Monday, September 14, 2009

My new Toronto life: Different, but good

[Haveil Havalim is here!]

This post is for all of our wonderful friends who are emailing and asking, “How are things going in Toronto?”

Thank Gd, our adjustment is going well. The kids are happy in school, they have friends. After far too long watching the kids at home, Caren finally has a little time during the day to get things in order before Yom Tov hits. And my position with the new (pause for breath) Zichron Dov Yeshiva University Torah MiTzion Beit Midrash (pause to catch breath) is, thank Gd, turning out to be a lot of fun.

The beginning was somewhat tough, as per my earlier post about humility. And I’m running hard, as seen in the poster in my last post. But the work is good, and challenging. I feel like a kid in a candy store, with all of the opportunities to give shiurim and try new ideas. No one is saying ‘No’ to anything we offer, and there is a wealth of venues and crowds and demographics to serve.

I do miss the rabbinate, in terms of feeling like I’m doing something for people personally. I was always able to approach Rosh HaShanah knowing that despite my many, many flaws, I could point to specific people I had helped, people who likely could not have received that help elsewhere; the same feeling doesn’t apply to teaching classes, and that leaves a serious gap for me. But I haven’t had the time to really ponder that yet, and to think about ways to fill that need of mine.

Here's my big discovery, after one month here: Canada is really different from the US.

I don’t just mean the flag, or the anthem, or the electoral system, or the accents and the ‘eh’ thing; I mean that they really run this place differently. (pause while Canadians laugh at my provincial naivete)

Among the things I wish people had told me before we moved:

Pandora is not available here. Ditto for Hulu, and other media content sites. I don’t have time for them anyway, but I imagine this creates a seriously different Internet experience for other Americans who move here... although, on the other hand, Canada’s few ISPs charge by gigabyte downloaded, so maybe that’s for the best.

• Gas prices here are fixed – all gas stations in a given region charge the same price. And better than that: Tomorrow’s price is rigged today, and they announce it today on the radio (680 AM is where I get it, but you can also find it here), after 5:30 PM. I’m not kidding – they have a gas price forecast, and it’s always right.

• The metric system seems to be a kind of half-hearted phenomenon here, as though they realize it's a lot to expect of people. Even at Immigration, when they asked for our kids’ height and weight, they said using inches and pounds would be fine. And public temperature displays routine show Fahrenheit numbers.

• Trash pickup here is once every two weeks. Compost (meaning food remains) and recyclables are once per week, but trash is every two weeks. I think the drosophila melanogaster lobby got that arrangement passed.

• Pediatricians don’t have group practices; perhaps this ties into the whole socialized medicine phenomenon, but all you have are solo practitioners. That makes “call” a mess, of course, and it means very, very long lines in waiting rooms.

• Since summer, there’s been a strike by sanitation workers, a strike by driver’s license testers, and more. Somewhere, someone has a schedule of strikes and knows who is going off the job and when. The only strike to be averted so far was a strike by liquor store workers. I kid you not.

So I’m learning a new system. But people here are great – no substitute for Allentown, but great nonetheless – and I’m enjoying it, and the kids are happy, and that's the whole ball hockey game.


  1. Sounds like you are off to a good start.

  2. When I first came to New York from Oregon I kept looking around and saying how different it was from Oregon. Someone in our new neighborhood correctly pointed out that if it were the same as Oregon it wouldn't be New York. And if New York and Oregon would be identical, what reason would I have to move to New York? Strange logic but true. You need some way to tell that you're in Canada not Pennsylvania. Still, sounds like you're adjusting just fine.

    A shana tova u'mesukah to you and yours.

  3. "Honey, let's bring the kids to the pizza place."

    That's the surest sign that you are no longer living here in Allentown. (Apologies to Billy Joel.)

  4. I know of an excellent group practice that does peds, ob/gyn and family medicine which has both male and female MDs, mostly Jewish, near where you live. If you want more info let me know where I can contact you. They are accepting new patients!

  5. Jack, ProfK-


    Thanks for contacting me; I'll answer off-line.

    So far, feels like San Diego. That should change any day, though...