Monday, February 21, 2011


You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men...

When last I checked in, I was scrambling to prepare for 3 weeks of Master Spinner classes in the American Southwest.  Today, I am stranded in Vancouver, where I have been since Friday evening.

The trip started off well enough.  An uneventful flight from Fort McMurray to Edmonton, renting a car without incident, and a fun night of recording a vocal track for the Odd-Lot Puppetry Company.  Great to see Brendan and Lisa and Troy, and The Water Show (written by Yours Truly) is enjoying a stunning revival.  Gorgeous puppets and a spanky new soundtrack, along with a slight rewrite to emphasize the importance of water conservation.

Lunch with my Mom the next day, then off to Edmonton International Airport again.  Onto a plane for odd route to my layover in Las Vegas, but one that saved some serious coin for the college when I booked it.  Once again, an uneventful flight, with lots of knitting accomplished.

The changeover from a domestic flight to an international flight is quite a hectic scramble at YVR, but went smoothly, so I was quite calm, though a little winded, by the time I got to US Customs and Immigration.  The young man in the booth asked the purpose of my trip, and when I told him I was going to some spinning classes, he asked whether I was going to learn or to teach.  Armed with supporting paperwork from Olds College, I had no reason to lie, so I told him I was teaching.  He seemed rather flustered and asked for my visa, and when I produced the letter and paperwork from the college, I was sent down the hall for secondary questioning.  No problem, I had been through this before, as have others who work for the Master Spinner Program.

Except, this time, I was denied entry.

The whole episode was rather unpleasant and I will not get into the gory details here, except to say that at one point I was told that it was a waste of time to spend 7 years to learn to spin, and at another point, the legality of making people pay for spinning lessons was questioned.  The worst of it was that the agent who was dealing with me had to go into several back rooms to consult with "experts" on my case, and each time he did, a head popped around a door frame to peer at me as if I were some sort of exotic bug.  The agent in charge would then explain that I teach spinning, "not the bicycle kind" and make an odd, drafting motion with his hands.  Then they would all turn and look at me again.  I really began to feel that spinning was some sort of terrible thing to be doing, since it got these guys so worked up.

It was actually kind of surreal.

In the end, they used a rather arcane loophole to deny my application for entry and sent me on my merry way.  This incident will not affect my future travel into the US or appear anywhere on any sort of record.  I was considered "compliant" and "nice".  ( I can hear some of you laughing at the thought of me being either.  Stop that!)  One guy even apologized.

So.  Here I was in Vancouver for longer than the one-hour layover I had been expecting.

Fortunately for me, two of my lovely children just so happen to live in Vancouver, so I had someplace to go and someone to give me a hug.  I drank a bottle of wine and cried like I have never cried before in my life.

I got up the next morning and the sun was shining and life was going on, so I figured I had survived the whole episode, more or less unscathed.  Sometimes life throws these things at us, for reasons we cannot even begin to fathom, and it is how we cope that shows our true character.  My true character appears to be much calmer than I thought it was, because I have chosen to not panic, not quit teaching forever, and not go on some sort of anti-American rampage.  Stuff happens.  Get over it.

The people I truly feel badly for in this situation are the students in Tucson.  They have been anticipating this class, taking time off work and traveling to attend.  However, an obtuse ruling by a single Customs and Border Patrol agent have denied them the opportunity to have the class run as expected.  This program is unique in the world, and the rules don't seem to apply, or not apply as the case may be.  I genuinely hope that the college and the US organizers can work this out and we can continue with the classes as planned.  I'm standing by...

As for me, I get an unexpected vacation in Sunny Vancouver (which was not an ironic statement until this afternoon when snowflakes the size of small kittens began to fall from a lead grey sky).  I have had the opportunity to hang out with the lovely and talented Miss Lexi, to walk on the beach, and to nom on Solly's bagels.  I have a loving and supporting family.  And I have had the kindness and support of the administration at Olds College, and the support of the US organizers to keep me going.

On Friday, this was the most devastating event of my life.  By yesterday, it was the beginning of a new adventure.  In two weeks, it will be another funny story for the repertoire.

Sometimes, life throws these things at us.  Deal with it.  Make it an adventure.

I have.

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