The End. Sort Of.

The End. Sort Of.

Dear readers, it has been 5 months, 1 week and 3 days since my last blog post…

I have been a rubbish blogger this year.  Absolutely terrible. Someone much smarter than me once said ‘never ruin an apology with an excuse’.  Well I’ll be happy to forget the apology as I have a full blog post of excuses waiting (also read: shit I’ve been doing this year).  In fact, my last post was all about the weirdo aspects of Vancouver, which I’ll still stand by, however it does leave the whole thing on a bit of a negative note…which would just be a terrible and completely inaccurate reflection on the past two years.  Also known as The Best Two Years of My Life.  Yup, you read it right.  The Best.

So what exactly has been so important that I spent so long away from the blog that I actually forgot the password?

I’ve always tried really really hard to NOT be one of those travel bloggers who bores poor, uninterested souls with walls of text detailing every second of every trip in dry, I’d-rather-be-having-my-eyeballs-poked-with-hot-needles-right-now detail.  Kind of like a post-social media version of being subject to hours of Auntie Nora and Uncle Alec’s holiday snaps of grass and such.  

So here’s the deal.  A quick (really!) list of where I’ve been/what I’ve been doing this year with a few snaps here and there for that extra dimension of ‘whoa I really feel like I was there!’.  Okay.  Go!

January – March: Lot’s of snowboarding! 

Much in the style of Reservoir Dogs.

boarding

April: My friends Sandy and Dan came to visit me in Vancouver.  

sandydanvan

And then we went to…

hollywood

And lastly…Vegas!!

vegas

May:  Camping at Cultus Lake.  The kind of camping that involved Domino’s Pizza.  

camping

May/June:  Packing up and saying goodbye to our little Vancouver home.  Far too many goodbyes.  Obviously lots of alcohol was required.

everyone

lastdayinhouse

 I should also add if the following photo looks as though it may have been taken at 2am by a homeless man who was paid generously in loose change for his troubles, then that’s about right.  Seemed like a genius idea at the time.

lastnight

June 12th – June 16th: A final adventure with the crew.  First stop…

portland

And then final call, San Fran.

sanfran

June 17: Vancouver Airport…bahhhh!

yvr

The soppy bit.

So you’re still awake?  Excellent.  If you can last through this next part without dry heaving the you’ve done a stellar job.  What a pro you are.

So yes, as stated, my (almost!) two years in Vancouver have been pretty much the best two years of my life.  So far that is.  Despite what my mum keeps trying to tell me, I believe that I am in fact getting ‘any younger’ and there are still many years of fun and giggles ahead.  Anyway yes, Vancouver.  Wonderful, beautiful, amazing city.  I couldn’t recommend it enough, if you ever get the chance make sure you go.  I’ll be back there soon enough, but more on that later…

Nonetheless Vancouver will always be there.  That is unless the threat of ‘the big one’ that has grown adults sitting under their desks in offices all over the Pacific Northwest for five minutes every year on account of the annual earthquake drill actually comes into fruition.  But all things going well, Vancouver will always be there.  

However the friends that I made and the memories and experiences that I had with them will not.  It’s not like leaving home, when you can usually more or less count on the fact that most people will still be there when you get back, and that things will pretty much be the same.  The transient lifestyle will attract those that are similar, and as a result the majority of my friends in Vancouver were like me, just passing through.  A few are still there and probably will be for a while yet.  But not forever.  And yes it’s wicked to now have friends from all over the world that I know I’ll see again at some point.  But the circumstances that brought us all together for a year or two and created the little life that we loved are no longer there.  It was an existence that’s now a memory.  An awesome memory.  A really, really awesome memory.  

Oh man up woman.  So what now?

Well I’ve been back across the pond for almost a full month now.  Lots of catching up with family and friends, and yet more drinking required.  Good job I’m so bloody good at it!  

I did spend last week in Sorrento, Italy as a bridesmaid at my cousin’s wedding.  She was beautiful, the day (and week) were gorgeous and the location was stunning.  So all in all I’ve not been fairing too badly. I’ve also had some good news on the job front.  With effect from the 5th of August I will be working for a company called Audley Travel as a Country Specialist for Canada! Two very exciting things I’ll mention about this job (of which there are many).  

1.  They will be sending me back to Canada next month for 3-4 weeks to experience some of their tours and hotels as part of my training.  Not too shabby.

2.  I will be working at their new London office.  So this means a move to London. A whole new city to explore and get excited about!

What about your poor wee blog?

Well you may or may not have noticed that I now have a fancy new domain (aka web address) that does not have ‘wordpress’ or ‘flookr’ (not really sure what I was thinking with that one) in the title.  I’m right here at http://www.herethereandmostlycanada.com for now and for always.

Although my lack of output may have led you to believe otherwise in the past few months, I really enjoy writing this blog and I’ve been thinking of taking it up a notch for a while now.  The only issue was I had no idea what direction to take it in.  I knew I was leaving Canada, so there was no point in keeping the current title and I had a few ideas about future travels but nothing solid.  But now that my actual job title is about to be ‘Canada Specialist’ then I think that the current title is more than apt.

So my plan now is to draw a line under this old basic, yet effective format and relaunch the blog under the same title but with a shiny new face lift and a little more focus and direction.  

So thank you very much for reading/following/commenting.  If you are about to embark on a working holiday visa in Canada, then please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.  I have plans for a ‘FAQ’ for the new website, so this would help me and hopefully be of benefit to you.

Well that’s all for now.  It’s been a blast!  I’ll see you on the other side folks!

Lots and lots of love,

Caroline x

 

Rare sighting reported: The Elusive Canadian Working Holiday Visa!

Now people reading this who have never had and will never have the compulsion to apply for a working holiday visa in Canada may understandably perceive the subject as a bit of a dry one.  They await tales of sub zero temperatures, northern lights, killer whale sightings, bear attacks… Well I, as well as many people reading this I’m sure, can attest to the fact that the adrenaline, stress, fear, sweat and general sense of doom involved in pursuing one of these ‘working holiday visa’ cretins could take on the body’s reaction to being chased through the woods by a grizzly any day.

Firstly, a little bit of back story as to why I decided to take on this dizzy beast once again. In a previous post I mentioned how I was planning on heading south with my roommates when my visa runs out in October.  Well said roommates only have their current visa until June, and so needed to apply for a second year unless it starts raining gold between now and June.  So after working out that if I ever wanted to return to Canada in the future, I wouldn’t be able to participate in the program anyway as I’d be too old (happy days!), I thought I may as well get one as a back up.  Get one as back up, no problem… just like grabbing a copy of the latest Marie Clare.

No.  No it wasn’t like that at all.  Nowhere near it in fact.  If someone at working holiday visa HQ was employed under the title ‘Make-this-process-as-difficult-and-as-glitch-ridden-as-possible Officer’, then they did a fine job indeed.

Now I’m not going to bore the non-applicants (or induce PSD in the 2013 applicants) with the details of the process, however I feel that a little summary of the issues is in order:

  • Last year’s quota opened in December.  Some of us planning to apply for a second year ordered two police checks (at the recommendation of the visa people) which are valid for 12 months, so they could be used for the following year’s applications.  This year’s quota opened mid-February.  Police checks invalid.
  • Last year’s quota of 5,350 visas allocated within 5 months.  This year’s 5,350 visas were allocated within five hours!  Now there is a vicious rumour going around that BUNAC promoted the program to excess this year…for the sole purpose of broadening the horizons of today’s collective youth, whom conveniently are all required to pay £400 to BUNAC for said broadening.  This may be the reason for the increased interest in the land that spawned Justin Beiber…either that or Mr Cameron is screwing our great nation over wonderfully.
  • This, combined with 2013’s new and improved online system – which involved a website designed to handle traffic equivalent to the population of Craggy Island, meant that filling out and submitting a form which should have taken 20 minutes was actually taking a great chunk from most of our young lives.
  • The visas were released in three batches, presumably to stagger the processing of the paperwork.  However the crazy website traffic meant that many people hadn’t even completed half of the sections by the time they had run out i.e. three hours later.
  • The whole process was based in London, and so adhered to London times.  This meant that us Canadian based applicants had to be ready and waiting at 4am for the ‘word’.  The ‘word’ didn’t come until three hours later, which meant missed days at work.

The last batch was today.  All 2,350  visas were gone within half an hour!  On the lighter side of the news, I am very pleased to report that our whole crew managed to secure a foot in the door – with one of us just squeezing in on the last 15 visas….so all plans are a gogo!

A message to the government of Canada:  only the hardiest, most determined and downright boldest of our country men and women will be gracing your shores in 2013. They should be treated with the appropriate appreciation and respect.  Or given a $50 loaded Tim Horton’s card at immigration.

And for those who are up for a little PSD….enjoy 😉Image

“Work is the curse of the drinking classes” – Part II

So this is basically an update from my last post about jobs and finding work in Vancouver, which I’m sure you’ve read with fervor and enthusiasm… but just in case it slipped through your readings somehow, you can have another look here.

So after upping my alcohol intake as suggested by Mr Wilde, it seems that some misguided soul has decided to employ me!  This wasn’t without a few bumps and near misses along the way, but as things always seem to…it all turned out alright in the end.

So this is how it went…

Encounter 5 – The extended cut.

  • Organisation: Expert Recruiters – Recruitment Agency
  • Job Title: Receptionist
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: Yes
  • Outcome: I had a good couple of reception assignments with these guys, however work isn’t guaranteed.  I did almost end up with a permanent position with one of their clients, but I received my current job offer beforehand.

Encounter 6

  • Organisation: Teach Away Inc
  • Job Title: Teacher Placement Coordinator
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: No
  • Outcome: I was a little confused about this one.  They gave me a telephone interview, invited me in and asked me the same questions.  When I asked for feedback as to why I was unsuccessful I was told that I didn’t have enough experience teaching abroad…which they would have known from my resume before even speaking to me.  Never mind.  Onto the next one.

Encounter 7

  • Organisation: Enterprise Rentals
  • Job Title: Trainee Manager
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: N/A
  • Outcome: So these guys found my resume on monster.ca and gave me a call.  I passed the initial telephone interview, and found out that the job was basically a management trainee program for their rental stores and the talent finder had picked up on my sales background.  After the interview, I checked the company and program out on Glassdoor (a really great website for checking up on what it’s like to work for companies – not so big in the UK yet but pretty huge in Canada and the US) and didn’t really like the sound of the program.  Long hours, intense sales, below average salary.  I decided that I would go to the second interview if nothing else came up, but that same week Expert Recruiters offered me a decent assignment, so I cancelled the interview.

Encounter 8

  • Organisation: AppleOne Recruiters
  • Job Title: Office Layout Coordinator at BC Hydro
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: Yes
  • Outcome: Definitely the best recruitment agency I have come across out here (I’ll detail a few others later) – this job pretty much found me!  AppleOne’s online application and tests are a little more detailed, lengthy and difficult that other recruiters…so I started it, got half way though and decided to come back to it later.  A few days later one of their recruiters called me to arrange an interview the next day.  I went to the office, completed the application and tests, had my interview, and had word of a six month position with BC Hydro within 10 days.  During that 10 days, my recruiter was on the phone almost every day updating me with progress – extremely efficient!

So I arrived in Vancouver on the 18th October, and I started my new job on the 7th January – that’s eleven and a half weeks to find something long term.  I will admit, however, that I was being slightly fussy.  I declined a couple of jobs and was really holding out on having to work weekends unless my situation became dire.  It paid off though, now I have a sweet little job that pays over $20 per hour and gives me my weekends.  And temp work did keep me floating along in between.

As far as temp agencies go, most of my contact has been with Expert Recruiters and AppleOne.  However a few others I am registered with and have friends who work with are:

  • Miles – offered me an assignment which I declined, as I was already on assignment.  They do seem to be quite negative about the visa situation, giving the impression that you will only ever get temp work whilst you have Working Holiday Visa status.  This completely not true, and I get the feeling that they are just looking to have a decent bank of temps to choose from.
  • Executrade – I signed up with these guys as one of the clients I was working at for Expert Recruiters switched agency while I was there, and I wanted to stay at the job.  They were very good at getting me in for interviews etc and setting the job I wanted up for me, but I got the BC Hydro call before the assignment started.
  • AngusOne – My roommate has worked with these guys for the past 6 months and recommends them – I’ve not really had any contact though.

So that’s been my experience so far – I hope that it helps some of you guys who are planning on coming over in 2013.  My advice would be not to get too caught up in the line of work you end up in…as long as you are happy and you can pay your way.  Once you have been out here and working for a few months, you will see how easy it is to slip back into the work-home-sleep cycle.  So why bother living in a different country if you are doing exactly as you would back home?  You really do need to take the time to appreciate where you are and why you are here.  Luckily for me, the views from my work are a constant reminder that I’m loving every minute of life right now!

Enjoy…

My view from work 18 months ago.

Image

My view from work now.

Image

New Year, New Outlook, New Plan!

Well Happy New Year to you all!

So I was going to write a New Year themed blog based around New Years resolutions and 2013 goals etc, but it’s been done, and done again, and again, and a few more squillion times after that.  Anyway how many of your resolutions did you keep last year?  I can’t really remember mine, although I can guess it went along the lines of lose weight, get fitter, find a new job, learn a new skill, get to Canada…meh maybe a couple of ticks in there,  better than any other year!  Still, the whole thing needs a shake up.  So I have one for this year.  And here it is.

Live more in the moment, without worrying about the past or the future.

No I have not been captured and brainwashed by some hippie commune, nor have I been taking advantage of Vancouver’s relaxed smoking laws.  Basically what I’m going to try to do is enjoy what’s happening right now, and not get lost thinking about how the future will turn out.  After all this is it, this is life, right now.  Obviously some forward planning is always required in life i.e. what time shall I wake up, how will I get to my destination, one foot in front of the other etc…so it’s not too literal, but you get the idea!  I was out snowboarding on Cypress Mountain the other night, and the view from the top was just unreal.  I did take some photos (to be included in a later blog), but they really don’t do it justice.  It was real ‘Holy crap, this is my life!’ moment.

The New and Improved 2013 Plan

So when I first set out on this adventure, although I had no solid long term plan, the general idea was to live and work in Canada for as long as my visa would let me, and then decide if I wanted to go down the Permanent Residency route or head back to Bonnie Scotland.  Although I love Vancouver, I mentioned in an earlier post that I did miss the excitement of traveling to a new place, discovering a new city.  Well it looks like there will be more travels in the pipeline…

My current roommates arrived in Vancouver in June 2012, and set out with the plan of working in Vancouver for a year before traveling through South America for six months and then applying for a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand.  After two months of living with them, the excitement of such adventure has completely rubbed off on me.  After a few weeks of thinking about it, I asked them if they would mind me tagging along…and they didn’t seem too traumatised by the idea.  They are going to apply for the second year visa just to give them some extra time to save, which works out perfectly as my visa will be up in October, our estimated date of departure.  This means that I wont be applying for the second visa, which works well for me as it means that I could always come back to Canada again.

So what with living in the moment and plans to travel to some of world’s most stunning places, 2013 is set to be a good one!

“Work is the curse of the drinking classes” – Oscar Wilde

So curse me already!

So, a little like the rain situation, I decided that all of those tales of good jobs being hard to come by when you first arrive in Canada was just rumour and hearsay.  I will arrive in Vancouver to glorious sunshine and employers begging me to work for them.  There’s nothing wrong with a little optimism, right?

Okay so it’s not been all that bad. I have been in Vancouver just over 5 weeks and so far I have had five interviews, three job offers and two actual jobs – but it seems that quantity is overtaking quality in this department.  Here is a breakdown:

1st Encounter

  • Organisation: Swatch Retail, Metrotown
  • Job Title: Assistant Manager
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: No
  • Outcome: I wasn’t too excited about the prospect of getting back into retail anyway.

2nd Encounter:

  • Organisation: Public Outreach
  • Job Title: Door to Door Canvasser
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: Yes
  • Outcome: Job declined.  I don’t quite have the stones or the inclination for door to door fundraisng

3rd Encounter:

  • Organisation: Donorworx
  • Job Title: World Vision Fundraiser, Capilano Mall
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: Yes
  • Outcome: Job accepted.  Seemed like a cool organisation, but I wasn’t too keen on the job which was asking mall patrons to sponsor children.  Quit when agency work started coming in.

4th Encounter:

  • Organisation: Vancouver Chinese Gardens
  • Job Title: Volunteer and Event Coordinator
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: No
  • Outcome: Really disappointed that I didn’t get this, they told me that I was in the final 3 and that I was a really strong candidate, but the person they hired had more Vancouver experience.  Not much I could have done about that I guess.

Encounter 5

  • Organisation: Expert Recruiters – Recruitment Agency
  • Job Title: N/A
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: Yes
  • Outcome: Now doing temp work whenever these guys can offer it.  Work is usually fun but inconsistent.

So considering that most people I have spoken to spent at least a month looking for work and at least three months before anything career related came along, I’m not doing too badly.

I’ll just need to keep drinking, and according to Mr Wilde, my curse will soon arrive 😉

The first few days as a sort of immigrant…

Thursday

I had a strange first few days in Vancouver.  My first night I went out to a Battle of the Bands night with the guys from the hostel – we got lost in the rain on the way there which wasn’t super fun, but the amazing night and musical talent made up for it.  Conclusion for the evening: Vancouver is wet, a good night out and contains many attractive men.  Two out of three I can live with!

Friday

I sorted out all of the boring stuff today, bank account, SIN number, cell phone…not because I am usually this organised but because I wanted to clear my weekend up for things of a fun nature!  I also met my old Cali classmate Ashish, who lives in Vancouver,  for drinks and some food which was cool.  I also fired off a few replies to roommate ads on Craigslist.  One got back to me, I have my first viewing tomorrow, yay!

Saturday

I went on an organised walk around Chinatown and East Hastings with the hostel.  I has heard a lot of not fun things about Downtown Eastside, so I thought it would be great to get the perspective of someone in the know.  There is a lot of really cool street art down there, and some interesting gentrification going on with slightly pretentious art galleries popping up in the most unlikely places.   We were taken to The City Bakery in Chinatown for some amazing steamed buns, then along to the Chinese Gardens and finishing off with a local ale at the renowned Alibi Rooms.

Image

I had to dash off for my viewing in Kitsilano (the place to be in Vancouver, apparently) which went well but a few more people still have to view the place.

This was then followed by a rather odd evening…I am on a couple of Facebook groups designed for people who are on the same visa in Canada.  A few meet ups have been arranged through these groups, and one girl had gotten in touch with me asking me to let her know when I arrive so we can hang out.  So as I had nothing to do tonight, I messaged her and she told me that she was meeting a crowd from the Meetup.com website (very popular here in Vancouver, for various reasons relating to general widespread lack of socializing) if I wanted to come along.  I agreed, we met in a bar and the girls from the meetup.com group were great, I was having an awesome time.  After ordering another round of drinks, said girl (we shall call her Lady X from here on in) told us that she was cold, but her apartment was only a few blocks away so she would run home and get a jacket. Thirty minutes later, Lady X still wasn’t back.  We were moving on and still had to settle the tab, so I text/called/vm’ed here – nothing.  So we had to pay for her drinks!  Thanks for that Lady X – although I had a great night with the rest of the group.

Sunday

The plan was to go to Stanley Park, hire bikes and have a good old time cycling around the sea wall.  But the pesky water falling from the sky on the way there meant that we got very wet and were forced to go to Vancouver Aquarium instead.  After watching The Cove, I swore that I would never pass through the threshold of another live dolphin show sporting aquarium again.  However I managed to justify it to myself by reading lots on their ongoing research in protecting wild Orcas…so with yin and yang set right for now, we went in.  They actually have a really cool set up and it was good fun, although my conscience did have to turn a blind eye to the crocodile in a tank forced to endure a ‘tropical storm’ every half hour and the Beluga whale show.  On the way back, the skies miraculously cleared and I had my view of the snow tipped mountains for the very first time – amazing!  Just when I thought lady luck had finished with me for the day, I won $5 in penny poker back at the hostel in the evening!Image

Beautiful British Columbia

You can’t really argue with a province whose tagline is ‘The best place in the world’, now can you?

Thursday

‘Those Americans will give you a tough time at the border’ they said.  ‘The Canadians are great, you’ll have no problem going the other way’ they said.  They said wrong.  I was supposed to cross the border back into Canada on the train, but there was some sort of problem so they put us on a bus (I still need to complain about that…), and I was the only one who had my bag emptied and swabbed for narcotics.  If it had been anyone but an armed immigration officer with my passport and visa in his hand, I would have told him to bugger off and did he realise how bloody difficult it is to pack a rucksack?  But I didn’t.  Because he was.

It turns out that the day before, an immigration officer had been shot at that exact same border crossing, so I forgave his paranoia a little.

People told me that it rained a lot in Vancouver.  “Puh, I’m from Glasgow”, I scoffed. “You don’t know rain until you’ve been there for a summer”.  It turns out that they do.  In fact if Vancouverites were to compete against Glaswegians in a rain-athon, my money would be on Vancouver.

This view may be slightly tainted by the fact that it rained for 24 solid hours when I arrived here, thus dashing all of my hopes that this talk of rain was just a vicious rumour.  I has booked into the Hosteling International Downtown hostel – I had realised a few hostels ago that the Planet Traveler in Toronto was a gem unto its own and so had stopped expecting such a standard, but even with this in mind, I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed by the retro-but-not-in-a-cool-way feel of the place.  Regardless of this, I was happy with my room and new roommates – Sinead and Ursula.  The girls were from Ireland and had arrived in Vancouver on a working visa ten days before me, it was a reminder that the care free traveler part of my adventure was over, and it was time to start looking for gainful employment…and a fixed address.