By Jared Janzen
Randy Leaman of Halstead and Swapan Chaudhuri of Newton have a lot in common. Both grew up in eastern Canada. Both moved to Kansas to marry women they met online. And last Friday, both became U.S. citizens.
“I thought it would be a lot easier to be able to get my U.S. passport instead of having to renew my green card all the time,” Leaman said about the decision. “It’ll be easier to travel if all of us have one country’s passport instead of a mix-and-match.”
Chaudhuri’s decision was also based on the benefits he could receive as a citizen.
“I hadn’t really thought about it that much, but then I realized I might as well become a citizen because I’ve been here so long, and I’d like to vote once in a while,” Chaudhuri said. “I thought it would be a good deal.”
Leaman is originally from the province of New Brunswick, which is east of Maine. He moved to Bentley in 2012 after meeting his now-wife Daphne online.
“I came down to visit five times before I decided to move,” he said. “I left with just a suitcase.”
He hadn’t known much about Kansas beforehand.
“I’m a lineman for a utility company, and Glen Campbell has a song “Wichita Lineman,” so that’s part of what I knew about Kansas,” he said.
Leaman said there hadn’t been very many cultural differences to adjust to between Canada and the U.S.
“Except no Tim Hortons coffee,” he said, adding that he orders Tim Hortons Keurig cups to prepare at home.
Another food that he misses from back home in Canada was poutine—a mix of fries, gravy and cheese.
“You can’t get that around here,” he said.
On the other hand, biscuits and gravy was a dish that he said was rare in Eastern Canada, as were grits and sweet tea. He’s also been enjoying the barbecue down here.
The climate has also been an adjustment for Leaman as well, particularly his first summer getting used to the heat.
“Especially today when it was 105,” he said last Thursday. “We might have maybe three days out of the whole summer that it’s around 100 degrees.”
Working outside in the Kansas winter hasn’t been so bad for him, though, since he’s used to temperatures getting down to -20.
“Everybody’s saying how cold it is, and I’m just there with a hoodie on, saying it’s not cold,” he said.
Leaman and his wife moved from Bentley to Halstead in 2014. Leaman said it’s about 1,730 miles between where he used to live in Canada to his new home. He last visited Canada in March of 2020 right as COVID-19 was starting to lock down the country.
“We were only there for three days and had to come back because they were closing the borders,” he said.
Leaman began the process of becoming a citizen in November 2020.
“I think it took longer because of the COVID situation, but there was a lot of paperwork and forms and certificates,” Leaman said.
He also had to take a 10-question oral quiz on U.S. government and history, based off a 100-question study guide.
“I downloaded the questions and studied them all, and I asked the guys at work the questions, and they got them all wrong,” he said.
Moving to the U.S. wasn’t Leaman’s first time living in a different country. As an Air Force brat, he lived in Germany a little bit when he was 5. He and his wife are now looking forward to doing more overseas traveling once they retire.
Chaudhuri has been living in the U.S. since 1996, but he said he hadn’t considered becoming a citizen until recently. He was excited last week for the day to finally come.
“My only regret is that I should have applied for it a lot earlier, but it is what it is,” he said.
Chaudhuri grew up in the Montreal area of Quebec.
“I was actually in my late 30s when I came,” he said. “It was a burgeoning time on the Internet, and I met my ex-wife on the Internet, so I ended up moving here.”
He originally married a woman from Moundridge, but that relationship didn’t last. About 20 years ago, he remarried and has been living in Newton ever since. Chaudhuri works in McPherson as an IT manager, and his wife works in Wichita, so they settled in Newton in the middle.
Like Leaman, Chaudhuri said life in the U.S. is pretty similar to that in Canada—with the exception of health care.
“I remember the first time I saw a doctor’s bill, I had no idea what it was,” he said. “I wondered why I was getting charged by a doctor. Health care is crazy expensive [in the United States].”
Besides, the health care, he said everything else about the U.S. is great.
“Growing up in Quebec, all I watched was American TV, so culturally, it was very similar for me,” he said.
Chaudhuri utilized the services of Catholic Charities to aid him in his path toward citizenship. He said this was a budget-friendly choice and recommended it for others who may be seeking citizenship.
“It was actually an amazingly pleasant process,” he said.
He started applying for citizenship in July 2020.
Chaudhuri is looking forward to visiting his parents back in Canada as soon as COVID-19 restrictions allow for it later this summer. As far as he’s moved away from home, his sister has him beat, since she lives in Australia. Chaudhuri’s parents immigrated to Canada from India before he was born.
He feels content with the life he’s built in Kansas.
“It’s been a great ride so far,” he said. “I’m loving every minute.”
Chaudhuri added that he’s been on a no-carb diet the past few months, but he planned to celebrate his new citizenship last Friday by cheating on his diet by paying a visit to Bionic Burger.
“It’s just junk food, but they’ve got the greatest burgers and the greatest fries,” he said.