too relaxed, as I didn’t think about various impacts, such as staying with my parents, until I had already made the move.

As March and April came I realised I needed to get on with the administration so I could bring my belongings with me and not be taxed on them. Part of relocating meant I had to figure out what to take with me and so had quotations from three relocation/moving companies. All seemed good but I was happy to choose the company that a friend of a colleague highly recommended – Constantine – and they were amazing and came in cheapest. Not enough superlatives to say how great the team was and how stress-free they made this particular part of the move for me. This is why I think I might have been a bit relaxed about the move. All the nitty-gritty physical stuff was sorted. But the more emotive side of things was perhaps left a bit unexamined.

Regarding the practical aspects I had to notify all the various agencies and organizations that I was linked with. I was on hold for what felt like days with my energy provider, who told me they couldn’t let me know what my bill was or if I owed any money. Drilling down I discovered this particular energy company had a serious problem with billing and that they hadn’t been able to produce accurate bills for the past 8 months. I finally got bills once I was already in Victoria – three of them arrived within a week. One that stated the energy company owed me over £700, another that suggested I was owed £35, and the final one that came with a cheque for £5. I’d say the final one was accurate according to my own calculations but maybe they’ll send me another cheque for £695 soon – I haven’t spent it in advance though. Other utilities weren’t much better but could provide a bill very quickly as well as charges for exiting the contracts earlier (by 2 days!). This was a frustrating process and time was spent mostly listening to recordings asking me to be patient and that my call was important. But this was to be expected, as I knew from moving so many times that this was the norm. So nothing out of the ordinary.

My parents were beyond over the moon that I was returning home and bringing my family (although my partner remained on overseas to join us later in the year). The plan was that we (my little three year old boy and myself) would initially stay for a month with my parents. In their beautiful exotic cottage – crammed with treasures collected from around the globe during their 51 years of marriage. And, that they’d be fine with a little minx jumping, running, and climbing over everything they held dear. Not to mention a new level of noise being introduced at rather early hours of the morning and carrying on until his bedtime (7pm).

It didn’t dawn on me that the last time they’d had a small child in their home was when I was small – and that was a long time ago. And now my father was 80+ and my mother was heading for 70. My parents also forgot these points, over estimating their energy capacity and forgetting what small children can be like, especially when their whole world has changed.  My parents couldn’t anticipate the changes to their quiet lifestyle and this was detrimental to their health. And I didn’t fully understand the changes to the their lifestyle either. I saw my parents starting to fade and wither away – literally. I had a horrible suspicion that we were killing them off with our presence. I should have known better and kicked myself for not analysing the situation better and trusting that my parents would cope.  I easily could have found temporary accommodation but having a Middle Eastern father that option wasn’t one he’d consider (possibly now though if we did all again he would!).

So with my parents’ health deteriorating I didn’t waste any time to find a place to rent – ideally somewhere that was light, had enough space for my son, ideally in a central location so we could walk to places, a garden if possible and in an area I was familiar with. It didn’t take long for me to realise that Victoria had changed so much that I didn’t recognize a lot of it. Especially, the greater Victoria areas such as West Shore, Bear Mountain, etc, and I couldn’t get my sense of direction to work either – where was Thetis Lake hidden? How did you get to UpTown and what had happened to Town and Country (Walmart stocks spider man t-shirts which are important for three year old spider-man fans)? I kept missing the turn off and would be well on my way to Sidney. So yes, some adjustments and an admission that I needed local knowledge was required. At least I could drive but I tended to misjudge the distance to the curb when parking – the cars are so much bigger here (my previous car in Scotland doesn’t exist in North America – Hyundai i10 – probably too small). However the petrol/gas prices are so lovely here…less that half the price! And the joy of big lanes, and bicycle lanes (real ones). You get the picture.

In my rush to find a place to live I almost was caught in a too good to be true scam on Craigslist – the rent and house were too good to be true but thankfully my rational side kicked in and after digging and chatting with neighbours in the area I realised it was scam. A few weeks later I saw in the local newspaper that a few others had trusted the ad and lost a lot of money.

So the house hunting continued and it paid off after three weeks – with a lovely place, very central, great landlord and neighbours in a relaxed environment. I love it! And so does my little boy, so a huge relief. And with our absence my parents are returning to their good health. Their various rashes that had popped up due to the stress of us living with them have gone now, as have the sugar highs and lows my type 1 diabetic mother was experiencing every few hours.  So, I’m not killing them now, which is a very good thing and makes me deeply happy. Now we go over for visits and my son is much calmer and not as insecure as he’s feeling more settled with all his belongings having arrived and (mostly) been unpacked. And he has more of my time now I’m not worried about my parents!

My son loves his new day care and has made friends who are as excited to see him as he is when they are around. One sings his name when he’s not at day care; another rushes and hugs him the moment he steps through the door. The day care staff comments on his cute accent (what accent I wonder) and old fashioned words such as cardigan, wellies (when it rains), not to mention the occasional Scots words such as crabbit, drookit, braw and dreich. And my son no longer waves me off, double checking that I’ll collect him at the end of the day – all happy signs that he’s settled in well. This is so great to see as he found it difficult at first without his friends and familiar things around him plus his Daddy being far away. But he’s a little trooper and is very good with Skype now. Never too soon to develop those social media skills.

Settling in at Royal Roads University has been the easiest part of my move. I’ve managed to master some key acronyms such as what is meant by CTET and LIC as well as HC. These are insider secrets so I can’t share any further. And now that I am in the last two weeks of my first online course delivery I’ve developed an awareness of some of the known unknowns as well as with the known processes. I suspect there are a variety of unknown ones that will emerge as I explore further a field. I haven’t found a ‘Hitch Hikers’ guide yet but everyone is so helpful it would be redundant and besides it’s a great way to get to know new colleagues.

The wider Royal Roads University environment has been so welcoming that it has felt like home very quickly in the Commandant’s House, which is where the School of Communication and Culture has its offices. The stunning gardens and happy staff make it an amazing place to work in and enjoy. I have no choice but to walk from the Commandant’s House via the rose garden to get to other parts of the campus which feels like a reward for something I’ve not done yet!

Yes, I’m thoroughly enjoying my new environment with all the wildlife (peacocks included) and stunning views across to the Olympic Mountains.  And now on the home front I’m considered a local at the little coffee shop in my neighbourhood – don’t even need to mention how I would like my coffee. So after arriving in June I’m feeling settled now in late August. Just today I met up with a friend of mine who I knew when I previously lived in Victoria back in 1993…it felt like I had never been away! I was right after all – this is the easiest move I’ve had.