Past Shifting Gears, into Holding Pattern

I don’t have any more excus­es for the fact that I haven’t made many entries since we arrived. We’ve got inter­net, I now have the time, and there’s cer­tain­ly a lot going on. I have a desk, a lap­top (not very pow­er­ful, but I should be able to type and maybe even get the odd pho­to posted).

How to get start­ed? I’ll start with some ran­dom impres­sions of how life is these days.

If I were to give this time of my life a name, it would be Hold­ing Pat­tern. We have already made some adjust­ments to liv­ing here. We know where to shop for food, and where some of the busses go (learn­ing where they all go will take a lot longer). We’ve got some fur­ni­ture, although the fur­ni­ture and belong­ings we had in Cam­bridge is still MIA (last we heard, it was await­ing anoth­er dri­ver to take it here from Ram­sayville, Ontario).

On the job front, I should have a job, once the paper­work is done that would get me a Work Per­mit. It will take a lit­tle while (prob­a­bly a month or so), but I should have a full-time job, and we can stop spend­ing our savings.

I’ve made some friends, and we’ve begun to meet our neigh­bors and spend some time with them. We are a bit of an odd­i­ty, although I have heard of oth­er Amer­i­cans who have fled here. In fact, there is a new term, Brain Gain, which is the oppo­site of the tra­di­tion­al Brain Drain that Cana­da had to the US.

I’m still watch­ing the occa­sion­al TV pro­gram from the US (we get all 3 of the major net­works plus a smat­ter­ing of oth­er cable ones like CNN and Fox — which I now refer to as Ameri-Prav­da). I still fol­low some of the polit­i­cal blogs like Dai­lyKos and Escha­ton. How­ev­er, there’s a new lev­el of detach­ment as I learn of all the awful things going on there: Bush refus­ing to meet with Cindy Shee­han (despi­ca­ble of him, as always), the con­tin­ued rise of reli­gious blind­ness toward the teach­ing of Evo­lu­tion and Sci­ence in gen­er­al, the destruc­tion of their econ­o­my by hand­ing it over to Cor­po­ra­tions and worst of all, the con­tin­u­ing awful quag­mire of Iraq. I’m still con­cerned, but now it’s kind of that strange calm you have in the back seat of a cab as the dri­ver careens like a mani­ac through the streets. “That guy is dri­ving pret­ty reck­less­ly!” you say to your­self, not real­iz­ing that if he has an acci­dent, you’ll prob­a­bly end up hurt as well.

So we are wait­ing for our fur­ni­ture, wait­ing for the job, wait­ing for ‘nor­mal’ life to start, but also enjoy­ing the superb weath­er and the plea­sures of dis­cov­er­ing a new city, neigh­bor­hood by neighborhood.

Resurfacing for a Minute

I know it’s been a long time, but we only got Inter­net in the new place yes­ter­day. I’ll make a longer post this week­end, and hope­ful­ly should have some time to fill in the gaps from the past 10 days or so.

So here we are. Liv­ing in Van­cou­ver, Cana­da. Every­thing is very new and dif­fer­ent, and we are def­i­nite­ly in the ‘star­ry-eyed’ phase because the phys­i­cal beau­ty of this place is sim­ply stag­ger­ing. We’ve seen gleam­ing tow­ers set amongst moun­tains sur­round­ed on all sides by water. It’s all a bit much to take in, espe­cial­ly when we remind our­selves that this is going to be the land­scape of ‘home’. For­tu­nate­ly, lit­tle things (and not so lit­tle ones) keep us ground­ed. Like gro­cery shop­ping, run­ning errands, and clean­ing up the patio (Pam’s done that, most­ly). Get­ting WEP secu­ri­ty work­ing on my lap­top was anoth­er (appar­ent­ly if you leave your net­work wide open here there are far more savvy crooks who can break in and try to steal stuff off of your com­put­ers. I’m real­ly skep­ti­cal of this, but I did see that every oth­er Wifi net­work in the build­ing seemed to be tight as a drum). We’ve got tele­phone ser­vice, Inter­net (as men­tioned), and cable TV (although no TV to test the proof of that). We’ve both got cell phones, and the kitchen is up and work­ing fine, as is the laun­dry room. The bed­room still con­sists of much paper clut­ter and an air mat­tress, but it will do for now. On Sun­day we’ll try and do a video­con­fer­ence (iChat AV) with my parents.

Lighten Up

Due to dire weath­er fore­casts (which were, of course, incor­rect as usu­al), the MIT Flea was pret­ty light­ly attend­ed, both by sell­ers and buy­ers. Too bad it was our last one. So, as Mr. Eliot says, ‘not with a bang but a whim­per’. We sold enough to cov­er the entry fee, but not as much as we would have liked to. We keep culling our paper­backs; Pam is much bet­ter than I at this (I want to hold on to too many of them). Think lighter. Think lean­er. Think small rooms and even less stor­age than here (well, maybe the same, if you count the stor­age in the garage that we haven’t seen yet).

We have two mov­ing com­pa­nies (our tar­get is three) com­ing out to give us esti­mates this week. We keep vac­il­lat­ing on what fur­ni­ture we’ll take. There is a core group of items — the bed, the din­ing room table and chairs, the liv­ing room couch and chairs. After that, a lot of books, the cut­lery, dish­es and glass­es, the com­put­er equip­ment and print­er, and the art, it gets dici­er. Some­times an item is on the truck, some days it’s off.

We keep going back and forth on how we’re going to make the final trek our­selves. Will it be rental car or take our unre­li­able Bee­tle on one last trip across Cana­da? Fly togeth­er or sep­a­rate­ly? I swear, we must have run through every per­mu­ta­tion and vari­a­tion of the these. We debate and dis­cuss ad nau­se­am the fin­er points of dri­ving ver­sus the time in motels saved on one flight. If only it weren’t so tricky to get so much stuff moved so far!

The Econ­o­mist came out with their 2004 Rank­ings with every­thing from Corn pro­duc­tion to the Divorce rate of most coun­tries in the world, using resources from sites as for this. It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing lit­tle book­let. Of par­tic­u­lar inter­est was their best cities to live. Num­ber 1 city in the world to live? Zurich, Switzer­land. Num­ber 2 city? Gene­va, Switzer­land. If Fon­due and Cuck­oo clocks don’t agree with you, the third city, Num­ber 3 as the best city in the world to live is our des­ti­na­tion: Van­cou­ver, British Colum­bia. Don’t tell, OK? Would­n’t want it to get too crowd­ed and ruin our fun.

And, we’re back

I real­ly should just install Ecto, my blog­ging client on my lap­top, because I dis­like using the online (web) inter­face to post to my blogs. The result is that when I’ve been on the road I haven’t done much in the way of updat­ing this. And boy, has there been a lot to update!

Yes, we were on the road, back in Van­cou­ver for a final vis­it before the move, and Seat­tle to vis­it with my broth­er’s fam­i­ly (even though my broth­er was in Brazil for most of the vis­it, but I did get to vis­it with my Sis­ter-in-law and my niece) and for Pam to attend the STC (Soci­ety for Tech­ni­cal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions) 52nd Annu­al Con­fer­ence. While I was there, I also spent a day in the mar­velous Seat­tle Pub­lic Library, and I also did some win­dow-shop­ping at IKEA and Fryes for fur­ni­ture and elec­tron­ics that we’ll ‘need’ after the move.

But aside from all that, Mur­phy’s Law (which I remem­ber from old Lar­ry Niv­en books, could be expressed as in engi­neer­ing terms as “The Per­ver­si­ty of the Uni­verse tends toward a Max­i­mum”) deter­mined: Dur­ing the 6 or so hours that we would be rel­a­tive­ly dif­fi­cult to reach, i.e. while we were in flight — that would be the time when an offer to buy our house would come in. After fran­tic calls and mes­sages left on our cell phone accounts and var­i­ous voice mails, we man­aged to com­mu­ni­cate and accept­ed the offer. Also, although I don’t want to jinx any­thing or count any chick­ens before they are hatched, the prospect of me hav­ing employ­ment as we arrive in Van­cou­ver appears to be get­ting brighter. No details yet; there are still many hoops to jump through. Nev­er­the­less, I’m becom­ing more and more opti­mistic that the key items we’ll need to start a new life in Cana­da are lin­ing up.

Speak­ing of items need­ed to immi­grate, now is as good as any oth­er time to list the things we’ve need­ed to get in order to immi­grate to Cana­da, just in case any­one else out there is think­ing of the same thing (and I know you are, lib’rals!)

  1. First there are the forms to fill out. You’ll need to list every­where you’ve lived since you were 18, and every job you’ve ever had since you were 18. You’ll need let­ters of ref­er­ence from the jobs you’ve held in the last 5 years or so, ver­i­fy­ing your start dates, end dates, if applic­a­ble, your job title, and your salary.
  2. You’ll need a cur­rent pass­port and…
  3. An offi­cial copy of your birth certificate,
  4. An offi­cial copy of your mar­riage cer­tifi­cate if you’re married,
  5. Spe­cial ‘res­i­dent cut’ pass­port pho­tos, which have to have been tak­en in the last 6 months or so,
  6. Offi­cial FBI and State Dept.- accept­ed Fin­ger­prints. There are places that take them.
  7. Also, proof of 6 months worth of liv­ing expens­es (hope­ful­ly not a huge amount depend­ing on where you are moving)
  8. If you’ve ever lived abroad (like as a stu­dent), proof from the police depart­ment of that area that you have no record. I actu­al­ly still need to pro­vide this one.
  9. Did I men­tion you can’t have a police record? That includes your native coun­try as well, while you’re at it. You don’t have to pro­vide proof of it, but if you have any record, you’re pret­ty much out of the running.
  10. For a dri­ver’s license, it real­ly helps to get the last 7 years of your dri­ving record. Oth­er­wise you have to get a learn­er’s per­mit and then take the Cana­di­an Dri­ver’s test

That’s about it. We hired a lawyer to help us out, so that adds some, but hope­ful­ly it will help expe­dite our work. He’s already helped us head off some prob­lems when we did­n’t fill in the cor­rect ‘fam­i­ly’ mem­bers on that part of the form — turns out you need to include all of your imme­di­ate fam­i­ly, liv­ing or dead, and their cur­rent address­es (if alive). So if you have a sib­ling or par­ent who has a record with the State Dept., then you’ll prob­a­bly run into trou­ble was well.

So this was a good trip. We got lots of stuff done with nail­ing down the apart­ment that we’ll be buy­ing when we get there (it’s real­ly a con­do, but there’s no word for that in Cana­da — actu­al­ly, they call it a ‘stra­ta’, but that refers more to the res­i­dents who man­age the over­all prop­er­ty — kind of like a coop, I guess).

I’ll have more lat­er. Plan on upload­ing some pho­tos to Flickr, so that will prob­a­bly end up mak­ing an appear­ance here, too.

So much happening, so little reporting

OK, OK, so it’s been a while since I did an entry here. Like 8 days.

It isn’t as if noth­ing’s been going on. Life has been turned upside down by try­ing to do two things that are nor­mal­ly all-con­sum­ing when they are done on their own: sell­ing your house, and buy­ing a new house. We’re now doing them simul­ta­ne­ous­ly. Oh, and the buy­ing part is near­ly entire­ly by long-dis­tance in anoth­er coun­try, and on anoth­er coast. But you knew that last part, dear reader.

Where to start? Well, with our house now on the mar­ket, it means that we still had to decide what to do about where to live in Van­cou­ver. While I was there in March, I hap­pened to strike up a con­ver­sa­tion at the Mas­sive Tech Con­fer­ence with a fel­low named Ter­ry who just hap­pened to be mov­ing back to Toron­to from Van­cou­ver. He offered to show off his con­do (in Cana­da these are called apart­ments, but the asso­ci­a­tion that man­ages them is called a ‘stra­ta’. Don’t ask me why, but that’s the term.) On a whim, I took him up on it. You nev­er know, right?

It turned out that the place is small, but prob­a­bly just right for us. So after talk­ing it over and ago­niz­ing over the deci­sion, Pam and I sub­mit­ted an offer for Ter­ry’s place. After some nego­ti­a­tions, we agreed on a good price (for both par­ties, I assume), we also agreed that the offer was good con­tin­gent upon the sale of our place here. Tomor­row a home inspec­tor will take a look at it and send us a report (com­plete with dig­i­tal pho­tos — I won­der if we could have done any­thing remote­ly like this 5 years ago!), and next week we meet with a Bank rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Van­cou­ver to get a small mort­gage. We decid­ed that rather than cov­er the entire place with the pro­ceeds from our house here, we’d take out a rel­a­tive­ly small mort­gage, main­ly to start to build up a his­to­ry of good cred­it in Cana­da. We also would­n’t want to raise any red flags about us being drug deal­ers or some­thing like that, buy­ing a house 100% with US cash.

The apart­ment is indeed small, but it has some key fea­tures that make it par­tic­u­lar­ly attrac­tive to us; it is on the sec­ond floor of an 11 sto­ry build­ing, and set on a hill over­look­ing False Creek. It has a large patio/deck, rough­ly the length of the place full of plants, includ­ing a set of tall bam­boo trees. The view faces north toward the city and Grouse Moun­tain. The deck is large enough for a table and chairs, as well as anoth­er seat­ing area, so it’s essen­tial­ly anoth­er room. Also, the com­plex has a secure front lob­by entrance, under­ground park­ing, a health club, steam room and jacuzzi. The loca­tion is near the Granville Bridge and Granville Island to the north­west, and a great neigh­bor­hood with many restau­rants and shop­ping to the south and south­east. It’s extreme­ly close to near­ly all of the main bus lines into Down­town Van­cou­ver, but in good weath­er is no more than a 20 minute walk from most of the places we would want to go. It’s has easy access to the main road south­ward toward the US, as well as the air­port. It has a gas fire­place, good kitchen (with high qual­i­ty gas stove, oak cab­i­nets and gran­ite coun­ter­tops), broad­band inter­net and a heat­ed floor for the mas­ter bath­room. There is only one bed­room, but I think we can make the den dou­ble as a guest bed­room via fold-out couch or mur­phy bed. Rather than put up pho­tos of the new place — and we have some —I’m think­ing I’ll post them after our fur­nish­ings are in place. Ter­ry and his part­ner’s (inci­den­tal­ly, in Cana­da, ‘part­ner’ can refer to the sig­nif­i­cant oth­er of the same sex or the oppo­site sex — so Pam is my ‘part­ner’) taste in fur­ni­ture and gen­er­al decor are very dif­fer­ent from ours, and I want us to show the place as ‘ours’ rather than ‘their’s and about to be ours’.

That said, there is anoth­er nice fringe-ben­e­fit of hav­ing to show off your house for so many prospec­tive buy­ers: it looks nice, for a change. So I post­ed a set of pho­tos of the inte­ri­or to Flickr. On Sat­ur­day, a spe­cial video­g­ra­ph­er will be com­ing over to do a video tour of the place. I hope we get to take some of his footage with us as well. It’s nice to have a record of the place you lived, espe­cial­ly when it was look­ing it’s best, with most of the fur­ni­ture and art you fur­nished it with.

So we’re off.

Not a minute too soon, either. I’m get­ting more and more upset with each evening news­cast, as the Chris­t­ian Tal­iban con­tin­ues it’s inex­orable progress toward tak­ing over the gov­ern­ment, media and lives of cit­i­zens here. This last week­end was ‘Jus­tice Sun­day’, where politi­cians and church lead­ers broad­cast nation­wide their inten­tions to take over the Judi­cia­ry. That would be the last branch of gov­ern­ment they don’t have a firm grip over. It feels more and more like the nov­el The Hand­maid­’s Tale of Mar­garet Atwood. I used to feel like we were leav­ing because I felt that this was no longer the coun­try that I grew up in. Now it’s even worse than that; it’s a coun­try that I’m begin­ning to fear and loathe.