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.