Irish Taste Club – Review

My friends over at Irish Taste Club sent me one of their delicious boxes of goodies for free this month, so here’s my review – and thanks Tom and Pauline.

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The food box is full of Irish artisan products from across the island of Ireland, and is perfect for those of us living abroad who crave the taste of home. Ireland isn’t known for its food, I think we can all agree we are most widely known for being able to drink a lot and being good “craic” And while this is true, Ireland actually has great food. Locally sourced products from farmers markets in Ireland are hard to beat, there is a certain freshness to our food that is just hard to find anywhere else. So let’s dive into what was in this month’s box.

First up, I’m going to start with the chocolate, because you just can’t get the same 20171114_184427chocolate over here in Canada as you can at home in Ireland. The box contained two chocolate bars and a hot chocolate swirl stick from The Chocolate Garden of Ireland which makes luxury hand-made chocolates amongst other things. Located in Carlow, The Chocolate Garden of Ireland makes gluten free chocolate using the finest quality natural ingredients and it did not disappoint! The chocolate bars were fruit and nut, which I am usually not a fan of, but the chocolate was so smooth and creamy, that I didn’t mind the fruit and nuts! The hot chocolate swirl stick was also so tasty, full of flavour, and again, it was just so creamy – I loved it.

20171114_184452Next, we had Irish mixed-seed crackers from Sheridans Cheese Mongers, which are famous for – you guessed it – cheese! They are located in Galway, as if I needed another reason to love Galway more than I already do! The mixed-seed crackers were delicious and even better, the box also contained the Sheridans Christmas Chutney, which paired beautifully with the crackers. I mean, the chutney was to die for and myself and Phil polished it off in about 3 nights. I’m actually wondering how I am going to get my hands on this chutney again. It was so dense and bursting with flavours, including carrot surprisingly, and paired with the crackers, it was a match made in heaven.20171114_184355

Then we had Irish Oat Porridge from The Foods of Athenry. I wasn’t in love with this product. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, and it tasted great, but I just feel like it wasn’t any different to the oatmeal that I can get here in Canada.

Next up was the Stem Ginger Shortbread cookies from Ditty’s Home Bakery. I loved these and just made my day having a few with a cup of tea after a long day at work. They were soft and crumbly and the added flavour of ginger was subtle but very tasty. They tasted so fresh, you would never know they came all the way from Ditty’s bakery in Derry.

20171114_184439The last item in the box was Cranberry Sauce from Kylemore Abbey and I actually haven’t tasted it yet because I am saving it for Christmas dinner! I’m dying to taste it but I’m going to do my best to wait until Christmas.

All in all, there were 8 items in the box and I loved them all with the exception of the porridge, which again, I didn’t dislike, but it’s not something I miss from home. Everything in this month’s box really did give a taste of Ireland and it left me wanting more. I’ve actually just ordered a box for December which we will enjoy over Christmas. The beauty of this box is that it’s different every month, and you don’t know what you are going to get until the box arrives in the mail, so if you like surprises, this is for you! Tom and Pauline, the owners, also put in a sheet with a little welcome note, along with some information on each of the products, which I thought was a lovely personal touch. The other thing I love about Irish Taste Club, is that you are supporting a lot of small and local Irish producers, that to me, is fantastic. So, if you feel like a taste of home, or even if you’ve only ever visited Ireland but want to try more of our local Irish food, give this a go, you will love it. If you’re in Canada, it costs $68 per box including shipping. You can purchase as a once off,  or you can sign up for a monthly subscription for 3, 6 and 12 months. I’m already excited to receive my next one! Get yours at www.irishtasteclub.com

Enjoy 🙂

An open letter to Justin Trudeau

Dear Mr. Trudeau,

I have a bone to pick with you, obviously, why else would I be writing an open letter to you? But before we get into all that, let me firstly introduce myself. My name is Rachel Keogh, 30 years old, living in Toronto with my boyfriend, Phil, and my fur baby (some people insist on calling her a cat) Ruby, and I come from Ireland (insert leprechaun joke here). Myself and Phil moved to Toronto 3 years ago, after we tried and failed to get permanent residency in Australia, but don’t take that personally, I mean Australia has summer all year round, who wouldn’t want to live there? But with the Australia plan failing pretty quickly, and us not wanting to move back to Ireland at that time on account of the country falling apart, we thought “where else will give us a Visa with relative ease?” “ah yes, those friendly Canadians will”. And three years later here we are and we’re permanent residents (take that Australia).

Now, while I love your country, with your friendly and polite people, and your funny accents (aboot, eh?), your quirky words (tooque) and strange ways of selling milk (in a bag?? I have so many questions about that) and your ridiculously cold winters that literally freeze your nose hairs, I do have one VERY big problem with Canada. And it’s an issue that I am sure many others will agree with. It’s an issue that keeps me up at night, tossing and turning, it’s the one thing that prevents me from falling totally in love with Canada and it’s the reason why so many of my friends at home in Ireland ask me”why the hell would you live in Canada?” I know you’re on tenterhooks now, Mr. Prime Minister, so I’ll tell you – it’s your country’s despicable policy on vacation days.

Yes, you heard, me vacation days. When I moved here I was full of hope and dreams, full of ideas that I would get a job, save money and spend my time off travelling around this amazing country. When I look back I think “ppffff what a foolish girl I was”. I’m embarrassed now when I remember how I was planning to use my 4 weeks of vacation time, what was I thinking? Why would I dream that such a progressive, forward thinking country would give its people decent vacation days?! You’ll have to forgive me, I was young and innocent, I didn’t realize that the Canadian government had come up with a plan to reduce its poplulation by working it’s people to death. But now I understand, I mean, how else are you going to kill off all the middle-aged people so they don’t add to the aging population?

You can imagine my absolute shock, when, in my first (and only) job as I sat down with HR to go through the usual boring HR policies and such, and the HR representative said “the legal minimum vacation days in Ontario is 10 days”, “but we give 11” she added, with a twinkle in her eye. 11 days???? Well let me write a letter to my parents to tell them that I have finally made it in life. 11 vacation days. I can’t, I don’t.. I don’t even like thinking about that day as it reduces me to a blubbering mess every time. I must admit that when I was made permanent in my job, I was bumped up to 15 days and that sir, has been the happiest day of my life to date. But really, there’s not a lot that Ireland can brag about, but in Ireland, the legal minimum annual leave that every worker is entitled to is 20 days. Yeah. I’ll just leave that there for you.

Mr. Trudeau, I know your care about your country, and it’s people, and I know that you want Canada, and Toronto specifically to remain a place that is attractive to immigrants. So, for the love of god, please give us more vacation days. Days that us immigrants can use to go home and visit our families, days that we can use to travel this stunningly beautiful country, days that we can use visiting your neighbors to the south and realizing how glad we are that we moved to Canada and not the U.S., days that we can use shovelling all that snow out of our gardens, days we can spend walking around the city saying “sorry” to everyone we bump into. And it’s not just us immigrants that would be thankful of the extra vacation time, I’m sure our Canadian colleagues would also appreciate some extra annual leave given that they are worked into the ground already.

Now, I appreciate you have far greater things weighing on your mind Justin, (can I call you Justin?) really, I do. But I thought this would actually be a good one for you, nice and easy, I mean, you increase the legal minimum annual vacation days and your supporters love you even more, and your opponents, well what can they do? They aren’t going to openly oppose Canadians getting some well earned time off are they?? Do it for us, for your country, for your people and for your buddy Leo Varadkar. And if you don’t do it, you’ll have to deal with a very angry Irish mammy when I keep telling her “I can’t come home this year ma, I don’t have enough vacation days”. And let me tell you, there is nothing scarier than an angry Irish mammy. Seriously, google it.

So i beg you, please give us more vacation days, I really don’t want to go back to Ireland but you’re not making it easy to stay.

Yours truly,

Rachel Keogh

Peru in 10 days

Myself and Phil just go back from a 10 day trip to Peru, and it was amazing. It was our first taste of South America, and boy was Peru a good ambassador for the rest of the continent! It truly is up there with some of the best trips we have ever taken. Peru is full of so much history, culture and tradition and there is so much to see and do – and eat! We would have loved to spend longer there, but unfortunately with limited vacation days, 10 days was all we could manage, so here’s how we did it!

Day 1 & 2

Arrive into Lima, it was a direct, 8 hour flight from Toronto. I must mention here that we

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Lima

got a great deal on our flights through YYZ deals – for anyone who lives in Toronto and isn’t signed up for these deals, do it now, they are AMAZING: http://www.yyzdeals.com/

We got to our hotel in Lima at about 4am. We stayed in Miraflores, as after doing some research this seemed to be a good area of Lima, with plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes. We sayed in Hotel Runcu, a very small but nice hotel. It was in a great location and we were about a 20 minute walk to Ave Diagonal which has numerous restaurants and cafes. The rooms were small and basic, but perfectly nice and really clean, and the shower was great. There’s nothing worse than arriving to a hotel after a day of travelling and hopping into a horrible shower with no water pressure! The staff was all really friendly and helpful and very willing to recommend restaurants. We liked it so much that we decided to book in there for our last two nights of the trip aswell.

Day 2 consisted of us walking around and making our way down to the water to Larcomer Mall, where we had to collect our train tickets from Cusco to Machu Picchu. The mall is right alongside the beach, it’s pretty high-end but has some cheap food options in the food court. There are also some nice restaurants in there where you can sit and enjoy a drink by the ocean. We then did the bus tour which is a great way to see Lima, especially if you have limited time there. It’s not a hop on hop off bus like in many cities, you only get off the bus once – at the monastery of San Francisco, which is really interesting and you do a tour of the catacombs. On the tour you see different neighbourhoods of Lima, the historical site of Huaca Pucllana and the Plaza Mayor, which is the core of the city.

Day 3

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Main square in Cusco

We got our flight to Cusco, it’s only just over an hour to fly from Lima to Cusco, however, when we got to the airport that morning (3 hours befoRe our flight was due to leave), we were informed that the flight time had changed to 9am (it was 8.45am when we were checking in) so needless to say we missed the flight. I had read that this happens a lot with internal flights in Peru but didn’t really think anymore about it. Luckily, the guy checking us in was able to get us on another flight that had two spare seats on it, and it actually left earlier than our original flight was supposed to leave.

Our hotel in Cusco, Los Apus Hotel & Mirador, was also really nice, again, it was a small hotel but the rooms were really nice and the cost very reasonable. Our room had a small balcony which had fantastic views of the Andes and the location was great, it was a 5 minute walk away from Plaza de Armas – the main square of Cusco. After we checked in, we spent the day wandering away the cobble streets of Cusco, stopping in random bars for drinks, it was great! The main square is really nice, but of course the restaurants and bars around there were expensive. There’s also a cathedral on the square which you can do a tour of and walk up into the bell tower and get a nice view out the window.

Day 4

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Machu Picchu

Our train for Machu Picchu was leaving at 6.40am the following morning, so we were up a little early for my liking – 4.45am. The hotel organized a taxi to the train station for us. We were staying in Machu Picchu that night and then returning to the same hote in Cusco for 2 nights so we left our big backpacks there. The hotel also provided us with a packed lunch for the train journey! We booked the midrange train to Machu Picchu through Peru Rail and it was great. The scenery was stunning as we were passing alongside mountains for most of the journey. The train had huge windows on each side and also in the ceiling so it was perfect to capture some pictures of the scenery. We were also given snack on the train consisting of some fruit and a sandwich along with tea/coffee/water -this was included in the price. 3 and a half hours later we arrived in Machu Picchu Pueblo which is the gateway to Machu Picchu. We arrived at 10am and were greeted by a member of staff from the hotel we were staying in – Taypikala Machu Picchu Hotel. The hotel was about a 5 minute walk from the station.

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llama selfie!

Once we checked in we went to get our bus tickets up to Machu Picchu. There was a queue for the bus, about 30 minutes long and then we were on our way! The bus takes about 20 minutes to get up to the top and it consists of crazy hair pin bends – not for the faint hearted!! Once we reached the top and saw Machu Picchu for real, it is stunning. Pictures you see online do not do it justice, it’s simply amazing! I can’t fathom how the Incas built it, and I highly recommend it as a must see for everyone. We got some fantastic pictures up there and my personal mission was to get a selfie with a llama, which I’m glad to say I accomplished!

We stayed in Machu Picchu Pueblo for one night – in Taypikala Machu Picchu Hotel, which I cannot recommend enough. Our room was fabulous, complete with hot tub and stunning views out the window. The small town itself is very cute, surrounded by mountains and amazing scenery, but is there purely for tourists and therefore one night there is really enough.

Day 5 & 6

We got the train back to Cusco for 2 nights and just enjoyed Cusco, the cobble stone streets

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Me, absolutely wrecked at Machu Picchu from the high altitude!

and the food. Unfortunately we both got colds and were feeling really crap our last day in Cusco so we didn’t do much, we just relaxed and tried to get our energy back before we went to the jungle. We did eat in a great restaurant one night – called Kushka Fe, it was away from the main square and actually just across the street from our hotel and the food was great. The owner’s boyfriend had great English and was really chatty and friendly. They also serve cuy there – guinea pig! It’s a great restaurant and if we were feeling better we would have stayed longer and had some drinks there.

Day 7 & 8

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On the way to our jungle lodge!

On day 7 we left for the Amazon jungle. We flew from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado and from there we had about a 2 hour boat trip to reach our jungle lodge. The flight to Puerto Maldonado was really short, about 40 minutes. A lady from our lodge met us at the airport and then we got the boat to Amazon Planet. Our two days in the jungle were fantastic. The lodge is set up really well; there’s a main area for all meals, along with a small bar, and then everyone has their own wooden cabins consisting of your bed, a table and couch, a small veranda that you can sit out on and a bathroom complete with shower and toilet. When we were booking our jungle lodge we did pick  a nice one rather than a budget one as we wanted some level of comfort. Amazon Planet is not at the top end of the lodges in there but would follow petty closely behind the most expensive (which can be more than $1,000 a night). The lodge had electricity for a few hours in the morning until about 9am, then for a couple of hours at lunch time and again in the evening from about 6pm to 10pm. Once the lights went out at 20161013_093134_110 that was it, no lights until the next morning s needless to say, everyone wanted to be back in their lodge before 10pm so they could turn their fans on and try to cool the place down! Your days are jam-packed in the jungle, you usually have a morning activity, a lunch time activity and an evening/night-time activity with free time in between. It’s exhausting as you are constantly walking and it’s really hot and humid in the jungle. We did a night walk of the jungle, which was great, we got up close and personal with a tarantula! We did a canopy walk up on top of the trees which was really fun, we visited a rescue centre within the jungle where volunteers are doing amazing work to re-introduce and re-populate animals into the jungle and we went caiman searching along the river at night. We also rafted down the river – just myself and Phil, which was horrific and frankly I thought we were going to end up floating to Bolivia!!!

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Just before we took off down the river in the raft

Day 9

After our jungle experience, the holiday was drawing to an end unfortunately and it was a flight back to Lima to enjoy our last two nights. W Due to flight delays, we didn’t get back to Lima until about 7pm that night so we were exhausted and just went out for dinner and a few drinks. We had amazing food this night and when in Lima, you should definitely visit this restaurant. It was in Miraflores but it was somewhat off the beaten track. The restaurant was called Santa Pez and it was amazing. The menu was completely in Spanish and none of the waiters spoke any English, but don’t let that turn you off. Luckily for us, the manager (or she could have been the owner) had excellent English and she was so helpful. We knew we wanted to try Ceviche so she explained the different ceviche dishes they had and made recommendations. Both of our ceviche dishes were excellent! When it came to desert, she brought out each dessert and showed it to us and again explained everything. It is slightly on the more expensive side but for the food and the service we got, it was actually very reasonable.

Day 10

This was the last day of our trip (sob) and we wanted to get some presents and souvenirs so we went to a market in Miraflores – Mercado Indio or the Indian market. It’s great for any little trinkets you want to take home to remember your time in Peru – just remember to haggle!!!

 

Top Tips for Peru

  1. Check your internal flights the day before you are due to fly. As mentioned above it is pretty common for flights to change very quickly and without any warning.
  2. Buy your tickets to Machu Picchu  in advance. They only allow a certain amount of people into Machu Picchu per day (I believe it’s around 2,000) so make sure to buy your tickets in advance, especially if you are travelling there during high season.
  3. Bring bug spray to Machu Picchu. There are flies up there that will eat you alive if you don’t have bug spray on. I had a tiny gap between my sock and my leggings and they feasted on my ankles but once I put the bug spray on, they left me alone. When waking around Machu Picchu we saw numerous people who were covered in bites.
  4. Be prepared to queue to get the bus back down from Machu Picchu. When we were finished walking around and wanted to go back down to Machu Picchu Pueblo, the queue was crazy and took over an hour to get on the bus. Keep this in mind if your train is leaving that day as we came across many people who missed their train because of the queue.
  5. Take altitude sickness pills. We hadn’t even considered this until I spoke to a few people who had been there and were effected by the altitude. We took the tablets so thankfully we didn’t experience the headaches or nauseousness, however, we both experienced shortness of breath when walking around.
  6. If you’re going into the Amazon rainforest, have a smaller bag that you can bring with you instead of your big backpack or suitcase. Most of the lodges don’t want guests bringing big suitcases on the boats and offer for you to leave your big bags in their office before you go on the boat. That’s what we did and it was so much easier just having a small bag each, after all we were only going into the jungle for 2 nights.
  7. Drink Pisco Sours, it’s the drink of Peru and it’s delicious!!!

Applying for PR in Canada: A How to Guide, Part 3

Last time I left off, it was February 2016 and I had just submitted my PR application on December 22nd and had heard nothing except for a ghost email on January 22nd. Now let me fill in the gaps between then and now.

It was mainly radio silence, a couple more ghost emails and then on May 18th, I got a letter (through my CIC account) advising that PR had been refused. As you can imagine, I was heartbroken. However, when I read the letter and read why it had been refused, I was outraged, not heartbroken. CIC said that I had indicated on my EE profile that I had a degree, but when they looked at my WES assessment, I only had a post grad, therefore, I should have never gotten the points for a degree and should not have received an ITA. I do have a degree which is why I was so outraged, also, my WES assessment clearly stated that I had a degree AND a post grad. I understand human error, but really, when it comes to immigration, they really need to be carefully when checking documents. I can also only presume by this error, that it means there is no second level of review, which is crazy to me. Anyway, after I calmed down, i submitted a Case Specific Enquiry (CSE), re-attached my WES assessment, reiterated that I have a degree and asked them to re open our PR application.

They are supposed to respond within 10  business days, and low and behold, on day 10, I get an automated response saying my email had been forwarded to the correct department. Then, they proceeded to do what they do best, ignore me. After about 4 weeks, I tried calling (1-888-242-2100) and the guy I spoke to told me that an application for reconsideration of the decision had been submitted for me a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, I know, would be nice if someone had dropped me and email to provide me with that update, but hey, it’s CIC. Then once again, I waited. After 10 long weeks since my PR was first refused, it was eventually re opened. No apologies, no acknowledgement of error on their part, it was just simply re-opened and once again I received a letter via my CIC account to let me know. That was on July 26th.

Then on August, I got the long-awaited “Ready for Visa” email. And once you’ve got that, then end is in sight!! Once you get that visa you have to send a copy of the bio data page of your passport (the page with your picture and info), along with two pictures of yourself – they give you a link to the photo specs in the email. One of these pictures must contain the following info on the back: your name and date of birth, the name of the photo studio who took the pictures, the studio’s complete address and the date the photo’s were taken.

You then send all that stuff by Xpresspost to Ottawa, along with a copy of the “ready for visa” email. You must also include another Xpresspost envelope in there which must be self-addressed so that they can return your Confirmation of PR (COPR). We mailed our stuff on August 22nd and received COPR in the mail on August 30th.

The COPR is valid until mid-December, so you have about 3 and a half months to activate your PR by leaving and landing in Canada (flagpoling). Most people enter the US and come straight back accross the border. We are going to Peru in October so we will just activate PR on our way back in. Apparently once you land in Canada as a PR, it takes about 56 days for your PR card to be mailed to you.

So the marks the end of my PR journey, thankfully. I’ve documented it in a 3 part blog and this is the final part. Hopefully others going through the PR process will find my blogs helpful and good luck to everyone, it may be a long and arduous process, but it’s worth it once you get that COPR 🙂

My first smoothie cleanse

So any of you that know me will know that I never try colon flushes, cleanses, diets or anything that prevents me from eating crisps and drinking beer! However, recently, I was feeling very bloated and sluggish all of the time. I think it’s because myself and Phil have been eating out a good bit over the past couple of months (and drinking). So I decided maybe I would try one of these cleanses that I always hear people talking about.

I found one online, which was only a three-day cleanse. I knew three days would be enough for me as, well, I like eating too much to go without food any longer than that. The cleanse I found was a smoothie cleanse and since myself and Phil recently purchased a NutriBullet, I am all about the smoothies, so I thought this one would suit me perfectly.

To start the cleanse, you first do a salt flush (optional) on your first day, to clear your colon and fully detox. Now, again, I have never participated in a “flush” of any sort, so I thought, okay, this is probably a good idea to clean out my colon. However, the salt flush did work for me but it firstly made me vomit, which isn’t supposed to happen. But I think that’s the problem with a salt flush, different people can have different reactions to it. I couldn’t keep the salt water solution down and I puked some of it up. I then experienced the actual intended results of the salt flush after about a half an hour. I would say that if I was doing a flush of my system again, I wouldn’t do a salt flush, I might try another option. I think maybe I drank the salt solution too fast, and that’s what caused me to puke. A salt flush won’t work for all people and you can read about some of the dangers of it here:  http://www.allaboutfasting.com/salt-water-flush-dangers.html

However, lots of people swear by a salt flush. It’s important to note that if partaking in a salt flush, you shouldn’t just use your table salt. You need to use 100% untreated salt. So once I got over the puking, and the salt flush effects started to kick in, well lets just say, my colon obviously needed that cleanse. The blog that I was following had mentioned the effects of the salt flush would last for 30-60 minutes but mine lasted for about 2 hours. So I warn if you’ve never done a “flush” of any sort before then don’t make any plans to be too far away from the toilet for the first few hours and if you have housemate, maybe give them some advance warning 😉

After the effects of the salt flush stop, you can have you first smoothie and then from then until the end of cleanse, smoothies is all you can have. So on day 1, after my excessive time in the bathroom, and after drinking my 3 smoothies for the day, I was feeling tired and had a bit of a headache. I think that’s to be expected for day 1. Day 2 I was feeling much better, not tired, more alert and the bloated sluggish feeling I had was gone, my body actually felt lighter. Today was my first day eating food again and not only having smoothies and I have to say, I feel great. I was really sceptical when starting the cleanse and I thought I would be really hungry, but I actually wasn’t. The smoothies have your necessary calorie intake for the day and if you’re still hungry you can snack on raw vegetables, which I actually didn’t even need to do. I found the hardest part was not going through the motions of actually eating and enjoying a meal, especially dinner. Phil didn’t do the cleanse so he was still eating dinner as normal and that nearly killed me; him tucking into his steak and me sitting across from him with my smoothie, giving him the evil eye.

Also, the blog I followed gave the recipes for your 3 (or 4) smoothies a day. It was the same 3 or 4 everyday, which again, made it difficult. I didn’t overly enjoy any of the smoothies so on day 2 and 3, for dinner, I switched up one of the smoothies for my own – blueberry, banana, greek yoghurt, orange juice, flax-seed and avocado – just because I couldn’t face another one of the smoothies from the blog.

You can get to the blog here and see all the details of the smoothie cleanse, as well as find the smoothie recipes:http://thegreenforks.com/smoothie-cleanse/

Overall, the cleanse has left me feeling really good and I would be willing to do a cleanse again sometime. I’m thinking I might try do one once a year because after all, it can’t be a bad thing to detox and cleanse out your colon, however, I won’t do the salt flush again. Not because it didn’t work, it definitely did, but because it made me feel crap and it made me puke. I think there are teas you can get which act as “laxatives” almost and help to clean out your colon, so maybe they would be a better idea than the salt flush. But if you are looking for a good cleanse to start with, I would recommend the smoothie cleanse, you don’t have to participate in th salt flush and you can just do the smoothie cleanse for 3 days and hopefully you’ll feel as good as I do after it 🙂

Why I left Ireland and why I still haven’t moved back

I’ve written a blog before on emigration and the positive aspects of emigrating, but this time I want to delve into why I emigrated, why I left Ireland in the first place, and why, six years later, I still haven’t moved back.

I still feel that a lot of the time, the Irish media portray the whole idea of emigration in a very negative light. The stories are usually about the people who were forced to leave Ireland in search of work when the recession hit, or more recently, the stories focus on the people who left during the recession but now want to return, but can’t because the Irish government aren’t offering them enough support. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to take away from those issues, and they are issues, I recognize that. But we are aware that thousands of people left during the recession because they lost their jobs and couldn’t find work in Ireland (although Fianna Fail still did pretty well in the elections this year, showing that the Irish electorate has a short memory). But my point is, we know that, it’s been covered, and we don’t need to constantly read about it. And again, it is an issue that the Irish government are trying to encourage emigrants to return to Ireland, but are not doing much to help those said emigrants settle back into Ireland, or even attract them back. But what about those of us who left Ireland of our own free will? What about those who were forced out by the recession, but as a result found new opportunities in greener pastures and are now happy they left? Those stories are not covered nearly enough in my opinion and as a result, emigration seems to be something to fear and hate in Ireland, becoming just another thing to hold against the Government.

I left Ireland when I was 23. I packed my suitcase and headed to South Korea by myself and I haven’t looked back since. I had a job, a good job at that and one that I enjoyed, and one within the area that I had studied – marketing. Many thought I was crazy to be leaving a job during the height of the recession and many thought I was even crazier to be going to South Korea – sure who goes there? I also had a boyfriend. We were together a year when I headed off to Korea, but I didn’t let that stop me. As hard as it was, I knew I had to leave, it was something I had to do for myself, and it’s worth noting that we are still together, 6 years after I left for Korea! I knew since I was a teenager than I wanted to travel, get out there and see the world. My sister had lived in Poland for a while, my brother had travelled, and one of my uncles had travelled a lot, so travelling was literally in my blood. When I was 23 I knew it was a case of “now or never”. I was settling into a job, settling into a nice life in Galway, settling into a relationship, and I knew if I didn’t leave then, I would grow comfortable within my life, and I’d never go. Now, I’m not saying it was easy. I had to say goodbye to all my friends, my family and of course, Phil. I was an emotional mess the week before I left – after I had said my goodbyes to Phil. I would literally burst into tears for no reason. But I still went, why? Because, even though it was hard, I knew that I would regret it forever if I didn’t at least give it a go. So off I set on May 13, 2010, with my bulging suitcase and a heart full of excitement, sadness and fear. I cried the whole time on my flight from Dublin to Heathrow!

Fast forward six years and I’m living in Toronto, and have been here almost two years and have applied for permanent residency here, I lived in Australia for 2 years, before that, South Korea, and I’ve done a lot of travelling in between. These 6 years have been amazing; I have seen so much, done so much, and learned so much and as corny as it sounds, I truly believe that travel is the best education you can get. I have made so many friends along the way, from so many different places and my eyes haven been opened so much. There is a whole world out there and you cannot let your life pass you by without seeing as much of it as you can. So anybody out there who wants to travel, or wants to emigrate, but has something holding them back, I urge you to go, just do it, do it for yourself. There will always be a reason not to go; a job, friends, family, a boyfriend or girlfriend, but you owe it to yourself to at least try. You might not like it, you might go back to Ireland after 6 months but who cares, at least you will always know you tried. On the other hand, you might love it, it might be the best thing that’s ever happened to you and it might set you on a path that will change your life forever, do you want to risk missing out on that?

Applying for a Bridging Visa (BOWP): A How to Guide

I just applied for a bridging visa (BOWP) last week and must admit, I found the whole process quite confusing, if it wasn’t for the good people who are members of the Irish & Applying for Canadian PR Facebook page, I would have been completely lost. As is usual with CIC, nothing is very well explained on their website, so I decided to put together an easy step-by-step guide to help others with the BOWP process.

Firstly, what is a bridging visa? A Bridging Open Work Permit is for those of us who have applied for PR but whose work permits are going to expire in four months or less. This means we can keep working while waiting for a decision on our PR. You can read more about BOWP eligibility here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/tools/temp/work/prov/bridging.asp

Right now, processing times for online BOWPs are 38 days and paper applications are taking 93 days. You can check processing times here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/times/ Usually, people will wait until a couple of weeks before their work permit expires to submit the bridging visa application. Once your bridging visa application is received before your work permit expires, then you automatically go onto Implied Status – again, this is so you can continue to work until you have a decision on your Bridging Visa. I submitted our bridging visa applications (online)  last Thursday (April 21st) and our work permits expire on May 5th. Also, it’s handy to note here that you can also submit a bridging visa application online for your common-law partner.

How do I apply for a bridging visa? As I’ve already mentioned above, you can apply online through your CIC account, or you can submit your application by mail. Many people chose the one with the slowest processing time to give them longer on Implied Status – especially if they know their bridging visa application is going to be denied. I submitted mine online and if that’s what you’re doing, there are two options. Option 1 is to use the “Come to Canada Wizard”,  you can find that tool here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/ctc-vac/cometocanada.asp answer the questionnaire and then you’ll be given a personal reference code which you then input into your CIC account, or option 2 is to log into your CIC account, and under the “What would you like to do today” section, choose apply for a visitor visa, study and/or work permit. At this point it will ask you for your personal reference code, if you don’t have one (I didn’t) then look under “I do not have a personal reference code” and click on determine your eligibility and apply online for a visitor visa, and/r work permit. It will then guide you through the questionnaire.

A few things to note about the questionnaire, as it can be slightly confusing, and if you don’t answer some questions in a particular way, it won’t lt you apply for the bridging visa. When it asks “What would you like to do in Canada?” you should say work, and not move there, as I did at first. For how long do you plan to stay in Canada, you should answer temporarily – more than 6 months, and not permanently (I also made that mistake the first time round). The next tricky question is when is asks about your current immigration status in Canada, you need to say here that you are a worker, rather than a temporary resident permit holder (which is exactly what we are, but who knows why CIC make these things so confusing). Then you will be directed to a page which lists lots of different situations broken into three groups and you have to answer “yes” or “no”. Make sure you answer yes under the section which contains the following statement “I applied for permanent residence to an office in Canada and was determined to be eligible for permanent resident status (first stage approval)”. Even if the review of eligibility is still at “review in progress” for your PR app (as mine is) because if you say no, it won’t let you proceed with the BOWP application.

Capture

Once you’ve answered the questionnaire, the option to apply for a visitor visa and/or work permit will disappear, so if you answered any questions wrong, and it didn’t guide you to a checklist of required documents, then delete that application and start again. Once you answer all the questions in the questionnaire, you will be given a list of documents that you have to submit, most of them will be things you already submitted as part of your PR application; copy of passport, digital picture, proof of your medical exam, statutory declaration of common-law relationship (if you’re common law). If you are common-law then you’ll have to upload Form IMM5713: Use if a Family Member Representative for Online Applications. You will also be required to submit Form IMM5710: Application to change my conditions, extend my stay or remain in Canada as a Worker. This form again asks for a lot of information that you already supplied as part of your PR application such as education, work history, and to note any other countries you’ve lived for more than 6 months in the past 5 years. There is also space to upload a letter of explanation, I uploaded my AOR for PR here. The fees you pay for the bridging visa are $155 for the work permit and a $100 fee for an open work permit holder fee.

Once you submit everything and pay, you will receive a submission confirmation. I believe this can be used to show your employers if they need proof that you are legally allowed to work here after your work permit has expired, you can also print off the information on the CIC website about Implied Status and that along with the receipt should keep employers happy. You can find information about Implied Status here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/tools/temp/visa/validity/implied.asp

I hope this helps when applying for your bridging visa, and if you’re not already a member, join the Irish & Applying for Canadian PR Facebook page – it is a life saver!

Until next time 🙂