Hiya!!!! The eagles have landed, lol!
Longest time! It has been more than a minute, it’s been over a month since my last post. Of course, I have sooooo much to share with you guys, so expect a barrage of posts over the next couple of days.
WHAT HAVE I BEEN UP TO?
First of all, my family and I landed in Ottawa on August 31, 2017 via Montreal. Our Air Maroc flight was a very long one and I will blog about our experience with the airline in my next post. This post will be dedicated to our landing experience as well as life during our first couple of days in Canada.
LANDING IN MONTREAL…..OUR EXPERIENCE
Our landing experience was quite uneventful tbh, and it was quite short. We were directed to a separate room for new immigrants, and I believe students. We took a number from the kiosk and waited to be called. All this time, my mind was on the food that I had packed. Were they okay? Had they spilled, broken or burst open? I couldn’t wait to get to my garri and Asa fish and make sure they were fine. lol.
A nice gentleman called our number and we went to the assigned counter. We provided all the necessary documents and then, the immigration officer asked if we had food. We answered, “Yes.” He then asked us how much we had on us. My husband explained that other than a few thousand Naira which he had on him, we had no other cash.
However, we mentioned that we had some FX in our US accounts, UK accounts and Nigerian Domiciliary accounts. He asked us to tot this up, which we did. Mr. O started to show him one of the balances to prove this, but the officer was not interested at all. I believe he wanted to make sure that we had the required minimum amount of money available to us, which we did. And that must have satisfied him.
GUESS WHO IS OFFICIALLY A PERMANENT RESIDENT?
He asked us to sit down while he continued to work on our file. Then he called us back, congratulated us on becoming Permanent Residents (it is worth noting that at this point, your truly made an *eeeek* sound in response to his congratulations, lol), then asked us some further security questions.
Most noteworthy about our experience with Canadian Immigration was their attitude. In the waiting room, the officers were cracking jokes and smiling. They were relaxed and very friendly. In the middle of our “interview”, our son starting repeating, “mama, I want to pee!” He must have said this about 4 times, so I got nervous.
Since the last thing I wanted was to deal with the mess of wet clothes in the airport, I interrupted the IO’s next question and asked if I could leave to take my son to the toilet. He said I only had 1 more questions which I had to answer and it would be quick. Mr. O would then handle the rest of the process.
Once were done there, it was time to go to baggage claim and get our food……sorry, our suitcases and our food. Lol! Once we located all 6 bags, car seat and stroller, it was time to sit back, relax and wait for our connecting flight.
Athough Montreal is a beautiful city, I was quite relieved to just be passing through. I was hearing so much French being spoken, that I felt quite suffocated and scared. Even the English that was spoken to me, was spoken with what seemed like very strong French accents. So, in my mind, I was hoping that Ottawa would be different.
Don’t mind me. One of the reasons I was looking forward to emigrating to Canada was to learn French. Well, till that time. I was not very comfortable hearing a foreign language around me while I was still stuck at Secondary School level French knowledge. Lol.
Okay, let me start by telling you what I packed:
- Bitter leaf (dried)
- Uziza leaf (dried)
- Scent leaf (dried)
- Utazi leaf (dried)
- Dried Iru
- Asa fish
- Stock fish
- Crayfish (uncountable)
- Ijebu Garri
- Yellow Gari
- Ogi (fresh)
- Ogi powder
- Fufu powder
- Ola Ola yam powder
- Random make of yam flower
- Cocoyam powder
- Ehu/ehuru (ground)
- Pepper soup spice (ground)
- Black (Cameroun) pepper (ground)
- Red pepper (ground)
- Suya pepper
- Maggi crayfish
- Maggi star
- Puff puff mix – Guys, this thing is too real! Lol!
- There may be a few things which I cannot remember at the moment. I will update the list if I do remember.
THINGS I WISH I HAD CARRIED
- Noodles – I bought this, but left it behind. I didn’t want to “chance my luck” :op
- Beans – Mr. O is not big on beans, so I prioritised the food stuffs he likes over mine. I guess I need to diet anyway, lol
- Palm oil – Given my experience, I should have given it a try. The worst thing would have been that they seized it, right?
- Beef, shaki, kidney, etc – I know they sell these here, but I haven’t discovered where yet. Till then, I am going to wish that these items were not banned, as I would have carried them
However, I love love the fresh tomatoes, peppers, garlic, huge ginger. I will definitely not miss the ones we used to buy in Nigeria!
TRAVELLING WITH MY STASH
In Nigeria, we were asked to go to the Nigerian Agricultural something something desk at the airport to obtain a certificate for the food we were carrying. We obliged, presented the food for inspection and were asked to pay N2,000 per suitcase containing food. Upon discussion with the person in charge, we were asked to pay a total of N2,000 given that the total amount of food we were carrying was no more than 23kg, even though the food was distributed in 3 of our bags.
My spirit rolled its eyes at the certificate. “Like this would hold any water in the eyes of the Canadian Border Patrol!”, my spirit huffed from within me. I had binge-watched (on the advise of my dearest KA) Border Patrol episodes for the last 2 weeks before we traveled. I watched with horror as dogs sniffed out bags from the carousel containing food. “Ahan!”, I thought. “Please I don’t want any dog touching my food oh!” Lol!
From a friend in Alberta, DF, and my good friends at Nairaland, I also learned to make a list of all the food stuff that I was carrying. In addition, from my Border Patrol watching, I decided to include in my list all the items that we were carrying. Consequently, I made a list. The front side had food, while the back side had other things. I am an over-sabi, aproko, I know. I was not going to take any chances at all, not when I was this close!
OVERSABI PAYS AFTER ALL
We filled our landing card well, and made sure to tick the section asking if we were carrying food. At the first immigration point, we were asked if we were carrying food. We said answered in the affirmative, and I gave them the list. During our landing interview, we were asked again if we had food and we answered the same way again.
Now, I am not sure if our bags were searched prior to our collecting them from the carousel, but we never went through any secondary inspection or what not. We were not stopped to search our bags and/or test our food stuff. Perhaps this is the norm, and our bags were searched and cleared ahead of our arrival. However, I feel that it may be due to my aproko in creating the list.
I had gone prepared to answer questions about the smelly stock fish *aha! goes back to include stock fish in the list*, the stinky ogiri and iru and all the hard drug-looking powdered foods we had carried. I was not looking forward to it though. When we got to our suitcases, one of them (the one with the stinky stuff) was smelling so bad that I wanted to disown it! You know I would never, though, lol! I was so overjoyed that I didn’t have to stand through the embarrassment of having the officers bunch up their noses as they rummaged through our belongings.
LIFE SINCE WE LANDED
We finally arrived in Ottawa, and then our apartment at about 11am. It had been a looooong flight, and Mr. O and I silently promised ourselves that we would NEVER, EVER put ourselves through that again. My son had been a trooper, and I was proud of him.
However, we were hungry. Very hungry! We needed something spicy. We looked through our suitcases which were full with food, and there was no quick meal. Nothing we could make without going to the store to buy some groceries. In that moment, I wished that I had followed through with my plan to bring a few bowls of ready made soup.
We rushed out to the grocery store (we took an Uber) and bought some groceries. Our bill was CAD200!!!! OMG!!! Jesus take the wheel! In Nigeria, I had complained of spending N30,000 in the supermarket, but N60,000??? And we did not even have a trolley full of food. Ah well, “welcome to Canada”, we told ourselves. We would have to quickly get used to spending CAD1,000 per month on groceries. We also would need to stop converting our expenses to Naira. Hehehe!
Thanks to our quick grocery run, I was able to whip up some jollof rice and stew. We ate, then slept.
WRAPPING IT ALL UP
It is 2 weeks today since we landed in Canada. While we are not fully settled in, we move steps closer every day. We have started to understand our neighborhood and environment. It has also not been easy, which we never expected it to be. My son often says he wants to go back home. He asks when we are going home, every time we enter a car.
My heart breaks because I know he misses Lagos, his aunties, uncles, cousins, Grand Ma and Grand Pa, his toys (we brought over quite a bit of these, but couldn’t carry them all), his room, his house, his bicycle, to name a few things. We try to explain to him that this is our new home. I know he doesn’t fully get it, but he is slowly coming around. He calls this place “the other house”. That will have to do for now. Soon, he will come to know it as “our new home”. Baby steps…..
Furthermore, I am a creature of habit. I do not like change much, as I have said before. But so far, so good. We love it here, love that we are away from the hustle and bustle of Lagos, and best of all, our family unit is just that, a unit! Together, in one place. We are starting to form a routine, which will help us settle in better.
Finally, I missed writing and sharing our experiences on here. I hope to be able to do this more often.
Till my next post………..
Lots of Love from Canada,