57. An unexpected turn of events

North Vancouver, Canada, 24.01.2018.

It is amazing how quickly things can change in life. At one point, you may have almost lost all hope, just holding on to the last straw. Then, nearly out of nowhere, something entirely unexpected may happen and suddenly everything got turned upside down. This is exactly what happened to me last week:

Last week, my employer held the yearly Manager Conference for all Store Managers at a nearby hotel in Burnaby. At that time, I was already in “implied status” because my work permit had expired while my application to extend it was still pending. So I was still legally allowed to work but I already knew that this could change any day. Then, on Thursday at noon, I checked my e-mails and found out that the federal government had rejected my application to extend my work permit because my Permanent Residency application had been cancelled earlier in December. So I talked to my manager after the last session of the conference and told him that I was not allowed to work in Canada anymore. We talked about the situation and he told me that I would be put on “leave of abscence” until I would be legally allowed to work in Canada again. Not the worst solution for me as I would still be part of the company and not fired right away. So on that Thursday I drove home in the afternoon, firmly believing that that day had been my last working day in Canada for a longer time or even forever. Then, later in the evening, I reviewed the rejection letter of the government once more to find out that I also had to leave Canada immediately because I had no more legal status to stay inside the country. Oh wow, even more bad news!

Hayward-Lake-2
Hiking at Hayward Lake on January 1st. Great start in the new year!
Hayward-Lake-1
Not much snow around Hayward Lake – Even the hills around were not snow-covered.

So what to do now? After I thought about the situation for a while, I decided to drive to the US border the next day to re-enter Canada from the US side. It was my plan to get visitor status here so that I would at least be legally allowed to stay in Canada while waiting for my renewed Permanent Residency application to be processed eventually. I decided to print out all relevant documents so I could prove what had happened to me at the border. The last thing I needed was another rejection of my request or a forced removal from the country. When I arrived at the US border, the customs officer at the toll booth soon singled me out and told me to explain my case to someone in the office building. After having explained my situation to another customs officer, they decided to deny me entry into the US because I had no more legal status in Canada. That was fine with me because I did not really want to go anywhere in the US anyway. So I took my car and lined up at the Canadian border crossing. Of course, the customs officer at the booth also made me see one of her colleagues inside their office building. Luckily, there was no lineup so I could explain my situation to the officer in charge right away. He was very interested in my story, checked out all my documents, consulted with a few of his colleagues and took a long time to investigate my situation. It was a somewhat bizarre situation. He sent me away to the waiting area to do research on his own, then called me again to his desk to ask a few questions, then sent me away again and so forth. After he had sent me away for the fourth time, I began to start worrying that he could even deny me visitor status and that something may be really wrong here. However, the opposite was the case. He called me to his desk for the last time and said that he would be able to issue me a new work permit under certain circumstances. That was entirely unexpected and I was genuinely stunned by this development. In the end, we were able to solve the outstanding issues and he issued me a new 1-year work permit for my job as a Senior Store Manager after I paid for it. I think I was rarely happier to make a payment in my life than at that moment. So now I can continue working in Canada for another year which will give me enough time to sort out everything with my Permanent Residency application. Simply unbelievable. I am so happy that this happened, I can’t even put in in proper words! 🙂 🙂 🙂 So roughly 24 hours after I had suffered this serious setback from my dream to stay in Canada, my whole situation had completely changed again. I regained control of my situation and life and now I have every option and all the time I need to make my dream come true. What a crazy start into 2018! Interestingly, this all happened on January 19th, which would have been my Granddads 101st birthday if he was still alive…

Grouse-1
The lineup at the Grouse Mountain Gondola on Jan 20. Currently a paradise for snow- lovers.
Grouse-2
Raindeer on the “Lights Walk” on top of Grouse Mountain.

I guess 2018 could not have started better for me. Now I know that I can stay here for another year and thus I already started planning a little bit for the upcoming months.

In April, I will fly back to Germany for roughly 2 weeks to see my family and my friends and to organize a few things. It is a bit unfortunate that by April, there will probably not be a decision on my new PR application yet. So I won’t know if it makes sense to ship all my remaining stuff from Germany to Canada or not. I definitely do not want any hasty decisions in that regard, knowing that it is not a given that I will get my PR one day…

When it comes to running, I already started organizing my races for 2018: In March, I will probably do a 50K trail race here in North Vancouver as my warm-up for the season. The next big race after that will be the Vancouver BMO Marathon on May 6th. After that, I will probably drive to the Death Race Training Camp in Grand Cache, Alberta in late June. And finally, the Canadian Death Race on August 4th will be my highlight of this year’s running season. 125Km in the Rocky Mountains, 24 hours, over 17.000 feet of elevation change and 3 mountain summits in the course will surely make this one of the greatest challenges in my life. I already booked accomodation for the Death Race so I am commited to that plan. It became my dream to do that race when I ran the Mountain Madness half marathon in Grande Cache in May 2016. Ever since, I thought about doing that race but I was never sure if it would fit into my plans and if I would be able to do it. Now that I have a new work permit, I can finally pursue that dream, fit the race into my 2018 schedule and plan accordingly. Although I know that I am still a rookie in the Ultra- Marathon distance, I already proved that I can do the 50K and the 80K distance. Thus, I am now confident enough that I can even do a larger distance with a sufficient amount of training. Also, I think it will benefit me and my training that I actually planned fewer races than 2017. It will give me more time to recover and properly prepare for the few races that I will actually run…

Lynn-Canyon
Lynn Valley Canyon river carrying a lot of water during our last hike there.

What an amazing start into 2018! I hope that all of you also had great first weeks and that you will be able to achieve your goals in 2018. Hold on to your dreams and never give up fighting for them!

Today’s music advice is one of my favorite songs from Judas Priest. An inspiring song that always gives me strength when I am in a sad and/or bad mood. It is also a great song to listen to while running….

Judas Priest – Blood Red Skies

Advertisements

45. Current state of affairs and running thoughts

Between Tsawwassen and Long Harbour (Salt Spring Island), Canada, 08.06.2017.

It is Thursday evening and my long weekend has just begun. Since I have five days off now, I decided to make a trip to Salt Spring Island to relax a little. That’s why I am currently on my way from Tsawwassen to Long Harbour (Salt Spring Island) on board of the “Queen of Nanaimo”, a rather old ferry. As this trip will take roughly three hours, I have ample to write another blog entry and share some thoughts about running and my current situation in Canada.

Let’s start with my current state of affairs in Canada. As of now, I have spent a little over 5 months in Canada already and I have enjoyed every day of it. I managed to get a decent and enjoyable job, I met family members and found new friends, I did quite a bit of sightseeing and travelling and I started to climb and run marathons. Certainly, I am currently experiencing one of the best parts of my life so far. That said, I would not be me if I had no plans for the future. Now what’s my main plan for the future? Well, as I have already laid out in one of my previous blog entries, I will apply for permanent residency so that I can stay in Canada indefinitely. As of last week, I was not yet able to apply because my university degrees had not been certified yet. Luckily, I got a letter from the certification agency last week saying that they recognize one of my degrees as a Master degree and the other one as a combination of an undergraduate degree and a diploma. I disagree with their latter assessment (that degree is also the equivalent of a master degree!!!) but that does not really matter. All that matters is that they certified the other degree as a Master degree so that I will now get the higher amount of points for the Master degree when applying for permanent residency. However, I will still wait with the application until I have my company’s final decision on my request to do a “Labor Market Impact Assessment” (LMIA) for me & my job. If they do this LMIA for me, I will score additional points in my application and that would significantly raise my chances to be considered for permanent residency. However, if my company does not support me with a LMIA, I will still be able to apply for permanent residency but I will score significantly lower and thus it will be less likely for me to get that permanent residency. In a first decision, the head of the HR department told my line manager that the company generally does not support employees with LMIA’s. So far, so good. At first glance, it looks like I won’t be supported by my company in this regard. However, I can be very persistent if I really want something so I will talk to the head of HR first before actually giving up on this endeavor. I feel that he needs to know that they will have to look for a new Store Manager in January if I don’t manage to get that permanent residency. This may entice them to overthink their decision and maybe support me after all. But if not, I will definitely try to get the permanent residency even without their support. Generally, I almost never give up until the very last card is played. You never know how things may turn out in the end. Now you may ask yourself: And what will you do if you don’t get that permanent residency? Is there a plan B? Good question and yes, there is a Plan B. If I don’t get that permanent residency, I will briefly fly back to Germany in January after my visa runs out and then I will return to Canada to do some travelling. Probably, I will also go to the U.S. and see some places over there. Now why would I do that? Simple thing: Without a valid visa, “normal” visitors are only allowed to stay in Canada for up to 3 months in one piece. However, if I cross the border to the U.S. once in a while, this 3-months period is reset and I won’t be considered an illegal visitor anymore when I will be travelling through Canada from January to August. It is my plan to drive through Canada from west to east and back again on another route. In August 2018, Grand Cache in Alberta (click here for my first visit to this place in 2016) will be my final destination. Since I won’t be working in between January and August, I will have a lot of time to train for the Canadian Death Race and this will be my final endeavor on my trip. So no matter how the Canadian government decides on my application for permanent residency, I have good plans in place for the future and I will definitely make the best out of it!

Tsawwassen2
Tsawwassen seaport and commercial terminal(s) in the background.
Tsawwassen1
Tsawwassen coastline in the background. I used to run there when I was living at Dawn’s place.

You may have noticed already that this blog entry does not contain many pictures. I am sorry about that but I did not have many opportunities in between the last blog entry and this one to take interesting pictures. However, I promise to share many nice pictures with you in my next blog entry which will be about my trip to Salt Spring Island.

Now that I have done quite a bit of running in the last weeks, I want to take this opportunity and share some of my thoughts about running with you. First of all, I realized that I really like running and pushing myself and that I can take quite a bit of pain while doing so. From my time in the German Army, I already know that I am able to take a lot of pain and endure bad situations but as of now I was unsure if I was willing to expose myself to these situations voluntarily. As it turns out, I am increasingly willing to do that and to test my personal limits. Although my first marathons were a challenge to me, I still feel that I can more than 42.2 kilometers. So I will continue to push myself and train hard for the 80 K- race in Whistler in October. And if that race goes well, my next goal will be to run the Death Race in 2018. Now I don’t know if I will be able to do that but I strongly believe in pursuing your dreams in life and also in trying as hard as you can to achieve them. And if I fail to complete that race, I can at least say that I tried and that it was not for me. In addition to that, I will never look back later and ask myself “…what would have been had I actually tried to run that race…”. I have not yet made up my mind how exactly I will train for the longer races but I am almost sure that I don’t want to stick to any rigid training- or nutrition plan. Now I know that there are numerous training plans and diets on the internet and each one tells you what to eat, when and how much to train and how to structure your weeks before the running event. Let’s put it this way: I am sure that you can optimize your running performance by following these plans and diets but that is just not my style. I don’t want to overcomplicate things and I am not prepared to slavishly do what others tell me. Sticking to training plans and diets does not sound like fun to me and in the end, I want to enjoy what I am doing and I don’t want to be forced how to spend my leisure time. Thus, if I feel like eating chips, drinking beer and watching a movie, I will always do that and I don’t want to have a training/diet plan telling me that I am supposed to eat pasta now and at least run 10-15 Kilometers that day. Won’t happen if I don’t feel like it, sorry. To me, it is all about feeling good and comfortable with spending my leisure time for something. Bottom line: I only want to go running when I feel like running. I know that I will have to “pay the price” for this attitude and kind of training in the end but that is okay with me since I am not a full-time athlete and running is a passion and hobby to me and not a job. However, when it comes to the race day itself, I think that I will be forced to follow the more scientific approach of running. Probably, you need a certain nutrition (electrolytes, energy,…) for your muscles to be able to run for an extended period of time without getting bad cramps or collapsing. So I guess I will be forced to explore this topic a little more in the future and to try some of the prevalent nutrition advices during the next races.  Let’s see what results I can achieve with my way of training…

Galiano1
Sturdies Bay at Galiano Island. Our first stop on the way to Long Harbour, Salt Spring Island.
Galiano3
Bald Eagle near our ferry at Sturdies Bay.

Wow, another very long blog entry with over 1600 words! I guess it is time to stop writing now and to finally post my music advice for today. Let’s listen to some alternative and crazy German music with hip-hop and electronic elements. In all of my arrogance, it is a tribute to all the training plans and marathon diets out there:

Deichkind – Like mich am Arsch

37. Long-term decisions

Vancouver, Canada, 11.03.2017.

When I came to Canada in January, I had basically drawn up two viable plans what to do:

1. The Gap-Year plan: Originally, it was my plan to to just travel through Canada during my Work&Travel year, to get a break from work life and to just enjoy my life. I thought about spending a few weeks on Vancouver Island, to drive to the Rocky Mountains again, to go up north to Yukon and then to drive all the way across Canada by car to finally end up in Newfoundland and Labrador at the end of the year. Of course, it was also part of this plan to visit all the sights and parks that were on the route from western Canada to the east.

2. The residency plan: This plan focused on trying to get a decent job somewhere as quickly as possible, to move there and get my own apartment, to then apply for permanent residency and thus to gain a foothold here in Canada. Of course, this plan is the more “responsible” and “mature” plan as it satisfies the common view that you are supposed to work somewhere and be a “good member of society”.  On the other hand, this plan is also less fun and not so much different from what I have been doing so far in my life. So not a great change, really.

To be very honest, I was totally unsure what to do initially when I arrived in Canada in January. I had no real preference for a plan although I clearly saw their individual benefits and drawbacks. However, it was not at all easy for me to weigh them properly and make up my mind what I really wanted. On the one hand, the Gap-Year plan promised to be more fun and it would reward me with a million priceless impressions and great experiences. On the other hand, this Gap-Year would then clearly be a one-shot thing and I would have to go back to Europe at the end of the year and it would become increasingly more difficult after this year to try to gain a permanent foothold here in Canada. So what do you do if you don’t know what’s right? I solved this problem by prioritizing the plans while not discarding either of them. Upon arrival in Canada, I decided to follow the residency plan first and to try to get a job quickly. Then, in case of an unfruitful job search, I was prepared to discard the residency plan in favor of the Gap-Year plan by the end of April. Why not earlier than the end of April? Well, Canada is mainly a cold and snowy country. So leaving the lower mainlands around Vancouver earlier than May does not really make much sense if you want to go up north and see a bit more of the landscape than just the white layer. Also, most of the parks do not open that early in the year and hiking is not too much fun if you have to do it in the snow. So basically the residency plan was my primary plan and the the Gap-Year plan was my “Plan B” or backup- plan. Now why am I writing about all this now? Well, my current situation has significantly changed in the last days and it looks like my primary plan has worked out well. But before I go into details here, let’s take a look at a few pictures first.

Buch
The third book in the triology. Overall, three very good books with a great story line but “The Chess Men” can’t quite keep up with the quality of the first two books. Peter May is a great author, you’ll like him.
Shells
A few shells I found when jogging on the beach.

Last week, my future employer, the BC Liquor Stores, finally received the last reference they needed to take me on board. So now I will start to work as a Senior Store Manager for them in North Vancouver on the 20th of March. However, before I get my own store there, I will be trained in several other stores nearby. So it looks like my primary plan worked just fine and I can now try to apply for permanent residency here. And this is exactly what my next step will be once I have settled down in North Vancouver. Next Monday, I will take a look at a few apartments there and hopefully find a good place to stay there. But I think that will not be a huge issue as I am not too picky about my living places.
Despite the current development, I have not at all given up on my Gap-Year plan yet. And if all goes according to my grand master plan, I don’t have to give up on it anyway. In case I get my permanent residency, I can always do my all-around-Canada-trip at some point in the future. So nothing is really “lost” and by pursuing my current plan I keep most of my future options open. I feel I can always take a Sabbatical later in my life and still do the trip once I managed to acquire my permanent residency and worked for a few years here in Canada.
Interesting side- note: Last week, I also received an E-Mail from Parks Canada telling me that I was chosen for an interview for the site-manager position at the Banff Upper Hot Springs. How unexpected. Last time I heard anything from this application, I was just buying my car. Must have been late January I guess. But there was no chance I would go to that interview as I had already signed the job offer of the BC Liquor Stores. Still interesting to see how long a recruitment process can take. Six weeks in between the end of the application process and the decision who will be invited to an interrview. That is long! Also, I am quite thrilled to see the success of my applications. In total, I wrote just 7 applications, I got invited to interviews 2 times, attended one interview and got the job. Can’t say I am not a bit proud about that. 🙂

Now that should be enought talk about work and me drawing up strange plans. Let’s write a bit about the fun things I did in the last days. I managed to read a bit and I also continued to go jogging regularly (see both pictures above). Now that I know that I’ll be staying in Vancouver a bit longer, I decided to sign up for the Vancouver Marathon on May 7th and do the first full marathon in my life. Seems really fitting that I will do it here in Vancouver on a stunning course that will also lead through Stanley Park. You can check out the course map here. Just a really really nice course I think.
Also, I will get a year membership in one of the climbing gyms in Vancouver and start climbing regularly. Climbing is not only great fun but I realized that it trains my upper body and arms a lot and I feel that this really benefits me. Up to now, I only trained my legs by running and completely neglected my upper body. Possibly not the greatest choice.

When it comes to regular fun activities, I managed to attend some board game evenings in the store in Ladner and I also visited the CatFe again twice. They have three very cute Main Coone mix breeds there, all siblings. They are really friendly and curious and two of them ended up on my lap, enjoying my cuddles. I expressed my wish to maybe adopt them but after having checked the currently available apartments in North Vancouver, it looks like this is not going to happen. Most of the landlords do not want any animals in their apartment and those who tolerate cats will only tolerate one or two. That’s pretty unfortunate because I think this band deserves a second chance. However, I guess that many potential new owners will be deterred by their current age as they are already 10 years old. Now that does not deter me but I know that most of the people look for cats that are still young. That situation makes me a bit sad but there’s not much I can really do about it…

Cat2
Harvey (female) and me in the CatFe in Vancouver.
Cat1
Budddy (male), who sat on my lap for over an hour, enjoying my cuddles.
BoardGame2
Mare Nostrum Empires. I played the green Greece, trying to fend off the Romans and the Babylonians at the same time.
BoardGame1
Castles of Burgundy. Second time I played it. Thanks to Stephan Valkyser, I already had a good insight into this game.

Last week I also managed to make a few trips to downtown Vancouver and I visited the Vancouver Public Library, the Vancouver Museum and the Space Centre. The library resides in a very interesting Colosseum- like building and it has a truly large collection, including some German literature. Unfortunately, they apparently also bought crappy books in the past as I found a copy of a rather infamous German author whose views are much questioned.
The Space Center is a nice place to go and their shows are really entertaining and offer some stunning views. So I can only advise to go there if you’re a bit interested in astronomy or Space exploration. Not the biggest or most thrilling exhibition but it is still worth to go there and take a look at it. Now I wish I could say the same for the Museum of Vancouver but I really can’t. Verena and I went there and we both agreed that this museum is rather boring and that it did not really entertain us. I have seen many better Canadian museums and I would not recommend seeing the Museum of Vancouver if you’re only staying at Vancouver for a few days…

Library
The Colosseum- like building of Vancouver’s Public Library.
Library2
Very surprised to find a copy of THIS book here in Vancouver. Not the best choice to invest the library’s money.

Space1

Space2
A very nice saying, displayed at the Space Center.
Car
Magnificent Oldtimer in the Museum of Vancouver.

Now that I’ve chosen to settle down in Vancouver, I suppose that I won’t be writing that many blog entries in the future anymore. Of course, I will still write about the exceptional events in my life but I also guess that it will start getting a bit more quiet in my life in the future. But that is okay, life can’t always be a rollercoaster ride. Thus, you should not expect so lengthy and frequent blog entries anymore. But we’ll see about that…
Ah, one last thing before I conclude the blog entry with my music advice: I just received my Parks Canada Discovery pass (see cover picture at the top of the entry) so I can visit every one of Canada’s National Parks for free this year. Anyone can apply for this pass and it costs exactly zero Canadian dollars as Parks Canada gives it away for free this year due to Canada’s 150th birthday. What a great gift! I wish I could do both: work in Vancouver and travel to see Canada’s National Parks at the same time. Not possible though. And again, it is always about setting priorities and making (long-term) decisions….

By chance, I stumbled over this interesting piece of music last week. And I simply put it on repeat and listened to it again and again and again. Until I got fed up with it at some point. But it is still a very good song so I happily share it with you here:

Aesop Rock – None shall pass

22. Canada reloaded: next stop 2017

Siegen, Germany, 19.09.2016.

A little more than 3 months ago, I wrote the last entry for this blog when I was waiting for my flight back to Germany at Vancouver airport. While writing the blog and waiting for my flight, I somehow felt very sad because I did not want to return to Europe anymore. Anyway, I guess that there are things you can change in life and there are also things you can’t change. At that time, I had to fly back to Europe to deal with all the things that required my attention there: Mainly my appartement in Germany and my job in England. I thought that after returning to my job and having my daily routine again, my great memories of Canada would start to fade sooner or later and I would be happy again in my everyday routine. Well, guess again. It didn’t happen as expected. Instead, I continued thinking about Canada each day and I could not clear my memory of the great experiences I had there. At that point, I knew I had to make a decision. I had basically two choices:

1. The safe and rational option: Keep on working in a good job with good career opportunities and decent pay. This would have meant staying and getting old in Europe and only returning to Canada once a year, if possible.

2. The risky and emotional option: Make a radical change in life, resign at your job, give up everything in Germany and try to make your luck in Canada. The upside of this option is to live where I actually WANT to live but failure to properly integrate/ accomodate is also a real thing.

Two years ago, my decision would have been easy and straightforward: Take the safe and rational option. Listen to your brain. Why should you possibly give up a good present situation for a doubtful future situation that could very well turn out to be less favourable? That does not make any sense, right? Well, after my Canada trip this year I began to think differently. I realized for myself that life should really be about being happy and trying to achieve the dreams that you have. At that point I asked myself what really really made me happy recently: It was my time in Canada. Of course there were also other things that I enjoyed a lot: Meeting friends or family, playing all sorts of games, some aspects of my job, etc.. But all these positive things were not comparable to the great time I had in Canada. So what to do now? Well, I decided that after having made (safe and rational) decisions with my brain for more than 15 years, it was now time to start making decisions with my heart.

Thus, I started gathering information on what my options were to return to and possibly also to work in Canada as soon as possible. Fortunately, as I am not yet aged 35 or older, the Canadian government offers a visa and a working permit in its “Work & Travel”- program. So this is what I applied for in July. At that time, chances to get the visa and the working permit were rather slim. Several hundreds of applicants were fighting over a few handful of permits. Nevertheless, I handed in my application and hoped for the best. I don’t know why it happened but the Canadian Government then decided to make another 1000 working permits available to the current and future applicants this year. That is why I then actually got my visa and working permit in early August, just roughly 3 weeks after I started the application process. This is truly amazing and I am very greatful for that. And this is how it looks like:

work-permit
Working permit, issued by the Canadian Government

After I received the positive news, I still took my time to think about the future and the consequences of my imminent decision. After two nearly sleepless nights, I then decided to proceed with my plan to go to Canada for a longer time. Thus, my next action was to write my job resignation. Not an easy decision to give up everything you worked for and start something completely new and uncertain. But then again, how can yo be completely happy or sure that you are not missing anything in life if you never take a risk or try something new? With the fresh impressions of my great Canada road trip in my mind, it was now or never to make this decision in my life.

Originally, my plan was to roughly work until end of October, then to take the rest of my holidays and quit the company on November 30th. Thus, I wrote my resignation accordingly. However, I did not consider the possibility that my company could release me from work earlier. This is what happened on September 8th. Now I am still beeing paid but I don’t have to work anymore. Strange world. To me, this feels really odd and it also seems like a waste of resources. But I will not complain about this situation anymore since I can not change it anyway. And on the flip side, I now have enough time to organise my Canada- adventure properly. Also, it allows me to spent some weeks of vacation in Scotland with a good friend of mine in October. 🙂 So I guess everything is fine.

Now, what will be the next steps for me? Here in Germany, I need to sell or throw away all of my furniture and most of my stuff and make sure my appartement is empty at the end of December 2016. In England, I also need to clear my appartment. This, however, will be less work as none of its furniture belongs to me and it can be cleared in a day or so. I guess I will do this in October at some point. And Canada? I will have to intensify my planning and preparation a bit. As of now, I only know that I will be flying from Frankfurt to Vancouver on January 3rd and stay at Dawn’s place in the beginning. Job- wise, I will apply for a position as a Park Ranger in a National- or Provincial Park. As I am very flexible, I will apply for every open position, no matter in which park. We will see what happens….

In the next blog entry, I will possibly write a bit about my holidays in Scotland and my preparation for 2017 in Canada. As usual, the blog entry concludes with a music advice:

Dream Theater – Constant Motion