So, here I am in Canada, and yes, that’s a different country. For one thing, they have no dollar bills (just coins) and no pennies (they’re eliminating them in the coming year’s budget). Also, as I noted in my visit in November, they take their holidays seriously. Yesterday was Good Friday, and the Embassy was closed, so I thought I’d do some grocery shopping. No luck — the supermarkets were closed. Fortunately, Ottawa is a little less than an hour north of Ogdensburg, NY, where supermarkets don’t care (too much) about holidays. So, a week after arriving in Canada, I made my first visit back to the U.S. Ogdensburg is a nice looking small city, quite typical of old, small cities in the northeastern U.S. There’s some pretty architecture, and a river runs past it (and separates it from Canada). And, knowing that things are a bit more expensive in the great white north, as soon as you cross the bridge into the U.S., there’s a Walmart, a Lowe’s and a Price Chopper for your shopping pleasure :-). And they stock Nathan’s, natural casings hot dogs!
This being Canada, there’s hockey. In addition to the NHL Senators, Ottawa has the OHL 67′s. So, last night I went to watch the juniors play the first game of the second round of their playoffs. The arena they use is interesting. It’s a multi-use facility, and one of the uses is as a football stadium. Hence, the tilted ceiling, which sits under the bleachers for football. It also opens up on one side to a large exhibition hall. The arena seats a little under 10,000, and there really aren’t any bad seats. Canadian junior hockey is for players 15-20 and most NHL players pass through the juniors on their way. Dennis Potvin is the most famous former 67. And, they won last night’s game 5-1, although most of the scoring was at the other end of the ice from me :-(.
My other major projects of this first week were checking into the Embassy, and my search for housing. Checking in is checking in. Ottawa is nicely organized and has an easy to follow checklist. If everyone is available when you stop by, it can go quickly. I’m mostly done, just a few people to see and forms to fill out.
In the State Department, most postings you arrive at the airport and they drive you to your house. Not so in Canada (and not just because I drove). It’s what’s called a Living Quarters Allowance (LQA) post, which means they give me an allowance (money and space maximum) and I get to go find housing on my own. The advantage is, you get to pick where you live, and the disadvantage is, you have to search for a place to live. My choice in Ottawa was – close and smaller, or further away and bigger. I went for close. This building is walking distance to the Embassy, to the Byward Market area, parks and the Rideau Canal. It’s been a long time since I lived in an apartment building, but this is a very nice one, with indoor heated parking and a decent view (if you look in the right direction). It’s still a few weeks until I get in, so until then it’s Marriott Residence Inn time. Not bad. The suite has a full kitchen, washer dryer and full breakfast every morning. The wired Internet in my first room isn’t working (so I’m on my laptop right now), but we’re swapping that for a new place today (after a week of trying to debug their system). I’d have changed rooms earlier, but I have a car full of stuff in the room and it will take quite a while to get it all moved to the new place, so I was trying to avoid it. Then, in a couple of weeks, I’ll do it all over again to get into my apartment.
And I need to get a local bank account, and local license plates and license, and set up utilities for the apartment and…