Thursday, 24 April 2014

Leaping into the abyss

Life here has become suddenly very precarious over the last 24 hours. 

Luke and I have battled and battled to be able to stay together. I don't need to tell you how perfect our life here is, we never argue - never - we have created the perfect home that is filled by us and the animals and by our love for one another. We do everything together.

Yesterday I was informed by my work that although they are applying for a labour market opinion so I can get a work visa it will be a longer process than we thought and I won't be able to work until it comes in - if it comes in - and in the meantime I will lose my status here.

Last night, Luke and I sat down and hashed it all out. One option is if I return home for a year then we can both work and save and when I return with a permanent residency visa we should have saved enough money for a house.

We talked and talked and the more we talked, the more we realised that this really isn't an option. When I came here in January 2013, it was so that we could be together forever, not just for a year and a half. Regardless of whether this puts our plans back for three years, we can't abandon that plan. I can't be without him for another year.

Instead, we are focusing energies on securing a visitor visa for me. Honestly, this will still be difficult to do. Firstly, we need to have a financial sum in the bank to support me, but I am unsure what the expectation of that sum might be. It could be $5000 it could be less. Secondly, we are running out of time. I don't know whether we have the time now to get one.

So that is where we are at today. My permanent residency visa application is still AWOL, but even were it not, having handed in the permanent residency visa application is not my ticket to stay. I thought I had to stay while they process it, but it is the work permit that would have allowed me to stay in the interim.

Who knows where life is taking us, I am trying to trust that it is guiding us in the right direction but we are on the cusp of leaping into the abyss once more without the foggiest about what might happen next

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Expat Blog of April = Me!!

This month has been a good one for English Girl Canadian Man (for the blog that is, not for Luke and I as the visa saga continues). I got paid real life money to write a blog post for HiFx (link here) all about my expat top tips. This was exciting! I don't actively seek ways of making money through my blog as it is a hobby, but I was super happy to have been given that opportunity. Luke and I are ever frugal and this is the first time that I have ever made money through one of my hobbies. Well apart from a time I earned a tenner translating a French letter for someone.

Additionally, this month our blog was chosen to be 'Expat Blog of the Month' by Expat Blog. I was asked to do an expat interview, which can be viewed here in their newsletter. I always love completing these interviews. They really give me a chance to get into the nitty gritty about how I feel about being an expat.

This also drove more readers to my blog. Again, I don't actively seek readers, I much prefer the one-to-one intimacy of having a few people who comment on here with whom I have built relationships, however it is nice to look at my statistics and to see how far the blog has come since 2013.

When I think about the future of this blog, I have a few areas for development:

1) I would like to change the blog header a little. I got this blog header from Happy loves Rosie - a blog that I just adore! I love her style and I think I would like to commission a few more blog headers that I can change seasonally. I have tried making my own and I like it, however I am not sure I can capture the frivolity I would like this blog to reflect as well myself.

2) I would like to home in on what this blog really is about - is it an expat blog? A travel blog? A craft blog? A lifestyle blog? What could it be. At this time, I really don't know. I have experimented with a few things and continue to dabble in all areas! What do you guys prefer to read about?

3) One thing I know for certain is that I want to travel more myself. I have been limited by time and means in the past year and a half. Perhaps if I do manage to secure a work permit I could travel more of Ontario and then maybe the rest of Canada. It seems sad that I have been here for so long and have only ever stayed within a three hour radius of Hamilton! 

4) I would like to up my game with photography. I have a Nikon D50 that I can't use properly and most frequently only take photos with my phone - simply for convenience. But my Nikon takes some amazing photos and I would really like to learn how to use it a little more.



What do other bloggers think for the future of their own blogs? Any hints or tips for me?

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Happy Easter - presenting the smallest yellow knitted chick!

Happy Easter folks! We have certainly enjoyed our long weekend. We went to bed each night at 9pm, not waking until 8pm. You cannot know how blissful we found this! Although I did have a weird dream that I kept on trying to go for a wee and I kept missing the toilet and my best friend Kim was there laughing at me as I tried to mop up my wee, only to go back to the toilet and repeat the whole scene. Fortunately I had not weed in the bed when I woke up.

We walked the Pickle to Albion Falls and Burlington Beach. We found this cute snake. Luke named her John. Look at that tongue! She was part of a whole video series we filmed to send home for the family - so that we could bring them with us on our outings.



The kitten didn't have such a good weekend, she was spayed on Thursday bless her, but she is on the mend and has started to play again. It is such a relief to us that we don't have to put up with yowling every three weeks! She never did have kittens by the way. We think she must have reabsorbed them. She is still under weight at 6 pounds. We are trying to build her up, but she is still tiny. I personally think that she is just going to be a small cat.


Luke enjoyed working on his jeep. Would you believe he built this custom from scratch! It looked like nothing when he first got it - just a metal square. He started by welding extra steel to the frame, before repairing the body and spray painting it. He added chrome panelling to the sides and to the bonnet. He bought a new soft top for the summer and his boss bought him huge new tyres. He even welded a chain to make the step into the jeep. It is pretty cool looking. I am unsure this picture even does it justice honestly.


I knitted the World's smallest chick using this pattern. I made it using the app 'StitchSketch LE'. It is a pretty basic app.


What do you think? I might knit more to stick to Easter cards next Easter! It is so cute.


We finished up with a game of monopoly that I lost. That makes it 5-0 to Luke :( What do you think to Luke's tattoo? It isn't wuite finished yet, he is having more grey shading in the background with more trees. It is going to stretch up his arm to the universe on his upper arm. I bought him his first tattoo when he was 18, so it is only right really to have bought him a tattoo for his 30th birthday!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Timeframe: Old is New Again

A while back, I received a message asking me to write a post about small business 'Timeframe', who I last wrote about in March '13. I must apologise for not having posted this sooner - I guess life got in the way.

When I first posted about Timeframe, it was because business owner Jason Whittington had given Mr Longbeard, our neighbour, a gorgeous table that I secretly coveted! It was so 'my style' that I felt I had to write about it! Would you believe that Timeframe was only just starting out back then and look where they are now: Almost 900 likes on facebook, new projects for sale every couple of days, an increasingly contemporary style which includes furniture as well as vintage and antique pieces and a permanent location from which to sell their pieces: Canfield, Ontario.

Jason is one of those marvellous people who prefers to upcycle, which is more environmentally friendly and appeals to the hearts of sentimentalists like myself. It is not for nothing that I grab pieces of furniture, artwork and books off the side of the road of junk day! My house is compiled of old things that I have made or found by the side of the road and I wouldn't have it any other way! I certainly wouldn't buy anything new.


I would, however, buy some of these beauties! First up is this gorgeous school desk! I wish our school desks really had looked like this back in the day.











This is a late 19th century hand puppet. I couldn't help but think it was slightly reminiscent of Frankenbeaver though :(











These stools are from 1943, wouldn't they be perfect against a bar?















Luke has a naughty knack of putting things in high places, out of my reach in the kitchen. I could definitely use one of these in the kitchen. The caption of facebook reads 'each one unique'. That's the thing with Timeframe - everything they make is only made once. If you buy something from them you can bet it is the only one of it's kind!


I have always longed for a rustic library, filled with books. Something like this would definitely help me to reach that goal! I also want chickens, but that is a different matter.







If any of these things make you feel as they make me feel, I urge you to head over to Timeframe's page by following THIS LINK. I hope you will feel as inspired as I always feel looking at their gorgeous pictures and who knows, maybe you can find something you didn't even know you wanted?!

Friday, 18 April 2014

The story of the upcycled pictured frame

Long before Christmas, Luke and I made a trip to the beach. It was one of our weekly excursions and we were looking for sea glass to make necklaces from. It was cold and with our hoods up and shoulders hunched, we weren't having much success. It didn't help that the dog demanded sticks to be thrown into the lake every minute or so!

I love looking at things that have been washed ashore. Amidst the debris of fallen branches and leaves (you don't get seaweed from the lake) was a picture frame with an engorged red velvet centre. 




Luke and I looked at it for a while, inventing stories. 

I imagined it came off of a large boat with plush interior. Maybe a galleon with white sails and a drawing room with a large oblong table, at which sat a Captain with a pegleg. Nailed to the wall was this rather innocuous picture, the velvet chosen to match the velvet drapes. No, not chosen, a word which implies a choice was offered, but rather selected with a degree of precision for this purpose.

Then, one night amidst a storm, spies descended upon the great ship, swooping in silently on zip lines and arrested the ship's Captain for stealing jewels and gold from the Queen, but where were they hidden?

I think that it is quite clear that the picture frame wouldn't have been tossed overboard were it not collateral damage of some kind. The jewels couldn't have been concealed inside, the frame wouldn't have been so intact upon arrival on the beach. This leads me to the conclusion that the jewels were hidden in the wall, in a secret vault disguised by the picture. After the jewels were seized by professionals who were able to crack the code to the safe and the Captain arrested, the frame was thrown overboard and made its way to me.

I mean, really, isn't that obvious?

Regardless, we took a few 'selfies' (a word that I hate - why do the youth of today feel the need to abominate the English language) using the frame as a frame and then I couldn't bear to leave it and so we took it home!


I had to bring it home, I couldn't leave something that once travelled Lake Ontario where it was and it remained in our house for quite some months, until I had enough and recycled it.

I stapled some lace from Dollarama to the back of it and stapled a piece of ribbon to the top and bush bash bosh! Not exactly the most difficult of tasks! I liked what I had made though.


          

               

The perfect frame for some of those rosettes Cudama Tir Na Nog won for me back in my horse riding days!


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.