The previous story was finished at the Calgary airport. Now it’s time to describe our next day in Calgary.
I have already told you how lucky we were because our friend let us stay at her place (for which we are very grateful!). She had a duplex. It’s two identical houses (units) with a shared wall. She owns one of the units where she ley us occupy the basement floor. Basement windows were at the ground level, so we got some daylight. We had our own large bedroom, closet, bathroom and toilet. So we had everything we needed to live.
Morning in Calgary
When our friend met us at the airport and brought us to her house, we were exhausted after all those flights. We ate, said our thanks and went to bed. Before turning in for the night, our friend gave us the keys to the house and tickets for city transit. We didn’t sleep very well that night, we had jetlag, so after waking up for the last time at 5am (local time), we could not fall asleep again. Our friend went to work around 8am, and we decided to go upstairs, have our first Canadian breakfast, and start making plans for the day. There was a lot to do, so having prioritized all the things, we started googling addresses of our destinations in the city.
Back when we were in Ukraine, I found a great blog Viki-travel with a lot of details about what a newcomer should do in the first days in Canada. Thanks to Viki for her help because we would have spent many hours finding relevant information without it.
Getting our SINs, or Social Insurance Numbers
On the first day, we planned to get SINs (Social Insurance Number), AHIP (Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan) and “unfreeze” our money in the bank. We also planned to get our first debit and credit cards. In the first government building, we filled out the questionnaire, waited half an hour and went to the civil servant’s office. We answered several questions: how we want our names and last names to be written, what we plan to do (job-wise), how we like Canada so far, etc. The whole conversation was like a conversation between old acquaintances. Finally, we got our SIN numbers printed out. The guy wished us good luck with our next steps in the new country and promised to send the plastic SIN cards in the mail within two weeks. The cards did arrive in about two weeks.
Calgary Metro, or C-Train
The next item in our plan was to get provincial health insurance. The insurance company was located downtown (the city center), so we had to learn how to use municipal transport. Public transportation here is divided into two categories: C-Train and buses. The first is similar to an underground subway, with the rails sometimes passing through highways. We found the C-Train station quickly and figured out which direction to go. Fortunately, there was a City Center sign. We had a “book of ten”. It’s the name of a small book with tickets; each ticket costs $2.30. On the back, it is written that the ticket is valid for 90 minutes from the moment of ticket validation. I used the public transport systems outside of Ukraine in Seattle and Amsterdam. In Seattle, I used buses and paid when boarding the bus. The subway was in Amsterdam, but I had to pay to get on the platform there.
In Calgary, the entrance to the platform is free. When we got into C-Train, I started looking for a validation device. I didn’t want to pay a fine on the first day in Calgary. We didn’t find any device inside the car, so we got off the train at the next stop. We decided to check how the locals used the tickets. Eureka! Locals would approach a small pink box hanging from platform support and slip their tickets into it. We did the same. The box punched the date and time. Now that we had our tickets validated, we headed further downtown. We found our building without a problem because we knew how to “read” local addresses correctly.
In Calgary, streets are numbered or named very clearly. Having, for example, the address: 901 - 6th Ave SW, you can say exactly where this building is. Now let me explain how it works. The city is divided into 4 sections - Northwest (NW), Northeast (NE), Southeast (SE), and Southwest (SW). There are streets, which mainly, with rare exceptions, run from north to south, and avenues, which again very often run from west to east. There are also boulevards and roads, but more about them later. Looking at our address, you can tell that our building is located on 6th Avenue, in the southwest part of the city. Next, 901 should be “read” as building number 01, located at the block near the 6th Avenue and 9th Street intersection. Everything is simple! It is difficult to get lost. This is not Budivelniki Street for you :-), which can be in any part of the city.
Registration of AHIP, or Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan
We found an office in the building that deals with AHIP insurance. It’s also where one can apply for a driver’s license, submit documents to open a business, etc. This office is called the registry. There was a short line in front of the reception desk. I left Olena in the line and went to the table to collect forms. I found those related to newcomers and returned to Olena. We filled out the forms and waited in line. The wait did not last long, and after waiting for about 5 minutes, we approached the reception desk. After reviewing our application form and asking a few questions, the registrar gave us temporary insurance numbers and promised we would receive the cards in the mail within two weeks (we received them even earlier). So, the second important document is the provincial health insurance that we got very quickly. Impressive! The last thing that remained that day was the bank.
Opening bank accounts
As I said, we had to “unfreeze” our money in the bank. The bank branch was in the same building as the registry. At the bank’s reception, we were assigned an employee to do all the paperwork. After waiting for her in the reception area for a few minutes, we went to her office. After that, we spent a lot more time at the bank, filling out and signing a bunch of papers. We were given temporary bank customer cards (debit cards), and temporary bank checks (to pay the rent). We were also promised that the original bank cheques would arrive in the mail within two weeks (and again, they came earlier) :-). Having finished all the planned tasks, we drank coffee in Starbucks, walked around downtown and went home, satisfied and happy. We wanted to sleep terribly, so when we returned to our friend’s house, we fell asleep immediately.