Mr. Noodle

Mr. Noodle
Mr. Noodle

Thursday, June 28, 2012

let's see if I have this straight

I downloaded the application from the Korean Consulate yesterday. Got it notarized. Next I have to get the photo. Well, I took a photo, but I have to figure out a way to get it to the required 3x4cm. As I mentioned, this is not a standard sized passport photo, so this means I need to manipulate the photo I took so that when it prints out and I take my scissors to it, my head fits into a 3x4cm box. Hopefully that won't be too hard.

I also have to have Proof of Status in Canada. Um. I'm a Canadian citizen with a Canadian passport. Will that be enough? Goodness, I sure hope so.

So here is the kicker: I assemble this motley crew of documents and send them to the Korean Consulate with a postage-paid return envelope. If it meets with their approval, they stamp it and send it back to me. I then have to send it myself to the Korean National Police Agency, with international return postage. I sure hope this doesn't take very long.

Yesterday I took this Korean document to a notary. My appointment was at 11:00, and I waited patiently for Mr. So-and-so to call me in. It was at 11:24 that the receptionist went in and told the notary that his 11:00 had arrived. There was a bit of pomp and ceremony, but we got the thing done.

Next on my list was to get my Police Certificate. I don't know what happened, but I phoned and was given incorrect information or I read the website wrong, but I thought I had to go to the West Shore RCMP for this, which is way the heck out in Langford. They only take fingerprints from 12-4 on Wednesdays so I made sure I got there before the window closed. Well, turns out that I needed to go to the Victoria detachment after all. More driving. Parking is hard to find in that area because it is right next to the Memorial Arena where concerts and games are held, and there was an event that evening. I went up to the counter, and the polite lady behind the glass informed me that they only take fingerprints at 1:00 on Wednesdays. Well, it was Wednesday but it was 3:45. I'll have to wait another week.

So there I was mad at bureaucracy, mad at the world, mad at having to do all this crap. We were so close and this adds another layer or two of complexity. They really do make it hard for immigrants. Everyone on Twitter keeps joking to do things like just get a Mexican passport or enter some other way. If we had lied from the beginning I would have been there by now but we wanted to do it 100% honest and here I am still.

And yet. I'm here in Cowichan Bay which is arguably one of the most beautiful places on Vancouver Island. I am now volunteering at Providence Farm three days a week and am having all kinds of amazing experiences there. Toni and I have been having some riveting conversations about peak oil, climate change, economic collapse and other post-apocalyptic excitement. The roses are in full bloom and the garden is full of heady scents. It's not that bad. I just really want to be with my husband.

Well, I will do all the things they ask and then they will let me into America and I will be with my husband. This is, after all, simply a matter of jumping through hoops, not like getting a university degree. And I have two of those.

Today when I was filling out the application for the long form of a birth certificate, I discovered that I had to have that notarized as well. I found one much closer and she was AWESOME. No waiting. I called, showed up 15 minutes later, and we had the whole thing wrapped up in five minutes. Boom.

So, yes, I'll get all my paperwork sorted out, I'll enjoy my last summer on Vancouver Island, and all will be well.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

now what? Korean Consulate

I didn't especially enjoy my time in Korea. I started counting down the days long before it was 100 days until I left. The city was polluted, my boss was tyrannical, I worked six days a week, I hated my job, I didn't get along with most of my coworkers which also formed my only possible social group. So by the time I left I couldn't wait to get the f*** out of the place.

It will never go away.

So I phoned the Korean Consulate this morning to find out how to get my Police Certificate. The fellow told me it was on the website (which was not in an obvious place, so it was good that I called). I tried downloading the form but the file did not have the extension indicating what kind of file it was so my computer didn't know how to open it. After some finagling, I made it open in Word (yes, Word), and had to do a bit of reformatting with margins to get it so I could print it on one page.

Why was this not in .pdf form, you ask? I don't think they have heard of it. Give them another ten years, they might discover it then. (Apologies for biting cynicism, I'm sure you can understand my frustration).

So, this form that came from the place on the website that was distinctly for people who are not living in Korea now has a space on it

"Present address, in Korea"

as well as "Recent Employment" and "Last School Attended".

What? It was TEN YEARS AGO that I lived there. The Korean government has no idea that I worked at the Tofino Hospital or that I got an MSc at UVic.

Sooooooo I'll fill this out to the best of my ability. I'll go and pay a Notary Public $30 to have this document notarized tomorrow. I will also have to find a way to have a photo of me taken and printed so that it is exactly 3x4cm for the Korean Consulate. These are not standard sized passport photos for US or Canada, so looks like it will be the Skipper taking a photo, making it the right size, and then I go off to a pharmacy or something to print tomorrow. I'm sure you envy this awesomeness.

I'll also head to the West Shore RCMP to get fingerprinted for my Police Certificate for Canada.

Yup, getting it done.

Monday, June 25, 2012

the ball is in our court

We are now officially in the 'gathering of documents' stage of this visa application/immigration process.

I wish I had known beforehand about some of these documents. I would have gotten the long version of my birth certificate months ago. I would have acquired a Police Certificate from Korea long ago too.

Wait, what?

Yes, apparently I have to have Police Certificates (not sure how they are different from a Criminal Record Check but there you are) from every country I have lived in for a year or longer. Technically I was only in Japan for 51 weeks, so I don't have to do that one, but I was in Korea for a year and a week, if memory serves.

Now, to deal with Korean bureaucracy.

I don't really remember my address of when I lived there, so I don't know how they will do it but there can't have been too many Stacey Slagers in Korea, right? I will phone the Korean Consulate in Vancouver first thing tomorrow morning and see what to do next. Fill out a form? Pay a fee? Go to Vancouver?

So. An issuing of my new fancy birth certificate will cost $40.

A Canadian Police certificate will cost $50. For this I have to show up at the West Shore detachment of the RCMP in Langford on Wednesday between 12-4pm, when they do the fingerprinting.

Passport-sized photos - well, either I'll get them done ($12/set x two) or I can buy glossy photo paper for the printer and find a way to sweet talk the Skipper into getting some photos of me.

Police Certificate from Korea $?

I'll also have to pay for the health check from an immigration doctor in Vancouver.

And then I have to go to Montreal for my interview.

So needless to say I'm a bit frustrated at how the information hasn't come to us in a timely manner. However, once we have all these documents, we can submit them electronically (one bonus at least!) and then they will schedule my interview.

I can't wait to get to North Carolina and get a job so I can pay for my immigration.

Friday, June 22, 2012

a trip to the vet

I must say, it's been a rather stressful, intense, and exhausting week.

First there is all this immigration stuff which I have already told you about.

On Tuesday night, Sam got out. I normally keep her inside at night so she doesn't fight with other kitties or get carried away by a hungry owl. It was around 12:30am that I heard the yowling that is usually just Sam intimidating other kitties from her turf. This cat wasn't having any of it. There was scuffling. More scuffling. I got up, went outside, because sometimes my flashlight is all that it takes to shoo the other kitty away, but not this time. There was no way I would be able to extricate Sam from this mess, so I declared she would spend the night outside and went back in to bed.

Then, at 3:30am, she was clawing at the screen over the window where my room is. I got up to let her in, and she came straight to bed.

It wasn't until about 6:30pm the following day that she took any food or water. She was moving around painfully slow and I was getting really worried about her. I saw she had some small injuries to her rear right paw but it wasn't bleeding (blood was dry). Thought I'd just wait and see.

By Thursday morning, the area around the punctures had started to swell and I knew I had to take her to the vet. She's been to the vet more times in the last year than she has since her first year of life! (She's ten now, for the record). We went to the Cobble Hill Veterinary Hospital and they were great. The vet got the clippers out and gently shaved off the fur around her three punctures to clean up the area. Sam did not enjoy this, but she was a good kitty for the most part. The punctures were deep but not big enough to stitch. A bit of alcohol on the wound (Sam HATED that), an anti inflammatory injection, and some antibiotics for me to give her and we were on our way. I also got some eye drops for the goo she's been oozing for the last several months.

I am happy to report that Sam is doing very well. She is back to jumping again (she had taken to imbing up the couch, getting her claws stuck in the fabric), rolling around, and her cute gentle chomping on my hand.

One other thing - upon the advice I received from the vet in Camrose last summer, I have switched Sam's crunchy food to dental formula. The vet we saw yesterday said it was working, so that's great! Sam loves it, so we are all happy.

we might just be near the end of this

Wait! Don't get too excited!

I discovered that I have to apply for an immigration visa now.

What? Didn't I already do that? Wasn't that part of the whole wanting to immigrate to the US business?

Well, turns out, with five different government agencies handling immigration, and with processes changing all the time, and with some (rather alarming) level of non-communication, there seems to be some duplicity in data collection.

As of yesterday or the day before, I was required to apply for an immigration visa. Well, that's fine, I guess. But goodness, these forms are extremely lengthy and detailed and even when you are done filling them out there is no telling what the next step is. At least not without a bucket full of Internet research.

I spent several hours last night trying to remember every single place I have lived since I was 16 (I lost count but I think it was about 19), and every job I have held for the last ten years. Luckily, we have no children. There are tons of questions about the applicant's intentions about terrorism or human trafficking or other illegal acts. This surprised me. Who would say 'yes' to any of these questions? And yet they are on there.

So I stayed up later than I would have liked to complete this form, and then had a link to a paper form that I was supposed to fill out and then... what? And hey - this paper form is asking the information that is very similar to the online form I just filled out. Well turns out I didn't need to fill out the paper form. UGH.

So the next thing that needs to happen is that Dan and I collect the rest of the documents they want and send them off to Montreal. I'll be sending my birth certificate, passport, marriage certificate, etc. by courier to the consulate there. Yes I will. Hopefully we can get that buttoned up in the next week.

From there, once they have everything they need, "please allow up to six weeks for review of your file". Then they will issue my interview appointment date. That date will be approximately one month later.

So, doing the math with me, on the outside this is looking like late August - early September. But it could be sooner than that.

Here's hoping.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

update on the rest of my life

In other news, I am now volunteering at Providence Farm three days a week. I help with seniors on Tuesdays, I'm in the greenhouse on Thursdays, and as of last week I am in the Loom Room on Fridays. O my word I must take a picture of the Loom Room, there are at least a dozen looms between table and floor looms. There are spinning wheels and sewing machines and patterns and books and yarn and more yarn and ribbons and buttons and a crafter's paradise! I learned how to weave on a floor loom last Friday and I was absolutely enchanted. Now I want one. Dan promised to build me one.

I love Providence Farm. I wrote about my experiences early on but each time I go my feeling of love for and from the place deepens. I am learning so much about myself and others. I am learning even more patience (who knew that was even possible?), I am learning how volunteers and caregivers dance around people with dementia, I am learning about plants (I discovered Korean Mint!), and that weaving is way faster than knitting. I spend my days around all kinds of people and the love just flows, it is so wonderful. I really hope there are other places like this in the world.

On this note, I wanted to share with you an experience I had there two weeks ago. There is a man who comes every few weeks with leftover bread from a local bakery, given free to St. Ann's Garden Centre (the program I volunteer for on Tuesdays). He is good friends with one of the older volunteers, and that particular day he had some friends with him, members of their church. They sat off at the far end of the room while I was in the kitchen extracting muffins from tins. The man led them through a prayer for one of their fellow congregates who, it sounded like, had recently been the victim of some legal injustice. I didn't hear the whole story, but I felt absolutely compelled to stop what I was doing with the muffins and join them in their prayer. It wasn't the words, because I couldn't really hear them, but the powerful feeling of love I felt coming from 40 feet away. I was filled with awe. I don't know how else to describe it. I was absolutely moved.

There was a time when I would have been irritated by someone praying in my presence. Irritated that they would bring their stupid Bible crap within my earshot. Nothing inspires ire in me more than JW's coming to the door and ambushing you with their cookie-cutter arguments for whatever objections you might have. I abhorred any kind of righteousness and assumed that all those of the Christian persuasion were out to convert the rest of us.

So, some of you know that I identified as Wiccan for ten years. I had no formal religious affiliation before that, though I was baptized Catholic (ha!) and I had been loosely studying Buddhism before I discovered Wicca and Paganism. When I walked away from Wicca, I walked away from religion entirely because, as a scientist (I have a piece of paper that declares me so), I did not believe in a god so religion just made no sense to me. That was in 2009. In the time since then I have had all kinds of realizations and reflections about where I'm at with my spirituality and religion. I stopped any practices or rituals I had previously done and I didn't miss it. I guess it was a time of secular reflection for me while my life was busy with other things.

I know I have mentioned here before, perhaps only in passing, about my experiences in the last six month with a friend who has recently blossomed into her psychic medium skills, about my introduction to A Course in Miracles, about my experiencing meditation as an actual discipline. I have had all kinds of interesting thoughts and conversations about this new-to-me material I have been engaging with and have been processing a lot of emotional baggage. My views about many things have changed, I have become way more forgiving and more patient (though I am not immune to emotional flare-ups from time to time!). I communicate with my cat telepathically and she responds. I visit the chickens when I'm sad and they heal me. I have experienced so many major shifts within in these last six months that even Toni is surprised at how much I have changed, and we spent a LOT of time together! So when I witnessed that prayer for a stranger two weeks ago, I knew that I had arrived at a new level with my spirituality.

I had dinner with some friends in Victoria last week. One of the friends asked me where I was at with my spirituality and religion, as she knew about my walking away from faith a few years ago. In all this transformation I have been going through these past months, I haven't really taken the time to articulate it, at least not in public. I journal about it all the time. Here is what I told her: "I went from having spent most of my life not believing in a God to having a nightly conversation with Him".

Just let that settle in for a minute.

So what does that mean? No, I'm not a Born Again anything. I'm not suddenly going to accept or take on a religion because I have (to use a cliche) found God. In fact I was (naturally) loathe to tell anyone about it because I don't want people to think I'm a new age freak. Instead, I will attempt to articulate this further (and I haven't even journaled about this yet, you are getting raw and uncut Stacey!): I think I had better start with my assumptions so you know where I am going.

I believe in reincarnation.
I believe in spirit guides, that we can communicate with our beloved dead, and we can communicate telepathically.
As of recently, I believe in angels.
I accept the teachings of A Course in Miracles which says that time and space are not real things, that what we are perceiving as our experience is not in fact real (I don't feel qualified to expand on that point to do it justice, at least not yet). The Course also teaches that there is only fear and love, and that fear is the absence of love, so when you are experiencing fear what you really need is love. (There are many good teachers who simplify the labyrinthine material of the Course, should you care to dabble).
I even believe in Jesus.
And now, I also believe in God.

So to fill in that frame a bit, if love is what we strive for, then every thing we do must be in pursuit of love. Love of self, love of others, love of all. In this view, we are all One, not separate, and that you are a reflection of a part of me that I need to engage with right now. I realize I am getting metaphysical here, but honestly this is where my mind has been in these last months. It has been amazing to turn a number of experiences in my life that I had formerly perceived as negative and see them now as gifts or opportunities for growth. If I believe that I have chosen this life for myself (and I do believe that), then I can blame no one for my suffering, and that I chose to experience suffering in order to learn... what? Well, each experience has something different to teach us. Just like we'll keep dating the same type of jerk until we learn to respect ourselves, at which point the Right Man will come along (it happened to me!)(Gosh I hope none of my ex-'s are reading this). I digress.

This is how I was able to go from "O no! I will be terribly inconvenienced by having to go to Montreal for my visa appointment" to "I have always wanted to go to Montreal and this will be a great opportunity! Maybe I will have some interesting experiences while I'm there!" In a way, it's re-framing or re-perceiving my experience in a positive way that has gotten me through this year of being without my husband. There have clearly been a bundle of things I needed to learn in this time that we've been apart that I probably would not have had the chance to if we were together.

WHEW. That was a lot to get out, a lot to tell you, dear reader, but I figured it was time I came out of the (what do you call it when you out yourself spiritually?) cave? (Ha - I accidentally typed 'cafe' instead of 'cave', which also makes an interesting metaphor ;-)) This is how I view my world now.

Oh! I just remembered the other big thing that has been occupying my brain for the last couple of weeks but it's getting late and I want to wrap up this blog post. Toni and I have been talking a lot about climate change, peak oil, permaculture, and the collapse of oil-based society as we know it. I have had my mind clamped on developing post-apocalyptic survival skills. I'm not going to get into it here but it sure has had me thinking lately. I embrace learning new skills and I am now really motivated to learn how to make a fire without matches or a lighter. I'll probably have a few posts about this, possibly several on the weekend (I'll have the house to myself!), so maybe we can start some interesting conversations about disaster preparedness.

One last thing: I will direct you to Toni's most recent post for an update about what's been happening around here. As of today Hen has hatched out five more chicks with a few more eggs to go. The flock is changing and CHICKS ARE SO CUTE OMG.

well okay

Forgive me readers for I have not written. It's been four weeks since my last blog post.

I could tell you that it's because I have been busy. And that would be true. But not too busy to write. (Yes I am using sentence fragments. I am taking poetic license. It's my blog after all.)

The truth is things have been happening so fast, both in my brain and in my life that I felt that even if I could settle down to write blog posts, that I wouldn't be able to properly encapsulate what was happening in my adventure-filled life. I will now attempt to fill you in on what has been happening, and this may end up being a rather long post, so please do bear with me.

The biggest and most important thing is that hopefully, any day now, I will have the date for my visa interview with the immigration people. In fact, four weeks ago today they told us "within 30 days" and they have two days left. It's a funny thing, you know, that every time they tell us what the "next" thing that is supposed to happen is, they forget to mention the three little things that need to happen first. Case in point: when the approval letter came, they told us that the next thing that would happen is that the package would come with my visa appointment date. A week later, a letter came informing me that I really should appoint a proxy with a US address to act as my agent and hurry up and sign this form here. So I did that the minute it came, letting them know that yes it is perfectly fine for them to send the stuff to Dan because he needs to know all this anyway. Good grief. Then they said "thank you, we have received this form" etc. The next day we both received an email saying "at some point in the future, probably in three to five days but we're not promising anything because we have a hard time sticking to dates" (I'm paraphrasing), "we'll send you an invoice for the visa processing that you will have to pay before we tell you when the visa appointment is". So that happened yesterday, invoice paid.

Now here is where it gets juicy. Dan did a bunch of phoning to the US Immigration people in Vancouver (where I was certain my interview would be), Montreal (where Dan was certain my interview would be) and New Hampshire (the main visa processing centre in the US). He wanted to find out where my interview would be, etc. Guess what? Turns out, Dan was right. Well no problem, right? We have to drive across the continent anyway, we just drive together to Quebec from here, get my visa, and cross the border there, right? WRONG. O no, says the US government and Department of Homeland Security. I must enter the US from British Columbia, where I currently reside. Wtf? Sooooo, this means that at some point soon (at this point there is no telling when) they will inform me of the date of my appointment, upon which I will do my best to book a flight to Montreal, a popular tourist destination and home to mass student riots in the height of summer. This sounds like an awesome good time, doesn't it? I'm hoping it will be some time in July, at least.

At first when Dan told me all this, I was fuming. I even cursed on the Internet! (I know!) Why do they have to make it so difficult? I'm nice! Why are they trying to prevent me from entering? There has been much consternation and expletive-launching on my behalf about the inefficiency and cruelty of this immigration process, many apologies made to me from my beloved American friends and family for the idiocy of their government processes.

Then I sat with the idea for a little while.


I have always wanted to go to Montreal.

It won't be winter!

I bet they have yarn shops...

FOOD! They will have excellent ethic cuisine!

And then it turned into "I get to take a trip to Montreal!"

So somehow, the Universe will see fit to find a way for me to finance this trip and I will, in fact, make the best of it. I have already asked the Internet if anyone knows anyone who lives in Montreal who would be willing to put up a nice west-coaster for two nights, sometime soon, probably in July. If worse comes to worst, I will hopefully find a hostel but given that it is summer and it is Montreal (student riots notwithstanding), that might be challenging.

They had better let me knit on the plane.

(I am, in fact, going to break this up into different parts, to save my readers. To be continued...)