Katya Arrives In Canada
On Christmas Eve, 2011 I arrived back in Moscow to escort Katya home to Canada. She had just received her visa the month before after 10 months of processing and $3,000. We didn't celebrate Christmas, because it's not celebrated in Russia, but I went to Katya's employer's New Year's party and we did have a nice New Year dinner with her mother and grandmother and exchange a few New Year's gifts.
I spent nearly a month in Russia with Katya and her family and then, on January 21st 2012, we went to Sheremyetova International Airport with her mother and checked in to our Aerosvit flight to Toronto. Katya's mother was visibly upset but remained stoic. Katya was too busy fussing about check-in times and luggage and all those stressful airport things to really worry about the fact that she was leaving her home permanently.
After an hour or so of goodbyes, we went through security and boarded our aircraft.
|Katya's office party. There was a balloon-blowing competition for some reason, and I won a screwdriver.|
|Like all company Christmas parties, eventually the boss gets hammered and tries to speak in French with his employee's spouse (in this case, me).|
|Like all Russian parties, eventually a stripper becomes involved...|
Our flight had a connection in Kiev, which made sense considering we were flying a Ukrainian airline (hey, I bargain shop. What can I say?).
We were scheduled to spend an hour in Kiev and then 7 hours to Toronto. I had pre-purchased Toronto airport shuttle tickets to the Toronto Greyhound terminal, and then two Greyhound tickets to Kitchener where we would stay with friends for two days until our connections onwards to Victoria. Unfortunately, things didn't turn out that way.
At Kiev Borispol, they loaded all us passengers, in full winter outfits, onto a bus that drove out to the tarmac where our 767 was waiting to be boarded. Then they left us there, in the bus, with the heat on. The bus was jam packed with passengers and their carry-on, and the heat was rising, and for 45 minutes they didn't open the doors and the windows were sealed shut. People were panicking and banging on the windows but the groundcrew outside and the bus driver just ignored us.
Sweat was pouring out of every one of my pores. Katya and I hadn't been able to get a seat so were stuck standing, wedged in between a big guy in a parka and a rotund babushka in a big fur coat. One lady near the front of the bus passed out from heat exhaustion.
Finally, after nearly an hour, they opened the doors and a big gush of cool, beautiful air washed into the bus. There was a violent stampede of passengers off the bus, and thankfully our spot had been right next to the middle doors, so we got off without any of the pushing and hair-pulling that's usually involved in a Russian lineup.
We boarded the Aerosvit jet that would take us to Toronto, and thankfully we had a great seat at the very front of the economy cabin (so no seats in front of us!). We were excited to go. It's really happening! After nearly a year of waiting and wishing and dreaming for this moment, Katya was actually flying home with me to beautiful Canada!
The seatbelt sign came on, the pretty Ukrainian stewardesses went through the oxygen-mask pantomime, and the engines revved up. And then we sat there. For the next 4 and half hours.
Seriously. The damn airplane didn't move an inch. No announcement came on telling us what was happening or when we could expect some type of travel in an westwardly direction. No beverages or food were served. The seatbelt sign was never turned off. And still we sat.
Finally, once the sun had set and around the time we should have been nearing the coast of Newfoundland, the plane began to taxi to the runway. It took off without incident and finally we were off, all the excitement turned into pure hatred for this crappy garbage Ukrainian airline. I will never fly Aerosvit again. Especially when they served microwaved fish for supper, and had no other options.
After five hours we neared the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador in the middle of the night, and opening the little plastic airline curtains, we gazed out at a clear northern night sky. The Northern Lights were dancing around the entire sky! Katya was ecstatic and tried to take photos but nothing turned up. A couple of hours later we started our descent and Katya was jumping in her seat as the bright lights of Toronto and the CN Tower lit up the entire horizon.
We landed at Pearson International without incident. Katya asked a stewardess if an airline representative will be available, because we had missed all our connecting buses and were now stranded in Toronto, as well as out a hundred bucks. "Oh yes" the stewardess cooed. Of course there were no damn Aerosvit representatives in Toronto. Oh well. Money lost.
Our first call was at the CBSA queue, more commonly known as "Passport Control". A young blonde guy in an impeccable uniform welcomed Katya to Canada and kindly showed us to the immigration office behind him. We went in through the door he had pointed out to a room with a long counter and several windows, not much different than an old-school bank. An older CBSA guy with white hair called us over and went through Katya's documents. He was super-friendly and joked around with her, putting her completely at ease. Finally, after he had entered all his relevant info into a computer, he stamped her passport and said "Welcome to Canada!" My hat goes off to the Canadian Border Services Agency for their professionalism and experience.
Next stop was customs. We were shuffled down a corridor into a big open hall with many inspections desks where a dozen CBSA officers were tearing apart people's luggage. One Jamaican lady was watching wide-eyed as an officer confiscated bottle after bottle of alcohol, poorly hidden inside socks. There must have been at least 30 bottles!
Our turn came next, where a friendly young woman inspected Katya's passport and her declaration card, as well as the import declaration form we had printed off and filled out back in Russia, a necessity for all immigrants to Canada. It basically exempts everything on the list from duties, as they are personal items.
We had watched everyone else's dirty laundry flying through the air as officers tore apart their luggage, but for us, the friendly CBSA officer smiled and said "Welcome to Canada" and eased us through!
We walked out an automatic door into the main terminal, and Katya was officially in Canada!
I called ahead to a friend to come pick us up, and while we waited I found a little pub in the airport and we settled down for a Molson Canadian. Katya took a few sips and the said "Ew" and ordered a tea instead. Welcome to Canada!