Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Event I Was Waiting For

I am now a Permanent Resident of Canada.

At last.

On the 18th, the date of my flight, I was feeling really tense thinking ahead to security, flying, and all of that. But by the time I got through the VERY simplistic and quiet TSA screening and security in the tiny Roanoke airport, I felt fine. I found my gate, picked up the book I had brought in my carry on, and waited an hour and a half (since United had told me to be at the airport two hours before my flight).

The 30-minute flight from Roanoke to Dulles Airport was uneventful and went quickly. It was amazingly beautiful. Everything beneath me was a sparkling blanket, with the ground and rumpled mountains shining blue from the moonlight on the snow. Once we fully ascended, we were above foggy clouds which gradually faded into the rich ink blue of the night sky and the stars. Mars hung low and the constellations seemed much larger.

At Dulles, I had no idea what gate to go to for my connecting flight to Toronto. My boarding pass said nothing. So I went to Customer Service to see where the flight was leaving from, and I was told Gate A4. Well, that was incorrect. It turned out that my flight left from Gate D2, which was so far across the airport that one had to take a shuttle and then a train to get there. While I was having the most severe panic attack that I had ever had in my life as I tried to reach the D gates in time, my flight was long gone.

I'm not even sure what happened, as far as the panic attack went. All I knew was that the upper parts of my lungs and my windpipe were closing and were burning and I was thinking really overblown thoughts. My throat had also closed and I could barely speak when I finally reached the D2 counter and the lady told me I was far too late, which I already knew. My vision was red and shimmery as I booked the next flight to Toronto, which was leaving at 8am the following morning, and I began having trouble seeing as I slowly made my way back to the shuttle and to the train to return to the A gates, where my flight would definitely be leaving from this time.

I managed to get a few dollars worth changed for quarters so I could use the payphone. There was no free wi-fi available, so I couldn't get on the internet. I called our house in Thornhill, hoping that Trevor hadn't left for the airport yet, but there was no answer. I called my mom and Debbie was there with her, so I spoke to them both as the panic attack quickly subsided. It was a good thing that my sister left a message on Trevor's Facebook, because nearly everyone saw it. Elisa, Trevor's mom, saw it and got in contact with our friends and my sister and mom. So Trevor and his best friend Kent left the airport and crashed at Kent's place for the night.

Meanwhile, I found my specific gate and parked myself near the doors. It was cold in A5, so I put my gloves and trapper hat on and sat alone in one of the uncomfortable chairs, feeling very miserable and aggravated. I kept checking the screens to make sure that I was at the right gate, because at that point I was pretty paranoid. Once I was completely reassured by it, I managed to sleep for about two staggered hours. It was so painful to breathe, I tell you. I don't know what my body did to itself. It felt like when I had bronchitis a few years back. I lay in wait, waiting impatiently for dawn.

By pre-dawn, I had such a severe migraine that I was nauseous. I waited for the coffee shop near my gate to open, and I bought an espresso thinking that it would be great for the migraine. Well, and it was, but I almost got sick and I began shaking so hard that everyone near me could feel it. Oh well, at least I'm no longer an espresso virgin.

When they called my flight number, I felt immense relief and was first in line to board the plane, LOL. Once I was seated and was filling out a customs declaration sheet, I felt so much better. In the air, we quickly ascended over the thick, flat white clouds, and were riding with the morning sun. Above us was pure blue sky, beneath us was an endless sea of white. The sun cast spherical double rainbows onto the bumpy surface of the clouds. When we descended, it seemed we were sinking beneath the surface of a still white ocean. Under this layer of cloud, everything was a dull silver and looked very snowy. Ice began to form on the outsides of the windows. I never saw Lake Ontario or Toronto. When I finally saw Canada under me, we were very close to the airport.

Realizing that I was officially in Canadian airspace felt... I don't even know. The ground was white, and clusters of buildings and winding ribbons of grey road stretched out under me as snow fell around us. I just felt incredible joy at that moment.

The landing process was very quick and smooth, the most anti-climatic moment of immigration! One Canadian immigration officer leaned over to look at the landing papers in my hands as I passed him to go to Immigration, and he said "Ah, looks like you're landing today!" in a really cheerful voice. Everyone was so friendly. But I had to go on a wild goose chase to find my suitcases, so that's what took me so long before I could go to the Arrivals section and find Trevor, Kent and Nicole. I had the most awesome man in the world helping me get to where I needed to go, and he knew all the immigration and customs officers by first name. I don't remember this guy's name, but I'm pretty sure his first name was Hwan-Lee. We found my suitcases, went to Customs where I handed the guard my goods lists; the guard told me how much he appreciated how prepared and organized I was.

After I was done with Customs, Hwan-Lee took hold of one of my suitcases and led me to Arrivals, since I was kind of lost in such a big airport. We were enjoying having conversation, and he told me he knew how hard it was because he and his Malaysian wife went through a long distance relationship for years and then the whole immigration process. As we were talking, I suddenly heard a familiar voice say "There she is!" and I saw Kent and his girlfriend Nicole stand up. Trevor also stood, and our eyes met for the first time in eighteen months. We quickly closed the distance between each other and were reunited.

Hwan-Lee had let me leave my carry-on in an office so it would be safe, since I wasn't allowed to take it through Customs when he led me down there to find my luggage, so we left the luggage with Trevor and our friends and went to retrieve my carry-on. As I left the office and he directed me how to get back down to Arrivals, he grinned and shook my hand. "I'm happy to have seen that moment," he said of the reunion. I thanked him profusely for his help, and he wished me the best of luck in my new life.

I rejoined Trevor, Kent and Nicole, and we left the airport. Snow was flying, sticking to the car windows in huge and beautifully formed flakes, and I felt the deepest of joy. I was back where I belonged, and this time it was forever.

Kent was very generous and treated us to breakfast at the Golden Griddle. We had a really good morning, the four of us together again. Then they dropped Trevor and I off at home, and it was so strange to me. It felt like I had never left. We had a relaxing afternoon and evening and Trevor made us a very nice dinner.

He even apologized for having no candles :) He had met me at the airport with pink flowers; nobody had ever given me flowers before, and I just completely cherish them. I also cherish the pretty holiday arrangement that Kent and Nicole got me.

So I am home, and I can legally call this beautiful country my home.

The sweet maple life has officially begun, dear readers. I hope you continue to follow me on my journey as I truly begin to live.


Robin/ alarmrx2/ RMR said...

Mary- I have tears in my eyes as I read this wonderful post. It is easy to put myself in your shoes the way you describe it.
Also- I have had 2 panic attacks that sound like yours. And unless you have had them, I dont think anyone understands them. I couldn't breath for hours after one.
You & Trevor have a wonderful start up there! Enjoy the cold :D

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, eighteen months apart! I don't know how you did that, but I had tears in my eyes reading about your reunion!

Welcome home, my friend. Love your photo with your husband.

~ Renee

Tales of a Hockey Wife said...

Can I ask you if you applied for PR in the States or in Canada? It sounds like the states. How long did it take. I might like to pick your brain, as I need to get my PR...I am on a visa right now.