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My 2020 in Review

Posted on 26 Jan 2021, tagged life

2020 is a special year to everyone because of Covid-19. It’s special to me not only because of it, but also because of a big change in my life. I moved from China to Canada at November 2019. I cannot review my life in 2020 without mention that part, so this article is more like 2019 and 2020 in review.

In retrospect, the immigration progress didn’t spend much of my time and energy: find a job and submit documents for visa, that’s all. But it’s a mental challenge because of all the unknowns during the progress: the unknowns about whether I can pass the interview, whether I can get the visa, whether the work in new position is good, whether the life in Canada would be better, and so on. The progress started at early April, so most of the time in 2019 I was waiting and nervous. It seems unnecessary, since the interview went very well, and it’s rare to be rejected for visa in cases like mine. But still, it’s such a big decision in my life, and the political climate seems to be changing everyday. As things rolling out at the beginning of 2020, it proves my worries didn’t come from no where. If my visa was delayed by 2 months, I may not be able to come here until now. It’s because of Covid-19, which is not something one can predict, but the predictable political reasons made it worse.

Toronto is better than I thought. I arrived here at a weekend night. The temporary apartment I booked was at downtown. During the way from airport to the apartment, along Queen Street, I saw the side walk was packed with people. The day after, when I went outside for subway, I found lots of people at subway stations and food court. That surprised me. I expected Toronto would be better than Beijing in many aspects, but I didn’t expect the population density is higher (and after I looked up on Wikipedia, it’s true: 4,334.4/\(km^2\) for Toronto compared to 1,300/\(km^2\) for Beijing). Maybe it depends on the person, but I like to live in a place with more people as long as it’s not too crowded. The city feels more alive and has more energy in this way. During last few years, Beijing made lots of policies to drive people outside. A lot of markets and restaurants were forced close and teared down. Even for the still open ones, there were more restrictions like cannot have outdoor dining spaces or even cannot light a candle. From where I was living, closed to Second Ring Road, which is core downtown area in Beijing, the city seems to be dying for average people. Any Chinese city I traveled around that time was more alive than Beijing. I figured if I couldn’t make it to Canada, I would still move to another city. So when I came to Toronto and found out there are people and even constructions everywhere, I was very happy about it.

The most challenging part after I moved here is the language barrier. Most Chinese in my generation started to study English from fifth grade. I’m not an exception. I constantly read professional English materials since the University. I’ve been worked in international companies for my internship and my last job. Both of them require lots of communications in English. I’ve been to English speaking countries include the US, which has identical culture as Canada. But still, it can be challenging sometimes especially during informal communications. True or not, in China, I believe I’m good at writing articles, have good sense of humor, know more words and historical stories than average person. I could speak with strangers all the way in a 20+ train journey, or in a youth hotel. I’ve started to live in a new city along and dealt with all the things and all kinds of people. I can feel the power of language, words and the way I use them. I know how they can make me to be better understood, make people feel different, and make something to live forever. Suddenly, after moved to a different country with a different language, the advantage became disadvantage. It’s frustrating when I cannot find the right word to express myself during speaking. But that’s also one of the reasons I decided to move here – I want to be better at such an important language. Luckily, I see improvements during the last year even most of the time I was working from home. After all, with all the things happened in 2020, there were always enough topics to talk about.

Another stressful part I started to feel last year is not all because of relocation, but also because of the age. I’m still young, but not as young as before. During the years in University and a few years after, I skipped lots of classes even exams, I spoke out whatever I think, I resigned without ever found next job first. I did whatever I thought was right, and rejected whatever I didn’t want, without care about the risk, because I had few things to lose, and even I lost all of them, I could always start over because I was so young. But from last year, I don’t think like that anymore. Maybe it’s because of the marriage, maybe it’s because of the immigration, maybe it’s because of working in a big company. I suppose that means I’m more mature. I cannot say it’s good or bad. I think it’s just a stage of life.

Other than the challenges, the life here is very good even under pandemic. I’m living in a condo at downtown, which makes everything very convenience. I can go to most places I need by walk or public transport. This is another good surprise – I thought car is a must have in a North American city. The Chinese community is big here. I can find all kinds of Chinese food I used to have in China. Some of them, especially Cantonese ones, are even better than I had in Beijing. I’ve made new friends from work. The nature environment is beautiful and there are lots of outdoor activities available. The political system is more stable and transparent. Last not least, even though the house price is also very high in Toronto, it’s more feasible to make here as home because of the less percentage of down payment. (In theory, down payment percentage 30% in Beijing is not much higher than Toronto. But in practice, the prices for average apartments are so high that they are categorized as luxury ones, which requires much higher percentage of down payment. It usually ends up to almost 50%).

The work here is not bad. Especially the work hours are much better than most companies in China. I get good projects in the team. The good part of working in a big company is the things I developed here have a big impact because so many people are using it. But on the other hand, because it has so many old services, and because of the specific organization I’m in, there are less technical challenges. The nature of our business makes databases able to be easily partitioned, so there is basically no bottleneck for the services. And it involves physical hardware which makes debug harder. Lots of work are around business logic and meetings. Depends on the time of the year, operation works and oncall can be heavy.

So in order to not be rusty, I started to write a side project for fun during part time. I had lots of side projects before. Though one of them gained some popularity, most of them are not finished. Unlike others, I started this project to use all my preferred technicals, best practices and open source tools that I don’t have opportunity to use at work. There is no deadline, no debate in order to restructure the code or choose some tech stacks. I feel very good about it. Maybe it will not be finished at last either, but I find the joys I had when I first started programming.

I also started to write articles on my blog in a higher frequency. I posted 2 to 3 articles per month in average at the second half of 2020. The quality of articles also improved. It helps me to practice English, forces me to learn and have a deeper understand by writing things down. Most importantly, as I said above about the power of words, it makes moments in my life not just slip away. I hope I can continue this in the new year. I feel on some level, it makes part of me eternal.