Settling in Canada

The hotel on Charles street was an older building and I don’t remember the name of it. I think it doesn’t exist anymore. We were housed in an apartment. It was a big one bedroom apartment. We had one big room that had a sofa and coffee table and two chairs, a double bed and night tables, a table with 4 chairs, a colour TV. A bedroom with two twin beds and a dresser. A kitchen with all the necessary utensils for cooking. A four piece bathroom. The furniture was old and the TV was not working but we had everything we needed. We moved one of the twin beds into the living room, close to the double bed, for Krisztina to sleep on. She never slept alone in a room, we all slept in one room all her life and she was afraid of sleeping alone. The apartment was on the second floor and the elevator that took us there had music playing all the time. That was something new to us. As were the big cars we saw on our way to the hotel. In Europe the cars were smaller, we didn’t have the big Oldsmobile, and Cadillacs and Chryslers.

It was night when we arrived to the hotel and we had a very long and exhausting day. While Krisztina and I were getting ready for bed, Arpad went out to see whether he can find a store open to buy milk and bread. He came back amazed at what he had seen. On Young Street, people were strolling by the hundreds and many little stores were open, where they sold everything we needed. That was something new to us too. Toronto at night was amazing.

The next day we took the subway to Wellesley St. where the Manpower Office, (Service Canada, now) was located. A councillor was assigned to us who instructed us about what we needed to do. We received a cheque, I don’t remember the amount, but it was for groceries, transportation fares and other miscellaneous expenses. We were told to look for an apartment to rent, from September 1st and we will receive money for the first and last month’s rent and for furniture and a monthly allowance that will cover the cost of living. We will be eligible for English classes, ESL, for six months and subsidized all day, daycare for Krisztina while we were at school. We were told to go to the Welcome House where we can have our Romanian birth certificates and other documents we brought with us (hidden in our suitcase), translated and notarized for free.

It was all good news and we were happy. Arpad and I wanted to celebrate our arriving to Canada, with a glass of champagne. We went to a grocery store looking for the spirits section but we could not find it. We went around the aisles a couple of times with no avail. Finally, Arpad asked one sales clerk: “alcohol, whiskey, wine?” Not here, at the liquor store, he said.

Liquor store? What is that? He told us the address of the liquor store that wasn’t very far.

We never heard of alcohol not being sold in the grocery stores. We found the liquor store and bought our champagne.

In the three weeks we stayed at the hotel we experienced what living in a metropolis like Toronto was like. We liked the busy streets and the big squares where people could meet and talk and listen to music. We liked the parks with shady trees and benches and squirrels running everywhere. We liked the diversity and we felt welcomed and at home there. The term “People City” was often used to describe it and it was very fitting. We loved it and we liked everything except the mice in the apartment, but we solved that problem too. We set up a mouse trap on the coffee table we moved close to the bed. Using a deep baking pan from the kitchen that we leaned against a little match box car Krisztina had received from friends, who visited us at the hotel. We put a chocolate square under the baking pan and tied a string on the little toy car. At night when I heard noise on the coffee table, I pulled the string and the toy car rolled out from under the baking pan, trapping the mouse under it. Arpad picked up the coffee table, pan and mouse under it and took it downstairs and went out the back door and let the mouse go outside. There was a big fat cat living at the hotel, but was not interested in catching mice. We did this a couple of times during our stay there.

We contacted Arpad’s family’s friends, Ocsi (Joe), Cuci (Elisabet) and their 14 year old son, Attila. They visited us at the hotel and took us to their house and showed us around. On weekends we went on trips with them. One weekend to Algonquin Park, quite far, more then 250kms from Toronto. One weekend to Niagara Falls. During the week, Cuci drove us around to look for apartments for rent. After looking at quite a few, we decided on an one bedroom apartment in Downsview, at Keele and Sheppard. It was a nice apartment in a four-story building that had an outdoor pool and underground garage (all new to us). It was near a ravine with large green space and walking trails. We decided on one bedroom to save money and Krisztina was used to sleeping in our bedroom. The rent was $285 per month. Cuci drove us to furniture stores on Queen St. where we bought the minimum necessary items to furnish the apartment. She took us to Honest Ed’s, where we bought linen and kitchenware. We also bought a used colour TV from one of the Queen St. stores. On September 1st we moved into our new home. We were happy and grateful for all the help we received to accomplish that.

Arpad and I enrolled into the ESL program at Humber College. While we were at school, Krisztina attended daycare. It was an all-day daycare where she ate lunch and napped in the afternoon. It was hard for her at the beginning because of the language barrier. Also the food was different and she didn’t like it. She cried and was unhappy. It was all new for her and she was not used to being separated from us. The teachers were very understanding and tried to help her. One of the ladies who worked in the kitchen was European. She was asked to talk to Krisztina and try to find out what she needed. Although she did not speak Hungarian, she could communicate with Krisztina and gave her extra attention and that made her fell better.

The next six months we were very busy getting accustomed with our new country, learning the language and learning about the day-to-day living. We were eager to learn as much as we could to be able to start looking for employment and establish the life we were dreaming of for so long.