Wednesday, August 31, 2005

our friends and family in New Orleans (digression)

I know this is a digression from the main topic of this blog, but I'd like to share what we know of our friends and family in the New Orleans area:

One of our close friends evacuated before the storm hit. She is safely in Arkansas. She does not have access to a computer, but was able to reach a friend in New York who sent email messages to all her friends.

Our married couple friends who live across the river from New Orleans are OK. Their house had just some minor damage and no flooding. They have no electricity and no water. We were able to reach them by phone! When they run out of water they have stored (such as in the bathtub), they are not sure what they will do. There is widespread looting and the male half of the couple is helping to keep the peace. The female half of the couple has a mother who has not been in good health and was in the hospital in New Orleans. Her mother is being evacuated to a hospital in Texas. She has not been able to find out any information specifically about her mother’s condition or even know exactly which hospital in Texas she is in.

Another friend of ours is a nurse. He has an apartment in one of the neighborhoods close to, but not in the French Quarter. He has been at the hospital where he works for days now. It is the one hospital that is semi-operational. They are on emergency power, but are running out of fuel. Staff have been living at the hospital. No air conditioning; can’t afford to spend energy on that. He did get a treat: a shower after three days. We heard from him via email. He suspects that his apartment building is wrecked and that there will be nothing to come home to.

We talked to Alan’s parents on the eve of the storm. They have a home across the unspellable lake (Ponchartrain?) from New Orleans. (Last I saw in the newspaper, that town is under five feet of water. But their home is raised up quite a bit, so we’re hoping it escaped flooding.) They decided to take refuge at their “retirement” home in Mississippi – it’s not on the coast. The house is on the highest spot for miles and is in a natural clearing. They felt they would be safer there. We have been trying repeatedly to reach them all day and night at any phone number we have with no success. We believe they are fine, but we do not know if the house has any damage, or if they have electricity or water. We will keep trying to reach them – and we imagine they will contact us when they can.

It is just surreal. We can’t imagine what we would have done if we had still lived there. Let’s all be thankful for shelter, clean running water, electricity, fresh food …


another piece arrives

In today's mail: our clearances from the State of Washington. Nice, clean letters (notarized) that state they have searched and we have no records. Would that it be that simple for every state ...

First State Police Clearance arrives

In the mail yesterday, two items related to our application.

The first is an employer letter which doesn't quite have everything required, but considering what I went through to get it (I got passed around a lot over the phone, left a lot of voice mail), I guess I'm lucky to have anything.

The other envelope is from the State of Louisiana. Woo-hoo, our first state clearance. Boo-hoo, no. They returned everything back to us, saying that they will not deal with us, only an embassy or consulate. This was unexpected.

Argghhh ... what to do?

After being pissy for a bit, I come up with what we think is a brilliant plan. I'll go to our local Canadian consulate, tell them the story, and ask if I can have the clearance delivered there so that I can pick it up and include it with our application to Buffalo.

Well, I went during my lunch hour today and it's a no-go. They won't accept anything there unless we have a file there. And we don't have a file yet in Buffalo (apparently one's file number is very important), so we can't send it there. The nice woman at the desk said to include a letter of explanation with our application and when we get a file number to apply for the clearance and have it sent to Buffalo.

It sounds like this is no big deal to them and that they're used to it. I guess it will work, but I'm sure it will slow down the process for us. :-(

Out of respect for the current crisis, I will refrain from saying anything bad about Louisiana.

btw, we've heard from all our friends from New Orleans and they're all OK -- although some don't know what they will come home to. We talked to Alan's parents just before the storm and they were going to wait it out at their home in Mississippi (not the coast); we've yet to contact them again. We will try again tonight.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Who are we?

Well, this could be a lengthy and philosophical answer to that question ... that could serve as a sleep aid as well.

Alan and I (Daniel) have been together 10 years.

I'm an East Coast boy (I always like to mention that I was born in Manhattan) who has bounced around a bit in my adult years. Alan was born in Texas, but spent most of his life in Louisiana. We first met as I was passing through New Orleans about thirteen years ago. We didn't stay in contact, but I found myself passing through again three years later. This time, we hooked up and kept in touch. Life was in a state of flux for me at that point, so I arranged for a job and moved. We pretended to keep separate apartments for a year or so, but then took the plunge and signed a lease together. (I say "pretended" because I think we maybe spent five nights apart in that time. Sheesh, think of the rent we could have saved ...) Anyway, we've been together ever since.

While Alan and I quickly and easily fell into love and a life together*, the South and I were a different matter. Let's just say we didn't get along. There is a list, but what brought me over the edge was violent crime. After a particularly brutal multi-murder not far from where we lived, I bought an atlas and asked Alan, "So, where shall we move to?"

[*Lest you think our love lives were fairy tales (ha!), I want to point out that we both have survived our share of hard knocks and broken hearts.]

We decided on Seattle because of its mild climate both in weather and politics and because, at the time, it was going through an economic boom. You could pick jobs off trees; it was unbelievable. Mind you, we had never actually been to Seattle, nor could we afford to visit. So we arrived sight unseen with no jobs and no place to live. Sounds crazy, no? (I will resist the urge to launch into a medley of "Fiddler on the Roof" songs.)

Eight years later and we've survived the dot-com bust and the Boeing departure.

If we weren't gay, we'd possibly be the most boring people on earth. At least being gay makes us part of a semi-rare 3-5% of the population. We are urban folk and committed indoorsmen. We live simply (by U.S. standards) with our computers being the most expensive items we own. No house (this is Seattle, who could afford it?) and no car. I mostly walk everywhere and Alan takes the bus and walks.

I guess if we had an ethic it would be to make as small a footprint as possible and "first, do no harm." We believe there is a point when one has "enough" in the way of material goods and it doesn't take that much to satisfy us (in U.S. terms). If we dream of winning the lottery, it's not so much for the stuff it could buy, but for the freedom it would allow. I imagine we're not alone in that.

We are, in some ways, classic underachievers. We probably do not live up to our potential. I'm still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up and would like to one day find engaging employment. We both have marketable skills and work, but are not excited by what we do. We get through the days and try to enjoy our evenings and weekends.

It seems to me that there are the principles the U.S. was founded on (if not always followed) on the one hand and the accumulation of wealth/power that is the American Dream on the other. We are thoroughly American in the belief of the pursuit of the former (life, liberty, and happiness), we don't really buy into the latter. And while we are far, far from being worldly, we are aware that there are, say, other people on the planet and just maybe they count, too.

This is an intro to a political rant ... but I'll save that for another time.

I would just like to add that we are not sanctimonious prudes who take delight in judging others on political correctness. Judge not lest ye be judged. We don't like being judged; we try to give others the benefit of the doubt as well. We are all hypocrites. And nobody's hands are spotless. (Didn't someone else say that a while back?)


Saturday, August 27, 2005

Catching Up: Our Journey Thus Far

I'm not sure when the thought of relocating North first entered our minds. We've visited Victoria and Vancouver and we've really liked those cities. (Except for the border fascists -- American or Canadian, immigration or customs, where do they find these people?) Actually, I was jealous of Vancouver and thinking it was a lot like what Seattle could be. (Now at least Seattle has its own flashy library.)

Two years ago, the July 4th issue of our local alternative newspaper, The Stranger, devoted a whole section to why Canada was the new Land of the Free. Maybe that's when I started including "I swear, if they would let us, we'd move to Canada" in my various sporadic rants about the state of the nation.

In any case, last month I was in a foul mood for days after watching the documentary Tying the Knot. Once again, there were rants that mentioned Canada. So Alan says to me, "Well, can we? Have you ever really looked into it?" Well, sort of. And that "sort of" left me with the impression that we would have to be one or more of the following: 1. fabulously wealthy, 2. incredibly talented at some unusual profession or trade, or 3. willing to live out in the boonies. We clearly were "none of the above."

But with the husband's goading, I visited the official Canadian immigration web site. There I learned about the point system for the "skilled worker" class of applicants for permanent residency in Canada. Maximum 100, "passing" is 67 (used to be 75) -- I squeaked by with 67, although maybe it's 72. (I'm confused by the terms they use for education.) I knew that degree was good for something! OMG, this just might be possible ...

The wheels start turning and I start reading and researching ... and possibly obsessing ... a bit ...

I ordered a few books, including my first purchase from I started looking for blogs and found the three I mentioned in the previous post. (When I can figure out how, I want to list them in the right column.) I learn what we need just to complete the application: a list of every address since the 18th birthday, account for every month since the 18th birthday in terms of jobs/schools/etc., police clearances (which require fingerprinting) from the FBI and every state and country lived in since the 18th birthday. This is particularly onerous for me, given that I have lived in six states and one foreign country. OK. I take a deep breath and start working on the lists.

And then, while looking for other information in the application materials (which I downloaded from the CIC web site), I found the requirement that one collect detailed letters from every employer since age 18. That's impossible ... my heart sinks lower and lower. I can't do this. I get a bit ... emotional. Not listening to much in the way of reason, Alan does get me to email the guys in Denver that had their application at least get them a place in the queue. I say, "why bother?" and he says, "just do it." So I do and then don't go near the computer for three days.

Well, Nick gives me hope. He explains that you can write a letter of explanation that includes the requested information in lieu of a letter from an employer of, say, ten years ago. Only a couple weeks in and already I feel that I've been on an emotional roller coaster. So I ask Alan if we really want to go through with this. What if we jump through all the hoops and they reject us? We won't know unless we try. Do we want to be here ten years from now woulda/coulda/shoulda? So onward.

Makin' a list and checking it a few dozen times. I went through a background check for a job a few years ago, so a lot of my list is pre-made. But still, it takes a lot of work. With the magic that is the internet (and by finding some old address books where I cleverly had listings for "me"), I manage to pull it together. Alan is still trying to fill in some gaps.

August 14 - 16: worked on getting employment letters, ordered birth ceritifcates and school transcripts, was fingerprinted too many times at the downtown police station, and sent away for my police clearance from a small Central American country. (Yeah, I know, good luck with that.)

August 20: Mailed the (domestic) requests for police clearances -- all ten of them (between the two of us). By the way, we're already in the hole more than $350.00 with fees, postage, and phone calls.

As of today (Aug. 27), we've received some transcripts and our birth certificates. We're continuing to work on filling out the forms, trying to find all the places where we don't know something so that we can work on finding the answers while we wait on the police clearances. We've heard the FBI takes about 11 weeks. We'd like to have everything ready when the clearance arrives so we can send our application. That is, if we decide to cross that Rubicon ...


If you knew me, you'd know that this is so ... me ...

1. I'm not intending to dispense any legal or official advice. This blog will just tell our experiences and impressions. When it comes to the emigration/immigration process, rules can and DO change. Also, there may be something in your experience that makes the process different for one reason or another.

2. I don't mind intelligent sharing of ideas or debate; in fact, I crave it. But I find it rare. If your views differ from something posted, I welcome your participation if you can refrain from bigotry, name-calling, and deliberate distortion of facts.

3. Assume good intentions. I don't know everything and I don't pretend to. Feel free to educate; just don't think that ignorance equals stupidity or prejudice. At the same time, feel free to ask questions without fear that your head will be bit off. I'll do my best to assume good intentions as well.

4. We are a couple, but you'll just hear from me. It would take an act of G-d to hear from the other half. But he does exist. (That is, my other half exists ... G-d existing is open to debate ... but not one that I'd like to have here.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Why did I create this blog?

Other blogs have helped me and maybe I can be helpful to someone contemplating moving from the U.S. to Canada. I have read blogs by a woman who just (in late July) received her permanent resident card and is in Canada with her husband and children, a woman from New York who has been approved and is moving very soon with her partner (countdown is less than a week now!), and another male/male couple that have submitted their application in February and have a place in the queue for review. (They're in waiting mode now.)

I'm new to all of this and I'm not sure of the etiquette. I feel I should ask permission before I mention a person's name (or nom du internet) or blog. That's why I'm not being more specific. [I've since been informed by L-girl that it's OK to link to anyone who has a blog, so I have edited this post not knowing HTML but cutting and pasting and crossing my fingers.]

I will use this blog to document our process as we complete the application for permanent residency in the skilled worker category. We're proceeding as though we're going through with it -- and we're pretty sure at this point that we are. Decision time will be when we've completed the application to the best of our ability, ready for submission. The application fee is hefty, and it's not refundable. Truth is, we're already emotionally invested (as well as out a few hundred dollars) and our hearts are dreaming of life in a kinder, gentler place where our family is recognized and the values are more akin to our own. (When I'm not tired after a day's work, I hope to write more about that.)

Nothing earth-shattering. But it may be helpful to someone.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

My first post

This is a first post, a test post. Can you tell I'm new to blogging? Please be patient and forgive me while I figure this out.