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Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Columnists > Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Time For Snow Tires?

Posted by: Carole on Wednesday November 27, 2013 (19:35:14)   (3459 Reads)

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

I must have been looking the other way because it’s suddenly winter and very cold. The manageable minus three degrees, crisp sunshine and bracing air that chased us into the supermarket at the weekend were gone when we came out – replaced by snow tumbling from the vast black maw above and a wind-chill of minus fifteen, so that I almost thought we’d used the wrong exit and stepped out into Siberia.

“Yay, it’s the sticky kind!” yelled my eldest, ecstatic at the prospect of snowballs and frozen frolics. Somehow we manhandled both shopping and three wired children into the Jeep – and then the fun began.

It was indeed the sticky kind. It stuck to the roads and became a slick mirror reflecting with crystalline cruelty the impotent wheelspins of drivers wrestling Momentum for control.    more ...


Columnists > Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Canadian Creepy Crawlies: ‘Does It Bite?’

Posted by: Carole on Thursday October 03, 2013 (04:02:00)   (4183 Reads)

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

One of the less vaunted aspects of adapting to life abroad is getting to know your neighbours. Not the human ones, with whom you can decide the degree of interaction you’re mutually comfortable with. I mean those household occupants we live cheek by jowl with who don’t share a surname or the rent (or any idea of personal space, come to think of it).

Before we emigrated I did a little internet digging on just how murderous Mother Nature habitually was in southern Ontario and was relieved to find Ontario's only poisonous snake is the Massasauga Rattler, which put us on a par with the adder in the UK. By moving, we’d just be swapping one for the other, the bonus being we’d hear this one coming!    more ...


Columnists > Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

4 Mental Hacks For The Expat Existentialist

Posted by: Carole on Saturday August 31, 2013 (01:02:34)   (38939 Reads)

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

If you’ve ever asked, “What does it all mean?” or “Why are we here?” you’ve asked an existential question. If you’re reading this there’s also a good chance you’re an expat. Existentialist thought shies away from one-size-fits-all solutions and therein lies its appeal to the global nomad who is only too familiar with the complex nuances contained in seemingly innocuous words like ‘home’, ‘belonging’ and ‘edible’ (deep-fried grasshopper, anyone?)

Below are four principles of existentialism adapted for the peculiarities of the expat existence – because we all need a philosophy to cling to when life gets choppy, expats especially...    more ...


Columnists > Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Food For Thought

Posted by: Carole on Wednesday July 17, 2013 (18:24:51)   (2092 Reads)

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Food has a strange hold over us. All over the world, it’s a common bond, but our relationship with food is complex and subjective; it’s so much more than just fuel for our bodies. It’s used to express control, comfort, love, satisfaction, principles, culture; it spills over into so many areas it’s literally, as well as figuratively, messy.

If the food sucks, forget it!

As any traveller knows, no matter how alien the environment, how inscrutable the people, a meal of something sustaining and comforting can make us see things in a more positive light. And so it follows that however wondrous our surroundings and hospitable the host, if the food sucks, forget it! It’s my husband’s #1 reason for not wanting to work in China – I think he’s seen too much TV footage of insects on skewers.    more ...


Columnists > Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Mental Illness And Expat Life

Posted by: Carole on Friday June 07, 2013 (14:27:43)   (4482 Reads)

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Catastrophe-in-waiting or self-development opportunity?

Hi everyone! Since I’ve been away summer has smiled on Ontario and Toronto’s already had its first heat alert; the beaches are open and the festival season is about to kick off. While I apologise for my unscheduled absence, (more on that in a minute) it has given me the opportunity to share with you a personal issue that also poses a dilemma for some would-be expatriates.

Livin’ la vida loca

As readers of my blog Expatlog already know, I’m diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). You can read about what that’s like to live with here, but suffice to say its hallmarks are emotional instability, black-and-white thinking, poor impulse-control, a hazy sense of identity and increased anxiety in the face of change. 10% of those diagnosed commit suicide.    more ...


Columnists > Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

The Born-Again Expat

Posted by: Carole on Thursday March 14, 2013 (00:57:09)   (3649 Reads)

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

I’ve often said becoming an expat is the closest you can get to experiencing life from the uncluttered perspective of a baby – if, and it’s a BIG “if”, you can detach yourself from preconceptions and the urge to make comparisons.

‘Travel broadens the mind’ is a proverb dating from the early 20th century. GK Chesterton’s 1921 comment on it is a significant travel quote, too: ‘They say travel broadens the mind; but you must have the mind.’ The expatriate life offers a chance to exist untainted by knowledge and expectation, to absorb the world fresh with colour and brimming with sensory overload. Moving to a new country forces you to think differently, to leave comparisons behind and accept new ways of doing things. It frees you from the restrictions of old definitions; you have a blank canvas on which to paint a new identity and the forgiving gift of the “foreigner” label to absolve your mistakes.    more ...


Columnists > Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Canada Celebrates... February!

Posted by: Carole on Tuesday February 12, 2013 (01:59:37)   (2394 Reads)

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Where “chilled” is more than just a temperature – it’s a state of mind…
Here in Canada, “the powers that be” recognize the restorative properties of a celebration and have worked hard to ensure they occur regularly throughout the year. Often at school there will be a Spirit Day, for no reason I can fathom other than the refreshing sight of everyone dressed as their favorite Disney character or in their pajamas.

This month, the humble groundhog takes the spotlight, as February 2nd is Groundhog Day, when people across America shun modern technology in favor of a buck-toothed rodent for prescient meteorological advice. Folklore has it that if a groundhog sees its shadow on Groundhog Day it'll flee back to its burrow, heralding six more weeks of winter. If it doesn't, it means spring's just around the corner.    more ...


Columnists > Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Expat Life Is Like January

Posted by: Carole on Friday January 04, 2013 (14:20:29)   (3701 Reads)

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

If I distill my expat existence down to its most basic components, it’s a lot like January. Yep, you heard me right - expat life is like one long January. I’m not talking about weather, some people’s January’s are filled with sunshine and scorching temperatures. I’m referring to the emotional peaks and troughs of the New Year.

New beginnings are unfailingly accompanied by good intentions and high hopes - healthy diets, gym memberships, self-improvement. They’re a thrilling unknown quantity; what happy encounters and lucky breaks await us we wonder excitedly. How will the world reward our new, improved selves?    more ...


Columnists > Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Another Canadian Christmas

Posted by: Carole on Wednesday December 05, 2012 (21:12:19)   (2569 Reads)

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Another mark on the door-frame of expat growth

Expats are a tough bunch to please – trapped as they are between worlds. Here I am in Canada, so a white Christmas is practically a given, but for me, a Canadian one still leaves a thing or two to be desired. It’s funny how we can be deluged with captivating new experiences yet still crave old familiarities.

Christmas is traditionally a time for reflection and speculation, balanced ponderously on the coattails of the old year and the cusp of the new, it offers the potential for another chance to get things right, stay on course or make those changes. Like a bookmark, jammed between the pages of your life story, it’s a fixed point from which to look back and forwards – something expats do with dedicated regularity.    more ...


Columnists > Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

How To Prepare For A Hurricane

Posted by: Carole on Tuesday November 06, 2012 (19:40:31)   (2458 Reads)

Aisha Isabel Ashraf

Living in the UK doesn’t necessitate much emergency planning. Usually, the only thing to prepare for is a disappointing summer. If snow’s forecast panic buying might leave supermarkets devoid of bread, milk and lager – but British weather is generally best described as “nondescript”. The rare exception to the rule will follow meteorologist Michael Fish.

I’ve written before about my love of the Canadian weather my love of the Canadian weather; it’s a whole different kettle of fish from what I’m used to. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, I thought I’d share the preparations you’re advised to make here in Canada when potential catastrophe is breathing down your neck.

Seeking a higher plane
Flooding is the main danger to people who, like us, are close to water. It’s important to stay away from lakes, rivers and coastlines; the raw power of nature is a mesmerizing sight, but not one worth risking your life for.    more ...