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

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56. Current status PR & 2017 in a nutshell

North Vancouver, Canada, 30.12.2017.

When I wrote my last blog entry three weeks ago, I was in a great mood because it seemed to me that I had a good chance of getting my Canadian Permanent Residency at some point in the future. Then, I received an E-Mail from IRCC that struck a serious blow to my dreams of staying longer in Canada. See for yourself:

PR- Rejection
Rejection of my application by IRCC.

Now there is a lot I could say about this but I will reduce it to just these few comments:

  1. When I applied for my current visa last year, I did not submit a translation of my German Police certificate and it was accepted by IRCC.
  2. My German police certificate symply said “Keine Eintragung” which means “No trace”. Even without a translation, I think that this expression should be known at IRCC because there are thousands of Germans who send in their Police Certificates each year when applying for a work & travel visa, PR or a young professional visa.
  3. Simply cancelling the whole application now and not even giving me the opportunity to obtain and submit that translation seems really harsh and also inefficient. By doing this, they actually produce more work than they save. In a previous blog entry, I was full of praise for the Canadian bureaucracy. Seems like I was a little too rash with that judgment…
  4. In the end, it is my own fault that this happened because I did not provide this specific translation which I was supposed to according to their regulations. So I did not read all of their regulations in detail and that was probably a mistake. Or I should have maybe invested a few hundred dollars and have an Immigration Consultant have a look at my application. That would have been another option…

Anyway, there is nothing I can do about this anymore now. As of now, I can still continue working and staying in Canada after January 2nd since I also applied for a work permit extension so that I will be in “implied status” from January 3rd onwards. However, since my PR application has been cancelled, there is a high probability that my work permit extension will also be cancelled once they start looking into it. Now I would still have a chance to get approval for the work permit extension if my current employer AND the government of BC (they already noinated me to become one of their citizens) supported me. Both of them have to provide me with a specific letter/offer that I already requested more than 2 weeks ago. And guess what? I did not receive anything from either one yet. So time is ticking for me now and there is nothing I can really do about it. Not the greatest of all feelings, that’s for sure…

Stanley-Park
A heron sitting in a colourful autumn- tree in Stanley Park.

Now people keep asking me if I can’t simply reapply for Permanent Residency. Yes, I can and I already have but the whole process takes a lot of time and I fear that I don’t have that time. First of all, my BC provincial nomination has to be tied to my new PR application again. That will take a few weeks probably. After that, I will score enough points again to be invited by IRCC. However, I will first have to wait for the next round of invitations. That can take up to another three weeks. After that, I will be allowed to submit all of my documents again and wait for the application to be processed. Now it is very likely that my application for the work permit extension will be rejected a lot earlier than me being able to finalize my new PR application. And in that case, I would have to notify IRCC and BC PNP that I am not working anymore. This again will probably lead to BC PNP withdrawing my provincial nomination and thus IRCC voiding my new PR application on the basis of me not having enough points anymore. Sounds like a vicious circle to you? Not quite but close I would say.

Backyard
A family of racoons visiting “my” backyard in late October. And they were pretty curious.
Vancouver-fog
Vancouver in fog. View from West Vancouver. Note how the Lions Gate Bridge and parts of Stanley Park are above the clouds.

 

Anyway, this is my current situation now and so I can’t even start planning anything for 2018 yet because it is totally unclear what will happen when and how. Just a few years ago, so much uncertainty would have driven me crazy and left me fearful und helpless. Today, I am a lot stronger and experienced so that I know that every change also offers opportunities and that life goes on, no matter what. Still, I am incredibly sad that I potentially have to leave Canada again soon and that this is mainly my own fault because I was not diligent enough with that first PR application. Probably one of the biggest mistakes I ever made in life. And definitely one of those mistakes that have a huge huge impact on one’s future.

1000Stories
My personal drink discovery of 2017: An amazing red wine from the Bonterra winemaker, California. Resonably prized!

Alright, enough of the whining about the PR. Let’s do a little review of this beautiful year 2017 instead. And let’s talk about the pictures in this blog first. I intentionally chose not to show any pictures that I already used in previous blog entrys. Why? Because there are way too many meaningful and great things that I would want to show again here. So instead I went with a much smaller set of pictures that I haven’t shown in my blog yet. Some are already a few months old, others only a few days, but all are worth showing. Finally, I chose the title picture because it mirrors exactly how I feel right now about my future. Arrows pointing in all kinds of direction and I have no idea yet which way to take. I took that picture on the Camino in Spain (October) and despite this irritating situation, Rachel and I found the right way then and did not get lost. I have faith in myself to do the same for my future once I have clarity about my application- situation.

Titel
Left, right or straight ahead? Which way is the right one? Who knows?

There were so many highlights in 2017 that it is hard for me to remember them all. Looking at my travel highlights, there was my hiking trip to Portugal and Spain in October, my trip to Vancouver Island in September, my trips to Saskatchewan and Texada Island in August, my trip to Germany in June/ July, my trip to Salt Spring Island in June and my trip to Olds/ Red Deer in May. All of them amazing trips and I am truly priviledged that I was able to do every single one of them.
My running highlights include the halfmarathon in Langley in January, the marathons in Vancouver and Red Deer in May, the 30K race in Whisler in June, the marathon in Texada in August, the 50K Trail race on Vancouver Island in September and finally the awesome 80K race in Whistler in October. A lot of running for the year and hopefully also a good preparation for future endeavours in 2018.
Aside from the running, I also did quite a bit of rock climbing in 2017. Actually, I just started climbing in 2017, that’s probably why it is worth mentioning here. 🙂 So far I have only climbed indoors but if the opportunity arises, I am definitely open to climbing outdoors as well in 2018.

Mt Seymour
Great view on Mount Seymouor. Snow begins at roughly 900 meters elevation.
Blue-Gentian-Lake
Gentian Lake at the Brothers-Creek-Loop, West Vancouver.

In 2017, I also managed to do a lot of hiking. I hiked the Camino with Rachel, I hiked quite a few routes together with Emilia, with my Mum, with Martin or simply alone. During those hikes, I got to see Spain, Portugal, Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour, Cypress Mountain, the Chief, Lynn Canyon, Bunzten Lake, Lighthouse Park, the Brothers- Creek- Loop, Quarry Rock and the interiors of Texada Island, Vancouver Island and Salt Spring Island. And probably, I even forgot some of my hikes in this enumeration….

Above everything else, I feel that I was very fortunate to spend so much quality time with so many wonderful people in 2017. My Mum and Martin from the Captain’s Mafia came to see me in Canada in July (Martin) and August (Mum) and we spent some really nice days together. An unbelievable feeling to receive visitors here, several thousand kilometers away from my former home. In the first months of the year, Verena was still in Vancouver and I remember doing a lot of different things together with her and having a lot of fun. During our trip in Portugal and Spain, I spent two great weeks together with Rachel on the longest hike I have done so far in my life. Even after that hike we kept in touch and I really enjoy the time we spend together. In August, I was invited to a family reunion in Saskatchewan and that weekend was a real blast. It was great to meet so many wonderful people (again), to be at that beautiful lake and to be introduced to a family’s tradition, the strudel- making. Big hugs for Dawn, Jo Anne and Doug for also inviting me to their places from January to March (Dawn) and May (Jo Anne and Doug). I really enjoyed spending time together with you! In July, I flew back to Germany and I met Glenn, Martin from Lidl and two of my buddies from the Captain’s Mafia. It was great to see you all again and I am looking forward to meeting you all again in April. We will have a great time together, I know it! During that week in Germany, I also met my Mum, of course, because I mainly stayed at her place. 🙂 Hugs and kisses for you, Mum, for being my Mum and for continuously supporting me while I am away in Canada!
Now I will stop mentioning people right here because otherwise this blog entry will become way too long. Sorry for not mentioning everyone explicitly who helped to make my year 2017 as great as it was. I haven’t forgotten you!

Waterfall
Majestic waterfall on the Brothers- Creek- Loop, West Vancouver.
Cypress-Mountain
My Mum and I at Cypress Mountain, after a hike. Looks like I have quite the belly on the picture. 🙂

Overall, 2017 was probably the best year of my life so far. No close friends or family members got really sick or died and I myself also stayed pretty healthy. In addition to that, I had an awesome year in Canada with lots of highlights and only very few things that did not go my way. Even though the above outlined PR issue is a looming dark shadow in the otherwise really light and shiny appearance of 2017, I do not let this single and tragic mistake make me feel bad about the whole year. I am grateful for every experience in this year and I am still full of hope that the new year 2018 can be as amazing and exciting as the current fading year. 🙂

Time to close this blog entry with a crazy song (Russian/ German- lyrics) that will supply us with all the energy we possibly need for a good start to 2018. Cheers!

Russkaja – Energia

54. Recap 1 – Whistler 80K & Permanent Residency

North Vancouver, Canada, 04.11.2017.

It is more than a month ago since I last wrote something for this blog. A long time, I know, but I will not apologize for this anymore. Life keeps me busy and I like that and not being able to write blog entries that frequently anymore is the price I need to pay for this I guess. A lot of things happened during the last weeks and in this blog entry, I will focus on writing about the events from Friday October 13th onwards. I will probably cover my hiking trip in Portugal and Spain from October 1st to October 13th in the next blog entry if I have the time to write about it anytime soon…

On October 13th, I first took a connecting flight from Porto, Portugal to Amsterdam, Netherlands. Then, I took the continental flight to Vancouver and landed there at about 2:00 PM on Friday afternoon, thanks to the time change and on-time flights. At the airport, I picked up my car, drove home, grabbed my running gear and got in my car again to drive to Whistler. After I arrived at my Air-BnB apartment in Whistler, I picked up my race package at the Brewhouse and prepared for the upcoming race. Due to Jet Lag, I did not get much sleep during that night although I was really tired after having been awake for almost 24 hours. So after a pretty sleepless night, I checked in with the race organizers after 5AM and started running at 6AM on Saturday, October 14th. This was the first 80 Kilometer race I have ever signed up for, so my primary goal was to complete the race in time. However, I am also ambitious so my secondary goal was to finish the race in under 9 hours which I though was a realistic goal given the fact that I had done 12 days of hiking prior to this race.

Finish1
Nelly with me after the race. She finished first in the women’s competition and we ran together for quite a part of the course until she was too quick for me and I fell back.

After the first 25Km, I began to notice that my legs were not so very well rested and it was not so very “easy- going” anymore after that. However, I only experienced some pain and no crucial bodypart failures (severe cramps,…) so I kept running at a slower pace and I also started walking the short uphill stretches to relax my muscles a little bit. In hindsight, I should have also walked the uphill stretches during the first 25Km and I also probably ran too fast during the first 25Km. In any case, the second part of the race was more like a “test of will” for me and it was not so very enjoyable anymore. However, we were lucky that it stayed mostly dry during the day so at least the weather did not make the race even more difficult for me. In the end, I finished at 8 hours and 44 minutes in 11th place out of 36 finishers and 53 starters. Given the circumstances, I am very satisfied with this result and I don’t regret having done this race. Overall, it was a great race and I made lots of valuable running experiences that will probably help me a lot in my future endeavours.

Finish Line
Start and finish- line next to the food- and chillout area.
View on Start-Finish-zone
View on the main aid station with our drop bags and start of the two different loops (13Km and 7Km).

Since I participated in the Mountain Madness Run (half marathon) in Grand Cache, Alberta in May 2016 (read about it again here), I dreamt about coming back to Grand Cache one day to do the Canadian Death Race. 125 Kilometers of trail, rough and difficult terrain, a total elevation climb of 5180m and three mountain summits to conquer during the 24 hours available to finish the course. Yes, that is quite the crazy stunt. But after my races this year I feel that it will be doable for me next year. This year, I did not focus a lot on training and I just did what I felt was fun and enjoyable for me. And still, I had acceptable to good results in the races I did, even without optimal preparation. Now I feel that if I start to focus a little more on traninig and nutrition, the Death Race will be doable for me. Of course, it will still be a tough tough race and it is not at all guaranteed that I will be able to finish it but I will try to do exactly that next year. So this is my next big project and probably the longest and toughest race I will ever do in my running career. At least I won’t start planning for anything else even crazier than that until I know how that race went and if I can actually take even more or not.

Recreation
Food- and chillout- area next to the race course.
Goulash
A nice hot bowl of Goulash. It was soooooo good after the race and it really lifted my spirits.

After having written so much about my latest race, it is now time to switch to a totally different but even more important topic: My application for permanent residency. When I was hiking in Portugal, I received the very good news that the Province of BC nominated me to be one of its residents in the future. This nomination generated a whopping additional 600 points for me towards my application for permanent residency. Thus, in the next round of invitations to apply for permanent residency, I was also selected and invited to apply. Since then, I have started gathering all the additional paperwork that I need to finish this application. In this regard, I am a little under time pressure since I will only be allowed to stay in Canada until January 2nd with my old visa. However, if I manage to finalize my application by January 2nd, I will get the so-called “implied status”. Having this status means that I can stay in Canada under the conditions of my old visa for as long as it takes the government to decide upon my PR application. And judging from the current processing times, it may take up to three months for the government to make a decision on an application once they received all the documents. So I will probably only know by the end of March next year if I will be allowed to stay in Canada permanently or not. Exciting times for me, that’s for sure. 🙂

Hot Tub
Chilling in the Hot Tub in the evening after the race was a blessing for my strained legs.

Alright, over 1100 words already again in this blog entry. Time to stop writing. Today’s music advice is from a band that I only got to know recently but they have already gained a top spot on my Youtube- playlist order. This one is about pain, a good theme song for the Whistler 80K race.

Jimmy eat World – Pain

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