So you want to move to Canada, eh?
This blog entry is gonna talk about Montreal without talking about food. Ready? We've been here a little over a month now, so I figured it was finally time to fill you in about what life has been like here (besides gluttonous) and how we've been filling our days. We had decided pretty much as soon as we arrived that we weren't going to do anything too high pressure during most of August as far as me getting a job or Chris figuring out what he was going to do with himself while we wait on the Canadian government to give Chris legal status for a work permit. We knew there was a lot of stuff to do by way of settling without pushing ourselves to figure it all out. So, our first priorities were twofold: turning me into a real-life Canadian and getting our bearings in the city.
What did turning me into a Canadian entail? A whole bunch of stuff in government offices. I had to go get a Social Insurance Number (which is the equivalent of a U.S. Social Security number) because i pretty much couldn't do anything without one. Can't get a job, can't even open an account with the electric company, can't get a debit card. Fortunately, once I figured out where to go for that, that process was pretty easy- I've learned that my fancy schmancy Citizenship Certificate was more effective than it looked. I had to apply for my healthcare card. This required calling the Regie de l'assurance Maladie to request an application by mail, then taking this application in person (along with my passport, copies of my fancy schmancy Citizenship Certificate, an unflattering passport-style photo I had to go to a pharmacie to have taken, and my apartment lease) to a local health center which they would then review and send somewhere, assuring me that i would receive my card by November 1st so I can start checking on all the illnesses i couldn't afford to treat in the U.S. Then we had to get health insurance for Chris (I think I already told you about how unnaturally affordable it was). Then there was researching the process for driver's licenses, car registration, car insurance, blah blah. That stuff is still all in process due to some frustrating Customs issues that I won't bore you with. Then there was getting new cell phones, new phone numbers, cable, internet, and all the other things that make life worth living. Then opening up a Canadian bank account and figuring out how to wire transfer your money into it when Wells Fargo won't text a confirmation code to an international phone number and refuses to be at all helpful despite the fact that it's MY money, but I digress. Suffice is to say, it's been busy. And we're still not done. In addition to the car stuff, I still have to meet with the Centre Emploi (employment center) so they can create a file for me so I can make an appointment to apply to take advantage of the free French lessons they offer to help new residents find work (everything here requires calling to make an appointment to apply for things-- you can't just spontaneously apply for anything!).
And getting our bearings? After we finished unpacking and making our apartment livable, we had to figure out how we were going to live here. We had to find a decent grocery store (which is much harder than one would thing-- we're very spoiled in the U.S. with huge and well-stocked grocery stores). We had to find a nearby veterinarian, since 17-year-old Natasha has some prescription meds we knew would need refilling. We had to figure out where the closest gas station is since I'll inevitably need to fill up the car. Dentists. Eye doctors. Hair Salons. Pretty much everything you do in your life without giving it a second thought? We had to figure out where to go for that.
And now that August is over, we're getting down to business. We found a cat shelter for Chris to volunteer at since that was something he missed about Atlanta-- and it wasn't easy to find a place that would accept volunteers who don't speak much French. We've researched places for Chris to take free French lessons since the ones offered to immigrants won't kick in for him until the government gives us some indication that they've started processing our sponsorship application. And I've been applying for jobs. Honestly, it's hard to find things I can qualify for with my lack of French proficiency. It's discouraging to read a great job description, and then get to the requirements part and see "Billingual". And I knew it would be a challenge until I improved my French (and we had planned financially for there to be a lack of income for a while), but that doesn't make it any less frustrating in the meantime.
We've also learned that driving here is pretty treacherous. I don't mind doing it for short errands or absolute necessities, but the traffic here is a nightmare. Montreal is a city full of construction right now and Google maps can't seem to keep up with the constantly changing detours and road closures. Also, the kindness of Canadians ends when they get into their cars, so there's a whole lot of cutting people off and creative creation of new lanes. We take the metro as much as possible, and fortunately, the closest station is only a 5-minute walk from our place.
I will reveal, with cautious delight, that I got a job yesterday. I don't want to say much about in case I hate it or get fired on the first day, but it's about as far from being an attorney as it could be, so I'm pretty excited for that. We'll see what happens.