Settling in. Not something I’m even sure we have completely done yet. We have lived in Canmore for 10 months now, and it really is a wonderful place. We moved here on January 9th 2020, and any of you not living in outer space will know that mid-March 2020 the world shut down!
The story of our first few months is a bit of a dramatic one. It’s not a short story, but I think it’s worth talking about some of the hurdles we had to overcome for me to appreciate where we are now.
I don’t want to talk about covid! But, seeing as it had had a HUGE effect on our life here, I at least need to mention it, … I guess. The reason I don’t want to talk about it is because I don’t even really know what my true feelings are on it. The people that surround me have so many different opinions and I would be lying if I said their opinions did not rub off on me. There are two completely different ends of the spectrum. My family & friends in England and France who are completely surrounded by the fear of this horrible disease whipping out everyone in its wake. And my friends world-wide who believe it is all a big lie and that we are being stripped of our rights. I genuinely mean it when I say I don’t know what side of the fence I am sat on. SO many other issues, challenges and changes have been thrown my way since this epidemic began that my mind has just not had the space to fully analyses it.
When Henry and I moved here our visa’s were not confirmed. I had a work visa for 2 years. For Henry to obtain his visa I had to work for 3 full pay checks in a managerial role and then he could get a spousal visa through me. This was obviously a huge worry to us both because if I didn’t get the right job then we would be heading back to the UK after 6 months of Henry’s travel visa and that would be it. Our dream would be over. It all sat on my shoulders.
I was constantly looking for work before we even moved. That in itself felt difficult. Rocket was only 6 months old and I felt like I was desperate to get back to work. I think it’s fair to say that I was not the most maternal of women. I love my son with every part of my being, but I did always want to go back to work, but 6 months still felt a little early. But, if we wanted to make this dream work, that is what I had to do. I was however extremely lucky and secured an interview the day after we landed. I got the job and I still work for the same employer now, and intend to do so for the foreseeable. I work for a wonderful company who have truly taken me under their wing and feel like family. Valbella Gourmet Foods, if anyone wants to research, a 40 year old family run deli in the heart of Canmore. I could not be luckier.
Once I had my 3 pay checks under my belt, we sent off all our paperwork to the lawyers helping with our visa case and we were told to wait for Henrys to be approved.
While I was working Henry was stay home dad with Rocket. I’m so grateful for this time he got to spend with Rocket on his own. He really understands everything that a parent has to do and because of this time spent with him he is so hands on. Still to this day all our parenting is shared. The long nights of teething, the nappy changes and just the attention and love and care. Henry’s a wonderful dad to Rocket and I’m sure deep-down Rocket will never forget the sacrifice Henry made to be stay at home dad while I worked.
Henry was very pro-active and constantly looked for work before his permit was confirmed. He wanted to start straight away so we could get our work experience under his belt so we could finally get the holy grail…Permanent Residency. (for us to get this we have to have been working a year, pass more exams and basically keep our noses clean for the next 12-18 months)
He managed to secure a Job at the local Golf-course as a green keeper for the summer. We were over joyed. His favourite kind of work and right on our door step. Due to start mid april.
Meanwhile as we waited for admin to do their part, Henrys parents came to visit us. It was so exciting to have them here with us. To show them around the town that we called home. To hopefully ease any anguish that they had about where we were and what we were doing. For them to spend time with Rocket. We really wanted them to be happy for us and embrace this life.
The trip started great. We took them to see some of the beautiful places around us, makes and mountains. We wondered around town and spent some really good quality time together. The weather was freezing. Typically they came during a “deep-freeze” and I don’t think it got over -20 the whole time they were here. But the sun was shining and it was so beautiful out, we didn’t care.
There was a lot of watching the news because of news of some flu outbreak in Europe and asia. Henrys dad works all over the world so had a keen interest in this bug that may effect his travel and business. Covid-19, coronavirus, miss Rona, What ever you want to call it, was here, but it was far away so we didn’t give it much thought.
On March 11th it was announced on the CBC news that Covid had hit Canada and that lockdown was imminent. Naïve as we were, we thought, oh well don’t worry it won’t get us here. (as I’m sure we all do) The uncertainty of how his parents would get home over took the whole trip. Henrys dad is an experienced world traveler and we knew he wouldn’t stop until the issue was sorted. All flights were being canceled on a daily basis but their determination to stay with us as long as possible kept them positive and hanging on till the last minute.
On March 13th at 8pm our Visa Lawyers called Henry and said he had to drive to the U.S border NOW or he wouldn’t be able to activate his work permit and we would have to leave. The border was closing between America and Canada and there was no sign of it opening any time soon. It was now or never. Both our hearts sank. What did we do? Rocket was fast asleep in bed, it was late, it was -35 degrees outside and Henrys parents were here going through their own problems so we kept it to ourselves.
That was one of the worst night’s sleep I have ever had.
We decided it was best if Henry went first thing in the morning. There was paperwork to sort and we didn’t want to miss anything and ruin our chances. He left at 6am in the dark and freezing cold, armed with a gallon of hand sanitizer, face masks and gloves. Rocket stayed at home with Henrys parents, I went to work, and we all waited. He drove to the Montana border. A good 4-hour drive. He got there fine, but then they held him.
Crossing the American border is nerve racking at the best of times, let alone in the midst of a pandemic and on a race against time before borders closed.
Hen had to slingshot the border, which basically means that you cross over without a US visa and then you come straight back because your access is denied. To activate a work permit or visa you have to leave the country and come back in. The safest way seemed to be the drive because he would be alone with minimal contact of people. When you come back they are supposed to activate your visa, stamp your passport and you are on your way. This was not the case for Henry. The world was shutting down and he was trying to activate a spousal visa, without his wife present! (we were told by our lawyer that I should not go because of the circumstances it was better to go alone) I felt totally helpless and like he was trapped there because of me.
I hind sight we were so lucky that that let him back in. He was held for about 4 hours. And after begging and pleading from him and me back home they approved him and send him on his way.
I can’t imagine how long that drive home must have felt for him!
Days went on and we were trying to find a way to get Henry’s parent’s home. His dad was pretty amazing here and pulled out every stop to make sure it happened. They left March 19th. A few day’s later EVERYTHING shut down here. You could only go to the supermarket, and even then, the shelves were sparce. I’m so grateful that I work for a company that not only sells food but produces it as well. They supported us so much throughout and we never went without food. I worked through the whole pandemic, every day with great support from my bosses. Getting other supplies was a challenge. With a small baby at home and only one of us bringing in money, I would be lying if I didn’t say it wasn’t stressful and worrying.
We had a home secured until the end of March and we were also desperately looking for somewhere to live after that. We fortunately did find an apartment on the outskirts of town that would allow the dogs to be with us. This place was unfurnished so we also had to basically furnish an entire apartment in that space of a few weeks.
Nothing like doing everything at once aye! (Thank god for Facebook market place again!)
We moved to our very own apartment March 30th and it was perfect. We were so happy to be in our own space with our own (new to us) furniture. Henry was due to start work soon and life could begin.