Sunday, May 29, 2011

Another Tick - 5K Done

My Medal :)

As I said before, I don't think I'll ever get the "runner's high", but I now understand the "racer's high".  There's nothing like running towards a giant finish line with hundreds of people chanting, giving you chocolate and a new shiny medal.  Today I ran my first (of many, I hope) 5k.  I ran in the Toronto Women's Run to benefit POGO (Paediatric Oncology Group of Ontario).  My aunt (author of Barb Still Running) ran the half marathon and got a PR.  Wahoo!  I of course got a PR too.  But that's because I hadn't ran before.

The race was in Sunnybrook park and I couldn't have got better weather.  I was stressing earlier since the always reliable weatherman was predicting hot, humid, sunny weather.  When I woke up this morning it was raining.  Luckily when the race started, the weather had shifted to overcast.  Other than dodging giant puddles, the course was great.  Apparently the 5K-ers lucked out and didn't get all the hills the Half Marathoners did (although they were promised flat terrain).

Me at the Start/Finish pre-race.  Notice the nicely blow dried hair.

Seconds after I finished.  Hair now a disaster.

My Aunt finishing her race.

Time check.


Me and my Aunt after the race

And again

How was your weekend?  Do anything exciting?  Have you ticked off anything on your bucket list recently?

Friday, May 27, 2011

When the Canadian Legal System Boggles My Mind...

Why is this not common sense?  Why does this need to be decided?  And most importantly, why did three Supreme Court judges vote against this?


Quite a Bit Off Topic

First off, I want to welcome all the new readers I've had in the past few days.  Welcome, and feel free to leave comments.  I love comments.  And of course, a very big welcome and thanks to my two new followers.  Glad you found me somewhat entertaining.

Secondly, in Visa news, all my documentation has been sent off to Switzerland (for the low price of $54.11) and now I'm just waiting to hear the (hopefully) good news.

And now on to my completely off-topic discussion: my very nerdy and unhealthy obsession with books.  Ask anyone who knows me.  I always have a book with me, and usually a couple more in case I finish the first book.  Working as a lifeguard, there are days where a book (or a series of books) come in handy.  Canada doesn't exactly have the most temperate weather.  But since I learned to read, my mother has been asking me to put that book down and go do something (not exactly the worst thing a kid could be doing rather than doing chores).  I still relish reading time, especially those stormy days when there's nothing better to do than cuddle up with a book and escape to a new (sunnier) world.  And since I found time last weekend to bask in the sun, its been nothing but rain every since.  However, this means that I've read quite a few books recently, and here is my list of my favourites:

The Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Think of a Number by John Verdon

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas

All of these books will have you hooked from the start (except maybe Prayers for Sale, but keep pushing through.  It gets a lot better).  And the best thing?  They're all available on Amazon.  If you're interested in trying any of these books out, click on the Amazon bar up at the top.  Doesn't get any easier than that!

How about you?  Have you read any books lately that you would recommend?  I'm always looking for another book to read.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Working on my Bucket List

Me enjoying the beautiful weather in my backyard

As you may have seen on my Bucket List page, one of my goals is to run a 5k.  Back in January, I thought it would be a great idea (and enough time to train) for the Toronto Women's Run 2011 in Sunnybrook Park on May 29th.  So since January, I've been attempting to train.  I've never been a runner.  I've never experienced the runner's 'high' and would much rather bike, blade or swim.  Despite this, I have been running as much as I can.

Today I went on my run down the Humber River Ravine.  Not my best run.  The temperature in Toronto is hovering around 25 degrees (Celsius) without a cloud in the sky.  Running at 2pm on the hottest day so far this year might not have been my most brilliant idea.  I sure hope it's not this hot next Sunday.  I may end up walking a lot more than I planned.

Anyway, along my route, I stopped to take some pictures.  The river has swollen with all the rain from the past week.  And the mural is from under a bridge.  I wish my Blackberry had a better camera on it.  These really don't do the day any justice.

Amazing mural under the bridge

More of the mural

End of the mural

Canada Goose cooling off in the overflowing river

The Humber River

How's your weekend been so far?  Have you been enjoying the weather (if you have the sun like we do?)?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Travel Cuts is My Saviour!

Well yesterday's finger crossing paid off.  Travel Cuts came through with the cheapest insurance by far and signed my form! Not only were the prices great, but the customer service was fantastic.  They were quick and efficient, and honestly made me feel like they appreciated my business.  Such a great experience.  If you are under 50 and looking for travel insurance, flights, or packages, I highly recommend using Travel Cuts.  You will not regret it.

So now I'm putting together all of my visa forms, crossing my fingers that Canada Post doesn't go on strike.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Week of Ups and Downs

After meeting with the F.E., I've been trying to figure out all the details for my Swiss visa.  Despite how simple it seemed, it has not been the easiest task.  Overall, the application is very straight forward, but one form has thrown me through the wringer.  The 'Check for Equivalent of Swiss Health Insurance' form has not been the easiest to complete.  To give you an idea, this is what I have been running around doing this week.

First of all, I need travel insurance.  Sounds simple right?  Not so much.  In order to get this, I need proof that OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) will still insure me since I will be gone longer than their alotted 212 days.  So I had to go to Service Ontario…

 Not so simple...

Service Ontario required a letter from my employer  stating why I will be out of the country and when I will be returning.  The F.E very quickly supplied me with the letter, so I went to the offices yesterday.  Since the the F.E is in Switzerland, I obviously did not have her signature on the letter.  Service Ontario was not impressed.  They also had an issue with the letter not being on a letterhead.  Seriously?!  I'm working for a family, and other than the royal family, who has their own letterhead?  After talking them out of needing a letterhead, they requested another letter with an actual signature and the telephone number of the F.E (thankfully it could be a faxed or scanned copy).  I quickly shot off an email to her, and within the hour had my new letter.  I went back to the Service Ontario office and this time they approved the letter and extended my OHIP.  Yay!  But that didn't solve all my problems…

OHIP won't sign my visa form.  Since they don't cover ambulance costs and a few other costs, they won't sign the form that stipulates they will be covering it.  Ugh.  They did however, give me a form that states what they do cover.  Cross your fingers this will be enough.  So I started to contact travel insurance companies to see if they will sign my form.  And guess what?  They all said no.  "We don't sign anything.  We only send you a copy of your policy."  Great.  But thanks to another one of my amazing aunts and her connections, I may have found a company that will sign the form: Manulife Financial.  If all my other options fall through, it sounds like I'll be going with them.  CAA (aka, Manulife prices on steroids) also said they'd sign if I could prove that the copy of the policy was not enough documentation.  This would be all fine and dandy, but my bank account is crying at my quoted prices.  So I've found another option:  Travel Cuts.  With a target audience of mostly students, this company offers RBC insurance at a seriously discounted price.  I plan on going to the office at York University tomorrow to see if they will sign my form.  Cross your fingers!

After all that, I'm hoping that I'll have all my completed forms in hand along with all the other required documentation (passport photo, CV, request letter to the Swiss Government, copy of passport) and mail it to the F.E on the weekend.  I just hope all goes to plan…

In other news, today is my 23rd birthday!  I had a wonderful brunch with a few of my friends this morning, and tonight we are hitting the town.  It'll be nice to see all my friends, because with school and work, I haven't had much 'friends time'.  Hopefully I'll have some pictures to post after tonight.

And thank to my parents, I will be starting manual transmission driving lessons very shortly.  Thanks!

Now on to you.  Have you had to apply for a visa to move to another country?  Have you had to apply for a Swiss visa?  What sort of issues (if any) did you have?

Have a great Victoria Day weekend (if you're from a Commonwealth country)! 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

We've Made the History Textbooks! And I didn't sleep...

As I'm sure you're well aware (thanks to social media), this weekend is close to being the most historically significant weekend in recent history.  And I feel, as a Canadian, the three events had the greatest overall affect on Canada.  Let me explain...

1.  The Royal Wedding
            As part of the British Commonwealth and a former British colony, Canada has many ties to the Crown.  Elizabeth II is still our Queen, although we do have a government that has more say on policy (see #3).  As a Canadian, I did wake up at 5:45am EST to watch the wedding on Friday, April 29th, since the couple could very well be our next King and Queen.  And thanks to social media (once again), I'd feel like I was missing something if I didn't watch.  I was the only one in my immediate family to watch (my mum shouted down to me a couple times asking if they'd kissed yet), but a few members of my extended family did.

2.  Osama bin Laden's Death

           I remember exactly where I was on September 11th.  I remember being brought to the history classroom (very suiting, eh?) to watch the news.  I remember being terrified that due to Canada's close proximity to the United States, and especially New York City, that we could also be targeted.  I also remember former US President Bush announcing the War on Terrorism, and once again my fear of the impact on Canada.  As I devoted cross-boarder shopper, I also remember the inconvenience of added boarder security.  But I will always remember where I was May 1st, 2011 when I read (on Facebook of all places) the news that bin Laden had been killed.  I consider it a significant event when my sleep schedule is affected.  As with the Royal Wedding, I gave up sleep to watch the news and wait for Obama's speech.  It's amazing how one event can just about cement someone's re-election.

3.  The Canadian Federal Election

This is what Canada looked like, circa 2005 (Dark blue: Conservative, Red: Liberal, Orange: NDP, Light Blue: Bloc Quebecois)

           Politics fascinates me.  And I was absolutely incredulous when I saw the political map of Canada at 10:30pm on Monday, May 2nd.  For the first time in history, the NDP (New Democratic Party) led by Jack Layton, became the Party of the Opposition.  The Conservatives were re-elected, and Stephen Harper got his majority leadership.  The Liberals, on the other hand, were left in the dust.   Both Michael Ignatieff of the Liberal party and Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois stepped down from their roles as party leaders after they both lost their own riding, along with a lot of seats.  Good news: Elizabeth May of the Green Party won her first seat ever in British Columbia.

This is what Canada looks like now:
Do you now understand how shocked I am?  This is crazy!

Overall, it's pretty clear that this past weekend was one epic weekend for Canada, and the world.  We made the history textbooks, everyone!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ready to Jump on That Plane

I'm happy to say that Sunday's meeting with the future employer* went well.  My mother ended up joining me, which I was glad she did.  I was a bit nervous on the way there, and she kept my nerves in check.  Although I'm not sure who was more nervous, me or her.

Funny story though: We were scheduled to meet the future employer at her sister's house downtown.  My mum and I left with plenty of time to spare (and it was Sunday, so the traffic was minimal) and our only issue was finding parking on the street.  Luckily I got there about 15 minutes early, so that gave me enough time to prowl through the neighbourhood to find a spot.  I found a spot a block away with five minutes to spare, so we walked leisurely to the house.

We arrived at the house a few minutes before 9am, but rather than standing outside the house until 9 like creeps, I went up and knocked.  After a few moments of no answer, I knocked again.  Still no answer.  My mum started to laugh nervously and ask, "are you sure this is the address?  Are you sure you're to meet at 9am?  Is it today, not another Sunday?" and I started to worry.  Thank goodness for technology since I was able to look up the confirmation email on my phone.  It was the right day, time and location.  Why was no one answering?  Had they forgotten?

I then tried calling (I was hesitating since it was 9am on a Sunday.  Who calls then??).  She answered after the first ring, and I asked, "You're number ___** right?"  Nope, she wasn't.  She was actually a different house down the street a bit.  Oops!  I'd been knocking on some random person's door at 9am on a Sunday.  SORRY!  No wonder no one answered.  I wouldn't!

Long story longer, my mum and I walked down to the right house, and met the future employer, her sister, and her eldest son.  Oh, and the sister's dog, Freckles.  We then went to the nearest Starbucks to sit down and chat.  We spent roughly an hour going over some paperwork for my visa, exchanging questions/answers (I even had questions from the two other sons to answer), and discussing our expectations for the year.  I had a fair list of questions to ask, and many of them the F.E (future employer) answered  during her discussion of her expectations.  My mum piped in a couple times with a few questions of her own, especially when it came to health insurance and emergency situations.  But all of my questions were answered, and from Skype and now meeting them in person, I can say that their family seems to be the most genuine family.  I am so excited to go work for them!

I now have some paperwork to finish and mail to Switzerland.  In order to complete the paperwork, I need to get my medical insurance figured out, update my CV, write my letter of why I want to work in Switzerland, and get new passport sized photos for my visa.  I may cry a bit when I see next month's credit card statement, but it's all worth it in the end.

It's all starting to fall in place now, and soon I'll be zipping up my luggage and heading off to the airport. I can't wait!

*Out of respect for the privacy of everyone, I won't post the names of anyone without their permission.  I will either refer to them by a "title" or a made up name.

** She'd actually given me HER house number, not her sister's.  Now I'll never forget their house number!