Thursday, 28 March 2013

Who let the blog out?

This is winter?
How is it possible that one-month has come and gone since we landed with a thud in Canada? How is it possible that 30 days have flown by so quickly and I haven't pressed a key, except to hook up utilities, bid on auctions and comb the web for the best places to buy pomegranates and track migrating orcas?  Not one single key stroked on our travels, explaining where we alighted on our latest adventure. I guess life got in the way. 

When you disembark in a new country, and yes, even though I am a Canadian, it feels like unfamiliar territory, there is an adjustment period and that is what I am doing. Adjusting my pompousness that I am not stuck in six feet of snow in Saskatchewan or sweltering through another soggy rain in SE Asia, while pancake-size armpit stains form on my dress. I am slowly becoming knowledgeable in what up island means, how the HST soaks you every time at the till, and how to recycle everything. I am learning a house doesn't have to be heated with forced air or cooled with constant air conditioning; there are places where you can survive with a perfect climate, surrounded by Cherry Blossoms and Daffodils. 
Not Japan, but as lovely

Most importantly, I am learning you don't drive your car on the left hand side of the road unless you are on a one-way street. You can get away with walking on the opposite side because the vagrants wander with no real purpose, but time to reign in the crazy when you drive on the wrong side of the mountains. 

Now that we are settled, my children are coming to visit when school is out for the term, and we already have a two week trip planned to Montreal; no, I am not foregoing my Spanish for French, but all Canadians speak French don't they? That was the question I was asked at least once a day in Asia when Canada was mentioned.

I promised my readers our travelling play-by-plays would not stop, so I will try to keep the Quebecois from cursing my Grade 12 French and ridiculing my Anglophone accent under their breath as I search for other madcap events to amuse in La Ville Aux Cent Clochers.

While our adventures are not ending, the laynainasia blog is winding down at 25,000 viewers. I am glad to report that I have started a book, which will give more in-depth adventures of Asia in an e-book format. I hope you all have a reader on your Christmas Wish list. With all of the advances in the e-book tablets; the abilities for colour photos, video clips and links, it is exactly how this techno-lover wants to showcase the beautiful sites we experienced. 

My book, while still garnering a few laughs, will tell the darker side of life in Singapore and beyond. These are stories I was scared to share because of possible repercussions while living in Asia. Nothing will get you a one-way ticket home like spilling the ugly hidden secrets they so carefully try to mask. With this, I mean the horrific lives many young children are forced to live when sold or taken from their families, the slaughter of the elephants, tigers, orang utans and other endangered beasts, and how maids are treated like modern day slaves. These are only my opinions and observations from what I saw and researched, but I imagine you will be as shocked as this Hicktown Girl was, to the travesties I witnessed. 
A little Asia in Canada

So back to the here and now; I promised to reveal where we are putting down roots, for as long as R2 and I can manage roots. Tomorrow, we are making a little jaunt down to the wharf, where we will board a Harbour plane. You know the Harbour plane? It is the one they used on the Beachcombers in the 70s. The type of aircraft that lands on the water and pretends it is a boat. R2 thinks this is going to be fun; I think he is wrong and he will come to learn this as I am throwing up my dinner from the previous night. He wants to take in a concert, so what better way than to arrive in style on a Seaplane, majestically landing on the Pacific. I bet even Bob Seger isn't arriving in such class. I hope they have life jackets.

While the concert is a nice perk, it is only a diversion to the real reason we are soaring off in a floating air taxi. A mere two weeks after landing, we were informed that R2 is being granted his Canadian Residency after almost five years in Canada and he doesn't want to miss our 10:30 a.m. appointment. There is nothing stopping him from getting that little card he needs to carry with him when he travels; a card that shows he has almost the same rights as any Canadian. He can travel freely, he can access health care, he can have a pension and best of all, he can pay an exorbitant amount of Canadian tax to really make him feel special; like he is one of us. Nevertheless, it is a proud, exciting day; one that is long overdue. Next stop, citizenship.
Bring the sick bags

For a change of travel, we will return to our cozy flat that over looks the majestic mountains, on the Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay ferry. Yes, we will travel from Vancouver, to Vancouver Island where we have quietly relocated in Victoria, British Columbia.  

To quote a tall, Mexican man, near and dear to my heart, "This place is like Moose Jaw but with quality restaurants like Montreal, great transportation like Toronto, less crazy than Vancouver and weather close to perfection. Victoria, oh, Victoria, where were you all these years in my search to find paradise on earth?"

It doesn't get better than this
I hope you have enjoyed the drama and will hang about for the book. Now that I have put it out to the universe, it will happen. As long as you are reading, I am writing.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Birthday time zones

Curious emu in OZ
Last year on my birthday I was on hiding from the vibrant sun under a tiny umbrella on Manly Beach, in Australia, wishing I knew how to surf because the people that flock to the white sand beaches looked like they were loving the last week of summer in the surf. Summer was slow to come to Australia but we hit the sweet spot on our two week trip, enjoying dazzling autumn weather.

The most famous site in Sydney
This year is slightly different. It is my birthday and we are up at 5 a.m. sitting in the lounge waiting for a flight out of Singapore. Our passports are stamped, our employment passes have been surrendered at the border, we have withdrawn as much cash as our pockets will carry and it is sayonara, Singapore. We arrived during Year of the Rabbit and now that Year of the Snake has slithered into Asia, we are onto the next chapter in our lives.

Saying goodbye to wonderful friends
It occurred to me that I have written over 50 chapters on Asia and abroad. I started this blog as a way to keep me sane, in an insane place. When I came to Asia, I thought I would be lonesome and never meet any friends but that thought couldn’t have been further from the truth. I have kept so busy that often I don’t have time to write, the way I would like. I met interesting, friendly people from every corner of this small world, and no matter how far away they lived from Canada, we all had something in common, being so far from home.

R2 learning to make takoyaki
Some of my closest friends don’t speak much English but we still manage to laugh and figure out what the other is trying to say. When I said goodbye to my wonderful friend from Japan, she was so overwhelmed, everything she said as she cried was in Japanese; she forgot any English she ever knew. It didn’t matter what she said, I understood.

The blog has taken on a life of its own and the first question is whether it will continue when I leave Asia. I wish I could answer that, and I wish I knew the title or whether LaynainAsia will remain. I have reached 20,000 readers in one year, was nominated Blogger of the Year in Singapore, and it shows no signs of stopping, but my Asian life has. 

I loved my elephants
I started this blog as a way to keep my children and friends updated on our adventures, and I started writing for the newspaper so my parents knew I was not stranded on some island in the middle of the South China sea. However, knowing my love for technology, even if I was, I would find a way to connect. I can picture R2 up a coconut tree trying to find a signal for my phone so I could keep in touch. “Layna, do you have signal, how many bars are there, maybe if I move my hand to the right? How about now?”

Since I began telling my Singapore friends we are leaving, it has been difficult saying farewell. I don’t do “goodbyes” well, and I avoid them at all costs because I am trying to save the environment from all the soggy tissues I produce. 

Our biggest challenge is our return to Canada. Arturo, yes, that is his real name because most English speakers can’t roll the second R and find R2 an easier way to address my husband, is not a Canadian citizen. Many people think if you are married, it is an automatic freebie into the country. Not so. We have struggled for more than four years to have the federal government grant him a Canadian residency. We have written, phoned, begged, pleaded, spoken to our political leaders and still that tiny piece of paper that grants him Residency is out of our reach. 

I will miss the animals
It is a mystery why they are making us jump through every hoop, cross, all Tees and dot every I when we see thousands of people immigrating to Canada that can barely murmur “hello”. He is a well educated man that speaks four languages and has lived all around the world, with a professional respect that many will never achieve. He pays his Canadian taxes, rarely uses any medical care and is not a burden to the country. He loves Canada almost as much as he love me, and it was his decision to give it one last shot before we are too old and will be denied Citizenship forever. If that is the case, Viva la Mexico.

It is my turn to support and work, while he follows his passion for cooking. Twenty odd years, running from airport to airport, living in suitcase and hotels is more than most people could take. Many think it is glamourous, but once I lived this “envied” life with him, it is far from that. Yes, you see many countries, but before he met me, each looked the same from a hotel room window. I made him leave the comfort of the hotel and see the landscapes with my innocent eyes. Even though he would return, often exhausted, he never denied me when I had something to show him in every location we travelled. 

We will persevere with an Immigration lawyer from Vancouver, to help our cause because nothing, to date, has helped. The amount of money he has spent on immigration could front a small country for a few years. We feel we are close, but we need to not be traveling to secure the papers. It is a sad state of affairs that everyone in Mexico is deemed part of a drug cartel and the hard working people that want a better life don’t get a chance. The divorce rate of international couples is staggering because often one person isn’t allowed into the country and it is too difficult to live apart. We have chosen not to let anyone deny us our right to be, us, so if Canada is not the place, then other countries will welcome his skills and professionalism gladly.

Amazing Asia
I want to thank all of my readers from my blog and the paper that have followed, left comments, laughed and cried at my stories. The people that phoned my family and said, “That is your daughter, sister or friend? We love her writing,” bless you. That means more than you know, to know you enjoy reading about our crazy life. While I have worked for the Government of Saskatchewan for 16 years, I feel this is my true calling, and I have a spouse and family that backs me 100 per cent.

I am not certain LaynainRegina, or LaynaBackatWorkintheSnow will be amusing and entertaining, but I promise you, we will scale the CN Tower in Toronto, or hike the Three Sisters in Alberta to keep you amused as you log on, whilst drinking your morning coffee or your evening Gin and Tonic by the pool in Singapore.

We are in the Hong Kong airport, waiting for our next flight to Canada; we have two more to go. While it seems like such a long way home, I know I get two birthdays once we cross one of the many time zones. My children have already wished me happy birthday in Asia, and tomorrow, I get to hear their voices. R2 hasn’t stepped foot in Canada since 2011, so having him back here with me is the best present I could ask for.

Please don’t forget us, and follow us on Until we meet again, or as they say in my kampong in Singapore “Sehingga kita bertemu lagi.” Let’s leave it at that to save the trees from my tears.