Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 1

At this point, Mum and I only have a few more days of quarantine left and so far, we’re still healthy! We have found this time of quarantine to be a good time for us to recover from the journey and set up house and get used to things overall. It’s a more quiet and less harried time of getting settled in a new country than it normally is because we can’t go outside to do chores.

I read something once from women who are part of cultures that require them to isolate during their period. Those women say they really enjoy that time because they don’t have to take care of their families and they can relax and have some quality Me Time. This quarantine period reminds me of that.

To anyone who thinks periods are gross, sorry, not sorry! I’m all about ending period taboo since 1. It’s natural 2. Humans wouldn’t exist without it.

So, what things have happened the first week of quarantine? This won’t include my trip experience because that’s a post on its own, and there are parts that I’m not ready to share just yet.

It was hard to sleep that first night because we were sleeping on the floor. When I woke up, apparently FedEx had tried to deliver the things we had ordered from IKEA at 6:30 am! I had tried to request FedEx to deliver the packages the day we arrived, but it hadn’t worked out. I didn’t have a local number yet, and I got a hard time over it. I decided to leave my cell phone on that night in case it happened again, but it was a pain to say the least!

I suddenly missed my friends like crazy and texted them on WhatsApp to tell them I needed to talk. For me, WhatsApp is the BOMB for staying in touch with people overseas! You can still text your friends and not get charged! I was not okay after the journey and there’s a part of the story I can’t talk about without crying.

All I remember doing that day was unpacking my bags and setting the stuff up, talking to my friend and taking a nap. Plus, I remember our landlord stopping by to get our papers. We needed change for the laundry, and we exchanged a $20 CAD bill for it. YYC didn’t give me change when I got money there. The best thing about the first day: it started snowing! I hadn’t seen snow in years and it made everything beautiful! 😍

I hoped the second night would be better, but no. Even though I left my phone on, FedEx STILL didn’t deliver! I woke up feeling like I had hit my head against a brick wall again! FedEx eventually delivered though, and we were happy. We realized that it’s difficult to get deliveries at our apartment though and we just have to work with it.

We opened our IKEA boxes, excited to finally get our table and chair set and other supplies! We have depended on IKEA for furniture when we moved before because it’s so easy to assemble and you don’t need tools. To our dismay, we discovered we needed tools this time! Fortunately, we have kind friends who lent us some tools a couple days later.

I had noticed when I ordered from IKEA that you can request assembly service. I overlooked it though because I thought it wasn’t important. Then, I remembered that IKEA is under new management now and the founder had died. I had heard of their new sustainability initiatives, which was nice, but I hadn’t heard of them making it necessary to have tools to put it together.

To anyone who is moving and needs new furniture, be aware of this new development! I haven’t tried their assembly service, so I can’t speak for it, but it’s not the efficient assembly it once was!

Traveling had been such an adrenaline high and I didn’t start coming off it until the second day. I have anxiety and PTSD from being an expat and it started to hit. It was then when my Mum and I made a rule that we DON’T want to talk about what’s happening in the US right now! It’s better for us mentally that we don’t know, especially with the election happening in 3 days. I have found if I get up at night, I check my phone to see if I have any messages from my friends in the US. It gives me peace of mind that if I hear from them, they’re okay.

I have some essential oils which I have found to be balancing at times like this, and they did help. I had hoped I would sleep well with the oils, but that didn’t happen. I had a panic attack in the middle of the third night and Mum and I had a talk about the stressors we’ve been dealing with.

Since I am the highly organized person in my family, I bore a lot of the burden. I figured out how to get into Canada because of our chronic pain issues. It was highly detailed, but no one can obsess like I can! I have been in charge of jobs that don’t have an end in sight like finances, and my cell phone was our only source of internet for a while. I paid a high mental health cost for my work though and my Mum agreed to relieve me of some of the burden.

I couldn’t be happier that I’m with my Mum, but I also feel guilty leaving family and friends behind. My Mum said people need to realize in their own time that it’s really not a good situation in the US and that emigrating is a good life choice to make under the circumstances.

The next day, I was impressed that the snowfall had continued straight for 3 days! I have lived in snowy climates before, but never had I seen it snow for so long! I have stepped outside from time to time to take the garbage out (when no one’s around and wearing a mask of course) and I was able to wear a hoodie in temperatures of -10°C! Our apartment is rather overheated, so having the windows open at that temperature was quite pleasant.

I called another friend in the US. I haven’t shared my story of my journey much, but it seems like everyone I told was shocked by what happened. I think it’s a new reality for US expats. I read an article that the US is losing its passport privilege. I believe it! I am really touched by the support I have received and how welcoming people are! Thank you! You know who you are! ❤❤❤

Mum and I did some cleaning and ordered some more stuff. We had been researching how to find a good internet service and decided on one we wanted. I was happy that we would get it soon and we didn’t have to depend on my phone. Things were looking up!

By the fourth day, Mum and I had established a routine of cleaning, organizing and ordering what we needed to get. We each got a call from the IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) to check that we were complying with the quarantine regulations. They were kind and respectful with their questions and comments and were even up for a little talk! I didn’t just answer their questions. I provided them some extra information too. They also checked that we’re getting food and fresh air, which was nice of them. Apparently, they are working seven days a week because of the pandemic, and like all other essential workers, I appreciate what they do!

Mum and I put together our table and chairs and they looked great! It took a while, but it worked. One more step to getting settled and making this place a home!

Day 5 was rather quiet. It was the day it stopped snowing, so by then, I was quite impressed with the length of the snowfall. You would think by now, we would have got our beds, right? Wrong. We were still sleeping on the floor. We were used to it, but it still hurt considering our pain issues. We had been taking afternoon naps in the bathtub because we were able to use our duvets to make it softer.

I had ordered our mattresses from Overstock Ca two weeks before and they told me I would receive them in 11-14 business days. I heard this week that the mattresses were being delayed at customs. I know COVID has delayed a lot of mail and deliveries at customs. I had to renew my UK passport a while ago and even that got delayed at customs. I kept looking for updates on my Overstock account, but still felt desperate for beds!

By Day 6, the snow was melting. There’s a chair in the back yard that got all this snow on it and when it melted, it formed these icicles that reminded us of the snail monster in Monsters Inc that fell through the grate in the sidewalk and said, “Oh great!”

Chair Monster!

I have started collecting cool Canada memes and one of my Canadian friends on Facebook posted this:

Source: Facebook

Definitely part of my collection now along with the cat meme I have in my post What I’m Looking Forward To!

I had been taking a nap in the bathtub for a while now, so I finally decided to take a selfie of me lying there. Okay, yes I know I haven’t shown a photo of myself yet, so here you go now!

Sleeping in the tub

By Day 7, the Overstock mattress situation was looking ridiculous! I know there are border delays, but come on! Is this Brexit or something? We called to see what was going on, only to find out that we basically weren’t going to get our mattresses this week. We caved and ordered the mattresses from Amazon. For the record, I use Amazon in a pinch because I have issues with how exploitative they are, but desperate times call for desperate measures!

Looking back on it, I should have done a price comparison of the mattresses before buying them. Overstock’s cheap prices would have jumped out at me as suspicious.

First seven days are up! Did we get out mattresses? Only one way to find out! Watch this space for part 2 of my quarantine diaries in Calgary and what my new adventures will be after I am done with quarantine!

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!