Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Caution: Life Building in Progress

When David and I left the ship we pretty much had free range over where we wanted to live. While we did consider factors of friends and family, economy was probably the biggest influence. Knowing that I was going to be the sole breadwinner until his permanent residency application is approved, I needed to know I could make a decent salary – and fast.

We chose Calgary.

And I don’t think we could have made a better decision. Within a couple weeks of getting here I managed to land a couple jobs and get more than my fair share of job interviews and offers. Now, you must understand, while I come somewhat qualified in a few areas, I don’t come overly qualified for anything in particular. I have a… dynamic resume; let’s put it that way. I’ve had a variety of different jobs that seemingly have nothing to do with each other, and yet, have a lot of transferability.

I went to a career fair a week ago and the employers then made it clear to me that it was an employee’s labour market in Calgary (no surprise there.) It seems no one is able to get the people they need in this town. Everyone is hiring! And new businesses are almost desperate, which proves fortunate for anyone looking for work.

So I’ve got a job, we’ve got a place to live, and things are coming together rather quickly. I must say, after a year of ship life, I’m actually grateful to be able to cook, clean and be back under Canadian Labour laws. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much of a holiday after 6months of non-stop work, so a trip to Europe is in order for the fall. Ohh, how sad for me… (I’m kidding, that’s sarcasm.)

There is always bumps and grinds when planting my feet on solid ground again, but this one is coming along a lot smoother than anticipated. I have a lot to be grateful for, and I’m determined to not forget that.

God, it’s good to be home.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Awareness to Down There-ness

In the process of re-developing a normal life, I’ve decided I need to get involved in the community and I’m doing it the way I’ve always known best – Sport.

With the Underwear Affair 10k run fast approaching, I’ve signed myself up and started training. If you haven’t heard of this run, check out its website. It’s another of a million cancer fundraising events and I chose it because of my mother’s recent battle with the disease.

I have a goal of raising at least $500, and need all the support I can get. If you can afford to donate twenty – great! But really I’m just looking for a bunch of 5 and 10 dollar donations.

Just CLICK HERE and it will take you to the donation page.

Thanks again for the support – I promise lots of hugs and kisses to everyone who donates!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

I'm "Inbetween" Jobs

Ah - job hunting. Never has there been a task so full of desperation, rejection and disappointment. While I'm sure there are folks out there who can fire off one or two resumes and manage to get an interview and a job within a few days, I'm not one of them.

I've used a number of strategies this time round that seem to be working quite well for me (meaning, yes, I have interviews, hooray!).

1.      It's a numbers game - the more applications you send and people you meet, then, quite obviously, you will manage to land more interviews. As this is quite time consuming, prioritizing applications you plan to spend a lot of time on, and ones you just want to fire off without much more than a spell check, is important. If nothing else, writing, writing and re-writing all those applications could always land you a job as cover letter writer… for other unemployed people… who can only pay you in dandelions and G.I. Joe figurines they’ve kept since they were kids…

2.      Do your research – while some say this isn’t important until you actually land an interview, I say otherwise. Being able to entice the HR Manager by showing you have more than a little knowledge on the industry and their company is a great way to have them put you in the “contact” pile. Again, time consuming, so pick and choose which jobs you think will actually care that you went out of your way to learn more and which ones will think you are a little too keen (i.e., the supervisor at Burger Barn probably doesn’t even know that the company has invested $2.5million dollars in research to determine why everyone who eats their onion rings has flatulence that smells of dryer lint.)

3.      Don’t limit yourself – why just apply for one industry? With the market the way it is (Canada isn’t as bad as other places, but still), it’s not as though there is a ton of jobs to choose from in any one industry. And who knows, the industry you are looking in could have 30 other people sitting online desperately applying for all the same jobs you are. More than likely your past career options have supplied you with transferable skills to other job fields. Hunt through some of your recent work experiences for tasks and skills that are commonly seen in other jobs and display those prominently on your cover letter and resume, even if this means using some extracurricular or volunteer experiences you have (why not? It’s still experience). I mean, if you’ve been a plumber your entire life, acting might be a bit out of your league, but try modeling for one of those Coppertone Sunscreen ads!

4.      Put your pride aside – while setting standards and salary ranges is important, when you’re living off your savings, having some income is better than no income. Applying for little odd jobs that won’t really pay the bills, or aren’t really what you are looking for, come in handy, especially if you end up unemployed for some time; you’ll be thankful you can still say you work for a company when you need to apply for a rental apartment, cell phone, etc. Not to mention, it fills in blank spots on your resume that employers generally don’t like to see? “So, what were you doing all of summer 2010?” “Oh, you know, just the same old, same old. Researching Burger Barn and starting my G.I. Joe collection.”

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Graduation Celebration Frustration

High school graduation in North America had become one of the most ridiculous events to ponder. I am completely in support of celebrating the youth’s achievements, but for more reasons than simply being disgusted by some wealthy parents buying thousand dollar gowns with gifts of rhinoplasty, breast augmentation and the newest BMW, I have come to see this annual, cultural milestone a spectacle hiding what concludes as utter disappointment (I.e., how far can a high school diploma really get you now adays?).

The nearly-twenty age group becomes the unwilling worm hole for all advice from whoever deems themselves learned enough to provide it. While best intentions are always in place, it gets frustrating to watch elders pass on information that seems to be developed from cynicism and fear, rather than hope and optimistic practicality. 

I have exclaimed my frustration with ideas of being able to control your future before, and as I described then, it’s not to say that I don’t believe we have great influence in our lives, it just seems idealistic to believe that with so many variables in the world we actually have control over where our lives will ultimately lead.

So why then, do we endless push and nag teenagers to pick their life path? Why can’t they just study something in school that they are going to enjoy learning about regardless of their career path? Most likely they’ll change their minds 8 times or more anyway

Are you doing exactly what you imagined you would be when you graduated high school? Or even on the same career path?

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Quitting Doesn't Make Me A Criminal

I have a new view of what it means to be free when you are in America.

As my previous post depicts, when disembarking a ship "own will" (quitting and not finishing your contract), the American border patrol gets a bit paranoid and decides that everyone wants to live in the states and would try to sneak off and live there rather than take your flight home. Even Canadians apparently. Therefore, we get safeguarded to the airport and only given our passports once we step foot onto the plane. 

Here's the brief version of the appalling situation that took place when me, an Italian waiter named Fabio, and a Romanian room stewardess named Georgetta disembarked the ship own will on Saturday, March 26, 2011 at approximately 11am.

We met our safeguards just off of the ships gangway with all our gear; I'd managed to postpone saying goodbye to David until the last possible minute so he was still with me at this time. The four of us were making silly jokes, like "Quick, RUN!", in an effort to mock how ridiculous we thought this whole procedure was. Needless to say, we weren't going to run, we were completely willing to abide by all policy and not cause any problems or stress on anyone. 

Eventually the three of us get separated from the rest of the disembarking crew and we were pulled into a side room. There was a customs agent sitting behind the table; his immediate demeanor was aggressive and short tempered, but he put on that condescending, seemingly friendly tone every time he spoke to us. Fabio tried to speak to him in Spanish because it sounded like he had an accident (and so many people in Miami DO speak Spanish). He didn't like this so much. He seemed a bit aggravated by it. He told our safeguards to get away, so they went and stood at the corner of the room. 

As requested, Fabio pulled his luggage up onto the table in front of the officer, and when the officer asked him to open it, he replied "The key is in my pocket, do you want me to open it, or you?"

Out of nowhere, the CBP officer ripped Fabio's hat off and threw it against the wall, then through Fabio against the wall and  began to slap his hands up and down his body like he was searching him. He forcefully moved his hands in positions on the wall, then began kicking his feet apart, and then just kicking him seemingly without purpose, all while yelling "I've had enough of this shit! Get against the wall!" He never once told Fabio to put his hands on the wall, or spread his feet apart. He never once used verbal demands. He just violently forced him into a position. 

Now, whether he thought Fabio was speaking Spanish again, or didn't understand him at all because of his accent and got mad that he was reaching in his pocket, I don't know - but no matter what, his response was outlandish, aggressive, and completely inappropriate.

I got scared. How was he going to treat me? How could I let him treat Fabio this way? He's still kicking him! So I opened my big mouth "You can't kick him!" I said shocked, "That is so inappropriate - I'm going to get help!" and made my way towards the door. I made it five or six steps before he started yelling  "Hey! Stop!" which I did. Then I had 3 or 4 other guards on me who handcuffed me and dragged me back to my seat where they handcuffed me and Fabio to the bench.

 They knew I wasn't going to run away. They knew Fabio wasn't causing any problems. But they sure did lie to our  bosses on the ship. They came in and glared at us. My safeguard told me later that the officer told everyone we were swearing, and calling them names, and threatening them. None of which is true. His way of making his actions appear justified. Asshole.

We sat there handcuffed to the bench for a good 20-30minutes, and during this time, when our bosses from the ship did come in, I tried to take the opportunity to explain it all to them, but unfortunately another officer came in started screaming at me to shut up. When I told him he couldn't tell me to shut up (which apparently isn't true...) he told me I'd be going to the airport with him in handcuffs and stormed out of the room in a huff!

They were behaving like we were these disgusting criminals - not a couple of crew members that wanted to go home.

Another Customs lady who'd I'd worked with on the ship came in and started tearing a strip off me; she was attacking me like the things I'd done had been so disrespectful. This is when I realized everyone was against me. There was no way I was going to win this battle fighting, so I put on some fake tears, said my apologies and sat there boiling inside while this bitch who knew nothing about what happened other than the lies she'd been told kept screaming at me and telling me I'd be lucky if I ever got let into the states again.

Poor Georgetta sat in the corner crying the whole time because she was so scared. A nice, calm officer came over and took my cuffs off and whispered in my ear "just play the game. keep your mouth shut and play the game." , but not after they went through every piece of my luggage while I sat meters away unable to watch them do it. I asked if a woman could check my bag because of my personal effects. They said I wasn't allowed to ask for that. They laid everything out on the table for the whole room to see. No, that's no embarrassing. Not while I sit there handcuffed to bench for having gone to get help for my friend who was being abused by an arrogant, power tripping officer.

I spoke to Georgetta and my female safeguard after the incident when we were alone, and both of them told me that the CBP officer was way out of line and we didn't deserve any of that. Not that I need confirmation, but there at least lies proof that other people were scared too. That other people witnessed it and knew he was simply looking to treat us like criminals for no reason.

I was traumatized for days. It was all I could think about when my mind went quite. These officers, meant to protect, being so corrupt.

I've changed my view on how safe and free America is. And lost even more respect for the nation.
 I know the safeguards were just doing their job, but after all that crap, they had to follow me around and do pretty much everything for me when it came to checking in at the airport and following me to the bathroom. I really did feel like a criminal. 

When I landed in Montreal, I nearly cried just out of gratitude for being back on Canadian soil.