Sunday 30 October 2011

Mr Pumpkinhead

When I was in Canada, the stores were filled with all things Hallowe'en, which was both great fun and a shame. The great fun of course was seeing all that stuff that I had previously only seen in films and on tv since we don't celebrate Hallowe'en in the Netherlands. At least not to the extent they do it in North America. The shame was about it not being Christmassy stuff that was out. Although that might have delayed my plans for moving a bit longer, since I would probably have needed another suitcase for all the stuff I might would have bought.

Anyway, as I was walking through one of the stores one day, I came across this one stand with all these outfits on. Witches and warlocks, ghosts and ghouls and of course pumpkins. But they weren't for you and me, no, they were for our little furry friends! And even though the outfits were quite pricey, I couldn't resist to pick out the pumpkin suit for the smallest dogs. I thought Mathilda would look grand in it, but of course she never got the opportunity to show it off. But I then realised Wuppie might look fantastic in it too, him being on the orange side already. The only question was: would it fit? Well, it did and there was room to spare.

Happy Hallowe'en everyone!

Friday 28 October 2011

Coffee with friends 2

List ten things you have done! Should be easy (well, easier at least). Here goes:

Just a prop! I swear!!!
I got a tattoo. Oh yes, I did. Last year and it didn't hurt nearly as much as I had anticipated. It's of a little orange tulip and is on my right shoulderback.
I wore a wedding dress once. Not my own, my Mum's and she cut it to size so I could wear it. I wore it for the five year anniversary of my primary school during the neighbourhood parade. My teacher wore the matching groom's outfit. Well, the top anyway, the bottom was soccer gear!
I have smoked. Or should I say, tried to smoke. Twice! The very first time I was quite sozzled (not to say pissed as a fart) and actually stuck the burning end in my mouth. My colleagues got that ciggy away from me in no time! The second time I wasn't quite as sozzled and tried one. At first I didn't think it was so bad, until I tasted it properly: like licking out an ashtray! And before you ask me how I would know, when I was about 2 to 3 years old I ate all the cigaretty butts in the ashtray while my parental unit wasn't looking. He looked when I started throwing them all up again though!

I have been inhuman twice in my life. Not that I grew tentacles or horns or anything, but according to two people I was inhuman. The first because I didn't want to sleep with him, the second because I wasn't willing to give up my bed to a small child (for reasons that were her fault and then she blamed them on me).
I have taken five driving tests. Three for my car licence and two for the bus. I tended to drive like a wet flannel when having a test. As soon as I stopped telling people I was having a test I would drive like a dream. And pass of course...
I have kissed a German and a Frenchman and an Italian and an Irishman and an Englishman and a Zimbabwan and even a Dutchman or two. Oh, the memories. But I don't kiss and tell...

I've gotten lost in a wood with my bus. For some reason I missed the right turning and ended up driving up a sandpath that got narrower and narrower. Then it turned into a bridle way, crossed a very steep train track, became muddier and wetter and I was getting more and more nervous and scared. In the end I exited the wood via the cycle path which was barely wide enough for me!
I have knitted paintpots and champagne bottles. I have knitted since I was six, but never had much time for sweaters and the like. When living in England I got hold of some books with small figurines in them and have knitted those ever since. I even knitted a nativity scene including the Baby Jesus!
I have met three blogfriends (so far). Carolina helped me get my garden in order last year, and this year I met Kay twice and Jackie, a Dutch immigrant to Canada. I could have met another one if she and I had known we were within twenty minutes of each other! Alas, we didn't and we never met (still sorry about that Ginnie Marie).
I've been in prison. Well, I actually worked there for about three days. I had to check the prisoners' food and during lunch hour I had to serve in the staff restaurant. I got into a disagreement with the manager though and didn't have to come back (the same thing happened at the court house by the way).

The second part is supposed to be an autumn recipe. Go to your kitchen and find the biggest mug you can find. Make a nice hot chocolate (and I mean nice), add a good splash of Beerenburg (a Dutch Schnaps), some mini marshmellows and a great big dollop of whipped cream. Then sit on a nice comfy couch and enjoy!

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Hot and cold

I wanted a nice hot shower. But when I stepped into the shower, I found the water wasn't warm. It wasn't exactly cold either, it was just sort of inbetween. Luke warm, tepid. And it would have been perfectly alright in the middle of summer. It's not summer though, it's the autumn and the temperatures outside don't go that high up anymore. So, getting out of a luke warm shower means I am freezing my behind off.

I had another problem as well. My heating. It just wouldn't turn off. So, I had taken to closing all the radiators at night, since I hate sleeping in a warm room. Unless it's summer of course, which it isn't!

Yesterday the man came to fix it all. Well, I say man, but teenager would probably be more appropriate. Perhaps early twenties, but that was it. Anyway, he opened the kettle thingy up, saw a valve was set to heating and not to hot water (it was broken), went out again and came back two minutes later with the new part and fixed it. So, that shower last night was heaven. And when I came down this morning I found that the heating worked properly again as well: I turn it off at the thermostat and it just stops.

But the best thing? Since I live in rented accommodation, the housing association pays for repairs like these. Brilliant!!

Friday 21 October 2011

Coffee with friends

I've been wanting to join a meme again for a long time now, but hadn't really found one I wanted to join until I read Flamblogger's blog. Coffee klatch sounded great, so I will try and join every week if possible, today for certain!
Tower of London
Today's question is to list ten things you have never done. So, here goes:
I've not managed to learn Japanese. Not for lack of trying though, I've still got the books at home, but jellybeans, is that language a tough one! Nothing is like any of the languages I speak and I had to give it up in the end.
I've never used drugs, not even a joint. Knowing my tendency to get hooked onto something reasonably fast, I think it was wise never to use any, although I do wonder what it would feel like to be all high. However, this DOES NOT mean I will be trying any!! I'll climb a tower to feel high...
I've never travelled the world. At some point in my life I really wanted to see the world and go backpacking, but as I've grown older I don't think I missed much. Besides I know I like my creature comforts a bit too much as well to be roughing it in some hostel in the outback of Australia!

I've not had any children. I have got a nephew, two nieces, a goddaughter, a sugar daughter and a sugar son though. And of course my monsters who are almost like my children.
I've never ever played truant. I wouldn't have dared! The look my father or mother would have given me would have been too awful!
I've never cheated on any test. I remember once a class mate had actually gotten hold of the test and had copied it for the entire class. I was the only one who earned that grade fair and square because I refused to do it that way. My father and mother, you get the drift.

I've never seen 'The Day After' about the aftermath of the atomic bomb. I could have, I probably should have, but I refused and spent the periods when it was shown in religion class in the cafeteria of our high school. Me refusing anything was a sign that I was serious, since I usually went along with a lot.
I have never eaten mushrooms willingly. It's not so much the taste as the texture of them. Slimy, slippery, gross and they are grown on horses' poo! I will pick them out of my food. Ooh, even thinking about them makes my skin crawl!
I have never ridden a motor cycle or moped. When I was younger, the first thing I wanted to learn when I was old enough was how to ride a motor cycle. The only thing I have done so far is sit on the back and that was not the success I thought it might have been: a sore and wooden bum!
I haven't ever ridden a horse. I've been on one, but it has always been stationary. Oh, and I had to be hoisted on by two colleagues!!

Then there's a question to be answered as well: please share with us something that you do to prepare for this changing weather. Well, the thing I do is try and get my heating system to work again. It has a mind of its own after a summer of not being used and now it's quite temperamental, heating when it's not even on! But I will get it tamed before the really cold weather sets in. Or just wear thick socks!

For more Coffee Klatch, please go to The Tapestry of Life and join in!

Thursday 20 October 2011

More Canada

Farmland with Rockies in the distance
Before you ask: no, I haven't heard anything back from either my agent or the hotel manager. I have to be patient now, because it can take up to two months before the LMO is being issued! Which isn't all bad though: it will give me a chance to add to my rather depleted savings again! A question I have been asked time and time again is why do I want to move to Canada? And it always has been hard to put into words. But I will try to give it a go.
Presbyterian Church in Banff
I have never felt that the Netherlands was the end destination for me. I had lived in several other countries during my late teens and early twenties and two of those countries were seriously considered by me: France and England. In France I was thinking about becoming a tourguide on a coach (this was way before I could drive a car, let alone a bus), but I never went through with that. And then in England I just thought I wouldn't mind living there. I don't really know what I would have done though, probably something in hospitality: waitressing or hotel reception. But in the end I moved back to the Netherlands at the grand old age(!) of 24.

Jasper National Park
I have always wanted to go someplace I wasn't: for the journey or for the greener grass or for the I don't know what. At some times that bug was dormant, at other times it was very much awake. And then about 6 years ago that bug woke up and this time I didn't want to stay in the Netherlands, I didn't even want to stay in Europe! I was fed up with European rules and regulations and wanted a big change in scenery. Of course finances were a bit dire, but after a lot of scrimping and saving I not only managed to pay off a massive debt, but also saved enough!

Jasper National Park
Choosing which non-European country was a bit random really. I didn't want to learn a new language if I could help it, so most countries in Asia, Africa and South America were out. I wanted proper summer and winter seasons. Not those wishy washy things we call seasons over here. There was no way I would put my cats in quarantine for up to 6 months (Australia and New Zealand). And I wanted some semblance of social security. Which left Canada really!

Many pine trees have fallen victim to the pine beetle
I then started doing research. And found out that Canada not only had all of what I wanted, but heaps and heaps more: nature, space and a very positive feeling towards immigrants. Warm summers, cold winters. No quarantine. They spoke English (and French), both languages I do already speak to some degree. And according to many immigrants a really nice and good place to live.

Well, at least I saw a gorilla!!!!
Of course I still wanted to see it for myself and when I did, there was only one small disappointment. Yes, there was! I had after all been promised bears and elk and moose and the likes and one chipmunk, two deer and three mountain goats do not make one bear! I have come to the conclusion that the Canadian tourist board is just putting that rumour out to have tourists come and spend bucket loads of money!

Absolutely glorious!
Other than that though I loved it. The Rocky Mountains were great, but my heart skipped a beat when I saw the Badlands and the farmlands (I still can't wait to show my sister some time soon). The houses looked so unlike the houses we have in the Netherlands and the cars, lorries and shopping centers were ridiculously large. I will learn to love hockey (see how I skipped the ice already?), since I like it already. And overall, I thought I hadn't made such a bad choice! I can't wait to book my flight...

Saturday 15 October 2011

The weird and wonderful

I promised a post about 'Canadianisms' and other assorted things that surprised and confused me, so here it is. And from the moment I first landed in North America there has been much to surprise and confuse me...

Restaurant in Calgary
Let's start with one of the things that is always on my mind: toilets. Or as they say in North America: bathrooms, washrooms or restrooms. People please: if there's no bath, it's not a bathroom, a washroom just sounds as if you wash and a restroom is just ridiculous: if I were to spend an hour lying on the floor resting, security would be gotten and I would end up at the nearest police station! So, toilet it is. And the first thing I noticed as European is that the toilet bowls are full of water. There's enough water in the toilet bowl for a family of ducks to swim around in and there still being enough room for a crocodile! And I had heard about North America being on the prudish side (compared to Europeans), but even I don't want to bare all when I'm using the toilet. You could drive a truck through the gaps between the doors and a toddler wouldn't need to crouch to get underneath the door either!

Once I had arrived in Edmonton and had rented a car, it was difficult to remember which car was mine. Especially if it was parked in a parking lot with a lot of other silver grey Chevrolet Impalas. All facing forwards. Because for some obscure reason (don't ask me please), Alberta numberplates are only found on the back of the car! What's the deal with that? Fortunately I never parked it in a parking lot with a lot of other silver grey Chevrolet Impalas all facing forwards. And I had written down the numberplate. Somewhere!

Now, if I had rented that car in the Netherlands it would have been considered to be a big car. There was enough room for 5 and you could sleep in that boot (albeit a bit curled up). Over in Canada, that car was deemed to be small. Well, perhaps not small, but definitely not big!

3 Ave S meant Third Avenue South of the River Bow
In Europe we're used to streetnames that do make some sense, with the emphasis on some. If you're in Market Street, you are usually somewhere in the center of a town or village, if it's got a funny name of a composer or a colour or a tree or anything like that, it's usually out in the newer suburbs. But in Canada it's completely different, since it's all in a grid. Quite easy though, just count and you will be fine. And I even grasped the house numbering in Edmonton. 10325 88th Avenue (East-West) means it's close to 103rd Street (North-South). Which took me no time at all to figure out (perhaps I should add, I had read about this some time ago)!

West Edmonton Mall
Then of course there are the really shiny apples, the tax not included in the sales price, Hallowe'en (although it was probably a good thing the Christmas stuff wasn't out yet: I would have needed another suitcase), the fixed showerheads and the motorways that aren't really motorways (stopping on the hard shoulder, are you kidding me?) plus a gazillion things I won't find out until I've actually moved there!

Overall though, I quite liked Canada and wouldn't mind moving there...

Friday 14 October 2011

Letting go of Mathilda

26th May 1998 - 13th October 2011

Thursday 13 October 2011

Back home

Three mountain goats. THAT WAS ALL!!!
I will have to come back now...
I've been home now for just over two days and I am still getting used to Dutch time. Especially on the day I arrived, I was able to sleep standing up, I was so tired. But first things first...

On Sunday I had decided to go and see Jasper. I had all those promises of bears, moose and elks in my head and was determined to snap a photo of any of those. There was one small problem with driving up to Jasper though, since it was quite far, I wouldn't have a lot of time to spend there, because my car had to be back in Edmonton by 5.30pm! But the promise of critters was too much to ignore and I headed out anyway. I started the day at 7am and drove up the long and not so winding road towards the West. I entered the park around 11am and was in Jasper about half an hour later. I had already chosen my destination: the tramway up the mountain, which was located just a few km south of Jasper. 

The Jasper Tramway going down
Even though the tramway was quite dear, it was a brilliant thing to do. We went up the mountain in this little basket and we arrived at the top station in about 5 minutes. From there you could take a walk to the top of the mountain, but my outfit didn't really go with the conditions: it was lightly snowing and I wore a summercoat! Besides, I had my timing to think of. After looking around for about 20 minutes, taking photos of the snow, having photos taken of me in the snow and chatting to some people, I made my way down the mountain again. I left almost immediately again, since I had to drive for another 4 hours to get back to Edmonton.

Monday morning saw me rise really early again. My agent was going to pick me up at 5am to take me to the airport. Fortunately I had already packed my suitcase the night before and didn't need much for breakfast, so by the time he arrived (ten minutes early), I was ready to go. The line at the check-in desk wasn't too long, even though us peasants weren't seen to at all: it was first class passengers only it seemed! Very annoying, but in the end we all made it on to the plane. I had a windowseat and was able to look out over both Canada and the USA as there wasn't a lot of cloud covering.

Me in the snow on top of the mountain
In Houston I had to wait for three hours, but I didn't have to pick up my luggage or change terminals. I had another window seat and enjoyed switching between the country side below and the film in front. We arrived in Amsterdam just after midnight Canadian time. Unfortunately Dutch time is 8 hours ahead, so it was already gone 8 in the morning! I was home by ten thirty Dutch time and was met by my parents.

My parents and I had agreed to meet on Wednesday, so to see them at my place on Tuesday was quite a surprise. And not a good one as it turned out to be. My neighbour who always looks after my cats had found Mathilda on Friday, sitting in a corner and being in quite bad shape. Mathilda is normally the first one to meet you, together with Wuppie, so to find her sitting in a corner is a big sign something is wrong. She phoned my parents, who weren't home and decided to leave it one more day. On Saturday she could see the situation hadn't gotten any better and after phoning my parents once more (who still weren't home), she decided to take Mathilda to the animal clinic. Where they discovered she was very dehydrated. It turned out, she wasn't eating or drinking at all anymore.

Finally on Sunday my parents got home and phoned my neighbour. And then on Monday my parents picked Mathilda up and decided my mum was going to stay at my place for the night, looking after the monsters. Mathilda had to be force fed every two hours, using a syringe and some heavy duty food (ie high in energy). Unfortunately after I arrived she didn't get any better (which the vet had hoped for, thinking it might just be homesickness), only worse. She couldn't keep the little food she got down and when my parents arrived yesterday, we took her to the vet again. After feeling and touching and measuring and doing all the things vets do, it was decided to do an echography (like they do on pregnant women) to find any underlying problem in her belly.

Which they found. A thickening of the colon wall indicated a high probability of colon cancer, which would of course explain all the symptoms. Normally food passes from one end to the other, but if the colon is obstructed, it has to come out the same way it went in: the mouth. So, if we feed her using the syringe, at some point her stomach is full again and it will have to come out, causing her to throw up. She has lost quite a bit of weight due to all this and keeps hiding in places she never used to go, like under the dresser or in the little scratch pole box.

Amsterdam from above
Today the vet will be phoning me again, since the oncology vet wasn't in yesterday. What to do? An operation and perhaps not getting all of it out or chemotherapy, which can take months and months and isn't a cure, it just slows it all down. Either way I have to think of her age: she is 13 1/2, which would be about 94 in human years and I want to move to Canada. If it all goes as speedily as I hope, the chances of her being considered healthy and being allowed to come to Canada are slim at best. So, the best option is probably letting her go.

Saturday 8 October 2011

Ah, so, yes...

Shelly, the soft-shelled turtle at Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller
Okay, so I promised to tell you about the job right here at the Best Western Inn & Suites South Edmonton (can I just shorten that to BWISSETON?) and whether or not I got it. Well... I don't know! Let me explain how it works for me.

In contrast to people who arrive in this country with a permanent residency and are able to then do whatever the jellybeans they like, I can only enter this country on a Temporary Work Visa. This has to do with the points system used to get a PR and for which I never get enough. I believe right now you need a total of about 67 points which are made up of age, languages spoken, education, line of work, work experience and a few more things. And even though my languages push it right up there, my lack of education plus my line of work and work experience just leave me short one or two points. I am of course the nicest person in the whole wide world and am willing and able to do a lot of things, but that won't help me get accepted with a PR. So, I need a TWV.

In order for me to get a TWV, I need a job. Of course my preferred job would be something in the bus industry like a busdriver or a scheduler, but both those jobs are low-skilled (don't ask) and even though they are much in demand here, especially further up north, I wouldn't be able to change my TWV into a PR after a few years. Which is my goal. So, I have to go back to an earlier job of hotel receptionist or front desk agent, which is also low-skilled. However this job would enable me to change the TWV into a PR after a few years. And once I've got my PR I could whatever I like.

Getting back to the Temporary Work Visa though. Because I need a job for that. A guaranteed job. Which means I've been job hunting for the first time in over a decade, pounding the pavement of Edmonton and Red Deer, handing out resumés and hoping some good will come of it. And as you know I had a short meeting with the manager of the hotel I am staying in. I could tell he was interested, after all, I am the nicest person in the whole wide world and willing... you get the drift. However, him being interested isn't enough. He has to offer me a job. And in order for him to offer me the job we need one more thing: a Labour Market Opinion or LMO for short.

Garden at Government Building in Banff
When a company wants to hire me (or any foreigner), it has to apply for an LMO which basically is an official piece of paper stating that the company hasn't been able to find a Canadian to do the job I would be willing to do. It takes between 1 and 2 months to process an LMO, but basically, if a company is willing to try for an LMO, I've got the job and it would then give me between 1 and 2 months to get everything sorted in the Netherlands.

So, what does all of this have to do with the BWISSETON? Well, the initial interest is there, but the manager has to pass my details on to the owner of the hotel to see if he is willing to submit for an LMO. They have done in the past, so at least that is a good thing, but now they would have to do so for me. If the owner is willing to apply for an LMO for me, I can quit my job and my home, start packing, get the monsters a health thingymebob, get the tickets and sort everything else out as well. Once I've got the LMO itself I need to go to the Canadian Embassy in Berlin (another trip, yeah) to get my passport sorted, fly out here and get my stuff validated and then I can work for as long as the TWV is valid. If however, the job proves to be awful and I would want another job, I would need to through the whole thing again: switching jobs with an LMO is a massive no-no!

So, that's it in a nutshell, albeit quite a large nutshell. Any questions?

Thursday 6 October 2011

When in doubt

For all you Dutch speakers: this is how I felt yesterday!!
Yes, doubt! Because I am to be honest. Is it a good move to come over here and earn about two thirds of what I'm earning now? Go back to two weeks vacation a year (I'm on 5 now) and start a whole new life? All because I want change and more room and space. Asking my sister didn't help: she had the choice of being unemployed in the Netherlands or employed in Northern Ireland. Easy! Asking other immigrants doesn't necessarily help: they usually have more education ie more chances ie more money than me!

And then I think, well, I am clever enough to work myself up in an organization and earn more money in time. I am nice enough to meet new people and make new friends. And holidays? Come on, this is the first time I actually went away in about three years! Most of the time I spend at home doing sod all (excuse my French)!

Hotel Chateau Lake Louise
My feelings came in large part from the fact that yesterday didn't work out the way I wanted to. I know job hunting isn't something that is over and done with within two days, but it still grates when it doesn't. I would so love to come back to the Netherlands and say: I did it, I got a job, I can quit and start packing (horror), but the reality is that there is a very big chance that might not happen. However much I wish for it.

Then, later yesterday afternoon I had a phone call from my agent. He had spoken to a hotel manager who was looking for a receptionist and was willing to meet me this morning. So, I got up early, spent some time finishing my sudoku, went for breakfast and after breakfast I went to this meeting. And not even ten minutes later I was out of the meeting again. With a promise that I would know for certain tomorrow! I then travelled back up in the lift and back to my room (yes, it's the hotel I'm staying in right now, which for some reason never surfaced as a hotel to work in!).

Gattina wished me a sac de merde yesterday (which I am quite ambiguous about to be honest), but I just hope you will all cross your fingers and your toes and everything else you can cross, just for luck!!!

Wednesday 5 October 2011


I saw my agent Henk yesterday and together we looked through a databank of jobs available in Edmonton and immediate surroundings. We selected about a dozen jobs and then I started phoning the hotels to ask for information. In one case the number wasn't correct, a few other hotels didn't answer at all and then there was the voicemail. I think half of my phonecalls ended up in voicemail land never to be answered. Well, apart from one, because a lady did call back to tell me the position had already been filled.

The ice rink in the West Edmonton Mall, later that evening there was hockey practice as well
After all that, I left the Dutch Consulate (where Henk works) and drove to a hotel I hadn't phoned, but Henk knew the manager etc etc. When I got to the hotel, I asked to speak to the manager and lo and behold, I got to speak to him! He looked at my resumé, we talked for a few minutes and he said he was going to pass my resumé and information on to the manager front desk and if there was a position she would call me back today!

A pirate ship
I then went to a nearby hotel that had advertised and had to fill out a application form. However, I didn't speak to anybody. Then, I went to a hotel where again Henk knew the manager. He had moved to a different location though, but I was asked to fill out another application form. This form contained questions about my best and worst job and what job would I like to do if I were to win $5 million! That last question was easy of course: I wouldn't want to do anything, I would want to travel! When I returned the application form to the front desk however, the lady in charge of hiring front desk staff was there and she asked me several more questions. Whether I would consider working in Fort McMurray (which even according to the girls behind the desk was nearly the worst place to live in all of Alberta) or any of the other places they had hotels in. Well, provided an LMO would be gotten, I was game.

The large pool at the WEM
After all that I went to get a bite to eat at the WEM (West Edmonton Mall) which is supposedly the biggest shopping center in the whole world. It also contained an ice rink, a pirate's ship and a large swimming pool. I really had to keep track of where my car was parked and how to get there though, because it would be easy to loose your way: hardly any signs to indicate where you were or where you had to go! They just want you to shop I guess...

Today will be more of the dropping off resumés and hopefully talking to people.