January 31, 2013

The Landing

Thursday, January 31, 2013 Posted by Mary , , , No comments

When you come to Canada as a permanent resident, you're often referred to as a "landed immigrant". It doesn't matter if you've visited the country before on a tourist or work visa, you're only "landed" when you enter the country as a permanent resident. This status is coveted by a lot of people, especially Filipinos.

Because my husband is Canadian, acquiring the permanent resident visa for me was relatively easy. I say relatively because all I needed to do was prove to the immigration officials that our relationship is real. I didn't need to speak French, have amazing work experience, or come up with "show money" to get my visa. Despite that, the application was not without difficulty. It was still a long and painful process.

It took exactly 9 months  from the time Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) received my application to the time I received my visa. This time frame excluded the more or less five months I needed beforehand to come up with all the required documents. When your life is on hold and you're away from a loved one for this amount of time, it isn't easy. It was probably one of the most stressful times in my life.

When I received my visa on November 29, 2012, the stress wasn't over. My medicals were set to expire on December 19, and as per Canadian immigration regulations, your visa expires when your medicals do. That only meant one thing--I had to land in Canada on or before December 19! My husband quickly purchased a ticket for December 11.

I crossed the Pacific on Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight PR 106, flying direct from Manila to Vancouver. It took all of eleven and a half hours. Holy crap! I thought that flight would never end. It wasn't really bad, it was just boring. The plane was an older Airbus A340 that didn't have Audio/Video On Demand, so I basically just sat there, trying my damnedest to sleep because that seemed to be what everyone was doing. Of course, I came ready with a netbook + movies and books, but when the cabin is dark and everyone seems to be asleep... let's just say I didn't have the heart to turn my reading lights on.

Thankfully, despite some major turbulence over Alaska (hello, Sarah Palin), we arrived in Vancouver safe and sound, and even twenty minutes ahead of schedule. When the airplane's wheels touched the runway, I had tears of joy. It was only then that I finally allowed myself to breathe a sigh of relief.

The Vancouver International Airport is beautiful. It's new, not crowded, and well laid out. After I got my luggage, I had to go through the border guards. This was the most important step of all--these guys had the power to allow or deny my entry into Canada. Fortunately, it was a breeze. There were no lines, the immigration officer got impressed with my English, and even spoke to me in Japanese when he learned I once lived in Japan. It took all of five minutes. I was finally landed!

My husband was right there, waiting at the greeting area. Finally, we were together! And then, for my first meal in Canada, I had a sub from an airport branch of the Canadian icon, Tim Hortons--a very, very fitting welcome meal, I say.

January 29, 2013

Home Away From Home

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 Posted by Mary , No comments

For the longest time, I felt like I was born in the wrong country, that I was meant to be somewhere else, and meant to be with someone who was not where I was. When I met, and then married my husband, it was an unexpected yet somehow fated falling into place.

Now, I live in Canada. Alberta, to be exact. I arrived on December 11, 2012. It's been less than two months, and I'm thousands of miles away from what used to be my home, but being here already feels more like home to me than any place I've lived in. It's not even because the place is beautiful (I know it is but I can barely tell right now because of all the snow covering everything), or that it's glamorous (because it's not really), or that it's easy-breezy to live here (because it's also not), but it just... fits.

I remember when I lived in Japan. I never felt like I truly belonged. I always felt like an outsider, especially because of the color of my skin. Canada doesn't make you feel like that at all. It's very multi-ethnic, and most of the time, I don't even remember that I'm not of the same race as the locals. Canadians are also very polite and humble people, and that makes living in their country even more desirable.

I'm not surprised that I don't miss home at all. I wish I could share this experience with my parents and my close friends, but that is all. There's no pining for my motherland and it's eccentricities just yet, and I don't know if there ever will be. For now, I'm just happy to be with my husband, in this province, in this country. I don't want to be anywhere else.