Saturday, 29 May 2010

A Quickie!

Hello blog. I’ve missed you!
So…let’s catch up!
I’m still in the North…working, working, working…big things have happened. Epic. Monsterous. Mainly just to me, but some of the stress is falling away (now if only I could make the rest of the weight fall away).
My University of London/London School of Economics dream is almost a reality. My funding has been approved, the final paperwork is in the mail. After twelve weeks of mailing, emailing, arguing with Canada Post, it’s so close and overwhelming. Though I’m still a bit upset that Canada Post lost my Confirmation of Acceptance and course selections for the better part of a month (luckily the Ombudsperson for CP got involved, and CP footed the rather high cost of Fed Exing my documents to England) and delayed the process.
There is talk of travel. I love travel – there is talk of jolly Old England, Morocco. It’s my life again.
I am looking at grad schools – I know what I want to be when I grow up.
After four years of ruts, and what seemed like continual bad news, I feel hopeful again. But there is always worry with that – I can’t have everything, can I? And yet, maybe for this moment, I can.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Failure to Launch

One day, sometime soon, I would like to think that I will stop arriving at this exact same point. I have no reason to be here – had I known my tax return was sitting on the kitchen table, I probably wouldn’t be back here.
After a lonely twelve hour drive, filled with silent contemplation, endless questioning and regret, I am no closer to arriving at a conclusion than I was two days ago. Surely it will get easier.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Boomeranging Back

The long journey home starts again. I’m not particularly happy about it – I’m not sure what I’m going to encounter upon my return. Many behind-the-scenes events have occurred since my departure. Some good, some bad…ultimately I hope that some of the burden is relieved.

One day, I hope that I can look back on this experience with a smile. This little Ozarkia has a way of growing on you after awhile. I’m not leaving by choice; not because I am homesick, or feel some sort of unrelenting need to escape – I suppose this is a small victory. Yet, after weeks of rejections, my ego is shattered (not that it was particularly strong to begin with…). At the end of the day, I can’t live on a minimum wage, part-time job and as my resources are dwindling, it’s time to go.

I don’t know what it means; employment, finances, the future…my relationship…everything is just sort of hanging. I dislike the lack of closure – I am a closure-type person.

How does a relationship survive long distance, and for how long? I’ve been down this road before – long distance relationships in New Orleans and England. Granted this relationship is much closer than those, and yet I feel less at ease than ever before. We have each failed in our respective cities; each of us sitting at the crossroads, unsure which way to turn. We are both educated, struggling financially, trying to make ends meet with mediocre jobs. Part of me feels that some of the burden would be relieved if we just let go, and yet if only we could weather the storm…

I feel like I’m walking out half way through the movie. I want to know what happens. Spring is here, but the leaves have yet to blossom (do leaves blossom? I’m not sure). I want to know what it is like here during the summer. Why do I feel like I’m getting ripped off? I paid for this movie, and I want to see the end of it. The story is somehow unfinished, and I need to know what happens to the main characters; it may not be award winning, but its life.

Granted, I’m not sure it’s a good thing that I can disassociate myself from the situation, and look at life through the third-person. I just want to know my ending.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

In the Bay of the South

I am still trying to find the appeal of this city.

It is in rough shape – the fallout from industrial collapse is readily apparent. It’s not pretty, though I’m told that it is beautiful during the summer. It is not the hum of activity that I had expected. It does not have the nightlife that I had hoped for. Given its proximity to Toronto, I am moderately surprised by the lack of culinary delights. One more trip down Christina Street, may lead to my eventual insanity. Generally I am fascinated by the main drag of a city; the main drag here lacks a certain buzz. Within a week, my interests had waned.

Drivers are generally rude and ruthless. I have witnessed a disproportionate number of near-accidents, mixed with the occasional fender bender. There is a lack of apology. As a pedestrian, I have found myself dodging angry motorists, who continually disobey road signs and right-of-ways. Always unapologetic, there is an anger here. Rarely do my fellow fitness-seekers nod or smile; never an acknowledgment of coexistence. I don’t expect to carry on a full conversation during my runs/walks, but I’m surprised by the head-in-the-air mentality of people here. I’ve been in large metropolitan centres with people who more friendly than this.

The sad truth is that even Thunder Bay had started to become angry. Maybe the economy is to blame; the lack of jobs; lack of hope; lack of financial security. It cracks the core of a community. This city, even through attempts to rejuvenate itself, and to appeal to a higher socio-economic status, is largely cracked. Too many contrasts – luxury condominiums being built along Front Street, mixed with derelict buildings on nearby Wellington. Numerous high-end coffee shops in a city that can’t seem to afford a two dollar cup of coffee.

Granted, it isn’t all misfortune. This city has been highly proactive in establishing itself as a centre of artistry. The monthly “First Friday” showcases artists and entertainers; all for free; wine and food included. Anything that includes wine in the mix, gets approval from me. Art galleries, boutiques, and upper-scale martini bars seem to be integrating nicely into the partially rundown downtown. The coexistence of tacky pawn shops, scary dive-bars, upscale lounges and trendy coffee shops provides an interesting dynamic. The jewel of the downtown, appears to be the relatively new Tree House Coffee shop – a vegan’s dream, though highly appealing to the non-vegan. I’m a huge fan of their balls (yes, you read it right), and Indio Thai wrap. Secretly I hope that they can put the corporate Coffee Culture out of business – I am a fan of the local.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the local pubs, and their associated foods. Norm’s, with its genetically engineered chicken wings (because chicken wings that size, do not occur naturally), has provided me with a bit of familiar solace. It’s not Thunder Bay, but it is close enough.

I won’t mix words – I don’t love it here. Maybe that’s ok right now. It’s a city; one in desperate shape; and I can accept that. It is attempting to remake itself, and whether or not that will work – well, I don’t really intend to hang around to find out. And even though it is supposed to be beautiful here during the summer, I’m not sure that foliage will change my impressions.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Ozarkia

Three days ago my boyfriend excitedly pointed out…

“Wow…you’ve been here for a month!”

Hmmm….yes…yes, I have…

Unfortunately my boyfriend did not know me during my London/Banbury/New Orleans days. Actually – this might be for the best. My New Orleans days occurred at the height of my travel itch – I couldn’t sit still to save my life, and my life revolved around my backpack and credit card. Apparently London/Banbury occurred at the end of the jitter, because for as much as I still want to travel, I started to crave stability more than anything else (whatta mistake!).

FYI - Never, under any circumstances, should you tell your present boyfriend:
"All of my other boyfriends lived in way more exotic places than you do..." It might be true, but it doesn't go over so well (especially when your present love interest hasn't traveled).

The point though – my boyfriend never learned that there are certain things that shouldn’t be pointed out. The fact that I have been here a month is one of those things.

Here’s why…

He said: “Wow…you’ve been here a month!”

I heard:
….a collision, of sorts….
….the world grinding to a halt….
….the walls closing in….
….panic, woah…realization…flooding thoughts….I’m living with my boyfriend (I hate commitment)…I miss stability…I miss my dogs…I miss my home…I miss a clear sky (no smog)….work…need work….where is there work?...money…need money….ESCAPE…

But yes. I’ve been here a month.

It’s not London. It's not New Orleans. It’s far from exciting. I could spend all day staring at a wall, and not feel any the worse for it (because really, I’m not missing anything). I shouldn’t compare it to London – or anywhere else I’ve been…but it ain’t no Istanbul either. Or St. Petersburg. Or Panajachel. Or Mitchell, South Dakota (now that’s bad).
Maybe this experience is making me start to crave what I thought I gave up (and no, not just cigarettes).

Sure, I’m periodically mystified by things in this town.
For instance: walking outdoors, you know it is sunny, even though you can’t actually see the sun…or the sky…

And here, they drive like they are in Toronto but live like they are in the Ozarks (hate me for saying it, but it’s true).

But I’m also mystified as to why Timbaland degraded himself by collaborating by Miley Cyrus (c’mon now!)

Ya. So I’ve here for a month…

Sunday, 7 March 2010

We Don't Shag Here...

As I continue to seek employment of the permanent sort, I am also seeking employment of the survival sort.

Now, in my nearly 30 years of living, I can say I’ve had a fairly wide range of jobs. I have had the benefit of being a professional dishwasher – always exciting.

I have been a line cook…a prep cook…a short order cook…I don’t cook…

I have been a professional dog handler (of sorts, but it’s fairly complicated to explain) for the past three years. For six months out of the year, it is just my dogs and I (which is fine, because I actually prefer dogs to people). Unfortunately it eventually becomes a hassle around month five, when I start to argue with my dogs, and come home not speaking to them. Oh yes, I am serious. You see, spending 12 hours a day with a canine companion constantly in your face, only to bring him home, and spend the remaining part of the day tripping over him…well…it can be overkill…especially when your primary hobby…is…oh yes…dog handling (professions and hobbies should not correspond)

There have been stints in teaching. Stints in tutoring. Stints in the entertainment industry (not adult). Working for Stats Canada. Working abroad, working at home, working wherever I could find a job.

I have a considerable number of resumes and cover letters at the moment – each job I apply to requires a specialized resume, and I have applied to A LOT of jobs recently.
Periodically I make mistakes in my cover letters that proof reading fails to catch…there is nothing worse than focusing on my communication skills and finding the following error once the resume has already been submitted:

Do to my years education, I have excellent communication skills, and comfortable in front of individuals and large audiences.

Context is also fairly important when considering a resume. As a fairly well travelled individual (and trained in anthropology) I should be aware of context. Northern Ontario (like most areas) has its own colourful vernacular, which I am sometimes oblivious to.

So that is why, when proof reading my bartending/food service resume today (yes, I have even bartended), I was embarrassed to realize a little faux pas that I had included – in a resume that I have already submitted to jobs in Southern Ontario…..

In my resume, as a part of my SKILL SET, I discussed how I had served at special events, including shags

Yes, including shags.

Sometimes I need to be far more observant of where I am. To the rest of the world, I may have just become a prostitute of sorts…or a madam…or a tea-toting geisha at a mass orgy. Maybe I provided the whips & chains….or lubricant…

And while this might be a beneficial skill in Amsterdam, I highly doubt having served at a shag is going to be looked at favourably in sleepy Sarnia – though it might help me to get a job, but not on merit. At the very least, a potential employer may want to interview me, based strictly out of curiosity; maybe hoping I might wear leather and lace to the interview (because really – what else would one wear, if serving at a shag?).

You see, while the rest of the world believes a shag is synonymous with sex, in Northern Ontario a shag is the equivalent to a stag & doe, buck & doe, or a pre-wedding fundraiser, that requires bartenders. Not that we don’t shag in Northern Ontario, but we certainly don’t admit to it on our resumes…

Saturday, 6 March 2010

I'll Get There Yet

Nearly a month into Southern Ontario, and amidst daily promises that “I’m going home” I have yet to get back into my car and start driving.
I don’t wanna go…maybe I wanna go…errrr…tomorrow…
Have you ever woken up, not sure who you are, where you are, realize that something has to change, but not sure what? You realize you aren’t happy, but you don’t know why – you can’t pinpoint that exact “thing” that is driving you to despair.
Rejection letters are becoming an abundantly regular occurrence. They strike the ego. My most recent rejection was bittersweet; my education was the problem…they wanted someone with a one or two year college diploma, as opposed to someone with eight years of university education. I am not na├»ve enough to believe that university is better than college. In fact, I think a college education is far better for practical applications and employability.


Unfortunately I went to university.

Do I want to go to college? No.


Why? Because I spent a long time kicking my butt in university, at considerable time and expense, and going back to college seems like defeat. I’m not ready to admit defeat.


As I attempt to adapt to this whole move (and let’s face it – if history has shown me anything, I tend to hit considerable homesickness around week five), I find myself pondering the future more and more. I didn’t think it would be easier if I left Thunder Bay – really I didn’t…but I did think it would mean something…if only I knew what…

It has taken me nearly the entire four weeks to reacquire my stride. Living in a new home has meant the absolute dissolution of healthy lifestyle habits.....

“Pass the donut, chug the beer *cough cough* I’m out of smokes…”

Oops.


It has been nearly a year since I was accepted into the London School of Economics for studies in International Relations. For six months, I held my breath as I fought for funding through the Ontario student loan program. Continued rejection was based on the fact that the London School of Economics’ External System (distance education) was not recognized as a legitimate school by Ontario standards. The LSE, one of the world’s prestigious schools, was not recognized by ONTARIO standards of education.

And here's why:
The LSE’s distance education office has a separate address than the LSE’s on-campus studies office, and the Ontario student loan program did not like that. Apparently Russell Square is inferior. Sneaky LSE!


Disheartened, I quit my fight with OSAP, but held firm to the idea that somehow I would find the funding to be able to take this program. Even if I could only take a course a year, I would somehow get there. The LSE also offers a summer school program, featuring on-campus special topics for six weeks each summer. And somehow I would get there (2010s topics are making me drool, and I’m desperate to return to London)


Last night, I decided to check the OSAP website to see if any changes had been made to their previous policies. And there it was…under the recognized institutions (with recognized addresses)…a glimmer of hope renewed, and a new fight begins…

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Southern Cooking

Ahhh…a Tuesday night in small-town Southern Ontario. Ok…not truly small-town, but smaller than Thunder Bay.
I have already recognized the dangers of living here – namely the re-embracing of my former travel-happy self. Yes, the destinations have been fairly insignificant thus far, but there is a definite novelty with proximity. 24 hours after arriving here (and after a 15 hour drive, might I add) I found myself driving down 8 Mile in Detroit. No, I wasn’t sightseeing based on the Eminem movie – I was looking for Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits. For the record – getting lost in Detroit after dark, with minimal sleep – I’m not sure I would recommend it.
Family Day was spent tooling around Frankenmuth, Michigan. Don’t get me wrong – I love Frankenmuth – but we weren’t there for the quaint Bavarian feel…we were there for Zehnder’s chicken. I’m telling you – I have spent the past eight years drooling over Zehnder’s. Never fear though – we also discovered the Zehnder’s bakery (delicious butter cream). And some Bavarian stuff down the street. But really, it was all for the Zehnders.
Ok, aside from the eating potential (I am soooo close to so many delicious things), I can actually see this move being problematic. Already I have found myself already scoping out the Air Canada website - I’m close enough to Toronto, that suddenly it is actually AFFORDABLE to fly to exotic locales. Oh – and a winery tour of Niagara Falls, sounds absolutely amazing (ya, free samples = easy drunk). The only minor detail standing between me and the world – employment. Those job things are really hard to find at the moment – which means it is make or break time. I need to either bite the call-centre bullet or jump ship back to the north. I’d like to think that there is an easy answer, but until jobs start dropping out of the sky, this is something I will have to sort out.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

A Quickie

So it turns out I’m actually becoming worse at keeping up this blog – but I do have good reasons.

2010 hasn’t been particularly eventful thus far…really nothing has changed. I am still undecided. Still unemployed. Still living in the dream of a better tomorrow (I think I ripped that quote off of someone, but I’m not sure who…)
This will be a quick update, don't be disappointed.

First off, the Saints won the Superbowl. That has nothing to do with me, I am just really proud of them.

I’ve moved to Southern Ontario – I think I have sworn I would never do this – but I have. I don’t know for how long, but here I am. I’m trying to recondition my thinking, and am attempting to take things one day at a time. It isn't forever, and things can always change. Who knows what's around the corner...

Monday, 4 January 2010

The 2009 Review

Well 2009 and safely behind us, and I am having one of those reflective moments. It is interesting to read the countless Facebook status updates – a greater number of people seem to have unrealistic expectations for prosperity in 2010 than ever before. Maybe after a two year (or more) period of instability, and economic disparity, turning the calendar to January 1st seems like a step in the right direction. A fresh start, new outlook, new goals and resolutions. I understand the mentality, though I don’t entirely share the belief that a new year means a new outlook.
I don’t adhere to the principles of the New Year’s Resolution. It sets you up for failure even before you have gotten off the starting line. The number of individuals who resolve to eat healthy, work out, loose weight, etc – that shouldn’t be a New Year’s Resolution – that is a lifestyle change that you can’t merely put a time frame on.

That being said, I do have hope for 2010. It’s technically a new decade (or is it 2011 that starts the new decade? I am never sure…was 2000 the new millennium or 2001?) – and that seems fresh, for lack of a better word. It also signifies the end of my twenties. I’m not an ageist, or at least I would like to think I’m not – but I am fearful of my thirties. I’ve blogged about them before – I am not fearful about turning thirty, I am fearful because I am not where I expected to be at thirty. No, I won’t be making a New Year’s Resolution – I will be making “turning-30 resolutions.” I wanted a career by the time I was thirty, to have visited the 6 most populous continents, to be debt free and finished my education. I failed on all accounts. With seven months left before turning over the next decade of my life, I have very little time to complete any of those tasks.
So what has 2009 brought me? Hmmm….good question…
Let’s review the 365 days that were…
January:
Started off kind of messy – I was still reeling from having returned from England. Deep in regret, I purchased my return ticket early in the month. I was hired on by a new agency, but recruited students for my old agency. In the weeks leading up to my departure, I started to panic. Panic moved to paralyzing fear – and twelve hours before departing, I cancelled it. Maybe it was too soon, maybe it wasn’t meant to be. That was the basis of my January –the England struggle. Oh and how could I forget the introduction of Panda?? Silly me! The house hasn't been quiet since...

February:
Unemployment. No wait – I wasn’t unemployed – I was still hired on to return to England. On the tackiest day of the year (Valentine’s Day) I met my present boyfriend. I’m not much for love and touchy-feely moments, but it is worth noting…possibly. Amidst continual uncertainty about England, I decided to fly to Vancouver to meet my new recruiter, in person. I figured that this would quench my anxiety. And thus, that is where I ended my month.

March:
A brief whirlwind tour of Vancouver, with one of my closest friends; realized that were both in love with the West Coast (who wouldn’t be – outdoors and not freezing in March?) I met with my new recruiter, and even though I thought she was great, the anxiety never disappeared. A brief visit in Edmonton…why do I continually go to Edmonton in the middle of winter? Back to Thunder Bay…back to unemployment. But still clinging to England.
April:
And it is at this point the year starts to kind of just surge downhill. I went back to goose patrol in April. And that’s pretty much enough of that.

May:
More goose patrol. More England anxiety.
June:
Geese.



July:
More geese. A little despondent about England.
August:
More geese, but interspersed with dog training. Kobalt had a stellar agility trial – his first – and earned his first agility title. Yes, I can live vicariously through the successes of my dog. Panda also trialed and received a pretty purple ribbon in conformation. More dog success.
September:
There was this brief discussion of London – until it was realized that while I could find work, my friend could not. So that lead to more geese. Do you sense a pattern yet?
October:
Why ask? More geese.
November:
Laid off from employment – less geese. I finally start to part with the England idea, and closed my UK bank account. For the first time in almost two years I was no longer England-bound.
December:
Virtually unemployed, and finally gave up the final piece of the England equation – the plane ticket. I did start to explore other destinations though – maybe Ottawa or London, Ontario. Who knows though...
So what else can be said about 2009? In terms of the weight – I lost maybe twenty pounds this year, but have put probably thirty pounds back on. Why did that happen? I quit caring.
The one thing I know for 2010 is that it is time to start cleaning my closet – not in the literal sense (but my closet does need cleaning too) – it is time to make changes and start cutting out the influences that cause me the most grief. I am tired of the monotony, tired of unhappiness. Again, it’s not about making a resolution but about redefining my path. Who knows what this year will hold…it has to be better though...it just does...

Saturday, 2 January 2010