Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Eagle Has Landed

Short post today.

We've arrived at our rental home in Richmond, BC. It's still here, exactly as we left it a month ago.

The dogs are exhausted and clingy, but they seem to be realizing ("realising" in Canadian English) that we're staying here for a while. At the moment they are all stretched out on the floor around Anne as she talks with her mom. We went for a long walk this morning and that combined with the stress and the complete lack of desire to eat anything other than junk food (which always happens on long car trips) makes for tired puppies.

Today we build a list of things to do while Anne organizes ("organises") the kitchen. There is a bit of shopping to do, and I get to start mowing the jungle (formerly a yard, before it was left unmowed for months). That will take me several days, I am sure.

The moving truck doesn't get here for a week or more. When it left our place in the Santa Cruz Mountains it was heading to LA, and then to Calgary. It will arrive when it arrives. We're fine.

Not much else to report for now. More in a few days when I have started to catch up.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

When Moving Preparation Goes Wrong

So, you know how you're trying to plan way ahead of things when you're moving? Everyone does that, right?

Because you're doing that, a few days in advance of moving you call your Internet and phone provider (who shall remain anonymous, but whose name might partially sound like something you do when you're fishing) and setup a disconnect of your service the day after you need it. After all, you're going to be in crazy mode for a few days in a row, and the internet and a phone will help deal with surprises and thus keep you sane, right?

Your service rep is very nice and sets it all up just fine. Disconnect is set for Friday, since the moving truck takes all your stuff on Thursday. The call goes so well - almost no time on hold even - that you are lulled into a false sense of security.

So Tuesday arrives, and at about 12:30 pm, just like you didn't schedule it, your internet and phone go away. Poof.

So you call your COMunications (and fishing related) service provider and get into their automated system, which helpfully sends a reset command to your equipment and tells you to wait ten minutes to see if that worked.

But you're smarter than that, so you push deeper into the phone tree saying "Representative!" until you are hoarse and eventually (after three hours and a light snack) get to a "Live Body" (tm) who might be able to look at your account and figure out why it's stopped working three days early.

The "Live Body" (tm) eventually isn't sure but it was probably someone who didn't read the date right on the disconnect request and just did it. They are escalating to the service rep that setup the disconnect and that person's boss...

[[Here we have to make a slight digression...]]

You know how calls like this go. They always take longer than you expect, and you might as well sit down while it is going on.

And (at least in our case, though possibly not yours) the cellular phone service at your home isn't exactly stellar, so you need to step outside to make this call, where the walls and some air won't interfere with the tenuous cell reception you get from an antenna powered by three geriatric squirrels running in wheels in a cage some 18 miles to the east.

So you're standing outside and as realize you should sit down for this conversation. Happily, you have a deck and some chairs and even a table you might put your feet up on while you wait through this.

[[Here we return you to the original narrative, but you have no idea where this is going.]]

So you pull out a chair, sit down, and just as the "Live Body" (tm) is starting to explain that he's escalating this ticket to someone, your left elbow hurts. A lot. And then your right elbow. And then you realize that there are rather a lot of flying, stinging things around you. Quite a lot of them, in fact.

You leap up - as one does - saying a lot of four letter words - as one does - that almost certainly surprise the snot out of the "Live Body" (tm) - as they can - and eventually get far enough away to be sure that you're not being chased by a horde of angry, stinging things. But what things?

Wasps, as it turns out.

Once you finish the call from a safe distance, and are assured the internet and phone will be restored within one - two at the outside - hours, and drive to the local store to purchase the needed "Horrific Chemicals" (tm), use them, and retreat again for a while, you eventually turn the table over and find this:

Yes, that's the "Trump Nest" (tm) , created sometime in the last three or four weeks by a group of rather unpleasant freeloaders living on your property without paying rent. And stinging you for disturbing them besides.

Anyway, that evening, when the stinging nasties that weren't in the nest when you nuked it from space are trying to figure out what to do with rest of their lives - ideally somewhere in Siberia - you scrap that nest off the underside of the table, hose off all the "Horrific Chemical" (tm) residue, and set about dealing with all the stuff that you put off while:
  • Dealing with an Internet outage
  • Being stung by insects that don't care about your Internet outage
  • Exclaiming in pain/fear/frustration in the ear of the "Live Body" (tm) trying to fix the Internet outage
  • Running from said stinging insects whilst teaching the "Live Body" (tm) some exiting new words
  • Figuring out what sort of medical treatment you have for stings, since everything is already packed
  • Mentally recovering from the stress induced by these two, entirely separate - but now horribly related - events
I'm sure something just like this happened the last time you were prepping to move. Right?

Oh, and it took 1.5 hours and another email - sent over those tenuous cellular radio waves - to get the Internet back.

Monday, July 10, 2017

2.5 Weeks Left

Over the past couple of months I've been to Vancouver twice to find a place for us to live, and to get the process of moving in started. It seems to be working: the house is mostly packed, the sale papers are signed, the new home is rented, classes are signed up for, and the dogs are freaked out by the changes.

Yup... it's progress.

But how did we get to this point? Some of the back story:

Back when we decided that we wanted a change, and that Canada was where we wanted to go, we figured that it was time for me to go back to school. I've been thinking about going back to study art for quite some time. After all, I've been teaching art for nearly two decades without any formal training. Wouldn't it be nice to know if anything I've told my students is right?

And the Pacific Northwest is a very appealing part of the world, with wonderful indigenous culture that I may be able to draw on for inspiration. Add the fact that Vancouver is a very nice, livable city, with working transit & lots of culture and the destination decision was made.

So after some research into art schools in the area I applied to Langara College. Why there? There were three main reasons:
  • Their program appealed to me.
  • They don't require a portfolio from new students. Instead their goal is to graduate students with a portfolio so they can go on to the big art schools for a BFA or MFA.
  • Their cost for international students wasn't quite as high as that of some others I looked at. We could afford other places, but I am more comfortable on that front here.
They got my application and said yes pretty quickly.

Next I applied for a student visa. The Canadian immigration system made that pretty easy, though I do admit a couple of things they asked were less than clear. But an hour on the phone with an immigration attorney and those were cleared up. Not quite six weeks after submitting the application (all done online), I got email saying my visa was approved. In addition, Canada is happy to give spouses of students an open work permit, and Anne's visa was approved as well.

A side benefit of Anne's work visa is that she can work for any company. Often when people cross an international border to work, their employer sponsors them, effectively getting their visa written. Between the US and Canada such visas are apparently pretty easy to get thanks to provisions of NAFTA, but should you quit working, be laid off, or in any other way lose your job, you have limited time to find a new job before having to go back home, and your new employer has to sponsor you again. Our arrangement means that for the duration of my studies Anne can work for any company that wants to hire her, and they don't have to sponsor her in any way. It's more flexible in the crazy world of high tech, and that's good.

The visas are good for the duration of my studies at Langara. It is my understanding that I can extend the visa if needed to finish my studies, which is good because it takes 6 courses a semester to finish the diploma I am seeking in 4 regular semesters. Even using summer sessions it takes 5 courses during each regular semester and 2 each summer semester. That's a heavy course load.

In addition, once I graduate I can apply for a post graduate work permit. As the rules currently stand that would be good for 3 years after completing my studies, which keeps us in Canada for a minimum of five years, or a bit more if I extend my student visa to finish the diploma.

Of course, we're also working on getting permanent residency (PR) - the equivalent of the US "green card" - but that's harder to to achieve because we are oldish. If we were in our mid thirties it would be simple with our technical and educational backgrounds. As it is, we have to work a bit harder to make that come about, but more about that later.

For now, we're on track to cross the border in a couple of weeks and start setting up our new digs.