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Columnists > Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Aisha Isabel Ashraf
Aisha Isabel Ashraf is a freelance writer and author of the popular blog EXPATLOG - a collection of irreverent observations from her experiences as a "cultural chameleon". It's where you'll find her, strung out on caffeine, humorously dissecting the peculiarities of expat life for her own amusement and the benefit of future generations.

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Just Another Day

Posted by: Carole on Tuesday March 03, 2015 (19:09:09)   (2532 Reads)
Aisha Isabel Ashraf
Back to the window, basking in a winter sun blazing through glass, I warm my hands on my cup and inhale the aroma of toasted bagels, hash browns and coffee. Monday morning may take a while to get off the ground in my local Tim Horton’s, but it still effects a steady bustle. I look around - who else is here? - a rounded, grizzled old man with a face reminiscent of a teddy bear sits nearby. His hair is grey but his eyebrows are stubbornly black. I wonder if they hint at a mulish temperament.

Reaching into my shoulder bag for a book I stretch out in my chair, languorously crossing one leg over and tucking the foot behind my calf like a contented cat.    more ...

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

More Than Words

Posted by: Carole on Friday January 30, 2015 (06:31:49)   (2496 Reads)
Aisha Isabel Ashraf
Same language, different meanings

Before moving to Canada the only consideration I gave to language was with regard to accent; I remembered hearing somewhere that Canadians had a softer accent than their neighbours across the border and I was relieved; easing in gently sounded like a good plan. I was coming from England so it wasn’t as though I was going to be unintelligible to anyone – or so I thought.

I ran into problems on day two. My husband and I were staying in a hotel while we secured rental accommodation. I had a tiny cut on my finger so on my way out to dinner one evening I stopped at reception to ask for a plaster. The young woman at the desk blinked at me and shifted uncomfortably in her chair before giving a little cough and enquiring in uncertain tones whether I'd like an elastic band.    more ...

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Accepting The Accent

Posted by: Carole on Monday October 27, 2014 (18:16:01)   (5040 Reads)
Aisha Isabel Ashraf
Despite my best efforts to be open-minded, uncharitable thoughts still abseil into my head with the stealth and speed of a crack SAS infiltration. You know the kind: the incredulous “You wanted that unsightly plug to stretch your ear like a perished Y-front waistband?” or the terse, “bugger off!” behind a fixed smile when the Jehovah’s Witnesses doorstep you in the middle of dinner.

Now that my eldest children ask for a drink of ‘wahdurr’ and append a querying ‘right?’ to statements of apparent certainty, I’m ashamed to admit I sometimes think, “There’s still time to get out of Canada before they start calling trousers pants, and pasta noodles.”    more ...

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Terry Fox – A True Canadian Hero

Posted by: Carole on Thursday October 02, 2014 (02:13:20)   (3252 Reads)
Aisha Isabel Ashraf
I confess I’d never heard of Terry Fox before we came to Canada - yet another reminder of just how distinctive cultural identity is (even within broadly similar societies), that something so significant to one nation can be relatively unknown to others in the same hemisphere.

Expatriation exacts a steep learning curve in return for that ‘big picture’ perspective, and much of my hastily acquired Canadian cultural education came secondhand from my children. It must be so much harder rocking up in a new country with no kids to send out on reconnaissance.

Thanks to mine I learnt (after a fashion) the national anthem - “true pastry love, and all our suns come out” - and what to do when you hear it.    more ...

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

The Canadian Way

Posted by: Carole on Saturday August 23, 2014 (01:30:29)   (3400 Reads)
Aisha Isabel Ashraf
The day dawned. The pressure was on. People were making demands, asking questions - difficult questions – and the answers lay just beyond my reach. The opportunity was there for the taking, a classic Carpe Diem moment.

The idea percolated in my head as I went about my chores, slowly, steadily filling my mind with its immediacy like the smell of coffee fills a room. The voice in my head, sensing indecision, seized its chance, “Do it, don’t be a wuss. Just don’t think about it and do it.”

We’ve been here before, this voice and I. It knows my weaknesses, knows all too well that once a gauntlet has been thrown down I find it difficult to walk away and keep my self-respect.    more ...

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

That’s Queer! The Evolution Of Language And Belief

Posted by: Carole on Saturday June 21, 2014 (00:50:19)   (2853 Reads)
Aisha Isabel Ashraf
Toronto is currently hosting WorldPride 2014, the now internationally recognized celebration of the human right to sexual diversity. The ten-day festival boasts concerts, art shows, parades and parties – LOTS of parties.

It’s the first time North America has won the rights to host the event and the theme this year is “Rise Up,” symbolizing the perseverance of members of the LGBTQ community in speaking out for justice and fairness, as well as refusing to be afraid or ashamed of who they are.    more ...

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Bugged Out

Posted by: Carole on Wednesday May 21, 2014 (00:17:00)   (4333 Reads)
Aisha Isabel Ashraf
In the UK blossom flutters to the ground as Spring segues into Summer; ice-creams are raised to indulgent lips, trips to the seaside planned, and bared white legs and flowerbeds dazzle, the latter in glorious Technicolor. Those first snowdrops are a distant memory.

By contrast, here in southern Ontario it’s been just four weeks since our last snowfall, and while the stain of green spreads slowly across the ground many trees still raise skeletal arms to the sky. Buds are just breaking into leaf and dandelions send out exploratory squadrons to assess if conditions are ripe for mass invasion.    more ...

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

A Taste Of The Past

Posted by: Carole on Saturday March 29, 2014 (22:44:27)   (3555 Reads)
Aisha Isabel Ashraf
Moving Above Zero

We’ve had an exceptionally harsh and lengthy winter here in Ontario, but hopefully it’s almost over now. You know Spring is in the air when you feel a mounting inner joy akin to sap rising, and you can bet sap is rising in sugar bushes province-wide.

A sugar bush is a stand of predominantly maple trees and tapping for sap begins when daytime temperatures get above freezing but nights are still below. Once nighttime temperatures rise the sap stops flowing so you have to hit a sugar shack while you can. The season started later than usual this year thanks to our record-breaking winter weather.    more ...

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

School In Canada - Small Differences, Big Impact

Posted by: Carole on Friday February 21, 2014 (04:09:17)   (5459 Reads)
Aisha Isabel Ashraf
Trawling online recently I came across an article about a UK school defending its decision to suspend a pupil over a wrestling logo shaved into his hair; and before that, another story about another school apologizing for insisting a parent supply a photograph of their chickenpox-stricken child for absence monitoring.

Taken together they were a startling reminder of the differences in education and social attitudes between Britain and Ontario, Canada, where we‘ve lived now for nearly four years; almost long enough to forget all the small ways life overseas can be strikingly different even in countries broadly similar.    more ...

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

We Hunkered Down And Pressed On...

Posted by: Carole on Friday January 10, 2014 (00:13:54)   (5162 Reads)
Aisha Isabel Ashraf

2014 has blasted in with extreme cold weather here in Ontario, Canada. Windchill is in the minus thirties/forties and you risk frostbite if you’re out for any length of time with skin exposed.

This is our fourth winter in Canada and we’re better equipped to endure it now than ever. The children all have snowpants, snowboots and frost-protective coats and gloves – a far cry from our first year here when we scraped by with no car and the bare minimum.

Our First Canadian Winter

I remember how the snow began falling in earnest on the first of December, cleaving to some indiscernible timetable, and we didn’t see the ground again until April.    more ...

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