The last time I wrote about my story, we were ready to go on a firefighter exchange to New Zealand. We would take anywhere in the country but hoped for Whangarei, as we had been here before, and we had friends living there.
As 2010 ended and 2011 started, I was obsessed with the idea of living somewhere else and even one day getting a second passport. I thought a second passport would be a fantastic gift for our kids to have freedom in their lives to live and work somewhere else in the world if they wanted.
We put some feelers out about doing a firefighter exchange to New Zealand and didn’t find any initial success. So, we decided to try and apply for a work visa or residency for a year. I would take an unpaid year’s leave of absence from my job, and we would spend a year in New Zealand if possible.
I spent hours going through the residency process. We were, however, denied residency because we did not have the threshold for points. I was shocked, as Sonya and I were both university-educated, we had worked hard all our lives, and it did not seem fair that we were denied. I learnt that emigration is not easy. Immigration NZ did not acknowledge some of Sonya’s post-secondary education despite receiving a highly respected university degree. I was so frustrated that our qualifications were denied for no reason other than what seemed a bureaucrat’s whim.
It seemed we had hit the end of the line. Our ideas of doing a firefighter exchange were going nowhere, and now we could not attain residency either.
If you have never emigrated, it appears to be a simple process, but I can guarantee you it is not. We were put in the pool for residency selection for six months, but Immigration NZ told us not to hold our breath, as it seemed unlikely we would be selected because we were five points short.
With the door closed, we just thought that we should look onwards and upwards in life. It was a valiant effort, but it seemed out of our reach.
Then things changed on a dime.
Sonya got a phone call out of the blue in March 2011 from a family in Tutukaka who wanted to do a firefighter exchange to Canada and had heard we were interested. Sonya took the call, immediately said, “YES,” and all of a sudden, we were catapulted back into making a firefighter exchange work for a year.
We had Laurel, aged 5, Violet had just turned 3, and Owen was about 9 months. We started the mountain of paperwork for the exchange between the two fire departments and starting the process of getting work visas and a student visa for Laurel. As residency was off the table, we started down this path instead.
We received a second shock. In early April 2011, we got a random letter from Immigration New Zealand. Sonya opened it. It said we had been selected for permanent residency in the most recent residency lottery and we were invited to apply.
As I said earlier, emigration is a nightmare of paperwork and deadlines and sending multiple documents to various parts of the world, hoping for the best. Sonya also had to do a telephone interview about her suitability to be a valuable asset to New Zealand. It was stressful. We were trying to meet these ridiculous deadlines and spending thousands of dollars to meet all the requirements. If I wasn’t such a determined person, some say stubborn, we probably would have quit at this stage.
We had only spent two weeks, in 2010, in New Zealand, and now we were thinking of living there for a year and maybe even beyond a year. There were a lot of bumps on the way and every time we thought this was it, we weren’t going to make it, somehow things would work out.
In hindsight, it was a path we were supposed to take as a family, but at the time, it was stressful. We were effectively leaving everything and everyone we knew and taking a chance on living for a year in Tutukaka.
You can’t get any more significant difference in climate, lifestyle, and culture than you do from Edmonton to Whangarei. I spent 10+ years being a firefighter, regularly fighting fires at -40C, going to car accidents in all extreme weather conditions, and living 6+ months in the snow. And then, in the matter of a few weeks, it all changed, and summer would hit. It would be hotter and drier than New Zealand. Seventy degrees was a regular temperature change in Edmonton’s calendar year (from -40C to 30C).
There are so many stories about this six-month flourish trying to get ready to turn our lives upside down. Next time, I will share some of these adventures and tell you about how I nearly got arrested trying to get the proper documentation for us to emigrate. In hindsight, it’s pretty funny to think I was almost arrested, but at the time, it was no laughing matter.
Read Yogafire Origins – Part 1 – My Journey Begins here.
Read Yogafire Origins – Part 2 – My First Yoga Class here.
Read Yogafire Origins – Part 3 – Firefighters doing Yoga here.
Read Yogafire Origins – Part 4 – The Odyssey Begins here.
Read Yogafire Origins – Part 6 – Almost Arrested and Other Obstacles here.
Read Yogafire Origins – Part 7 – Final Preparation for our Trip here.
Read Yogafire Origins – Part 8 – Our New Life in New Zealand here.