Well, in case you bypassed the front page, I am no longer updating this website. I have tried to fix up some of the missing information, but I've decided to start blogging on blogger. It's easier to put photos, and it's time for a change. This way I can leave this site as a tribute to my experience as a volunteer in Mozambique. Pemba was a great experience for me, but now it is time to move on.
Eleven days until I go to Australia. Iím surprisingly calm. I donít think it will take too much time to pack - well, it canít, because Iím working until Friday, then heading to Kincardine on Saturday and coming back to Toronto on Tuesday, so I have about 2 days really. No problem. My flight leaves at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday, so I have to be at the airport by 4 a.m. Iím thinking of just going late Tuesday night and hanging out there. Itís too early to get a hotel, and too early to sleep in town and then get up to get out there. Iíll figure it out.
Everything seems to be pretty much in order. Mostly. I think.
This update is going nowhere so I think Iím going to give up for now. I canít think of anything and Iím tired.
January 2, 2006
Happy New Year!
Well, I see my last update was a couple of weeks ago, so there is a lot to write about. A belated happy birthday to Jaime (the last of her third decade) and to Paul.
Christmas was lovely. I took the bus back to Kincardine, and I have only had pleasant bus rides lately. I was sitting next to a woman who was very friendly and we were soon chatting like old friends. It turns out that she is the older sister of a woman who was in my grade in high school. I had heard of her before and the rumours were that she was stunningly beautiful and incredibly nice. Rumours are sometimes very true. She works at a Waldorf school, which I had never heard of before, and she told me about the Landmark Forum, which I had also never heard of before. And both are very in tune with the way I think, so I feel like this was one of those coincidences that really mean something. Sometimes things really connect in interesting ways during your life. So then I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day with my mom, sister, and niece. It was very nice, and I ate too much, as is the tradition. Then I went to a jam session with my dad on Boxing Day. It was fun, and I drank too much. But I also bruised the tips of my fingers on my left hand from playing guitar. The brilliant thing about the guitar is that if there are 4 other guitars playing, then it isnít very noticeable if you make a lot of mistakes, and you can quietly try and play along. The next day I was feeling a bit rough, and thankful that my mom and sister had offered to drive me back to Toronto so I wouldnít have to take the bus. I slept through a lot of the ride, so I wasnít even good company, but I was grateful.
Then I worked for 3 days, and then caught a bus to Kitchener for the wedding. I had found nice shoes for the wedding on Tuesday, and managed to get my dress altered on Thursday (lucky), so everything was coming together. When I got to Kitchener I called Christine and when she got the message she came and got me from the bus station. She was a calm bride. The wedding was awesome. I was introduced as the matchmaker, which I am proud to have been, although really all I did was introduce them via email. Theyíre the ones who took a chance and put themselves on the line. And now they are married. The ceremony was beautiful, it was called the Partner in Life ceremony, I think. It was nice and I was choked up through much of it. I wish I could have seen Christineís face, but at least I could see Paulís, and that was beautiful. I love weddings. Some people say that they hate them, but I canít imagine that. I think if you allow yourself to become too cynical that you miss out on a lot of the joys in life. It is so beautiful to see two people put so much faith in the love they feel for one another and go to the trouble of creating one day to show their friends and families how much they mean to them. Itís an outpouring of love in all directions. And itís always so nice to see old friends that you havenít seen in a while. It was great, and weddings really do bring people together. And it was a great New Yearís celebration too. The wedding was at 7, then there were snacks and a loonie bar (which was a nice alternative to an open bar Ė if people pay a loonie than it contributes to the costs, and they take slightly more care of their drinks), and dancing. Then there was a countdown, a balloon drop, and celebrating galore. I canít think of a better way to bring in a new year than through a giant celebration of love, so thanks to Paul and Christine for that. You guys really do rock.
So Iím not really making any New Yearís resolutions this year. I know I need to be more active and all those regular things, but I think I really am just too happy with all that I have in my life that I just plan to enjoy it. If I get more active, than great. If I donít, Iím sure Iíll be having fun. Iím going to endeavor to not beat myself up over things this year. I guess thatís kind of a resolution, but letís not quibble over semantics.
Hereís a toast to everyone who brings me joy everyday just by being in my life and being who you are. Some of you I have lost touch with a bit, but I am always thankful to have known you. So hereís to you (in no particular order!): Mom, Dad, April, Chloe, Jaime, Noel, Christine, Paul, Jodi, Sonya, Matt, Cassidy, Grandma, Angela, Rui, Kristen, Raye, Trisha, Vicki, Charlie, Laura, Nick, Peter, Sandy, Scott, Dan, Jonathan, Charmaine, Gord, Anne, Fiona, Marcy, Beto, Katherine, Pat, Shirley, Lester, Bryan, Tom, Raphael, Emma, Kate, Lee, Mita, Klaus, David, Ian, Ben, Paul, Tim, Kyran, Rati, Carol, Chris, Elizabeth, Shenaz, Malcolm, Sue, Russell, Justin, Marnie, Steve, David, Riley, Genevieve, Marc, Sami, Armando, Angelo, Dimitri, Louise, Signe, Shawn, Suave, Juvencio, Cyntia, Carol, Kathy, Tammy, Melissa, Kelly, Dwane, Vanessa, Sean, Steph, Gertraud, Brie, Simone, Natasha, Josee, Stacey, Allan, Marcella, Lee, Sandra, Paulo, Alex, all my students, all my past participants Ė everyone. I have been so lucky to know so many wonderful people, that Iím sure Iíve momentarily forgotten some. It would be impossible to mention everyone I think. I hope you all have as wonderful a 2006 as I expect to have!
December 19, 2005
I love Christmastime.
I think there is something about spending so much time thinking about the people you love that just makes everyone happier at this time of year. It really is a time for celebration and gratitude. I have absolutely no religious ties to the holiday whatsoever, but I always feel a stronger sense of kinship at this time. And so what if I canít afford to give all the gifts Iíd like to? Well, actually that bothers me a bit, but I know my people and my people understand. So this year I am cheap. And yet more generous than the previous two years when I was in Africa and didnít send any presents at all - so Iím enjoying the shopping and the thinking. I do wish Iíd started a little sooner, but what the heck, the sense of urgency fuels the excitement of the season. And this year Iím singing Christmas carols. I taught some to my class, which was pretty hilarious. Since I canít hold a tune in an oversized bucket, especially without any kind of musical back-up, and I was the one leading the wayÖ well, it was interesting.
In addition to my first Christmas with my family in two years, I also have a wonderful wedding to look forward to on New Yearís Eve. Some people seem to think it is selfish for people to have their wedding on New Yearís, but I donít. I think itís wonderful. What a great party this will be, filled with thoughts of love and togetherness.
Yup, Iím a cheeseball. Happy Holidays.
December 12, 2005
I am so tired today. I did two things wrong yesterday. One, I drank way too much coffee. It was early enough in the day that I thought it wouldnít be a problem, and I was enjoying it so much that I just went for it. I had a nice day chatting and walking with a friend, but then I ended the day wrong apparently. It seems that the movie ďCrashĒ was not the best thing for me to watch before bed. And I definitely shouldnít have watched the trailers after the movie. I did not sleep hardly at all last night. I havenít tossed around that much in a long time.
The movie is great, it just really affected me. My friends know that I cry at movies and theatre and television shows without too much heart-string pulling, so it should be no surprise that I felt emotional watching this movie. However, itís been a while since I felt so beaten up by a viewing experience. I watched some of the extras on the DVD and I was confused when a producer (I think she was a producer) talked about how the movie had comedic elements Ė there wasnít a single moment during the movie where I laughed. I was just constantly tense and appalled by the dark side of human nature. Anything that I could have seen humour in was just so overshadowed by the anger and sadness in the characters and their lives. Afterwards I couldnít stop thinking about how sheltered my life has been and how lucky and grateful I am to have the life that I have. I canít imagine living in such circumstances where such terrible things and feelings are the norm. I found myself wondering how much I have protected myself from the world and if my idealism and hope for the future is actually an effect of willfully blinding myself to the horrors of life around me, and if that is the case - then Iím really not a very good person. Itís all fine and dandy to look on the bright side of life, but what if doing so is actually keeping me from doing something significant to better the human condition?
I once had a conversation with my friend Paul where he was flabbergasted that I never spent time wondering what the purpose of life is. Now I admit that I wasnít completely honest with him Ė I was just kind of enjoying freaking him out. I donít, in fact, spend a great deal of time wondering about the general reason for life as we know it, but I do occasionally wonder what my personal purpose may be. I donít like to think about it too much because I always come to the same conclusion Ė there is no way of actually knowing, and obsessing about it is going to get me nowhere, so itís much better to spend my time actually doing something rather than wondering what I should be doing. Even if Iíll never know if Iím doing the something that I should be doing. And whoís to make that judgment anyways? Only me. I could waste mental energy tying my brain up in knots, or I can just accept that Iím almost always just doing the best I can.
Until a movie or book or conversation makes me question whether I am in fact doing the best I can. I can go in circles all night about this. Surely it is better to make the best of things and is anyone going to be really grateful if I destroy my own happiness in order to try and make someone else less miserable? Not that I am suggesting that it is necessary to forfeit oneís good conditions in order to make a difference in someone elseís life, I just feel that in some ways enjoying what we have is just as important as causing the least harm possible.
Iím probably not making as much sense as I think I am Ė I will blame lack of sleep. I was completely zonked today, and after having had such a nice weekend. A nice visit from my Mom, sister, and niece (who I think has no dark side Ė she has tantrums like any kid, but she is just sweet through and through), and then a nice breakfast and wander with a friend. It was a really nice weekend and thinking on that I am further reminded of how lucky I am. Sometimes I feel so lucky that it scares me. I worry that one day my store will run out and the bottom will fall out of my world. I refuse to think about that and I canít believe Iíve written it. Happiness is not anymore limited than love. There is more than enough for everyone and the more we feel it, the more we create.
Iím going to go with that for now, and hope it is enough to get me to sleep.
December 8, 2005
I have a confession to make. See, I havenít exactly had all of the medical tests done since I returned from Moz that I probably should have. I went to one doctor who gave a bunch of blood tests, and since he didnít think to check for parasitesÖ I, uh, didnít suggest it. There is really only one way to check for parasites. Well, I didnít like that doctor and since I should have a physical before I head off for another year, I decided to try another one. This guy seems nice and understanding (ie, hopefully gentle), so I think I will be able to get a physical from him. Unfortunately he seems to think it worthwhile to check for parasites, so I now have 6 ominous looking little plastic jars. Each comes with a lid with a little scoop in it. The Polish lady at the lab who provided me with the little jars wanted to be sure I understood: ďThese are for stool. Poo-poo.Ē
Well, good. No room for confusion there.
Then I left some urine and blood with the even less friendly lab technician. I canít say the demeanor of either of those two ladies was particularly warming, but that second lab tech was so good with the needle that I could have kissed her. Iíve only fainted on one lab technician in my life, but I live in fear of doing it again.
I also have a TB test incubating in my forearm, so hopefully that will miraculously turn up negative and I wonít have to get a chest x-ray. Although it wouldnít surprise me if the Australian authorities demanded one before they issued me permission to live there anyway.
I informed my boss today that I wouldnít be staying at the school, and I have to say that I was disappointed in his response. He didnít even blink. He just smiled and said, ďOKĒ. He asked where I was going and that was it. I get the feeling that my presence will not be missed by the powers that be in this school. I have been rather uncharacteristically vocal during my time there, although at the same time I think I am one of the easier people to work with. I have lots of suggestions, but Iím not a complainer. I suspect they are quite accustomed to the comings and goings of teachers so they have just accepted that that is how teachers are. If only they knew that it is possible to retain staff Ė there are a lot of teachers that would love to have a good permanent job in an ESL school. Good being the operative word.
December 7, 2005
Postscript. Somehow my writing about the enigmatic man in the library made him disappear. He hasnít been there all week. What does this mean???
December 7, 2005
My favourite South Park episode is the one with the underpants gnomes. Because, come on, there are underpants gnomes. And I think we all know what ďPhase IIĒ really stands for. At least my dear friend Rui and I have a good idea. Phase II good. Plus, they have a pretty catchy little jingle that they sing while they roam around collecting underpants at 3 a.m. A certain Irishman and I spent some time playing it over and over again until we were fairly certain that we had the words right. I am a wild party.
Anyways, I was reminded of this episode yesterday when I digressed from my normal coffee routine to buy a Starbucks brew. First, let me tell you that I have an ongoing debate with my body about coffee. On the one hand, I like it. It tastes good and warm, and it wakes me up in the morning. My students should be eternally grateful for coffee. On the other hand, I know that coffee is not particularly good for you, and over the last few months Iíve been battling this semi-addiction. I say semi because I can easily live without it - I just might be a little less cheery in my morning classes. So for a while I tried drinking green tea in the morning instead of coffee. It turns out that my body does not like green tea. After a couple of mornings wondering why I was nauseous when all Iíd had was green teaÖ I decided to try something else. Well, my body isnít too fond of black tea either. So I have finally decided (again) to embrace the fact that coffee works for me and just enjoy that morning cup. And fortunately, this being Toronto, there are no less than 5 different coffee shops on or near the corner where I work. I also walk past at least three to get to the streetcar in the morning, so there is a practical plethora of choices.
Tim Hortonís might have been a contender if the lines werenít so scarily long, and if I hadnít developed a small grudge against Tim Hortonís due to their inability to give me a regular-sized coffee. See, I found that when I ordered a regular or medium coffee, I was given a tiny cup that was surely a small. After this happened a couple of times I realized that this ridiculously small cup was in fact the regular size, and that the small size is actually really fucking small. This irritated me. Who actually orders the small?? Why does a coffee that small exist? If I want a coffee I donít want a shot glass of coffee unless it really (and I mean really) packs a punch. And Iím afraid the Timmyís just isnít there. Then I lost my wallet at Tim Hortonís, and the deal was sealed. Baroli it was. I chose Baroli after that because it seemed to me that the size was good and a normal price. You can get a decent-sized cup of coffee and a muffin for $2, or a coffee and a bagel for $2.19. Too bad the muffins and bagels taste like crap. I was prepared to accept that I would never be satisfied with the baked goods there and stick only to the coffee until I found myself veering into Starbucks yesterday. I was so hungry that I thought I would venture a muffin, so clearly I couldnít go to Baroli. Thus, nearly four bucks lighter, I walked out of Starbucks with a regular-sized coffee (which they so annoyingly call grande - requiring you to sound like a pretentious idiot whilst ordering your cup) and a low-fat blueberry muffin. What a mistake. It was delicious. And the coffee was so good that I actually exclaimed aloud over it a few times, during class. Why, oh why, must Starbucks be so expensive???
If you are wondering what this has to do with South Park and underpants gnomes, than you clearly havenít seen the episode in question. Basically the inhabitants of South Park protest the opening of a ďHarbucksĒ in their town, as they see it as an evil conglomerate out to devour small business. They protest until they try the coffee, at which point they discover itís deliciousness and welcome the new shop with open arms.
I have never felt very anti-Starbucks, but given a choice between a small independent business and a big one offering similar products at similar prices, I prefer to support the little guy. I do object to the prices, however, and am now wondering if it is too much of a luxury to have one good cup of coffee a day. Sigh. If it isnít one thing, itís another, I'm telling you.
December 6, 2005
So even though Iím not staying at this school, and Iím not at all invested in its future, I found myself trying to explain to one of the directors today what simple improvements could be made. Like having a Director of Studies for example. See, most schools have an experienced teacher who acts as the Director of Studies. Generally this person makes curriculum decisions, resolves student or teacher issues, hires and supports teachers, arranges classes and who teaches what, etc. Our school does not have a Director of Studies. The person who currently does all of these curriculum and teaching-related things is not a teacher and knows nothing about teaching. This is aÖ frustration. Also, none of the teachers (that Iím aware of) has a contract of any kind. Every four weeks we wonder (at least the newer teachers do) if we still have a job until we get the phone call (this week it was at ten to ten on Sunday evening) to tell us what level we will start teaching the next day. And then the school seems to wonder why ESL teachers seem so unstable and they almost constantly have a turnover. Aside from the fact that it is pretty difficult to live in Toronto on $15/hour for 25 hours a week. Not too many people stay in ESL for too long in this area. It tends to be a stepping stone to other things, or a stop-gap of some kind, because it is so unstable and with crappy crappy remuneration. The rewards are in the teaching, but unfortunately that doesnít pay the rent. Nor is there any room for upward mobility. I havenít given notice or anything at the school yet.
This director is actually pretty nice and seems to know what he is doing. At least, he is trying to find out what needs to be done. He is new to the school and he is trying to get everything running smoothly and keep it from going under. Which I suspect it was in grave danger of doing. He told me some things that he probably shouldnít have, but he also told me an interesting snippet about an apparently famous ESL teacher here in Toronto who is coveted by all the schools because students go to her school simply because she works there. It seems that she may be able to command a good salary because of her fame. I have never heard of her, and he wouldnít reveal her name or school, but I am most curious as I would like to know what makes her so damn special. Ahem. Seriously, I am always looking to better myself, so I would like to know what she does to enchant her students and what makes her classes so successful. That last sentence was not meant to sound sarcastic. I have been teaching ESL for over two years now, and I have never observed another teacher teach. There just isnít time! We all teach at the same time. But I would like to. Iím pretty good at observing things, and I enjoy learning and I have become a lot less critical over the past few years.
I find it difficult at times to keep positive for the students. I know that it is important for teachers to try and put as positive a light on the administration as possible, even when students are frustrated with the treatment they are receiving. Some teachers will criticize the directors so that they donít look bad for students Ė and this can be very tempting as students tend to take out their frustrations on their teachers. At times it is downright embarrassing to deal with things handed down by the administration, but I never let on that I think the school is badly run. I tell them that the school has wonderful teachers (which is doesÖ all of the other teachers are great and everyone really tries hard to do their best for the students), that the curriculum (such as it is) is good, and that all schools have different problems. However, if anyone were to ask which school I would recommend students go to in TorontoÖ I would suggest they go and take trial lessons at a few schools and find the one they felt most comfortable in. I would not unreservedly recommend either of the schools I have worked at Ė they have very different atmospheres and are good for different reasons.
As a nice aside, I have some students that really like me. Not all, of course, but some really seem to be fond of me. In the last week one of the students that I tutor gave me a scarf that she had crocheted for me. How nice is that? Another student gave me a keychain from Korea from the 2002 World Cup, and another student gave me a fortune pouch (or something like thatÖ a cute little thing that you put on your purse or something and itís supposed to be lucky). My fun class told me yesterday that theyíd never had a teacher like me. It was a funny conversation because they said things like, ďAll our other teachers were respectableĒ. I understood that they meant that theyíd never had a teacher that was so friendly and that they felt they could really joke around with me. Basically that they were comfortable with me. Which is what I want, because this is not a high school and my students are adults and should be treated as such. I always try to think of what I would like my teachers to be like should I go to a foreign country to learn another language. Man, would I love to do that. Sometimes I am so jealous of my students. Anyways, I have had a few arguments about this with D who feels that the teacher/student line must be very clearly delineated even in the private language school business. I disagree and feel that we can be friends with our students much as we can be friends with our mechanics or our massage therapists. Sometimes I wish I had a comment function on this site so I could get some feedback on some topics like this one, but I suspect that I would then become obsessed with checking for comments and wondering how many people were readingÖ Ah well. Drop me a line if you ever feel like commenting and Iíll post the comment.
I felt I had to write about something serious today because Raye laughed at me last night for writing about my hair. I guess going from writing about adventures in Mozambique to writing about hair disasters is kind of a bit of a funny step. However, life is like that and so am I.
December 3, 2005
A week ago I was convinced to go to Kung Fu Friday at the cinema on my street. My friend D convinced me to go by telling me about how he had seen this particular movie when he was a kid and been so enthralled by it that heíd looked for it for years, and now it was ON THE BIG SCREEN. He promised he would as excited and awestruck as a ten-year old. I couldnít miss that. Plus, I had to admit that Iíd never actually watched a Kung Fu movie, so it wasnít like I could prejudge.
It turns out that with a title like, ďThe Kid with the Golden ArmsĒ, any pre-judgments are fairly accurate. (Except that the title character is the bad guy Ė not the hero) It was an interesting experience, and I didnít hate it. Iím not sure I would pay to go again, but I didnít hate it. With forethought we met for some brain-deadening lubrication before the start time, and then we wandered over to the theatre and bought our tickets. I joked with D that perhaps we should have bought our tickets in advance, just in case they were sold out, but I was later surprised to see that the theatre was a good three-quarters full, and D was not the only person excited.
We walked in to find some seats and our Kung-Fu Friday experience began. There was a movie playing on the screen with the sound off, while four guys were spinning turntables at the front of the theatre. Get it? The Kung Fu fighting looks like dancing when you play turntables to the movie. We hadnít lubricated ourselves enough for me to buy it, but it was a nice interlude. Then the Kung Fu Friday master raffled off some fabulous prizes, including tickets to future Kung Fu Fridays and some weird toys. I guess the comic book crowd is the same as the Kung Fu Friday crowd. Then he introduced the movie and delighted the audience when he announced that it was the dubbed version. Then they showed us some trailers, which were pretty amusing Ė the translations are what make for the entertainment: ďI hear you are the man of menĒ - ďI hear you are the woman of womenĒ.
Then the movie started. I donít like violent movies, so I got tired of the fighting pretty quickly, but I was interested in the characters, and the comedy, and voices were kind of funny. At least one of the characters had an Australian accent, and one of them sounded a bit like a character from a western (another movie genre that I tend to avoid). Another thing I had never realized about these movies is that many of the actors are quite good-looking with well-trained physiques. And they spend much of the movie with no shirts on.
D came through on his promise and was as giddy as I thought possible, so I felt that it was not a wasted night.
Yesterday I went skating with the school. I am a terrible skater, but I only fell once. The students enjoyed it. Can anyone explain to me why boys and children have no fear? I thought for sure a couple of the Korean students were going to seriously injure themselves or each other. Something about skating outside in the freezing cold and wind feels really healthy. Although my knees hated it so much that I was obliged to comfort them with a nicely spiked hot chocolate afterwards.
Today I woke up tired. I hate when that happens. Then my roommate looked at my face and asked if it was swollen. Sure enough, my whole body just wasnít feeling right today, so I felt the need to nap. Then I researched tickets to Sydney Ė woohoo! Now Iím going to get a movie and possibly babysit tonight. What a rocking party animal I am.
December 2, 2005
I have a love/hate relationship with my hair. Tonight, I was so exhausted after working 11 hour days that I actually came home to rest and read instead of trying to convince someone to go out. But when I walked in the door, took off my hat and looked in the mirror, I thought, ďBut itís a GOOD hair day! I HAVE to go out!Ē Good hair days are rare, and it is testament to my exhaustion that my plan for the night still includes writing this, checking my email, and then crawling under that duvet. It is not an exaggeration to say that my hair has its own personality. And I rarely think it is a personality even remotely connected to my own. Earlier this week I hadnít been paying it enough attention and about halfway through the morning I went to the bathroom and discovered that it was about as big as hair can get. It was so frizzy that a male coworker actually agreed with me that it was frizzy Ė and I hadnít even asked him. It was impressive. Now normally, like every woman, I profess to hate my hair. Because that is what women do. It is considered overly conceited and gauche to actually admit that you might like some part of your body. But now I admit, that at times, when the humidity is just right, or when Iíve managed to combine the right amount of products with the right amount of drying time, I actually kind of like my hair. Most of the time I covet those women with their perfect shiny straight hair that swishes and catches the light bewitchingly when they turn their heads - and doesnít look like it could possibly house a family of nesting birds - but occasionally, I at least think that my hair is interesting. At times I think it even makes me look way cooler than I am. Every now and again I go to the trouble of straightening it for a day or two. This is dangerous because I tend to become overly infatuated with my own hair. I want to constantly run my fingers through it and toss my head Ė I love it. I could never be bothered to do that on a daily basis, and with curly hair I can at least use the excuse that it doesnít really matter how much time I spend on my hair, it does what it wants to anyways. Which is true. Usually the more I try to style it, the worse it gets. All this to say that I am so tired that I am actually destroying a good hair day by going to bed. Sometimes, it just isnít fair.
November 29, 2005
I always think of a million things to write about on the streetcar to work or on the subway home. I notice funny things and make clever or profound observations in my head. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for you, most of these witticisms drift past my consciousness and never resurface again. I remember feeling like I had so much to write about this morning on the way to work, and now as I have the blank page in front of me and a little bit of time before I really crashÖ nothing. At different times in my life I have tried carrying a notebook so I could jot down these things as they occurred to me, but somehow it never sticks. I start twelve stories and finish none. I think of fifty great titles for books, and write none.
Well, I will tell you about the interesting man at the library, then. I meet my private students at the library for their tutoring sessions, and there is one area which has become my preferred place to sit. One reason for this is that there is a water fountain there, and the other is that the interesting man is always sitting there. Iíve been trying to figure this guy out for a few weeks now. He always sits at the same table surrounded by enormous books which he pores over and appears to be taking notes from. Occasionally, and this is my favourite part, he starts talking animatedly to the air in front of him. He is quite grizzled looking and at first I wondered if he was a slightly loopy homeless man who had figured out that the library was a good place to keep warm for a few hours. Iím particularly fond of when these outbursts to the air (it really seems as though he sees a person thereÖ his facial expressions and his gesticulations are quite emphatic) are not in English. I havenít figured out what the language is, but sometimes he seems disgruntled and growls his words more than says them, and Iíve heard him swearing in English in the midst of speaking this other language. So my students and I have occasionally pondered his story and wondered what he was reading about and taking notes on. Well, I have wondered and they have looked at me like they wondered what I was going on about. He was particularly enigmatic today, as I observed him having a seemingly normal conversation with two people who seemed very pleased to be talking to him, and who then shook his hand before leaving. At that moment he seemed like an only slightly eccentric professor, and quite a normal part of the scenery at the library. About twenty minutes later he was once again lecturing the empty space next to him in a hoarse growl-like and almost aggressive voice. I find it strange that I am so curious about him, and yet I feel guilty about making up stories about him in my head, because I donít mean to be disrespectful. For all I know, he could be this amazing human rights lawyer researching for an important case, and my first instinct was to think he was crazy.
Speaking of crazy, I was joking with my students and giving them all nicknames today, so in retaliation, youíll never guess what they saddled me with. CTC. Which, of course, stands for ďCrazy Teacher CindyĒ. I have a terrible feeling that this will not disappear too quickly.
This happened in my fun afternoon class. They are a great group who tease each other mercilessly, which suits my personality perfectly. My morning class, however, continues to go a little less than smoothly. Mr. Distraction (the student I mentioned before) had a little temper tantrum today. At some point this semester, or perhaps previously, who knows, I think he decided that he didnít like me, and occasionally finds reasons to object to my teaching methods. Today he was repeatedly asking me questions that nobody else was interested in, and when I thought we had settled the point and the student who was actually running the activity started running the activity again, he loudly interrupted to try and ask again. I pointed out that the other student was talking and that student (who was playing teacher at the time) told him in a teacher voice (trying to be funnyÖ everyone else laughed but Mr. D) that he could ask me any questions after the class. Mr. D. sulked for the rest of the period and then when I asked him what his question was, he refused to ask it. Instead he went to the blackboard and started talking to the other student in Korean. Speaking any language other than English is strictly forbidden in the school, and although I donít always feel that it is terrible to do a little translation, I am obligated to follow the rules. I reminded Mr. D that speaking Korean in class was not permitted and that he would have to leave the school premises if he wanted to continue speaking his native language. He flipped out a bit, and started what I can only assume was swearing in Korean, so I suggested he take his concerns to the Director. He stormed out while continuing to pointedly mutter in Korean. I spoke to one of the Directors and I suppose he had a chat with Mr. D and made it clear that that kind of behavior is not acceptable. I actually felt kind of supported, it was nice. Apparently Mr. D explained that he had had a nightmare last night and for that reason was very grumpy. Mr. D is 20 years old.
Am I really going to Teacherís College???
November 24, 2005
Yay for thieves that don't destroy wallets! And yay to Jennifer for the gift that keeps giving. See, last week Jennifer had extra Raptor tickets for the volunteer work she does with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. So she took some of us from work (right - Jen works at the school), but I was tutoring until 7:30 and arrived late. For that reason I had her cell phone number in my wallet so I could call her and she could come out and give me the ticket. So yesterday someone found my wallet and called her cellphone, and she asked them to drop it off at security in the building where the school is. So I got back my wallet minus only the cash, the credit card, and the bank card. So I have my driver's license, health card, indigo rewards (guess the thieves aren't big readers) card, phone card (almost 5 bucks), air miles card, coffee card (not coffee drinkers either???), and library photocopy card back. Pretty excellent. The only unfortunate thing is that I don't really have anyone to thank. I don't know who went to the trouble of calling Jen and dropping it off - but wherever you are - thanks. My slightly shaken faith in humanity is slightly restored. And my strange life of luck continues. I am damn lucky. I don't know why, but I think I'll just continue to be as grateful as I can remember to be.
November 23, 2005
Nothing new to report really. Wallet still gone. Classes still going. Iím still tired. Waiting for bank stuff to go through. Trying not to freak out.
However, I realized that Iíd forgotten to write about a couple of things. Like going to a chamber music concert with my father. Now some people made fun of me when I said I was going to a chamber music thing and asked me if I was going to dress up. To set the record straight I just want to say that it was simply lovely. First of all, there was no need to dress up whatsoever. The woman sitting next to me actually brought her knitting. She didnít knit during the performance, of course, but I suspect she wanted a front row seat and so arrived quite early, and brought her knitting for the initial waiting period. Second of all, the music was amazing. It was a night of Beethoven. I donít know much about classical music, Iíve just always enjoyed listening to it now and again, so I canít tell you much about the arpeggios or the movements or whatever other clever things I am supposed to say. What I can say is that the quartet played amazingly well and the music was great. I think it was all of Beethovenís opus 18 or something. Maybe it was 16. I really donít care. It was interesting to watch the musicians communicated with each other, and Iíve never seen people play music so incredibly in sync. I found it strange not to clap between movements (something about not interrupting the musiciansí concentration???), but the entire audience of 85 was impressed and clapped enthusiastically between opuses (opae??? Ė hmmm. Word says Ďopusesí). The concert took place in a manís house in Waterloo. It wasnít the least bit pretentious and delicious chocolate chip cookies and coffee was served during the intermission and some people (my father included Ė of course) even made small talk with one of the musicians. Small talk is really not my thingÖ so I listened and smiled. BesidesÖ I didnít want to flirt with my father standing next to me. Too weird.
Now what was the second thing? Well, now Iíve forgotten again, so youíll just have to wait. In the meantime Ė reread ďThe Little PrinceĒ. Itís great. It makes me smile reading it on the subway.
November 22, 2005
Good news! I received an email that the university had accepted me a couple of weeks ago, but I wasn't ready to celebrate until I had talked to the bank. Well, after a disappointing couple of days, I was able to secure an unsecured loan with the help of my father who graciously cosigned for me. So, as long as I manage to get all the paperwork together on time, I should be on my way to sunny Sydney in about a month and a half.
So naturally I've been pretty excited about all that. On Friday I wanted to go out and celebrate, but it didn't really happen. Instead, I caught a ride to Kitchener to visit some good friends there and ended up staying the weekend. This means that on Friday I left for work in the morning and didn't get home until Sunday. I just bought some new underwear in Kitchener and had a nice weekend.
Yesterday I worked as usual, but I'm also hopefully getting another student to tutor (trying to bank some money... although with Christmas here, I'm thinking that will be impossible). Today I had a mishap. I went to Tim Horton's during one of our breaks to get a coffee and some timbits for the students, and I lost my wallet. I noticed almost immediately that I didn't have it, but it was too late, someone had snagged it. I'm really disappointed that someone didn't see it and return it to me, which is what I would do, but I'm still hoping that whoever got it just takes the money and puts the rest in a post box or something so I can get my driver's licence and other stuff back. I'd cancelled my credit card within minutes, so that is safe, and now my bank card is also useless, so hopefully the extent of my losses will be the $50 cash and the cost of replacing cards etc. It's just a disappointment. I've been so lucky in the past and usually had someone return my things, so I guess I should just be grateful that that is the worst of it.
Now I'm at work fighting with the photocopier. I spend so much time doing photocopies that it kind of drives me crazy. I wish we got paid for some prep time, it really is a bit ridiculous. They don't even pay us for our half-hour break at lunch, even though we usually spend the whole time preparing for class. That's how it goes though. At least I have a job that I enjoy.
November 13, 2005
I moved. This is a good thing, because even though Jodiís Mom said I could stay, and she was super kind, I felt like it was way past time for me to give her some space back. She was wonderful to me and Iím very grateful for that.
Now Iím living in the West end of Toronto, which is very different. Iím living above a fruit and vegetable store (which is great! Ė oops, I forgot the carrotsÖ Iíll just run downstairs and get someÖ) with a woman my age and her young daughter (who is just a year older than Chloe and also very bright and cute. The commute to work is about the same, and I donít mind the down time on the streetcar. I listen to my iPod (which I love) and read the free paper (best news item of the week: Enrique Iglesias (brave man) wants to put his name on a brand of extra-small condoms because he knows from experience how difficult they are to find, and he doesnít want others to suffer the same embarrassment). There is also wireless internet here, so Iím currently sitting in the kitchen watching my broccoli steam and my sweet potatoes roast while I write. Iím enjoying it.
Work is the same. I had a couple of frustrating days this week, but I managed to get some perspective back. I realized that dealing with a difficult class dynamic was similar to dealing with a difficult group (remember Katimavik?), but that in this case I only have to be ďonĒ for them for 2 hours and 20 minutes every day, as opposed to all day every day. So I went in with my positive face on on Friday and had a better day. My frustration was this: There is one student in my morning class who appears to have learned as much English as he cares to learn. The problem is that he paid for 6 months of classes so he is going to keep coming, even though he doesnít like studying that much. So he can be quite distracting in his non-participation (ie Ė cutting up paper while other students are trying to do activities). He is only interested when he is the centre of attention, so he would happily suck up all of my attention if I let him. So I try to be sure to focus on the students who want to learn, and then he thinks I am ignoring him. On Thursday I decided to try a Project Leader tactic and had students write down what they wanted from the class and what they were going to contribute to the class dynamic. This guy started his by writing ďI donít want to answer this question because I donít think it is the classí problemĒ. But then he changed his mind and said that he wanted to learn grammar. What I did learn from this activity was that I was right in thinking that all of the students had different agendas. Some wanted to use the book more, and do more writing, while others didnít care about writing and just wanted to do games and skits. I shared this with them on Friday and told them that sometimes they would have to try and remember that just because a certain activity doesnít interest them, it doesnít mean that nobody is interested, but if we all go in with a positive attitude and try to make the best of it, then it will be better for all of us. They seemed to be on board, but of course, Mr. Disruptive wasnít there yet (having fallen asleep on the subway and missed his stop). I think it will be OK and at least they have an idea that I do want them to enjoy the class and get something out of it. The other frustration is the lack of organization at the school. I donít want to say too much about that, but I think that if I were to stay in this business that I would definitely want to run my own school.
Other than that I am still waiting for the response from the school in Australia, and this week I attack the banks to see what I can get. And I mean I will go in and ask for a loan, not rob them. Did you hear about that man who has robbed over 26 banks in the last month or two? Either robbing banks is very lucrative, or hardly lucrative at all.
And now that I donít have a television, Iím hoping to update a bit more frequently, so look forward to more exciting blogs on teaching ESL in Toronto. Iíll bet your on the edge of your seat.
November 9, 2005
So I was looking for a test to use in my class... and of course I had to try them first. Sometimes they are a bit freaky!
Cindy took the free ColorQuiz.com personality test!
"Seeks freedom from problems and a secure state of ..."
Cindy, your subconscious mind is driven most by Peace
You are driven by a higher purpose than most people. You have a deeply-rooted desire to facilitate peacefulness in the world. Whether through subtle interactions with love ones, or through getting involved in social causes, it is important to you to influence the world.
You are driven by a desire to encourage others to think about the positive side of things instead of focusing on the negative. The reason your unconscious is consumed by this might stem from an innate fear of war and turmoil. Thus, to avoid that uncomfortable place for you, your unconscious seeks out the peace in your environment.
Usually, the thing that underlies this unconscious drive is a deep respect for humankind. You care about the future of the world, even beyond your own involvement in it. As a result, your personal integrity acts as a surrogate for your deeper drive toward peace and guides you in daily life towards decisions that are respectful toward yourself and others.
I kind of like that one.
October 22, 2005
Right. I'm still here, still working, still liking Toronto. I'm quite comfortable at the school where I work, and I really enjoy the benefits of teaching ESL. I get to meet people from all over (my students are mostly Korean, Mexican, and Brazilian) and they are nice people who have come to Canada for various reasons, but mostly to learn English. I have been a bit busy lately and I have had a bad back for the last couple of weeks, so that has slowed me down a bit. I think I may have injured it doing some yoga and then exacerbated the problem by throwing Chloe around and helping Jodi move big boxes. I'm also looking for a new place to stay for the next couple of months. Jodi's Mom has been great to have me here this long, but I think that it's time I give her her space back. I'd also just really love to live somewhere where I could have a dinner party. I'm sure Jodi's mom would let me, but it wouldn't feel right. I need to feel like a grown-up again soon. The good news is that I have sent off my application to teacher's college, so with any luck that will come through and I can start worrying more about the logistics of getting to and paying for this adventure.
I also wanted to say that Jodi and I went to a Raptor's game last night, and that we had a great time. This is definitely one of the benefits to living in the big city. In no way can I be bothered to be a serious sports' fan and follow a team and their stats, but I can certainly enjoy going to a game and cheering along with thousands of other people. At one point they put the game's attendance on the big screen, and I realized that there were more than twice as many people in that centre than there are in my hometown. And there was room for another 6 thousand people. There is also something fun to sucking beer through a plastic slot on a plastic lid on a plastic cup. We're nothing if we aren't classy.
October 2, 2005
Well, just a quick update to say that I'm well. I'm working a little more these days than I am accustomed to. 25 hours at the school and 11 hours of tutoring. It doesn't sound like much, but that doesn't include prep time and teaching is tiring. You don't get that space out time that you can have in other jobs. At any rate, hopefully I'll be able to save some money. I'm still planning to apply to teacher's college in Australia and see if I can get that together. The other plus of this plan is that it is definitely getting cooler around here, and I don't know how I'm going to survive the winter! My hands and feet are already reaching dangerously cold temperatures. Anyways, I am tired and not in a writing mood, so that's it for now!
September 11, 2005
I didnít realize until the very moment I typed in the date that this is the anniversary of 9/11. And although Iíve been browsing through blogs (an interesting pastime if you are bored Ė which Iím not), and the trend is to reflect on this day or mention the impact it has had on your lifeÖ Iím not really interested in writing about that today.
I was momentarily unemployed again this weekend. I spoke to the Director of Studies on Thursday to ask her if she had any idea how long I could expect to have a job there. She said, ďLetís say 2 weeks, and hopefully it will be more.Ē That night she called me to tell me that she had miscalculated and that I wouldnít be needed after this week. There arenít enough students, so Friday was my last day. It was a bit disappointing because I had specifically asked her about it, and my students were a bit surprised to learn that I was leaving so suddenly (and, in fact, one of my students later asked me why I was quitting teaching). So, as all responsible teachers will do, I went to the farewell party for students that night and drank way too much. Oops. The good news is that the DOS felt bad and on Friday hooked me up with an interview at another school. The only problem was that I was dressed casually because this school had no dress code, and so I wasnít exactly feeling interview-ready. I went anyway because the word was that the school was desperate for teachers and needed people to start Monday. I found the school and spoke to a woman who was clearly not the regular interview person, and then I spent the weekend playing phone-tag with who I can only assume is the director. The end of that story is that apparently I start teaching at a new school tomorrow morning and that I have been hired solely on the merits of my resume. Nice.
This is good, because I really donít want to take a break from having an income. I have made a decision about what I would like to do with the next stage of my life, and money is a key ingredient to making this plan a reality. Iíve decided that the best way to combine my desire to see more of the world and my need to plan a bit more intelligently for my future would be for me to get my full teaching certification in Australia. If I get it all together (i.e. apply, get accepted, get a big loan) than I will be able to go in January. It makes sense financially to go into debt (as more financially-minded people than myself have explained to me) as it will take less time to pay off a loan at a higher salary than to save up beforehand. Also, because of inflation, it is easier to pay off a loan afterwards than to save up beforehand. This makes sense to me mostly because I really want to go. So the real question is: Will the bank give me a loan? Iím not going to mention how much debt I will need to rack up because you might try to talk me out of it, and I donít want to be talked out of it. I am, however, open to brilliant ideas about how to finance this endeavour.
September 5, 2005
So, one of the things Angela and I spent most of our time talking about over gin and tonics in Pemba, was men. And why men seem to be so complicated. They always talk about women being complicated, but Iíve always felt that it was the other way around. A particularly good discussion ended with us creating a list of characteristics that we felt all the good life-partner material men would possess. A good score is 7 out of 9. Itís not perfect Ė we were both able to score ex-boyfriends rather highly, but it is a basic guide to deciding whether or not more time and effort should be invested in a relationship, or whether this one should be left alone in his bubble. Yes, his bubble. See, the gin and tonic allowed us to see that certain people go through life in bubbles (so to speak) that keep them from experiencing empathy. Itís not that they are bad people, itís just that in some cases they simply arenít aware that their actions and words affect the feelings of other people. Some, of course, are aware and simply arenít bothered. Obviously there are also bubble women out there (and Iím sure they are quite numerous), but we werenít concerned with creating a quiz to test that because neither of us is interested in dating women. So if anyone would like to create a ďBubble Woman IndexĒ, we would welcome the submissions. Just make sure it is a test that both of us would pass. There is one other major flaw to the test, and that is that a couple of the questions require a certain degree of intimacy before they can be answered. Well, sometimes it is worth taking the risk.
So here is the famous "Bubble Man Index"!
Also known as "Basic Criteria for the Human Male" Ė A guideline for single women.
(not in order of priority)
1. Is able to hug another man in friendship.
2. Has long-standing friends.
3. Is willing to cook.
4. Loves his mother (unless she is a complete witch!).
5. Likes cats.
6. Not mean/cheap about money.
7. Likes to give and receive massages.
8. Has personal integrity.
9. Is trainable in bed.
September 1, 2005
I canít believe itís September already. Time has really sped up since I returned to Canada. I guess the start of a new month is as good a time as any for reflecting. I canít remember what I put in my rapid fire update yesterday, so I apologize if there is any repetition. Actually, Iím not even sure that anybody reads this anymore. I donít think Iím nearly as interesting as I was while living in Mozambique, yet I kind of enjoy writing updates, so I will continue. I think they are a good exercise anyways, and it doesnít really matter if anyone reads them or not.
As I write this Iím listening to some of the jam sessions that were recorded in my apartment in Pemba. In a way the music that these guys played (why did no female musicians come through town? Iím not sure) sort of encapsulates the feelings of being there. There is a certain exciting melancholy to it and interesting dischords and harmonies. Lately Iíve been thinking a bit about what I learned while in Mozambique, and although I sometimes feel like many things about me are the same, I feel different. I guess I have an increased confidence in some ways. Iím still basically shy and awkward in unfamiliar social settings, but Iím also more open and friendly. I really learned to be open to getting to know different kinds of people and I feel like I am able to relate to my students better. Iím not exactly sure why, but maybe Iíve just become more relaxed in my expectations of others. My experience in Pemba was extremely valuable, and I donít regret anything about it. I donít think I was wrong to leave when I did, but I have been thinking about what I might do differently in a similar situation. I donít think that I did a bad job, or that I made any major mistakes, but in retrospect itís always easier to see how things could have been accomplished, and I donít think itís a bad idea to reflect on these things.
So, here are some of the things that I would do differently were I to find myself in a similar position: 1 Ė I would put more investment into making my living space as comfortable as possible. I didnít know until over a year into my placement that my apartment building had a cistern for water. Had an investment been made to put that into use and certain plumbing features (like the toilet) been fixed, than my life would have been much easier. A new paint job would also have livened up the place, and I should have been quicker to change around some of the decorations and furniture. I couldnít believe how much more at home I felt once I got the furniture in an arrangement that suited me better. And having a nicer place would have made it more enjoyable to cook nice meals for myself and have people over. 2 Ė I would be much more assertive about starting projects early and getting help. And when I didnít get help, I would just do it myself. Sometimes the most frustrating thing was waiting for people to do something when it would have been much quicker to do it myself. 3 Ė I would start some sort of social activity like the beach volleyball much sooner. And I would be more willing to shell out for social activities in the beginning. When we start out as volunteers we are so concerned with money that we get into a rut of always trying not to spend and sometimes we miss out on the fun stuff. 4 Ė I would put more energy into getting to know my community more quickly. Iíve always taken a pretty laid-back approach to living in a new place, getting to know where things are when I needed to, but I think I would be more inquisitive from the beginning, go on more walks, and go into more shops. 5 Ė I would read more local newspapers etc. And learn the language as quickly as possible. I think I did alright in Portuguese, but I didnít really study it and I could have learned to speak more properly. I still make lots of mistakes and have vocabulary difficulties. I can usually communicated what I want to, but in a very unsophisticated manner, which is frustrating for me. 6 Ė I would put more effort into getting to know my neighbours and colleagues. Iím really not very good at this, not even here in Canada. How do you start talking to someone that you donít know but occasionally see? Some people are very good at this. I am not. Most of the time I just canít be bothered, or I feel like I might be bothering them. 7 Ė I would worry a bit less about what people think in the beginning and concentrate on enjoying myself. I was a bit too work-focussed in the beginning, and I think thatís how I got a bit burned out. I was reticent to go out to the bars or to the disco too much because I was worried about what neighbours, colleagues, and students might think. However, I am a responsible person, even when I am drinking and out dancing, so I neednít have been so concerned about that. In some communities Iím sure itís more prudent to keep a low profile, but I should have realized a bit sooner that it really didnít matter in Pemba.
Iím sure there are other things that I could have done better, but these are a few things that I think I could put into practice in the future. But knowing me, Iíd be just as likely to put off redecorating my place, or getting to know the neighbours because I was busy. I seem to get busy without even meaning to, and end up putting off things that I really mean to do. Like learn to play my guitar. Iíd really like to be able to pick up a guitar and play along in a jam, but Iíve never taken the time to practice and develop an ear and a feeling for it. And I just hardly ever seem to have time because Iím doing other things. Obviously I donít prioritize it, or it would be something else that I wouldnít have time to do while Iím playing guitar. And I donít believe that it should be prioritized more than it is really. So whatever. I continue to play guitar only for myself. And anyways, even at my snail-like pace, I learn something new now and again, so itís not a complete waste. I guess part of the thing is that I so rarely choose to do anything on my own when there is the option to do something social. I prefer playing volleyball with friends or going for a pint to sitting at home alone doing anything. And I donít think thatís a bad thing.
August 31, 2005
Well, except for the fact that September is already here and I am not much closer to making any decisions, I feel OK. I'm still enjoying my job and the people around me, so that is a definite plus. I will miss the school when I no longer work there, and the students. I miss some of the students that have already left! So, with a renewed energy for teaching, I am looking...
August 18, 2005
Just a quick update to thank everyone for their feedback - again. I am not, in fact, any closer to making a decision, but itís nice to know that I have so much support no matter what I choose to do.
My voice is better, although I think I will keep it easy and not torture the neighbours with any of my particular renditions of Blue Rodeo, but at least teaching is OK. Actually, I have to admit that I really enjoy teaching at the school where Iím working. The students are as lovely as the other teachers, and there are nice books and stuff. The working hours are good and I just enjoy it. Perhaps part of enjoying it is that I know it wonít last.
Anyway, I keep expecting something to come up when I least expect it, so cross your fingers for me!
August 13, 2005
So another birthday has passed. I suppose that is cause for reflection (because I donít do enough of that already) Anyway, I had a nice birthday. Some of the teachers I have worked with in Toronto, Jodi and I went to High Park to see ďMuch Ado About NothingĒ. It was really nice. We went early to stake out our spot and had a picnic with wine. There were people all around us picnicking and it was a lovely convivial atmosphere. Jodi had bought a beautiful chocolate brownie cheesecake from Loblaws (YUM Ė highly recommended) and my friends started singing happy birthday, so all these strangers joined in. It was embarrassing but also really nice. The production was pretty good too, and I really enjoyed it.
The only downside to this week has been that I have unexpectedly developed laryngitis for the first time in my life. And I donít like it. As you might guess, it kind of makes it difficult to teach. My poor students are working especially hard on their listening skills this week. It doesnít hurt very much; I just canít get a good sound to come out of my mouth. I went to a doctor (as everyone kept telling me to) and he was less than helpful. Actually, he was horrible. I hate going to a doctor, and I think he thinks Iím a hypochondriac. He was patronizing and so unempathetic that he actually mocked me by answering my questions (which were sort of squeak-whispered out) in a mimic of my whisper. And he gave no comfort whatsoever. This ďsee-as-many-patients-as-possible-in-a-dayĒ attitude really sucks. I wanted to tell him that if he didnít want to deal with people that he shouldnít have become a doctor Ė perhaps lab work would be more suited to his personality. Of course I am concerned about losing my voice Ė Iím a teacher. I donít get paid if I canít work. I also find it a bit difficult to make a decision about my future when Iím not entirely well. I do feel tired, too. I also find myself wondering why I would develop laryngitis. Some people believe that every illness has a psychological cause or cosmic (for lack of a better word) significance. So, I wonder Ė is there something that I havenít been saying that I should be? Or something Iíve been saying that I shouldnít be? Or maybe itís just time for me to work on my listening skills?
I waver so much these days on making a decision about what to do next. I realize that Iíve said this a lot, but I think that itís something that many people can relate to. Because Iím sick, I just want the easiest option, but Iím not even sure what that is. Each option has its complications.
Today, I have started bidding on ebay. Itís a little too fun, I think. Iíve decided that Iím going to get myself an Ipod for my birthday (doesnít everyone get themselves birthday presents? You should). I have heard good things about using ebay so I thought Iíd give it a go. My dad likes it, so that was a pretty good endorsement.
I guess thatís enough random ramblings for now.
August 7, 2005
I had to write another update for two reasons. One, I sent a email to some friends and family soliciting feedback on what I should do with my life now. Then I thoughtÖ what the heck, Iíll put it on my website, and see if anyone else has any ideas:
Here, as I see it today, are my options:
1. Stay in Canada, finding jobs and places until January. This could be Toronto, Calgary, or even just hanging out without working for a bit. I could stay in Toronto until September, go to Calgary for a bit, then back to Kitchener, then Kincardine or something like that. Just to pass the time until January and spend some time with friends. I would not likely make much money, but might be able to slightly decrease student loans, depending on the opportunities that come my way. In January I can either a) go to Korea and make money, or b) go somewhere for experience and remain financially insoluble for another year or two (destination options include Indonesia, Australia, Europe). Pros: get to spend time with family and friends, living in Canada has its luxuries, not going into debt Cons: may feel like I am just filling time, instead of moving onto new things, wonít feel settled as I will know Iím not prepared to settle, not moving forward financially
2. Go to Indonesia in September until December (flight approximately $1700). Pay my own flight (or rather, put it on credit card), teach English for a few months (enough to live on), live with my friend (so cheap). Have a nice three months in Indo. Come back for Christmas and wedding, then go to Korea or someplace else for a year or so. Pros: get to see a new place while having contacts and a place to stay, Indonesia is supposed to be great and have great food, more teaching experience, get to ďtry-outĒ living in a new place without a long-term commitment Cons: not moving forward financially, likely getting some more debt (which could be paid off once in higher-paying position Ė what exactly are credit cards for if not for this?), not getting to spend more time with Canadian friends and family, means continuing education could be pushed back another year (but likely wouldnít have funds before then anyways)
3. Go to Indonesia or somewhere else for a year, so that my flight is paid for, and teach English, just making sure that I can come back for Christmas (which I will have to pay for - return flight approximately $1700). Not worry about paying off student loans yet, just go someplace that I am interested in. Like Indonesia (good food there). It may be difficult to get a contract in a place like Korea (that pays well) that will allow me to come home for Christmas/New Year. Pros: will feel more settled as will have year-long contract, allows for possibility of continuing studies sooner (ie next September), although may not have funds to do so. Cons: still have to pay for one full flight - so likely not coming out financially ahead, not getting to spend more time with friends and family.
4. Go to Australia from September until December (flight approximately $1700), stay with my friend Angela, and get a job that pays enough for me to live on. It turns out that I have a friend who can lend me enough money to get the visa. Come back for Christmas and wedding, then go someplace afterwards (go to Korea to make money, or go someplace else). Pros: I get to go to Australia, although I may not have the time or money to travel around too much, Cons: not moving forward financially, likely getting into some more debt, not getting to spend more time with Canadian friends and family, means continuing education could be pushed back another year
As far as I can see it, at this moment, options 2 and 4 are the most interesting. They are financially similar Ė I am likely to spend all I make in either place (I think). I also need to check how long it takes to get the appropriate visas to these places. For Indonesia I would likely just go as a tourist and then get it changed once I had a job. But Iím researching it. For Australia I would need the working holiday-maker visa. I havenít figured out how long that takes yet.
Anyways, considering all of thisÖ what would you do?
And two, I read in the paper today that there is already a class action lawsuit being filed regarding the Air France crash in Toronto. While I do not wish to demean the trauma of the experience for anyone on the flight, it makes me sad to think that instead of reflecting on their lives and what the experience could bring to them, people are looking to blame and benefit from the experience. You can not tell me that suing isnít a form of profiteering. And this makes me angry. The way I see it, it is simply a fact that humans are fallible. By extension, anything created by humans is also fallible. Do the people (well, so far I believe it is only one person, but the lawyers are busy hunting down others to join in) filing the suit believe that they themselves are perfect? As a human being I believe we have to accept that people make mistakes. Even pilots, engineers, air-traffic controllers, and anyone else who could possibly be implicated in the crash. This doesnít mean that I donít think people have to be held responsible for their actions, but in a case as big as this, Iím certain that whoever is found to be at fault will suffer enough consequences. This speed with which this suit has been filed is also disheartening. The factors leading up to the crash have not even been fully examined yet, and already people are trying to find a way to cash in. I would understand this suit better if we knew that a consistent failure to maintain machinery or cost-cutting measures on the part of the airline or airport were found to be at fault and that passengers were not recompensed for their losses and injuries, but at this point we just donít know who, if anyone, is to blame, so we canít determine whether or not they have been properly held accountable. I feel the same frustration when I hear about doctors being sued for making mistakes. We are all human and we all make mistakes. Consistent or purposeful negligence is one thing, but Ďto err is humaní.
August 6, 2005
When I first saw Air Franceís flight 358 burning on the television I didnít know how to feel. I was sure that there was going to be a terrible death toll, and I kept thinking about the people waiting in the airport to pick up their loved ones, maybe not even knowing that the plane had slid off the runway into a ravine. See, when I flew back to Canada 6 weeks ago, I flew on that exact flight number. I donít see this as being a close-call or anything like that, it just made me really think about how it would have felt to be on that plane. When I found out that everyone on board survived the crash, it somehow didnít lessen the impact of the incident for me. A friend has told me that at any given moment there are 35 000 planes in the air in the world, so if something is going to happen, she always asks herself Ė why would it be this particular plane? Itís incredible really, when you think about it that way. That is a lot of planes. I truly believe it when people tell me that it is much safer to fly than to drive on the highway Ė and people who know me, know that I can get just as nervous as a car passenger as I can on a plane. But somehow the idea of dying in a plane crash as opposed to a car crash seems more dramatic or tragic. I suppose it has to do with the number of people likely to be involved in a plane crash, but for me, maybe it has more to do with the lack of control. When you are flying you feel so far away from the people who are in control, that we really are helpless. And I actually feel less comfortable knowing how computerized airplanes are becoming. I would much rather have a seeing, living, feeling human being in control of my fate than a computer designed by a imperfect human being. At least a human has instincts.
Anyway Ė I have not had an epiphany of any kind regarding my next step in life, so if anyone has any suggestions Ė Iím listening. My job here is pretty unstable and will likely end in a couple of weeks, at which point I will need to decide what to do next. My one condition is that I must be in Ontario for New Yearís Eve. Iím not missing any more important days in my friendsí lives. I hate so much that I missed two weddings of people that I really care about. I knew I was going to feel bad about it, but I reasoned myself out of changing my work plans and/or going into major debt, but no more. Some things should not be reasoned out of, but just done because they are worth it.
July 24, 2005
So. Itís Sunday and Iím tired. And surprisingly, I have a few things to write about. First, last week I braved the walk-in clinic and finally saw a doctor about my glands. Theyíve been bothering me for two months now, so it was finally time. It was a relatively painless experience. I waited about an hour to see the doctor and then there was a parrying session where he tried to take a throat swab and my body involuntarily tried to move away from the invading stick, and then he told me to come back to the lab the next day to leave some blood behind. I talked him into asking for a malaria test because he felt that since I hadnít had a fever that he didnít suspect malaria. Then I told him that the time I tested positive for malaria I hadnít had a fever. Incidentally, someone asked me what itís like to have malaria, and the answer is that it is kind of like having the flu. So the next day I went back and nearly fainted when I saw all the vials the nurse was planning to fill with my blood, but she was lovely and talked to me throughout the extraction. And I didnít faint. And I didnít cry. So anyways, this week Iím on antibiotics and my stomach is going a bit crazy.
So yesterday I finally made it to London to meet Sonya and Mattís little one, who is absolutely adorable Ė of course. Sonya also looks great Ė not at all like someone who gave birth three weeks ago, and she and Matt are lovely to watch with Cassidy. Sheís one lucky little girl. It was a strange thing to sit in their nice house with their family (including three cats) and think about how different my life is. Part of me would really like to have a house and a family and a stable life, but it seems so far from where my life is now.
And for contrast, let me tell you what Jodi and I did last night. We went on an organized pub crawl for single people. The organization takes care to tell their clients that they are not a singles/match-making organization, that they simply provide opportunities for social interaction. Basically this is so that the participants can try and hold on to their pride while taking part in the singles event. The first thing they did was give us a name tag. We debated bailing almost immediately. The pub was full, and there were people standing around drinking (I immediately abandoned hopes of not drinking and downed a vodka and cranberry in record speed). Then, because every awkward social situation requires some highly inappropriate music, the musician decided to play a couple of songs for us before we dashed off in the multicoloured ďMagic BusĒ (oh yes). His songs of choice? The theme song from Cheers. Well, in a room full of strangers wearing name tags, perhaps it isnít completely out of place to sing ďyou wanna go where everybody knows your nameĒ. And then? I donít know the name of this song, but the lyrics are: ďthis bed is on fire with passionate loveĒ. I think that musician has a nasty sense of humour. At the second pub where people were standing around and starting to mingle, Jodi and I discussed leaving, and then made a pact to see the night through. We figured the story would be better if we made it all night. Jodi also thought it would be a good exercise in humility not only to stay, but also to wear the nametags. We did start to mingle, and at the third pub we met a lot of people. The alcohol had taken effect. On the bus between pub 2 and 3 there was dancing in the aisles, and a game of Ďclotheslineí which involved the two sides of the bus trying to create the longest line out of whatever they could string together. I won a prize because I happened to have an extra bra in my purse (having changed in a Tim Hortonís after getting off the bus from London) which I donated to the line. The crappiest prize ever Ė a gift certificate for a discount on my next event with that organization. And then we were off to the nightclub. I have never been in a bar equipped with beds before. There were enormous beds in every corner where people who were tired of dancing could sit, lounge, or make out. We danced and then went across the street to another club. And then we went for pizza. In the end we had a good time and talked to a lot of people. However, the likelihood of seeing these other people again is not good, and although I gave out my number to a few people, it occurred to me this morning that maybe I donít want to hear from them. Dating is so awkward and Iím feeling a little unmotivated at the moment. Of course Iím also tired and itís a grey day, so maybe that has something to do with it.
I feel a little blue today, and I wonder if I miss Pemba. I think I miss some of the people there, and I think I put less expectations on myself while I was living there. Maybe thatís it. I just feel a little bit stressed, and I donít know why. Itís like being worried about something, but not being able to remember what Iím worrying about.
Ach, maybe Iím just a bit hungoverÖ
July 22, 2005
Well, despite my distance from Africa and the frustrations of living there, I have again had internet problems that prevented me from posting an update. See, I wrote one, and then the computer crashed, and it was gone. I hate re-writing things, so I let it go. Now I will try again, only this time Iím using Word and saving it to the hard drive first.
So I started work two weeks ago, and what a difference it is to teach in Toronto. Letís look at some of the differences.
Number of students in a class:
Toronto (5 and 7) Pemba (40-80)
Resources and conditions:
Toronto (books and chairs for EVERYONE, tapes/CDs, videos, whiteboards and multi-coloured markers, air-conditioning)
Pemba (books for some to use only in class, not enough chairs, grungy blackboard with very dusty chalk, dusty windows)
Co-workers: (friendly like-minded people who care about teaching)
Pemba (sometimes friendly, sometimes looking for money, sometimes just too busy to be friendly or to care about teaching due to multiple jobs held in order to feed family)
Toronto (hot showers, diverse food, gym facilities, excellent transit system, friends and family nearby)
Pemba (infrequent running water Ė no hot showers, no gym, no transit system, electricity cuts, friends around)
And now, the flip-side. There are some similarities, or less positive changes as well:
Pemba (volunteer, just enough to live on, although not well)
Toronto (self-employed contractor, not enough to live on)
Motivation of students:
Pemba (a few excellent students, but overall not too motivated)
Toronto ( some are more motivated than others, some have come more for a summer camp experience where partying is more important than learning. But I remember being that ageÖ)
Age of students:
Toronto (12-22 at the moment)
So, there you have it. Iím enjoying teaching, because it does keep me thinking, and a little focussed. Iím thinking of it only as a temporary job because I canít make enough to live on it, and Iím not sure how long I will want to do it. I like the school I am working at because it is laid-back and the people are nice, but I wish they paid more and paid for some prep-time. They donít even pay for breaks, which is kind of shitty because the breaks are needed and they do cut into your day more. It means Iím at the school for 30 minutes everyday without getting paid. And prep-time is important. I could wing all my classes, the books would allow for that, but then they wouldnít be as good.
Right now Iím trying to take it easy and get settled a bit. Iím living with Jodi and her mom who have been generous enough to completely rearrange their house in order to give me a bedroom at a reasonable rent. Itís nice to be around nice people and they have the cutest little dog. Itís also Jodiís fault that I got a job so quickly! Which is good because I think I needed it, even if I was looking forward to some down time. Ah well, maybe later. My next task will be to decide what to do next. Believe me, itís a difficult decision. I change my mind more frequently than I pee. Sometimes I think I should go to Teacherís College. Sometimes I think I should do my Masters. In something. By the way, neither of those two options are possible without funding, so that is another consideration. Sometimes I just think I should stop worrying about it so much and just keep traveling. When I think that way I start considering which area of the world to go to nextÖ you think that is easy? Do I go for the places Iím more interested in, or the places I can make more money? Argh. However, as frustrating as it is, I am also extremely grateful that I have so many options. I have a pretty good life, and I know how lucky I am.
July 7, 2005
First of all - major congratulations to Sonya and Matt who have just brought a baby girl into the world. Cassidy is one lucky little baby! I can't wait to meet her.
Well - I'm adjusting! I still can't believe how clean and green everything is. My allergies have improved and I am no longer fighting the phlegm monster as desperately as I was a week ago, so that is good.
I'm currently in Kitchener with Christine and Paul, which is nice. I went to Toronto last week where I stayed with Jodi, spent a weekend with Raye, and even hooked up with Jaime and Noel, so that was a great weekend. It's always strange how quickly things start to feel the same. I was away for 19 months, yet within 5 minutes of seeing each of my friends, it felt like I had hardly been away at all. I guess that's the beauty of having wonderful friends like mine. I've always been grateful for my friends and I wish everyone was as lucky as I am.
It was great to stay with Jodi also because she has recently returned from over two years in Indonesia. This means that she understands when I marvel over how quickly the ATM spits out my money, or when I ask strange questions that I should know the answer to. She also has the cutest little dog ever. Jodi also has a manner of motivating people to do the things they should be doing, so with her help and encouragement I sent off a bunch of resumes to some ESL schools in Toronto. The search begins! I was sort of prepared to start a mobile job search (I don't see why I can't do my job-searching while visiting friends - it'll be much harder to work in visits once I have a job - I figure I may as well enjoy the free time while I've got it!), but I'm also pretty good at procrastinating. I feel pretty positive about it though, and I'm starting to look forward to the idea of working - especially with other people who enjoy working, and with small classes and resources! I mean - really!
June 24, 2005
So I made it! I'm back home in Kincardine and suffering from what seems to be an attack of hay fever. I guess I didn't quite miss the allergy season!
The flights were fine, and it was really nice to travel with Kate. We traveled Air France which was alright. The Paris/Toronto leg was better if only because the entertainment system was more advanced. Then I spent the night in a nice hotel in Toronot with my sister (and a jacuzzi tub to warm away those travel pains). Then we went shopping. I definitely needed new shoes, and I wanted to develop my photos... and I'm sure I needed all those new clothes as well... It was so much fun to look at all the nice new things, and I wore my sister out! I was the one who traveled for nearly 30 hours and she was the one who put a stop to the shopping. Probably just as well for my credit card's sake...
So now I'm just relaxing, eating, organizing, and thinking about what to do next. One thing at a time I suppose!