Thursday, April 28, 2011

In Person

I hope everyone had a great Easter long weekend.  We had beautiful weather in Toronto.  Of course I was at work the entire time, but I could see how nice it was from the window, ha ha.  Quite an improvement from the snow the weekend before.

Anyway, this Sunday is the big day.  I will be driving across town to visit my future employer.  I am very excited to meet her in person, and I am still working on my list of questions for her.  I hope she's ready for how long it is!  If you were me, what sort of questions would be on the top of your list?

My mum has expressed her interest in joining me (not to Switzerland, but to meet the employer).  We're deciding whether or not she should.  I wouldn't mind her joining, because she may think of some other questions while we're there that I might not think of.  What do you guys think?

In other news, I'm well on my way to completing items on my to do list.  Recertified my Standard First Aid and CPR-C yesterday, and I'm doing my NLS next Saturday.  I've also researched manual transmission driving school, and found a great school is Vaughan.  I'm now working on getting it as my birthday gift from my parents.  Cross your fingers for me!  After the weekend, I will be going to the OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) offices to get my insurance extended from the normal 153 day limit. 

I have also been brushing up on my French.  I've dug out all of my old French textbooks and notebooks and have spent my free time going over some of the grammar that has completely left me.  The only thing I haven't been practicing is conversing in French.  Hopefully I can find some people willing to practice.  With a layover is Brussels on the way to Geneva, I will need my French to find my connecting flight.


Mountains of thanks to them!  I am using one of my luggage to bring back thank you gifts for them when I come back in December!  

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Canadian Federal Election

Despite the fact that this blog focuses on me leaving Canada for the next year, it does not mean that I don't have an invested interest in the upcoming election.  What happens to my government matters to me no matter where in the world I am.  There is no distance that I could put between myself and my home that would sever my connection.  Therefore, I am going to take out some time from daydreaming and stressing about my trip to discuss the current political situation.

Canada currently has a minority Conservative government, led by Stephen Harper. This government can boast a $1 billion budget for a G8/G20 convention (with a fake lake thrown in), the shutdown of Parliament, and a vote of non-confidence.  Harper has stated that he will cut our health care to reduce the deficit and to put it simply, is America's lapdog.  He has distanced himself from the ordinary people, and as much as they promote tax cuts (which my bank account would love right now), I cannot support a candidate that is not there for the best of his country, but for the best of his C.V.  Not the best credentials for a Prime Minister seeking re-election. 

But if you take a look at the opposition, you get a better idea of why the Conservative party is leading in the polls.  Michael Ignatieff leads the Liberal party, and is currently the Leader of the Opposition.  Take a quick moment to Google Michael (or "Iggy" for short), and you begin to see why he has not garnered the support of the people.  He left his home soil to work at Harvard and promote a whole library of books he has written.  Now, I am not one to hate on someone leaving the country to work.  I'll give him a pass on that, but that is not the only issue that Iggy comes with.  He has stated his support for the extension of Canada's Afghanistan mission, and he spends his election money taking hits at the Tories' expense rather than focusing on his platform.  But I have to give him props for allowing people to ask him unscripted questions.  That is not to say that he will necessarily answer the question, but the point is that he allows the questions. Harper, on the other hand, has been known to screen his questions, and has even bounced a young woman from a rally once he discovered pictures of her with other political leaders on her Facebook.  Seriously?!

The New Democratic party's leader, Jack Layton, is the underdog.  Originally set as the fourth place party, after the Bloc Quebecois, he has recently surged in Quebec as a result of his debate performance and his campaigning.  He recently had hip surgery and is fighting prostate cancer, which had been seen as a hindrance to his campaign.  However, he has spun it to make his cane an actual symbol of his strength.  Layton has been pushing for greater votership, especially with the youth.  He has become the people's man by running his campaign on the streets and actually speaking with the people.  In a recent interview with Peter Mansbridge on The National, he was the only candidate to actually bring Mansbridge with him on his campaign trail, and show his interaction with ordinary Canadians. 

Now, as you read this, I am sure you can see my obvious bias.  I am a Liberal, but I have trouble seeing any potential in Michael Ignatieff and am very hesitant to vote for him.  Jack Layton, on the other hand, has proven himself (in my eyes) as a candidate that is there for the people and is willing to protect the services we currently have.  I am aware that this will be quite difficult to pay for, which makes Layton's claims difficult to see come into fruition.  I have also left out Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois (since only the Quebecois have any in their ridings) and Elizabeth May of the Green Party since neither are on my radar, despite some good platforms.  And that leaves Harper, a man that has hid as much of his 'reign' from the public as possible.  He has spent taxpayer's money on useless programs, such as $20 million on a fake lake when Canada has how many lakes???  As well, he is putting health care on the chopping block, the one thing as a Canadian that I absolutely refuse to let go.  We've seen Americans come across the border in desperation after they have gone into bankruptcy after falling ill.  This terrifies me, and I refuse to be in this position.  Ever.

So who will I vote for?  At the moment, I have no idea.  The election is in little over a week, and I sure hope that one of the leaders step into the spotlight and prove themselves to be Prime Minister material.  

So fellow Canadians, how about you?  What is your stance on the Federal Election?  And friends from afar, since I see I have some visitors from the US and the UK, do you have any opinions on the Canadian political climate?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tally the Cost

Despite my constant excitement for my upcoming adventure, the monetary issue has started to move slowly from the back to the front of my mind.  Thankfully I have a birthday coming up, which should alleviate some of the cash flow stress, but it sure is going to be tight for the next few months.  To give you an idea, this is what I'm looking at:


  • roughly $1000 bi-weekly
  • a $1500 cheque from the Canadian government coming soon!
  • an undisclosed gift from the family (crossing fingers for a plane ticket!)

  • Car insurance $286.28/mth until August, when it should go down to roughly $70/mth since it will be parked for a year.
  • Car payments $233.60/mth - this will continue while I'm in Switzerland, so I'll need to ensure I have enough money in the bank to cover it.
  • Manual transmission driving lessons $349
  • Plane ticket to Geneva $720
  • Return ticket for January-July - unknown at the moment, but roughly $1500
  • Gas!! It is roughly $1.35 a litre here, which in my tiny Civic is just over $50 a tank.
  • Replacement Birth Certificate (I'm still hitting my head against my wall about this one) $80 - My mum claims they got 3 copies of the certificate when I was born, which means there should be another two copies.  Do we know where they are? Nope, not a clue.  
  • International Driver's License $15 (Yay! Cheap!)
  • Medical Insurance $580.74 for August until December.
  • ISIC card - Free!  Finally, something that's free.
I'm going to continue to build this list, especially once my credit card bill comes in (eek!).  Now unless I can send myself to Geneva for free in someone's luggage, looks like I'm not going to be having many nights out until I leave.  Save for the 19th, I will officially be a hermit.  

Anyone have any cost saving ideas?  Any discounts I can take advantage of?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Meet the Employer

Shortly before accepting the au pair position, I got to "meet" the family through a Skype chat.  To those that aren't familiar with Skype, it is a great alternative to a long-distance phone plan available on our computers.  For free, a Skype user can call any other Skype user for free (including a video chat with a webcam) or even group chats.  For a small fee, you can upgrade your account to call land lines and cell phones.  I'm looking into getting this plan when I am in Geneva.  It costs roughly $2.99 a month.

Back to my point, I have technically met the family I will be working for, but not in person.  However, on May 1st, the mother will be in Toronto for the day.  I will be meeting with her in the morning.  My issue now is coming up with a good list of questions to ask her.  I have asked the usual questions: What is the room like? When can I take my vacation? etc.  But I am sure that there are many more I haven't thought of yet, and this would be a great chance to ask her.  So I'm asking for a little assistance.  If you have any questions that you would ask, please comment so I can add it to the list.

Another issue I'm already stressing about it packing, but I'll save that for another post...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Help Send My Cousin to Borneo to Save the Orangutans

My cousin Chris has been an animal lover from the start.  I loved visiting his family when I was a kid because his room always had the coolest animals in it.  After a degree from Laurentian for Zoology and Biology, he moved to Australia to teach Biology in a high school near Brisbane.  He has spent his life bringing awareness to animals and it is time that he got some recognition for it.

He has applied to be a part of a team sent by DeforestAction to spend five months in Borneo saving the orangutans and filming a 3D documentary about the experience.  More information about the project can be found here:

With all the experience Chris has had working with animals, it would be easy to say that he will get to go, no doubt about it.  But unfortunately, only the 10 contestants with the most votes on the DeforestAction contest page will get to go.  All I ask is that you take 5 minutes out of your day to go to and watch Chris' audition video (listen for the Australian accent he's picked up!).  Then sign up for an account and vote for him 3 times (the maximum).  Voting ends this Sunday, April 10th, 2011, so please find the time!

A New Adventure - UPDATED - AGAIN!

Today marks a new today.  I have officially booked my flight to Geneva!  But I guess some background information is in order.

A few weeks ago, my uncle let me know about an opportunity to spend a year in Geneva au pairing for a family of five.  The mother is actually a friend of my uncle's, and moved to Switzerland roughly twenty years ago.  She has hosted au pairs from Canada for 18 years (I will be the 19th) for her three children.  Since one is already off to University, I will be responsible for their 9 year old and 17 year old sons.   Earlier this week I accepted the position for the year, starting in August.

I'm planning on using this blog to document my travels in Europe for friends and family back home, and also to look back to once my adventure is over.  It's also a great way to keep track of all the things I need to do before I leave (see below), create a list of goals for while I'm there, and hopefully get some feedback from other people about what to see/do while I'm there.

Until I leave, I'll be venting my frustrations over pre-travel planning as I go through the following items on my list:


  • Buy plane ticket
  • Apply for a visa
  • Take manual transmission driving lessons
  • Apply for an international driver's license - Don't need to :)
  • Put OHIP card on extension for while I'm gone 
  • Put car insurance on hold
  • Put cell phone plan on hold
  • Find coverage for work shifts - Not finalized, but found some people that have offered
  • Have enough money in back account to make car payments while gone
  • Figure out what I need to bring!!!!!
  • Get a new copy of my birth certificate (seems to have disappeared...)
  • Make copies of all ID
  • Re-certify my Standard First Aid
  • Re-certify my NLS
  • Re-certify my Lifesaving Swim Instructor awards
  • Brush up on my French - I've been working on this while at work.  Anyone willing to practice with me?
  • Find good gluten free recipes 
I'm sure this list will continue to grow as a thing of more things I need to do, but hopefully I get through it all before I leave.

As well, I'm always looking for suggestions of places to travel, things to bring, and general travel advice, so please do not hesitate to comment and help a girl out!

T-minus 4 months!