Tag Archives: USA

Osama Bin Laden is dead – stream of consciousness

As I am sure you all heard, the US killed Bin Laden last night and buried him at sea.

While I am comforted that the world is now free from this evil man, how can we celebrate the death of anyone? The world is a better place for sure, but it’s not like with his death there is no more terror.

And what am I supposed to explain to my son who asked me why he was executed without a trial? “Even Eichmann had a trial, Ima”. That some people are so evil they don’t deserve due process? Who decides that?

We cannot celebrate the murder of anyone – we criticize those Palestinians who celebrate the deaths of Israelis murdered by Hamas, and pass out candies to show their joy – is that who we want to be?

His death needs to give us pause, time to reflect, time for those who lost family members, friends and coworkers at his hands to feel a sense of closure and finally move ahead with their lives.

The Pleasure of Passport Renewal

Ah the US of A, land where renewing a passport is made so easy that everyone wants to have an up to date one. Seriously, folks, I have renewed UK and Canadian passports, and it is complicated.

See, the KoD’s passport is about to expire, and he needs to renew it. (One should always have a current passport). All he needed to do was fill out the form, take some passport pictures which by law probably have to make you look awful, write a cheque and pop the darn thing in the mail.

In Canada, and the UK, the pictures have to be dated, by the photographer, on the back, and signed by a guarantor who cannot be a member of your family and who has to have known you for at least 2 or 3 years. The guarantor has to fill out a form attesting to his / her knowledge of you, and in what capacity they are signing. They have to be professionals. And yes, they do get checked up on. Not every guarantor is checked, but a lot are. It’s not something you can do within the space of 5 minutes like the US renewal.

The KoD was allowed to keep his glasses on for the pictures – in Canada and the UK, no glasses are allowed, no earrings, no smiling, no excessive make up, no head coverings, and the lips must meet even if you have an overbite or an underbite. Seems to be that it’s easier to renew an American passport than that of any other nationality. I wonder why that is. I would think that they would be hyper-vigilant, but it seems as if it is the other way around.

I cannot wait for the day when I can have a US passport….

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Immigration Questions

Our immigration interview is coming up real soon, and I have spent the morning printing out photos, making sure I have the right documentation (criminal background checks from everywhere I have lived since the age of 16, medicals for all of us, birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees etc) and putting it all together in a file. I have been told by others that it’s important to also provide any paperwork that shows the KoD’s name with mine – for example: bank statements, bills etc, even though it isn’t asked for specifically. I have to take more passport pictures tomorrow for myself, luckily I still have two each for the boys from when we took photos for the medicals.

Over the weekend I spent some time talking with the boys about how to conduct themselves at the interview. To only speak when spoken to. To speak politely. To answer the questions posed – but not add any additional information. To tell the truth only. I could apply for the younger boys to be exempted from the interview – but I think it’s important that they are there and take part. One of the older ones told the youngest that if he is as annoying as usual they might not let him into the States. Brothers can be so nasty.

One thing I couldn’t tell them was what questions we will be asked. I have absolutely no idea what kind of things they will want to know. I know the documentation will tell them most of what they want to know. I know they are looking to see if this is a marriage of convenience. Let me think about that for a second. Living apart, managing two residences, juggling 7 kids between us, car issues, driving up and down the I-87 every other weekend for over a year, missing each other – this has hardly been convenient!!

If you have knowledge of this kind of interview – will they ask the boys any questions? What questions will they ask me and the KoD? Will they even ask the KoD anything as he doesn’t have to be there, but chooses to come? Does what we wear matter?

None of us has anything to hide – so I am not too worried, I just want to be adequately prepared and have the kids ready for anything that might happen.

Thanks in advance.

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Speak up, you never know what’ll happen.

Last week I rented a car, so that I could drive down to see my KoD and get back, and not have to shlepp on the bus which would hurt my back and totally annoy me (although the blog posts I would get out of it might have been worth it). Why did I have to rent a car? Because the Canadian border people won’t let me drive my new Town and Country into Canada. And also because the car I borrowed kind of ….died. Yeah. Anyhow….

So I really wanted to rent a car with cruise control, but they aren’t in my price bracket. I rented the smallest car available. It was just me travelling, and I don’t need a lot of space. I had researched online all the various different companies and looked for the latest deals, but I ended up going with Enterprise who I have rented from before. The branch I rent from has given me stellar customer service. Every single time.

I showed up there, we took care of the paperwork, and I just casually asked how much extra it would be to rent the PT Cruiser. I had always wanted to drive one of them. They told me they wouldn’t charge me any extra and that they had one available. (That’s like a double upgrade). FTW!! (For the win!). I drove off the lot with a huge grin on my face.

Got to the parking garage at my apartment building and needed to open the window to insert my key so the garage door would open. Where the heck is the button to open the window? I examined the entire side of the door getting very frustrated. Finally I opened the car door, turned the key and entered. Once parked I set about solving the mystery of the unopenable windows. I have driven many cars over the years but this was the first time I had ever found the window opener buttons on the centre part of the dashboard. Who puts them there??!!

This car was the most comfortable car I have ever driven on the highway other than my Town and Country (she has seat warmers. Yes, my car is a girl. Make of that what you will). However soon after I started off I noticed there was a lingering odour of cigarette smoke, and all of Enterprise’s cars are supposed to be smoking-free zones. After an hour I had a headache from it.

So when I returned the car this afternoon, I mentioned it to the manager. I was very polite – told him I had a great time with the car, but there was one little problem. I told him about the smoke, he was concerned. He asked me how I would like to be compensated. Now, I didn’t want to be greedy, but I also wanted a decent gesture. Most Canadian rental companies charge you a daily fee if you are planning on driving into the States. It’s just over 5 dollars. I don’t know why this fee exists, but its policy. I had had the car for 4 days, that fee for me was 20 bucks and change. I asked for him to knock this charge off the final fee. He agreed immediately, and he gave me a coupon for a free upgrade the next time I rent from them. I guess I was being reasonable in what I asked for.

I made sure to tell the manager that the service I received from his team is always exemplary and that they are polite and helpful. I have rented from this branch three times already and I know that I will go back there next time. I always thought you had to get stroppy with people for them to give you freebies or money off of a bill. But I guess I learnt that you really don’t. I was all sweetness and light. But I am glad that when renting the car and upgrading to the PT Cruiser and when complaining about the smoke that I stood up for myself and spoke my mind. And that I did it politely.

(I must say that there is a snarky voice inside my head saying that if I would have been belligerent maybe they would have given me more of a reduction. But I am not listening to that voice. I will just swallow a snarkitol and that voice will recede. Truth is, I wasn’t looking to get $$ off, just wanted to make an observation so that they can fumigate the car. The $$ off was a bonus).

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WE HAVE A DATE!!! (Immigration Update #654)

I hold in my hot little hands a love letter from the USA Consulate in Montreal. Well, it’s a bit impersonal, but it’s asking me to show up and visit, and to bring the kids!!

We have our appointment in April (of this year) which is further away than we had imagined, but still at least we have something scheduled. It means that we may be free to move by the end of April. There are a lot of decisions to be made, weighing up the pros and cons and everyone’s best interests.

Apparently the interview is the final stage, and that’s when they decide whether or not to let us into the country. It’s really a formality from what I understand.

So I have two months to make sure I have all the paperwork together (that I had ready 6 months ago!!), take more passport pictures, and make some decisions about a moving date. (But technically we are not supposed to take any steps whatsoever to sell houses or end leases or give up jobs, until we possess the visas.)

I have been sitting on this news until the KoD and I could inform the kids together, which we did tonight. I have to say the whole thing has been rather anti-climactic at this point. The kids were excited but seeing as we still don’t have a final moving date it’s hard for them to conceptualize. We just want to be there already. By the time of our appointment it will have been 14 months since we got married. 14 months of waiting. 14 months of limbo. It’s soon over though. Yippee!!

But we are looking at the positive – we have a date, we have an idea of timing and we can start to move forward and plan for happily ever after in Monsey.

Just wanted to let you all know.

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Immigration Update

My KoD rocks. I am so blessed to be his wife. He has spent hours upon hours trying to get someone / anyone to pay him some attention and help us out with our immigration time line. The onus of these calls was all on him as he is the American who is sponsoring us. (Plus I am apt to get highly emotional and sometimes that gets in the way). We were told that this Haiti earthquake took priority, which I understand, and we have to be…..all together now…..PATIENT. Finally with his dialing finger about to fall off he reached someone who not only was able to help but actively wanted to. Someone helpful in government? Must be KoD’s charm.

Montreal is so popular especially with people applying to move to the USA. Yep. That’s why we are so darn delayed. Too many people going through the Montreal consulate. We have been told that it’s likely that we won’t have the visas until the end of March, possibly a little earlier. End of March is Pesach time. It’s another two months away. Another two months being away from our KoD. Another 2 months lost of decent schooling. It means spending our first wedding anniversary apart from each other and possibly my birthday, and my son’s. (It’s on the same day).

But at least we know. At least we now have some idea of the time frame we are dealing with. It has been sheer hell every day wondering will today be the day we get a letter? Will I be writing a rent cheque next month? Do I accept this wedding invitation or commit to going to that barmitzvah? At least we know now more or less what we are dealing with.

I am going to try to look at this as good news. Yes. Silver lining. Mmmhmm.

And btw KoD – you are totally awesome. Thanks for working so hard for us all. We love you. Counting the days till I see you again.

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Ah the smell of the open road

Later today I pick up the Ford Focus or similarly sized car from the car rental place. The kids seem a lot more excited about it than I am. Maybe it’s because they are boys and I am so not a boy? They probably won’t even get to be driven in it! They asked me insane questions like how many miles to the gallon, does it have cruise control, what about remote start and mp3 player capability? Um, it drives from a to b and back again? What else do I need to know?

I spent hours this week researching and comparing prices and eventually I got an awesome deal. Unfortunately it isn’t FREE but a lot less than the prices I was originally quoted. Thank you all for the codes and suggestions. It would have been even less but the KoD was worried about me driving a tiny car on the windy highways and being buffeted around too much. So for him I went with something bigger. (What is it with men and cars? *shakes head*)

This drive will de very different from the last one, although, to be totally honest with you, I am still traumatized and scared to get behind the wheel. Logically I know that rental cars are newer and in much better shape than the DustBuster I was driving all these months. Rationally I know that if God-forbid something does happen, the rental company will sort me out. Emotionally I am scared / scarred. Every little noise is going to make me worry.

I haven’t driven a sedan in years. I am so used to driving minivans and SUVs and being higher on the road. I am a good driver and a safe one, and I know with God’s help I will be fine. I know once I have the border crossing behind me (are the Americans more prone to stopping people in rental cars? Or will I have less trouble this time?) and I hit the I-87 for the 2.5 hours stretch to Albany and thence to the thruway I will be less stressed and perhaps able to relax.

I am actually hoping it has cruise control. The DustBuster had it at one time, but never while I was driving it. It does make long distance driving and speeding ticket avoidance much easier. Oh and I am looking forward to being toasty warm the entire way and not being able to see my breath in front of me. Ah the things we take for granted these days.

All that being said, I cannot wait to see my KoD. It’s been eleven days since I last saw him and I miss him more than words could ever express. Let’s hope that today brings some positive immigration news.

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Profile of a dangerous person?

I said goodbye to my KoD this morning, tucked my heart into his pocket, and began the 6 hour trek back to Montreal, to my babies. Ahem. Sorry. My big boys. My Boybies (that works for me).

The drive went really well, I didn’t even cry when the mushy romantic songs came on the radio. Took a concerted effort, but I did it. The roadwork has been finished up, so there was no going slow…the weather was perfect and I made excellent time.

I get to the US / Canada border and they have closed it off except for one booth a few yards before the usual line of booths at the Lacolle border crossing. It seems they are prescreening cars before allowing them to get to the regular border crossing booths. There is a much more obvious presence of border guards than usual.

No problem, I have my landed immigrant card, my passport, I do this a bajillion times a year. Piece of cake. Right? Noooo.

The cars ahead of me showed passports and sailed through. Initially the border guard did not take my passport from me. Started asking me the regular questions. All was fine until he asked me who I had been to see. I said my husband. Then he asked for the passport. He started quizzing me on the status of my marriage, who lives where, how often we see each other. Meanwhile his cohort was walking around my car peering in windows etc.

They asked me to pull over to the side, ma’am.

Who owns your vehicle? My neighbour.

Your neighbour lets you drive his car? Yes sir.

What does he drive? One of his other cars, sir. I have a letter authorizing me to use this vehicle, sir, would you like to see it?

I also told him he could check in the computer that I cross the border all the time with this car. He did so. And I was right. Wow.

Then he asks me, why are you not driving your own vehicle? I so wanted to say “because you idiots won’t let me drive my brand spanking new Town and Country Touring minivan with US plates into Canada (More info here) so it has to stay in our garage in Monsey collecting dust, and I have to drive this freaking rust bucket that’s older than I am, just so I can see my husband. That’s why the freaking hell I am not driving my own vehicle, rectal orifice!!” But instead, I replied sweetly, “because I don’t have one.” (May God forgive me for the lie, but I wanted to get out of there)

The guys were pounding on the panels of the car, looking underneath it, in the spare tire, pulling my suitcases apart. Looking in my make up kit, holding my excedrin bottle up to the light.

“What does your husband do in the states?”

“Where did you meet him?”

“What’s his name, address?”

“What company does he work for?”

“How much money does he give you?”

“What’s his salary”

“Did he give you anything to bring back?”

“How much child support and alimony do you get?”

“Where are your children?”

“Why did you leave them for the weekend?”

“Who has custody of your children? Prove it” (I carry my divorce and custody agreement with me whenever I cross the border)

“What’s your profession?”

“How do you pay the bills if you are a stay at home mom?” I answered “with difficulty”. He left it alone, smart man, because I was about to get ugly up in his face. They then started in again on the immigration questions. What? My answers were going to change?

Then I unwittingly caused some trouble for myself. I raised my left hand to smooth back my hair. My engagement ring caught the sun. They spent five minutes quizzing me on the provenance of the diamond on my finger. Do I have proof on me where it came from? Uh…no. Who carries that with them? If I was smuggling diamonds would I be so stupid as to wear it on my finger? They looked at my other rings too. Asked about those as well.  Asked what the pendant I wear means. I wear a gold letter “Hey” (fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet that starts off my name) that my great uncle made for me decades ago. No certificate of provenance for that either.

I was shaking. I knew I had nothing contraband on me, nothing I shouldn’t have, no drugs, tobacco or alcohol. No weapons. I was coming back into Canada, my home for the last fifteen and a half years, and they made me feel so very guilty. Of what, I have no clue. I was sweating and shaking. They had me standing by the side of the road for nearly 30 minutes while they quizzed me back and forth, both guards with hands resting on the butts of their weapons. They had a team go over the car. I know they were just doing their job, but come on, I so do not fit the profile of a terrorist or a drug smuggler. I am just a mom. That’s it that’s all.

Eventually they let me go. I had to sit in another line of cars for 30 minutes until I finally was able to cross the border. By the time I crossed I had calmed down. But now I am on a slow burn. Why did they pull me over? Did I fit a certain profile? Was it anti-Semitic? Why did they start to freak out when I said my husband lived in NY and I live in Montreal? Is this going to happen now every time I cross the border? Am I red flagged? Do I dare do the border crossing thing again? I am so sick of this back and forth, and of the border sagas. It’s time for those flippin’ visas to come already.

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Immigration Update

Now, now,  don’t get all excited. I have no date. I did however get a letter in the mail this morning from the US Consulate which I had hoped contained an interview date. It didn’t. However, it shows my application is at the right place. (She grits her teeth and repeats her mantra “silver lining, silver lining, silver lining”)

Now, in order to get an appointment I have more forms to fill in (oh joy), send back, and THEN they will send me an appointment date. According to the website that the awesome KoD found, the processing times from when they have received all this new information until Visas are issued is 42 days. Which means at least two months until we can move. (She grits her teeth and repeats her mantra “silver lining, silver lining, silver lining”)

Now, I wish they had told me what stuff I would need earlier so I could have gotten hold of it and had it all ready to send back straightaway. I ran around today getting a police certificate / criminal background check done. They asked for long birth certificates for the kids – did that round the corner from criminal check place. I had to use a service in the UK for a police certificate for when I lived there up until the age of 21. Hopefully all of this stuff will arrive within the next two weeks. They make you sign a checklist that you have all of these things. I will have to do more passport photos for the kids, I moved up the medicals to next week so they can not only bleed me dry financially but physically too, I have to prove that I have somewhere to live in the USA – not hard, I have to prove the kids have somewhere to go to school – I have acceptance letters,  KoD has to provide his financials, I have to provide marriage and divorce certificates, passports, birth certificates, proof I have custody of the kids and am able legally to move them. PLUS the five forms they ask to fill out online and print out the confirmations and send them in. Piece of cake.

I am exhausted and half broke…all these certificates cost money and the service for the UK was extortionate. What choice do I have? It’s an investment in our future. All donations welcome 😀 (She grits her teeth and repeats her mantra “silver lining, silver lining, silver lining”)

I am hoping to be able to send off the package as soon as possible. I just want to be with the KoD already.

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