Pain, Fire and Other Moving Upheavals

When you’re moving overseas, there are going to be massive changes to your plans. That is inevitable. Something that seemed a solid plan one day will disappear by the next. Even upsets in your life can seem like a bigger deal when you’re moving overseas.

These days, with COVID-19, plans are even more unpredictable. I check border updates every day to see if there is a way that my Mom and I can enter Canada. I have chronic pain issues and I got treatment by a Canadian healthcare provider that worked better than anything I have ever had in the US. One thing I am hoping for is if I can get into Canada to get treatment for my pain. I had to stop getting treatment because of COVID-19, so I have struggled with pain through the lockdown. I manage it on my own as best as I can, but I am going to need to resume treatment soon. I might have found a way to get in for healthcare reasons though. I might have to give up my IEC visa and find another way to get a work permit once I’m inside Canada.

Thanks to the pandemic, I hear companies aren’t hiring people from overseas. That means I have to establish residence first and then find a job. I do have financial worries because of this, and I am thinking about starting my own sort of enterprise and exploring my options for that. Whether I can do it in Canada before I get permanent residence is another matter. COVID-19 has made me think about what I want to do with my life and where I want to be financially.

Wildfire season has started in California, and it’s freakishly early compared to other years! I couldn’t believe it a few days ago, when I found out there are a lot of fires going on nearby. I haven’t needed to evacuate, but the fires are closer to where I live than they were in previous years. In 2018, the Camp Fire in November gave me ten days off school because the Air Quality Index was ridiculously high. Last year, classes were cancelled for a couple days in October because of a potential fire risk.

Sunrise and sunset are different when there is a fire. It’s almost eerie! I took some photos of a sunset when the smoke was really bad. It’s getting better in my area now, though. It’s scary to think wildfires are happening during a global pandemic too, especially since prisoners are recruited to fight fires, but the prisons have been hit with COVID-19. The whole system is fucked frankly!

Sunset on August 20, 2020 in SF Bay Area, East Bay
Sunset and Evening Star are one clear call for thee (Crossing the Bar by Alfred Lord Tennyson)

I thought when I left for Canada, I would only be taking the things I really need. I will be coming back later to move things up in a van. Now, I am thinking, “What can I not bear to lose if there is a fire?” I am going to take the things that are valuable to me that I have collected on my travels. Also, people have given me meaningful gifts from their countries and travels over the years. I collect things from foreign countries and I would be devastated if they got destroyed by a fire.

We have just started our sixth month on lockdown in the US. I feel scared to go out sometimes because cases keep going up even though indoor activities are not allowed. I have been good and doing my part, and it feels really unfair that I still have to stay home while other people are being reckless. Mental health is my number one priority at least. I have been doing a lot of self-care, like what I mention in my Self Care post. I think Michael Rappaport said it best in his PSA to wear your mask.

I admit, it has been nice finding some content that makes fun of anti-maskers, or even just content that creatively reminds you to do your part. Here are some of my favorites:

Signs You’re a “Karen”

Everybody Must Stay Home – Bob Dylan Coronavirus Parody

Sarah Cooper is a gem that has emerged during the pandemic. Someone once said she doesn’t just mimic Trump. She exposes him. I think she’s been doing people in the US a service, especially those who are good and staying home.

I also love the John Oliver shows. My favorite is still the first one he did on COVID-19 when he talked about this handwashing informational video from Vietnam that featured a dance routine that went viral all over the world. It’s funny to talk about something going viral during the time of a global pandemic.

Even so, I find it hard to enjoy these things sometimes and keep up my motivation to stay on lockdown. Whenever someone in my family comes home from a high-risk area, we have to do a 2319 from Monsters Inc. Now, that joke is getting old unfortunately.

My Mom and I say every day how we can’t wait to leave the US. Sometimes, we get news that makes me say, “Oh no! We’ll never get there!” I have to remember though that I have a false sense of timing about moving. It has always been that I would be in a country a few months after my Dad got a job overseas. We had the company help us with the paperwork and stuff, but now that I have to do it on my own, it takes longer. I have to remind myself that where there’s a will, there’s a way and just keep going until I reach my goal.

How have you all been handling the coronavirus situation? Hope you are all hanging in there and staying healthy! Watch this space for more updates!

Visas: Part I- Getting Started

Winston Churchill’s quote applies to getting visas!

Do you need a visa? If so, you need to find a visa that suits your goals for life in your new country. If you aren’t sure what visa you need, keep researching available visas. I know it sounds weird, but if you look hard enough, you can find a visa to fit your needs. Visas can have many parts to them and you need to figure out what those parts are and decide which ones work for you. For instance, with my IEC visa, I can either do the Working Holiday Program or the Young Professionals Program. The Young Professionals Program suits my needs more, and I will try to get into that program. Right now, because everything is being delayed with COVID-19, I don’t know yet what program I will be doing. 

Once you look at the technical parts of your visa, you need to see what they recommend about passport validity. Do they recommend that your passport has to be valid for a certain amount of time in order to apply for the visa? If they do have recommendations for length of passport validity, and your passport is not going to be valid for that long, it’s time to renew your passport. If you need to get your passport fast, you can get expedited service. Currently, for US passports, expedited service has been suspended because of COVID-19. Check with your passport authorities about processing times. 

Now, it’s time to address the dual citizenship issues. Since I’m a dual citizen, I had to decide which passport I wanted to use for the visa. Thankfully, my visa application gave me instructions on what to do if I am a dual citizen. I decided to use my US passport since I am moving from the US and the transition would be easier. I may have a chance to use my UK passport at some point since Canada is a former British colony, but I will bide my time.

I ran into another dual citizenship issue. My US passport expired last year and I wanted to wait to renew it because my UK passport expired this year so that I could renew them at the same time. What was I thinking? 🤦🏼‍♀️ I applied to renew my US passport when the pandemic hit in March, and it’s being delayed. Passport services resumed processing regular applications a month ago, so I am still waiting for it. I am trying to think about when I can apply for my UK passport. I might have to wait until they resume processing regular applications. #dualcitizenshipproblems

It is important to plan ahead and set goals for how long you wish to stay in your new country. Of course, there are some unexpected things that happen, but it’s important to have a plan. The saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail” may be cliché, but it’s very true when it comes to planning for an international move. 

Do you only want to live in a country for as long as your visa lasts? That’s fine, but what if you love it so much that you want to stay? You want to have a plan in case that happens because if you don’t, you will be very disappointed if you have to go home because you didn’t plan to extend your visa or apply for another visa, depending on your life circumstances. 

There might also be an emergency that may cause you to lose your visa through no fault of your own. When I was 12, my parents and I lost our visa through no fault of our own and it was terrifying not knowing if we could stay in the UK.  I bet the COVID-19 pandemic has left a lot of immigrants concerned about their immigration status if their visa is dependent on their jobs. My heart goes out to all of them. 😢🤗

Do you want to get permanent residence and/or citizenship? That’s fine, but I recommend making a final decision after you go through culture shock, and be honest with yourself about whether you want to stay. I will do a future post about culture shock and reverse culture shock, but I will say this. Don’t underestimate the impact of culture shock. There will be highs and lows that are more extreme than a roller coaster sometimes. Someone once said to me, there comes a time when you realize a country is either going to work out for you, or it isn’t. I knew when I went through culture shock in London that I didn’t want to live there for the rest of my life. Reverse culture shock when I moved back to the US resulted in A LOT of tears! I was in denial that things weren’t working out for me when I moved back to the US because I am American for goodness sake! I was also burned out from international moves. I guess the 2016 election and COVID-19 snapped me out of denial and made me realize what’s important. Denial is not a river in Africa after all. I will do a post about being a dual citizen someday because that is a whole other story.

I do plan to get permanent residence and citizenship in Canada, but still planning for culture shock. I am looking into what I can do to stay longer, such as going to graduate school or extending my visa or seeing if I can qualify for another kind of visa. We’ll see how culture shock goes! What have been your experiences with visas and obtaining citizenship?

This move is different from the ones I have done before, precisely because of COVID-19, plus the US response to the pandemic has been dismal, to say the least. I feel sorry for Canada being right next to the US and worrying about Americans bringing the virus into Canada. I heard stories of Americans exploiting border closures, such as claiming to be driving to Alaska and then going to tourist spots not wearing masks. Also, two other Americans got fined for not quarantining. Really people? As if we didn’t look bad enough already. 🤦🏼‍♀️😡 I would understand if people were leaving because they were desperate, but still doing so legally. Just leaving to satisfy your own ego is not okay.

Even though I am practically desperate to leave and I’m so done with this country, I only want to do it safely, ethically, and lawfully. My area has low rates of infection, but I have still been sheltering in place all this time. Where do you think I got all this time to blog from? 😂 There is still a lot I can do to prepare to move though thanks to staying at home and waiting for my passport. I don’t have a definite date for moving just yet, but I can be patient. 

Stay tuned for more posts about finances while moving, packing, and saying goodbye!

How to Organize the Timing of an International Move

How long does it take to prepare for moving abroad? Simple answer: as long as you want it. In the past, I have moved abroad a few months after deciding to do so. I made the decision to move to Canada last April. I am moving as soon as the border re-opens. The border may reopen at the end of July this year, according to recent updates. I am prepared for the border to reopen later than that though. Restrictions will relax, but not completely go away. I may have a chance to move soon, but we’ll see! It’s about finding a window of opportunity and grabbing the chance!

Know Your Timeframe:

My friends who are international students have said that it generally took them a year to get ready to move. Applying to universities and getting visas processed can take a long time! I have heard of other people who get a job overseas and then move a few months later. The International Experience Canada visa rules state that I have to get the visa first before I can look for a job. Therefore, I decided to go to Canada on a visitor’s visa first. While I am waiting for the IEC visa, I can get settled and then I can start working. Even if your timeframe keeps changing, like mine is, you can still do a lot of preparation.

Set Goals that work with Your Time Frame:

Sometimes, you have an established goal to move, such as starting a job or university. If you don’t have that, make your own goal. Right now, I’m staying up to date on the border situation. I can get my IEC visa processed once I move to Canada. Visa processing and other services are delayed because of COVID-19. I can still be efficient in my own plans and preparation for moving though. The time you spend planning is not a waste of time!

A Note on Getting Settled:

It takes a long time to get settled in a new country. That’s the main reason why I’m going to move when the border opens. I do not want to rush the process of settling into a new country. It takes a MINIMUM of two months to get settled! It’s a variable, unpredictable time and you have to plan for that. If I waited to move until I got my IEC visa, there would be too much to do and too little time to do it.

I’m Moving To Canada! Read On To Find Out Why!

I get asked this question a lot. Here are my reasons why:

I Am A Third Culture Kid (or TCK):

What is a Third Culture Kid? Sociologist Ruth Useem developed the term to mean “a child who grows up in a culture different from the one in which his or her parents grew up.” So what’s my TCK story? I have lived in four countries, so far. I was born a US citizen in Switzerland, but my parents were dividing life between there and France. My childhood in the USA was spent in three different states during an eight-year period. I grew up in England and obtained dual UK nationality. I repatriated to the US seven years ago, intending to stay permanently. So, I have itchy feet! Plus, the election results in 2016 were an utter disaster! Trump and his ilk go against everything I stand for as a TCK! At least I can rely on my experience of moving to other countries to help me in the process.

Good Quality of Life in Canada:

Growing up, I learned what qualities make a country good to live in. Canada has consistently scored high in quality of life, happiness and health in international rankings. It’s further ahead on those rankings than other countries I have lived in, with the exception of Switzerland. I guess I will find out soon why that’s the case!

I Want A Better Life:

The main reason why people move to another country is to achieve a better life for themselves and their family. Deciding to move to a new country takes a lot of honest self-reflection. At first, I did not want to move to another country. I know the challenges and stressors that can happen during the process of immigration. I had hoped that the US would recover from the disastrous 2016 election results and I wished to be a part of the process. Then, I saw the shock waves of the disastrous election are being felt most strongly during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to more disastrous consequences. I cannot see myself having any sort of future in the US anymore. The more I learned about Canada, the more convinced I am of moving there. I shall continue my reasons for wanting to move to Canada in future posts.

More About Me:

Here’s some more about me. I recently graduated from college/university as an Economics and Data Science major. I am moving to Canada on the International Experience Canada (IEC) visa through InterExchange. Any students or graduates out there who wish to learn more about this visa? Please leave a comment and I will direct you to the right places!

If you want to follow me on social media, you can find the links on my Contact page.

Coming soon: Packing tips, finance tips and doing your research. Stay tuned for more!