I’ve been trying to figure out a way to tell the epic adventure tale that is my recent immigration to Canada. Originally I thought it could take the style of a checklist or a barrel of hints and tips, but have since decided to embed those a bit. I’m hoping that this will be a little more entertaining than: “Now you need to buy health insurance – don’t forget those winter sports!”
I’d like you to click play on the song below – not yet, I’ll tell you when. The piece is part of The Planets by Gustav Holst and is entitled ‘Jupiter: Bringer of Jollity”. Just so we all know where we’re going on this journey, I have no idea how to appropriately describe music – so if you’re the equivalent of a connoisseur in the classical department, one thousand sorry’s to you. If you don’t like classical music, be assured that it’s not drone-y or full of scrapey strings. It is the kind of song I listen to to get through the last 7 minutes on a treadmill, a song I have listened to at 4am while trying to complete my dissertation, and on reflection, it is a piece of music that completely sums up my move across the Atlantic. I’m going to somewhat attempt to walk with you while we go on my immigration story. I think this piece of music might help with getting you to feel how I felt. Maybe I’ve actually, finally cracked. I get that this might be a bit experimental so please do let me know what you think!
I’ve tried to think of the best way to do this – and have decided that every now and then I’ll give you a little time stamp of where we’re at in the music feathered with extra links. Huge apologies if you find there’s too much writing for the time or vice-versa.
Hit play now.
During the first minute and 10 seconds, we’re heading from that initial thought all the way to the Departure Lounge at Gatwick Airport.
It’s very exciting. So exciting. You have to make a list. A very long list of what you need to do, including the purchase of insurance, closing all of your accounts in the UK, forwarding your mail, telling your landlord, quitting your job. But right now, that’s just a thought. It’s on the list. It can seem quite daunting. You slowly start to think about this move in real terms, the logistics.
0:24 – Then, it suddenly becomes real and it’s happening. You’re actually packing up and cleaning your house (thanks mum) and headed back to your childhood home for two weeks of goodbyes, quality time and panicking. There will definitely be a lot of panicking.
You will find yourself, at some point, sitting amongst a pile of stuff you have accumulated from so many years of not having to be worried about fitting your whole life into two large suitcases. You also begin to have existential ponderings about material possessions and their emotional ties – you decide to bring “Ducky” the little white duck with a blue nose that you received from a dear friend during a hard time, although there’s not really any room for him.
Eventually, the night before rolls around and you practice forcing your suitcases into your uncle’s car. They squeeze in. You get to the airport and are first in line for check in. There’s time for a quick breakfast and then the most difficult part of all: saying goodbye to your mum, your dad and your sister. This is when you start blubbing.
1:11 – However, there isn’t much time for that right now as you need to get sorted and ready to head through security. It’s quick and although you are seriously laden down with your most important life possessions, it’s still relatively smooth.
And now for the duty free. You walk past the vodka, the sunglasses, the perfumes, all of the British memorabilia you could ever dream to buy, but decide you cannot because the past few days have been an admission that you own too much already.
1:30 – Your attention turns now to the task at hand. No-one is making sure you’re on that plane. Except you. Where is my gate?
1:40 – The gate information arrives. You meander through the fanciest airport shops in the general direction of where you are due to leave the UK for longest time you’ve ever left: Gate 25.
1:50 – At this point, you’ve been by yourself for about an hour and a half and you’re feeling pretty comfortable. It is a confident walk toward the gate, as if you do this walk daily as part of the commute. You’re still nervous, but the excitement level is definitely rising fast.
2:09 – You’re 10 minutes into walking and realise you’ve just now gone past Gate 4. You increase speed in the fear that you are about to miss a flight that is still almost an hour and a half away. Gate 25 feels like it’s half way to Toronto.
You finally find the gate, sit down and feel frantic. Have I missed the plane? You keep checking out the large, glass window to make sure that the plane hasn’t left without you and the 300 other people you’re sharing this experience with. You hear the announcement that boarding is slightly delayed, become convinced you’ve met Nikki Grahame from Big Brother and feel generally uncomfortable and nervous.
2:31 – Then they announce that there isn’t going to be any tea of coffee on the flight. It is an 8 hour flight. -.-
2:40 – Boarding begins and you’re patiently waiting for your turn to jump on the giant hunk of metal that will take you across an enormous ocean. Terrified.
2:52 – The queue is too long and disorganised and you think you’re going to miss the plane. By some unearthly miracle, you don’t. You board. That confidence from earlier is back.
3:02 – You find your seat, sit down and meet your fellow passenger. Unfortunately I don’t remember Keith’s actual name, but he was friendly and from Hamilton. You give him your headphones because he didn’t have any.
3:12 – Take off. You feel an overwhelming sense of achievement. Who really knows why, all you’ve done is successfully boarded a plane. But I think it’s a culmination of the crippling fear, the leaving behind of almost everything and everyone you know and you really just feel brave. When we pass the coast you are brought back to road trips with your parents and leaving the county and saying “Goodbye Gloucestershire, Hello Worcestershire” except this time it is “Goodbye Britain, hello Atlantic Ocean”. After this touching moment you remember your crippling fear of sharks and look down at all of that water. You quickly decide to forget this fear, and not to worry about dealing with any potential shark situations until they arrive. The flight is mostly uneventful, with the exception of Keith sleeping for 5 of the 8 hours and the experience of a desperately full bladder. The food is as always enjoyable and although looks like rice, tastes exactly like the potato style meal you had on your last flight. The man in front of you keeps putting his seat back but the anger of this is quelled by the discovery that you too can put your seat back. This is acceptable because you are at the very back of the plane. Occasionally, during the 8 hours you are brought back to the gravity of what you are doing. The only way I can really describe this is how brave you feel and how proud of yourself you are. You are so excited at the prospect of the unknown. No, Canada isn’t really much different from the UK, but the distance is huge and who knows what opportunity is waiting there for you. Even though you’ve visited before, it didn’t feel like this. It didn’t feel so monumental. You finally have the opportunity to watch The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and, as was expected, it is excellent.
4:42 – We start to land, and what has just been a big white expanse becomes trees and bigger sections of white where lakes and rivers are. As you descend further you can see the CN Tower and the Toronto Skyline. Take some deep breaths and don’t forget to suck on those soft mints you bought so your ears don’t hurt and pop horribly.
5:02 – TOUCH DOWN. You’ve moved. You live in Canada now. You can’t help but beam from ear to ear.
5:13 – Here, begins a series of lines. The first one is at the spot check for passports. Keith and I chat about the dangling ice (whose name escapes me at this moment). Then you lose Keith and jump in the visitor’s line. Have that blue folder with your life in it handy. The border guard is nice and directs you to yet another line. The 3rd line is quick and small. You get to be processed by the jolly sounding lady, who takes a look at your landing letter and although you were told to have numerous bank statements and proof of insurance ready, she does not ask to see it. She issues your visa and tells you it’ll be $30 to replace. Written on your visa you are reminded not to work in the sex industry – all right.
Now comes the 4th and final line. Service Canada to get my SIN (the equivalent of a National Insurance Number in the UK) This line is again, relatively quick, but the process is a little slow because the computer of the gentleman who’s helping you keeps deciding to crash. He passes the time by making some light hearted jokes about you being a witch.
6:10 – You pass through into arrivals and your bags are not on the conveyor belt. My whole life was in those.
6:22 – This becomes a great success because some other poor schmuck has had to lift the 50kg of possessions off the conveyor belt and in a pile near other neglected bags (puts weight lifting chalk away).
You pick up your bags, try to determine some kind of method for carrying two suitcases, two handbags and a life folder. A final border guard asks to see the passport you have already efficiently put in your life folder. Some awkward shuffling and dropping of bags ensues. You crinkle your newly printed visa at some point during this process. The gentleman takes a passing glance at your passport and you are free to go.
7:00 – You’re through the door into arrivals. You give the wonderful Canadian you’ve been sweeting up for a couple of years a quick kiss and all of your luggage before making a beeline for the Tim Horton’s line where you order your first French Vanilla. Typically, it burns your face off, but is worth it after 8 hours of no caffeine.
7:14 – Your luggage, your Canadian, your shiny new visa, your French Vanilla and you head out of the airport and into the car park, there is lots of snow on the ground and it’s very very cold. But you’ve made it.
7:25 It feels pretty amazing, the excitement of a new home, a new job and new friends is on the horizon and you just feel epic.