Mr. Noodle

Mr. Noodle
Mr. Noodle

Thursday, January 31, 2013

hurry up and wait - again: more uncertainty

A week ago when I had my immigration visa interview in Montreal, I was told to expect three days for the processing of my visa and up to five days for it to be shipped to me. It's been a week now, or five business days, and it appears it hasn't even arrived at the courier to be sent yet. I don't expect there was a problem, as this was a standard procedure, but goodness, why is it taking so long? Am I looking at the wrong places for my information? Is my visa actually on its way and I'm just checking the wrong websites?

The original plan was for us to start our trip tomorrow. That was based on the assumption that it would have arrived today or before, and if it showed up in tracking, as it should have by now, we would have had a better idea of when to actually expect it. I suppose we were optimistic in anticipating the date of the visa's arrival, but even so, it would be nice to know that it has at least been sent. Good grief.

Thus, we now don't know when we will be leaving, but as Dan prepares the truck and I continue the packing, we will be ready to leave as soon as it comes.

It's still exhausting though. I hate moving, packing, thinking about the thousand details that need to be done. What will we need for our trip? How much clothing to pack and which garments will I need? I've packed most of our clothes now and am just doing a (hopefully) last load of laundry.

At any rate, our departure is once again unknown, alas. Will keep you posted.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Who are you?

I'm sure every couple has their own vocabulary, or set of internal jargon that is meaningful only to them. Early in our relationship, whenever Dan would shave his beard, I would say "who are you?" because he really was a totally different-looking guy.

Case-in-point: when I first met Dan on St. Patrick's Day in 2007, I was pretty sure he had some facial hair. I can only say "pretty sure" because, well, it was my favourite holiday and I was, er, in my cups. Well, tipsy, actually, but I remember him being a fun guy. The following week when we were again in a social situation together (arranged by our dear friend @atrdesign), somehow I was once again in my cups and when Flash pointed over there and said "There's Dan", I remember thinking "that's not the same guy, is it?" I was utterly confused but rolled with it. Thinking back now, he had either shaved his head or maybe shaved off a beard or goatee into a soul patch (which I hate, for the record), and there was something about his glasses. Anyway, he looked different but to talk with him he was definitely the same guy.

More recently, in this waiting for immigration business, Dan started growing his beard when we got rejected at the border in September 2011, and declared he would not shave it until my immigration was approved. Well, as much as I love My Sweety with facial hair, enough is enough. When he was here visiting last fall he shaved it off. He then went back to Kinston and shaved off all his hair too. So, when the Mother Earth Brewing Christmas party photo surfaced on Twitter, I saw the assembled cast and said "where is Dan? And who is that guy with no hair?" No really, I did that.

Yesterday when I picked Dan up at the ferry, I was expecting him to be wearing a hat with a brim and to have facial hair. Instead, he was wearing a hat I had knit for him years ago and had no beard. "Who are you?" I said. He said "I was about to ask you the same thing!" Since, you know, my hair has gotten a lot longer in the 10 weeks since he's seen me. :-)

This time, our being together definitely feels different. We both know that we are together now, and that he won't be flying back alone in a week or two. It hasn't quite set in yet, and that's okay. We're too busy to get bogged down with that anyway. We took the truck for a drive on the highway this morning, since in November Dan figured the truck would need a new clutch before our big long road trip. Now he's not so sure, maybe it will be fine? He'll check all the fluids and make sure everything is running in perfect order before we pack it all up on Thursday. I sure hope the rain holds off while we are tuning up the truck and doing the packing. Rain threatens at every moment.

Sam is not sure what to make of this Dan guy. She remembers he's really good at giving her good chin scrubbing and even jumped up on his lap this morning. I think she's annoyed though that she has to share the bed with him. Luckily he didn't bring his banjo this time - she really hates big noise.

It was Dan's birthday a week ago, and I'll be making a lasagna for dinner tonight. It's still the plan to leave on Friday, though after checking the tracking of my visa with the courier service, I don't think it has been sent yet. If my visa isn't here by Thursday, we'll have to delay our departure until it gets here. Meanwhile, packing continues and we are strategizing about which route to take and how long we expect to be driving. It's kind of fun though, we enjoy this kind of planning. Also, Dan has showed me photos and video he took on Sunday of our house! I'm so excited; in my mind I have already moved in. We have no furniture but a foamie and two camping chairs. That's a good start, right?

Friday, January 25, 2013

back from Montreal

Since we last met, dear readers, I have been to Vancouver twice and Montreal once. The first time to Vancouver was on January 18th to see the immigration doctor to make sure I didn't have any communicable diseases, mental illness, STDs or chronic illness. I went back on the following Monday to retrieve my official documents once the results of my chest X-ray and blood tests came in. Guess what? I'm healthy.

I stayed in Vancouver for a couple of days and really enjoyed myself. The friends I stay with there are Chinese and live above the Chinatown SkyTrain station. We had a kick ass meal in their home the night I arrived on the Thursday, then off for a HINF reunion (see previous post) on the Friday night. The reunion was at the same Korean restaurant we went to last year on lower Robson, ApGuJung. I had kimchi chigae, it was AWESOME.

Earlier in the day, after my doctor appointment, I found my way to Granville Island, where I had only really gone to for the first time when Dan was here in the fall, and even then, most things were closed as it was night time. For those of you not local to Vancouver, Granville Island is the home of a huge arts, food, and craft culture. The Emily Carr School of Art & Design is there, as are a number of other smaller schools. I wandered around looking for art stores or at least a place to look at yarn, and stumbled on a couple: one was a silk weaving studio, the other was a fiber dying supply shop that had a small but good selection of yarns. I bought two skeins of bulky Manos del Uruguay to whip up a mitts/hat/cowl set for my trip to Vancouver.

I wasn't using a pattern so it's a bit clumsy, but I managed to get this finished on my way to Montreal, this photo was taken in the Calgary airport! When it came time to leave Granville Island, I found my way to the Aquabus to go from GI to Science World (about 15 min) for $5.50. Just before departing, I and a few others had noticed a seagull who had found a starfish and was trying to eat it without much success.

On Saturday I returned to Vancouver Island with my friends who, expecting their first child, bought a 2009 BMW X5. It had leather seats and was very comfortable to be a back seat passenger in. Bach was playing on the stereo, it was a lovely ride!

I went back to Vancouver on Monday to pick up my documents, since I didn't feel good about leaving the fate of my documents to a courier when I only had one day for them to arrive before flying to Montreal. I caught the 11:00 ferry, met Dan's older sister and her youngest daughter at a SkyTrain station and we went for Dim Sum. That was awesome. I should have taken a picture of the banana pancake because I really have been thinking about it for days. After lunch I took another train and bus to Surrey to get my document and realized I would have to catch the 7:00 ferry, not the 5:00 like I had hoped. Oh well, I had knitting with me that day. I was pretty tired when I got back and Sam sure was happy to see me!

Fast forward to Wednesday, January 23rd, which also happens to be Dan's birthday. I woke up at 3:50am, Dan's father picked me up an hour later, and off to the airport we went to catch my 7:00 flight to Montreal via Calgary. Since I had a 2h 45m layover in Calgary, I had hoped that my mum and sister could come down and meet me for coffee, but as it was more than 150km away and they were both busy, it didn't happen. Sigh. The flights were bumpy, but as we were traveling from west to east, they were quick. An hour from Victoria to Calgary, three and a half hours from Calgary to Montreal.

Brother-in-law Thor met me at the airport in Montreal, advising me on how cold it was. I soon discovered that the lovely hand-knit trio above was inadequate to protect me from that cold, so I wore my other set underneath: two hats, mitts over fingerless mitts, scarf under cowl. Montreal public transit was easy - I bought a 24-hour pass for $9 and it served me the whole time I was there. YAY. It was a quick trip to Thor's flat, then down for some not awful Chinese food downstairs. My internal clock is all mixed up because I had been getting up 10 minutes earlier every day until my 4:00am wake up on the day I flew to Montreal, so I had a hard time getting to sleep in a strange bed in a noisy city with lots of light. But I slept well enough to have some crazy dreams. When I woke up on the morning of the 24th, I remembered: "two hours until my interview!"

I had a map and Thor took me to the Metro station on his way to school. It was -24 degrees Celsius, and even though I grew up in Alberta, I don't really have the right weather gear for those kinds of temperatures now. People in Montreal have no qualms about looking unfashionable for the sake of being warm. You either dress warm or you die of exposure. I did take a wrong turn or two in looking for the consulate (it is a nondescript building with no signs), and when I got there I was told I needed my Loomis number. What? That wasn't in all the "how to prepare for your interview" lists I read. Or was it? I had registered, but I didn't know I needed to bring that with me. The agent gave me a sheet, and told me to go find a pay phone or use my cell phone (which I wasn't allowed to bring, actually), to call this number and get it.

Around the corner in the same building, there were two pay phones, both being used by people who, like me, didn't have their number. For them, however, neither of them had pre-registered and neither of them spoke English very well, so it was clear the Loomis people were having a hard time understanding. I must have waited 20 minutes to use the phone. When it was my turn, I had my number in under two minutes, and back to the consulate I went.

I had to go through a small room that had airport-like security. Pass my stuff through the machine, walk through the thing, beep, get the wand passed over me as I stand with arms and legs spread. Then I was told to go down the stairs and take the elevator to the XXth floor. Once in the elevator, I saw it was the only option.

The signage wasn't great so it wasn't immediately clear where I was supposed to go. Turns out I needed to line up to take a number. Turns out everyone was told to show up at 9:30, about 60 of us, and taking a number didn't guarantee first-come, first-served access, but just that we would be seen. I had C50, and it was disconcerted when they called C34, C27, C41, C30, C51, etc. I had no idea how long my wait would be.

I got my C50 at about 10:15, and I was called up to Window 2 (out of about 15) at 11:45. She asked for my passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc. All the things that were on my checklist. Then she told me to have a seat, that "It shouldn't be long".

I don't know what she meant by that. In my books "shouldn't be long" means maybe 10 minutes. But if you compare an hour's waiting to, say, how long it took from the time my immigration was approved (May 2012) until the interview eight months later, then yes, it is no time at all. But really she meant "about an hour". Did they take a break for lunch?

When I was finally called up again at 12:50pm, it had been five hours since I had eaten, I hadn't slept well for several nights in a row, was a ball of nerves/anxiety/anticipation, and was downright twitchy without my cell phone. She gave me back my documents, I swore an oath, answered a few questions "where did you meet your husband?", and told me my visa was approved. I was too exhausted to be excited. No really. It was more of a "Oh that's nice" reaction, though really I had no doubt I would get it. I should have my visa within the week, I can travel immediately upon getting it, my green card will be sent when I cross the border. Done.

Back to the bracing cold to get back to Thor's to eat all the things, tell the Internet my news, and perhaps have a lay-down. Thor got back from school, we went for lunch and a celebratory daquiri, then I was off to the airport to fly back to the coast.

Traveling is exhausting, and I have had four travel days in the last eight days. Flying east to west takes longer because of the spinning of the earth and thus the winds, so my Montreal to Calgary was four and a half hours, Calgary to Victoria was an hour and a half. Not to mention a one-hour delay in Calgary as we waited for the late flight from Winnipeg. My plane landed at midnight, local time, I had been awake for seventeen and a half hours, and I still had to get back into the city so I could go to bed.

I was in bed by 1:00am, I think. Promised I would sleep in today. Do you think I could sleep past 8:00? Good grief.

So anyway, it's done, my visa is approved, Dan will be here in three days and we leave in a week. Now we just have a thousand details to sort out.

Thanks to everyone for their support, good wishes & vibes, prayers, congratulations and other kind words. It has meant a lot to me to have so many friends in the world!


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Will you see me again before I leave?

I think I have mentioned some time in the past that I have moved away a lot. Moved away from, moved to lots of places. There is always that hectic time in the weeks leading up to my departure when people start asking me if they will see me again before I go. This has happened to me several times this week, and I can only answer "I don't know."

Because I have moved around a lot, I have made lots of friends in each place and in some cases, those friendships stick, others fade away. I don't use facebook anymore (since I think it's a paltry excuse for a tool claiming to help keep you in touch with your friends) (perhaps a separate diatribe on that later) and so the way I keep in touch with people is largely through email and snail mail. Yes I use Twitter - but more often that's been a device for making and building friendships rather than keeping in touch.

This past holiday season I sent out about 50 cards, only one was returned "moved, address unknown". I only got a tiny fraction of that back, but, given I only get around to sending cards every third year, I wasn't expecting much. But I do want to make more of an effort in keeping in touch with people in a way that actually speaks of real connection. Posting a status on facebook doesn't build community. I want to interact with you, not all the people at once.

Thus, because of my rejection of that social media, I think I have lost some friends along the way, and I think I'm okay with that. I am content with the level of connectivity I have and am now committed to building those friendships that I have recently cultivated or am now adding compost to.

If everything goes according to plan, Dan and I will be leaving here on February 1st. That's in 19 days. In that 19 days I will be spending two nights in Vancouver (for my immigration doctor appointment but also a HINF* reunion), two days traveling to and from Montreal with my visa interview in between, a few days when Dan gets here on the 28th doing a last fast round of visits while we get the truck ready and packed up, I have my own packing & cleaning to do, my step-FIL & I are trying to get as much work done in the basement as possible, plus a few other social engagements (mostly family) and I'm pretty much out of time. These first 13 days of January have already galloped past and I feel like the month is gaining momentum. I am also a person who needs a fair amount of down time - time to myself (or to be with Sam!), so I am being protective of my time so as not to overschedule myself & thereby get stressed out.

There will be no party this time around. I have had lots of  farewell parties thrown for me with all my going and returning, and honestly I don't have the energy for it. I expect my doctor appointment and visa interview will go off without a hitch, so my main focus now is getting ready for our big 7-10 day, 3,200 mile journey across the continent and moving into our new home, as well as getting reacquainted with my husband. By the time I get there, we will have been living apart for more than 20 months. I am chomping at the bit to get started in my new life. Get a job, plant a garden, decorate my house, find the knitters, make friends. I am immensely excited about the next chapter in my life, and it's hard for me not to just skip ahead to the end of this chapter. I have 19 days to get myself together - less than that if I'm actually ready by the time Dan gets here (15 days!) 

So, if you are local to me and I don't get to see you before I go, please accept my apology. This is a frenetic time for me and I'm trying to stay sane and healthy. I do hope that you will come visit me/us in North Carolina!

*HINF = Health Information Science, in which I have an M.Sc. and half of a B.Sc. I spent four years in this field of study, graduated in 2009, and am still in touch with a few of my HINF buddies!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

the next four and a half weeks

Happy New Year friends and readers!

As I write to you from the house of my in-laws in Victoria, I can finally look on this new year with optimism and hope. I will be flying to Montreal on January 23rd for my visa interview with the US Consulate on January 24th, in which I present all of the documents on paper that they have already received electronically, save for the medical report. On Friday January 18th, I have an appointment with one of two immigration doctors in Canada for which I have to travel to Surrey and where I will have my lungs X-rayed, blood taken, and a physical exam completed.

In the week following my visa interview, Dan will come and, as we expect I will have my visa sent by courier by the 29th or 30th, we will be able to leave soon after that. The plan at the moment is to take the ferry from here in Victoria to Port Angeles, Washington, but given the nature of our trip we may be obliged to go to the Peace Arch instead. Not only will have a visa, but we will also be importing my truck as well as bringing in a feline, so at some point soon I will need to take Sam to a vet to get documents saying she is healthy and fine. I already have the documents for the truck.

I don't know when it will start to feel real, because it is still feeling like I'm reading a book about someone else's life. I go about my day with a sort of a routine, but now that I have an end in sight, I really do have to set to work with packing up my things, deciding what I will wear to Vancouver for the doctor appointment and what to wear to Montreal (where they have below freezing temperatures). What will I wear for our road trip, the 3,200 mile trek to the other side of the continent? I'll want to be comfortable and warm.

My step-father-in-law and I still have work to do in the basement, which we would be hard at except for the round of viruses that has swept through the house. Our resident grad student (my sister-in-law) finished her semester, having pushed hard for thirteen weeks, and the moment she had a chance to relax, BAM, she was hit with a cold. Eventually we all got it, except for the visiting grad student (brother-in-law), who seems to be saving himself for the trip back to get sick. At any rate, this means that the pouring of concrete in the basement will have to wait a little longer.

It occurred to me about six weeks ago that I am in a place where I can go see movies in the theater - my life over the past several years has put me in places where movie theaters were not nearby or easy to get to, so I have been taking advantage of proximity. I first saw Lincoln, which was great. Then I saw Anna Karenina, and despite having Keira Knightley in it, was also good. Then came Flight, which was not so much about airlines as it was about hardcore alcoholism. Then Cloud Atlas, I couldn't really tell you what it was about but it left me wondering about the textiles they were wearing in the last stage of history as they were beautiful and interesting. When my 17-year-old theater-buff niece was here over the holidays, she and I saw Les Miserables, also great and now I know why everyone is talking about Anne Hathaway's solo. Last night I saw Life of Pi - not really high on my list because I couldn't really get into the book but they did a great job of the film. It made me want to come home and hug my cat. This afternoon I saw The Hobbit - on which I have heard mixed reviews from both people who have and have not seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I just told someone on Twitter that while I liked the costuming and set design, I didn't find the story as compelling as LOTR. Maybe it's because I'm just not that into dwarves? Holy crap! That's seven movies in the past six weeks! I've found a great movie buddy in Dan's friend from childhood who lives in Victoria and, like me, prefers to sit in the very back row in the theater. We're going again next week, but haven't decided what to see yet.

Dan has sent me a number of photos, videos and floor plans for the house we are going to be moving into in Kinston. It's in a neighborhood that is being rejuvenated and turned into an arts community, and I am really excited to move in, get settled, decorate how we like and get cracking in the garden. The house sits on .41acre, which will give me LOTS of room to grow food. My three objectives for 2013: install a herb spiral, plant a bed of greens (even if it's in a temporary location), and plant some perennial flowers, especially roses. I have been steeping my brain in permaculture these past few weeks and months, so because there is such a heavy emphasis on design, I can't go too crazy on digging and installing things right away. The first step is to "observe and interact" - see where the winds come from, where the water goes, how much sunlight falls in each place on the property, and what our heating and cooling needs are. I'm reading Gaia's Garden at the moment which happens to be a textbook for an NC State University course on permaculture, available through iTunes University. How convenient that this professor lives in Raleigh - I could meet him and pick his brain!

I also have a stack of visiting to do before my final weeks here. There are some people that I didn't get to visit with over the holiday season because of all the chaos, and a few people I just haven't seen in a while. This could well be my last round of visiting though - I still have a mountain of packing to do and other immigration-related details to attend to. I don't know how much time I will have to blog in the coming weeks before I go - though I will do my best to at least post updates about my situation. Even though my immigration was approved in May 2011, there still exists a slight possibility that the people at the consulate in Montreal could deny me, as could the border agents. I won't be settled until I am across the border with a stamp in my passport, and then after we arrive in Kinston having made the journey in the dead of winter. It's been quite a journey, these past 19 months, but you will never hear me say my life is dull!

I hope you all had a happy holiday season and I look forward to connecting with you in the years to come!