the drive north

Thank you all so much for your welcomes and congratulations. It was really exciting to download my mail and see them all. I'll backtrack a bit, probably make this a few separate posts.

Our final day in New York was busy and exhausting. The last-minute errands mushroomed, but we managed to get everything accomplished, and even worked in an afternoon tea break with the wonderful Alan With One L, and a visit with my mom. Saying goodbye to her, I was suddenly 10-years-old again. It was visiting day in summer camp. I felt homesick. But that's fine. My mother and I have already picked out a date for her first visit.

After a late night of preparations, we were up at 5:00 a.m., naively thinking we'd be on the road by 6. Ha! It took Allan - The Master Packer - nearly two hours to pack the van. I certainly never could have done it. There was just about enough room for the dogs, Buster between our seats in the front, and Cody in a cave of boxes in the back.

We drove The World's Fullest Minivan down Bennett Avenue at 7:45 a.m. Yes, I cried. And we shouted and hooted and stared at each other in disbelief.

The trip itself was really very easy. We stopped frequently to let the dogs stretch their legs and relieve themselves, listened to REM and the Stones and a little Katrina news, and watched beautiful New York State roll by. Some friends and family called to wish us well and see how we were doing. The dogs mostly slept.

As we approached the border, Allan and I both got excited and nervous. Not surprisingly, Buster started to whine and bark anxiously. It's amazing how sensitive he is. My heart beats faster and he starts to whine.

At the border, to the usual question, "What is the purpose of your visit to Canada?" we stumbled over the answer. "To live... we are moving here... we live here..."

The man in the booth said, "You mean you're landing today?" Oh yeah, that's what I was supposed to say! He directed us to pull over, I got out, and an immigration official came over.

"Can I help you?"

"I'm landing today." (Got it!)

He said we all had to go inside. When I asked him if we could go in separately, because we had dogs in the car, he said I could ask the agent inside, but he didn't think they'd allow it.

The agent inside said, sure, no problem. Which one of you is the primary? (That's me.)

He asked me some questions, and I was able to rattle off my new address - including postal code! - and phone number.

"Do you have employment arranged in Canada?"

"Um, no." What am I supposed to say, what am I supposed to say...?

"So you have proof of funds?"

Oh yeah, proof of funds, baby, I got that! I proudly showed him my bank balances.

He asked some more questions, and explained how we get our Permanent Resident cards, and how to apply for our Social Insurance Numbers before the card arrives.

I initialed and signed some forms, and then he stamped my documents. I was wearing an ear-to-ear grin and my eyes were welling with tears. I walked outside and raised my arms in victory, holding my passport and visa.

In the van, we hugged and kissed, and I cried. Allan went in, and came out two minutes later wearing that same ear to ear grin.

Then I went back into the building to clear customs. That was a breeze. (Americans who are emigrating, ask me about this when the time comes. I have some pointers.)

After customs, we hugged and shouted some more, then drove down the QEW to our new home.

Exactly 10 hours and 516 miles after leaving New York, we pulled into our driveway.

A bit of the day in pictures.

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My boy stares up adoringly.
That's a "gentle leader" he's wearing - control without pain.

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Cody in her cave. Is she mad at us?

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Buster checks on Cody.

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Asleep between the alphas.

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I think she is mad at us.

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A nondescript building can change your life.

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Two pooch, too pooped.


Daniel wbc said...

L-girl, it sounds like it went as well as one could hope; congratulations! It's all so amazing -- you're actually there! I look forward to hearing more about your journey and settling in. Mazel tov!

James said...

Sounds like you had fun getting up -- nothing too stressful. Enjoy unwinding in your new place!

L-girl said...

Yup, so far so good. Thanks, you guys.

Niko said...

The pictures are great, and I'm looking forward to hearing about the landing process. You have no idea how jelous I am right now.

Welcome Home!


James said...

By the way, Lori says Buster's a sweetie. :)

L-girl said...

Lori has good taste. :)

Lone Primate said...

I found your description really moving. I guess I'm conditioned to thinking of Canada as the great also-ran of North American immigration, and not a place that moves people to tears when they arrive; more like "thank God that typhoid-laden trip is over; where's the farm?" It's nice to know the country can mean that much, especially to people who are hardly moving from a disadvantaged land in the first place.

I think the weirdest thing for me was thinking of you as Americans, and being accustomed to imagining you in New York, but suddenly seeing familiar things like a QEW direction sign associated with you. It was kind of a splash in the face... my God, she's not just blogging about doing this someday, she's done it. It's real. There it is. They're here.

Those dogs are just darn cute, by the way. :)

L-girl said...

Thanks, Lone Primate. I found the experience very moving, and I'm glad I was able to communicate that.

It's nice to know the country can mean that much, especially to people who are hardly moving from a disadvantaged land in the first place.

That's right. I really do think it's a better place. Our landing is also the culmination of a lot of time and effort, so it felt like a meaningful accomplishment in that sense, too.

my God, she's not just blogging about doing this someday, she's done it. It's real. There it is. They're here.

Yeah!!! That's exactly how it felt. My god, we've done it. We're here.

Kyahgirl said...

Your dogs look so sweet!
I got goose bumps just reading this post!!

Christina said...

It's not my first time reading this but I felt like I finally needed to comment.

I moved from Boston to Toronto exactly 2 years ago and can relate to this so much. I knew my entire life that someday I would move to Canada. I'm a dual citizen so it was much less complicated. But still a huge change, a lot of planning, and very expensive. I left my jobs, everyone and everything I knew, took my life savings and escaped.

I'm going through my pictures and videos from that day and it's bringing it all back. My car completely full with me, 2 cats, my plants, and as much other stuff as I could fit. Driving on the highway seeing Boston behind me. The long trip across New York in rain and thunderstorms. Getting excited when the terrain started to get flat because it didn't feel like the northeast anymore. Finally getting to Buffalo, seeing signs for the Peace Bridge, and freaking out. Driving across the bridge seemed to happen in slow motion. I'm not usually like this, but I was a blubbering basket case. The border person must have thought I was insane.

I spent 5 minutes inside the customs building while they checked the import paperwork for my car and the shipping documents for my moving truck then I was on my way. They didn't look in my car or ask for my cats vaccine paperwork. It was much easier than I expected.

2 years later and I love my neighbourhood, I have a good job, new friends, and I've never been prouder to be Canadian. When I cross the border for a visit, I feel anxiety until I come back. It feels wrong there and right here. My only regret it not doing it 20 years earlier.

I'm just kind of rambling right now. It was the happiest day of my life.

laura k said...

Christina, thanks so much for sharing that. Congratulations on your 2-year anniversary of freedom! I totally totally understand how you feel.