Monday morning as I woke up from my nap and walked into the cottage lounge (Yes, I had a nap in the morning. After two days of non-stop travel and immigration, napping is the sweetest remedy to exhaustion. I recommend naps.) there was Zsolt sitting on the 1980s sofa facing the window’s view of the St Lawrence and engrossed – totally, utterly, engrossed – in the magazine ‘Canadian Living’.
“Have you seen this?” he says to me. “Look at these models; they’re normal people. And look at this – look at all the vitamin advertisements, every page has a vitamin. And the cake recipes! Take a look at this cheesecake.”
So I tell him: “Zsolt, you are reading a magazine that’s targeted toward women and mothers . . . that’s why the models have normal bodies, that’s why it’s selling vitamins and breakfast cereals, that’s why it’s full of recipes. Now let’s go outside in the sunshine.”
But the man wouldn’t budge.
“It’s called (he says, flipping back to the cover to show me) Canadian Living. It’s the guide to everyday living in Canada.” And he turns back to his saved page to review the latest juicers and determine which one we should buy in the future, considering our old juicer was left behind in England.
So I had to smile at his determination. Every booklet and pamphlet and women’s magazine with the word ‘Canadian’ has become a guiding light for ‘how to get along in Canada’, and he’s taking it all very seriously.
What does that mean?
It means: We. Have. Arrived!
WOOOHOOO! Wooot! Wooo! Yeahhhhh, baby!
Sunday afternoon we landed at the airport in Montreal and immigrated Zsolt’s Hungarian butt into Canada. It was relatively straightforward (following the months of preparation and visa waiting). Here’s how it went down.
We arrived and went to the customs desk. This was fairly standard. There was the Bonjour/Hello and I said “I’m a returning resident and my husband is immigrating today.” And the officer wrote some codes on our landing cards that meant we couldn’t just leave after collecting our luggage – instead we would be directed to a different area.
Luggage was collected. Whew. All three pieces had successfully travelled from Hungary to Brussels to Montreal. Then we wheeled the luggage to the fellow who checks the landing cards and sure enough he says “Returning and immigrating?” and we say, “yes,” and he says, “follow that sign and go around the corner.”
So we go to this very quiet part of the airport where officers are standing behind desks with long metals tables where luggage is meant to be searched. We wait. We are called forward and a this lovely French lady processes our paperwork. At this point everyone around us is having their luggage searched. And I kept waiting for her to open our bags and have at them . . . but the moment never arrives. Instead she took my prepared lists of ‘goods in possession’ and ‘goods to follow’ and checked them over, then signed and stamped a lot of stuff, did some extra paperwork for Zsolt and then, finally, said to Zsolt “Congratulations, you are now a permanent resident of Canada.”
Fireworks and a cheering crowds erupted.
And she let us go. Just like that. (Frankly, I think it pays to have all the paperwork filled out and ready. Makes her day easier, and everything go more quickly).
So we leave the airport and there are my parents – lots of hugging and hellos followed, they had these Canada bags all ready with tea and water and Tim Hortons. – and we wheeled our stuff out of the airport.
Two days of travelling, three months of Hungary, Six months of treatment, six months of application preparation, five years of England . . . and as we leave the airport toward the parking lot, having now officially arrived and officially checked into our new Canadian life – I turned to Zsolt said,
“Now what do we do?”
And he said,
“I have no idea.”
It’s like at the end of that movie, The Graduate, when they get onto the bus having left everything they know behind them and that moment of triumph is followed nearly immediately by a moment of . . . uncertainty?
What happens next? I don’t know. Maybe that’s what Zsolt was trying to decipher from Canadian Living. But this is what I am sure of: something will happen next. Stories never finish, instead they rise and fall like waves. And after this week at the cottage, life will go on.
It’s unnerving. It’s exciting.
So, here we go. Let’s see what happens.
*PS – a big PS this week. I’ve just had an article published in Glow magazine for Facing Cancer Together, p.71. Freaking exciting or what! There’s a picture too – so if you want to see what I look like with super white teeth on a London roof, please do pick up the article. It’s my first published piece of writing, so that’s pretty exciting.
PPS – Zsolt is amazed at the giantness of Canada. Giant bag of chips. Giant tissue box. Giant paper towels. Giant jugs of water. Giant fridge. Giant oven. Giant wasp and hornet can. Giant cars. Giant roads. But so what? We’ve also got giant hearts. And he’d like to send a special thanks to the lady at immigration, who was kind and patient. She set a great tone for Canadian’s hospitality. Sometimes giant is awesome.