Thursday, January 26, 2012

Top 10 things I'm going to miss about Vancouver

As I come closer to leaving Vancouver for a year I can't help thinking about everything I will leave behind (as excited as I am for new adventures and a new place) and so I thought I would do a short post on the top 10 things I will most miss about Vancouver, since you know, it's not the worst place to live ;) Now the question is...should I do a "Top 10 things I'm NOT going to miss about Vancouver list?" ;)

1. Seeing the snow capped mountains everywhere I go on a perfect, clear sunny day.

2. The smell of the ocean as I bike along the beach at Jericho.

3. Tasty, fresh and cheap sushi.

My Italian cousin, Nicola and I sampling some of the best sushi and yes, I am wearing my "You have died of dysentery t-shirt".

4. That perfect clean, crisp BC air. (Not really sure how you portray air in a photo...)
5. Hiking the mountains and the grouse grind (yes I actually will miss the grouse grind!)
The Chief

View from Grouse Mountain

6. Being able to choose from pretty much any ethnic food group when I go out for dinner. (here I am drinking GuaranĂ¡ at the Brazilian Festival this summer...okay, so it's not food...but hey, it was ethnic and yummy)

7. Watching people love/hate the Canucks/Luongo on a daily basis (including myself).

I hate Luongo.

I love Luongo!

8. Knowing the arts & culture scene like the back of my hand.

9. The cherry blossoms.

10. Being somewhere where everybody knows my name and they're always glad I came, in other words - ALL my peeps in Van and on Van Island. Especially these two girls in particular.

Me and adorable little girl I will miss #1.

Me and adorable little girl I will miss #2.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My 101 List comes to an end

A few years back I took up the challenge of creating a list of 101 Things to Do in 1001 Days. It was very fun and exciting at the start, but as I progressed through it I realized that perhaps some of the goals were A)Not fun enough and B) Too ambitious. It was a great motivator to do things that I'd been putting off for a while, but if I were to do it again I would add more wacky and weird things like Dean did (I will never forget his "Make a pie out of whatever ingredients I can find" goal....that was just plain disgusting)! I am brainstorming a new type of fun list of goals for when I'm in Europe which I can blog about. Anyone have any ideas?

My final total of completed goals was 51/101. At least I passed....just barely. ;)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why travel?

"Glorious it is when wandering time has come." -Eskimo song

There's been a question a lot of people have been asking me lately and something I've been thinking about as well and it's this: "Why do you want to leave your job, family, friends and life here and live abroad for a year?" I realize that there are some people who have no desire to travel or live in a foreign place, we all have different paths and desires after all, but that has never been me ;). From as early as I can remember I have wanted to explore. I have had that call to distant lands, that urge to jump out of my comfort zone and be transported to another world. You don't always have to go far to experience this. Just driving across Canada was an eye opening experience for me (and yes, Canada is huge so it is far I realize ;). I've lived abroad twice now, both times in the UK and both were very unique and life changing experiences. This time I wanted to live somewhere where I had to learn a new language. My passions in life are music, culture and languages and I have always wanted to live somewhere where I would be forced to learn a new language.

So what is it about travel, about living in a foreign culture that calls to me so much? My mom gave me a wonderful book a few years back by Phil Cousineau called "The Art of Pilgrimage" and its beautiful words tap deep into the traveler's psyche. As he says, "A pilgrimage is an opportunity to reconnect with your soul" (p. 87). Maybe living for a year in another country is not exactly a pilgrimage, but I'd like to think it is a type of soul journey for me (and sure I could even throw some soul music in for good measure.)

There is something so raw about being thrown away from all you are used to, forced to make a life for yourself somewhere new where, in general, nobody knows you and every day there is a good chance you'll feel awkward and uncomfortable or say something embarrassing (well, I do this at home all the time anyway so that's not too new for me ;). You could say that about living just about anywhere else, but throw in a new culture and country and it brings the challenges and joys to a new height. My friend Janet told me a while back that the thing about living abroad is is that your highs are higher and your lows are lower, but I haven't met a single person who has ever regretted the experience.

It's not an easy thing to leave your loving family (particularly your ridiculously cute nieces) and amazing friends back home, but there is also nothing like the thrill you get from connecting to a foreign land and people. Also, lucky for me I have some wonderful friends and family already in Europe. I will never forget standing on the edge of the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland and feeling the pull of that stunning scenery or even just walking to and from work when I lived in Winchester, England and being steeped in history. Maybe it has something to do with my European mixed breeding, but I often feel a pull to all my countries of origin - Italy, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, England etc. There is something about being in the place where your ancestors came from that makes you feel even more like you.

I think we've all felt different calls in our life, whether it is for a certain career, education, activity, person...and of course location. It's usually only after we've been there for a while, or even come back home that we truly know why we went. So pretty soon I'll be off and if nothing else, I'll have some good stories to tell. ;)

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The German consulate - efficiency and an ocean view

Germany for the win! I have a work visa!

As you may have read in my last blog post on bureaucracy I was about ready to cry after my experience at the Italian consulate. I decided to take a look at what other countries had to offer and since my cousin Greg had been touting all of Germany's many wonderful benefits I decided to look into it. For any Canadians out there from 18-35 years old Germany and Canada now have an agreement called the "Youth Mobility Agreement" which encourages young Canadians to have a cultural work experience in Germany. There are a few different types and the website states that:

Under the YMA, the German Foreign Missions may issue a visa to the following individuals:

-young Canadians interested in work and travel during their stay in Germany
-young Canadians who wish to do an internship
-Canadian post-secondary students
-young professionals

It's free of charge to apply for it and lasts for an entire year. The major requirements other than age are that you have to have full travel and health insurance paid for before you even apply for the visa for an entire year and a one way ticket booked (although they didn't even check for this at the consulate.)

So I really had no idea what to expect when I made my appointment for the consulate. I went it with a binder full of paper work...proof of everything under the sun including a three times revised letter of invitation from my cousin. I was ready for anything.

My appointment at the beautiful German consulate in downtown Vancouver was scheduled for 11:00am. I arrived exactly on time and was out of there in eight minutes flat. The visa officer was warm and friendly, even commenting on my German middle name (my mom's maiden name). She took my application, looked at my health insurance, quickly peeked at my passport and then said, "You can pick up your visa tomorrow morning." I just looked at her for a moment dumbfounded and replied, "I'm sorry? What? That's it? Tomorrow?" She smiled and nodded and said, "Yes, it's our easiest visa." She didn't even look at the flights I had painstakingly booked, my letter of invite, my financial records...nope. I was in. Apparently Germans love Canadians. So far so good anyway. I glanced around the immaculate, peaceful consulate which has stunning views of the mountains and ocean and almost laughed. What a difference from the Italian consulate. Now if I could only import Italian food and language into Germany...hmmm.

About a week later (since I couldn't come in any earlier) I went to the consulate to pick up my passport and visa and once again was out of there in eight minutes flat. Since eight has always been my lucky number (with my birth date of eights) I figure this is a good sign.

So, with passport and visa in hand I can now work legally in Germany as of March 12th, 2012 in any job I can get (which may be slightly limited due to my current lack of German skills...hey at least I can say "I don't understand" and "I bring you new sacrifices" in German...) other than au-pair work (they apparently don't want us English speakers coming in and corrupting German kids with our North American English) and starting my own business.

Anyways, visa and paperwork may not be the most scintillating of topics, but I tell ya, when your life plans are in the hands of some bureaucrat in an office, you suddenly care...a lot. I come! Are you ready for me? :)