Procrastinating Much?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Borrowed photo
 
Boy! I see now that I haven’t been blogging much! Not this year anyway.
 
At the rate I am going (I spurt out 2 posts a month), my posts counter tells me that I won’t even make it to 50 posts this year, which is worse than I expected. Not unless I started shooting posts every single day or twice a day. What does that say about me as a blogger? Waaah! Now I know what a factory worker feels like when they don’t reach their production targets. Not that I ever had a target in the first place, but the count of 25 posts for 2013 is dismal.
 
Plus it’s not gonna help that November is coming up. I take my sabbaticals then.
 
I guess I could pre-schedule a lot of my posts (which I had been doing since the start of the year) but this is also why I’ve found myself in this position of blog doldrums.
 
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if nothing’s been happening. I’ve still got much stories to tell, but time just haven’t been on my side starting when we made the move late 2012. Been busy with emigrating and the whole stress-load psyche that goes with it. I’m slowly getting myself back into a routine but it has really taken a lot out of me. In turn, perhaps, I did procrastinate a wee bit too much.
 
In typical procrastinator style, I can only say that there’s not much I can do about it now but only to promise to do better next time. I’ll be back after November and I hope to slowly gear up to my norm of 1 post a week….at least. I have been thinking of changing my blog template (yet once again) and maybe I will use the time in December to re-arrange everything.
 
Got my new life sorta sorted, got my house semi in order…now to zap my blog back to life.

Newcomer Stories: More Job Hunting Experiences Within Canada

Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Didn't quite realise that by the time I posted part 1 of my job hunting experiences within Canada, I'll be finished with my second job hunt.
 
It's a shame that most newcomers encounter the problem of not having Canadian experience to be on the same playing field as the rest of the job force. I think I've mentioned that unless you're some kind of wonderful in your line of work, that the competition is stiff and fierce. Not to say, of course, that you should just give up and go home. It's more to say that you need to double your hard work and perseverance.

I did just that. Or I think I did.

After getting my first Canadian job at the start of the year and starting my Canadian experience meter, it didn't take me long to figure out that I've become marketable as soon as I got off the unemployment line. I wasn't in the best of jobs but being a newcomer, getting paid sure beats getting nothing. I continued giving my best to my company although I was on the prowl for a more suitable job.

And what do you know? I found an ad listed on LinkedIn. Now you will remember that I've had a previous slightly hit-and-miss experience with LinkedIn. But I still had faith. I surged on. I emailed my resume off to the address mentioned. There was nothing to lose on my part.

And by the next few weeks, I had a phone interview, 2 face-to-face interviews and a job offer at the end of it all. I was thrilled and happy. It was another adventure waiting for me.

Cherry Blossoms At High Park, Toronto

Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Blooming Sakura

According to its website, High Park is famous for being “Toronto’s largest public park that features many hiking trails, sports facilities, diverse vegetation, a beautiful lakefront, convenient parking, easy public transit access, a dog park, a zoo, playgrounds for children, a couple of eateries, greenhouses, picnic areas, a bunch of squirrels and various events throughout the year”.

High Park is also known for its authentic Sakura cherry trees, which were planted here in 1959. The trees were a present from the residents of Tokyo. The Sakura cherry blossoms are identifiable by their pinkish-whitish flowers. Unfortunately, the blooming period for these cherry trees don’t last very long. At the most, they probably last a week.

Hence the reason for our impromptu visit to High Park one spring day. Spring finally came out of hibernation.

Sakura trees in High Park

The family and I were experiencing our first spring in Canada. After being holed up the whole winter, we were eager to get out of the house. We’ve heard that week that the cherry blossoms were blooming in High Park and of course, it was simply an event not to be missed.

We made our way to the park but arrived a bit late in the day and so we got stuck looking for parking. It was almost like being stuck in traffic on a traffic circle.

However, once we started walking around, it was pure magic. The whole scenery was stunning and the cherry blossoms did not disappoint. The park was well-maintained and had other views to enjoy as well.

I made a mental note to come back here in the fall. Preferably early in the morning or on a weekday to avoid the parking frenzy.

VTT - Chelsea Football Club

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


 
I'm not really much of a soccer fan. And although we paid the money to go tour the Chelsea Football Club, I can't tell you much of what's there since I didn't really pay that much attention. It seems that the thought of hobnobbing with the players' shirts in the locker room is not enough to give me chills down my spine. Bleh.
 
The visit was prompted by my eldest daughter's love of the game. And Chelsea was her favourite English football club. Believe me, we would not have made it out of the UK if we had not visited the club at her wishes.
 

 
She oohed and aahed over the grassy Chelsea lawn. I even wanted to book her a ticket to watch a game but unfortunately, Chelsea was not home. They had gone to Japan for a playoff or something. Still, the tour of the club, plus a snow globe, were at least enough for her.
 
Just look at this shot and tell me if that is not a teen in heaven?
 

 
Do you follow soccer and which club do you root for? If, like my eldest, your choice is Chelsea, you can visit their website for more information.

VTT - Tower Of London

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

On my last visit to the Tower of London in 2010, I did not even get past the castle gates. Adverse weather had more to do with it rather than any of my naughty escapades. So when I went back, I brought the family along to counter any bad weather that came our way. Don't know if it helped much, but we got in and that's all that matters.
 

 The Tower did not disappoint. Never had I seen so many things in gold and multi-coloured diamonds. It's as if each crowned monarch had their own sets of golden cutlery and dishes. I loved seeing the crowns and the sceptres and the capes. I was awed in the presence of the Cullinan diamond forming part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. Hubby and I were even ecstatic at finding a punch bowl (as big as a human), complete with ladle and cups, made out of real gold.

It is definitely worth a visit for the family. It is a pity that cameras are not allowed in the Tower but I suppose it is for safety and security of the jewels, and therefore one could understand.

For more information, visit The Tower of London website.

VTT - Madame Tussaud's

Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Well, it seems that I missed a whole lot of the UK the first time because of the snow. But on my second time around, I was determined to see more.
 
Madame Tussaud's was a definite treat for the family. There was just too much to see. Actually, it was more like, there were too many wax figures to see. The family got all excited, hobnobbing with the rich and famous, not to mention, the powerful and influential.
 
90 minutes was not enough. We simply had to have more time but we didn't have it then. What a shame. But we did capture many memories. After all, who can forget standing next to Brangelina, Julia Roberts, the Queen and her family????
 
For more info, check out the Madame Tussaud's website.
 
Here's how we spent our 90 minutes of fame: 

 
 
 
 
 
 

VTT Postcard - Stonehenge

Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Stonehenge
 
This is a very, very, very late VTT post about our UK travels last December. But hey, better late than never! It's also been awhile since I last posted a travel post.
 
 
This time, I brought my whole family along for the trip. Using my family as lucky charms, they helped me ward off the bad snow I had last time. I was slightly worried though. On the day of our trip, it looked like the weather was going bad as well. But in the end though, once our tour bus left the station I felt content. I knew I was going to finally get there.
 
 
It started becoming windy and cloudy. It drizzled a bit as well. We had to put on our thick winter coats. But I didn't care. I was with some unexplained monoliths and that was enough for me.
 
We were unable to walk amongst the standing stones. And the rocks were not really much to look at at first. But as soon as the sunset came, boy, they were something else. Just looking at them from afar filled me with awe. Lots of photo opportunities that afternoon. And I thought the bad weather was going to ruin everything. But it turned out great.
 
Enjoy the photos!
 
 

Newcomer Stories: Ontario Health Insurance Plan

Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Even as many months have passed since our first visit to the doctor, I am still in awe with Canada's medical health plan. This was all very new to me. Most basics, like visits to the doctor, are covered by the health plan. For prescriptions and eye/teeth visits, you'll need to get extra health coverage. Normally these extras are offered at work or you can source an insurance company to help you with this cover.
 
But I digress. Going back to what I was saying...we are currently based in Ontario and we are covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). It takes 3 months of residency within Ontario to come into effect. We applied for the card a month before our third month and we got it the week we turned 3 months.
  
So I got a chance to use the health card when on a recent occasion, the Canadian Health Department sent me a form to inform me that my youngest child's vaccination was incomplete. She did have all the necessary injections. However, her last injection for measles given in South Africa was only for measles alone. In Canada, it specified that it had to be MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella).
 
There was a walk-in clinic near where we stayed. So one night, around 6pm, we "walked in" to the walk-in clinic. I explained my dilemma to the medical assistant, who looked for my health card and asked me to fill out a registration form. After which, I had to wait around 10 minutes before the doctor could see us.

I explained the situation to the doctor and she proceeded to give my child the injection she needed.  She completed the immunization record and asked me to send it along to the Department. And that was that. A total of a 30-minute visit.

As I walked out, I asked the medical assistant if that was it and she said everything was fine. To think, I did not even have to worry about the bill :-)

Newcomer Stories: Job Hunting Experience Within Canada

Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Borrowed photo
On my last post, I spoke about how my husband landed his first job in Canada even before we landed and activated our visa. He was in the mechanical trades and word in the grapevine is if you do anything in the trades, you are sure to find a job easier. Especially if you are specialised, which he is.
 
But not everyone is as lucky.
 
I, on the other hand, was more of a generalist accountant. My vice was that I had worked on too many things in my professional career, being an all-rounder, that I became too much of a non-specialist. So much for the "Jill of all Trades" tag....it was a good party trick but not good enough to land a job, just yet.

So I trolled the jobsites and that in itself, became my job. I was a professional jobhunter!

It was difficult the first few weeks on the "job" as a jobseeker. Although I could see that most of the jobs I've applied for were work that I could easily do, the issue was that I could not convince the employers enough to give me the job. A lot of it was the question of having Canadian experience but that's a topic for another blog post.

I attended a couple of free workshops at the local newcomer centre with regards getting my resume more noticeable and better interview techniques.

There's also a big hype around networking. I tried to do this but it wasn't something that I could build overnight.

On average, I applied to about 5-10 jobs a week, ranging from being an accountant down to being an administration assistant. I tailored my resume specific to each job application for each company.

And what do you know? My first Canadian employment came through a job post on Monster. I applied the methodology I learnt at the workshops, and I must admit, they worked like a charm.

I had spent a total of 1 month on a serious jobhunt. It felt like an eternity but I eventually got there.

I know not everyone has or will have it as easy and quick. Everyone is on a different timeline, I realised. But all I can say is, one must never give up. To keep yourself busy, look around at the local newcomer centre and see what free workshops are available for you. I always say you can never learn enough.

And lastly, don't be afraid to hit those jobsites. They are mines of job postings. Visit the following: Monster, Workopolis, Job Bank, Indeed, etcetera (to name a few).

To anyone in the boat still, good luck!

Newcomer Stories: Job Hunting Experience Outside Canada

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
After getting our immigration visas and deciding that we will be landing in Canada within a year, one of the things I undertook to do was look for jobs before we arrived in our new country.
 
We were on the job hunt before while we were still in the process of our permanent residence application. However, many have told us that it was extremely difficult to land a job especially when we were still out of Canada and were not even sure when we'd get there. So we halted the hunt until we had more definite plans.
 
And so the time came. The visas in our hands, we were just waiting for December to finally leave for Canada. I started the job hunt again in August. I had converted both my husband's and my CVs into Canadian resumes. I trolled and visited work sites like Monster and Workopolis everyday looking for opportunities. When I found anything that looked worthwhile, I would send off our resumes.
 
This was one way my husband found a job before landing in Canada. On one of the odd occasion I sent off his resume, the employer made contact with him via email. This was around November when he was contacted. The employer even went as far as doing a telephonic interview, phoning from Canada to South Africa, to determine if my husband was the right candidate. He passed the interview and all that awaited him when we landed was to visit the company, negotiate his salary and finally make his decision if he really wanted to take the job.
 
Nothing like being a little certain of your future in a new country, I say. At least, that was one less thing to worry about. It all seemed to have gone so easy. I was really so proud of him.

Newcomer Stories: On The Other Side Of Fear Lies Freedom

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

From Pinterest
A few weeks into my new country, one winter day, early in the morning, while waiting for my bus at the bus stop, a young lady approached and chatted me up. At first I was a bit dismissive and aloof. Deep inside though, I was more scared than anything else. My mind was racing and thinking horrible thoughts. What if she was a robber, had a gun, had a knife, etc.? My defences (which were trained in South Africa) came up and I could hear my mind thinking of escape routes.

She smiled all this while and brought out a pamphlet from her bag (which I thought might have been a knife or whatever). And then she proceeded to tell me that she was a Jehovah's Witness and that she just wanted to share some of God's teachings with me. I mean this with no disrespect, but I have never been so happy that somebody told me that they were a Jehovah's Witness until that time. I felt relieved (not because she was a Jehovah's Witness but) because she was not there to harm me.

I suppose more than the teachings she shared, she taught me a more valuable, blatant lesson...That my life in Canada was very different to my life in South Africa. I knew this before but it was never as apparent and clear as day until then. Living in South Africa sure has taught me to be overly cautious and alert...and scared. And I realised that that was not such a life at all. My illusions of being happy in South Africa sorta died a little that day. I would never have had that kind of talk in a bus stop. I would never be caught dead in a bus stop at all. Period.

We discussed the teachings for a short bit while I pondered my newfound realisation of freedom. I must admit I enjoyed speaking with her thoroughly. My bus came and I had to leave, but not after exchanging names and kind words and hopes to maybe cross paths again. She was aptly named Gloria.

Newcomer Stories: Getting Into Catholic Schools

Tuesday, June 11, 2013
 
One of the biggest worries as a parent when you embark on such a big move across oceans and seas is to make sure that the kids suffer as less as possible.  Regardless of how difficult and chaotic this time can be for you (or me in this case), the kids must never feel too traumatised with the move. In short, their lives must go on.
 
We timed our departure from South Africa to be the month of December because that was when schools closed and we thought it best to let the children finish their respective grades. Around January, after being in Canada for a month, we started looking for schools around the area we lived in.
 
The choice was made easy by the school catchment system applied here in Canada. Basically, each school has a boundary map and if you stay within its boundaries, your child can be enrolled into that school. In Ontario, I found that each area usually had 2 accommodating schools - one public school and one Catholic school. Both types are public schools, funded by the government, except that there is religion teachings in the Catholic schools.
 
As a family, we had decided before landing that we would be enrolling the kids into Catholic schools. We went to a newcomer information centre, where we booked to have assessments done on the kids. Although the kids were allocated to their levels based on their age, the assessment was also  important to assess that the kids would be in the right level. My kids were promoted a grade higher. My younger one would have been grade 4 based on her age, but was put into grade 3 since in South Africa, she had only finished grade 2.
 
We gave in our address and the information centre confirmed the schools that my children were going into. At the school, we went to register the children. Documents that were required for registration were birth certificate, proof of address, immunization record and ID passport. At the elementary school, we also had to produce my youngest's and my baptismal certificates. You see, to attend a Catholic elementary school, it is compulsory for one of the parents of the student to be Catholic and for the student to be baptised in the Catholic faith.
 
For my eldest, who was attending high school (or secondary school as it is called in Canada), all she needed extra was to buy a few sets of school uniforms. Her baptismal certificate was not required as all students were accepted regardless of their faith.

All in all, it was an easy registration for them. I was glad. As a parent, it's always a great feeling to know that with so much uncertainties around us and our situation at that moment in time, something was going right. The kids were all right after all. :-)

Newcomer Stories: Mississauga Library System

Tuesday, June 4, 2013
I've always loved books and reading and I secretly blame this hobby for blinding me years before. But more secretly, I really just love it to bits. I've encouraged my kids to love the library as a source of endless information and knowledge. Reading is probably one of my passions that I can't ever live without.
 
Without a doubt, I am a regular patron of the local library. So coming into my new home/city, I decided to check the local library out. There are 18 libraries in the city of Mississauga. I went to the one nearest me and I must say, I was not disappointed. The library is bigger than any libraries I've ever been to. And in my eyes, the privileges of becoming a member at a Mississauga library are just too great for words.
 
Inside a Mississauga library
You can borrow a whopping 50 items at any given time. Fifty! That is a big wow! Items include books, DVDs, CDs, audio books, e-books, etc. And the abundant choice does not hurt either. The whole collection of items at any Mississauga library is at your disposal. And to top it off, you can even book, renew, place a hold on an item online. I just love a library keeping up with the times. The normal borrowing time is 3 weeks, which is not really that bad at all.
 
It is very easy to get a library card. All you need is some identification with a proof of address (that you are a Mississauga resident), and presto! Library card in hand.
 
 
I was like a child in a candy store. I just couldn't help myself. To say that my first trip to the library was an exhilerating experience would be an understatement. It was definitely something more than that for me.
 
In my excitement, I checkout a total of 18 books (Missy's books included). Didn't exactly reach the 50 but wait for me to get over my initial shock :-) I'll be getting my rhythm back.
 
My 18 check-outs
 

Newcomer Stories: Immigration Sentiments

Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Fork in the Road - Borrowed Photo
Looking through some stuff and found this old unblogged post of mine. Seems like eons ago, when in fact it has only been 3 months. Just goes to show that not everything immigration is great...and not everything is stinking bad.
 
"Funny.
 
You'd think that waiting for a whole year before activating my Canadian permanent residence visa would make me more prepared for what awaited me. But it didn't. Immigration affects people differently and there is no amount of research that really prepares you emotionally for a new country.

I was very happy to have landed in Canada last December. The timing was perfect. My kids were only finishing school then and I was still working until October to gather enough money to bring across.
 
It was winter in Canada that time and the family experienced different levels of snow. We had a look around the Greater Toronto Area the first few days and Montreal over the holidays. It was a break. But it didn't feel like one to me. You see, I've been out of work since November and being a bum for so long has not been sitting well with me. Of course, I neglect to mention that during this time I was also studying to take exams and packing stuff to take to Canada like mad.

Anyways, getting back to it, my feelings of anxiety were more compounded when hubby got a job, and family and friends kept asking if I've found one myself already. Hubby put it down to "You're not seriously looking yet, so why are you worried?" A statement that was relatively true. I shrugged it off but nevertheless thought about it endlessly. I applied to about 5 advertised posts a day with no luck.

When we eventually came back to Toronto, I furiously continued my search. Still no luck. I moaned about it everyday to my husband. After one week, I had to change my tactic. It was slowly driving me psycho, this not-having-a-job state.

So I concentrated on the search less. Registered with some newcomer centres, attended some job search workshops on how to improve my resume and interview tactics. Hired a rental and learned to drive the "right" way in the wrong side of the car. With kids already in school and hubby left to start work in a faraway land, getting the driver's licence became priority #1, then getting a job.

Don't get me wrong, I still applied to jobs when I actually sat down to it. But I did that about twice a week for about 2/3 hours (Fixing up the resume to match the ad is SOOO time-consuming. I've got like 8 different sets). Plus to pre-empt people from asking, I'd post regular updates on social media to tell them how we, the family, were doing. Like in about every 14 or 15 days. I did not say too much as I was in the doldrums and I did not want to infect anyone else with my "depression". This became my therapy.

Licence-wise, as mentioned previously, I went for my G1 and passed. Booked for my G test 2 weeks later. The rental was expensive and I had to make a plan fast. Was all nervous at the test, like I haven't been driving for 15 years. The Etobicoke centre had the reputation of being the 3rd highest fail rates in all of Ontario. Examiner tells me to turn right and I indicated to turn left. Of course, that was not "right" (pun intended) as I needed to get onto the highway. So he reminded me that I must turn right. Did some hellraising stunt on the highway like only a Joburg woman driver can...in my super mini rented car. In the end, he had no words to say. I looked at him crushed but he just handed me some paper and said "It's a pass". A "pass" for comments maybe?

I am thrilled at the good news. Immediately went to Tim Hortons and drowned my happiness with a hot chocolate.

But of course, the crux of the matter is I was still jobless and I needed to change that situation. As I was not getting callbacks applying at accounting jobs, I decided to play up my other strong suit, the ADMIN. I applied for admin support, admin clerk, admin assistant, anything admin....with a bit of bookkeeping involved, naturally. Tailored my resume one Sunday evening for 3 jobs, remembered all that I learnt at the job search workshop and applied those to my resumes and cover letters. And my resumes were off!

The Monday after, every single one of them phoned for an interview. Yes! Finally my foot in the door...or their boardroom/office door at least. Can't wait to dazzle. The first 2 interviews went well although it was established around midway the interview that (a) I was not suitable for the position I applied for, being admin, and that (b) they had other plans for me anyway and they just wanted to see me. Both came back with offers although one of them offered a not-really-so-bad unpaid accountant intern position. I went with the paid one, of course. And I am happy to say that I have now been stricken from the unemployment roll....for the time being.

So I think this has been long enough. I now have to go out and celebrate and buy myself a Tim Hortons. I think I'll go to the newcomer centre and just hang out. Be a bum one last time before I start work. Can't go update my status just yet because it's only due on the 15th. LOL. Maybe I'll keep this news for myself for now. I'll research cars instead, 'cause there's free printing at the centre. Plus my daughter just SMSed to congratulate me and is hitting me for a $25 weekly allowance now. So I'll go klap her one."
 
Hahahaha....Can't help laughing at my own jokes. I am so glad to have put this down just as a reminder that the immigration experience was not all roses for me. Not at first anyway. Funny how 3 months pass by so fast.

Newcomer Stories: Passing Your Driver's....Again - Part 4

Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Borrowed Photo

Part 3 was here.

In my mind, because of my nervousness, I did a lot of things incorrectly. In my mind, I thought of other things that I could've done differently or better. I clouded my own judgment. So in my mind, I may have failed.
 
But I didn't.
 
That was a great feeling right there. As David, my examiner, signed the sheet that announced that I had passed my driver's exam. I was relieved. And happy. It could have been that David was just such a nice guy that he decided not to fail me that day. But I suppose he would need some true justification that I could drive and behave myself on the roads of Canada.
 
For people taking the test at the Etobicoke centre, I'd like to share the drive routes that I took when I did my G test. From the Etobicoke test station, it was a right onto Eglinton Avenue West (70kph zone turning into 60 kph before you reach the turn). Drive straight on and turn right again into Renforth Drive (which is a 40 kph zone with the famous pedestrian crossing right in the middle of the road). A few blocks down, it is a left into Eringate Drive (50 kph). Here you drive further down before you reach the onramp to the highway, you will be asked to turn right into one of the small streets to make an emergency stop and 3-point turn. After which, you will have to return back, turning right into Eringate Drive and then finally getting onto Highway 427 (100 kph). You will take the offramp for Burnhamthorpe Road and will turn left on this street, followed by a quick lane change to the right to catch the onramp back onto Highway 427.
 
Then you are requested to change lanes to the left and to the right, do some overtaking of slower cars and other manouevring prowess.
 
You take the offramp to Eglinton Avenue West and turn right on Commerce Boulevard. This area is a business district. I don't recall seeing a speed limit sign in this area so I have assumed that it is 50 kph. After travelling Commerce Boulevard, you turn left on Matheson Boulevard East. You then turn left on Explorer Drive and then right again onto Eglinton Avenue West, where you will be heading back to the test centre.
 
It was nerve wrecking admittedly but I think one should not over-analyse stuff at all when taking these kinds of exams. There is always something that can be done differently. And the best is just to be prepared.

Newcomer Stories: Passing Your Driver's....Again - Part 3

Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Borrowed Photo

Here's last week's post.

So the day of the driver's test arrived.

The 2 weeks prior to the test were a blur. I had been practicing my driving in and around Etobicoke, knowing that I would have to be familiar with the roads to pass it.
 
And I don't know what happened but I suddenly got very worried about parallel parking. I've always been very comfortable about parallel parking in South Africa (and loved to show off everytime I can) but somehow the tricks I learnt doesn't seem to be taking too much effect here in Canada. It seems this driving-on-the-right-side-of-the-road-and-wrong-side-of-the-car is really affecting my judgment on distance. I had to re-learn how to parallel park. It was hard. I even watched a couple of YouTube tutorial about it.
 
As I was saying, so the day finally arrived. I was there 40 minutes before my test began. Reported at the centre but was told to stay in the car and the examiner will arrive after. I stayed quietly in my car and watched a couple of people who were also taking the test on the parking lot. It was funny. But they all made me even more nervous.
 
There was this old lady who was taking the test in a maroon Hyundai, who came racing down the parking lot and stopped right beside the pylons that were marked for parking. I watched as she was asked to do the parallel parking in front of the centre. I could barely believe it when she reversed into the spot so fast that basically although there were no pylons at the back of her car to indicate another car, she had already hit the "invisible" car with her back bumper. I wondered if she'd passed. From her looks as she got out the car, she did not. She went inside the centre and came out with somebody else. And her young companion took the driver's seat as they left the parking lot.

A couple of cars came into the parking lot and parked on the designated waiting area. One of the tips that was suggested, and which I am glad to share, is that when you pick a parking, you must always reverse-park your car. This way, you have one less thing to worry about as you get out of the parking lot.

And so after another 20 minutes after the old lady left, the examiners came out all at the same time to "pick" their cars and drive test applicants. I was praying to get a kind enough examiner in David. David was a tall guy who introduced himself and really tried hard to make me feel comfortable.

He checked all around my car to see if the indicator and brake lights were working as well as the car horn.

I was very nervous and told David prior to driving around. David reminded me that he was not an instructor and will not be "instructing" me on what to do. He will make certain requests from time to time and I must perform the actions "when it is safe to do so".

And then we were off. Onto Part 4....

Newcomer Stories: Passing Your Driver's....Again - Part 2

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Borrowed Photo

Last week, I spoke about having to retake my learner's and driver's licence test in Canada.

In Ontario, you pass through 3 stages. The first stage is the G1, which is the learner's test. Once you pass the G1, you are eligible to take the G2. The G2 is a driver's licence that has certain limitations while driving. Once you have gotten the G2, you are able to drive on the road. However, you are given 5 years to obtain the full G licence. The full G licence is also sometimes referred to as the full driver's licence.
 
I took both my learner's and driver's at the Etobicoke DriveTest centre.

To book for the learner's test, you have to physically go to the DriveTest centre and book it. You are then photographed and undergo eye testing. At this stage, I also produced a letter from the Department of Transport in South Africa to confirm that I have been a driver since so and so and that I do still have a valid driver's licence.

This letter of confirmation from the Department of Transport is important as it allows you to waive the wait period between taking the G1 and G2 or G. Further, if you can prove that you have been a driver for 2 years, you are allowed to take the full G test immediately, again, waiving the wait period between G2 and G. This is of course, once-off and should you fail to pass the G at this point, you will have no choice but to take the G2 on your next attempt.

So I took the learner's test. The learner's test was easy enough but of course, being the experienced driver who supposedly know everything, my stomach was in a knot while taking the exam. Some of the questions looked a bit tricky but since my stomach was already all mushy, I used my gut feel to answer, LOL. The exam consisted of 20 questions about rules of the road and another 20 questions about signs on the road. You have to get a minimum of 16 correct on both sides of the exam to pass.

And it looks like my gut did not spill. I passed comfortably on the first attempt. Now onto the full G. Bring it on! I went out with my piece of paper (with the pass mark) and booked for my full G driver's test.

It was scheduled in 2 weeks' time. Part 3 this way....

Newcomer Stories: Passing Your Driver's....Again - Part 1

Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Borrowed Photo

I'm probably not the first one to say this....nor the only one....but I find it odd that Canada does not recognize driver's licence from certain foreign countries. In short, they do not allow direct conversion and insist that experienced drivers (such as myself) pass the local learner's and driver's test again.
 
I have been quite nervous about this step prior to coming to Canada. I've even printed the manual off the internet to learn the rules of the road again. I needed to learn the rules to pass the learner's and then apply the rules that I've learnt whilst I am taking the driving test.
 
I suppose there is merit as to why Canada asks us (me in particular) to retake the driver's test. I have only been accustomed to driving on the left side of the road, on the right side of the car. Here, the setup is that you drive on the right side of the road, on the left side of the car. It is an easy enough concept to follow but to change the way the mind thinks is another thing. I sometimes find myself driving too close on one side.
 
I decided to rent a car and practice my driving on it. It seemed a good idea at the time. I know some people who also advise to take some driving lessons before undertaking the test. Of course, "experienced drivers" would mean that there could be some lurking, creeping bad driving habits. And if you have any, you have to get rid of them.
 
My foreign driver's licence allowed me to drive around Ontario for 3 months after which the licence is no longer valid. So I had a deadline to get my Ontario licence pronto.

Hang on for this 4-part series on getting your driver's licence in Ontario. Part 2 is up next.
 
For more information about Ontario driving and licencing, please visit the Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO) and the DriveTest website.

Newcomer Stories: I Did It MiWay

Tuesday, April 9, 2013
My destination, my route, my way

I don't like comparing apples, especially when the comparison is not between similar apples...or that there is really no comparison at all. I'm talking about commuting in countries that I've lived in. And I must admit that taking the public transit system for the last couple of weeks in Canada has opened my eyes and restored my faith in these modes of transportation.

I take the MiWay and the TTC to work and back. MiWay is the public transport system in the city of Mississauga. And the TTC, short for Toronto Transit Commission, is the public transport system in the even bigger city of Toronto. Both provide bus rapid transport systems that are almost so reliable, you'll never miss a bus.
 
Of course, the down side to all public transport is that you are bound by the time they pass your stop. So however near the place you want to go to, it is always best to allocate at least 2 hours for a 30-minute trip, especially if you are transferring on different buses or trains or subways.  You have to coordinate your trips well so that you won't have to wait too long at the next stop.
 
During the morning peak hours, I've found the trip more seamless. And I just love that some light reading materials (of current affairs news) are available on board the bus or at the bus terminal or at the subway station. The afternoon peak hours also run on tight schedules but I find that there is more of a chance of getting stuck in some light traffic.
 
I also like the fact that the public transport are heated and so I don't feel the cold winter too much. I am, of course, still getting used to the different weather. And I really love the kneeling action of the bus. The bus kneels so that it is more convenient for the disabled, pregnant women, senior citizens and mothers with small children to board the bus. Really, really cool!
 
I suppose the only thing that I still need to get the hang of is remembering all the bus numbers. Each bus has a number that tells you of its planned routes and stops. You have to be careful so as not to get on the wrong bus. Remember, wrong bus equals more time commuting and finding out where the right bus is.
 
For more information about fares and routes, check the MiWay and TTC websites.

When Facebook and Instagram Deserted Me

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What up, Facebook and Instagram? Where did you go? Don't you want me anymore?
Borrowed photo
 
Day 1 - January 21 - Whilst I tried to access my Instagram on my Iphone, I found that it was asking me for my login details. I thought nothing of it and put my details in. However, it suddenly blocked me and requested that I access Instagram on a "proper" computer and not mobile. Okay. Let me do that then. As I got into the Instagram website. It asked for my full name and birthdate. Looking a bit suspicious, I started to worry but thought to myself, "Hey, this is nothing that they didn't have", so I acquiesced. The next page came up and started requesting a government-issued ID from me (something like a driver's licence or a passport, one that has a photo, date of birth and name, all other information were to be blacked out before submission). This was highly suspect so I checked and checked but could not see for the life of me that the message was not from Instagram unless Instagram was being taken over by hackers at that very moment. Feeling uneasy though, I left the page and thought I'd look it up first.
 
So I went back to my phone and clicked on Facebook and what do you know? Same thing happened. Blocked me and told me to go to a "proper" computer. However, the only difference was that as soon as I logged onto Facebook, providing them with my full name and date of birth, it came up with a message that they will be sending me an email shortly and that I must be patient. Tried logging in a couple of times but no luck. The message kept popping up. So I left it.
 
This all had to happen on a Sunday. Aaargh! This social media people have no heart. Sunday is not even sacred. Where am I gonna find technical/customer support at this time and day?
 
Did not sleep properly that night. Thinking that I've somehow done something wrong and am being punished by the powers that be at Facebook and Instagram. But hey, who needs Facebook and Instagram? I can live without them.
 
Day 2 - Monday came. Email from Facebook came late Monday afternoon to inform me that before they can assist me, they have to ensure that I am the owner of the account and that I must send them a government-issued ID. What the heck was happening in the social media land? What is this sick obsession with government-issued IDs? And am I the only one affected? Am I being hacked?
 
I quickly took preventive measures and changed my password on Facebook. It changed it. Logged onto my husband's Facebook (which was unaffected) and checked my profile, nothing mysterious or funny, I had not posted anything embarassing or started de-friending people (all signs of being hacked). And more importantly, the fact that hubby can see my profile on Facebook meant that I had not been naughty to have been suspended. What was going on?
 
Did not sleep well. Worse than Sunday night. Can't believe I am missing those pictures and status updates. Contemplated whether to send my ID or not. And what ID to send, something that would not incriminate me more???
 
Day 3 - Tuesday - Decided to use Google and see what Facebook and Instagram are up to. Yeah right. The competition will tell me if they've been up to no good. A few articles mention that Instagram was bought by Facebook on Sunday. That could be it, that's why it happened to both. Another few articles talk about being disabled due to misbehavior. I tried to fix it that way but Facebook keeps confirming that I am not delinquent and so should not try to un-disable my account. Found one article where the writer had to give her ID after being disabled. Since I was up the night before, contemplating which ID to use, I decided to use an old passport, way past its expiry. Blocked out all the rest of the info and left 3 holes for my photo, my full name and my date of birth.
 
Submitted it to Instagram. There. Submitted it to Facebook. There. Both says they'll come back to me and I must be patient some more.
 
Slept even less that night. Wondering where my ID would land up? Wondering when the feedback from both would come? Wondering what have my friends been up to?
 
Day 4 - Wednesday - Sleep-deprived and update-deprived, I tweeted Instagram and emailed Facebook demanding them to "at least" acknowledge that they have received my ID. I am worried. And of course, going out of my mind. But we aren't telling them that. And typical of Facebook and Instagram, there was no replies, no feedback, just complete silence. Googled some more about this issue. Found an article that said Facebook was trying to copy Twitter by offering a few of its accounts to submit IDs so they can become "verified". Very much like the "Verified" mark on Twitter. The offer is by invite only.
 
Now I am really flattered, but why would Facebook invite me to verify? I am a puny little account holder with not even close to 5000 friends, why would they single me out? Unless of course, they were thinking I was Kris Aquino, my celebrity look-alike, but that can't be as I'm sure Ms. Aquino has laid claims to her own Facebook account. I am one of her followers, for pete's sake.
 
Got an email from Instagram late that night to inform me that they had suspended my account by mistake. Was a bit happy that I could access it after that again but the Facebook suspension was still bugging me. What was taking them so long to unblock me? Contemplated if I should rather just change identity and say I am Ms. Aquino for now so I can get my account back. Aargh! Double aargh!
 
Day 5 - Thursday - I am showing signs of resignation. I am never getting my bloody connections back. I'd have to re-friend every single one of them...with a new account. Do I really wanna go through that? Waaah!
 
Googled some more and found that some people have started a complaint going on Facebook Community Centre about this issue. Cool! Kindred spirits! So I am not alone. This should keep me in good stead. I can finally vent with all the rest of them. Only issue is, how the heck do I comment on Facebook when my profile is blocked?
 
Well, that was easy. I used hubby's details and logged in as him and complained.

Knowing I wasn't alone kept me sane, I suppose. Learnt from fellow complainants that Facebook seemed to be targeting users randomly for accounts that are held by under-13s. Don't know how they randomly selected me when I don't look a day under 13 years. But hey, I suppose I just look THAT good.

Waited and waited. It was just a matter of time. But I started to think about life without Facebook....

Day 6 - Friday - Oh, what a joyous day! Received the much-awaited Facebook email to tell me that my suspension is lifted and it was all a mistake. It's funny how all the dark, black things I've been thinking of doing to Facebook for the last couple of days disappeared with the sudden realisation that I now have access back.

Logged into Facebook. Oh, how I've missed you. And all was well again. "I had a life but I seemed to have forgotten my password to it" seemed appropriate at the time. LOL.

Hubby's Need For Speed

Tuesday, March 26, 2013
As a very, very, very belated birthday gift, I presented my hubby with a racing voucher. His July birthday was celebrated with a few races around the track in October last year. He was a very happy chappy. But I am moving way too fast, even for F1 and my own story.

 
I had been saving up for this experience gift for a while (4 years to be exact) as it was a bit hefty on the price. But I really wanted him to experience it before we left South Africa so it was now or never.
 
The day finally arrived and we pitched up at the Kyalami Racing Circuit all excited and geared. Hubby was the special man and I was his designated photographer/cheerleader/groupie.
 
We arrived about an hour early and we were treated to some finger foods and computer racing games. Afterwards, the drivers were all called to suit up and get ready. Once dressed, they were gathered into a room to discuss safe practices while racing.

Dressed to the nines....in racing gear terms.
 
As there were quite a few drivers who were booked for the "elite" experience, hubby had to wait for his turn on the track. The "elite" experience cost a bit more (about 3 times the normal) and included 90 minutes on the track. My hubby, on his "normal" experience, only had 30 minutes of driving time. I was on a tight budget so opted for the "normal" experience. I think it would have taken me another 10 years to save up to the "elite" experience.
 
I also forgot to mention that with the "elite" package, you also get to put your surname on the racecar, much like on F1 racing. We were so happy to have found somebody with the same surname, albeit it was misspelt with an S rather than a Z in the end.


 So hubby and I waited a while for the other drivers. And then, it was his turn. I went up the spectators' platform to try and take a lot of photos of him around the tracks...but I must admit, after a few rounds, I lost track of him (no pun intended). It was just too difficult to identify the racecar he was in. It was not really in any special colour, it was black, like most of the other racecars that day. Plus travelling at almost 180kmph, who would have been able to catch a glimpse of the driver's face at that pace? So I just took photos of every black racecar coming my way, LOL. I caught one of him eventually.


 30 minutes went by fast. It felt just like 5 laps but hubby said he made at least 8 or 9. See what I mean about losing track of him?
 
Hubby commented that it felt really different driving a racecar. Your face contorted and jiggled in so many ways while driving at superhuman speed. Lots of dynamics and strategy involved. It was truly difficult. Hats off to Schumacher and the rest of them doing this for a living.
 
All in all, a very good birthday present.

ROFL With Trevor Noah

Tuesday, March 19, 2013
NB: This post is not a proper review and contains no spoilers! I don't think I can deliver the jokes the way Trevor Noah does it. So my suggestion would be to buy the DVD if you did not attend any of his shows.

Hah! Didn't think I'd get this chance to actually go watch stand up comedy as done by Trevor Noah. By the time I wanted to get tickets, I was too late. All his shows were sold out. All 42 days. Lucky there were still 4 days that were waiting to be opened and so I waited with bated breath.
 
After waiting for a few days, camping on the Computicket website, trolling for tickets....the floodgates opened and I grabbed the first ones I could get my hands on. It was not even my chosen night. But who cares about comfortability when it's Trevor Noah we're talking about? I had tickets to Trevor Noah's That's Racist show and that was all that mattered. I was doing the happy dance around the house.
 
If you're not from South Africa and are wondering who Trevor Noah is, let's do a bit of background. Trevor Noah (who surprisingly has a Wikipedia page) is an award-winning South African comedian. He is of Swiss and South African descent. He uses his mixed race heritage as well as spot-on observations about race and ethnicity in South Africa as the leading themes of his comedy.


Going back to the tickets and the show....It was a Wednesday night and the atmosphere within the Lyric Theatre (at Gold Reef City, Johannesburg) was great! You can feel the excitement and anticipation. The theatre was packed. (Sold out, remember?) Trevor Noah walks on stage and starts his laugh-a-second routine. It was excellent! It was simply irresistible. I just could not stop myself. I've never laughed so much that my tummy hurt. He was one mean, lean laugh master. His jokes were fresh and the punchlines just kept coming at you like there was nowhere to hide.


The only regret that I had was that I wasn't able to capture Trevor in action on stage. He moved too fast and kept creating shadows on my photos, LOL. "The Blur" is what he was. So I had to be content with taking a photo with his promotional ad outside the theatre. He was very still then. Hahahaha......
 
Definitely one of South Africa's great.

Dated: 7 November 2012, Lyric Theatre, Johannesburg, South Africa

Williams' Sisters In Action

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

To say that hubby and I are avid tennis fans is no lie. We love to endlessly watch these sportspeople hit the ball back and forth across the court. We cheer and clap in front of our home TV when the players dive and save a point and hit the ball right on the line to make it IN (or just nearly OUT if you wanna say it that way).
 
We previously had a chance to watch the SA Open at MonteCasino in 2011, where the final was won by South Africa's very own Kevin Anderson. Unfortunately, the SA Open had been discontinued due to the timing of the tournament. The event starts just after the major Australian Open and so, was not really well attended by the big names, especially when they've just wrapped up and played the semi-finals/finals of the Australian Open.
 
But I digress. I have no idea if the SA Open is coming back to SA soils, so we shall move on....
 
When we heard that the Williams' sisters were coming to South Africa for an exhibition match, we just couldn't pass the opportunity up. It was just too good to be true. They were such big names that shaped women's tennis to what it is today. Two champions in their own rights...in one court...in action.
 
The ticket line just opened and 5 minutes later, all the tickets on the front areas were sold out. Although not out front, I was able to book middle seats a few metres away. The view was near enough. The exhibition was held at the Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg.
 
The Williams' sisters were cheered on as they came on court. The game was entertaining to say the least. Venus appeared to be very down to earth, interacting with the crowd a lot more right from the start. Serena was quieter and took a bit longer to create a bond with the audience. Both were equally charming. Their games were excellent. I was awed by the speed and might of how the tennis ball bounced around in court. So this is how real pros play :-)
 
Serena "won" the exhibition after 2 sets. But both sisters won the hearts of the audience, most definitely.

Dated: 4 November 2012, Ellis Park Arena, Johannesburg, South Africa

Back!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Borrowed photo
The hiatus took longer than expected. It was supposedly just a November thingy but it just went on and I decided to take a longer holiday. Until things become normal again.
 
You see, I'm now in my new country, establishing a new home, settling the family in a new place, getting used to new surroundings, learning new ways.....all definitely blog materials....if I let it :-)
 
I hope to get the momentum going for the new year. All the best to everyone and I'm glad to be back for now.