Katherine’s first challenge for her move from sub-tropical Northern NSW to Montreal was finding her three-year-old something to wear.
Her first day was spent shopping at the local charity shop for something that could keep her toddler and 7-month-old warm in a city that averages around -2 degrees Celsius in winter.
“I couldn’t find anything in Australia that was remotely suitable for this climate,” she said.
“I got the baby some woollen pants and a woollen jumper but I couldn’t find anything in size 3 in December that was suitable so for the first day I layered her up and then we got some stuff at the Salvation Army.”
Just over a month ago, Katherine sold everything except a few keepsakes, clothes and toys to board a flight to Canada.
She checked-in 11 bags and waited for a stand-by seat along with four family members that were also travelling with her two children and her partner.
They filled up three airport-trolleys with luggage and the bags couldn’t go down the chute until there were seven free seats - along with seven more for a connecting flight from Vancouver.
“It was a bit stressful,” she said. “There were just so many of us.”
Katherine’s father, Greg, said he “barely had a chance to say goodbye” because as soon as the seats were confirmed there was a mad rush. The luggage was thrown down three chutes and they all ran to the departure gate just in time for the first leg.
“Changing flights in Vancouver was a nightmare,” said Katherine. “We all had to get our bags and go through immigration together. So not only was I trying to organise my children but I had to keep up with the rest of them.”
The travel logistics, visas and jet lag was just the start. Katherine is trying out life in a new country.
“It’s huge. When you have got kids, you like a routine, then, you get thrown way out of your routine. You go across the world and everything is different.”
“I was thinking ‘a couple of weeks we’ll be right’ - but we are a month in and we still have a growing to do list. It doesn’t seem to be shrinking.”
Katherine has made a good start - she has opened bank accounts, got a mobile phone, sorted out the kids’ healthcare and been to French story time but it can sometimes feel overwhelming.
“It’s not a simple process,” she said. “I can’t just go around the corner to my Medicare or Centrelink – I don’t even know what it’s called over here.
“Then they sent us the Medicare forms in French. My French is ok…I can order in a café and understand what the bus driver is saying to me but to fill out a complex Medicare form. I sometimes struggle.”
Despite the challenges and the weather Katherine says she find it help to go out and about.
“I am starting to see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel and I am thinking once it’s all settled and we don’t have any chores to do we can just enjoy the city.”