Learning to Be Canadian

By Tuesday Morning, I had nearly given up all hope of ever receiving our permanent residency cards, the final proof that Varun and I are, in fact, Canadian Permanent Residents. After becoming PR’s in March, we were told it was a simple matter of waiting 6 weeks for the cards.

However, having not received them by mid-June, I was worried. I called the immigration office and was told, “Oh, they didn’t arrive? They probably got lost”. I tried to ascertain how the Officer could be so blasé  about the fact that two major identity cards were lost in the mail. I mean, how many times in your life has something been lost in the mail?! And two items in two separate envelopes to the same home?! The odds are just too high. I think they forgot to send them and didn’t want to admit it [Sorry any CIC officers reading this]. The Officer told me to sit tight and call back in July. As they still didn’t arrive by mid-July, we sent a letter officially declaring that our PR cards were never received. I was told they’d be cancelled and mailed again.
I spent August checking the mailbox and calling CIC, listening to hold music and memorizing the options en français. And then Tuesday…voila! We are literally card-carrying Canadians. BOOYAH!

(In case you didn’t think we have the capacity to be serious, these pictures should illustrate that we can be. And that Varun’s head is very, very flat on the top.)
Coincidentally, in class yesterday I got a bit of a PR orientation.  My professor, who is from California, was relating her experience of moving from the USA to Canada as an adult, and some of the cultural blunders she had made.

Professor:  Americans are generally direct, and sometimes that’s perceived as rude. In Canada, people are polite, so they don’t tell you when you’re being rude. They just go quiet.
Me: (Audible gasp) This is a revelation!

This explains SO. MUCH.

At this point, I figure I’m about 10% Canadian. The logic goes this way: my PR card is valid for 5 years (unless I become a citizen in that time, which I plan to). So assuming I live to about 85..that means I’m only a PR for 5 out of the next 59 years…so I’m only 11.8% Canadian. Which means I really only have to up my politesse by a few percentages to meet my quota of Canadian-ness. Huzzah!

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Choosing to Embrace Multicultralism

I rarely comment on political happenings/current events in public, perhaps because I gave my roommate a fright on the first day of university when I covered my closet in posters signed by a certain political figure from Texas. But, I’m deeply troubled by the case of Anders Breivik, the man responsible for massacring 77 people in Norway last summer. During his trial, Brevik claimed to be “defending Norway from multiculturalism.” Defending from multiculturalism? At first, this does not compute. What’s so bad about multiculturalism? So it’s easy for me to write Breivik off as an outlier, thinking that his hatred is unattainable, nothing a “normal person” like me would ever experience. But when I think about it, don’t I have a propensity toward dislike and distrust? Couldn’t I hate?

Breivik is an exceptional case: he is incredibly disturbed and misled. I know that the majority of people who speak out against multiculturalism are not mass murderers, nor am I. But it got me thinking, how do people become so hateful? How does hatred begin?

Yesterday, Varun and I were walking through the Home Depot parking lot. A middle-aged man was walking alongside and remarked angrily to us, “Crazy sign, eh?”

Unwillingly to pleasantly go along, I looked at him and said, “Um, what’s crazy about it?”. He looked a bit surprised, and said, “Nothing. I just don’t know what this world is coming to. There’s a spot for hybrid vehicles and now this. Next we’ll have one for different races”.

I’ve been thinking about this exchange all day. I know that that man is probably confused and threatened by the changes he sees around him: immigration, environmentalism and feminism…* The land where he grew up is changing rapidly, with high-rise apartments replacing corn fields. Faces and names which were once familiar are suddenly lost in crowds of foreign skin-tones and accents. And hybrid vehicles? Well, that’s got to be some left-wing hippie conspiracy…**

I think this guy was just scared and annoyed. But I also realized that this fear and confusion can easily turn into dislike, and dislike can fester and become a rotting core of hatred. This is the crux of it: hatred begins quietly, and slowly; with a distrustful thought, a rude word or a judgmental generalization. I won’t pretend that I haven’t thought unkind thoughts about people I suspect are “immigrants” who don’t have “nice Canadian manners.” (Not like I have nice Canadian manners).

I admit: there are moments in which I have to check my heart, admit my selfishness and remember that multiculturalism is an incredible blessing.

And it is a giant blessing. In my life, mingling with people from different cultures is a constant source of joy and enrichment. Growing up in a home with Irish and Italian influences gave me an open heart and a curious mind. Marrying Varun has opened my world to the best tea ever, amazing music and movies, a new language and a family bursting with stories, customs and colours which fascinate me. Traveling has given me the opportunity to be the minority, stand on distant shorelines and become friends with strangers, enjoying a brief evening of laughter. Life in Canada has made me aware of many different cultures and experiences, from the taste of bubble tea to the difficult, and often lonely, life of a refugee. If I have grown at all kinder, more interested, more interesting, more curious, less judgmental, more loving or less intolerant, it is largely because I’ve been exposed to people who are not like me.

I recognize that it is difficult to create a society that is multicultural. Heck, it can be challenging to live in a neighborhood or even a family with mixed cultures. Smells, manners, language, family life…when you look at these differences through the lenses of fear and suspicion they are barbed intrusions. But when you look at these differences with love and trust, they are brightly coloured tiles in a glittering mosaic. Breathtaking.

I’m not sure why Breivik became so derailed, angry and hateful. Maybe we’ll never know. But I do know that in my own heart, I have a choice every day: love or hate. As I look around my neighborhood and see a collage of languages and ethnicity, I also see people just like me. People created in love by God, people who desire honest labour, healthy families and joyful celebrations. I look in the dark brown eyes of Varun and see someone funny, strong, loving and intelligent. And so I choose to explore the differences and embrace the jewels I find in other cultures.

I (try to) choose love.

*I’m not sure if feminism is the right word to describe parking spots for preggo moms. But I needed an -ism…so…

**(I jest. I actually want a hybrid)

“We Both Do”

Varun and I are giddy with excitement: today we became permanent residents of Canada! As you’re probably getting tired of hearing, we’ve been seeking a common citizenship since we got married. After jumping through a few hoops, I became a permanent resident of India about a year ago. But if we want to stay in Canada, we needed to have Canadian PR. We began the process…well…a long time ago. We spent a year consulting lawyers, gathering documents, getting myriad passport photos taken and ordering far too many certified cheques. Finally, two weeks ago we got the email summoning us to Buffalo.

Wanting to beat the crowds, we got up at 5 a.m., packed all of our paperwork, passports, my camera and of course, breakfast.

Princess Tea seemed right for my day of becoming a Commonwealth Dweller

As the sun rose we listened to Katniss and Peeta as they began their journey to the Capitol (The Hunger Games, which we’ll talk about later). Our pleasant trip took a turn for the stressful as we realized we had gotten directions to…well…nowhere. We frantically called my Mom and, at $1/minute, coached her through Mapquest. Thankfully, she was more than helpful.

The best part of the day for me was when the guard at the Canadian Consulate asked us, “Who needs a visa?” and I replied, “We both do”. For the first time, we are applying for something together, getting a status that will give us a common citizenship: a place we can both call home. (Sigh of Relief)

Unfortunately, we have no photographs of the Consulate as they are very picky. They made us turn in our cell phones and watched us while we turned them off (“Not to silent, vibrate or anything else. Off!”). We handed in our passports and began to wait. We people watched. We watched the news. We fell asleep. I ate goldfish and Varun told me he didn’t want my “cheesy animals”. We noticed that nearly everyone had been called but us. We played Monopoly Deal. I won by a landslide. They called us up and gave us our papers, advising us to drive to the Canadian border and “land”.

At the border, we were bouncing with excitement. We noticed the Queen’s picture on the wall and tried to guess who the guy was next to her. (Varun: Maybe it’s her husband? Border Guard: It’s the Governor General. Me: OH. Well who’s that and what’s he do?)(We’re lucky they didn’t revoke our PR right there). As he processed our paperwork we were like two kids in a candy shop, leaning over the counter, asking questions and giggling. Finally, the guard asked us a bunch of questions, got us to sign our papers and smiled at us, “Congratulations, you’re permanent residents of Canada”.

Mr. and Mrs. Rana, Permanent Residents of Canada

Back in the car, Varun and I gushed about how this would change things, how hard we had worked to get it and how relieved we felt. Then we got down to business and back to Katniss and Peeta. As we drove into Hamilton and saw the smoke stacks dotting the skyline, I couldn’t help but think about how glad I am that Canada is our home.

Celebratory lunch from Randy's: grainfed burgers, homemade ketchup and yes, Throwback Pepsi.

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