Sunday, June 11, 2017

Blog for the week of June 11, 2017

One last return trip to Banff/Canmore…….at least for now. We'll be back!
Elder and Sister Gardiner at Canmore 

We never get tired of returning to the beautiful Banff area. Our wonderful friends, the Gardiners, are serving there as senior missionaries in a leadership support role. They were away during our last visit so last evening we arranged to meet them for dinner. We had a wonderful visit that lasted well beyond finishing our meal. We noted there was a loud group there when we first entered the restaurant so we asked for a quiet spot so we could visit and they placed us back in a room by ourselves and did not bug us at all even though we were clearly finished eating.

The truck (see last week’s pictures) is now completely fixed. A replacement gas tank was installed during the week. To understand why, you will need to remember that the tank was punctured at the same time as the theft of the wheels. Since the truck repairs are completed, it needed a real test drive so we decided to drive it to Banff. Prior to our trip it had been raining rather heavily in the region, but the forecast called for rain ending toward evening and, as we made our drive west, it began to clear. Upon arrival in Canmore where we met the Gardiners, we were treated to a beautiful wintery scene as the Banff mountains have a fresh coating of snow. The rivers are all running at capacity as the snowmelt occurs and now there will be even more snow to melt and run downstream.




We are starting to pack the things we will not need between now and the time we return home, especially all our winter gear. Since we anticipate buying the truck, we are hoping we will not need to rent a trailer to haul our stuff home. The smallest of the U-Haul enclosed trailers was needed for our initial trip to Calgary. With that in mind, as soon as the money transfer has been completed for the purchase, I plan to have a cover installed over the truck box so our things will be out of the weather for the trip home. Between the truck (a crew cab) and our Santa Fe SUV, hopefully everything will fit.

We are anxiously awaiting our replacements, the McNarys, who should arrive at the end of next week. There is much to show them before our departure. Fortunately, they will arrive in time to experience the planning and execution of what is involved with a transfer week. Perhaps we will delay selling the last couple of cars so Elder McNary can see how this is done. Having no more cars to sell for a while will be a blessing for him so he can focus on all the other aspects of the job. As I may have mentioned in a past blog, missionaries serving in Canada who are not from Canada are being required to get and keep a driver’s license for the province where they serve. We will launch this process very soon but the bulk of it will fall to Elder McNary and anyone in the office who is available to help with this. This will require meeting the qualifying missionaries, one group at a time, at a local Registry. Registry is like a DMV in the U.S. There we will hand them their passport and other documents needed for the license. At the end of the process, we will gather up the passports and return them to the mission office. Hopefully it will go as smoothly. Missionaries do not have a specific visa status, such as students or visitors have. Since they aren’t students and since their intended stay in Canada is for longer than six months, they are not eligible to be classified as visitors either. There is a ministerial status but the implication of the status is that they are paid by a particular religious denomination to be in Canada. Of course, since our missionaries are not paid to be here, they technically don’t qualify under that status either, although some of their visas are stamped with this classification anyway. There is always the possibility some Registry official will get hung up on their lack of specific status and refuse to grant them a license.

There is too much left to individual interpretation of the rules by government officials. This is true, of course, in all countries. In addition to visas, we frequently encounter arbitrary decisions at border crossings, with customs, at post offices, and the Registries. A case in point; one of our missionaries, Elder Del Molino is currently serving here from Spain. There is a particular cured ham which he is fond of and his family has sent it before without difficulty. He recently had a birthday and his parents sent him a care package from home containing another ham and several other items. The package was seized at Customs and then we were informed that the missionary would have to come to the Custom’s office at the airport to pick it up. A Customs agent had decided that such a ham violated Canada’s import laws and it would have to be removed from the package and be destroyed. We were told there would be a charge to open the package to remove the ham and a $100 charge for someone to destroy it. Was there an option to simply refuse the package and have it returned to the sender? Yes, but that would generate a shipping and a Custom’s charge to the family. The rest of the story is…….I Elder Del Molino and his companion to the airport. First we went to Customs who claimed to know nothing about it and had no idea where the package was. After a time it was determined that the package was at the airport FEDEX facility. This required going to FEDEX, not to pick up the package, but to pick up a form that would then have to come back to Customs to be processed. We made the trip to FEDEX and waited in line with other FEDEX customers and were given the needed form. Then it was back to Customs and a further wait there. While waiting I said to the missionary, let’s play up the fact that this is your birthday gift which, because of the Custom’s delay, means your birthday has come and gone and you still have no gift. We played this trump card with the Custom’s official, and to his credit, the agent wrote a personal note to accompany the form back to FEDEX. After waiting again in the FEDEX line, the package was brought to the desk, now with the ham removed, and the remainder of the package given to the missionary with the comment that there would be no additional need to return to Customs nor to pay the “required fee”. Despite the nice gesture of the agent, it, nevertheless, makes my point about how arbitrary such decisions are made. With this in mind, I am preparing absolutely EVERYTHING that might be needed at the U.S. border when I try to take a Canadian truck into the U.S. I have heard horror stories from others about how difficult this process can be when usually it is a simple process of the agent inspecting the vehicle, stamping the form, and sending the person on his way.  I will be holding my breath.


With that, have a great week!

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