Monday, October 26, 2009

(2004) The most frightening step of my life

October 2004

Dear Aunt Agatha,

Well, we're here! The start of a new life! It's still hard to believe that we finally did it. How many people talk about emigrating, but how many actually get around to doing it? I guess the adrenalin will kick in later but right now there's too much to do to be frightened.

We said goodbye to close friends and family at Guernsey airport on Saturday (that was my first sight of the new terminal building that everyone's been banging on about), stopped overnight at Gatwick, then on to Vancouver.

Zoom Airlines was great. The few hundred quid for premium upgrades paid for itself straight off when we skipped past the huge check in queue with our mountain of luggage. Once on board, we were well looked-after, I tanked up on Canadian beer, and the kids even got a few hours sleep.

We touched down in Edmonton and the kids got their first sight of snow on the ground. Then it was Vancouver, and the immigration process. A short wait at passport control, then a longer stop at the baggage reclaim. A very long stop in fact, while we counted the number of bags in the mountain and went in search of a missing buggy.

Then it was the turn of immigration. All the time we were waiting, I had recurring nightmares of being refused entry. What would happen? We'd sold up everything back home and had nothing left to go back to. Irrational, I know, but with so much at stake even the merest whisper of a possibility had me quivering. What if we'd overlooked some little technicality? It was simply too awful a prospect to think about.

But in the end it was a huge anticlimax. A few questions, all smiles and welcoming friendliness, and then we were officially Permanent Residents! Then on to customs, where they were more interested in the contents of the container that was still sitting in England than with what we were actually carrying.

The first serious challenge came when we picked up our hire car. We'd gone for a Jeep Liberty, thinking it would have plenty of room for us and our baggage. Hah! It took half an hour of cunning packing using every last cubic inch of space before we managed to stow everything. I think the kids would have been OK in an accident. They couldn't move an inch! But we made it in the end.

I must say, the kids were very patient throughout. Three and five years old, after a long flight, all that waiting around at the airport (I think it was about three hours including the paperwork at the rental company) and we had nothing more than a little grumbling. I think the novelty and adventure was keeping them going. Fortunately we'd booked into a hotel in Vancouver rather than planning to cross over to Victoria straight away. The kids hit the sack at 5pm, and we weren't much later.

So, of course, everyone was awake at 3am! To be honest I'd expected it to be earlier, so can't complain, but it was soon clear that we weren't going to stay sane waiting for breakfast at the hotel. So we checked out and headed off for the ferry terminal.

The wait seemed endless. We'd been up for hours with nothing to eat or drink. It was dark, raining, and blowing a gale. But as soon as we were on board all the stress and discomfort seemed to melt away. We settled down to a magnificent and leisurely breakfast and watched the sunrise as we sailed out towards the islands.

Somehow, and this is going to sound strange given that we'd only been here twice before, it felt like we'd come home.

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