Navigating the New

Chun and Jun Hie have made the long trip from China to Vancouver  to visit their eldest daughter, Hua. While Hua has lived in Vancouver for over five years, Chun and Jun Hie’s arrival marks their first trip to Canada. It’s a different world than they’re used to, with a number of obvious differences setting the countries apart. They’d expected the prevalence of English, for instance, or the vast array of international foods consumed by Vancouverites. But there are many smaller differences they didn't anticipate. For instance, the inside of their daughter’s home feels unfamiliar in more ways than one. While Chun and Jun Hie’s house in South China did not have a heating system, Hua’s house is equipped with a large furnace that unleashes a strange and unsettling sound. Even structurally, the homes are different. Where Chun and Jun Hie’s was built with concrete, their daughter’s house is made of wood. This entailed a learning curve for Hua; in China, everyone kept their windows open to invite fresh air into their homes. But when she first moved to British Columbia, Hua learned about the importance of preventing moisture buildup amid Vancouver’s high humidity during an Empower Me workshop she heard about from a friend. She was advised to run her bathroom fans to avoid mould infestation and as she tours her parents around the house, she passes on this  advice.

To this day, Chun still remembers one of Hua’s first phone calls after moving to Canada. She’d cried.

“Everything for me is new. It’s so stressful. I don’t understand the house appliances, so I’m afraid to touch anything,” she’d said. With time, Hua learned to navigate her new life in Canada, though it was often challenging.

Many of the objects and systems inside Hua's home are new to Chun and Jun Hie. Hua does her best to make them feel comfortable and confident when she leaves for the afternoon to run errands and attend an appointment. During this time, her parents find themselves listening to the sound of beeping. After investigating, they eventually discover a white box in the basement. They figure it must be broken and promptly remove the batteries.

When Hua returns and they tell her of the white box beeping in her basement, she begins to look anxious.

“Don’t worry,” they assure her, “we took the batteries out.”

“No,” thinks Hua, rushing to check the carbon monoxide monitor in the basement.

She quickly returns, sprinting, and calls for her parents to evacuate the house. She dials 911 as they exit the premises, grateful that her parents are still alive and healthy. Carbon monoxide, she recently learned from an Empower Me energy mentor who she knew through a community WhatsApp group, is an odorless gas that can be deadly. Outside, Hua explains another difference between China and Canada. In China, she tells her parents, smoke alarms are few and far between, as are carbon monoxide detectors. But here in Canada, people install carbon monoxide detectors to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Empower Me exists for couples like Chun and Jun Hie, newcomers who are still learning to navigate new energy systems inside their homes. Knowing the importance of a small white box will never be intuitive. But it can be learned, and when equipped with knowledge, newcomers become empowered.

NOTE: Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by maintaining natural gas appliances with annual servicing and by installing carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your house. Make sure to test them every month. Instructions to test the detector should be in the owner’s manual but typically you have to press the test button until you hear the alarm. If you do not hear anything, replace the batteries. If this does not work, replace the device to make sure your home is safe. If the alarm sounds in your home when you are not testing it, go outside immediately and call 9-1-1. Stay outside until emergency services arrive and wait for their instructions before re-entering the home.