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Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

I like to travel. I don’t go anywhere internationally, but I like to get away, mostly back home to visit my friends and family. And eat pizza and bagels. As an American in Canada, in order to travel, I need my US passport and a special document known as the Permanent Resident (PR) Card. Technically, I can leave Canada without this card; I just won’t get back in.

US Passport and Canadian Permanent Resident Card

My Travel Documents

Both of these came up for renewal recently. Warning to other permanent residents in Canada: while renewing my passport was a breeze, having to renew the PR card has proved nothing short of miserable.

The forms needed are no longer available at local Service Canada offices nor are you able to order them by calling the Service Canada Permanent Resident Card Call Centre. You are now directed to their recently re-developed website; their very confusing new website. Trying to navigate this website is like finding your way in the dark without a flashlight.

My mother, known in these pages as my Brooklyn Mama, also had her documents up for renewal. She’s a complete technophobe who hates using the internet. “I’m not doing it this way” she insisted. She decided to call the Service Canada number. They informed her that while she cannot pick up forms nor have them mailed to her, she can go to a Service Canada office where they will print off all the forms she needs. “Ha”, she said to me. “I told you someone would help me”.

She returned to proudly show me the forms while telling me the Service Canada rep had a terrible time finding which forms to print out. I then had to tell her she was one form short. You need an additional form which you only find out about after you print out the first. Why they don’t just include all the pages as one form, I have no idea.

After we went through the forms, we realized there isn’t a form that allows you to pay at a bank. Back to the website I went. You have to pay online I told Brooklyn Mama. She hates to pay anything online, doesn’t trust that stuff she always says. If you don’t wish to pay online, you can ‘order’ a form to bring to the bank. How do you order that form Mom wanted to know? On the website. However, it says you can call the call centre number if you have trouble ordering it. She proceeded to call the Call Centre, only to be told you can’t order a payment form over phone, despite what the website says. Mom agreed to let me help her pay online.

Now it was time to gather all the documents needed. You must also send a check list with the items checked off. Where do you get this list? That famous website of course. Note: The website must also be referred to for details of the required documents since the forms do not include instructions.

Required documents:
Both forms- As mentioned above, not easy to find, but-check
Receipt of payment- Also see above-check
Two recent photos- Had this taken care with photo with passport-check
Photocopy of main identity document-Just got my new passport-check
Proof of Residence-Still have tattered but original landing papers-check
Two Secondary identity documents-Drivers license, tax documents- check
Additional residency documents-???????

What do they mean by additional residency documents? I double checked the website. They would like photocopies of every page of every passport I have held in the last five years. I just got a new passport so that means I have had two, each having about 25 pages. I don’t travel internationally. None of these pages have stamps. They don’t even have anything indicating they are my passports. They wanted me to send copies of 50 blank pages?

OldPassport

Blank pages of my old passport.

My New Passport

Blank pages of my new passport.

I called that Service Canada number once again to ask if they really wanted me to send 50 pages even if they’re blank. Yes, they replied every page even if empty. I still can’t believe they mean that. On the website I was able to find an alternative number and decided to give that a try. “How did you get this number” the voice on the other end asked? From your website I answer. Well, she cannot help me but advised if I go to a Service Canada office they will be able to answer any questions I might have in filling out these forms.

I decided to make a trip down to one of these offices, with my Brooklyn Mama in tow. Finally an explanation we thought. We arrived at this office to be told by a smiling worker, that they no longer deal with Permanent Resident Cards at this or any other Service Canada office. They no longer know how to fill out these forms. He did attempt to provide an answer to my question about the 50 blank passport pages. Well, he said after some thought, “maybe they want to see that your passport didn’t need to be stamped”. He is very sorry he can’t be of much help. But he offered one more piece of advice “this might help” as he handed us a sheet of paper “it’s a link, to our website” he said.

Post Script: I sent in my forms without the copies of the blank pages, sending alternative identification. Will have to see what happens. Either I won’t be going anywhere or I won’t be back.

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FebWall

Someone recently asked me, “what’s the best thing about February, what most inspires you about this month?’ Strange question, I agree. Well, it got me thinking as I gazed out the window at the snow-covered streets. The best thing about February in Toronto?  The thing that keeps me going? It’s only 28 days! (At least ¾ of the time)

I’m not a big fan of winter. I’ve never embraced the great outdoors. I guess there are some things I should love about February. It’s bookended by two of my favorite television viewing events, The Super Bowl and the Academy Awards. But in general, unless you’re fascinated by weather prognosticating rodents or caught up in Valentine’s Day hoopla, February is just another drab winter month.

February Drive

A typical drive on a February day in Toronto.

Growing up in Canada, I always envied my American relatives at this time of year. I’m referring mostly to New Yorkers and certainly not the third of the US where winter is a season in name only. All my cousins had actual “snow days”.  Imagine waking up and learning you had no school that day. You had the whole day to just stay home and do whatever you pleased. In all my years of living in Toronto, and there were some really dark, cold, snowy ones, the schools were never closed. I never had a snow day. Plus, the third Monday of February is Presidents Day in the USA and the start of another week off school. Those kids just came back from Christmas holidays about six weeks ago and they get another week off school. Sure a few years ago they created something called “Family Day”,  but what’s one day compared to a whole week off. That’s something to make February inspiring. What do we tell the kids here in Toronto, many of whom trudged the storm last week because they didn’t have a ‘snow day’? “Wait to March kid, that’s when you’ll get a break”

March, now there’s a month to get excited about; March Break ,March Madness, Daylight Savings Time, St. Patrick’s Day, the first day of spring, the return of all those who wintered in Florida. I guess that’s what inspires me about February. It’s that short month that serves as a bridge between the darkness of winter and light of spring.  Hey, it’s the 15; February is more than half way over. The Valentine’s candy will be marked down. Things are looking up already.

How do you feel about February? Take the poll below and leave me a comment if you feel inspired.

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Round Vote Button

I’ve gone and done it again. I’ve just requested my ballot to vote in this year’s US Presidential Election. What’s that you said? (No, I’m not talking to imaginary presidents, I’m just being dramatic) “How can you vote, you live in Canada?” Well, as it happens to be, the United States is one of the few countries in the world that allows it’s citizens to vote by absentee ballot in Federal and State elections, even if they no longer live in the United States.

Are you an American student studying here in Canada?
You can vote!

Are you here temporarily for business or family reasons?
You can vote!

Are you living in Canada for many years, with no real plans to return stateside for the foreseeable future?
You can vote!

Have you never lived in the United States, but are American by birth?
Yes, even you can vote!

Here’s the scoop – your voting state is determined by the last state you (or your parents) resided in before coming to Canada (or any other foreign land for that matter). That’s why I’m a proud Pennsylvania voter.

 

Lady Voting in USA election

Registering to vote as an Absentee or Overseas voter is easy. Just go to www.FVAP.gov, the Federal Voting Assistance Program, fill out a simple form, print it out, mail it, and you will receive an official ballot for the election.

This blog is non-partisan, so I really don’t care who you vote for, just request a ballot and vote. It’s your civic duty. Besides, it’s fun and will make you feel closer to your roots. Imagine if your voting state is one considered to be a swing state, such as Florida or Ohio Imagine watching the results role in November 6th and they come to your state. What if it’s too close to call and they won’t be able to determine the outcome until they count all the absentee ballots? Think of the power you hold. What if you don’t care for either of the candidates this year? You can always do the “cancel-out” vote. I’ve done it before. You find another same state voter and you each vote for one of the candidates, thereby cancelling out each other’s vote. You’ve still voted but haven’t  given either candidate the edge.

Democrat and Republican Scale

 

So request your ballot and vote in this year’s election. Help determine if it’s going to be four more years of President Obama or if Mitt Romney get’s a chance. Why should only those Americans living in the USA have to take all the blame for the next four years?

 

 

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Olympic Rings

I’ve got the fever. I’ve spent the last week and a half trying to keep up with all this Olympic action. I really do enjoy watching highly skilled athletes competing in all these different sports, many of which I have never heard of before and won’t watch again for another 4 years.

This all leads to the question: Who I am supposed to root for? I’m an American living in Canada so where should my loyalty lie? I have to admit; I may live in the land of red and white, but my heart bleeds red, white, and blue.

I can’t help it. When I see the stars and stripes and hear the star-spangled banner I get all misty eyed. Whether it’s our recent Women’s gymnastics team gold medal or Michael Phelps record-breaking medal haul, I get a sense of pride. I can’t help cheering. Whether diving or track and field, I love seeing the USA come out on top. I think that’s what the Olympics bring out in all of us. It’s not so much the actual sports were glued to, but the athletes themselves. We follow the highs of their triumphs and the lows of their disappointments. It’s that feeling of Patriotism and believing in your athletes.

There is however, one arena in which the Canadians win hands down; their television coverage, this year on the CTV network. Imagine sitting down and seeing events, live as they happen and not, the pre-packaged NBC coverage. Every Olympics, it’s the same deal with NBC. They refuse to show events live in order to “save” them for their nightly prime time package. In this world of social media and 24hr access, I’m not sure what exactly they’re saving. I can somewhat buy it during the week, but on weekends? When Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte were having their first dual in the pool, it was live on CTV. What was NBC showing? Preliminary beach volleyball. The Mens 100m, considered the marquee event of the Olympics, with Usain Bolt trying to repeat as “the world’s fastest man” took place at 4:50PM E.S.T on a Sunday Afternoon. CTV carried it live while NBC was showing Water Polo.

For me in the Olympics its USA all the way! But I think I’ll watch it on Canadian TV.

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I’ve always tried to keep this space unbiased and non-partisan. I intended it to be a fun spot free from controversy. However, I am about to enter murky waters. I am about to discuss something that could be considered so provocative it could enrage the entire nation of Canada. More controversial than discussing socialized medicine. More controversial than cheering on Team USA over Team Canada in world hockey tournaments. I have to just come out and say it. I do not like Tim Hortons coffee.

For the uninitiated Tim Hortons is the major coffee and donut establishment in Canada, founded by the Canadian hockey legend. Much larger a presence than Dunkin Donuts stateside, it may even rival McDonald’s in popularity in this part of the world. It is said you know you’re in Canada when you see that familiar sign. Many Canadians say they feel homesick when away from their “timmies”, a common nickname.

Tim Hortons sign

I’m not trying to start a riot or make some political stand. I just get a stomach ache every time I drink the stuff. I don’t enjoy drinking something that makes me feel ill. I have no problem with their baked goods. I have had their donuts and ‘timbits’ (their version of donut holes) many times. While not superior to any other chains, they are pretty good. Tim Hortons is also a very charitable company whose annual Camp Day promotion sends thousands of children to summer camp.

How Tim Hortons coffee became the unofficial national drink of Canada, I have no idea. Just what is it about that coffee that made it develop such a following? Is it the taste or is it more the reputation?

I’d like to know why this coffee is so popular. Surely, there are others out there who share my dislike for it. Are you a Tim Hortons lover or hater? Leave me a comment and let me know.

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HotdogThere were fireworks, picnics and people getting away for the long weekend. This past weekend was Victoria Day here in Canada, a public holiday observed on the last Monday before May 25, honoring the birth of Queen Victoria. It is also known as 2-4 day honoring a case of beer. Victoria Day marks the unofficial kickoff of summer. I normally wait to have my first BBQ of the year the following weekend, on Memorial Day, with my fellow Americans. But beautiful summer-like weather prompted me to start my outdoor cooking season, which also coincides with my annual ‘whining because I can’t find a decent hotdog here in Canada’ season.

Many of you know I like to complain about the troubles I have obtaining certain foods here in Toronto. You can add good tasting all-beef hotdogs to that list. This was not always a problem. I used to be able to easily purchase Hebrew National® All Beef Franks (www.hebrewnational.com) in select stores here. This is a delicious piece of meat, plump, juicy with no added fillers-and they’re kosher too. As their slogan used to say they answer to a higher authority. But sadly the stores here have stopped carrying them and I just haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement. The hotdogs found here just don’t have the right spices or flavoring. I’ve tried other all-beef hotdogs. I’ve tried kosher hotdogs from Montreal, and ball park style frankfurters. Some of them taste fairly good but still nothing that really hits a home run with me. I’ve turned to turkey franks. They’re not bad and probably a little healthier too. While I enjoy them, they still can’t replace the taste of an all-beef hotdog straight off the grill.

hotdogs on a grill

I continue to buy hotdogs and turkey franks here in Canada because I enjoy barbecuing. We get so little summer time here; you really do need to experience all you can. Nothing beats the smell of cooking meat outdoors on a charcoal grill, so I make do with what I can get.

Now about the mustard they sell here…

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It’s been just about a year since I’ve been writing this blog. My first entry dealt with Super Bowl commercials; or more precisely, that most people in Canada don’t actually see those ads during the big game because of Canadian regulations. (To read that post, click here )But as many of you might remember, I’m an Over The Air TV viewer and as a result  get my signals direct from the good old USA untouched by any Canadian simulcasting. So, Super Bowl commercials are one of my annual traditions.

First off, I have to say I’m not into this releasing of the commercials online beforehand. Call me old-fashioned, but I look forward to the surprise element, watching the commercials unfold during breaks in the football game. It’s like waiting until Christmas morning to unwrap all your presents. Actually I’m Jewish so I don’t really know how the whole Christmas thing works, but you get my point.

Here’s a breakdown of this years batch of Super Bowl commercials:

The Celebrity Sighting

From Elton John to Clint Eastwood, celebrities were everywhere this year. Also among the rich and famous appearing this year: Matthew Broderick, Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Donald Trump, Regis Philbin, a scantily clad David Beckham, and the ubiquitous Betty White.

More Talking Babies and Funny Monkeys

I believe it was W.C. Fields who once said never work with children and animals. Once again this year ads featured plenty of both. Besides the annual appearance by the E-trade talking baby we also had babies used as projectiles and a boy relieving himself in the family pool. On the animal side besides monkeys and the famous Coca-Cola bears we saw a dog that could fetch beer, a dog on a fitness regime, and a dog with possible murder implications.

A Trip Back in Time

Many of this year’s commercials had us feeling nostalgic. We saw Matthew Broderick re-creating his Ferris Bueller character and Jerry Seinfeld reuniting with the Soup Nazi. We also saw Hyundai employee humming the theme from Rocky, another Star Wars reference, and a cameo from the now bankrupt Twinkie.

Time once again to take a poll. Which was your favourite of this year’s Super Bowl commercials? I can’t list them all, but here were some of the most talked about.

I also would like to hear your opinion on releasing these ads online before the Super Bowl.

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