I haven’t written in a while. Life happened. But I am here now, to spill the goss!
I moved to Canada in the first month of this year. It has been an adventure-filled 10+ months. Let me begin from the beginning.
I got my permanent residence visa in March 2020 but it expired during the lockdown in India. It took another ten months for it to get renewed (Bureaucracy in Canada did not cover itself in glory!). According to its stipulations, I had to land in Canada within two months. With the uncertainty due to Covid, I left within a week.
Before I left in January, India had put all memories of the pandemic behind it and we were socializing again. I attended multiple wedding functions and met all my relatives (The brutal second wave was still a couple of months away). So when I landed, corona wasn’t a big concern in my mind. I came in a crowded 15+ hour direct flight packed to the rafters. I gradually found out how seriously everyone was taking the second wave here.
I went straight to a mandatory 14-day quarantine. In the uber from the airport to my airbnb (near my relatives’ house in a suburb called Brampton), I did not see a single soul. It was barren and white. The houses looked desolate. I felt like I had been banished to Siberia. This experience happened due to a combination of three factors – I landed early morning, it was peak winter, and a strict lockdown was going on. Plus no one here dries their clothes on the balcony, which would have assured me there were people inside! There was also no stray dog or cow to liven up the streets. I just said a small prayer that I see some life after quarantine.
After that, I stayed for a couple of weeks with my relatives and took care of the basics – a bank account, a phone number, SIN (social insurance number), health card. I still haven’t made any moves on a driving license. I only just recently found a general physician. The doctors are definitely overstretched in Canada, folks!
I then moved to Toronto which is something that I had always planned vis-a-vis Canada. It just felt like the right place to be. I am happy with that assessment till now.
So, what have I been up to?
1. Exploring my new home
Travelling around this new country was the top-most thing on my mind. I had this idea that I would spend two months doing that and then put down roots. Covid put an end to such dreams. But explore I did, even though it was bone-chilling cold when I started (-16 C in February according to Google). I went around Brampton in the ten days I stayed there.
After moving to Toronto, I went out once in a while– mostly over the weekends during daytime – I was wary of falling ill in the cold and corona. Starting in mid-April, once the weather improved, I started going on long walks every day in the evening to explore my neighbourhood. I have been walking ever since. There is a beautiful park near my house called High Park. It is an oasis of natural beauty – it has thick jungles, a lake, duck ponds, and also man-made facilities – a zoo, swimming pool, skating rink, baseball, and ample picnic spots. Once I was satisfied by my sojourns around my neck of the woods, I started going to High Park every day. It is different every week – the foliage changes, new birds keep coming and stopping by. My strolls in High Park have made me a bird watcher. Who would have thunk!
There is also a beautiful trail running along the Humber river near my house. I walked all the way from the meeting point with Lake Ontario to a football field way way up in two trips. I get asked how many km or steps I have walked, but I don’t keep track. I don’t do it for the steps, I do it for the unadulterated joy of being out in nature.
Lake Ontario is also walking distance from my house and it’s magnificent. Canada geese, seagulls, and swans roam its shores. My brother videocalled me once when I was walking on the shore and asked a profound question, “Don’t people just take these geese home and eat them?”
I also love walking in the downtown area, the heart of Toronto, where all the snazzy buildings are.
Till June, some form of lockdown was in place. But since there was no restriction on being outdoors, I had a great time. I feel very blessed to have the chance to live in such abundant beauty.
2. Looking for a job
You move to a new country, you get a job.
But there were some challenges.
I hadn’t worked in three years or made a resume in forever. My educational background was engineering, my work experience was in the information technology and development sectors and the field I wanted to work in was publishing. As you can see, it was quite the conundrum. I had no idea what to write in the resume or even how. Also, how do people look for a job? I had gotten my first job through campus placement and gotten into a fellowship after that through direct application. So where does one apply? I was clueless.
Thankfully, I had availed Canada’s pre-arrival services in India and had been referred to employment consultancies in Toronto. I found a good one that guided me through the entire process – resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, industry-occupation research, interview skills, networking. I attended workshops for every one of these aspects and also had a dedicated employment consultant.
I realized looking for a job is a full-time job in itself. My acquaintances would encourage me to take up what’s called a “survival job”. But every day, my mental resources were exhausted with job-search activities and I had no bandwidth to follow that advice.
I found a job in July in news publishing. It was such an exhilarating experience – like did I just successfully search for a job for the first time in my life? Do I have a resume now? (I have not updated my resume since I got the job, it is such a brain-consuming activity.)
An honorable mention of the copious free advice I got – “Get a survival job. You need Canadian experience”, “Look for a job in IT. You will be looking forever in publishing”, “You should start working with a multi-level marketing company and hawk insurance to make some quick cash”. Some paraphrasing happened on the last one.
Once you get a job, you get to the “doing it” part. I hadn’t worked a 9-to-5 job in four years, so I was curious as to how this was going to go. Work-from-home made it easier as I just had to roll out of bed and sit at my workstation. No dressing up, no commute. I also did not have to deal with the interpersonal dynamics of fitting into a new place, which took the pressure off.
I was intentional about giving to the job and learning from it. My colleagues are super-nice and helpful, so my transition was as smooth as it could get. The difference I felt from working in India was that, here if your shift ends at five, that means it ends at five. That was freeing. I could plan other activities in my day. My trepidation that I would not get time to work on my personal projects was belied.
As for what I actually do, I proofread news, tag it into categories, talk to clients about their releases and make sure they reach the right audience. It has been more than three months and there are still so many aspects to learn. Overall, it’s a good start to my professional life in Canada.