• Georgette Damian

Growing pains

I honestly can't remember how I managed to fully let go and completely relax the rest of the summer, without having a clear path to follow. My method was just to live day by day, and to let the challenges/experiences/circumstances that came up at the moment be my road map.

By mid-July, the restaurant had reopened and I came back to serve tables. I was happy to be making an income again; just enough to pay for my rent and living expenses. I had mastered the art of living a very simple life, and I realized that I didn't need that much to be happy: it was my inner state every day which was truly bringing me joy. I got to decide the shifts I would work at the restaurant (all around my yoga schedule, of course), and to plan my week accordingly. I had time to work, to rest, to party, and to enjoy the beautiful Montreal summer.

The only hiccup that I faced that summer was the fact that my work permit wouldn't be arriving on time for me to keep working at my summer job (my temporary work permit was expiring August 20th), and here I was, one week before the expiration date waiting impatiently for it. I needed to work, so I had to resort to a method called "flag-poling", which I had no idea existed: it basically consisted of crossing over to the American border at one point of entry facing the Canadian border, telling the U.S. immigration agents that I didn't actually want to enter the U.S., but rather to come back to the Canadian border to ask for a work permit, and then to show my conferral of degree and my transcripts to a Canadian agent as proof that I had rightfully earned my right to work in Canada.

This story is quite funny, actually. I bought a round Greyhound bus ticket to Vermont. I left Montreal around 7 a.m., and patiently waited for the bus to make all the scheduled stops before it finally reached the border. By the time I got there, it was almost 10 a.m. and I was starting to get hungry. I had only packed one sandwich, which of course I ate before we even got to the U.S. border, so I didn't have anything left except for a water bottle, since I assumed the process would be quick... boy, was I naive!

As soon as we got off the bus and the immigration agents asked me what was the purpose of my trip to the U.S., I patiently explained that I had no intention to visit the country, but to go back to Canada to request my work permit. The agent who was examining my passport had such a confused look on his face that he didn't know how to proceed. He kept asking me when was the last time I had been in the U.S., which of course I couldn't remember since I had taken several connection flights through the U.S. in the past couple of years while flying back home to Mexico. How was I supposed to remember every single one of them??? He couldn't understand what I was trying to do, so he left me there for a good half hour while he consulted with his supervisors. When he finally came back, he asked me to gather all my documents and to go back to the Canadian border. Assuming there would be a special walking lane, I asked him where it was. He looked at me confused and he pointed to the highway... wait, WHAT??? Was I supposed to walk back there for a good mile with cars driving past me? Apparently, yes.

I felt like an illegal immigrant crossing the border while trying not to be run over by the cars that were passing me by. I started joking with myself, thinking: "Imagine how far you've come to end up being hit by a car while trying to cross over to Canada by foot in a desperate attempt to keep your documents in check..." As I approached the Canadian border, two agents hurried to meet me (I swear to God I thought they would handcuff me! hahaha), and asked me what I was doing. I patiently explained to them what I had already told the U.S. immigration officer. They understood right away, and one of them even said: "You can do that online; why didn't you apply online?" DUDE!!! Trust me, I did, back in May, but your processing times are so slow that here I am, trying not to get hit by a car while I get it myself! Of course I didn't say that out loud, but by the look on my face he stopped asking questions and just pointed to the place I needed to go.

I was starving at this point, so I was hopeful that I would find a convenience store or a small food court where all the agents would eat... so cute, Georgette! You'll have to settle for a vending machine full of the unhealthy stuff you hate to eat for today! My only hope at that moment was that the paperwork wouldn't take too long so that I could take the earliest bus back to Montreal, since I had thought the paperwork would take a long time and I had bought a ticket for 6:30 pm.

The paperwork was quite quick, actually, and I was very pleased to see how emphatic and nice the Canadian officer who handled my case was. He explained to me how to ask for the refund of money I had paid for the online request I had done back in May, and he asked if I had any questions. I asked him if he knew whether I could hop on any bus going back to Montreal, even if I held a ticket for a different time. He told me to try, that usually if there were empty seats on a bus the driver would take me.

So I waited... and waited... and waited. All the buses coming back were full, so in the end I was left with no choice but to go back in the bus I had bought the ticket for. By this time, I was seeing double, and my blood sugar was starting to drop. I swear I was ready to rip someone's head off, so when I got in the bus and saw that there was no more room left, I lost it and I told the driver that there was no way he was leaving me behind since I was holding a ticket for that ride back to Montreal. He told me to wait and he went down to check with the officers whether a woman that was being held at the border would be able to go back to the bus, since she was being questioned by the immigration agents. Apparently she would have to stay back, so she missed her seat in the bus. Whew! I couldn't believe my luck! Or was it? Could it be that I was being looked after by some greater power?

I chose to believe so, since by the time I was arriving in Montreal, I got an unexpected call from one of my university professors, whom I consider to be my adoptive mom in Canada, asking if I would care to join her for dinner... music to my ears! I told her I'd be delighted to, and I briefly told her about my adventure at the border. By the time I got to her place it was almost 9 p.m., I was exhausted, and I hadn't eaten anything for a good 12 hours. She had cooked Indian food for me, and I was so grateful for finally having my work permit and for having someone to look after me after a long, stressful day.

That day, I realized how important it is to be grateful for the things that we sometimes take for granted, such as the right to work in the country we live in, and to have someone to look after us, who has the thoughtful gesture of giving us a home-cooked meal. Being away from my family for almost 2 years now certainly made me re-think the way I used to view things and how spoiled I would actually act sometimes when I was living back home in Mexico and how many things I often took for granted.

If I had a key insight that summer, it was that the growing pains I was experiencing were certainly turning me into a better version of myself.

#determination #gratefulness #divineguidance #growingpains #spiritualawakening


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