Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advice - Banking Issues #2

Tip - Funds transfer from Canada to the U.S.

If you've moved to Canada as a Permanent Resident there is a good chance you are doing so debt free. If you have immigrated on a temporary work permit in relatively quick fashion like myself, you may still have U.S. debt. If so, that debt still needs to be paid off each month and you may find that you have an agreement with your U.S. creditors to do so only in U.S. funds and ONLY from an account in a U.S. bank. In other words, your U.S. creditor may not accept payment using your Canadian U.S. dollars checking account. And, as mentioned in a previous post, one might wish to keep their U.S. checking account open for just such a situation.

If need be, getting money into that U.S. account from Canada might prove frustrating. Money transfers between Canadian and U.S. banks take approximately 21 days and you'd better hope nothing goes screwy. You may not make your payment due date if it does. 

We found Paypal to be a quicker, painless method for transferring money from our accounts in Canada to the U.S. Using Paypal can cut the transfer time from 21 days to as low as six or seven. The funds transfer from your Canadian account to Paypal takes approximately six days. It may be the same day to an additional couple of days to move your money from Paypal to the U.S. bank account. Paypal will do a conversion. When we checked the rate it was one penny higher than that published on the internet. Verify the bank and Paypal links by transferring an insignificant amount of money the first time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Can You Hear Me Now?

Eric and I haven't ever had a home land line phone in the time we've lived together. It's been nine or so years since I personally have had one. There was a point in 2000 or so when I had three voice mails to keep track of; home, office and cell phone. Doing so was exhausting and costly so I opted to ditch the one at home. Work voice mail was mandatory and incredibly important and if I wished, I could forward the work calls to my cell phone and its proprietary VM system. Doing so made everything seem right in the world. K.I.S.S. ...or as simple as possible. Since then I've only been wireless.

We moved to Toronto ON four and a half months ago and traded in our U.S. cell phones for Canadian ones. I suppose we could have kept our service from San Francisco but doing so would cost an arm and a leg. We'd also have missed the opportunity to pay an equally insane amount for mobile communications here in T.O. Ah, the joy of access fees, eh?

So, new cell phone in hand I very quickly realized the number assigned me had been very recently associated with a moving company. How incredibly fortunate for me to be receiving very random calls regarding my moving services. In short time those calls stopped coming, thank the gods. All became rather normal and routine except for the odd "wrong number." Until last week. There were about ten separate calls, some seemingly with no one on the other end of the line. The number on the caller ID kept changing but all the variants were of an excessive length and a couple of them started with a "9." Perhaps out-of-country? Would caller ID register if so? Except for several, "hello, hellos" no one would speak to me. The calls finally stopped. Annoying as they were, Rogers Wireless would be no help at all. The customer rep I spoke to stated that the system hadn't even registered those calls to my phone. What? 'Tis true.

Flash forward one week to tonight. I was unavailable to take any of the numerous calls that rang my phone for ten minutes straight. Whomever it was kept calling, letting the phone ring and then hanging up and repeating the process. They didn't even try to leave a voice mail. And the caller ID was blocked. Go figure. Eric finally answered for me. The caller wouldn't identify himself or why he wanted to speak to me, only mentioning that it was "personal." He also wouldn't leave Eric his number for my call-back. Go figure. End of phone call. I was able to answer the next time it was his girlfriend. She wouldn't identify herself either but mentioned that her boyfriend was under the impression that she was having an affair with someone at my end of the line.

Please feel free to clue-in at the sound of the beep. "beep"

I politely informed her that she and her boyfriend had reached the home of two gay guys and that I had no idea what was going on at her end of the line and that they shouldn't call my number again. I then hung up.

Rogers Wireless immediately got another phone call. The experience wasn't very amusing and I figured it should at least be documented. I had hoped they could do something on their end to determine who had called. Not that I wanted to know. I just wanted it documented on my account in case the situation escalated. No. Can. Do. Great. Go figure (x3)

So, I am done with that cell number. Both the Rogers rep and I agreed that number needed to be retired. I now have a new one. I asked for a number that has been out of circulation for a lengthy time. Hopefully my new number wasn't used in the recent past by a drug dealer or escort. Cross your fingers for me. Please. LOL

If I haven't yet called, sent a text, or otherwise informed you of my "new digits," please contact me so I can do so.

"Can you hear me now?"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday Morning in Toronto

My activities of late have centered around painting several rooms of our flat. To that end, I've been inside a lot and haven't taken use of the car during the day in a week or two. With my brush strokes finished for the time being, I decided to drive my partner to work and despite not really needing the car, to have use of it to distance myself from home. 


...I love the stuff. I have to give a tip o' the toque (a shake of the fist?) to my former room mate and good friend John C., who, every morning for the year he lived with me, faithfully brewed a full pot o' joe. I am now as addicted as anyone, thankyouverymuch - though I do have to say the machine gets a good amount of rest since I discovered Tea, Earl Grey, hot. A future blog posting for sure...

So, this morning I drove my Eric to work and then headed to the Starbuck's on Laird in Leaside to read the Toronto Star and enjoy a cup of coffee and an apple fritter. I like this particular shop because there is a small parking lot. This means I don't have to feed the parking meter.

I arrived and parked. There was a car in the next space with its hood up.  A woman was quenching her very needy vehicle's thirst for windshild wiper fluid - an activity I had recently done with my own. Have you ever driven with an insanely dirty windscreen? I remarked on my way into the coffee house how much more pleasant driving home for her would be and small talk ensued regarding my gas-electric hybrid SUV and, also, what has "lovingly" been described by my former auto mechanic as "idiot" lights -dashboard icons that illuminate after something breaks or fails on your car.

Anyway, she had very nice energy and I enjoyed the interaction. I also enjoyed the coffee and fritter that she spontaneously bought for me inside when we both reached the counter. How thoughtful. Moments later she said, "goodbye," left, and drove away. It could've happened anywhere at any time; I know. But it happened here in Toronto. And, since my partner and I moved to T.O. from California four and a half months ago, we have had many other similar interactions with random folk here in our new land. Is it all about (aboot?) a more polite, considerate Canadian culture? Hmmmmm.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Its Official!

Canadian Newcomers/Immigrants 3.0! Eric's and my new official title passed on to us by Tom and Emilio of the blog Canadian Hope. They celebrate their first full year as residents of Canada. In doing so they shed their newcomer title, given to them presumably by Nick and Mason of the Life Without Borders blog who arrived before them. ...And we all owe our thanks to L-girl from We Move to Canada - our very own "Grandam" of U.S. to CA immigration. Incredibly generous, helpful people all.

Tom and Emilio anointed Eric and I last night while attending a holiday party. The event was apparently documented this morning. I can only say that I am truly honored to receive such a title from two really great guys. 

As third (fourth?) generation in this line of immigration connection, we will continue the tradition of helping inform those who contact us regarding the nuances of Canadian immigration, meeting, greeting and welcoming, and generally using our experience to appropriately assist anyone with their immigration adventure.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Looking Toward the End of January

Good Morning! And for those of you still waiting for your coffee machine to finish it's task - good morning. I sit, laptop definitively where it is designed to be, on the couch in the living room - and yes, my coffee mug is full and steaming, placed on a forest green marble coaster on the table before me. The cat is behind, perched over my shoulder on the back of said couch and I have CNN on the TV for background noise. I even lit up two of the darker corners of the room with candles. One, a square pillar, sits atop a bookcase. The other is a tea light inside a true alabaster votive holder aside a dark leather chair on a table. Their glow is very pleasant. Eric has gone to work and before he kissed me goodbye I learned that we are attending a Martini party on this fair Friday eve.

Last Saturday I went with two new friends to a rally for the Liberal/NDP coalition at Toronto's Nathan Phillip Square to see party leaders Jack Layton (NDP) and Stephan Dion (Liberals) speak. In a most ridiculous move, a decided not to bring or wear any gloves. Hello Dorothy, you are not in California any longer. I was uncomfortable but it didn't turn into a crisis. And despite the cold and the lack of gloves, the trip downtown was completely worth it. I enjoyed hearing the two Canadian politicians speak at the rally. 

Attending the rally seemed a rare opportunity. It is technically possible to see a U.S. politician speak, though doing so usually means paying a tidy sum to receive an invitation to some event with limited space that an excessive number of the people desire. Attempt to attend such an event in San Francisco where said politicians only come to extract campaign money from the venture capitalists and Silicon Valley power players - those who have the connections to get and can afford the hefty price of a ticket. And I write only about Democrats. Republicans do not or rarely visit the S.F. bay area. Arguably the most liberal area of the U.S., there is very little money and few votes to be had for them. So they ignore it. But back to the rally...and my cold hands...

It's not every day that the sitting Canadian Prime Minister makes such egregious political mistakes while leading a minority government that the three opposing parties decide to shelve their differences, create a coalition and attempt to unseat said PM and his party from power. It was all very dramatic. Perhaps I should say it is all very dramatic because there has been no conclusion. Yet. In any case, there were rallies for the coalition in several cities across Canada and the three of us attended the one in Toronto.

Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is a bully. His leadership is more Conservative than Canadian. He seems more interested in how his decisions further his Conservative party and not how they might benefit the Canadian people, it's culture and ultimately, the country. It is disturbing that increasing his Conservative party's power seems more important to Harper than what properly used political power can achieve - a more stable and prosperous nation. During the world economic crisis he is focusing on power politics and not properly managing the Canadian nation. Harper's answer to "strengthen" Canada's economy? He declared to take away the right of civil servants to strike for three years. He attacked pay equity laws. And, just as importantly, to end governmental political subsidies. All questionable responses to an economic crisis. What was he thinking? Even some conservatives wondered. What followed was a lack of confidence with him by all those in Parliament except his Conservatives. He managed to have Parliament suspended, or Prorogued - the only way to avoid losing on a vote of confidence and, ultimately his job and government mandate. Shrewd politics to be sure. But to what end? To successfully lead a minority government through cooperation with opposing parties? To confidently lead Canada through a world crisis? NO. Parliament will resume at the end of January, when, unless something changes drastically, one assumes the vote of confidence will be taken. He will surely lose and he understands this. So instead of addressing the nation with a plan and strategy to weather the economic storm, he concerns himself with filling 18 Senate seats with Conservatives. And while this is politically understandable, the timing is amazing. While I expect these partisan antics during the best of times, during an obvious crisis I insist in strong leadership benefiting the people. That is the elected job. What do Canadians get from Harper during a crisis? Politics before Country. It's truly shameful. Again, back to the rally...

I was astounded by the diversity of those who attended. I was with a true cross section of the population. Both Jack Layton and Stephan Dion spoke well. I have no doubt that they are taking advantage of a political opportunity. Who can blame them? But they also speak to the opportunity to focus again on the Canadian people, the country and the crisis at hand. They are proactively and aggressively acknowledging the current economic situation and the concerns of the people of Canada. This I find a stark contrast with the tepid response the Conservatives give when pressed. With the time he has left, Harper will continue to play partisan power politics at the expense of the world economic crisis and the true concerns of the Canadian people.  This is why I continue to support unseating Harper and the Conservative minority government at the end of January.