It is difficult to explain to Canadian Immigration that I am a traveling performance artist. That I have no interest in moving to Canada, or working in Canada. That I have no interest in working at all.“How do you travel then?” “I have a savings.” “And what, you will travel for one year? Five? Ten years until your savings runs out?” “No, my savings won’t run out.” “How do you manage this? You’ll have to teach me.” “I will if you like!”
And it was at that moment that I realized that once you get to a place where you feel safe and secure in taking a risk (just as my Pilobolus instruction infused me with) then you have to take the step and trust that you will be taken care of.
This all began when my Mother off-handedly mentioned that she had some pepper spray for me to take in the car during my New England road trip. I have never owned or used pepper spray or mace in my entire life, so I promptly threw it in my glove box and forgot about it. The things we do for our Mother’s so they don’t worry!
Upon arriving at the Canadian border, the border officer was a friendly female, who was just about to release me to actualize my mission of seeing my comedic crush in Montreal at the Just for Laughs Festival, when she asked,“Do you have any weapons, guns, mace or pepper spray?”
“Oh!” I recalled the small .5oz container in my glove box, “I do!” I reached to remove it and hand it over, but apparently it is a BIG NO NO in Canada. She knew this and understood why I had it, but she also quieted her voice because she knew I was just about to be turned over to the declaration line. I pulled forward and turned off the car.“Could you step out of the car?” “Sure.” “What are you doing in Canada?” “Vacation.” “Oh, vacation from where?” “The States.” “What do you do?” “I’m a Performance Artist.” “What kind?” “Aerialist and Dancer.” “Oh, like Cirque du Soleil?”
Now, here’s where it gets tricky. Cirque du Soleil is one of the most well known aerial performance companies in the world. They are based in Montreal, which is where I am headed. Being an independent performing aerialist headed to Montreal screams out, “I want to work in Canada.” But truly, I did not. I merely wanted to stay in Montreal for a week, see my comedic crush perform, and relax.
Try explaining that to the immigration officers.
After they searched my car and phone, they deemed me non-threatening, despite that I DECLARED MY PEPPER SPRAY! (Thank God I didn’t have my performance machetes with me. I don’t know how I would explain those! Luckily my friend Yosh is preparing them to be fire toys back in KC.)
I proceeded to another officer to fill out the paperwork. My .5oz of pepper spray probably cost my Mother $5.00US and me, 1 hour of precious Montreal time. I was then handed over to the interrogating officer.
He spoke to me through a thick glass window. His bilingual french language had softened his mouth to linger in “O” shapes. I was hypnotized, but still determined. My belief was that I’ll be open and honest and he will let me go soon. It kind of worked 🙂“Tell me something that you will be returning to the States for.” “I am visiting friends on the West Coast and I have a gig in September. My Mother lives in the States. I own some property in the States. I have a dog and two cats.”
Anything I could think of, I was spewing out. I couldn’t prove anything, he would just have to trust me. And eventually, he did. I don’t know if it was the flirtation, the mindless chatter, the open blabbery or what convinced him, but something did. Thank you Canada!
When he handed me my passport, cleared with the magical tourist Canada stamp, he said “You know you still can’t work in Canada with this.” I replied, “I don’t have any desire to work in Canada. Sir, I don’t have any desire to work at all.”
I won’t ever work again. I may volunteer, serve, even take a job or teach, but as far as feeling like I’m working, nah. I love what I do, I love playing and creating, and I don’t see myself sitting in an office or working for anyone again. Now, I might consider performing with Cirque du Soleil, but that would only happen if they let me back into Canada, which I can honestly say, I am not sure they will.
Oh, and upon leaving Canada, I crossed the border into the States and the US officer asked me,“What were you doing in Canada?” “Vacation.” “By yourself?” “Yeah! It’s safe in Canada… they take away your pepper spray at the border.”