Tag Archives: bureaucracy

Oh Canada…

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So the wife and I decided to pack up the kids and take a little trip across the border to America’s hat. We were meeting up with some friends of mutual friends for a get together, some of which we hadn’t met before. This, apparently, set off some red flags in the minds of the border patrol agents; my story of a fun adventure to meet people in person I knew only casually otherwise sounded a lot like a possible terrorism suspect transporting guns/drugs/money across the border. I was in for a long, ridiculously polite interrogation.

First off, understand that I had been driving for 12 hours through the night (prime time for baby transport) so my mental filter was set to “open”. Are you a gun owner, sir? Why yes, Mr. Canadian, what self-respecting American isn’t? Any scary black rifles with armor piercing incendiary fragmenting laser-guided bullets in a 500 round clip? Of course!

The next series of questions definitely turned some heads, and cemented their curiosity.

Agent: So, what brings you to Canada?
Me: I’m visiting a friend.
Agent: How did you know this friend?
Me: I met him on the internet. We’re members of a discussion group.
Agent: An online discussion group? What do you talk about?
Me: Oh, this and that. Mostly politics.

And then came the question that finally woke me:

Agent: Do you have any trap doors or secret compartments in your vehicle?
Me: Uhh… what?
Agent: It’s okay if you do! There are a lot of reasons why some people [like you] would want to avoid traditional institutions like banks and have alternative means to keep valuables safe.

At this moment, I realized that I wasn’t just a married father of two crossing a friendly border any more. No, it appears that Canada has significant concerns:  “some people” crossing their southern border smuggling in weapons and drugs. Now, where have I heard that before? And why does Mr. Canadian think I could be one of these fine individuals? Was it my mountain man appearance, or do Canadians think American gun owners are potential terrorists? Perhaps they were doing their best to be impartial, like our TSA.

Meanwhile, Ms. Canadian border agent was furiously jotting down notes which I can only imagine determined my ultimate fate and looked something like this:

Pros

  • White
  • Traveling with wife and children
  • Driving a ridiculously boring vehicle
  • Purports to be visiting a friend’s ski cabin for vacation

Cons

  • A little TOO white
  • Traveling with a convenient cover
  • Driving a vehicle with plenty of space to hide guns/drugs/money
  • Member of some kind of political “discussion group” joining people he met on the internet in a cabin in the woods, probably in order to plan the assassination of a Canadian politician that no American cares about, but by god needs to be protected.*

In any case, it was the most polite harassment I have ever undergone, at least as polite as being asked 12 times if I was sure I wasn’t smuggling weapons can be. And we only got in to our destination a few hours late. I also had a serious burst of Canadian traffic on my blog, as Ms. Canadian claimed to be technologically retarded (and judging by her computer use, she was telling the truth) and also claimed not to know what a blog even was, so I showed her mine. I’m pretty sure she kicked it around the office, so maybe the CBSA learned something about international travel beyond their border.

 

*No Canadian politician was harmed or threatened harm in the course of our trip, unless you count general admonitions of Harper’s terrible government by drunk Canadians as harmful.

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Why Poland?

Bottom line: med school. But I’ll cover that in my next post. For this post, I’ll just focus on Poland itself, and the benefits. I know what you might be thinking – if you’re whole reasoning is to go to med school in Poland, wouldn’t it make sense to explain, “Why med school?” Sure, that’s legit, but I have to start somewhere, and since this is Vikings in Poland, I’m starting with the great nation itself.

Family

My wife is Polish. She was born in the States, but has close ties to the old country (I never get to say that about my family, so I’ll say it about her), and has traveled back there to spend time with them frequently. She’s speaks native Polish (one of 5 languages fluently or better) and will be my essential lifeline in the foreign land we are invading this year. Depending on how various interviews go, we could be VERY close to a majority of her extended family, and I will have a great opportunity to spend time with native Polish intelligentsia, which could give me some excellent connections.

Finances

The average cost of med schools in the United States is somewhere around $45,000. This, of course, is after completing a specific bachelors degree and passing your MCAT entrance exams with reasonable scores. When all is said and done, becoming an MD in the States can run you right around half a million bucks if you’re going to private schools, or maybe half that (what a deal!) if you economize. You will be hobbled for years with student loan debt, and your options will be dictated to you based upon your ability to pay it back.

However, in Poland, the cost of a medical degree in classes taught in English runs you about $11,000 per year. The cost of living in Poland is a fraction of the cost of most places in the States. Also, you can opt for a 6-year MD degree without getting a bachelors, actually saving you two years of school. Even with conservative estimating, a Polish medical degree will cost you less than a third of what you will pay in the US, and you can still take the same boards and enter the same residency pools as any US medical school students for jobs in the States. On a side note, both of my wife’s parents are doctors (one a native born American, one not) in the US with degrees from Polish universities, so it can be done. I call that a win.

Freedom

America is the land of the free… right? But is it really? Taxes are on the rise, the government is cracking down on gun rights, and Obama is bombing foreign countries like he’s trying to prove he isn’t a Muslim. I’m not certain I want to be around for the blowback, and I sure don’t want to pay through the nose for the privilege.

I have always loved to travel, and have been to Eastern Europe a few times before. This will give me a chance to really see another part of the world (again) and will be a jumping off point to other parts of Europe, Asia, and maybe even Africa. It’s much easier to visit these awesome historical locations when I don’t have to pay $1500 per ticket to fly coach for 12 hours across an ocean each way. I’ll already be there! This is the opportunity for my wife and me and our budding family to explore the world and have the chance to do things most people only dream about. What’s not to like?

Caveats

So, there are a few thoughts about this that my wife pointed out to me. Before any of you readers out there go jumping at the bit and decide to move to Poland, realize that it’s going to be HARD. Polish is a notoriously difficult language to learn, and Poland is a very exclusive society. More than 99% of the population is ethnically Polish, and immigrants aren’t treated particularly well. I will be somewhat of an exception due my extreme whiteness and the fact that I’m married to a beautiful Polish woman with plenty of high ranking local connections. That said, you won’t get beaten in the street for having dark skin (like you would in Russia) but you won’t have a particularly easy time meeting people or generating fruitful relationships.

The bureaucracy in Poland is a hassle. Everything requires a stamp, or a letter, or a notary. Slackers need not apply. It takes WORK to live in Poland (or a trust fund). The social services are barely adequate, and people are expected to be taken care of by their families, so if you don’t have one, you’re pretty much on your own. The unprepared or unsupported immigrant in Poland soon finds themselves in a world of hurt.

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