Sunday, March 16, 2008


So, I'm back in Vancouver for two weeks, to see friends and family, take care of some business and to obtain my official status as a Permanent Resident.

This is apparently called a Landing and, as you can imagine, the Immigration people take it pretty seriously, but they're also kind of excited about it. The girl who processed me at the first counter was originally from Pakistan and told me she still remembered her landing when she was a little girl. When she saw my immigrant visa, she said, "Oh wow, you're landing today. That's Awesome!"

In the back offices, there was were some complications because, of course, I had forgotten one of my forms. But, they guy who was dealing with it was pretty chill and he took care of everything. He was a young, cheerful Ismaili guy who kind of reminded me of Amyn, except his favorite line was, "Fair enough," which was his responce to everything. The conversation went something like this.
"That's a protected document. It's like really important for this whole process."

"I meant to bring it, and I had various lists and stacks of papers, but I just got back to Japan from Europe and I was really tired. I don't know what happened."

"Fair enough. But without that I'm not sure what I can do."

"Well, I don't know... somehow I forgot it. I'm not really sure what else I can do at this point."

"Fair enough. Do you have any idea where it is? Is there anyway you can get it?"

"I live alone in Japan, so... no there isn't."

"Fair enough. Well, I'll go talk to the guys in the back and we'll see what we can do."
It took a bit of time, but he got it all sorted out. Sitting around the back immigration room in Vancouver really brought out the difference between Canada and Japan, when it comes to foreigners. The room was full of people who were immigrating and since I didn't see anyone who was clearly Native, all of the Immigration Officers were immigrants or the decedents of immigrants. There was one guy who was pretty clearly Sikh, I knew my guy was Ismaili because we were talking about it, although she spoke Canadian English with no accent, the girl at the front counter was originally from Pakistan, and there were two Asian officers who still spoke with non-Canadian accents. Canada is a country of immigrants.

Japan, on the other hand, has a statistically negligible number of immigrants. In Japan, I have to have to carry my Foreigner Registration Card (gaikokujin-touroku-shoumeisho, 外国人登録証明書) with me at all times. This is just an identification card, but it clearly marks me as a foreigner. When I was a foreigner in Canada, on the other hand, I just carried my Canadian driver's licence. But it's a bit different, because, for one thing, you can use it to drive, and for another, it doesn't other you as a non-Canadian.

I have a friend in Japan who's of Korean decent. She was born in Japan and speaks no Korean, but only has a Korean passport, because Japan doesn't automatically grant citizenship under these circumstances. There are actually 600,000 ethnic Koreans, born and raised in Japan and excluded from the rights of citizenship. They are called the Zainichi Kankokujin (在日韓国人). In Japan, less than 1 percent of the population is made up of immigrants, and these are almost all people of Chinese and Korean decent who's families have been in Japan for generations. I asked my friend why she doesn't apply for citizenship and she said she just never really felt welcome. I guess I can see her point.

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