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Monday, November 28, 2011

Cultural illiteracy

It happens almost immediately, what the writer Garrison Keillor called "becoming illiterate in two cultures." The problem is this: you leave one home, in my case America for a new home, in my case Canada and you are immediately illiterate in the later, because its essentially new to you and you become illiterate in the former because you lose touch with the daily events that form the culture.

So I am currently entering a phase when I obviously don't know enough about my new home to "get it" in its entirety and am also less and less aware of what makes my birth country tick. The US is getting ready for its next Presidential election. I know Obama is running. Who else? Well we obviously hear about a number of names in Toronto because of our proximity to New York, but I'm not paying attention. My dad loves politics - I could barely keep up with him when I lived in the US. Now? Impossible. And not being able to share something with your father in his later years that you have always shared is sad to experience.

I try my best to understand what's going on in Toronto in government and culture and my Love thinks I have a pretty good grasp; but I know I have so much to learn and understand. I know it will take time.

I'm home in "the old country" as a friend of mine said the other night; but even three months in to my new life, it feels less and less like my home anymore. I've drifted from these shores physically now - a process I started in my head the day my Love and I decided we would live together in Canada. Even now, when I think of going home, its Toronto, not Seattle. I know there's a period to go through of living in between. I also know there's no telling how long it will last. I know already that its going to be an emotional challenge. I'm just one of those people who feels things like that - notices the arch of life.

I'll be back home in a few days. In Toronto. Building my literacy again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Have I Always Dreamed Of You?

Have I always dreamed of you?
Through the oval screen and convex glass
Did I first look in black and white at you
And hear your voice echo from a mahogany case,
From a cloth-covered grill?
Was it then as I saw your children
And I, still just a child myself
Watching them as they descended concrete steps,
Laced their skates,
Stepped onto the ice
And glided free across the rink,
Was it then the the seed was planted?
Was it then that my path was laid for me,
That my destiny was sealed?
Has it been that every choice
Large or small since that small boy watched
Those small boys and girls
Somehow moved me closer to you?
Was it always to be that I would only recognize
After two-thirds of this life had passed
That I had always dreamed of you?
That where I always belonged
Was gliding free across that rink?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Travel Document obtained

My latest drama was the fact that I didn't receive my permanent residence card prior to a trip I am now on in the States. I came home to visit family for the US Thanksgiving holiday. This morning I went to the Canadian Counsel General's office in Seattle to obtain a Travel Document for a Permanent Resident Abroad. I was concerned that this might be another rough process.

I was wrong. I had my application (three simple pages), my checklist, two passport photos and various proof documents, plus the $50 fee (no cash!) all ready and arrived at the office just as it opened up. Good thing too, because they only take applications from 8 until 10am. I expected after turning the materials in and having a short chat with the officer there, that I would be asked to come back at a later date. But once I turned it in, the officer asked me to take a seat and said they would call my name in awhile. In my experience that could only mean one thing - an interview. Great...

An hour went by. 15, 20, 30, 38 people served. Then my name was called. But instead of being asked to an interview room, I was called to another window. There I was met by the nicest smile. The woman at the window said, "You didn't have an interview, did you?" and I said no, and she said, "Good, because you don't need one. What you need is for us to get your PR card to you! So, here - I got you a multiple entry visa that is good for six-months. I'm pretty sure we can get you the card before then!" And with that, I had my Travel Document. And with that, my border worries are pretty much a thing of the past!

It was no nice to be actually more than taken care of for a change. I was only looking for a permit to get me back to Toronto (a so-called "single journey" one) , but now, as the woman also said, "You're free to roam!"

I do love Canada - and its representatives in the US.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Toronto Star - More immigrants losing permanent residency

This is a topic close to my heart, as a screw up by the CIC has delayed my receipt of my permanent resident card. It should be here by mid-December, but I am going to check with them by month's end just to be sure. I also plan to keep all my travel itineraries and boarding passes, as well as insist that the border control agents stamp my passport when I re-enter the country. I don't want there to be any doubt that I am meeting my residency requirement.

Read about what can happen when you don't meet the requirement in this article from The Toronto Star. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Taxes and citizenship

It will be a few years before I'm eligible for Canadian citizenship. Obtaining it is one of my goals. One of the nice things about the relationship between the US and Canada is that I don't need to give up my US citizenship to obtain my Canadian one. But I may give it up anyway.

Why would I give up the holy grail of citizenships? Taxes. The revenue-desperate US government is painting all expats with the same brush of tax-evasion and now they want to know about every asset and account of US citizens living abroad so they can collect their "share" of it.

"Unlike most countries, the United States requires its citizens to file annual tax returns with its Internal Revenue Service regardless of where they live and work. Many of the roughly one million Canadian-American citizens long ago stopped filing, assuming they owed no tax. Many are worried now they’ll be hit with punishing penalties as a result of recent U.S. efforts to prevent its citizens from hiding assets in offshore tax havens.

"New rules require all Americans to report their foreign bank and brokerage accounts every year. And by 2014, Canadian financial institutions will have to identify accounts held by U.S. citizens to the IRS."

Read the entire article, "Americans in Canada driven to divorce from their country" by Barrie McKenna at the Globe and Mail here

Monday, November 07, 2011

Rule #1 - always follow up

My Permanent Residence card didn't show up in the six-weeks that I was told to expect it in. I got this timeline from my interaction with the immigration border agent when I landed in Canada in August. So I called CIC to see what was happening, and if they might have a status on it for me. You see, I have a trip back to the States in a week and a half and I need it to get back into the country, because I'm flying commercial. What I found out just made me shake my head. The agent at CIC told me my card had not been processed yet - BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T HAVE A POSTAL CODE ASSOCIATED WITH MY STREET ADDRESS. Excuse me? The CIC lacks the ability to look up a postal code? It takes how many seconds? Then they confirmed my address and phone number. They were the wrong ones - out of date by four years. But, I gave the current ones to the border agent when I landed. Why weren't they in the system? "Our computer systems aren't coordinated." Excuse me? Shaking my head, I gave the phone agent my current information - postal code and all. Now I'll have to wait until December to receive my card. In the meantime, I have to get what's called a "travel document" from the visa post in Seattle. That means two trips in - one with the application and one to pick up the visa. And it will cost me $50.

So what would have happened if I checked right after the six weeks were up (I waited a couple weeks, thinking, "tomorrow it will show up...")? Well, I'd still be in the same position for this trip. They cannot expedite the first PR card, and the service standard is 31 business days. The lesson here - until you have all the documents you initially need - check, check and check again with the government. While their intentions may be fine, they simply don't think like you and I do.