Wednesday, April 28, 2010

bfg on getting used to things being smaller

Today sent out an email to family and friends with a link to my Picasa album of all the juicy things I am selling.
Many are so surprised that I am selling my laptops for a netbook.

The answer is I need to get used to smaller.

As an honourary giant, I have certain privileges in life. I was never a delicate walker for instance - instead I bulldoze ahead. Some people think its rude but the really small kids that I run over I often don't even see in my hurry and long shadow.

But this has been a privilege. I am going off to a place where space is limited and where my height which here is passably tall will be extremely noticeable (so I am told). I need to get used to it.

I am soooo excited to get rid of my stuff. It's time for a fresh start even if it will be a tough one.

In other updates, today via email I got my Pre-Orientation Schedule from JET. It turns out they are going to host 4 hr/week Japanese language lessons at McGill! How awesome is that! I am so excited - it will be so good to get into a grove. I am lost without a classroom. It is like a sailor with no boat. Pathetic but the presence of a teacher and the fear of disappointing them really moves me forward.

In June there is also a karaoke get together where I will meet other MTL JET Short-Lister's and Alternates! Again, amazing.

with that I sign off - returning to my craig's list frenzy.
Here is the link to my album in case you did not already know:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

bfg on no being the new yes

The past two days haven't been easy.

Still, I am going to take the advice of L from work and start with the good news.

I did get my leave of absense from work! That means when/if I return from Japan in a year my job will still be waiting for me. Hopefully, I will be able to either get a teaching position at a CEGEP or upgrade to a position that requires more than ten percent of my brain space. Don't get me wrong - my job has been perfect for my needs right now. I required something that left me stress-free at the end of the day to go to school but still paid me decent enough to live. But it is not challenging nor does it use any of my many god-given talents...  I want wake up in the morning and love what I do. Hopefully, Japan will be a time like that.

More good news is that the criminal record papers are in so technically JET Consulate has everything they need from me to send me over to the big J. The coordinator even confirmed on the phone that she was looking at all the docs right then. I do have to send them a copy of my renewed passport (since mine expires in early 2011 before I would get back) but that is not required for now. No - I can now sit back (figurativly) and wait for my Pre-Orientation package and the big Contract.

And just now I finished with the roomie TM and the bf Ant to take pics of all the oh-so-many items I am selling: electronics, furniture, small appliances and knick-nacks. I love selling stuff not just for the extra money but because I physically feel like I am loosing weight. I watch some stranger come in my house and carry out that table or the big desk and it feels so fresh. This is going to feel good.

Whatever I am keeping is partly going to the bfs and in part going to my Nonnina's garage. Last time I stored all my books there, she would call me when she thought I was being "bad" and threaten to burn them. So in order to decrease the threat's sting (she never did it though but still she has the power to), I sent out an email to close, trusting friends offering to lend out books from my library for a year. I hope people take me up on it  since it means my babies will be loved and cared for while I am gone. Everytime I pack a box of books I can't help but feel a little guilty at hiding its awesomeness from the world for my convenience.

Alas, the past 48 hrs haven't been so upbeat.

I don't want to go into the details mostly because it is so confusing. The big stick-in-the-ass was when I discovered that the Government Student Loan doesn't GIVE me a bursary, they pay that amount to themselves. In the end, it is still good - there is less money for me to pay back to them but I was counting on that for my Japan fund.

I have a perhaps unfounded fear of being stuck in Japan with no money. It scares the begezzes out of me. So I am trying super hard to surpass the JET recommendation of $2,700 and hit at least 3K.

So this news set me on the panicking mode which makes me far from the best of company.

Basically, I just spent hours on the phone calling banks and government offices and other big authoritative institutions that had me on hold for way too long and refused to take responsibility for their inaction or actions. It was frustrating but with these things you just have to grind your teeth and smile. They may not see your smile but let me tell you something for free - they hear it.

Its getting late and I still have lots of things on my list I need to check off. It's been a long day so I think will just leave it at that...

bfg stays awake by the shear anticipation of completing another check-list item.

bfg on envelope etiquette

I came home early today. And there, on my kitchen table was a crisp white envelope containing my criminal record check from the police station.

That document cost me $85.oo so you better believe I want to make sure that I do this right.

The last bit of paperwork that JET needs from me is a "Vulnerability Check" - it means that I have not been convicted of a crime or involved in any activity while I have been in Canada that would lead someone to believe that I am a potential threat to youths. Obviously, these people haven't been to my Sunday sermons.

I called Tania G., the JET Coordinator for the Montreal Consulate. I try very hard NOT to call the Consulate because I can only imagine how many they get an hour. A hundred? But considering what was at stake I decided to bother her and ask if I am allowed to open the envelope and make photocopies as back-ups. It turns out it was aye-okay and I did just that. Piece of advice: anything you paid for, photocopy. How often have people lost the doc, never received it or just can't read it... and then in comes Nessa waving the photocopies and proofs saying "Oh no! You got this." Trust me, it will save your ass. All you need is a beautiful black filing cabinet like mine to organize it all in. A worthy investment since only important people have filing cabinets and shredders - true story.

There is something to be said about a crisp piece of paper all stamped and shiny the way paper does that says I am a good person. Not nice, but good. I haven't killed anyone, or hurt them in any way that has been a detriment to society. I think once I come back from Japan I may frame my photocopy and put it in my entrance or something.

Something else though... one pieces of 8x11 inch paper drove me crazy: had me go to 2 police stations, call 3 centres, borrow the car with the bf, wait in line for 40 mins, stress for 3 weeks and bite my nails... all over this itty bitty piece of paper. Puts things into perspective - I need to get a life.

bfg returns to calming yoga tactics.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

bfg on wrinkles

One thing I love about blogging is that you naturally start to browse other people's sites to see what is on their radar and, especially when it comes to reading about current JETS, how they are dealing with the recent turn of events in their lives. In many ways, I started this blogging adventure so I can record my inconsistent thoughts as well as potentially help others in the future. And maybe you all will learn a little more about my great love, Japan, in the process.

Now for anyone who knows me, I have always been into healthy skin care; I wear sunblock all year round, never tan and avoid the beach like the plague (though that has more to do with not getting sand in my ass, but anyways). I also try my best to avoid squinting and frowning, often hearing the opening page to The Princess Bride in my head when Adela loses her beauty as she devotes too much time to fretting about the loss of her youth; the wrinkling of her brow led to worry lines and creases abound.

I write this because a small, very small, part of me is starting to worry.

Oh, don't get me wrong I am excited. But there have been some critiques of JET - very vague ones - that have preoccupied me since I started asking around about the program.

At a birthday party last June when I mentioned in conversation how I was thinking of teaching in Japan through JET a friend of the bf bellowed, "JET sucks." And though he had several other very imaginative adjectives to add, his complaint lacked any substance to sway me.

But I have since encountered similar persons and it has been frustrating. The most concrete critique has been the lack of organization. Too date though, I have been amazed at how JET, especially the MTL Consulate who I have had the most direct contact with, has been able to coordinate everything with such precision, albeit giving themselves a significant amount of time to complete tasks; it took 10 weeks for them to provide answers of JET acceptance after the interview! Still, they have been responsive, responsible and informative. At my interview, they said they would mail all answers on April 12th. April 14th I had my response in my mailbox - lovely. The best part was me being able to tell people that - when I came back to work from lunch that day, everyone asked me and I had the letter in my hand ready to share it with them (and all who would listen in this universe). I squealed all afternoon and the girls and Brian were kind enough to tolerate this (and still do).

Other blogs have posted that there are significant differences between job experiences: some schools give you the freedom to create your own lesson plan while others have you there to replace the tape-recorder. I can understand and empathize with that but I don't think it is the fault of JET in the least (unless there is some information I am missing) and seems to have more to do with circumstance than anything else. To be honest, am really scared of being in such a position where I have no creative freedom - not even a little - in the classroom but there is still a big as to whether that challenge will even be mine to face so I will set aside the pacing and handle the issues that I can for now.

To be frank, I have found that JET has been really generous to date with their time and efforts. Though at times curt and somewhat cut throat - they only gave Short-Listed JETs TEN DAYS to do all the medical tests and send in proper documentation for acceptance, my guess is that they have to be to weed out the people who just want a trip to Japan and keep the applicants who are going first to teach, than to learn.

Anyways, all my fears are overshadowed by my excitement at meeting my students. Geez, I am in love with them already. And hopefully, a firmer, clearer image of what to expect will start to form once the much anticipated contract arrives in two weeks.

Tomorrow - spring cleaning and the commencement of selling all my possessions until am nothing but a serf ready for grand Pacific adventures.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

bfg on burning her budget

You know when you say (or in this case write) something and then you throw it all to hell right after?

lunch with Gabsters: $16
purchasing all of GG Kay's books to get signed plus 1 edition of YASABEL for one of my students: 82$
drink at hotel pre-reading/signing of Kay: $10
drinks for moi and said awesome author post reading & signing: **

So I went about $100 over my budget - after having JUST blogged about me being a frugal woman.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. Four of us got to sit at a table and see the man behind some of the most beautifully written works of literature out there. He is a private man, so I won't share the details but he said something that resonated inside of me; about how there is this space between what we think up in our heads and our capability to produce what we imagine. I have held back from writing often because once I sit down and stare at the screen my fingers, my very body seems unworthy of the story that needs to be told. And so I jot it in my little book and leave it there to live without disappointment.

I also got to spend time with E, a friend from other Cons and author events, and I met two of her good friends one of which is an ESL teacher that gave me plenty of advice. E & I seem to share the same taste in literature which makes her an instant friend. It was interesting to see how each one of us interacted with GGK's books; we all agreed on loving the writing but it seems the "star" quality is different for each. I can honestly write that the second best thing other than reading a book, and at times it is the best, is talking about them. And E was there during the Kafflelache for GGK during Worldcon so that was like a reunion - just replace the coffee for Coke and Rum! (Oh WorldCon, how I love thee!)

The other thing is because I had a stack for him to sign it allowed me to make conversation which then allowed me to, of course, mention that I am leaving for Japan. It turns out that an acquaintance who a) loves books b) especially loves YA books and c) has just completed their Master's and unsure whether they should continue is going through JET as well. Honestly, it clicked and I haven't even met them.

I love that about life. The way things fit together sometimes. So screw you 100$ I am HAPPY I spent you - it was all worth it. Memories to savor when I curl up with a book and maybe a JET partner, potential friend, to do mini-trips with combing the used bookstores for GGK books in Japanese. Thank you Fates! At times, you are kind.

bfg goes to curl up with a book staring adoringly at her new tomes in the meantime. happy reading!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

bfg on budget 2010-2011

In many ways, this post is a sequel to my one on list making.

Fact is, I love spending money. I love buying people presents and have someone else wrap them. I adore spending money on rounds - be it of shots or books. I think its a healthy relationship the one I have with money... I want to make lots of it and spend even more!- am no Henry Potter.

So a budget for going to Japan is necessary. I can honestly see myself walking into a stationary store, see ChocoCat stuff and ship 1K worth of goodies back to my nephew for safekeeping until my return. Japanese Consulate recommends that this year JETs bring 2,700.00 Canadian dollars with them. Since we are only paid at the end of every month, for August we need to fend for ourselves.

The reality of the situation is that everything depends on your contract.

Though my income is guaranteed - all JETs are paid the same annual salary - each contract is unique. Some school offer positions with room, board and even transport to and from work. Other times, your rent is partially covered and/or you are asked by the city to teach at several schools. Sometimes you get zilch. So you may need 3K in the end or, as my thesis advisor keeps saying, get by with 1K "just fine" it all depends on the contract...

The Consulate mails out the contract at around mid-May so I will have a better idea of how much to bring. I am determined to save at least three thousand and with my tax cheque I should make my goal (yeah!). But it is quiet possible that I will use about a third of it. Granted, my supervisor told me the other night that "Japan is a book lovers paradise" so I am really going to have to contain myself.

It's not just that though. I am going to Japan people. J-A-P-A-N. And that means, I need to go dressed in style so yeah new clothes, a few new pairs of (walking and work) shoes. Definitely need cute rain-boots. Let us not forget the fact that I am going there to teach so the short skirts won't do - I will have to stock up on "professional" knee length. Being a giant, from their perspective, means my abilities to restock the wardrobe are dismal. So lots to purchase folks. Lots.

Hence, my budget.

Because, lets face it, I like to spend money remember. And if I don't walk in with a checklist composed away from tempting items which outlines what I am allowed to buy and how much I am allowed to spend, well things can get seriously out of hand. I can totally convince myself that PUKA slippers priced 40$ are a necessity for me to bring there. Really, I can.

In my defense, I am pretty good at keeping to budget. It's like a Convenant between Shopzilla-Nessa with Sergent-Nessa. But I am also very imaginative at reading the budget law in an imaginative way; a.k.a Law-&-Order-Nessa. Ex.: Guidebook is on my list. Now, it is singular but I am already shopping and it looks like I will be purchasing three (Tokyo, Kyoto and all of Japan). But while "window" shopping at lunch I saw Kyoto and Tokyo Moleskine City books that were just too sexy. they were calling my name, chanting that they were 20% off and I just HAD. To. HAVE. Them. And since "guidebook" in on the list and there is no specification of quantity and I am only slightly over budget...

They are really beautiful though.

Last night, A (the bf) and I passed by Future Shop. I wonder if I should wait to buy a net-book in Japan or if I should just get them here. Super prices and since A is insisting on purchasing an iPad and new laptop I am sure I can discount it - i wonder what are the bargaining techniques in JP?!

I am starting to feel like this blog post sounds like it comes from a Kinsella novel.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

bfg on "the end"

I submitted my last paper for the semester. Here is hopin'.

I also mailed in my taxes. Send me the cheque big Mama - it is going towards Japan. And looking good getting there.

Got word that my QC student loan is going through, that I might even get a bursary and that all my papers are in order for graduation... save a little thing called a thesis but that will be dealt with in Japan (December deadline). Heck! It is a major reason why I even wanted to go in the first place. Along with treasure hunting, of course.

So "the end" to all you to-dos! I have checked the box, crossed you all of twice and am kissing you good-bye. It is now time for the sinking in to start...

Today, my friend D came over to say hello: "I hate you." He is a JET Alternate and I can understand the frustration, the anxiety of everyday hoping an email from the Japanese Consulate would arrive saying that someone else dropped out and you are able to go in their stead. It is not a very nice thing to hope for and yet, I hope it for him! It would be nice to have a friend to do day trips with. I need someone to carry my luggage.

This evening there was a small presentation at school. As I was heading towards the elevators after having said my good-byes and thank yous to my professor, I realized this is probably the last time I will ever walk down a Concordia Hallway as a student. The rest of my degree will be done abroad and ... well, there is something sad about that.

My close friends can attest to the fact that I worked really hard to make up for my reckless/ "I don't give a fuck" attitude during undergrad to get into my Master's in hopes of someday becoming a teacher. And one of the most exciting parts about going back to school was that at McGill I made no new friends. I rarely went to class, didn't join any activities so the fault is mostly mine...  At Concordia, I was looking forward to meeting new people and engaging with them if not befriend them. I did do that! and the sad thing is I probably won't be seeing any of them again in the academic context. For all my bitching about the Ivory Tower, there is this sense of a sacred space - one that I appreciate though perhaps not enough while it was happening.

I guess in a way, this is my first good-bye. My first "the end" before leaving. I would be lying if I wrote I wasn't a little sad. I would also be lying if I wrote I wasn't relieved - school has a certain unique stress that I need to set aside for now.

Monday, April 19, 2010

bfg on becoming a karaoke goddess that gleeks

Oh yes, I have a list of "Have To" for Japan. It is still incomplete but I have some items that have pretty secure standing.

Like digging for treasure. Not that I really expect to find anything but I think it will be cool to be an old grandma, spit in a bucket and scare the local children while I tell them about how I found the Jewel of Fuji-sama in Japan. Actually, I could probably do that now but 'em kids today are smart - I'll need a photo to prove it.

And of course, I need to learn ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement) and kyudo (Japanese ancient archery). The latter preferable by men in a loin cloth than the MC Hammer pants. Or bare chested at the very least.

Oh right, and get a tattoo of Japan on my shoulder. My last tattoo I think but something that makes its mark. I am here. I was there. It wasn't a dream. Unfortunately, every time I ask a Japanese friend for advice on where in Tokyo I can go for that, their hair stands on end and they say in a high voice (for a Japanese person) "Nonono~! Tattoo is Yakuza!" I will have to figure it out once there I guess.

But above all - I want to be a Karaoke goddess.

My voice is far from good enough to sing professionally - it is a little flat - and I would never want that. Too busy, you know? I just want to sing a Bennett song then head to the bar and order Coco Channel martinis and wear ridiculously red lipstick. I will be so poor that will probably have to alternate between dresses and rely on my intimidating height for the audience to fill my cups but for a time I will be happy.

I want the night life of walking into a bar sing a couple of tunes and make fake conversation. In my mind its about Mishima but I am sure I can adapt. Of course, the trend there seems to be private rooms but this is a list people! and a dream. I have my rights after all.

So while here, and while I let my self dream away I think... what playlist should I have ready? You know, all karaoke goddess have a list ready for all occasions. I wonder if GLEE is popular there. Let me check -

... goes to check...

OMG - If there is anything you do today please, pretty please watch this GLEE promo .

I had lots more of things of substance to say but instead I am going to go and practice my Lionel Richie. I leave you then with a picture of my dinner: National pride, both Quebec and Canada, mixed in with my soon-to-be new home, Nippon.

bfg gleeks out.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

bfg on the importance of list making

I like making lists.

There are several reasons for this. Much of the time it has to do with the fact that I have the professor gene of forgetting everything. I never invest in an umbrella for example because I know I will forget it, try as I may not to, at some restaurant or bus stop.

Mostly though it has to do with the sad fact that when I am done writing my list, I look at it and literally say to myself, like anyone with good Roman blood, "Yeah Bitch! I can conquer your ass!" The sense of control I have at a glance of the carefully spaced lines with perfect little check-boxes drawn in the left-hand corner is astounding. "I can DO this. It is right here before my eyes."

Bliss comes when I check an item off said list. I lie actually. First, I check it off but then I strike it off twice and sometimes even write a little note on the experience. Next to "Mail rent cheque to Mikio" which is from last Friday's list, I wrote in a diagonal in green pen, "service man @ PostO[ffice] rude ~ charged 15cents for interac!" My lists start entering the third dimension when I start drawing lines between items, demonstrating relationships and reliances.

I have a list-maker on my lovely HTC Dream, but its nothing to pen and Moleskin. And not just any pen. It must be my extremely sexy V5 Pilot pens, all colours accepted. The perfect amount of ink that bleeds onto the page, the crunch sound as I write... all so satisfying. All create a false semblance that I am Caesar-ess, that something is happening, that I am getting things done.

So you can imagine, as I search for reasons to procrastinate on finishing these final papers, I have made EXTENSIVE lists the two major ones being:
 "Things to Buy Before Leaving For Japan"
Sample items:
(infamous) tampons
deoderant x2
 (** fun fact: did you know that many sites 
recommend you bring extra because it is not commonly sold. Go figure.**)

 and "Things to Do Before leaving"
Sample Items:
do taxes
call Fido and see if can defer cell
sell stuff

That last has had me start a new list this morning... "Things to Sell" which I know will be a blogpost in itself - "bfg on craig's list adventures" or something.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

bfg on not having patience and departure outfits

Not even twenty-four hours since my last post and I have gone from high levels of excitement and anxious-ness to  frustration.

I have never been a patient person. Believe me, it is something I have been working on but I just hate waiting. Servers that make me wait get an instant cut when it is time to tip. Lines in a grocery store often have me drop my items in some basket and leave - I would rather reshop than wait. My ugliness really comes out when a cashier takes a gazillion years to count out change; I can't help but start telling them the most efficient divide and then a short scolding on how if something is going to be your profession you should know what you are doing. Only after about 2 feet of walking away, do I realize with shame how I could have handled the situation with some more elegance. Only after.

So my lack of patience right now is not good. I want to go home and start packing - a hyper complex move this time since there will be the "going to sell pile", "going to Ant's pile", "going to Nonnina's for storage pile" and "going to Japan". I also feel that I need to start figuring out what books I am going to take with me since I can sense that it is going to be so hard for me NOT to bring so much. How will I sleep at night with out looking at my Robert Jordan hardcovers all shrink wrapped and perfect with their promises of adventures and  romance? Just that will have me pass the 20 kilo limit!

This lack of patience has helped me though in many ways. Because I am such an anxious person I usually get things done early; all the paper work for Japan was shipped less then 36 hours after I received acceptance. Pretty good *peacock moment* but now I am home, it is Saturday and I should be finishing up my final papers. Instead, I am working at a snail's pace procrastinating by writing blog posts, give the dog some attention, and thinking of cleaning the house. It is not that I didn't get any work done. Rather, my brain is somewhere else and it can not be occupied by this "stuff". A worrisome thought since technically, I am finishing my Master's thesis in Japan. Not that is going to be a REAL distraction.

My thoughts wonder to the moment of departure. And, as typical to someone who was raised by a woman with more pairs of shoes than should be legal, I specifically think about what I am going to wear. I will be traveling for just over 24 hours so it needs to be comfortable. I am also one of those people who likes to dress comfortably but nice enough so that if I am invited to some secret CIA cocktail party while on the plane I won't feel out of place. And yes, I am specifically imagining myself in first class siting next to CHUCK on one of his missions eating sushi and drinking champagne. Yum. I am thinking denium jeans from GAP, a Tokyo Underground t-shirt from Simons (its for men but who cares or knows?), a jacket and headband. Maybe some stylish sneakers... definitely flats. Any suggestions?

Okay - bfg returns to paper writing and outfit coordination. Oh, and do my nails because I am trying out new colours!

Friday, April 16, 2010

bfg on paper work and tampons

It was yesterday in the Pharmaprix as I was seeking out my preferred brand of tampons that it hit me: "Can I get these in Japan?"

It was the first time the fact that as of August 1st 2010 I will be in Tokyo sunk in. And I felt this mega surge of excitement and fear that went beyond opening an envelope for a response as to whether I got a JET post or not. Rather, it was the physical fear - the kind where your mind transports you to a moment when in desperation you are searching for something so familiar and easily accessible you had never before considered the possible hurdles in its purchase. Until now.

On Wednesday, I hurriedly opened the manila envelope from JET which stated that I am a SHORT-LIST candidate. This does not mean I am on the waiting list, those are
"Alternates", but that I am on their "first choice of teachers" register who is without a contract until an acceptance form from moi lands on their desk by April 30th or they boot you out.

Before me is my days labour: filling out not only the famous Short-List Replay form but a renewal of my passport, letters to TELUS mobility (LONG story), insurance claims and letters to my employer asking for a one year leave of absence. I have lots more paper work to do - after work, I am off to the identity claims Canada to order my oh-so-expensive Criminal Record Check. My medical report is worth 65$ - the doc made more in one minute that I do in an hour. Oh arts degree how I love thee!

So amidst the paper and the blogging I wonder to myself how I am going to last these next three months... Last night, I could not sleep literally searching tampon brands in Japan online. SIDE NOTE: For the male readers, if any, I guess the closest thing is shaving gel though even that isn't as... imperative; all to say, I have a right to be particular during my lady-time. So those kinda worries mixed in with lots of money spent and feeling famous because everyone seems to wants my signature and thoughts of leaving my favorite person, Nephew Luca, make me sad... I complain, coordinate departure logistics and start a blog.

bfg out.