Our trip north was thankfully uneventful. I drove the U-haul truck and towed my VW bus on a trailer behind. Faye drove her car, half expecting it to break down along the way. But it didn’t. We spent a couple nights on the road, and got to the Canadian border on May 29 early in the day.
The crossing was easy and anti-climactic. We entered Canada at a relatively small and quiet border post. After briefly parking on the US side and checking in with American officials to get exit approval for the two vehicles we were taking out of the country we got in a short line to enter Canada. We were instructed to park and go into the office for the paperwork.
When entering Canada one must account for everything brought into the country. Though I had made a detailed inventory of our belongings, according to which numbered box they were in, for the customs form I had summarized everything into just a few categories and listed the estimated values.
The young man charged with that phase of our entry seemed to be surprised at how little we had. (Obviously he had not helped us pack.) He kept asking “This is everything?” I began to feel like the Beverly Hillbillies, moving to Canada with our meager possessions. “We had some big garage sales!” I told him.
The part I was more worried about was my “landing,” my official entry into Canada as a permanent resident. Another official took over for that. He asked me a few questions to verify the information in my file (“Still married? Been arrested recently?” etc.) Then he took a look at my “71 VW bus on the trailer behind the U-Haul. “Anything in there left over from the 70s?” he asked. I was trying to be on my best behavior, so I simply said no, I didn’t think so. Faye said “Just him,” indicating me. After telling me I could probably get some good money for a rust-free VW of that vintage, he said “Welcome to Canada,” and that was that.
We didn’t know anyone in the community we were moving to. We picked it because the Okanagan Valley area of British Columbia has the best climate in Canada, and the town of Penticton seemed potentially interesting. Weeks ago Faye had contacted a financial advisor in town and had mentioned that we were going to be looking for a place to rent. We expected to stay in a motel or camp out until we could find something. But the advisor referred us to some other clients of his who had a three bedroom/three bath condo they had remodeled with the intention to sell. Faye talked to them and they agreed to rent to us for a month or two, sight unseen.
When we got to town they weren’t quite finished with the condo, so they invited us to stay in a spare room at their home for a couple nights. The second night they took us to a lakeside bar/restaurant and introduced us to a half dozen of their friends there. It was an idyllic spot, particularly as the sun was setting over the lake.
But the weird thing, as we looked around, was that most of the people there were close to our age. It was strange, but at the same time, comforting. As we learned, we are probably in the median demographic of the town. More than half the population is over 50, many of them wealthy retirees who have migrated to the area as we have because of the climate. They are in contrast to many of the younger locals who are working class (or non-working class in some cases). Someone said the town was known as the place for newlyweds and nearly deads. A nearby predominately elderly community is called “God’s Waiting Room.”
So, amongst the younger blue-collar locals we feel well off, and amongst the elderly retirees we feel young. It’s all good.
A couple days later, after we had moved into the condo we went with our landlords to a downtown coffee shop a couple we had met at the lakeside had just bought. We felt on the fast track to getting settled in our new community (and I was beginning to think that maybe Canadians were pretty nice after all.)
Since we got here we’ve been dealing with a number of other details of making the transition from where we were to where we are now—new cell phone, new postal box, new driver’s licenses, car inspections, registrations and insurance, the Canadian equivalent of a Social Security card for me so I can work and, of course, the health services card which will allow me to use the Canadian health care system. But all that should be pretty well taken care of by the end of this week. Then we can start getting more familiar with the area, looking for work and a more permanent place to live.