Not so ‘Duty Free’

Well today I learned a very valuable lesson.  The ‘cost’ of my mistake, $525…

My kids and I head over the border 2x a year.  They get $250 to spend which typically gets them 2 pr of shoes, a few hoodies, a couple jeans and some T’s.  We power shop, we typically spend one night, we come home.  We are always well over our limit, I tell the truth with fingers crossed, I am waved through. If we stay one night we have only a $50  per person limit, with 2 nights stay can spend $400 each.  Every time we’ve done this we’ve stopped at Asian1 to have supper and tally up all the receipts and list them for the border guard.  We skipped dinner this time cause we’d be at our hotel in Canada by 6pm and would have dinner then.

This time my boys had their birthday money to spend and Jared had his Big White pay money.  They power shop from store to store, then I pay the bill and tally it in my phone to see what they owe me when we get home.  As we finished at the last stores I handed my phone to the boys and had them add up what I had tallied in my phone.  Total for the two of them was $1300.  I was floored and horrified.  We drive the 1.5hrs and pull up to the border, he asks what we spent, I say $1300 and he gives me a slip and asks me to go inside.  Inside they ask for my receipts, they’re in the car.  I get them and go back in and hand them over.  The total is $1600.  Huh?  I’m told to hand him my keys and to get my boys out of the car.  I get the boys and tell them what’s happening and they tell me I’m an idiot, THEY spent $1300, that wasn’t our TOTAL…. OMG!  I was so shocked and horrified by the $1300 that I didn’t even think about the other purchases!  He tells us he’s going to search our car and that if he finds unclaimed goods he can sieze all goods in our car and impound the car…  I’m feeling stupid, I apologize for not having had a proper total, although am not worried as he heads off to the car.

He comes back only a few minutes later and says ‘there is are TJ Maxx bags and you didn’t give me a TJ Maxx receipt, you’re being dishonest’.  I’m feeling freaked out now!  I stammer that I thought I had them all and I’m sorry and can I check online for the total?  oh right, I have no WiFi.  The boys spent $95 there, that’s in my phone tally, I found only a couple things for me so he adds $150 to our total.  We’re at $1750.  He gives us a huge lecture that we’re wasting his time, he’s supposed to be stopping criminals, looking for drugs and guns and because I lied he’s not only charging us the 12%tax he’s also charging us 17% duty, since that’s the duty % on clothes.  I ask him can I total up how much isn’t clothes?  His answer: ‘you told me when you came in that you’d bought clothes and shoes, do you want to change your story now and experience the consequences of lying to me again’.  Ummmm….  ‘no, no, I simply wanted to clarify that the majority was clothes although there are some things that aren’t’.  All I could think of at that moment was 3 throw pillow and a sport chair.  He states that 17% is being charged on everything (without allowing me my $150 duty free allowance) since I lied to him about the total we spent and have wasted enough of his time.

$525 & 30 minutes later we leave.  OUCH.  We get to our hotel here in Langley and I look over the receipts he had and compare it to what I see online on my MC statement.  Somehow I was missing over $500 in receipts and as we unpack the car I realize our non-clothes was at least $300.  I had EVERY store hand me the receipts and I put them all in my purse!  I’ve never lost a receipt before although it was a good thing I had this time.  He may have burned me at the stake had he realized I understated our total by over $1000 simply because I was thinking about how much my boys spent!  (I also have no idea how I spent $1000 since I wasn’t planning to buy anything but butter!)

So, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Have a detailed tally AND pre-tally the items that are not clothes!
  • Don’t give my kids B-day money, therefore we’ll spend a whole lot less money
  • Stay a second night.  We’d have saved $170 in duty with having a higher duty free limit and we’d probably not even have been questioned if we had a bigger duty allowance
  • Have my boys take broke friends so that we have a higher limit allowed going back over the border

Forgotten Passport!

Omg, what a morning and it’s only 6:23 am! Woke up before my alarm, was ready before my ride arrived. Very impressed with myself!

Almost at the airport I realize I forgot my passport! OMG! Turn around to get it, drive part way home, crap, won’t have time. It’s 5:40, flight leaves at 6:30, airport is 20 mins away if speeding. Call Xtine, the adult who lives in the basement.  No answer. Call Jared, he wakes up Xtine and while she is dressing he grabs my passport. I continue to airport to get in line.

I get to the airport, they’re pulling Calgary passengers out of the mob of people since we need to be through security right away. I get to the agent, can’t check in without a passport, she tells me that she has to cut off checking in, in 5 minutes. Omg! 5 minutes comes and goes. Then 8, then 10. I’m freaked out. It’s 6:10 when my passport arrives.  The agent calls to the gate for permission to check me in, the flight is currently boarding. She gets permission, although since I’m a late check-in my bags are tagged late and they won’t page me or wait for me. Flight is leaving at 6:30, I still have to clear security, she tells me she hopes she won’t see me again in 15 minutes to try and find me a new flight although it’s fairly likely she will. I run through the airport hair and coat flying, dashing around slow moving throngs of people that planned better and don’t need to rush.

The nice people in line at the security door let me bump ahead of them as do the people unloading their bags onto the conveyor since they hear the last call for my flight as I’m running up to them. I unpack my laptop, my liquids, remove my coat, go through the scanner. I beep. Really? Really? I take off my jewellery. Go through again. I beep. Take off my shoes. I beep. Are you freaking kidding me? I offer to strip, the security lady doesn’t laugh. Another last call for my flight. CRAP! She does the pat down. SLOWLY. I’m vibrating with adrenalin. She tells ms to stop fidgeting. I want to scream ‘freaking finish the pat down already!!’ She sends me to another guy to have my hands swabbed, he admonishes me for being a tardy traveller. I smile politely and tell him it wont happen again!

Swab over, I grab my bag, hurl in my laptop and liquids, grab my coat and purse and run through the terminal (thank goodness Kelowna is a small airport!!!) and people hear me behind them saying, ‘excuse me, pardon me, my flight is leaving’, and they fabulously jump out of my way.

I get to the gate. The gal smiles kindly at me and says “it’s ok, you made it. Another person that checked in on time hasn’t gotten on the plane yet and we can’t leave without him since his bags have already been loaded. We would have closed the gate by now although are waiting for him so that we don’t have to unload his bags”.

7:22 I go through the gate and wing a silent prayer to my late fellow passenger who is the reason I made my flight and text Xtine a huge thank-you for racing to the airport to bring me my passport!

Final Haiti post this trip

I’ve had the intention to write another blog since the day I left Haiti, over a week ago. I thought it was hard to write a blog in Haiti, it’s even harder at home, especially after 2 weeks away from my office! Tomorrow I leave for a weeks business trip so I figured I’d better get this done now!

How many HATS people can you get in one pickup? 24! On Christmas day we planned to go Mummering at Luckners. The Newfies will know what that is… So we decided to stop over for a quick afternoon visit and trial run to see how we’d all fit that evening. We had 11 in the bed of the truck, including all the big kids, 8 littles in the back set and 5 in the two front seats. I had two cuties on my lap and mom had Jonathon in the sling. The kids had grins from ear to ear to be going for that 10 minute round trip ride!

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11 kids here
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8 kids in here
Cab of Truck
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Mom with Jonanthon

Okay, so Mummering… Mummering is a Newfie tradition in which you get costumed up with your faces hidden and you don’t talk (or talk in disguised voice) and go visiting. The people you’re visiting try to guess who you are. This would have been so fun at Luckners since there are so many kids the same size! We would have had to get going by 4pm for safety, that time came and went! We were so disappointed so around 7pm Mom organized us to get sheeted up and head down to the kids home. Martha and Germaine looked at us like we were loons, shrieked with laughter and kept asking ‘why’. Ronel was out playing basketball so missed out on our impromptu costuming!

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Impromptu Costuming

As we walked outside there were a few kids still outside, they start squeeling, shouting and running into the homes to get everyone else. It’s Pandemonium! We can barely see we’re running around chasing kids, kids are everywhere, running up to us, trying to see who we are, shrieking and running away freaking out.

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Chasing the kids

Leica came up to me about 8 times, asking Dana? Dana? I’d shake my head no. She’d come back a few minutes later, peek into my eye holes and ask again Dana? Dana? It was so funny that she wasn’t even sure it was me! Then the kids got into the act, running into their houses and grabbing towels, grabbing their bed sheets, stripping the sheets off of Jared and running around yelling and carrying on. It was SO MUCH FUN, I can’t remember the last time I saw kids so over the moon excited!! I can’t wait until Liette and family join us in Haiti Christmas 2013 and our giant group goes Mummering!

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Last day here at HATS!

Bugs – Okay, so those that have been here before have mentioned in comments and emails they’ve had no bug problems. You’re welcome! I’ve experience all the bug issues during my stay so you all could come down bug free before and after me. You’re invited to show your appreciation with gifts of anti-itch cream!

Today is Dec 25th and we were up early again getting ready for the church service with gifts for attendees afterwards. Church was great, even though I can’t understand what they said. The singing rocks, even without instruments, and I had a great snug with baby Sandra who fell asleep after our late night of festivities last night. We had 62 attend church and everyone, adults and children, went home with a Kado (present), a pop, and 2 candies. They were SOOO happy and even the girls in their late teens were jumping up and down with excitement after peeking in their gifts!

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My soft cushioning is a sleeping baby magnet
So excited about Kado after church

Heat – the heat and humidity the past few days is what I remember. You feel sticky all day, if you rest your arm on a piece of paper it sticks to you & you have a constant sheen on your face. That’s great when you’re at Tropical Beach resort and can have a dip in the pool, it’s not so great when you’re in land with no water anywhere at hand. As much as I love these children and my mom I will never come here in July and will continue to visit this time of year during Haiti’s winter! Sandra was stuck to me, both of us with a sheen of sweat by 10am!

Kann. No words start in Haiti with a c. Oops! Sugar Cane is actually Kann. My Bad!

Painting. 1 building and 6 benches complete! In addition to the colored benches below there is the handprint bench for in front of mom’s house and also a plain turquoise bench.

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The building we ‘repainted’ the front of.
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4 of 6 benches

Goats – 46 were purchased by Dec 20th (with 3 purchased after that). My goal was to get those first 46 done. I got close. 44 have been sourced and delivered to us and so far 41 have been picked up. We’ll be sleeping to a chorus of bleating again tonight, oh joy! Our hope is that the last 3 people for these goats show up tomorrow before 10am since Mom is gone until evening in order to take me to port. The last few goats will happen when my Aunt Sandy gets here late January. I will miss my rotating group of goats!

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Last Load of Goats. Can you find all 8?

This is taken of the top of the 12ft cement block walls that surround mom’s compound to keep mom and the kids safe. To me this picture sums up Haiti.

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A country of contrasts.

This is my last post to publish while in Haiti. I’ve got a ~4hr wait in the airport in Port au Prince so I’ll write a blog or two there as well to put up after I get home. We don’t fly until 6:30 although will be dropped by by 1:30 or 2 since Mom, Luckner and the hired gun need to get back before it’s too dark.

Haiti Christmas

Yesterday was a lot of painting, a secret project of Christmas present for ‘mom’, tons of wrapping (well ‘bagging’), visiting in Borel, brining the turkey, getting the stuffing, potato and carrot/yam casserole prepped and of course handing out goats and emailing out goat photos. That’s just my to-do list. Mom did about 3x that, as usual!

Today I slept in. Every other morning we had to be up by 7 for 7:30 devotions and when you’re waking up multiple x in the night to listen to the chorus of goats (I will be hearing bleating in my sleep for weeks I think), roosters and the ‘gang shootout’ sound that is the neighbouring rice mill when it starts up, 7am is VERY early! I heard a new sound at 9:30 this morning as I was enjoying my sleep on the 2nd floor roof deck in my fabulously bug free tent. A slow twangy sound, which turned out to visitor from the southern US. Alexa said there was a guy here who sounded like he was talking underwater, lol. I guess she`s never heard a southern drawl before! The thing about Haiti is that sound travels! FAR!! The concrete here is quite different and instead of muffling sound it seems to amplify it! Mom talking in her bedroom a floor below you can hear on the second floor despite a thick layer of concrete in between. Mom and I talking quietly on the second floor sleep deck about the boys and how they were helpful and amazingly great with the kids (and with a fair amount of shock and awe in our voices) carried far enough for the boys sitting 50 feet away to hear….. `Mom, we can hear you, ya know!`

Today was the day that the Haitian’s celebrate Christmas, mainly this evening, Christmas eve. I scrambled to get ready and into the kitchen when I realized it was 9:30, I had a bird to cook! I cooked, mom ran to the `pharmacy‘ for paper plates for the kids, I accepted delivery of another 7 goats from Banika, mom bagged gifts, the boys played, I gave out goats & emailed recipients, I cooked some more, mom ran around doing everything, I un-tanged goats, fed goats, watered goats and finally at 4pm, the festivities started!

The children all received their annual Christmas gift from HATS, a new outfit. They all raced home to put on their clothes and came back for a photo with Mom.

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Kids with mom

As we gathered in the devotion/playroom the kids presented mom with their Christmas present for her. Antoinette, one of the house mom’s, was quite concerned the kids would give away the secret since ‘secret’ isn’t a word or concept in their language. Shockingly they didn’t!

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Mom getting her gift

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Christmas present from the kids to mom

Then Haitian Pere Noel handed out presents from the kids and I, each girl a Barbie, each young boy a car and clothes and a game from Vladimy. By this time the kids were hungry (it takes a long time to handout presents to 18 kids) so the House Mom’s served up traditional Haitian fare of Rice, Beans, a chicken leg and they made a festive pink salad. We also gave everyone some ‘Canadian’ food of Roast Turkey, Stuffing, Mashed Baked Potato and Carrot/Yam Casserole. They gamely tried it although a few stuffed the weird Canadian food into their rice. It reminded me of my childhood and of being at friends houses and mixing in the things I didn’t like into what I did so I could choke it down as to not insult anyone. As Luckner says, a Haitian doesn’t feel they’ve eaten a meal unless they have rice, no matter how much they’ve eaten.

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Haitian Pere Noel getting socked in the face

Sandra, the 8 month old, who eats canned baby food decided tonight that mom’s food looked better! Within 5 mins she took the spoon from mom and went to town!

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Sandra eating mom’s food

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Graduating to a spoon only 5mins later!

After supper we did the Cado (Presents) brought down from donors by Liette & Yvette when they were here last month. Each child got center stage to open their gifts one by one while all the others watched with big saucer eyes! The grins as each child opened his or her shoebox of clothes, cars or dolls, sunglasses, candy, etc were AMAZING! I was the photog with Sandra in my arms sleeping and loved it! I’ve included a few random photos of the kids opening their gifts, which the babies slept though they were so tired.

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Shoebox Gift – Karena (3yrs)

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Shoebox Gift – Dieunel (5yrs)

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Shoebox Gift – Vladimy (16yrs)

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Sandra Conked out

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My largest baby is tired too!

The true meaning of Christmas is alive and well here. I have had the most relaxed (although by no means have I had more than 30minues of downtime a day, if that) lead up to Christmas ever. No stores, no hustle bustle, no endless baking/eating (well, I’ll address the eating in an upcoming blog!), no hurry scurry or stress to find the ‘it toy of the year’ or the item my child really wanted, since they didn’t make a list this year. It’s been amazing!!!! I told the kids yesterday, the same kids that were (2 of 3) bitchy and complaining about coming, that we were coming back in 2 years to do this again and one of the boys, the one who was going to bring his own knife or gun for protection said ‘do we have to wait that long, can’t we come next year or during Spring Break?’

Merry Christmas Everyone!