• Chris Francisco

Au revoir, Montreal...

From the title of this post, you're probably suspecting that something is up. And you'd be right about that.

As of 2 weeks ago, we aren't living in Montreal anymore. No, nothing's wrong. I didn't get deported, and Marny and I are both fine. But we decided a few months ago that for several reasons, this adventure wasn't quite what we had been looking for, and we made the decision to return to the States. Let me explain...

First off, we both really enjoyed our time in Montreal. Saying we learned a lot is an understatement, and it was an experience we'll never forget. Everyone should be so lucky to have the opportunity to live in a foreign country, and we know that our opportunity was rare. We met some interesting people, saw some really cool and beautiful things, and ate a ton of great food. For all this, we are thankful.

However, we made one crucial observation a few months back that changed our plans completely: you absolutely must be able to speak fluent French to be gainfully (meaning, employed at a salary where you can pay your rent) employed in Montreal. There's really no way around it. And unless you're employed with a US-based company doing business entirely in English, your chances of finding a good job (hell, ANY job), are slim to none. Yes, Marny was employed at the cafe, but only because the woman she interviewed with decided to take a leap of faith and hire her, despite her lack of French skills. With most other jobs, the answer would have been a polite "merci, mais non." And since Marny didn't want to spend the rest of her days working in a cafe, it left her with no other options. Not that there's anything wrong with that job, but her skill set is much different.

As for me, I was still stuck in immigration limbo. Almost a year after submitting all my necessary documents, nothing had been processed. That's right - nothing. It's apparently a slow process, and until they finish it, that meant no work for me. Actually, I wasn't eligible for work until my permanent residency was approved, and that's the second stage after family sponsorship, which hadn't even been started. Plus, I wasn't allowed to freely cross the border until I achieved a certain status, which meant no visiting friends or family in the US. I could enter the US, of course, but coming back into Canada wouldn't have been guaranteed. I was actually advised against trying it by an immigration agent, since I was technically "undocumented." All this gave me a new understanding (and appreciation) of how the immigration process works. As for all the people in the US (or anywhere else) complaining about immigrants, please know that immigrating legally is difficult. It's not as easy as just filling out a couple forms. It's a time-consuming, complicated and very expensive process that can leave you frustrated and feeling worthless. And for many people, the process is in a language that they probably don't speak. The process for us was in English, and Marny is a lawyer, and it was still difficult.

So where does that leave us? Well, it wasn't easy making the decision on where to go next. We didn't want to return to Atlanta, and we also weren't keen on returning to the Southeast. No offense to all you good people in the South, but we weren't looking to repeat that experience right now. We wanted to stay on the east coast, and ideally be near a big city but not right in the middle of one. Oh, and no red states. Sorry, but we feel strongly about that.

After some conversations that yielded a few ideas, there was a suggestion from one of Marny's best friends to consider her current location: Columbia, Maryland. It's a sizeable suburb in between Baltimore and DC, and even though I'd never been there, it sounded appealing. Baltimore and DC are both great cities, and we love crab, so why not? Plus, there was the added bonus of having built-in friends once we got here, which sounded awesome after a year of isolation. So, we started browsing rental properties, and Marny flew down to MD to look at some places in early June. After some stressful back-and-forth on a couple properties we were interested in, we finally locked one down in mid-June for a move-in at the end of July.

How is it so far? We like it! The new place is awesome (it has an insanely large and fancy kitchen) and it's in a condo building on a golf course. I never thought we'd say we live on a golf course, but here we are. We're settling in quickly, and it's been great to be able to return to all the stores (hello, Target) and conveniences that we missed while we were in Montreal. And it's been great to have friends close by. Even aside from the social element, they've been so helpful and patient with all our new resident questions, and they even helped us unpack. The area is definitely more suburban than we're used to, but that's not a bad thing. There are some quirks, though. I'm still not sure why grocery stores in Maryland don't sell beer and wine, but medical cannabis is legal, so there's that. Oh, and I'm re-learning to drive after not being behind the wheel for the last year.

View from our back porch. We saw deer the other day!

What's next? We're both looking for jobs, and we've both been exploring some solid leads. I'm planning on getting back into music soon, and I'm already talking to a couple of potential bands. These things will take some time, but honestly, I'm glad to just be legally employable again.

So, Montreal, we say merci and au revoir to you for now. Maybe we'll see each other again one day. But we'll never forget you.

About me

After almost 20 years living in Atlanta, Georgia, my husband and I decided it was time to make a change. We packed up our lives, grabbed our beloved cat, and ventured North to re-make our lives in Montreal, Canada.  Did I mention we don't speak French yet?


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