Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Latest visa trauma!!

As far as I can tell (which is difficult, based on contradictory advice provided), I have three fundamental problems.

1) I was refused a work permit on the basis that I need a Labour Market Opinion (LMO). I can apply for a work visa now without an LMO, providing my place of work can provide evidence that they are in the process of applying for it - ie an application form etc. Whilst the LMO is being processed, I am able to work for up to 2 months, after which I am unable to work. My question here is: If I obtain an LMO, do I still need to apply for a permanent residency visa, or would I be able to continue to remain and work in this country without one? Up until I obtain an LMO, but am allowed the two months to continue to work, would I be able to remain in that country without having applied for permanent residency? These are important questions because:

2) My permanent residency visa application is missing still! I was told that I should have sent it to Mississauga, but then elsewhere I was told that I was fine to have sent it to Vegreville, because Mississauga is the case processing centre for external applicants and I am an internal applicant. I have been onto my MP about this issue, who is exploring that for me. Where is it? Who is right? I need it to be found, but I am making steps to begin the lengthy procedure to reapply, which is tough because:

3) I have been told that simply applying for a permanent residency visa does not automatically mean I can legally stay here. Apparently I would also need to apply for an open work permit at the same time and it is the open work permit that would allow me to stay. That would be approved/refused at the same time as my permanent residency visa - in 9 months (approx). In the meantime, I would be able to continue to work here because I would have 'implied status'. This is all providing that I have managed to send it in at least one month before the end of my current visa, which was 2 days ago. Equally, when I checked the email with info re: 'implied status', you are only allowed this status if you are applying for the same type of visa you had previously, which I am not.

My head is spinning and I don't know what is happening, who to contact etc.

WHAT IS GOING ON?!?!?

At this point, it feels as if I do need to prepare myself for the fact that in our and a half weeks I will a) be unemployed and b) have to go home, which would mean being apart from Luke for another 11 months, which is the processing time for the sponsorship visa in England.

GAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yup: This is what I feel is happening to me right now!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

One year into the IEC!

I have recently been contacted by HiFX and I was asked to contribute to their Expat tip page. Their latest campaign is super useful - well worth a read and can be found at http://www.hifx.co.uk/resources/expat-tips/. After contributing to their campaign, I realised I had tons of tips and advice I could share with people looking to move abroad, so here are a few top tips which all expats should know before making the move abroad!

Here are some numbers for you:

15 = the number of months I have been in Canada.
2 = the number of weeks I have spent in England within those 15 months.
1 month = how long I have left on my International Experience Canada visa
5 = the number of months I spend cold as s**t per year here in Canada
10 = the number of months I have been working in Canada for
2 = the number of jobs I have had here in Canada
3 = the number of visas I have had to apply for in that time!

So you can see the experience that I am talking from! I am not the most experienced, but I do have a few tips for people starting out!

I have divided my tips into the following categories: possessions, money, culture shock, homesickness, work, visas - all based on my experience. I would have added houses also, however I was fortunate to be able to move straight into a home here, so I have no tips there!!


Possessions

  • Ebay is your friend! Begin by reducing your material objects. If you don't use it daily, can cheaply and easily replace it, don't love it, get rid of it! If you are unsure about getting rid of something, pack it into a box for a month. If you don't think about it, get rid of it - you really don't need it!
  • Plan how you are going to transport your possessions. I was lucky, I was able to take my possessions in my suitcase over the six trips I took to Canada prior to moving here. The rest I boxed up and left at my parents - friends now bring me things when they come and the rest I will get as and when I go home. Shop around to find transporters to do this for you if necessary. Consider renting a furnished apartment and selling your furniture to fund the move.
  • Think about your animals! I looked at transporting my rabbit to Canada, which would have cost £800. I would readily have paid that money, but I did a lot of research and found that because rabbits are prey animals, they do not often survive the flight and it would have been selfish to have taken him with me. He now lives in a lovely new home.
Money

  • Eliminate your debts. Try to reduce your financial ties to your home country. It is difficult to try to transfer money - exchange rates mean that you will be spending more on your debts than in your home country.
  • How will you transfer money to your home country? If it is necessary, how will you transfer money home? Banks often charge fees, but PayPal don't have the best exchange rate. I have had to use PayPal, I send money to my Dad's English account and he can then transfer it to my account.
  • Every penny counts! Use your money wisely - there will be plenty of hidden costs and you don't want to be caught short and sent home!! 
 Culture Shock

  • Visit your new country as often as you can! This will help you to understand it more and to acclimatize to it.
  • Get involved! It is tempting to create a mini version of your home country in your home, but remember what an amazing opportunity it is to learn about a new country. That said, don't forget about those few necessary creature comforts! Care packages help!
  • It takes time. There will be a long adjustment period, your brain is working in overload during this time and you might feel exhausted and depressed by it. Don't give up though! Keep going and soon things will start to feel normal to you.
  • Learn the lingo. Or else - what is the point? Even here in Canada, I try my hardest to use Canadian words instead of English ones, in order to fit in.

Homesickness

  • There is no way to avoid it. Meet it head on. More hints about that on a detailed blogpost here.
Work

  • Research!!! Will your qualifications be transferable? Are there any online organizations you can join or contact to find out? What is your intended job market like? Will you need to retrain? I meet so many people (myself included) who are not fulfilling their potential in their new country. 
  • Start a portfolio of work. Do this early on, because it will be hard to find evidence of your long career from your home country when you have limited means in your new country.
Visas

  • Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. I always try to prepare for things going wrong. You can't prepare for everything, but if you do this then you won't be caught quite so unawares. Equally - hope for the best! There is no point in desperation, the worry won't help things. Just work hard and know that you have tried your best.
  • Research others' stories. You might think you need to spend a small fortune on a lawyer, but do you? There are so many expats who know how hard this move will be and who are willing to provide help, support and advice. My greatest resource has been the blogs and forums written by other expats. 

 

Shoulders back, chin up, meet the World

Good morning friends and family! It has been a beautiful day, my coat and scarf are really more a precaution than a necessity now and it was almost light when I was waiting for the bus yesterday - I even saw the street lights turning off, in preparation for the sunshine that gives me colour in my cheeks and a much needed serotonin boost!

Life has been tres stressful this week, filled with the ongoing trauma of visa applications. On Wednesday I discovered a message in my emails politely informing me that my work visa has been declined, throwing me into instant panic. If I can't work here whilst waiting for my sponsorship visa then I am going to be dependent upon Luke for everything again and I just don't think that is fair. We want a mortgage and babies and I want to be able to contribute to that cause. 

Still, shoulders back, chin up and all that! I carried on and rang the immigration people yesterday who told me to get a labour market opinion, which is now in progress. My work have been fantastic throughout, contacting the government and all sorts!

I then found a second glitch - the case processing centre for sponsorship visas was changed AFTER I had printed off the information I needed for my sponsorship and accordingly, I had sent off my application. I was told they didn't know where my application is and in the meantime to prepare another, which is a lengthy and costly procedure.

It would be so easy at this point to give in to negative thought, but instead I am making positive actions - I am contacting my federal riding MPP this week, completing what I can of my visa and completing what I can of my work permit. This positivity all stems from my marvellous work friends. Truly, it is unreal how much support and love I feel. They also are writing letters to the MPP, we shall see what happens!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Splatter Painting!

I want to write all about an amazing team building exercise I recently went on with my work mates!

We all went to the 4 Cats in Burlington to do some splatter painting! We were told to wear old clothes. Me, being me, didn't pay much heed to that message and I went along in the interview outfit I had worn that day! Fortunately the paint came off. I don't think I really anticipated just how messy it would be!

Not until we were taken into the painting room and it looked like this...



And the ceiling looked like this...



And the windows looked like this...



At which point I allowed myself to get excited. To get started we were all given canvases. We got to choose a cool or a warm base colour. I chose a blue base colour. Because I chose blue I then had to choose other cool colours to splatter with.


The splatter painting had an interesting effect upon everyone. There were those who tried to keep clean and then got angry when they were accidentally splattered, those who tried to keep clean but soon gave in, those who got stuck in straight away, those who flicked others with paint and those of us who got so overexcited they accidentally poked someone on the eye with a paintbrush! And I still feel badly about that. The paintings were awesome though!



Next we did our team splatter painting. This is going to be mounted on the wall at work.



And we were done - happy, messy, and feeling amazed with our creations! So much so I splatter painted all last week at work and I have some canvases ready at home to do it at work!



Monday, 31 March 2014

Knitted yoga socks

I have been on such a knitting kick lately! I have been trying to knit lots of quick and easy makes and am really enjoying how productive it makes me feel!

My latest knit are a pair of super easy yoga socks. The lack of heel and toe make them much easier to knit than regular socks. As you can see from the picture, I used a thicker wool for the toe and top of the sock and these parts are not as stretchy as the rest of the sock. I don't think I would do that again next time!

These fit my size 4 (English size) feet perfectly though and the two different wools types don't matter a jot once they are on. 

You will need a pair of 3mm needles and a pair of 3.5mm needles and two balls of double knit wool in contrasting colours. 

To start, cast on 48 stitches of yarn b. Work in rib stitch for four rows (k1, p1) before changing to yarn a. Continue in rib stitch for thirty stitches.

For the heel: Row 1: cast off twelve stitches then work in rib to end. Row 2: Repeat row 1. Row 3: Cast on 12 then work in rib to end. Row 4: Cast on 12 then work in rib to end.

Continue in rib stitch for 30 rows (or until it fits desired foot). Change to yarn a for last four rows. Cast off et voila!


Sorry that my photographs are more commonly taken with my iPhone nowadays, it just seems to fit in with my hectic days more easily!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

A knitted phone cover

There was a time in my life where I gave no thought to the future. I did not think to purchase insurance for my possessions because I found them easy to replace. If something broke or went wrong it would annoy me and I would think, 'why didn't I get the insurance?' but it wouldn't be the end of the World, I would just buy a new one.

Well, those days have passed. Whether it is because I am getting old, or because I have limited means now, I consider things more.

Recently, a friend from work gave me her old iPhone 4 and I gladly took it to replace my antiquated flip phone. I had an iPhone once and I had all but forgotten how amazing they are with all of their lifestyle apps. My life runs much more smoothly now. 

I have a home routines app to organise my cleaning schedule and to do list, I use this daily and wonder how I coped before with all of those bits of paper flying around! I have an app for blogging and an app to take notes on for all of the text books I read and courses I attend. I take photos of knitting patterns and recipes. I have a car racing game on it that I am more than a little obsessed with.

I can now instant message my friends back home. What this little device has given me is in fact priceless, although it isn't priceless and would come with a hefty bill to mend or replace.

For that reason, I devised a simple pattern for a knitted cover, which protects my phone from scratches or from shock when it is in my bag or were it to fall. I guess I really am a grown up now.

The pattern is so simple. Using 3mm needles and double knit wool, cast on 25 stitches. Work in rib stitch (k2, p2) until the case covers 3/4 of your phone. Change to a contrasting colour and work in garter stitch until the work covers your phone entirely and then some. The cover will look really too thin for the phone, but that is as it should be as it has to be really snug around your phone to really cling onto it and so that your phone can't wriggle out. 

To finish, simply fold in half and sew loose edges with the tail of the yarn. I added a little button, because I just love buttons!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Snowtubing at Chicopee

There are a few things that always bring up the words 'Only in Canada' in my mind. Sliding down a snowy hill in a rubber tube is definitely one such thing. (Hmmmm just had to edit this sentence as had autocorrected from snowy hill to snot hill)

March break provided me with the opportunity to see more of Canada and I am lucky to work for an amazing company that provided both myself and the children this opportunity.

The first thing that greets you at Chicopee is a wooden lodge with a canteen inside and a giant queue for tickets. Oh yeah, and a view of the ski slope you are about to head down!



I was actually pretty scared at this point. More scared than the four year olds but less scared than the staff who didn't dare go down at all! 

You make your way up an escalator (what are they called - those travelator things they have in airports. Maybe moving walkways?), this was actually difficult. I found myself going up the narrow moving walkway/escalator/travelator (should really google) with five snowtubes and children falling over each other trying to get off at the top, causing a massive pile up of people.

When we got to the top and looked down, my fingers did feel a bit tingly. I was pleased one of the children wasn't brave enough to go down alone so that I had some moral support myself on the way down! 

To go down in pairs you have to hold onto each others' tube, which I worried would be difficult.



I guess I needn't have worried, the slope was so gentle I even managed to take a selfie! Ha ha, this whole idea of selfies is an amusing one. It was so gentle in fact that the child I paired up with fell asleep on one of the trips down! Apparently it was slow going because it was so warm and the snow was turning slushy, which provides too much friction.



That is rather a random selfie I am afraid. I was trying to get a pic of myself with the slope whizzing by in the background but it didn't work!

All that remained was to chuck the tubes back on the pile and head home.



Would I go again? I might give it one more shot in icy conditions, but otherwise it was a bit too tame. Would I take children again? Definitely! They loved it!