Tag Archive: life


Bonjour, Quebec!

This post is about three months overdue, but I have it on good authority that time is relative. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So much has happened… The move from Toronto to Quebec City was an exercise in organized chaos: I managed to pack all my stuff (including all the small detritus of life that takes up an alarming amount of cubic space) into plastic crates, moved them into the small Uhaul truck I rented, and drove it all the way to QC with an overnight stop at a rest area. (My original estimate of completing the 8-hour move-and-drive by 6pm was wildly optimistic.) Then it was all about unpacking and moving my stuff to that shiny, beautiful second-floor apartment that is my home. Returning the Uhaul. Walking back to the apartment, ogling all the French signs and sights. I hope those first memories will never fade away.

At some point, I’ll probably forget and normalize the memory of my first month here, before I got my furniture (mostly Ikea, and a couple of used furniture stores), but it was pure chaos: sleeping on my mattress on the floor before I finally got one of the last beds available at the local Ikea. (With another Uhaul rental – those things are like cheat codes for everyday life!), then navigating through all the furniture boxes in my living room, then slooowly assembling it all over the course of three days or so. Did you know that there actual online support groups for people who try to assemble Ikea’s Malm dressers? Ask me how I know…

There were casualties: I wasn’t careful with my gaming PC (just yeeted it in the back of the truck instead of securing it on the passenger seat like the precious baby that it is), and something inside got misaligned. The nearest computer repair store fixed it, got it working again, and then held it hostage for four days because the technician didn’t write down how much to charge me. Fun times… Didn’t help that they closed early on Saturday despite telling me earlier that day to stop by at 4. I fought that particular spike of rage by finding a great deal on a used 20-gallon aquarium and acquiring three little guppies to go with it. (And a fancy thermometer. And a big wooden decoration. And a couple of little plants. And an air pump shaped like a volcano. It’s pretty fun, eh.) I’m still figuring out the exact water chemistry, and will probably have to splurge on a tap water filter to make sure they get dechlorinated water when I change it. It’s an ongoing but fun project – and when it comes to the expense/cuteness/stinkiness ratio, fish are far better pets than birds or mammals. (There are also reptiles, of course, but they’re not as cute in my utterly subjective opinion.)

Quebec City itself is beautiful… Just google its pictures and see for yourself: that’s not just one small touristy block, that’s a good chunk of the city, and there’s more beauty in other parts of it, too. All the parks have lots of trails and pathways for pedestrians, bicycles, skateboards, etc. It turns out Duolingo had lied to me, and the Quebec-French is quite different from French-French. The few times I tried saying “enchante” (pleased to meet you) to new acquaintances, the response was mostly “WTF does that mean?” Heh. It’s getting better, though: while I still can’t follow other people’s conversations at parties (just smile and nod!), I can mostly figure out what I’m reading by recognizing the key words.

It turns out the local government pays a $200/week stipend to encourage newcomers (other Canadians, or immigrants like myself, or refugees) to learn Quebec-French and Quebecois culture. It’s an intensive program – five days a week, up to six hours a day, for twelve weeks – but it sounds like an amazing deal. There’s a distinct lack of good apps that teach Quebecois French, and I will have to become fluent anyway… Might as well. Just need to send off some documents on Monday, and then they’ll slot me into the next available class, whenever that might be. Quebec’s government isn’t perfect, but this “bribe to learn” program they’ve set up to preserve and promote their culture and their language is downright brilliant. Kudos, at least on that front.

My PR (permanent resident) card is finally here, after spending seven weeks bouncing between Toronto and Quebec. (My neighbour in Toronto means well, but for some reason he didn’t write his return address on the envelope when he sent it to me.) It’s incredibly shiny and going to make my everyday life a whole lot easier. I celebrated with a meal at my favourite local diner, La Cuisine. Check it out if you ever visit Quebec City: friendly staff, great decor, delicious food, low prices. What more can one ask?

…you know how some movies have that cliché where the main character travels to a strange foreign land and just happens to bump into a local guide that speaks fluent English, has a ton of badass qualities, and is an overall improbably awesome and helpful human being? Turns out that actually happens! My new Quebecois girlfriend is a certified badass that does krav maga, knows how to ride any non-motor thingy that has wheels (roller skates, longboard, etc), loves simple and healthy living, etc. What’s even better is that she’s also open to the idea of becoming a professional nomad, doing her graphic design work on her laptop while vegging out in some cheap tropical country. My life is highly improbable, I know, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

It’s been six months and twelve days since I left Amazon for good. (Unless, of course, they decide to pay me back the 47 shares that they owe me; then I might – might – consider entertaining the preliminary notion of possibly going back.) The time flew by, and I feel so much more relaxed and healthier… This whole “early retirement” thing is great, really. Five stars, would try again, highly recommended. I could stay in the rat race another five or 10 years, become a multimillionaire, get more shiny toys, but I’d never get those years back. You can double your net worth – you can’t double your life expectancy.

To give you some idea of how sweet this life is, the only things on my calendar are:

  1. the final expanse book coming out in 3 days;
  2. liquidating all my stocks in late December because I’m quite convinced there’ll be a major correction by April. (Student loan payments will start up again. People will owe taxes on their huge 2021 gains. None of that is good news. Keep in mind that the dot-com bubble burst in March, when the 1999 taxes were due…)
  3. a cool date at the opera with gf in January;
  4. an equally cool long weekend getaway with gf and her friends at a rented cottage somewhere in rural Quebec in February;
  5. possibly a family reunion in March-April-ish?

In September 2022, I will have lived in Quebec for 12 months, which will make me eligible to join the local Freemason chamber. They’re an odd group, but I like what I’ve learned about them so far. When the world begins to fall apart (sort of like in Vancouver, which is currently inaccessible by road thanks to the flooding and mudslides), it’ll be vital to have a gigantic support network on your side. Prepping and stashing food and guns and medicine is only the first step. The second step is getting to know your neighbours (are they medics? cooks? people with no particular skills but with great vibes?). The third step is acquiring an army: a giant social network you can rely on, no matter where in the world you are. I considered other options, like Scientologists, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, etc, and decided against them – and Freemasons actually seems like a fun and non-judgmental bunch, and a great way to learn new stuff, and make new local friends, and liven up ye olde social calendar. Too bad they have a strict anti-nomad policy in Quebec, thus the 12-month waiting period first.

At some point, most likely May 2023, I’ll be eligible to apply for my Canadian citizenship, and once I get that, I’ll finally start my life as a snowbird, thus completing my weird, weird metamorphosis. Until then, though, I’ll spend a couple of winters here in Quebec. It’s pretty ironic that the goal of my early-retirement journey was to live someplace cheap and tropical, yet I’ll have to live through the coldest winters of my life (since leaving Siberia in 2003, anyhow) as the last rite of passage. Heh.

And now, after a walk through the snow and a bit of exercise, I’m off to do some more gaming (gf is in Montreal this weekend) – Sunless Skies is both amazing and cheap – while listening to the excellent Ologies podcast (amazing pop science in 90-minute-long increments!), followed by a homecooked meal with a glass of red wine, and maybe another Werner Herzog movie. (It is my new quest to watch everything he’s ever written and/or directed. Two movies down, dozens to go!)

Life is good.

My mother once gave me a bathrobe for Christmas. I exchanged it for a telescope.

Leaving Nevada

Over the past 10 years, I’ve often thought about leaving Nevada and seeing what it’s like to live in a more or less normal state. Don’t get me wrong: there’s a lot of entertainment value in getting text message alerts every time bears come down from the mountains and go dumpster-diving in people’s backyards; ditto for weekly meth lab busts and crazy tourists who either drive 20 miles below the speed limit or try to live out their Fast&Furious fantasies fueled by midlife crises. And then, of course, there’s the Las Vegas Metro, who always try to match LAPD in wanton cruelty and overall stupidity.

Granted, all of the above makes for some great entertainment (especially when viewed from afar, preferably from behind a barricade), but after a while the entertainment value of these shenanigans tends to decrease. Sure, there were some good times as well, but overall I’d probably have to call it a tie.

I’m writing this on the eve of my departure for Texas. It’s a bit funny that my escape from Nevada came from such an unlikely source: a temp job in a warehouse that I took during the mean, lean winter of 2009, when my company was the only one hiring in Northern Nevada. Two years down the road, I transferred to our Las Vegas branch. Then I got promoted and honed my skills to the point where I got picked to be the data analyst at the company’s brand new facility in Fort Worth. Looking back, I find it hard to believe that all of this came from my decision to stand in that long line at the temp agency. That was one weird gamble, but sometimes weird gambles pay off – especially in Nevada.

I suppose I should write about how much I’ll miss Nevada and shed a solitary, manly tear for the state I’ve called home all these years. I don’t really feel like it, though. The departure evokes neither good nor bad feelings. I look forward to meeting Texans and living in a completely different state, but that’s about it. I suppose that’s what Kurt Vonnegut meant when he said “it’s impossible for me to get emotional about it, because real estate doesn’t interest me.”

Goodbye, Silver State. Hello, Lone Star.

Year 11

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of my arrival in the United States of America. It was a pretty tumultuous 3,653 days. I feel a bit bad that it had taken me most of that decade to figure things out and get my head on straight, but oh well… I missed out on quite a few opportunities and adventures, but the things I didn’t miss out on were pretty damn awesome: I was briefly stalked by the Secret Service, I almost got killed by an angry mob at a charity raffle, I lost $10,000 for saying “thank you” and then came this close to winning another $10,000 by throwing a basketball 200′ across a river. (It was a matter of inches!) I’ve survived the Mayan apocalypse of 2012 and both terms of the Bush Jr presidency. I’ve gone from sounding like Borat to being interviewed by New York Times about one of my e-books. I’ve gone from being an immigrant with $42 in his pocket to getting paid $10,000 by a Fortune-50 company just for moving to one of their new facilities. I’ve done things that are illegal in some parts of the South and witnessed the sort of breathtaking beauty that most people would be lucky to glimpse in their dreams. I did pretty well, if I do say so myself.

Now on to year 11, the second decade, the next chapter.