So What's My Story?

After 3 years of being a poor social worker (the work I loved, the pay I didn't), I decided it was time to go back to school and get my Master's! After weighing my options (school far away from home, or school in a different country that is only an 8-hour drive from home) I decided to try my luck in British Columbia, Canada.

For a year I lived in
Surrey, BC while attending Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC. However, as the final component of my work toward my Masters degree in Criminology I have moved back to the states to complete an internship at an Independent Living Program for youth leaving the foster care system.

Here is the story of my adventures as a graduate student in a "foreign" country as well as my current work back in the states.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Moving to Canada: Trials and Tribulations

In early August Jacob and I set out for Vancouver to find a place to live. We decided to stay at Dogwood Campground in Surrey (just outside of Vancouver), since it would be cheap and still within the city area.

Prior to leaving I searched craigslist for different rental openings... however, upon arriving in BC we soon discovered that cheaper housing (which we were looking for obviously) was such a commodity in the area that apartments are gone within days, or even hours, from when the posting goes up. Thankfully, we borrowed a friend's lap top and were able to search new listings at a Wifi coffee shop near our campground.

We looked at about 15 different apartments... 12 of them sucked. They were either too small, too weird, too gross or they were rented out minutes before we got there. We put in applications at 3 of them, they were:

Third Choice: A large apartment complex in Surrey, on the other side of the river from Vancouver and about an hour commute to school. Nothing really special about it, but not horrible either.

Second Choice: Private apartment building in Vancouver suburbia. Older building but really pretty. Wood floors, higher ceilings, character in the architecture, nice neighborhood. Would have probably taken me a half hour or so to get to school.

First Choice: Mid-sized apartment complex in Coquitlam. IT HAD A DISHWASHER! Clean, big, nice sized closets. Within biking distance to school (if I chose to bike up the mountain.... who knows... I may have tried!).

We were the first people to fill out applications for both our first and second choices. Our third choice was a property management company with a lot of openings so if our application was accepted we were pretty much guaranteed a place somewhere. We never heard back from our second choice, heard that we were accepted at our third, and were just waiting to hear back from our first choice.

Our first choice was shown to us by the man currently living there. He and his family were moving to India for work and he needed to find someone to take over his 6-month lease. He told us that he'd take our application to the rental office and get back to us... and he did get back to us, after we'd already returned to Oregon, to tell us that there was a miscommunication and that we needed to submit a deposit with our application. He wanted to know if we could "stop by" and drop it off. After telling him that we were already back in Oregon, and lots of begging and pleading, we finally got him to agree to give us 3 days to get our deposit up there. We hung up and took off for Fedex. We sent the check and thought everything would be alright. I watched the tracking on the package for the next 3 days... only to discover that the delivery man was unable to find the proper address on the last day and no one was answering the telephone number we included. Our check did not get to the rental agency on time and we lost our top pick apartment.

Thankfully we had been accepted to our third choice. We contacted them and picked out an apartment in their Regent Place complex. Unfortunately, it was an apartment in a complex that we had not seen so we would be surprised upon arrival (I was not too fond of this idea).

We were told that the apartment would be ready on the 1st of September, and then the 5th... and then the 8th. I told them that I needed a place on the 1st, so they allowed me to stay in another unit until ours was ready. So, on September 1st I arrived at the apartment to sign papers and see, sort of, my new home. The rental agreement was signed, my temporary accommodations shown to me, and it was time to pay the rental fees.

I started a bank account the week prior, but because my funds were coming from the U.S. I was told that they wouldn't be available until the 2nd of September. Due to this, I figured that I would just pay the move in costs for the month with my U.S. debit card. Unfortunately, debit card systems in Canada are not like those in the U.S., so my Wells Fargo card did not work... and I had no money.

I explained my situation to my the property manager. I told her that my funds would be available the next day and that I would be more than willing to come in then the pay the fees. She already had my deposit so I was hoping that it wouldn't be a problem... Surprise! It was. She told me that she couldn't let me in without the money... and they didn't take checks. I left the office feeling lost and scared. I didn't know what to do or where to go. I tried going to get cash out of ATMS, but I couldn't get enough. I went to the mall, ordered a slide of pizza, and just sat there. I called Jacob (who was waiting until the 8th to move our stuff up) and cried. Finally, as I was wondering around Walmart wasting time, the property manager called me back. She said that she was feeling bad about my situation and said that she would accept a check if I would come back the following day to trade the check for a debit transaction.

I agreed and got the keys to my temporary unit.

I went back to the rental office on the 2nd to pay with my debit card. She ran the card and the screen flashed "insufficient funds". I couldn't believe it. I ran to the bank and talked to a teller, who told me that the funds were not available until 11:59 PM on the date I was told. I found this incredibly strange... if they aren't available until the last minute of the day in question, just tell the customer they will be available the next day! At least, though, the banker was nice enough to make the funds available so that I could pay my rent.

I slept on the floor in that unit for about 5 days. It smelled bad, it was dirty, the window panes were broken, there were no screens on the windows and big bugs flew in when I tried to air the place out. I was not happy. I told Jacob about it and we agreed to look for a new place. But then, on the 8th, after finally seeing our new apartment (which had been slightly renovated) and we hauled all of our stuff up to the 3rd floor, we decided the place wasn't that bad after all... and we could last a year or so here! lol

Our apartment isn't any fabulous. The kitchen is kind of small and there is no dishwasher. We have go down to the office area to do laundry, and we don't have screens on the windows. But it's cheap, somewhat clean, and has a walk-in closet in the large master bedroom. We're happy here and we're making it into a home.

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