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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Job Hunting in Canada

A lot of people say that it's easier to get a job when you have job. Therefore, having upped sticks and travelled halfway across the world with just a visa and a smile, technically I was probably at a slight disadvantage. At the same time, I had heard that the job market was relatively healthy in Canada. In all fairness, I had been advising people of that very same thing for 3 years while working at USIT so I hoped that what I had been telling people was as true as I proclaimed it to be!

Preliminary searches before I left Ireland indicated that there was plenty of jobs over there. I sent off a couple of applications (including my updated 'resume' that had been Canadianised) for various positions mainly along the line of the marketing/office style work I had been doing up to that point. Just before leaving, I decided that I would most likely end up working in a pub or restaurant and decided to complete the Smart Serve course so that I would be able to serve alcohol responsibly (I am a complete retard at 'knowing the one that's one too many'; as if I'd be able to make a decent decision regarding other people drinking responsibly). After 2 days, I realised that everyone I know here works office hours. Do I really want to work the complete opposite shifts to them?

I decided to put my focus back into the office side of things. I set up some meetings with recruitment agents and sent off roughly 30 resumes a day for various positions, including the following;
  • Communications/Social Media Coordinator for a charity
  • Production Team Member at Tim Hortons
  • Office Administrator in a lawyers office
  • Special Events Organiser at a college
  • Administrator for an Immigration firm that specialises in advising internationals who want to move to Canada and Canadians who wish to move abroad
  • Executive Director (aim high right?) for the Irish Canadian Immigration Centre. 
Anyone who knows what I've been doing for the last few years will immediately see that the last 2 jobs should have been mine in all fairness. How could they not want me? Waited for them to call, still sending off other applications but knowing that there could be no other positions as perfect for me as these two. Then the phone rang.....oh joy! It was.....Tim Hortons. Was I free for a quick chat about the position available? Fair enough, I'll play along for now. The usual questions follow; what's my availability, why did I come to Canada, why do I want to work for Tim Hortons, would I mind a bit of baking. I answered in my best possible phone voice and she invited me to come in the next day to meet the manager of the store. I turned up all suited and booted, ready to convince them that I 'really wanted to be part of the Tim Hortons team' (this was a phrase I did actually utter and immediately afterward wanted to punch myself in the face). The manager, God bless her, was 45 minutes late for my interview. I am not a particularly impatient woman but I must say, after 30 minutes and 3 free coffees, I did consider whether I was actually bothered to work there. 

I stuck it out obviously (desperation was taking hold at this stage that I would be unemployed forever) and the interview went quite well I thought. She asked me what my availability was, why did I come to Canada, why did I want to work for Tims, she didn't ask me about the baking though. I hadn't left the place an hour when she rang me and asked me to come back the next day to meet the owner. Good sign. The owner was not late, thankfully. First thing he says is 'I haven't read your resume. I want you to tell me about yourself.' Being the shy wallflower that I am, this was quite hard for me.....but I managed. Then he asked me my availability, why I had come to Canada and why I wanted to work for Tims (this was the point where I talked about the Tim Hortons team and how much I wanted to be a part of it. Loser) and said that he would let me know early the next week. I still haven't heard anything and that was 17 days ago. Deduce from that what you will. 

Then of course, dear Gillian, my shining light and saviour, came out to me last week and said that the hostel down the block was looking for front desk staff. I'd work in the hostel, meet new people, live the backpacker lifestyle. This could work! I emailed the name Gillian had given me and tried not to make my cover letter sound too desperate (this is very hard to do). I heard back within an hour to arrange an interview for a few days later. Not one to count my chickens, I made sure to keep applying for other jobs in the meantime. I was very nervous before the interview but the manager, Sally, seemed really nice, very friendly and was also from Cornwall so I knew she couldn't be a bad egg! I thought the interview went well but I was really weary to get my hopes up as I knew how much I wanted this job.

Obviously, I'm on my way to a job interview 2 days later when she emails me to offer me the position. I actually did a little jump in the middle of the street and laughed out loud with complete and utter delight. It was arranged that I wouldn't be starting until the following week, meaning that I would be free for the weekend while I had friends visiting from the homeland, it all seemed to be working out fairly well! Over the next few days, as I mentioned at the start of my little piece how much easier it was to get a job when you already have a job, I was contacted by 7 other employers that I had sent applications to in the 3 weeks since I'd arrived, all offering me interviews and seeing if I was still available to work. I did begin to wonder if maybe I should see what else was out there. I could tell somewhere in my gut though that this would be perfect for me.

Moral of the Story - while you should not always take the first thing that is offered to you, it usually pays off to follow your gut instincts. We'll see how it pays off in the long run though.....

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

September 2008 (reworking of W.B. Yeats September 1913)

Obviously, I am not going to attempt to take credit for this - I found this in the MetroHerald newspaper letters section on the 14th of November, penned by a kid who calls himself W.B. Mates. If you don't know the original composition, please see here but this re-working of the classic rings close to home. Very clever though!

When will this country ever come to sense,
As bankers still fumble in a greasy till
As Ireland's debt adds the half-billion to the billion
And more tax to less spending,
Until they have dried the marrow from the bone;
For it's only the banks back we save;
The Celtic Tiger is dead and gone,
It's with Anglo in the grave.

They were of the same kind,
The names that sicken the country to the core,
They have gone hiding about the world like cowards,
And what little price they now have to pay
But left it to the people of Ireland and their young,
And now, God help us, what can we save?
The Celtic Tiger is dead and gone,
It's with Anglo in the grave.

Is it for this our emigrants' wings spread
As the dole queues grow every time?
For this that the poorest now suffer?
Because of bankers' lies,
Along with Fianna Fáil and their golden circle of friends,
All that delirium of the greedy!
The Celtic Tiger is dead and gone,
It's with Anglo in the grave.

If only we could turn the years again,
And get Ireland back as it were
In all its ghost-estate-free land,
Before all that easy credit
Had maddened everyone.
Back when banks considered what loans they gave.
But let it be, it's dead and gone,
It's with Anglo in the grave.

Moral of the Story - I think it speaks for itself really.

Monday, 14 November 2011

My Birthday in Toronto

I wake up, yawn and stretch and realise 3 things in quick succession.
  1. It's my birthday! I'm 26 now, better get my shit together and become a responsible adult.
  2. My arm is asleep. I reach up to scratch my face and poke myself in the eye. Not nice.
  3. Where the f#@k am I?
I was confused for about 12 solid minutes. I looked around and I spotted my suitcase on the floor and pictures of Gillian's twin on the walls. Oh right, I'm in Toronto in the Plummer family home with my one year working holiday visa to live and work in Canada for the year. But all of that serious stuff later. Let's get on with the birthday first! I had one card already from dear Helena and Brian (the new Mr & Mrs Byrne!) who had given me a card when I met them in New York. How sweet; on their honeymoon, they remembered to get ME a frickin birthday card. Super special people (in a good way, obviously).

I made my way to downtown Toronto to meet Gillian from her office before we headed off to St. Lawrence Market for lunch. There is so much there, my head was practically spinning. Gillian kept asking me what I wanted; I'm terribly indecisive when it comes to food choices, especially when there were so many delicious things to choose from! I ended up getting a veal sandwich (I think, I just ordered the same thing as Gillian). Looking forward to going back again and spending some time there and maybe actually buying some stuff for home cooking next time!

After that, we took a stroll through Union Station and over to the Steam Whistle Brewery to take a tour. Can you think of many things that I would enjoy more than going to a brewery for my birthday? The tour was great, short enough so you don't get bored and the story of how the brewery started is really interesting. The brewery was started by 3 guys who were fired from their jobs working at another microbrewery in Ontario. They were initially going to call the company '3 Fired Guys' but later decided that this was not an ideal marketing tool. They went with the name 'Steam Whistle' as an homage to the 1950's when the blowing of a steamwhistle at 5pm signalled the end of the work day and meant that it was time for a nice cold beer. They still have the logo '3FG' on all of their bottles though! I could go on and on about the virtues of this amazing beer and the company's innovative green initiatives but you should check out the website for yourselves. Or better yet, just fly on over here and visit - I'd have no problem going again!
Because it was my birthday, they gave me a free bottle of delicious Steam Whistle beer (not that I needed it with the copious amounts of free samples that we were getting!) Invited the nice Scottish guy that we met and his Brazilian girlfriend along for dinner. He was all for it, she didn't seem so eager though. He argued with her about the fact that she wanted to go home and get changed first and said that they would meet us later. They seemed like good fun - unfortunately, the Brazilian chick must have won the argument as they never made an appearance :(
We went for dinner in Earls Restaurant with Gillian's twin Kate and a friend of theirs Amy (another Irish girl, surprise surprise). There was obviously only one thing that I was going to order - fillet steak with pepper sauce. Mmmmm. Cooked to perfection, served with crispy shoestring fries. I was happy. Henry was particularly happy when the sticky toffee pudding came out and Kate let him have some of it!

Moral of the Story - birthdays are fun in an international setting, especially when they're not fake birthdays (only had one or two of them in my life). Also, Steam Whistle beer = delicious!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Canada, eh?

My time in New York was at an end, which meant that it was time to embark on my new life in Canada. Getting up to go to the airport was tough enough. Having slightly over-indulged the night before, I was very bleary eyed when trying to ensure that I packed my last bits and pieces before I left the hostel. As of right now, I haven't discovered that I am missing anything important but time will tell! I made my way to Port Authority Bus Terminal at 7am, hoping that the new backpack I'd bought held enough to ensure that my suitcase wasn't overweight again. Arrived at the airport way too early but hadn't been able to predict how long it would take but I'd rather be early than late! Suitcase wasn't overweight, thank feck and I had no issues getting through security.

When I was eventually permitted to board the plane, I found it was one of those smaller aircraft. Only 12 rows, 4 seats deep. For someone who is not generally that comfortable with flying, it was not the nicest sight for me to behold. Once we got in the air however, I was enthralled by the view out the window of New York and New Jersey. The pilot did claim at one stage that we were flying over Niagara Falls. I couldn't see anything but I might have been looking out the wrong side....

And so we touched down in Toronto. My eyes were nearly falling out of my head I was so tired. But I knew I still had to get through Immigration so I was hoping I didn't look as out of it as I felt. If Tracy hadn't been lying about putting notes about me being a terrorist on my booking then I knew I would need all my wits about me. Obviously, if I had been thinking clearly, I would have realised that any indications that I was a terrorist would have been picked up by the US Border Patrol people. I got through the first the customs section easy enough. I even managed to elicit a bit of a giggle from the officer, I had an email that Gillian had sent me with her address on it in case they asked me where I was going to be staying in Canada. Gillian had written it all out and then added at the end 'Make sure to give them the full address. you can't just say Gillian's house. There are a lot more people in Canada than in Ireland'. Then it was on to the Immigration Officer to be issued with my work permit, which went off without a hitch. The lovely man even left out all restrictions on my permit so I could study full time if I want to, work in the medical industry, work with children or the elderly. Endless possibilities!!

I got my suitcase and headed through to the arrivals lounge. I was very disappointed that Gillian was not waiting with balloons and a sign with my name on it. However, Delta Airlines had managed to get me to Toronto 45 minutes earlier than planned so I had about 20 minutes of awkward standing around, trying to bring my bags out for a cigarette. When I spotted Gillian, it was like long lost relatives being reunited. You'd never know that it had only been 6 months since we'd seen each other, and we had probably been speaking every day since she had left Ireland. It was so nice to catch up face to face though! Her mother, dear Rosalind Plummer, was arriving in from Vancouver also so we waited for her. I was a little nervous; I'd never met her before and was going to be staying in her house while I got myself sorted out. I needn't have been, obviously. She's as sweet and welcoming as Gillian is.

They brought me back to the family home (which is LOVELY), where I got to meet her dog, Mac. Most of you know how I feel about animals but this one has a bit of a special place in my heart. He looks just like Shadow from Homeward Bound and isn't an overeager puppy that slobbers on you or humps your leg. I was showed to my room and around a beautiful house that has what looks like a library in almost every room. What's the first book I go for to read? 'Rachel's Holiday' by Marian Keyes......still fantastic so don't feel guilty. Her father, David, then arrived home from work with her twin sister Kate and all of a sudden, I am swept up as part of this family, having dinner and a few glasses of wine. I barely had time to realise that I wasn't in Ireland or even New York anymore.

Moral of the Story - if you're coming to Canada, make sure to stay with Gillian and her family. You won't regret it, I'm probably never going to leave.......

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Things I Noticed & Things I Learned This Time Around

3rd time in New York, some things still stand out to me.....

  • The gaps between the bathroom doors. Usually less than a centimetre wide but still rather unnerving, you can see people washing their hands and hope to God that you don't catch someone's eye.
  • The traffic light system. There's no such thing as a 'filter light' for drivers to turn and even when the pedestrian light says 'walk', it is still perfectly legal for cars to turn in your path. They're not trying to kill you as such but it kinda feels like they are.
  • In a city of over 8 million people, it still amazes me how easy it is to bump into other Irish people and establish random connections.
  • Despite people thinking that New Yorkers are rude, I still find them to be among the most delightful people that I have ever met. Brash and I love it.
  • As per my last blog entry. I still haven't been to a single museum or gallery. You could spend 4 months straight only doing tourist activities and still not see everything that there is to see. Always an excuse to go back though!!

I also learned some really interesting things this time around;

  • In Central Park, the reason why all the pathways (and the 4 roads that pass through) are so convoluted is because the architect and designers wanted to give people something different to the block-like grids on the rest of the island of Manhattan.
  • There are more sweet potatoes grown on one farm in North Carolina than in the entire country of Australia (this was courtesy of one of the girls in my dorm room who had spent 3 weeks leading some sweet potato farmers around to different farms in America).
  • You will not fall asleep on the trains after a few drinks if you stand up instead of sitting down. You can also get security to let you out for a cigarette when you've realised that the train isn't for another half an hour or so by claiming you're trying to put a phone call through to Ireland.
  • American Football is officially the worst game in the world. I might even hate it more than cricket. Those of you that know me, will know the emphasis of this statement. I hate cricket more than I hate Linda Martin. 
Moral of the Story - I think it's fairly self explanatory from the above don't you? I love New York. I love New Jersey , well, Hoboken.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

New York, New York!

This time around, I had planned to really get my act together and do some proper tourist stuff in New York. I nearly managed it too, got that Central Park tour done and had a big Downtown Tour planned for the Saturday morning and afternoon. Of course, then my life got in the way. I headed out to Hoboken on the Friday night to see some of my old friends from my Summer J1, ended up getting pretty inebriated. Fell asleep on the train on the way home (just like the old days!) so didn't get back to my hostel until after 6am. Obviously managed to sleep in and miss the tour. Didn't seem like the worst idea once I woke up and saw the snow 3 inches thick outside the window.

Later that night, I headed out to Woodlawn in the Bronx to meet up with a friend of mine. Unfortunately, they were going to a Halloween Party and him and all of his friends had these amazing costumes on. I was in jeans. We went out to this bar called the Heritage, where I managed to speak to one American person the entire night. Everyone was Irish, it was like being in Dublin almost. Ended up in a nightclub that was like Coppers on a slightly smaller scale. You could even smoke in the bar; I got so excited that I chain-smoked 18 cigarettes in about half an hour. Woodlawn is a world of it's own, great place to visit but not sure my liver would survive living there! I did pass Yankee Stadium on my way back into the city although I was too hungover to take a picture.

On the Monday, I went on a free walking tour in Brooklyn. We had the cutest old guide named Ed. First tour guide I've met who announced that he rarely said 'Follow me everyone', it was more likely to be 'Hey guys, wait up!' So old and sweet. He took us on the Subway out to Brooklyn where we walked a little bit around the Brooklyn Heights area then down to the Promenade where there were some breathtaking views of Lower Manhattan, including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Brooklyn Bridge. I probably took around 10 million pictures of the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges.

That night, I met up with the new Mr and Mrs Byrne fresh from their relaxing week in Cancun, Mexico. We went for dinner in the lovely Tír na nÓg restaurant by Penn Station before heading up to Times Square, an area I hadn't actually set foot within 10 blocks of this time around being there. I knew I needed a picture of Henry the Dinosaur there too! Found an Irish bar (like there is an opportunity to drink in a bar that's not Irish around Times Square) and had a few drinks. Nice way to end my trip.

Moral of the Story - no matter how many times you visit NYC, it is still possible not to visit a single museum. Make sure to get out and see something other than the traditional sights. Also make sure to visit the boroughs. You meet some special people out there. You know who you are.