Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ahh, Canadaaah, part 1

My husband and I first thought of moving to Canada after watching the movie Anne of Green Gables shortly after we got married. We fell in love with Prince Edward Island. We knew very little about Canada, but seeing such a lovely place as PEI was enough to make us dream about it. Ahh, Canadaaah...

We made a few job inquiries from government agencies in PEI, but did not pursue it any further. We started raising a family. Hubby found his niche in the graphic design field, and wifey chose to become a stay-at-home mom to our two young boys. And then we had two more. Canada moved to the back burner.

In the mid '90s, we revived our plan of migrating, more seriously this time. Our two sets of parents had moved to the US, and several of our friends and relatives had left or were planning to migrate too. It seemed that the political and socio-economic climate in the country was triggering an exodus not just of overseas workers but of families who were looking to settle permanently elsewhere. We felt some of that too. But I think more than that, we simply wanted a better quality of life. Not necessarily richer, just better. I think we needed an environment that would release our creative juices and zest for life, not drain them.

We began the application process early in 1997. It was pretty straightforward that we could do ourselves. In March that year, our whole family passed the medical exams. The following month, we submitted all our documents and fees to the Canadian Embassy. Following my sister's suggestion, we changed our destination to Vancouver. First, it was closer to my parents in Seattle, and second, we heard it had the mildest winter.

We were interviewed by an immigration official at the Canadian Embassy in October. We brought a neatly organized binder of documents and looked our best. I can still remember the top I wore to the interview. It was a nice maroon velvet top we got from St. Michael's for that occasion. Even though my full-time occupation at that time was cooking, cleaning and caring for the kids, I had to look professional. I still have this maroon top, by the way. It's no longer as sharp as it looked but I still wear it to work, 12 years later. I have an attachment to this blouse because it reminds me of that make-or-break interview. When it is no longer wearable, it will go to my collection of mementos.

The interview went well and our application was approved. "Your visas will be mailed to you," the officer told us.

As 1998 rolled in, waiting for our visas became agonizing. Our medical results were valid only until March 14, 1998. We had to be in Canada by then, or we would have to repeat the medical tests and re-submit our applications without the assurance of obtaining the same result. (I think the procedure has since changed.)

What do we do while waiting? Begin packing? Start selling our stuff? Pull out the kids from school? Close our flourishing graphic design business? Say our goodbyes? We had a hundred things to do and we wanted to move fast, but it was impossible to do so without the visas in our hands. What if they came after March 14? That would put our lives on indefinite hold.

We were almost at the end of our wits when our visas arrived around March 1. We were jubilant! Thank you, Lord!! But as we had expected, they were expiring on March 14. Two weeks! We had two weeks to enter Canada. Although we had made a lot of preparations, the major ones still needed to be done.

Our life spun in dizzying speed in the days following. It was crazy. The time was not enough to leave everything in order. Our house was a mess. Some bills were unpaid. To our big gratitude, our siblings willingly came to our rescue. They took care of things we had no more time to attend to. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Trying to clearly think outside the box
That's me in the midst of the mess.

(To be continued, part 2)

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