Thursday, August 07, 2014

How I Became an EI Princess

I'm unemployed!

I was having trouble deciding about whether I should blog about being unemployed and the crumbling of my last workplace as potential employers could read this, as could former colleagues, but I don't think I have anything groundbreaking or controversial to say on the topic - nor shall I reveal information that isn't public knowledge. Mostly this is a wee bit of what happened but more so how it felt to be involved in the long, dragged out death of an organization.

After 7 years of employment, my workplace closed at the end of June after almost eight years in operation. It was a rather drawn out affair as we had been on month-to-month contracts from January 2013 through the end of October 2013. At that point, we were surprised as our contracts were extended from November all the way until  June 30, 2014 and a job posting was released for a new manager. At that point I, and probably others, figured we would be around until at least late 2014 or, more likely, early 2015 given the work load we had signed on to do. After seeing our workforce reduced from six or seven staff to three, it seemed like we were going to have a bit of a resurrection.

But then we didn't. On April 2nd, two months after our manager was hired, we attended a somewhat 'mystery' meeting that had an unknown purpose. When you walk into a meeting with an undefined mission and are immediately introduced to the mystery guest from the Human Resources department, the odds of that meeting having a pleasant mood are rather low. To be fair, the precedent of previous meetings with higher ups usually didn't have great outcomes. The first I can recall was a quick, everyone-come-to-my-office-immediately meeting in which my team was given the exciting news that Canada Revenue Agency was waiting in another room and would be searching all of our offices, files, and laptop content, and we were to go home for the day. The second such instance was to tell us that five of us were getting booted from our one-person offices and we were all moving into one office, like a big, crowded family.

I was rather surprised when I found out we were shutting down. The timing seemed odd, kind of like a Christmas tree lot deciding to close in mid November. We were gearing up for a lot work, but things happened, and our contracts weren't renewed. There are so many things I could say, but I won't, because I don't think I'll ever know what really happened with 100 percent (or even 75 percent) accuracy. In the end, we faded away with the spark of a wet match, just kind of disappearing. Oh, and my cat, Friskey, died at the same time. This was far more upsetting than the closure of my workplace. On the same day as the meeting where we found out we were closing, Friskey the 20-year-old geriatric kitty had a wee tumble and never fully recovered. On my last day of work, my family had to put down our furry baby. But that's a whole other post complete with 100 percent more feelings.

After seven years of employment, how does it feel to be unemployed?

One-word answer: amazing.

Allow me to elaborate as to not create a cliffhanging ending. The initial years of my job were great, I learned many new skills, the organization had good momentum, I got to put my university education into action, and I felt like good things were happening.

Then things happened, which I will not write about. For a tiny organization, we had a lot of turnover in management. Our momentum completely stalled and it seemed like we were always begging for funding. It felt like our work wasn't being used (and perhaps it was, but we never knew for sure), which was discouraging because we put so much effort into producing good, valid 'products'. I have told friends it was like remodeling a home, but then just locking the door and walking away, or perhaps only having access to a small porch. We were a lost organization, floating in the harbour without an anchor.

I didn't realize how frustrated I was with the situation. As coworkers, we would laugh about it together. We had worked in such a mess for so long that it was hard to realize that our environment wasn't really normal. It was beginning to feel like we were part of a business case study, and the answer students were to give at the end of the analysis was just, "No, proceed with caution, probably shouldn't get involved". It's hard to say what caused the end. Like a relationship, it probably wasn't one huge thing, but a bunch of small little things.

Now, being unemployed, I feel so free. At no point have I thought, "Wow, I wish I still had that job." I am perhaps using slight hyperbole, but by the end it seemed like a bad relationship. Like a bad relationship, I didn't realize the invisible weight I was dragging around. Unfortunately I also feel like I have a relationship hangover. After getting out of less-than-ideal relationships (before I met awesome boyfriend) I tended to retreat and not want much involvement with my desired sex. I needed time to let the baggage float away. I'm feeling similarly about the end of my job. I needed a bit of time to get over it. The idea of having to work another job made me want to cry. Colleagues that left prior to 'the end' have told me that the rest of the work world is so much better and after five weeks off I finally feel ready to face the world of employment again. While I have been looking for work over the past month, nothing has panned yet. But maybe I had a mental block in that I wasn't ready for it to pan out. Now, I can handle work again. Yes, a bit dramatic, but when you spend months and months in such a frustrating environment it can blur your vision of the world.

In all this, I have to say, through miserable times, good coworkers are worth so much more than their wage. I was always very fortunate to work with a great group of people which made the last months so much more bearable. Beyond my immediate group, other staff in my building were wonderful and supportive. After we received our notices we, or maybe just I, felt a little lost and forgotten about, but the other people in our building offering support was so helpful and meaningful.

People ask me what's next. I don't know what's next. What do I want to do? I don't know. I'm feeling a bit lost. I probably should had left my job after year five, with my new knowledge, still positive attitude, and, perhaps most importantly, confidence, which is now delicately perched on a teeter-totter. But I'm looking forward to whatever comes. And this time, I hope I have learned my lesson. Like relationships with boys, it took me awhile to stand up for myself and learn to seek out the best. Now I have learned that lesson in a work environment: you need to look out for yourself because no one else will. I don't mean that we need to be cut throat go getters, but when you are feeling defeated and hopeless for months on end, it's time to make a change.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

So, are you seeing anyone?

Once upon a time, I was a single girl for a long long time. Despite that I have been in an extra delightful relationship for almost 2.5 years (high five!) I still get random flashbacks to how it felt to be single when it felt like everyone else was in a relationship. Most of the time it was A-Okay happy like a bag of ketchup chips, but there were times it kind of sucked.

One evening many moons ago I was at a restaurant with two sets of coupled friends. After a lovely evening with good company, our server asked, "So, is anyone here dating?" in lieu of asking, "How should I do up the bills?" It was an odd way to ask how many cheques should be brought to the table, and although I knew the obvious intention behind the question, I still felt like a loser and a deflated fifth wheel. It also was not really a great day to hear a question like that. Earlier that day (or perhaps the day before) I had found out not-so-awesome ex-boyfriend who was still a kinda-boyfriend was pretty much in a long distance relationship with someone who wasn't me and sort of stringing along both of us. I had asked him to retrieve his things from my place and to just leave me alone. Needless to say, on that particular evening I was feeling a bit emotionally drained and probably 10 mL or so of self pity.

(I feel like I'm accidentally lying above as it's been many years since this happened, but I feel it's decently accurate enough to get my point across.)

No, I am not dating anyone, I will pay for my single order of my single food things and then take my mopey single-person feelings elsewhere.

In December I was chatting with a friend about her Christmas day plans. She was going to the home of an aunt, uncle, and cousins. She wasn't looking forward to it as every year the questions were the same: are you seeing someone, why haven't you bought a house, etc. Really exciting things to discuss to make you feel good about yourself! PS: Merry Christmas.

I have witnessed and been the recipient of many, "So, are you seeing anyone?" type questions. I know it's an innocent question, sometimes people can't really think of anything else to ask, and it seems logical enough that a mid-late-whatever twenties person might be seeing someone, but it's kind of a shitty question. Fun fact: if the person you are talking to is seeing someone worthwhile, is married, or has 900 children, you will hear about it. I spend a lot of time with Boyfriend, we live together and adopted the World's Best Cat, there is a good chance he will be mentioned in conversation (he = boyfriend, not Michu.... actually, there is a very high probability I will mention Michu in conversation as well). When things/people are important to the person to whom you are speaking, those topics will likely come up in conversation.

Side note: once an aunt did ask me if I was seeing someone, I said no, and she said something like, "No need to tie yourself down. Take one for the night, let him leave in the morning!" Sometimes you need to hear a response like that. However, I started dating Boyfriend about two months later, so clearly I didn't listen to her advice. Thankfully! (I'm sure she will be okay that I ignored her advice since this gentleman was worth keeping around for more than 8 hours.)

Maybe I was just overly sensitive about such things. Why did I hate when people asked me if I had a boyfriend? It was slightly bringing up a sore point in my life. Sure, I could have had a boyfriend at that point if I wanted to, but after some not-awesome relationships I was kind of hoping for a good boyfriend. But that fact was I didn't have a good (or bad) boyfriend and sometimes felt like a loser over the whole thing. I shouldn't have felt poorly about it, but I did. Saying no also stops the conversation quite immediately.

"So, are you seeing anyone?"
"Uhhh, no."
"Okay."
"....."
"....."

So, as I caution you to not open a conversation with a new person by asking them their relationship status unless you are trying to pick them up in a bar, what should you ask people? Taking into consideration the setting (office meeting vs. house warming with strongly spiked punch), the best way to get to know a bit about someone is probably to ask them what they like doing or what they do in their free time. Asking where they work is... uggh... I'm terribly biased because I don't like to talk about my job because it's super top secret (or boring, one of the two, or maybe both), but I actually do like talking to people about theirs jobs because I apparently need to know everything and am trying to figure out what I might like to do... at the age of 31, but whatever. We all can't be successful right away or the self-help book industry would be, like, two books instead of multiple rows of books at the local bookshop.

In closing, if you really want to find out if someone is seeing someone, I suggest asking something along the lines of, "Isn't it shitty how people always ask if you're married/have kids when you first meet?" and I'm sure it will all come out.

Or maybe I'm the only one who cared about this and was put off by relationship status queries. If indeed I am the only one (a quick Google search says I'm not), I apologize for wasting your time and encourage you to go about your business.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Places to go, things to see, travelling in 2014!

The arrival of a new year typically makes the travel section of my brain crank up, particularly if I don't have any travel planned. Right now I have absolutely nothing planned that involves a boat, a plane, or crossing a bridge (i.e., the most common ways one departs PEI). Lately I have been hanging out on the internet reading some travel blogs and realized the world is extra large and I have no idea how I'm going to manage to go everywhere other than winning the lottery and not feeling hindered by the need to have a job. Mostly I'm concerned about "big" trips, involving other continents and often crossing multiple time zones. I have so much world left to see! I'm starting to feel pressure to go to these places now as multiple people living in the internet insist you must travel when you're young (they think I'm young!) as life and responsibilities make it more difficult as you age. As I'm thinking those responsibilities and financial investments will be happening at some point in the next half decade (such as obtaining a house with a yard and a donkey) I feel these adventures need to happen now.

This post isn't going to be very interesting to people who have no interest in travelling, and that's okay. Some people have no interest in exploring far away lands, much like I have no interest in watching Mad Men. For me, travel wakes my head up in a way I love. I'm not a very organized individual and don't really plan much, except when travelling. I love picking accommodations, figuring out public transit, how to get from the airport to where ever, potential activities, printing maps, etc. I even make itineraries to see as much as possible and to always have an option. Even if the itinerary is broken (it often is), I like to have a general idea of what I'd like to do and when it could be done prior to departure.

A terrible picture of my itinerary for 4-week Europe trip.
I think I changed my plans by day six or so. That book
on the bottom left was full of European train schedules
and I loved the book way too much in an extra geeky way.
Then there is the actual journey. I love planes, trains, and buses. You just sit there and can chill out, watch a movie, read a book, etc. No guilt of "I should be cleaning", "I should be outside", or "I should call someone".

Lastly, I love being somewhere new. Or even somewhere not new, but that holds a special place in my wee heart. I like seeing things I can't see at home, I like learning randoms tidbits of local history, I like trying new food and finding places to eat, I like the pride I feel at using my intermediate French or broken Spanish. I like so much!

At risk of sounding like an overly enthusiastic traveller who "Oh my God, loves everything!", I've had some non-rosey travelling experiences. Usually I don't mind getting lost and enjoy the challenge of re-finding my way, but sometimes getting lost one too many times when you are actually trying to get somewhere makes you feel like ripping your map up, throwing it to the ground, stomping on it, and then burning it just to really get your point across. If I'm travelling alone and don't have a lot of human contact, I also get a bit moody. If it rains for multiple days and I'm travelling alone, I struggle to maintain any sort of outlook on life and just eat a kilo of chocolate. (Note: sad rain and solo travels occurred in Switzerland, so the chocolate was actually a cultural experience, right? Right.)

And now, not so interesting to anyone but me, a listing of the whole world and some rambling travel commentary. North America has been conveniently broken down into three countries, as dictated by wars long completed and NAFTA.

Canada
Where is left to go? The north! I have never been. It's not top of my travel list, but if I ever win plane tickets for anywhere in Canada that's where I'll be heading. In the summer, because I can handle almost-day-long sun much better than I can handle almost-day-long darkness and cold.

Canada isn't a top travel priority this year. I tend to travel within Canada for very specific reasons: visiting friends/family, exciting events (Olympics! Comedians!), or just wanting to leave PEI for the weekend.

United States
Manhattan, obviously
(Central Park Zoo)

I feel like I'm obliged to like travelling in my own country best, particularly when competing with our dominant neighbour to the south... but... but... I really like travelling in the US. It's typically warmer, cheaper, and things are closer together. "Things" being clusters of cities/places I would like to visit. The last point isn't really fair though because some Canadian cities are close and blah blah blah, but I feel it's easier to make a big loop in a US region as opposed to Canada driving straight back and forth. Anyway, I've done lots of travelling in the United States and will do more, but it won't be a "major" trip again for awhile. Maybe. WHO KNOWS?

Places I would still like to go to in America-land: Chicago, Arizona, various National Parks, New Mexico (I don't even know why), Texas, a return to New Orleans, etc.

Mexico!
Exclamation mark for guacamole. I've been to Mexico for about 11 hours of my life. Approximately three hours (at most) in Tijuana, where I never want to go again, on a day trip from San Diego. It feels quite unfair to say that I never want to return as I was mostly in the gross "give me your money" tourist area, so we can say I wish to never return to that specific area. Tijuana highlight was the street food - extra delicious.

Other Mexico experience was about eight hours in Cozumel, travelling via cruise ship. It was, of course, a bit touristy as cruise ship ports often are, but it was our first port, it was sunny, there was happy music, and all things required to make for a good day. What makes a good day for Miss Mac in Mexico? Simple formula: delicious frozen beverage when sweating in 30C heat, guacamole and fajitas, blankets (for purchase to take home), grocery store, $1.00 Coronas, and reading Spanish signs.

Secret: I love grocery stores and markets in other lands.

So yes, I must return to Mexico one day, I suppose mostly to eat foods and buy blankets.

In Mexico, doing what I do best in Mexico (eat)

Central American/Caribbean 
Must go!
San Juan, Puerto Rico

I was in Belize on a cruise ship stop and enjoyed it, though it seems like an "excursion necessary" kind of port as I think most cruise ship type people would feel a bit uncomfortable strolling through Belize City on their own. Also via cruise ship, I have been to a few Caribbean islands and Roatan, an island of Honduras. Not via cruise ship was an awesome adventure to Puerto Rico, where I thought I was going to pass out from heat one day. When working at Epcot, I became good friends with a Puerto Rican man who was working there temporarily. A friend and I went to visit him and his family after he returned to Puerto Rico. We went in May and by that point I had been living in Florida for almost nine months so thought I had acclimatized decently to the heat. Apparently I wasn't quite ready for sitting in an un-air conditioned car in heat and high humidity. Meanwhile, our lovely hosts were wearing jeans where as I felt like Will Ferrell in the scene from Old School where he gets shot by a tranquilizer. (Important link to scene.)

Left to do: pretty much all of it. My first oral project in Spanish class was about Panama, so I should probably go there. I also still remember the capital of Honduras from geography class ever so long ago (Tegucigalpa) so I should probably go there too. Oh, and apparently Costa Rica is lovely. I will add it to the list.

As you can see, I still have much to see in this region.

South America
I haven't been there! Anywhere! I should go. But when? One needs a proper allotment of travel time. And within South America, where? Suriname has always held a special place in my heart, mostly due to constant threats of moving there in 2007 when it was snowing out/I felt cold. Other than Suriname, the list includes all of the other countries. Maybe not Colombia, not sure how travel friendly it is, would need to research.

Europe
I've been there! A few times, and for a long time (about a year and half in total). But I still love it and want to go back. So much still to see (MoreSpainMoreFranceIrelandGermanyCroatiaHungaryMoreEnglandItalyMoreOfEverything).

Fun JenFact about Germany: I've never really been to Germany, I have just been in an airport and a train station. However, both of these times coincided with the last opportunity to spend Euros in each respective trip. First trip was in the Hamburg train station in 2005 waiting for a connection to Copenhagen. I bought chocolate bars (which eventually melted in the Denmark heat - thanks heatwave), probably a beverage, pizza from Pizza Hut, and a hot dog. While travelling on my own was good for forcing to make decisions, I wasn't always making good decisions.

In 2011 I was six years smarter during my Frankfurt layover (flew in from Dubai, waiting to fly to Montreal) so spent my Euros that hadn't been stolen (sigh) on giant Milka chocolate bars that were delicious and didn't melt. I also bought, with plastic money, a huge bottle of Amaretto from duty free which was, I'm convinced, stolen/consumed by housemates (or their friends). I wasn't pleased.

Europe
(Image Source)

Africa
Aww, Africa. I need to go on a safari. It's not even a question. I get so excited at zoos that I will probably need to wear an adult diaper when I eventually go on a safari. I know Africa is more than giraffes, elephants, lions, and hippos, but that is what the trip will be based around. Other things are second priority and will be worked around the safari of my dreams.

Additional JenFact: I was in Africa a few years ago, in Morocco with an overnight in Egypt (a story for another blog). When we got off the plane in Marrakesh to walk into the airport (Charlottetown style) my travel mate said, "Welcome to Africa!" and I had momentarily forgotten that was where we were. Northern Africa is a lifetime away from the Africa stereotypes of television.

Middle East
Lowest on the list. Will perhaps return someday, but bigger things await. Sorry.

Middle East
(Desert Safari)
  
Middle East
(Grand Mosque)
Asia
My ultimate travel stress. I have not been, but I should. Actually, I should had went there long ago and now be working on a return trip. I need to find the most responsible elephant sanctuary type place and volunteer there. I need to go everywhere even though I don't even know that much about travel in many countries (Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, etc).

JenFact: In 2010 I turned down an internship in India. Saying no was the right decision, I think, but I still sometimes wonder what it would had been like and if saying no was the best choice.

As of right now the top trip contender for 2014 is a return jaunt to Europe. West Jet still has good fares to Dublin, Ireland, and I strongly gravitate to good airfare. And from Dublin - who knows? Obviously I will have to go to Germany last in tradition of spending all my leftover money there.

Middle East
(McDonald's)

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

2013! It's over. Forever.

You know how some people do a year summary at the end of the year with lots of links to previous posts for reference? I can't do that because 2013 has pretty much been my worst blogging year since I commenced blogging in 2002.

Here we go: 2013 summarized.

January
I woke up hungover at 10:15, slightly convinced I could still make it downtown to participate in the Polar Bear Dip which started at 10:30. At 10:16, I fell back asleep. Ambition was not to be the theme of 2013.

That first day I scolded myself for drinking "too much" (I was still alive, hence the quotation marks) and told myself no more hangovers and now I'm slightly paranoid when I drink because, surprise, once you're thirty years old a serving of cough syrup is enough to give you a headache.

Most important part of January: began the process of deeply thinking about getting a cat. Also, looking after Boyfriend after knee surgery. Made him an omelette one day. Probably in the running for girlfriend of the year.

Tip of the Month: don't let a Frenchman pour your wine unless you are watching his serving size closely, drink water, and get up before 10:15 if you want to do the Polar Bear Dip. 

February
I woke up hungover at 10:15, how I choose to start all my months.

Kidding! February 1st was a Friday, so I probably woke up and went to work, arriving fifteen minutes later than my goal. However, something pretty awesome happened that day: I called the Humane Society to inquire about Butterscotch, the soft looking ginger kitty on their website. Here comes a spoiler alert: cat was acquired, and was pretty much the highlight of 2013. If I had to make a top ten list of the year and then time travel back to the beginning of 2013 and was only allowed to have one of those happen, the acquisition of Michu Butterkins would be the one to stay. And I'm not just saying that because he's watching me type this.

Tip of the Month: meow! (contributed by Michu Butterkins)

March
Work contact ended. Got re-signed for one more month (note: this happened almost every month. Sometimes we would get extended for two months).

Went snowshoeing. Stuff like that. A friend known from Edinburgh but actually from Winnipeg came to visit, which was awesome as I (and others) hadn't seen her in too many years. I un-earned Girlfriend of the Year Award by borrowing Boyfriend's Ireland jersey thingie to wear to the bar on the eve of St. Patrick's Day. It was comfortable and brought of the colour of my eyes; I dare say I may borrow it again someday.

Tip of the Month: when drinking the shot "Sex on an Elephant" or "Elephant Fun" or something like that, make sure the liqueurs are poured in the right order so the amarula doesn't curdle, thus preventing the desperate tears of your taste buds.

April
Work contract ended. Got re-signed for one more month. Things didn't look good for an overly long extension so I "spent" 75,000 Aeroplan points on plane tickets. Also didn't have much to do at work, which usually means I wind up daydreaming and booking travel. Coworker did the same.

Boyfriend and I spent too much money on a pillow this month. That I did blog about.

Tip of the Month: don't spend a lot of money on a pillow.

May
Work contract ended. Got re-signed for TWO months. Start to think I might have to work over the summer and not live out my EI dream. (For the un-Canadian, Employment Insurance, i.e., the money the government gives you when you lose your job.) Frisbee started. Hosted a Grilled Cheese Social and it was delicious.

Tip of the Month: hosting a Grilled Cheese Social will require more cheese and ingredients than you expect.

June
Went to Washington, DC with Boyfriend! Super trip, which I started blogging about but never finished. Let's finish it now:
Good food, good drink, good public transit, good hotels, good attractions, good weather, good museums, most EXCELLENT company. First vacation with Boyfriend that didn't involve begging other people to let us sleep in their spare bedroom, bath tub, shed, etc.

Tip of the Month: Priceline for DC is superb! Perhaps for other cities too, but it's the only place I used it for anything other than an airport hotel.

July
Work contract ended, got another month. You know what makes an organization really inefficient? When your staff think they are constantly on the verge of getting their two-weeks notice and you can't really do anything because you think you might be closing up shop in a few days.

July is always good: generally *knock on wood* pleasant weather, visitors from away, bike rides, frisbees, beaches, etc.

Tip of the Month: July!! Woo! Also, always make sure to have extra staff onsite at the Cavendish Beach Music Festival because heat exhaustion/stroke is real.

August
Vacation! Again! To a wedding in North Carolina. If one travels that far for a wedding, obviously it must become an adventurous journey to the unknown. General route was everyone's favourite capital to start: Columbia, South Carolina (one night). Haven't heard of it? Neither had I until I couldn't get an Aeroplan flight into Charleston, SC. Then drove to Charleston (two nights), then to Atlanta (two nights) with a pit stop in Athens, Georgia. Left Atlanta, drove to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (three nights) with a stop at a random outlet mall and Chattanooga (bicycle rental!). The draw in Pigeon Forge? Smoky Mountains National Park, and... *drumroll* DOLLYWOOD. SO. GOOD. Piegon Forge was a hybrid of Cavendish (PEI), International Drive (Orlando), and Niagara Falls (Ontario/New York). I lapped it up like a thirsty puppy. After Tennessee, we drove to Winston-Salem, North Carolina for the wedding. I was in the wedding (Bridesmaid of the Year? Probably), it was the most highest caliber of fun, and so worth the flying/driving. Much love to Sheena and Adam and Sheena's dress!

Worst part of the trip was when I convinced myself that 19 year old Friskey the Cat had died and my parents didn't tell me because they didn't want to ruin my trip. Spoiler: he's still alive.

Job was also extended until the end of August.

Tip of the Month: if you find yourself in Columbia, SC, go to Congaree National Park. You would be wise to wear bug spray. Also, Philadelphia Airport = one of my favourites.

September
Trip mentioned above extended into early September. Flew home from your favourite Virginian city: Roanoke. Also another place I hadn't heard of, but Aeroplan flights were a smidgen restrictive on Labour Day. While away, I learned my job had been extended for September.

Because I missed her, I booked a Thanksgiving weekend trip to visit lovely Charlene in Ottawa! Bonus: Brother also lives in Ottawa. He is lovely as well. I felt super guilty about leaving Boyfriend and Giant Kitty again so soon, but was convinced by Boyfriend that it would be okay.

I also did other stuff.

Tip of the Month: ride your bicycle lots, soon it will get dark early and the weather will be sad. Also, Mexican food in random highway exit town Roanoke is delicious.

October
Ottawa! Mini-Disney reunion! More Mexican food!

Twentieth birthday celebration for Friskey! Co-hosted a stag party!

Bought a bed and felt like a real live adult!

Held a baby! (Or maybe that was early November. Regardless, it had been years since I held a baby. Not much has changed about holding babies in the past decade except now I apparently pat babies on the head and call them "Kitty".)

Job extended for another month! Thank goodness that wasn't dragged out! (Note the sarcasm.)

Tip of the Month: Mexican food is one of the secrets to leading a happy, fulfilling life. And drink a spoonful of apple cider vinegar before you eat to help with digestive problems.

November
Oh, stuff. Celebrated Hallowe'en on November 1st. Tag teamed with Josh, cardboard Tom Selleck, and Cabbage Patch Kid to be "Three Men and a Baby".

Job got extended until *drumroll* next June. Whaaa? That was a weird, confusing moment.

Tip of the Month: maybe don't try to write a year summary in one sitting, your mind starts to stray and you lose focus towards the end of the year.

December
Birthday!
Ate too much and got sick! (It happens once every year. In 2012 it was on a cruise ship and my vomit clogged the sink in our cabin bathroom and I had to scoop it into the toilet with a crappy plastic cup. Sigh.)
Had a work related meeting in which we all introduced ourselves and I had to be careful not to introduce myself in an English accent because I kept thinking about this Friends scene and had to concentrate very hard to not burst out laughing. A very professional day indeed.
Christmas!
Everything!
Started watching Once Upon A Time! (So good.)

Tip of the Month: do everything possible over Christmas break! Except for one day. Take at least one day to do absolutely nothing and make no plans, no commitments. Also, someone remind me of this next year because I clearly forget it every year and go back to work in January exhausted.

Sort of Goals for 2014
Be a better conversationalist.
Blog more.
Get to work earlier. (So hard when it's cold.)
Make my pants fit again (preferably by becoming smaller, and not just by not doing up the top button).
Cook more. Not because I want to, but because I feel like I should.
Find a new job, or way to make money. Maybe I shouldn't blog that, but it's not really a secret.
Get used to sitting at parties. Sitting for long periods of time completely drains my energy and then I can't really focus on any topic of conversation unless it's travel or, like, Survivor related.

The end. (Worst conclusion ever, but I got tired and realized I should be on the verge of sleeping.)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Undisappointing Bed Story

Remember that time I felt all mature because I bought an expensive pillow that sucked? (Read: The Disappointing Pillow Story.)

What a life lesson. That pillow is currently still in two parts. One part is in the living room, useful for when sitting on the floor playing with Giant Kitty. The other part is... I don't know where it is. Perhaps on our spare bed?

Oh, what's that? SPARE BED?!

What a wonderful segway into today's non-fictional story.

Le Boyfriend and I bought a bed. I don't have a lot of experience purchasing furniture. Like many adult responsibilities (children, automobiles, mortgages, having an herb garden), I put off acquiring furniture longer than the average person. At one point in 2007 a friend and I had a very important discussion relating to the fact that buying a DVD player was far too much commitment for wanderers such as ourselves.

BUT WAIT! Side DVD player story: When Shannon, Keri, and I lived in Edinburgh in 2004, we acted like it was 1994. Initially none of us had brought any sort of computing device, we obviously didn't have internet, no additional cable, and, for awhile, no means of watching movies. A few months in, Keri eventually bought a DVD player. So joyous! Now we could - gasp - listen to music, look at pictures that had been burnt onto CDs, and watch movies! We owned two movies. What's that? You suddenly have the urge to watch Muppets from Space or The Wedding Singer? Sorry, we left them in Edinburgh as they wouldn't play on North American DVD players. Our DVD player's proudest moment was probably when, for a friend's good-bye (or maybe birthday, I can't remember) party, we all thought it would be funny to rent *porn* from the DVD rental vending machine thingie down the street. We wanted something super cheesy and as stereotypically awful as possible. We found one that was set in a haunted house. In case you're thinking, "Wait - porn from a rental machine that doesn't require ID, isn't that risky?", there is no need to worry: there was (sigh) no full frontal nudity.

End side story.

Back to bed story.

While current hand-me-down bed was comfortable, le Boyfriend and I found it a smidgen small. It was an odd size that you don't see commonly for sale anymore, slightly smaller than a double, I believe. A-okay for one person, perhaps a bit tight by times for two people, but overly snug for two people and one growing cat who sneaks in during the night and wants to sleep ascloseaspossible. It might seem a bit extreme to buy a new bed just because "Michu takes up more than his share!"; however, it was actually on the too-be-purchased list that had been developed when le Boyfriend and I moved in together. Thirteen-pound kitty (at last weighing) was just the tipping point.

Our first bed shopping stop was Sears. Advice for people who shall be bed shopping in the near future: don't wear a skirt or dress. You expend too much mental energy trying to not flash people while laying in a department store bed. Sears salesperson was nice, not overbearing, and what you appreciate in a sales person. Gives you space, checks in occasionally to see if you have questions, and, best, let's you know when the bed you pick will be on sale over the next month!

In an effort to be responsible, le Boyfriend and I also went to The Brick to test some beds and eye some prices.

So awkward.

The salesperson there followed us around the whole time like we were going to steal something. Yes, I'm just going to shove this giant bed into my jacket pocket, yes, you are correct to be concerned as I'm sure there are statistics somewhere supporting the increase of BED THEFTS from Bricks nation wide. Salesperson rattled off information and watched us as we lay in each bed, waiting for us to buy. Not watched us from a distance, but stood next to us. More happened, and it was such a bizarre experience. You know how you tell store staff when they ask if you need help that you're just looking around? And you expect them to leave you alone? Not so much. Needless to say, we returned to Sears and bought our bed there. Best price, lovely bed, and, HOLD ONTO YOUR WOOLY WINTER SOCKS, free delivery. (Other shop was about $100 to take the bed down the street. I expect the delivery person would then probably stay at your residence for an hour and watch you lay in the bed.)

Verdict? New bed = awesome. But, in an effort not to be overly responsible, the bed is still on the floor without a bed frame. Sometimes we just don't like to spend too much money at once.

(Hilarious side of no bed frame? Playing with Michu, and chasing him into the bedroom, with him being accustomed to running under the bed. He ran into the bedroom, I followed, and he ran smack into the boxspring on the floor, suddenly realizing he could no longer get under the bed. He looked started, and ran off to another room.)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Taxation without Representation - Museums and Monuments

Hi!

Le Boyfriend and I recently returned from Washington, DC. Prior to departure, a few people looked a bit confused when I told them where we were going. I suppose the American capital (not to be confused with the Capitol) doesn't seem like an obvious destination for a Canadian, but I had heard wonderful things about the city. Based on what friends had said, pictures I had seen, and articles I had written, DC had many things that I enjoy: monuments, museums, delicious food, good weather, and the ability to walk a kazillion kilometres a day! For le Boyfriend, it had a soccer team and me, as a tour guide and lovely travel companion. Because I like to go back and read through my holiday archives, here is Part I of DC Adventures.

Museums
Matching the podium is essential for being President
DC is littered with wonderful museums. The Smithsonian Institute, dubbed America's attic, was initially the result of a $500,000 gift from James Smithson, an Englishman who had never actually been to the US. Almost all museums, and one zoo, which are associated with The Smithsonian have free entry. In DC alone there are 16 museums and galleries, a visitor centre ("The Castle"), and a zoo. Needless to say, we didn't partake in all available Smithsonian related activities, otherwise we would still be wandering The National Mall with an armload of brochures and learning fatigue. We and 8-million school aged children went to the American History Museum as our first Smithsonian stop. Wonderful museum, and I am now armed with a plethora of Civil War knowledge that will allow me to share unrequested facts with my fellow Canadians.

Fact you didn't know but now you do: Virginia and West Virginia used to be one state - Virginia. They split at the beginning of the Civil War. WV joined the union, Regular Virginia joined the Confederates. (In retrospect I may have learned this from my Lonely Planet guidebook initially, but re-learned it at the museum.)

DC also has museums that you, gasp, must pay for entry. Josh and I went to the Spy Museum, which was quite entertaining, but was a bit too full to enjoy in $20 entry fee capacity. However, I did learn a lot and can now pick up on spy suspicious activity should the Soviets start spying on wee PEI. There was also some information on 'celebrities' who lead a double life as spies, such as mediocre (according to ESPN) baseball player Moe Berg and sort-of spy (she didn't really consider herself a spy, and I do agree it's a bit of a stretch) Julia Child.

The Spy Museum was featuring a special exhibit on the villains of James Bond films and novels. It had some memorabilia from the films, information on who (if anyone) was the real-life inspiration for the villain, and a wee game called something like, "Bond villain or real person?" that gave you quotes and you had to guess whether it was said by a Bond villain or an actual person. The ones the were said by actual people are a bit concerning.

Lincoln Memorial

Monuments
Einstein Monument
(or, "Statue that Visitors Climb All Over")
Much likes Museums, visitors flock to monuments in DC. Most are close to the infamous National Mall, i.e., the stretch of park between the Lincoln Memorial and the US Capitol. Le Boyfriend and I followed 6 kazillion other visitors and 90 million tour buses and started at the Lincoln Memorial (with a warm-up stop at the Albert Einstein Memorial). The Lincoln Memorial is so iconic that Lonely Planet chose it as the cover of its Eastern United States guide book. Inside the Greek-temple inspired building is a large statue of Abraham Lincoln sitting in a chair, looking over the reflecting pool towards the Washington Monument. Some readers may appreciate a pop-culture reference to help visualize this area, to which I refer you to Forrest Gump. The peace rally that he unexpectedly joins takes place on the steps and grass in front of the Lincoln Memorial and Forrest runs into the reflecting pool to meet Jenny. Josh and I (i.e., mostly me) contemplated reenacting this classic scene, but figured it would be frowned upon even though it was, like 30C and the water would had felt sooo nice.

Jenny?
After the impressive Lincoln Memorial we strolled to the Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial which I liked better, in a different way. The Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial are more grand and are meant to impress; however, it is essentially one large statue in one room. The FDR Memorial was designed to be like a book, (or so I overheard someone say who sounded knowledgeable and confident,) and each Presidential term was like a chapter. The Monument has walls with quotes of his, but the walls don't all connect and there is not a roof. There are many statues through the small "maze" of walls, and they tell a story. Based on my limited knowledge of FDR, it was quite well done, nice to walk through, and not nearly as crowded as the Lincoln Memorial or the museums we went to.

FDR and I listening to the radio
for WWII updates
Next up was the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, which I realized I had seen in the distance when travelling from the airport into DC. Not knowing much about Thomas Jefferson other than he was one of the first presidents of the US factored in with us having walked a lot in the heat, we may have breezed through this a bit quickly. Walk to monument, read some words on the wall, look at statue, leave to eat delicious Spanish tapas that make you consider moving to Spain and becoming obese.

We accidentally skipped the Martin Luther King Memorial so I just looked at a picture of it online. Now I feel like I was there!

The Washington Monument was closed due to earthquake damage so going up the 'tower' (?) wasn't possible.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Edinburgh, so long ago.

Once, a long time ago, in 2004 to be precise, two friends and I moved to Edinburgh. In Edinburgh's life, it was pretty insignificant. Wandering twenty year olds from foreign lands were not new to her. However, in my (our) life, it was incredibly significant.

I was thinking about this today as I was reading a blog of someone who had moved to Australia from Toronto, with a detour in Asia. She was blogging about first impressions, to-do lists, and the general brain twistiness that results from big moves.

We flew over on Canadian Affair. I think the plane had leather seats and was quite empty. The three of us had seats together but we shortly found our own rows for the not-very-long flight between Halifax and London Gatwick Airport. We were served supper not too long after take off and it came with a piece of chocolate. My brain insists it was Lindt chocolate, but maybe it's just going that way because its among my favourite. I remember Shannon not getting a chocolate because she had requested a low calorie/fat/something meal. I was so very glad to had not requested the same.

Lindt! Actually in Zurich, Switzerland, not on the plane.

I was stupidly tired when we arrived in London. I remember telling myself to not fall asleep in the airport while waiting for our flight to Edinburgh. If I fell asleep someone would steal everything I had with me. Of course, I fell asleep. Nothing was stolen.

There is a good chance I slept the entire not-very-long flight to Edinburgh, I remember nothing about it. Clearly we were not given free, delicious chocolate.

Arrival in Edinburgh was surreal. You follow the signs and move with the people around you. They could be on their way home, or perhaps on a vacation to visit a friend. You are arriving with you 20-kg of belongings and having seen only a few pictures of the city.

We took the Airlink bus to the city centre. I remember not knowing what the driver said to me (I was tired, he was Scottish), and sitting on the bus and looking out the windows. I saw a Blockbuster as we drove into the city and some semi-scragly looking buildings. Being Edinburgh, the clouds were low and the sky was quite dark, despite it being mid-day.

The bus drove down Princes Street so I had my first real-life glance of the Edinburgh Castle. I had seen some photos online before I had departed. I wish I could say, "Real life blew the pictures away!" but I remember thinking about both the photos and the first real life impression, "That doesn't look like a castle." This is perhaps because the only castle I had ever seen was Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom and I expected castles to look more like the one it was inspired by, Neuschwanstein Castle. Edinburgh Castle looked more like a fortress designed to protect citizens from English invasion. It looks like that, because that's kinda what it was. It's more so a collection of multiple buildings that one singular grand structure.

As most of my Edinburgh pictures are on my old laptop,
this is the best picture I could find of Edinburgh Castle.

I think we had a tiny smidgen of trouble finding our hostel because it was oddly located behind other buildings, close to a Burger King. I had never stayed in a hostel and I had low expectations. I was right to have low expectations. Now, having slumbered in many hostels, I wouldn't put this one high on the list. I remember sitting on my bunk at one point trying to find hearing aid batteries and being panicky about being unable to find them. Because, you know, they would neeeeeever sell those in the United Kingdom. (Mostly it was probably annoyance at being unable to find them. Also, I probably had no clue where to buy them.)

I found another one! This one doesn't
really do it justice, but it has a blue sky, which was rare.
(I actually just reread on my old blog that apparently I had my batteries but they weren't working. So I at least correctly remembered having hearing aid issues. Direct link to specific post unavailable, but scroll down to Saturday, May 15. Also, according to the month of May 2004, I fall a lot.)

Everything seemed so expensive when we got there. Living there now would be such a different experience. In 2004, the exchange rate was terrible. To get 1 GBP (since I don't have a pound symbol on my keyboard) cost about $2.60. The exchange rate now is ... ugh, I just looked it up for the first time in ages. It's $1.50 to get 1 GBP. That's amazing. I feel so ripped off now though. Somehow, I am now convinced that someone owes me money. I don't know who though. Canadian government? UK government? Bank of Canada? Royal Bank of Scotland? Somebody please give me my money back. 

My second point of how it would be so different now is that I'm way less cheap now. I think there I was terrified that I would suddenly be poor and would not be able to pay my rent. (Which almost happened once.) In my head, my Canadian money at home was untouchable and should never be used because that would be irresponsible. And yes, I recognize the irony of me declaring myself to be less cheap now and then proclaiming that I am owed hundreds of pounds.

One day after we found a place to live Keri and I walked to Arthor's Seat, a big hill/tiny mountain thingy (by PEI standards) within the city. To this day I have no idea what route we took to get there. We had a map, we used the map, and I remember walking next to a fence that had a big drop beyond it. I'm pretty sure I never saw this road again. It could be a case of we actually took a terrible route so the road wasn't useful to us again at any point once we learned more direct routes to points of interest, or maybe my second impression of the road was so different from the first that I never made the connection.

View of Calton Hill, from Arthor's Seat
(I'm a bit distracted by my blog now. At one point early on I declared how Scotland seemed to be good for my hair and face, which, in the long run, was a terribly poor statement. I was, again, so cheap that I bought shampoo only and not conditioner. My hair looks more fried and dead in pictures as the months go on. I also frequently got pimples, perhaps due to the weather, beer, Haribo candy, Cadbury chocolate, and a mix of everything.)

One of my favourite face-palm living-abroad stories was the search for a grocery store. We were used to walk a little bit less than a kilometre, mostly up a massive hill, to get to a small grocery store (Sainsburys on Rose Street). Sometimes we would take a bus to a further small grocery store (Lidl on Nicholson Street, so far!) because it had cheap frozen, boxed, and canned food.

I just assumed that all grocery stores in Edinburgh were relatively small compared to North America. Then, one day I was out for a run as I was convinced I was gaining weight (note: I was) and was clearly too cheap for any sort of gym membership. I decided to take a different running route because I was tired of the hills. All of a sudden I passed a large parking lot and a Tesco (grocery store) sign. Turned out we lived about four blocks and one hill away from a massive, North American style grocery store. Not gonna lie, it was pretty life changing.

Finding a place to live ended up not being overly difficult. We waited until we arrived in Edinburgh and had purchased phones. At first, many calls were unsuccessful. I remember sitting in a food court at the Princes Street Mall and either Shannon or Keri declaring within about .75 days of searching, "Well, we're gonna have to move to Glasgow," and the other completely agreeing right away. Being lazy (re-pack, book a train, find a hostel to stay at in Glasgow, ugh) and half scared of Glasgow based on rumours/incorrect reputation, I suggested we look a bit more. We ended up securing a place either that day or the following day. We had left Canada on Wed, arrived on Thu, and I think we had a place to rent by Friday, and moved in Saturday or Sunday. We had our first "party" on Sunday, I believe. The "party" (may it forever live in laughable quotation marks) is a story for another day.