Flying Internationally and Locally During COVID-19

I decided not to tell the whole story of my trip to Calgary from California via Vancouver in one whole post. There are certain points that require their own post, and right now, I have decided to share my experience of flying during COVID.

Before deciding to fly to Canada, there were some things about flying during a pandemic that I couldn’t ignore. I looked up as much as I could about how to fly with a lower risk of infection. In terms of risk, flying was deemed the highest risk activity you could do, but there were some other things that made me not so sure. Eventually, I found an article that detailed what you could do to minimize risk and planned the trip from there.

Back when the pandemic first started, there was all this stuff in the news about US airline companies filing for bankruptcy to get massive government bailouts, while US citizens only got a measly $1200 check! What a joke, especially since the airlines were able to operate with social distancing measures a few months later! Additionally, US airlines weren’t enforcing their mask policy with customers who refused to wear it. That made me think, “Well, you just inspired me to fly with Air Canada!” My thinking was that international airlines have a vested interest in keeping their country safe, so they will have better safety procedures. Fortunately, my Mum was absolutely on the same page with me!

I’m so done with US carriers anyway. I’m only flying with international airlines from now on. Besides, at the time, I learned that Canadians are really into supporting their homegrown brands, and local businesses. I honestly love it and I’m embracing it! I plan to write a post about the importance of that someday!

So, here’s how my trip to Canada went:

The story starts the day before flying. I was trying to do online check-in for Air Canada and it wouldn’t let me because I was a foreign national. That was a new COVID rule back then, which was okay. I tried contacting Air Canada but found out we had to do the check-in at the airport.  When you do the check-in, they check all your papers that you will be presenting at Border Control, so it’s best to be prepared.

There weren’t any delays with the process at SFO. When you’re checking in, going through security and boarding, you have to lower your mask for identity purposes, but that’s okay. I noticed that all the airports I went through seemed to turn the temperature up from a comfortable “I-Can-Relax” level to a muggy, sweaty, breathless “It’s-Unbearable-To-Wear-A-Mask” level. Were they trying to weed out the people who weren’t serious about wearing a mask or something? I don’t know. I deliberately had to seek ways to cool off! I wore a mask for 12 hours straight that day. I had to throw it out after that, but it kept me safe in the end!

Airport Temperatures

If you have brought your own food with you, ask at security if there is someplace where you can go eat. Airports have set spaces aside where you can eat if you aren’t buying food, so I was happy about that.

I had to admit it’s weird that the boarding process goes so fast since airplanes are operating at a lower capacity. I’m so used to crowded planes and super long boarding times that there was some cognitive dissonance there. 

On the flights, I was ecstatic to see and hear French again in the announcements and also from the flight attendants. One of them called me Madame, which was amazing! (I like that or Mademoiselle better than Miss or Ms). I really liked that everyone was reminded that wearing a mask is conditional on travelling on Air Canada. They also handed out COVID care packages. And get this: wearing a mask on a plane is SO NOT a big deal because they circulate the air and the temperature is steady! My Mum and I both got window seats at the back of the plane because they are a lower risk of catching COVID. The flight to YVR was about 10 or 15% full and YYC was almost twice that. At least we were able to take more baggage! 

The views en route to YVR were mostly cloudy until we got closer. I wouldn’t say the views were breathtaking, but I did get this sense of awe I get when I see a new city from the air!

After we landed, we went through customs, which was a breeze since I had downloaded the ArriveCAN app and filled in our information before we arrived. We also thought we had to wait for our baggage, which turned out not to be the case. We were at the carousel and there were two sniffer dogs there: a black lab and a yellow lab. Anyone who knows me knows that I am so crazy about black labs it’s not even funny! Then, the black lab came up to us to inspect us. I have noticed black labs seem to know I’m crazy about them, and this was definitely true of this dog, Jake. He suddenly started acting all lively like labs do even though he was working. I said to his handler that if Jake wasn’t working, I’d be making a fuss over him and he thanked me graciously.

I was sort of lost as to what to do next, but I saw an immigration office though and went to check if we had anything more to do. This French Canadian guy was really kind and polite and he said “Welcome to Canada!” about 4 times. He told me I had to go to Border Control, and gave me directions, so I thanked him and went back to tell Mum. 

As a Third Culture Kid, I have had more than my fair share of bad experiences at Border Control or any business to do with immigration or citizenship. This experience was no different. I understand why though. All I want to say about it right now is that I read an article that said the US is losing its passport privilege, and it couldn’t be more true!

I think the IRCC relaxed a bit after they called us to check we were complying with quarantine regulations. My confidence increased because of all the bad experiences I have had with immigration, I know how to deal with immigration officers. I will do a post about my personal tips for that! Hint: Honesty is the best policy.

Then, it got dramatic:

Because of being at Border Control for a long time, the officer said we had technically missed our plane to Calgary and said to go talk to Air Canada. We tried to find the Air Canada desk and then I noticed we had half an hour until our plane left! I thought if we legged it as best we could, we could make it. I didn’t know we had to go through security again! I don’t know if this is a thing in Canadian airports to have to go through security again when you have a layover. The last time I was at a Canadian airport was over 20 years ago and I didn’t have a layover then!

By then, I was running on pure adrenaline and sweating profusely thanks to the aforementioned uncomfortable airport temperatures for wearing a mask, and being dehydrated. They had to confiscate my water bottle that they gave me on the flight to Vancouver and had to open my bag to check my scissors! I had a book about TCKs in that bag and I saw the lady do a double-take when she saw it! She let me through when she asked if we had to catch a plane! I wish I had been reading that book while waiting around at Border Control. I think it sends the message I’m an experienced traveller and immigrant! My Mum can’t run, so I went ahead to see if the plane to Calgary was still there and it was! I got to the gate and the lady there said she was just about to call us on the speaker! 

By the time we got on and by then, my entire body was feeling weak and shaky as an after-effect of being at Border Control but I had to get our bags into the overhead bins. The stewardess couldn’t help me because of COVID, which didn’t make sense because the stewardess on the other flight had helped me! My Mom’s bag was super heavy with books and I was saying to my body “Please don’t give out!” Someone was sitting under where I was putting the bag and I didn’t want to hit him with it. I couldn’t have handled it then. It worked out though and my Mom asked if I was okay. I said I thought I was going to throw up. I didn’t, but still. 

I was able to enjoy the views though. There was snow on the mountains and in Calgary! I noticed on the interactive flight map that we were about 30km from Banff, so now if someone asks me if I have been to Banff, I can honestly say the closest I have been so far is 30km! Someday though! 🤞

YYC is a lovely airport! Mum said it reminded her of Oakland airport in the 1970s. I’m used to massive airports like Heathrow, so it’s nice to see a smaller and more personal international airport like YYC. I noticed that the plane approached the airport from the north and didn’t fly directly over the city. Ever since moving here, I have noticed that it’s rare to see planes flying over, but then it depends on which part of the city you’re in.

Mum noticed Timmies right by the gate where we got off! It was cool, but we were exhausted and just wanted (and needed) to get to our new home ASAP. Someday though! After I got money and called the landlord from the airport phone, we got on Uber. It was 2° out with snow on the ground. It was a crisp cold, not the bone biting cold that I had to endure in London. I stepped out of the airport and thought, “I could live here!”

Mum and I were exhausted in every sense of the word and were asleep by 8 pm. By morning, I checked my messages and my best girlfriends from my university had sent me messages and I started crying because I suddenly missed them and I’m so worried about them being in the US! I can’t explain the bonds I have with my best friends from university but friends at women’s colleges are something special. I called them and just had to talk and have a cry about what happened. I encouraged my friends to share my story with others because this seems like a reality for US expats.

Well, that’s my story of moving and flying during COVID. It wasn’t easy, but it was so worth it!

Rachel McAdams

I have fallen in love with Rachel McAdams during the pandemic! A while back, I was starting to find out more about Canadian actors/actresses, singers and other popular artists. One thing I have found is that getting in touch with popular culture in a country is great for getting to know the county better. Plus, it can be a good conversation starter with a native! When I moved to London, the internet was not as common as it is now, so I had no way of knowing what was popular. Kids at school definitely “took the mick” as the Brits say. Now, I don’t intend to get caught out. I love Michael Buble too, but that’s a whole other post!

Here’s what I have seen Rachel McAdams in so far, and my personal thoughts on each of them. Overall, I have really enjoyed them and want to see more!

Warning: Contains spoilers!

CW: Number 7 contains violence against women and kidnapping.

Number 8 contains murder and military violence.

Number 9 contains sexual violence.

  1. Slings and Arrows:

I started my Rachel McAdams kick with this tv series! She plays Kate McNab, a 19-year-old acting apprentice, who you first see playing Moth in The Dream. A stroke of fortune has her playing Ophelia in Hamlet. Apparently, the series was supposed to be about Kate’s career progression in the New Burgage Theatre Festival. After the first season, Rachel McAdams’ career took off and she had to be written out of the series. I was sad that she wasn’t staying through the whole series, but they made it work. I’ve seen the series three times now and it keeps getting better!

  1. Mean Girls:

Rachel did Regina George around the same time as Slings and Arrows! No wonder she had to be written out of the series! I have seen this movie several times, but I had never really paid attention to the actress who played Regina George. I knew she was 30 when she did the role, which was totally amazing to me! When I saw the interviews with the actors in the special features a long time ago, I could see that Rachel McAdams loved the role of Regina George! She listed all the wonderful things about the role and you could just feel her excitement! Nowadays, there are so many memes for Mean Girls all over the place and it’s a timeless classic! Here’s my favorite meme at the moment.

Source: Face

Anyone who knows me knows I have a love-hate relationship with the movie. I went to a historically women’s college and at the best of times, it was amazing. At the worst of times, it was a scene right out of that movie. Some of the students still hadn’t grown up and it was like, really people? I think the thing that gets to me the most is that everyone remembers that October 3 is Mean Girls Day, but nobody remembers the line, “You have GOT to stop calling each other sluts and whores! It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores!” I get it that sometimes slurs can be reclaimed, but in this instance, I don’t believe in reclaiming slurs that degrade women because misogynistic men still get away with using them. I think women need to accept that slurs against them cannot be reclaimed. Full gender parity has not happened yet, and I fully believe it’s not going to happen if women keep using slurs against each other, but that’s another tangent. Rant over. Next.

  1. The Notebook:

I confess I had never seen The Notebook before this summer. I know there was a lot of hype behind it and it has produced that classic kiss in the rain scene. Other than that, I never had any interest in the movie. It wasn’t until I heard Rachel McAdams was in it that I thought, “Well, that makes a difference!” I ended up really enjoying it. Of course, there were things I found creepy, especially since I’m a modern woman and thanks to #MeToo, sexism in Hollywood is becoming apparent. Not to mention, it’s becoming clearer how Hollywood has influenced young men by normalizing creepy behaviour. Other than that, I do think it’s a special kind of romance movie. I especially like them showing Allie and Noah’s relationship when they are older because you don’t see many elderly couples being romantic in movies. It should be more common because there is something special about it.

  1. About Time:

Another sweet, romantic Rachel McAdams movie. She plays Mary, who is an American living in England. The English setting provides a real depth to the movie and there are no stereotypes of either the English or American cultures. Of course, the best part is the time travel and how it works with different life situations in the movie. I think it teaches us a lot about making the most of your life.

  1. Game Night:  

I know they say don’t judge a book by its cover, but this title was exciting! I like playing games myself, plus I took Game Theory in my last semester in college and really loved it. I figure any plot involving games is going to be great! The overall plot is that a game night turns into an actual mystery when one of the guests is kidnapped. It’s a comedy thriller, so it’s not too scary. Rachel McAdams (Annie) and her co-star Jason Bateman (Max) carry the movie! They play a married couple who live games, not just play them. The only thing that annoyed me about the movie was using the stereotype that English people are smart and also the actress who was supposed to be English had the PHONIEST accent!!

  1. Midnight in Paris:  

Rachel McAdams (Inez) stars alongside Owen Wilson (Gil). They are an engaged couple travelling to Paris, and Gil is clearly in love with Parisian culture. I love seeing movies with writers in them now that I’m blogging. As a Third Culture Kid, I can totally relate to falling in love with a culture and throwing yourself into it. I found myself cheering on Gil and facepalming whenever Inez or her parents did anything that makes all Americans look like an embarrassment overseas. I knew Inez and Gil were going to break up before it even happened. I realized that the term Karen can apply to Americans travelling overseas and acting in a way that makes US expats cringe. Rachel McAdams’ played a Karen and did it beautifully!

  1. Red Eye:

This movie should be shown in every women’s self-defence class! Rachel McAdams plays Lisa Reisert, a hotel manager who works in Florida. She’s flying back to Miami from Texas after her grandmother dies and meets Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy) at the airport. At first, things seem innocent, but there are warning bells going off. It turns out that Jackson is from a domestic terrorist organization that wants to murder an important figure at Homeland Security, Charles Keefe, who is staying at Lisa’s hotel. Jackson kidnaps Lisa while she’s on the plane and makes her put Charles Keefe in a vulnerable room or he will get his hitman to kill her father. Lisa does everything she possibly can to get people on the plane to notice the situation. When she doesn’t succeed, she attacks back. She uses anything at her disposal as a weapon and doesn’t stop until she knows she’s safe. At the same time, she saves her father, Charles Keefe and his family.

  1. State of Play:  

Rachel McAdams plays blogger Della Frye at the fictional Washington Globe. When a congressional aide dies in a mysterious death, Della pairs up with reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) to investigate the shady circumstances. Congressman Collins (Ben Affleck) who the aide worked for is investigating PointCorp, a private defense contractor that has questionable practices using ex-military personnel. Della is nearly killed by a former soldier who works for PointCorp, and Cal is injured while they are doing the investigation. Cal’s impartiality is questioned because Collins is his friend and his wife was Cal’s former lover. Eventually, Collins is arrested for his involvement in PointCorp while also investigating them right when the Globe releases their story.

  1. Spotlight:  

I saw this movie when it first came out, but haven’t seen it since. Still, it’s a memorable movie about how the Boston Globe exposed the priest pedophilia within the Catholic Church. Rachel McAdams plays Sascha Pfieffer, one of the reporters working on the stories. Sascha is a lapsed Catholic who is torn between the ethics of her duty to expose the truth and her relationship with her Catholic grandmother.

I’m glad that Rachel McAdams has been in movies that talk about the importance of good reporting, especially today when it’s becoming clear the effects of fake news. I’m looking forward to seeing more Rachel McAdams movies and shows!