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


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?…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…”


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…