Tag Archives: Canada

Probably because I come from a third world country, I am not civilized enough to understand any of this… (Part 2)

The "Watch" by Gerald Murphy This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.      You are free:         to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work.
The “Watch”
by Gerald Murphy
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
You are free:
to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work.

So where was I? Oh yes! I was climbing up the ladder of disappointments, rage and tears in the bureaucratical artifacts making life ever so difficult here in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Technology…

Surprised? I was…

I had to register for the TEFAQ, the French exam to prove that I am Francophone enough to live here in Quebec. Well, TEFAQ is sort of the French equivalent of TOEFL… Have you ever registered for TOEFL? You can do everything, I MEAN everything ONLINE from one particular website, without having to search all the different establishments that may be giving the exam, while registering. For TEFAQ, I had to google search all establishments giving the exam, plus the prices were different (how is that even possible?) and figure out how to get to their online registration site. Well, most did not have one, or dates or something was missing! Except for McGill! Thank you McGill, for figuring out the internet.

Plus, I have registered for a few classes and applied for CSQ, the first step of permanent residence and am paying rent on a regular basis in Montreal. I have undertaken similar endeavors in different countries, it was never a big deal. I have used the internet to make my payments for exams in Turkey, for work permit and rent in Australia, to register for a number of things here and there. It was always simple, use your credit card, and voila! You do not have to do anything else! Worst case scenario had always been depositing the amount into a specified bank account and sending the proof of payment, which, needless to say, can also be done online!

But here, for some reason, old school checks are a favorite. You have to send a check for course registrations, rent (!) payments, governmental applications (which LOVE payments) and anything else you can think of!

And of course, if anything goes wrong in the mail, or if the recipients happen to lose that little piece of paper representing a certain fraction of your account balance, you are the one to be blamed and miss your chance for whatever you were sending your money for.

Now, here is another little experience my friend and I had: He won tickets for the Just for Laughs festival here in Montreal through the company we work for and since I am such a great friend, he picked me as his plus one. It is a big deal! He already has tickets that have been paid for, right? All we have to do is choose the shows we want to see and everything will be fine. That should not be so hard once you have your registration ID number, right? A very easy task that can be done online; time and nerve saving!

Instead of a huge web address to get the easy task done, they have inserted a huge phone number, so that we can easily reserve places for the shows we want to see.

I called them. On the phone, I learned that most shows we wanted to pick were already sold out. So making a representative wait for our decision, still on the phone, with major difficulty, we picked the shows and paid for the delivery of the tickets.

Oh nothing is ever free in Canada! Not even a show ticket you may have won!

Then we waited… Nothing, no mail, no ticket, no e-mail for a month…

So we decided to call them… No answer…

Now my friend has given up on the show and does not care for any other prizes that might take a toll on his time and energy. Side effect, I am not being taken to a comedy show…

In an era when plane tickets can be bought online and printed, when tiny codes are used as entrance tickets or even as currency, why is it so hard to make online registration and payment available?

But I still love you Canada. It is this naive side of you that makes you so attractive, and safe, as I like to believe.

Not quite finished, yet. More to come: Health and Banking…

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Probably because I come from a third world country, I am not civilized enough to understand any of this…

The Omnibus by Honore Daumier This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.
The Omnibus
by Honore Daumier
This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.

“What?! You have to be joking! If any one of these happened here, there would be a lot of suing and TV shows to follow!’

This was my mother’s reaction earlier today to my one hour ranting about things that carry only the vital aspects of life to somewhere between difficult and almost impossible here in Montreal, Canada.

I love Montreal, and I can see why it is supposed to be civilized. I am not getting harassed at all, there is a greater equality between man and woman, I can express freely that I am an atheist without getting reprimanded for it, I can bike almost wherever I want and most drivers are respectful and patient, when anything goes wrong, I no longer wait for a fight to break up but smile only to be responded by an understanding gesture and a warm approach by people I have never seen before.

Yes, these are reasons why do not want to leave this city.

However, when it comes to vital aspects about life, such as medical situations, banking, taxes or even intercity transportation, I am more homesick than ever!

Here are my experiences in ascending order of importance:

Phone/Internet:

Phone: When I got my first mobile phone line here, with Chat-r to be precise, I waited for 1 hour!!! STANDING! Another woman with her kid, waited at least 1,5 hours, if not more. In Turkey, it takes 15 minutes, max.

Internet: My husband applied for an internet connection with a little known internet provider. They did their end fairly quickly, but because all connections are dependent on a few huge companies, he had to wait for BELL to pass by and get him a line for the internet to function through, in the simplest terms. Around the same time, a friend of mine who had been assigned to a tiny village in the south east of Turkey, a part of the country considered to be not quite developed, applied for her internet connection with of course a Turkish provider.

2 weeks later, she had already been updating her facebook status and doing skype calls, while I could reach my husband only when he went to St Hubert, the fried chicken shop, and managed to connect to gtalk. It took Bell about 4 weeks to do the job with one appointment rescheduling.

One more tiny addition, if you opt for something ultra technological, like internet through a cable connection (wow!) it might take you a few months, as was the case with my colleagues.

Transportation, namely Greyhound:

So the people who work with Greyhound have learned one sentence by heart: First come, first served.

I have had to use Greyhound on two trips, on my way to Ottawa and New York.

Coming back from Ottawa, naturally like a lot of people who wish to be seated as they please together with their company, we made it there about 30 minutes earlier, which is a needless waste of time, but who am I to talk, I come from a third world country, right?

Just as we left the garage, the driver noticed that a window was open and would not close. The first thing he did was to blame the passenger sitting there, the exact reason why I had chosen not to sit there. Thus, we went back into the garage and the bus was changed.

Yet, this time, rather than first come first served, it was front seats first served, because all the people sitting in the first rows were the first to get off and thus the first to get on the new bus and sit wherever they pleased, leaving a woman with her baby and toddler to be seated on seats quite far off from each other.

Of course she got mad. She had arrived there 1,5 hours earlier, just so that she would not have to encounter such a splendid challenge to stimulate the ride and wanted to get off the bus. Some people had to give their seats and problem was solved (!).

Greyhound experience number two unraveled thusly: On our way to New York, the problem started before we got on the bus, even before I got the feeling we were being carried to a high security prison with a plastic indoor door to prevent us from approaching the door to reach for our freedom unless it was unlocked from the outside by the guard/driver who kept calling us folks, but rather treated us like a flock.

We had arrived 1 hour before the departure and got to waiting. While waiting, unless you are one of the first 5 people to be in line, if you get too tired, you can always sit on the floor, please, by all means. Make yourself at home. As we got closer to the gate to get on the bus, I realized there were two busses, and was relieved that we would get proper seats no matter what, since we had been there much before many others. I got on the first bus with my husband, but there were no seats left, except for two aisle seats, one next to a very large scary man, and two seats that would allow us to be together for the next 8 hours, but they were all the way in the front and contained large suitcases. I figured they had been reserved for the driver.

So since we had arrived there much earlier than a lot of people getting on the second bus, I asked to be seated in the second one. But there was this harsh answer that you get from people “in control”, with an undertone reminding how worthless I am. So, not to show how uncivilized I was, I kept quiet and headed towards the separate seats. You know, with one that had the pretty present of a large scary guy, with compliments from greyhound.

However, when a few minutes later, a pretty blond couple wanted to sit together, and the suitcases were removed for their sake, I got mad, as did my husband. The response from the Greyhound guy was: First come first served.

Wow, how could I not think of that?! What a logical and sensible answer and what a problem solving attitude! Our problem persisted until we made it to New York, that is, no special treatment for us. Next time, either I will not be using Greyhound, or there will be a MAJOR scene to follow!

In Turkey, the underdeveloped country, you know where many people still think have camels on the roads, while buying our tickets online, we can see the seats we are buying on the screen, check the type of bus we will be riding in. Thus, even if we arrive 5 minutes before the bus takes off, we know our seat will be safe! And there are ALWAYS free snacks and drinks! Thus, the driver is always kept awake by the in-ride attendant. Oh, did I forget to add? The driver snoozed a few times with his foot on the gas pedal, but we survived.

There will be more…

So, where was I? And where am I now?

Female Trapeze Artists
Female acrobats on trapezes at circus. Hand-colored lithograph by the Copyright by the Calvert Litho. Co., Detroit, Michigan, ca. 1890.
From the Library of Congress
[PD] This picture is in the public domain.

I was away on vacation for a few weeks, back home in Turkey, visiting, hugging and talking to friends and family, remembering what it feels like to be loved…

No, I take that back. I do feel loved now, here in Montreal, so far away from Anatolia, but being back there gave me space to err… Spending evenings with parents helped me remember the feeling of having a safety net underneath my acrobatic jumps between jobs and housing quests. It reminded me they would be there for me no matter what I did, and they would not let me fall even when I missed a swing…

Seeing my friends, observing the sincere happiness in their faces to see me, knowing that they accept me with every attractive and weird aspect of my personality gave me confidence… They embraced me and invited me to days where social anxiety was a thing that only belonged to an outside world among strangers… It gave me confidence to make silly jokes and voice experimental ideas that had not yet fully formed but needed to be pulled and tugged at to find its final shape and place in my head.

Being back home gave me confidence to reassert who I really am, without having to censure thoughts or actions in accordance with who I am frequenting.

And now, after almost two years in Montreal and more than a year at a steady job, I feel a similar fort of friends building up, though still in its preliminary stages of construction in certain ways… I feel more freedom in my moves and fewer filters before words formulated in my head become words in others’ ears. I feel greater courage in taking bold steps as I slowly bond with a small but strong group of allies.

Yet, one thing that cannot be subsidized is the safety net family offers. I have to accept this as the cost of immigrating away but it does not change the fact that I miss crowded family gatherings. Although we do not celebrate Easter holiday in Turkey, I wish I could be at my grandparents’ dinner table, waiting with cousins for our share of the chicken…

Happy Easter! Enjoy all the love you find!

Coming to Canada (2)

At 5 am, my parents and I arrived at the airport and met my husband and his family. Being grown up and all, we both chose to spend our last night in Turkey with our own parents. Many people were surprised at our choice but I think it makes sense; after all, we would be spending a lot of time in the same house in the days to come.

I was hyper energetic and my heart was racing faster than a purebred on steroids (had to google this). Colors were brighter, future was promising despite the doubts in my head and I was with my hubby whom I trusted to hold my hand whenever I needed (ehem). That was true happiness.

Thank god, I was not naïve enough to believe that these feelings would be ever lasting. I knew that in the months to come, I would be going crazy either looking for jobs and wondering why noone ever responded to my applications or even worse, still waiting for the damn work permit, and of course it was the latter case. I knew that we would be stuck doing the same activities as we would be too broke to “spice up” our daily routines, which would lead to some kind of frustration in our relationship every once in a while. I also knew that I would be feeling very lonely, since lacking a work permit and study permit along with money means there are few ways I could socialize.

Yet, I still did enjoy these first months, as I had enough time to take long walks through the city and daydream about the shops, jobs and lives behind the building walls I passed by. It was once again in these first few months that I did everything I can to find out about events and festivals in the city. I believed that from then on, life could only get better. I thought that as soon as I found a job in this country where human rights are respected, where people can express their wishes freely, where life is easier, our lives would only be on the rise for a better standard of living.

That’s where I was mistaken…

Coming to Canada (1): Leaving Home

It has been more than a year since I got here! I still remember the anxiety that kept boiling up in me for a year before I made the “flight of my life”. I had done several life changing flights where I thought there would be no going back and I had always gone back although to a life that was much different from before; people had moved on, new job opportunities were ahead and new dreams in my head.

However, before each journey, I was full of hope. The best part about embarking on complete life changing travels is the hope I feel before I know what I will encounter. Each time I know that things can go completely wrong as they did when I worked in the Arabian Peninsula for a year, but I cannot help the heightened joyous emotions.

At 4 am in the morning of the flight to Montreal, I woke up to my alarm clock and began a major run through my parents’ stairs screaming “energy blast!”

On that day, I had quit the job I loved at the college I adored a month before. I had emptied the apartment I was crazy about, the apartment I had wished to live in for years, the apartment I felt I belonged to. The apartment and neighborhood that gave me the sensation that I belonged somewhere in contrast to many of my peers who have had to change countries every few years following their parents’ business assignments in different parts of the world. That apartment had witnessed me at age 3 fall off a chair and break my arm, advance to my first teenage year, move to different countries and come back a few years older, and finally, move back in there as a grown woman only to be married a couple of years later and leave the country a year on. Emptying this apartment and moving on was hard and made me question my decision: I was finally settled down. I had a car, two cats, a good job, great friends, and family living nearby. Why leave now?

Because I had lived it and was ready to move on. In a matter of four years, my life was at a level that I found satisfactory but not quite… fulfilling.

Thus, I was screaming “energy blast!” at 4 am in the capital city of Turkey.