The Day: September 11, 2004
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Groggy View of the CN Tower
CN Tower Askewed, Gardiner Express, Toronto (September 2004)
Filipino Jeepney Driver from Amazing Race 5 in the Philippines (thanks Vangie)
The feet have landed.
The lines were long. It was nearing midnight when we first made our first steps. Naturally the first destination would be the CR, as I'd certainly call it even in this new country. The walk of life with other immigrants was like a foot race. Everyone wanted to be out of the turnstiles as fast as they can. We picked a line that we hoped will process our landing papers quick enough. There were at least 30 lines with at least 20 people each. We chose the middle line 11. We looked at the people who chose line 10 and 12 and benchmarked our progress.
Upon going through initial immigration check which wasn't that hard, we got in the interview room with at least 15 other families. Two of them from the Philippines. All hopeful that the process will be painless. One, its nearing midnight. Two, to have dreams come true. I remember the film "The Terminal" and thought of the worst, sleeping in the Pearson Airport for at least 10 months just like Tom Hanks.
We were given no.14 but were in and out of the interview room ahead of Family 11 and maybe 12 and 13. They probably had to answer more questions. Thank God we didn't. Maybe our officer was pleased with our ready-smiles. We were asked to sign the Confirmation of Landing papers, the same documents sitting on our shelf for 9 months asked not to be written on. Now was the perfect time to do it. 11:30 pm on Sept. 11.
We got out, didn't go through the picture taking process and moved out of the office towards baggage claim. Our 2 boxes stood out of the dozens of "balikbayan boxes" as it was the only one in black (the sturdy bags for these boxes bought from True Value). Adrenaline was still high despite the lateness in the night, proven by the fact that I was able to carry the 70 lb. cargo alone and fast, just before somebody took my pushcart. Got the 2 boxes and 2 luggages and carried two pushcarts, like 2 strollers of twin baggages reunited with their mom.
We took out all the locks on all 6 luggages, prepared to show our original CDs (no pirated discs at that), or prove that we didnt bring in food (despite the mongo hopia i mistook to have pork). Just a step into customs made us shiver to see some families opening up their boxes, checking the x-ray screens, box owners exasperated in seeing their boxes torn apart and being taped back. An officer called us in, asked how much we were bringing in and asked for the Accounting of Goods, the packing list we made on Excell to show what were inside the 6 luggages. Guess what? He made some cursory check on the content list, then returned our copies, after which he made his own copy and finally sent us out of the lane in 5 minutes. "You came in prepared", was what he had to say. He commented on our English proficiency which he didn't have when he arrived 18 years ago. A fact I noticed with the other officers, they all came in from another country at one point and went through the same process I guess.
We were only able to heave a big sigh of relief when we saw our host, a schoolmate in High School, welcome us. He and his family will be our angels for the next few days. "Welcome to Canada" were his first words. Those were the best first words in the last 24 hours. Perfect for a new day, Sept 12, of a new life in a new country.