actual footage of me 'landing' in Canada
Have I told you my landing story?
Or rather, the day I finally moved to Canada. On US to Canada immigration message boards, which were a huge help to me with the whole process of figuring out things government websites made complicated for no reason, there’s always a landing thread where you post the story of the day you finally land. It’s a big deal, even in the easiest of cases (ours) this is a long and expensive and difficult process so when you make it, it’s just huge.
Zach, one of my best friends, made the trip with me and it was a good trip although I could feel my stress levels peak sometimes. The morning we left, I threw up and the morning I was supposed to officially land, I threw up. I tend to throw up when I’m nervous and this was maybe the thing I’d been most anxious about in my life. I’m the kind of person whose anxiety (especially 7 years ago) will not let up until something is official and done and over. Despite outward appearances, I’m a wreck before then. Zach knows so thank god he was the one there with me to keep me not only calm but to give me real talk when I needed it.
We made it to Buffalo so fast on our second day of driving and stayed there for the night because you have to export your car and do your landing during business hours. The next morning, we woke up and got ready to go. Zach made me a hotel waffle and made me eat some even though I really thought I was going to puke once again. We printed a bunch of extra paperwork I was told to bring and then we hit the road for the Lewiston Bridge (note: the only place in Western NY to export your car to Canada.) Siri gave us directions for the appropriate US Customs and Border Protection office and as we are passing Niagara Falls, we see this sign that says just that: US Customs and Border Protection.
Maybe that’s where we should go, we think.
Nah, Siri wouldn’t lead us wrong.
Pretty soon, Siri tells us we have arrived and we are on the side of a mountain road. Thanks for nothing, Siri.
We turn around and go back to the original place we saw which to be fair was right by the border where you actually cross. It is an actual maze of parking and I am driving figure 8’s to get over to where the office is. We finally park and I am gathering myself and my things when someone bangs on the window. Zach and I shriek and roll down the window.
“Passport and vehicle title.” I am 200% sure this hulking man just stepped off the set of a bear porno.
I hand it to him with shaky hands.
This is the part where I should mention that exporting my car had become my main source of distress in the weeks leading up to my move because they had recently changed the laws so that you had to have a shipping/freighter ID code and like, a bunch of other shit to actually export. Until October of the year I moved, it was an informed consent period so they weren’t making people do that or penalizing them but I wasn’t sure what to expect at the border. In other words, I was very afraid I was going to have to walk over the border or something.
We follow this guy upstairs and sit. He is at his computer typing in stuff about me and my car. His coworker comes and sits next to him while he does this and is showing him photos of her dog on instagram. Read the room, lady. I keep waiting and rocking back and forth and expecting him to ask me for info I don’t have or for something bad to happen but instead he gets up after maybe four minutes, hands me my passport and title, and says that I’m all set.
“That’s it?” I squeak.
“What else did you want?” he said.
“I just thought it would be more complicated or something, I don’t know, I—”
Zach pulled me out of the room before I could fuck anything up.
So we get back in the car only to have to once again navigate the labyrinth of parking lots and exits to get to a place twenty feet away. We get our passports out, I get my certificate of permanent residency out, and we wait at one of those toll booths for maybe 5 minutes. The guy in the booth looks maybe fourteen and he seems very irritated with my overly enthusiastic smile as I tell him I’m landing. Like, as a permanent resident. He approves Zach to come in as a visitor and sends us over to the building marked Canada. Zach and I gather my things and go inside, immediately giving Canada points for its governmental typeface choices even though we aren’t usually serif people.
We walk in and there is no one there. Now, I knew it would be not as busy as let’s say Black Friday but I expected like, Ellis Island lite or just a dash of Fievel Mousekowitz. But no, there was literally one other person who didn’t work there in the building and they were just sitting on a bench so who knows what that story was. I walk up to the counter and the hot bearded man sends me over to a hot unbearded man. Also, yes, the majority of Canada’s border agents? Super hot. If you want to move to a different country, I recommend Canada when it comes to border agent hotness. Again, I have only moved to one country, so.
Anyways I give this guy my paperwork and he is really nice and helpful. He asks if we are both landing and we said no but in hindsight maybe they would have just let Zach in if we kept our big mouths shut. We blew it. So this guy looks over my documents and sees everything is in order and prepares them for me to sign.
“Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” He asks.
“No,” I reply. “Well, not yet." Because anxiety makes me a jokester.
Luckily the hot border agent laughed along with Zach. I signed and became a permanent resident of Canada. I’m pretty sure I gripped Zach’s hand until his bones liquified. I was then sent back to the hot border agent who had me fill out forms about my car to import it and looked over my list of belongings (books: value $500 skincare: value PRICELESS, someone who is good at the economy please help me budget this, my family is dying). As always Zach was the best and ran to my car to get some number they needed and then I signed more stuff and that was that. They then sent us to the next desk over where the people weren’t so hot but they were nice so there’s that. I didn’t have to pay a thing because I was no longer a visitor but a resident (permanently!) which of course gave me so many Oregon Trail vibes. I sort of hopped in the air when it was all done because oh my god, it was done! And nothing went wrong! And I could now breathe oxygen into my lungs again!
We exchanged money at the border, marveling at how fake it looked and laughing at the fact there was not only a white guy on it but a snowflake and a hockey player! Zach took a photo of me in front of the Welcome to Ontario sign and we hit the road to Toronto (not very far, maybe an hour). I tried to show the hills-obsessed (not The Hills-obsessed) Zach that Canada had lovely hills as well but he sulked at this. At one point, as we were about to cross a bridge, we passed what looked like water but with a weird barrier covering it that kind of looked like a field of lavender.
"Is that water?” I asked.
“That’s Lake Ontario.” Zach replied.
And just like that, I doomed myself to this being my Canadian Heritage Moment. In 2014, Anaïs Escobar Mathers discovered that Lake Ontario was in fact made of water. Damn.
We made it to Toronto, we parked by my new apartment, and since Ian was still at work and we were actually starving, we walked down the street to get sushi. Zach and I were excited to discover that it was all you can eat and we set about making our list of what we wanted, eating with our eyes as we hadn’t had much for breakfast. What we didn’t realize is that this is not America, land of waste where all you can eat means if you don’t finish what’s on your plate, no big deal. So we order like 8 thousand things and start eating, slowing down pretty quickly because no one actually needs as much food as we ordered. At this point, the waitress comes over and shows us the fine print on the bottom of the menu which says that you will pay entree price for whatever you don’t finish. You cannot imagine the horror we felt.
We eat as much as we can but a huge problem here is, I ordered stuff that had gluten and dairy and meat in it, three things Zach cannot eat. So I am stuffing it all in my mouth, tears in my eyes, literally coughing some up that just would not fit down my food hole. I start putting things in my napkin so I can put it in my purse which of course is the smallest purse I own. I make several trips to the bathroom with my tiny purse stuffed full of AYCE sushi et al which I dump in the trash. Finally, with one or two pieces of things left on some plates, we gave up. The waitress brings over the check and luckily it’s just for the lunch price. The problem now is walking up the hill back home. Zach and I very slowly begin our ascent, looking like footage of people climbing Everest in a blizzard when really it’s a lovely summer day. We had never felt more useless and American as we did climbing that hill. It was literally one block.
We don’t attempt to unpack at this point, instead going inside and lying next to each other on my marital bed. We watched basically all of the Canadian Heritage Moments on YouTube in order to get into the Canadian spirit and waited for Ian to come home and find us, American flag scarves strewn all over. And at that moment, I was so grateful to have crossed the border and been there with Zach, my gusband, who didn't judge me for puking into my napkin at a sushi restaurant and who also thought it was weird that Superman was invented by a Canadian. And that is how I became someone who gets to live in Canada forever: just more polite America plus healthcare.