welcome to canada

I finally had a good night of sleep!

I am a worrier.  This often surprises my friends because I generally seem pretty laid back.  But underneath the surface, there’s always something nagging at me.  When it’s something big — like being afraid of not being allowed through customs — it can easily keep me tossing and turning all night.  I hadn’t slept well in the past two days or so, but finally last night I slept like a baby.

Darren and I are safely in Canada!

Poor boo, I could tell he was stressed but I couldn’t get him talking about why.  The few days before our road trip he was shorter tempered than normal (and I’m very good at defusing his temper!).  He talked to his mom on Sunday and broke the news to her that he was both coming home and was married.  This was a funny conversation from my viewpoint because I could tell she was informing him that his older brother was going to get married in Sept.  Then he covered the phone and looked at me and was like “I have to tell her!  I don’t know how!” and then immediately launched back into the conversation with “Mom? You know how you said my brother’s getting married?  Well, I have something to tell you… I already am!”  Apparently she told him she wasn’t surprised, ha!

Anyway, after talking to his mom we plotted our route – we’d be staying the night at the halfway point somewhere in northern Ohio or southern Michigan, we’d make Port Huron/Sarnia our Port of Entry, then we’d stop in Toronto to visit Ara and sightsee, head up to Sudbury to find him a place to live, and then finally meet his parents in Marathon (since they’ll be on a camping trip for the rest of this week – we won’t see them until next Tuesday!”  Our friend Ara had previously offered to put us up for a hotel in a night because he “felt guilty” that we couldn’t crash at his place.  Although we originally told him no, we later took him up on the offer and paid for an extra night ourselves at the Radisson in Scarborough, which is in the greater Toronto area.  That booked and taken care of, we looked for a hotel in Michigan.  Detroit was really our halfway mark between Clarksville and Sudbury, but when we realized that we were stopping in Toronto I decided to make our stop slightly further south.  Also, I did not trust that we would not get killed in Detroit!  We found a Super8 in Maumee, OH, and decided to stay there the first night.

After those arrangements were made, and my suitcase was mostly packed and I was mostly ready to go, I had a brief freak out.  I talked with my friend Krystal, who crosses the border often because her boyfriend is Canadian, about what to expect at the border when I was driving my own vehicle.  Poor Krystal is harassed every time at the border, and she’s been denied entry before because they think she’s trying to immigrate.  I was SO worried that would happen to me!  I spent the better part of an hour tearing through old bills in a bag that I hadn’t sorted from our old house, trying to find some current ones to prove that I have ties in America!  Then I went on an internet spree and printed all of my current bills (I don’t get paper ones anymore, and I wanted the old paper ones + the new printout ones to look more legit) and stapled them to the old ones.  Then I even found my student loan deferrment papers and my GRE test scores and added those to the packet!  I was determined to be able to prove that I was going to return to the US!

We left the next day a little later than my planned time of 10am, but still before noon.  We were leaving just ahead of a serious line of storms that would later wreak havoc on Clarksville that night!  I believe we made pretty good time; we arrived at our Super 8 sometime shortly after 8pm, and we had a pretty fair amount of stops to go to the bathroom, get beverages. stretch our legs, etc.

We checked out of the hotel Wednesday morning after eating complimentary mini waffles, and hit the road for the most tense part of our trip – the short two hour run to the border.  Madge, my new gps (courtesy of Sugarbandit, who gave me a check as a wedding present the day I was trying to figure out who I was going to borrow a working American/Canadian gps from) kept trying to lead us astray at that point.  She’d been behaving herself up until then, but suddenly she was VERY frantic for us to cross into Canada at each point we could!  We finally muted her and followed our (much simpler) Google maps itinerary until she got on track and showed us the right course.  The REALLY scary part was that Madge kept trying to direct us through downtown Detroit and take us off of the interstate!  The whole area was so freaking ghetto and scary looking.  I know the areas around New Orleans looked terrible after Katrina, but the part of Detroit we passed through was just downright creepy.  There was no way we were going to let that bitch Madge get us killed.  Seeing the derelict buildings covered in dirt and graffiti made me appreciate my decision to park us in Maumee for that first night!

As we approached the border, Darren and I got more and more tense.  Our biggest fear was that they would separate us and let him through but keep me out.  As soon as we pulled through the US side, we were questioned on our citizenship.  I handed over our passports and we answered the questions but the worker directed us to the side to park.  She then began grilling us on the car, and finally had us both exit the vehicle, turn our keys and passports over to her, and go inside the building.  Once inside, we were separated.  I think Darren was taken to the Canadian side where he was grilled by a male officer about how we’d met, the nature of our relationship, how long he’d overstayed, etc.  He said they kept trying to trip him up and make him say he was living in the US.  The female officer who took me over to the US side actually calmed me down by asking me questions about how Darren and I had met, where we were staying, etc.  She told me that she gets this a lot (people meeting online and crossing the border), and that it wasn’t weird.  She kept saying that Darren arrived in March and every time I had to correct her and say May.  Finally she let me fill out a customs declaration sheet, and we were reunited.  They handed me both of our passports and said we were free to go.  Scarily enough, they also gave me one of Darren’s ID cards that was in his wallet in the bottom of his laptop bag in the back of the car – they’d searched it VERY thoroughly!

So we were happy because thought we were home free.  Nope.  We hit the Canadian side of the border and had to go through a little booth where a guy grilled us.  He lectured Darren on overstaying and asked me how was he supposed to know that I was going to return home?  I sort of snorted and said “Uh… because I’m American and I love my country?”  He gave me a yellow slip and told us that we’d have to pull through to customs.  Again.  But this time it was just me who was going to be grilled.  Darren had to stay in the car while I went into the building with my form to answer even more questions.  Fortunately, the officer I got seemed really nice.  He asked me if I had a job and I said I was a teacher (past tense, but I don’t know if he picked up on that).  We started talking about teaching and I told him I taught English and he said that was the only class he hated.  I asked him to please not hold that against me and he kind of laughed.  He cleared me through easily enough and finally Darren and I were freeeeeeee :D  He then admitted that he had been afraid that they were going to lock him up for overstaying.

What I find really weird is that no one ever asked me if we were married.  I was very truthful in everything I said, but sometimes I didn’t tell the whole story, I suppose.  I was asked several times how I knew Darren, and instead of saying that he was my husband, I’d tell the story of how I met him in an online game, how he wanted to date me but I refused unless I knew him in person, so he came down to meet me.  They must have known we were married because we had our rings on, and our marriage certificate was in the car they so thoroughly searched, AND Darren told his officer – but no one ever asked me about it!

We made it to the Radisson pretty easily.  There was a snafu with our first room (the door lock was broken and we couldn’t get in!), but they gave us a new one quickly enough.  I actually think this is better because the paperwork for our first one said two queen beds, and this one is a king size.  It’s a sleep number, so Darren and I had fun playing with it.  I made my side really soft and then went to the bathroom.  When I came out Darren was like “Jump!” so I bellyflopped on my side and discovered he’d made it as hard as a rock!  He’s such a turd.

Darren hooked up our computers to the internet (wired, so he set up his switch and ran a cord for both of us) and we messed around a bit on WoW.  I mostly just talked with some guildies and he did some dailies and a random heroic.  About that time I decided to take a nap because I had a hellacious headache, and man, I crashed hard!  When he woke me up a half our later I was sooo out of it, it felt like I’d been sleeping for hours.  We used Madge to find a nearby post office and TD bank, then went out to see if he could cash this money order he’s had since July.  No luck because the bank had just closed and the post office didn’t have that amount of money.  We’re going to go remedy that this morning.

Finally we called Ara and arranged to meet him for dinner.  Ara is this guy we know from FlyFF.  He lives here in Scarborough and is incredibly nice; he booked this hotel for us and helped us a lot on our search for wedding rings.  He came to our WoW server and plays there with us too now.  He’s just an all around nice guy, but I was still a little nervous about meeting him last night.  I’m weird like that.  Ara is GIANT.  He’s something like 6″6′ and towers over Darren, who I think is really tall.  I told him there was no way he’d fit in my car, even in the front seat.  Poor Selene the Celica is tiny.  Ara chauffered us around and we went to a restaurant named Casey’s, where I had a rare steak (which was okay) and these amazing steamed vegetables (carrots and broccoli) and sweet potato fries.  I could have eaten a whole freakin platter of just those fries, they were the best I’ve ever had!

We’re supposed to all go out again today.  I requested the tourist experience since I’ve never been to Toronto.  I didn’t take any pictures yesterday because it was icky out, but the sun is shining and it looks beautiful today.  I’ll have my camera with me and I’ll update next with some pictures of my adventures.  We’re supposed to go to the CN Tower, which Darren let slip to Ara that the main reason he wants to go is to see if I freak out.  I’m terrified of heights and supposedly this place is incredibly tall and all glass.  I told them I’d be fine as long as the floor was solid and Darren looked evil and said it’s glass too.  I don’t know how well I’m going to handle this…

But all in all, I’m just happy to be here.  I love traveling and exploring new places and I hadn’t had a good road trip in years.  This has been interesting so far and I’m loving learning about new culture.  Canadian money looks cool, but I’m not used to the conversion.  Taxes here are incredibly high, something like 13%?  And I thought TN’s 9.5% was bad!  Fortunately Selene shows both miles and kilometers, because all the speeds here are kph.  Gas is in liters and I’m not sure how to convert that, since I’m so terrible in math, and I’m too lazy atm to look it up.  And like everything in TN is in English/Spanish, everything here is in English/French!  which is way cooler than Spanish anyway.

I’m off to run some errands and see about some breakfast!

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