Superfluous Matter
Getting Settled

A couple weeks have passed since my last post and my life is considerably more stable now. Work continues to be amazing and I have moved into my new apartment and unpacked my things. I have a home once again.

I'm living in an "in-between" neighbourhood and as such the rent is a bit cheaper. For those who know San Francisco I'm up the hill behind the Trader Joe's near Geary and Masonic. It's not really Laurel Heights and it's not really Inner Richmond. Depending on the neighbourhood map you look at I might be in Lone Mountain or Jordan Heights, but neither name sparks much recognition in the eyes of the average San Franciscan.

My walk to work is about twenty minutes and half of it occurs inside the Presidio. It's lovely to walk through a forest as part of my commute. Also in the Presidio is the huge climbing gym Planet Granite. On Friday morning I finally got out there to climb for the first time since leaving Canada. It was fantastic but I'm a bit out of shape. I'll soon fix that.

So far I've noticed two "little things" I miss about Canada. First, as always when moving to a new place I desperately want a Canadian Tire. That store is so useful for miscellaneous house stuff. I haven't found a single spot here that is quite as comprehensive. The second is a small detail on the buses. As in Toronto there are signs inside encouraging people to move back. In Toronto when you get to the back there is a sign thanking you for being considerate. That is missing here and I notice its absence every time.

I've made a video walkthrough of my apartment for anyone who's interested in seeing my new space, but I'd highly recommend visiting in person instead of (or in addition to) watching this crude facsimile.

Video walkthrough of my new apartment
Trials and Tribulations

I don't want to complain. However, moving to a new country necessarily involves a certain amount of nightmarish bureaucratic failure. I have had three such instances so far (two resolved and one still open) and I would suspect there are several more waiting in my future.

To being with I definitely should not have boasted about how I totally had my banking figured out. Almost immediately after publishing that post it all exploded.

When I linked my new Wells Fargo account to my RBC Bank account RBC immediately froze that account due to a recent rash of fraudulent activity originating from Wells Fargo. To fix this problem I had to get a letter from Wells Fargo indicating that I owned the account and that it was in good standing. Since Wells Fargo is a real bank I was able to accomplish this quickly and get my RBC bank account unfrozen.

Unfortunately for me I opened my Wells Fargo account with a cheque from my RBC account. Of course they tried to cash that cheque while my RBC account was frozen and so it bounced. This didn't sit well with Wells Fargo and so they froze my accounts. I went in to chat with Wells Fargo and they told me that unless I got a letter from RBC indicating that it was not my fault the cheque bounced, my Wells Fargo accounts would be closed and I would not be able to bank with Wells Fargo in the future. Apparently I was being suspected of bank fraud.

Because RBC is not quite a real bank here it took a few days of increasingly frantic phone calls to get the letter. Eventually it came through and my Wells Fargo accounts were unfrozen. Just not before I needed to make a certified cheque to use to secure my new apartment. Fortunately I have awesome friends in the Bay Area and Mike made the cheque for me with the understanding that I'd pay him back when I could access my money again.

I'm in a good place with my banking at the moment, but I'm trying to be careful not to trigger any more catastrophic feedback loops.

In other failure, last weekend I returned to Canada to go on my family's annual Algonquin canoe trip. This is a major event for my family and is very important to me personally so I requested that I be allowed to go back for it as a condition of accepting my job offer. Turns out getting permission from my new employer would be the least of my difficulties.

I had booked a return flight between San Francisco and Ottawa (connecting in Chicago) back in June and the timing of the segments seemed perfect. I arrived at SFO early Friday morning, got checked in and boarded the plane. There was a bit of a delay but nothing unusual. Then the captain came on and notified the passengers that something was broken on the plane which meant they'd have to start one engine by itself and then use it to jump-start the other. A bit concerning, but the captain made it sound normal. A few minutes later this procedure was attempted. The first engine didn't even cycle to full power before it shut itself off. We were then informed that the plane was properly broken and would not be flying so everyone had to get off.

A new plane was ordered but it would not be available in time for me to make my connection in Chicago. I went to the service desk and eventually they were able to route me through Washington DC instead. Cool stuff and not too painful. But the plane to DC turned out to be broken as well. They were able to fix it without unloading, but the delay made my connection in DC very very tight. I ran across the airport on arrival, grateful that I had no checked luggage, and made it to the gate to Ottawa in time.

Unfortunately I was promptly informed that I did not have a seat on the flight to Ottawa. This was a surprise to me because I asked the agent back in San Francisco to confirm I had a seat since it would be very useless for me to be stuck in DC. With nothing to be done I waited around until boarding was complete at which point I was notified that because another passenger had failed to show up there was a seat for me and I could board. I arrived in Ottawa just two hours later than scheduled. Not too bad at all.

But when I returned to the Ottawa airport on Tuesday to fly back to San Francisco I was informed that one of the agents on Friday had inadvertently cancelled my seat on the Ottawa to Chicago leg of my return trip and that flight was now full. In fact there was no way to get me to San Francisco on any flight through any city on Tuesday. They had to book me in on Wednesday instead. For my trouble they put me in first class so I can't complain but that trip was by far the biggest failure I've ever had with air travel. It has made me want to stay in one place for a while.

The final instance of failure was my attempt to apply for a Social Security Number. I went to the office first thing the morning before my failure flights with all the required paperwork nicely prepared. The wait was not long and a very friendly man took care of me. But then he discovered that DHS had issued my TN Visa to a person with the first name of Matthew-Christopher (i.e. they merged my first and middle name to become my first name). Normally Social Security would just follow suit and to the US government I'd forever be Matthew-Christopher. But in my case my merged name is too long and it would not fit in the text field on the computer. So Social Security has to liaise with DHS to verify my identity meaning that my SSN will require somewhere between four and a million weeks to arrive. Since everything in the US requires a SSN this is a bit inconvenient. Hopefully I'll get it sometime in September.

Again, I'm not trying to complain. I'm fortunate to have this opportunity. But some days it really feels like my brain is going to explode. I've stopped assuming anything will go as planned. These experiences are definitely not what I pictured when I thought about all the personal growth I'd experience by taking a new job and moving to a new country.

On the more positive side the canoe trip was great. My apartment is nice and in a good area and won't bankrupt me. My stuff has apparently made it from Canada and will be delivered Monday morning. I'm slowly getting settled into my new job and the people, challenges and environment continue to be quite inspiring. I have very decent health benefits even if the health care system remains totally confounding to me. I'm lucky to be here and everything is awesome.

2014-07 | 2014-09