Immigrants are always homesick. This is the core of our story. Even those of us who flee horrific circumstances have at least one thing we remember fondly, or that becomes fond when it is gone. To emigrate is to surround oneself with the unfamiliar, and to live in the echoing absence of what was once everywhere. There are days when those echoes are a deafening cacophony, laying down the impossible demand of that incoherent word, home.
Ottawa’s yearly Latin festival puts the many feelings of that word into focus. This gathering of my people in the plaza before Ottawa City Hall is a riot of sensation. Live music invites listeners to come close, and an uproar of food smells permeates the area. Hand-written signs advertise our regional specialties with words I rarely see even on our restaurant menus, and every spoonful of yellow rice and chunk of slow-roasted pork is a portal to a world I left long ago. Even the less familiar offerings, Peruvian noodles that take notes from South America’s Chinese community and Colombian pastries I’ve never tried, come with our unmistakable aroma and style.
Continue reading “Halves in the Meeting Place”
“Well, I give up. What’s the catch?”
“Oh, no catch. Although we are technically in New Jersey.”
The way American television talks about New Jersey, one would think the apocalypse already happened, but only there. The air is semisolid industrial waste and the beaches are made of finely ground syringes. The people are ruder than the rudest New York stereotype, bizarrely puffed-up Italian-American caricatures, elitist Princeton heirs, and immigrants from all over Asia and Latin America, somehow all at once, with only racism letting anyone have something other than the most impossibly overwrought “New Jersey accent.” It’s treated as New York’s leavings and the USA’s armpit, in media as obnoxiously cliché as How I Met Your Mother and as original and usually-compassionate as Steven Universe.
None of that is the New Jersey I remember from the eleven years I lived there.
Continue reading “Lilacs, Kiełbasa, and Why New Jersey Deserves Better”
I’m currently a candidate for permanent residency in Canada. It’ll be a while before the Canadian authorities make their decision, and then a bit longer while I come up with ~$500 that Canada likes to extract from its immigrants for the privilege of the legal right to remain even after their stay is approved, on top of a similar expense required to even apply. I’ll have to sit for some sort of interview in between, most likely, so that an official fundamentally unqualified to make this determination can decide if my relationship to Ania is genuine. I haven’t yet determined whether I’ll have to make that appearance while crossdressing, given that my legal paperwork is all under the old name, but signs point in that direction. I’m still figuring out whether it’s a good idea to start moving on my legal name change now, or if that would complicate my application. Immigrating while transgender is a dreadful experience overall.
Eventually, I’ll also have to renounce my US citizenship, because even having US citizenship is a liability for US citizens relocated long-term elsewhere. The United States is unusual in two respects: it is illegal to enter the United States with a non-US passport if one is a US citizen, and the US extends its financial fingers into the doings of US citizens living abroad. Much has been written about the annoyance that these rules impose on people even approaching middle-class, despite being ostensibly aimed at drawing back some money filched by jet-setting CEOs and parked elsewhere in the world. Worse, because US citizenship is transmitted by birth to at least one American parent or on American soil, if I have children, anything in their names is also subject to US scrutiny and US taxes, when they’ll have no personal connection to “the old country” at all. Relative poverty has kept me off of the IRS and Treasury Department’s radar, but I’ll still probably have to answer for my invisibility once my income becomes real.
Continue reading “World Citizen”