Things yesterday…didn’t go as planned.
The day started early with me taking my cousin to the airport at 5:45 a.m. Since I’d left L.A. I’d been feeling really ambivalent: homesick, sad, anxious, excited. A really big part of me just wanted to turn around and go back to what was safe, familiar and warm–but I knew it would be difficult not to feel extremely disappointed in myself if I did. Suddenly as I was packing up the room in Portland the exhilaration of the whole thing came back. I remembered that I was on an adventure of my own choosing and that I was going to get to spend the summer in a beautiful place and that I always know how to get back home.
I left Portland at about 11:30 and called my roommates to say that I thought I’d be there likely between 5-6, factoring in bathroom breaks and border crossing time. The first bump came in Washington State where miles and miles and miles and miles of the 5 are under construction. I texted the girls to say, “LOADS of traffic here; let’s make that 6-7.”
Eventually, traffic did break and I found myself approaching Blaine (the last city–well, town really–in Washington) where the border crossing signs said that the wait was only 5 minutes! SWEET!! When I came in August it was 30. Plus it was 6:10 so I was right on schedule. I got to the booth and started answering questions:
“I’ve rented a room in a house in Vancouver.”
“Through the end of July.”
“No, I don’t have a job here; my mother gave me money.”
The agent told me that because I am staying for so long that I would have to pull over and go inside to talk to customs & immigration. Oh, okay. No worries. “This should be pretty simple,” I think. I don’t even take water or my iPod with me because I can see that there is no line. I tell the male officer I deal with everything I told the woman outside which to my way of thinking is this:
All I know for certain is that I have this room until July 31st. As far as things with Fringe go, I had a phone call in which the head of television production told me that she’ll put me in touch with the on-site producer which is a very nice thing for her to say that she’ll do but
- I don’t know if she’ll follow through on that
- I don’t know that they’ll hire me
- I don’t know that if they were to hire me if the government of Canada would say that I am allowed to have that job as a foreigner
So, since this is in no way secure, I should just stick to the facts. (Not to mention the possibility that I could not like Vancouver as much as I think I do. I thought Miami was a good fit when I visited for college and ended up hating it there.) Don’t be conversational, just tell them what you know for sure.
I showed the officer my computer because they wanted to see proof of where I was staying, the only form of which I had were emails between the girls and I. He took it, along with my passport, cell phone, camera, car keys and even radio face plate and told me to have a seat, that it would be about 15 minutes or so while he looked me up to make sure that I’m not a criminal and went to search my car.
“Well can I go back and get my water?”
“Okay, well can I go to the bathroom?”
“Yes, when you get to the door I will buzz you in.”
After I pee and talk myself out of having a panic attack I sit in this very open room, like a lobby or the DMV or something and wait. And wait. I’m not sure how much time goes by because he has my phone (which has been ringing) and there are no clocks. It’s like a very unfun casino. When he comes back he tells me that they looked on my computer and saw an email I’d written (months ago) saying that I was coming for 1-3 years, my résumé and my list of Vancouver production companies which means I had, in effect, lied to an officer which is a criminal offense.
Whoa, whoa wait a minute. “That’s not the case anymore,” I said and “yes, there may be a job for me here but I didn’t bring it up because it’s nothing official and I am technically unemployed here. I don’t have that job so I didn’t think that I had to mention it.”
“Well because you didn’t and we found that email, that was very damaging to you and now I have to go talk to the superintendent.”
“Okay. And what could happen from this?”
“You could be banned from Canada for 1-10 years.”
“For not mentioning a job I don’t have!!??”
More waiting. On the bright side, he did let me go back to my car and get my iPod and water. The people around me and I traded battle stories. I was definitely scared trying to not be scared because I didn’t know what was going to happen. When he called it a “criminal offense” I didn’t know if that meant that I was going to get arrested or fined or what.
He came back later and said that they were going to allow me to leave Canada, which was the lowest form of refusal, i.e. I wasn’t getting banned or deported. I just had to sign a paper saying that I chose to not try and come in. He told me that I needed to wait at least a few days before trying again and that I need to bring with me: a rental agreement, a bank statement, proof of residency (at home) and proof employment (at home). As a long-term visitor, they need to feel secure that I have reason to go back to L.A. (Hello?Mexican food.) He also told me that I need to mention the possible job offer and how I should state it. He was definitely professional and doing his job but he was helpful and treated me like a human being. He returned all my stuff to me, except my passport which I had to drive around to get, their insurance that I didn’t make a break for it.
It was 8p by this point.
As I waited in line to go back to the United States, there was the most beautiful serene sunset over the Pacific Ocean and a brown and white rabbit hopping along a patch of grass but I was too upset to take a picture of it. Instead, I called one of my roommates, who told me that Immigration had called her, and my mom and work to tell them what was going on and what I needed.
The officers on the U.S. side were great. I had to go in again to turn in the paper that I’d signed and I limbo/scooted under a rope and one of the officers asked me, “how could Canada refuse a beautiful, charming, graceful young woman like yourself?”
I shrugged. “That’s what I’m saying!”
“Well it’s their loss.”
They put some stuff into the computer, gave me back my passport and I was off to Bellingham (because I missed the first exit for Blaine and the second one sketched me out) to get a room for the next few days, gather all the documents and hopefully try again on Monday or Tuesday.
“You’re in the system now,” the Canadian officer told me. “So they will definitely send you back in here. I can’t say if you’ll have me again but just be honest, get rid of anything damaging and remember that entering Canada is a privilege, not a right, and you need to treat it that way when you’re speaking with the officer(s).”
So that’s where things stand and that’s where I’m at.
Lesson learned to delete more and leave nothing out, even if you think it’s irrelevant.
That is, unless you like Bellingham.
I can’t wait to keep an eye on where your footsteps lead you…