Category Archives: Toronto

Mission Accomplished!

Note: I wrote this post yesterday, but due to internet issues I couldn’t publish it until now.  Enjoy this post, a day late – I’ll try to write something else for today later.

I did it – I submitted my visa application, glitch-free! Well, I say glitch-free, but as you know there was a lot of work and worry that went into getting me to that point.

I met up with my professor last night, and she signed my visa papers with no questions asked. I had a little chat with her about what I’ve been up to the last year and where I’m going, and also what she’s been doing since TESL. It was really nice talking to her, because she’s also a graduate of the same program as me about 7 years earlier, so it’s cool to hear her successes, too. Right now she isn’t teaching TESL, but is managing the ESL-equivalent English program at the college’s main campus. She said that the ESL classes are pretty much taking over the program, even though the classes (Communications) are mandatory for everyone. We also talked about the availability, or lack thereof, of ESL jobs in Toronto. Pretty much none of the school boards are hiring, and some of the larger centres have gone through restructuring recently, meaning that those with seniority (and I’m talking like 20 years’ experience) have jobs, while newer staffers (<20 years) are being let go. However, my prof assured me that there are jobs to be had for those willing to work multiple part-time gigs across the city. Basically, the situation is about what I thought; but it does go to show that only people who are creative and flexible are going to find work, which is good to know. I left my professor with a little Starbucks gift, and headed back downtown to meet my sister for some amazing frozen yogurt.

Anyway, that brings me to today. I woke up early, around 7:30, with the intention of getting to the consulate at a good hour in case I needed to do more running around before they close at noon. I took the subway two stops over to Bay station (too nervous to walk all that way) and went to the TD which happens to be on the ground floor of the same building to get a bank draft. When I checked the website this morning to verify the cost of the application, I anxiously scanned the other document requirements, praying I hadn’t left anything out. Well of course there was something that had been overlooked, because the internship people didn’t tell me everything. I also needed to prove residency in the Consular jurisdiction. Fortunately a quick word to the bank teller got me a printout with my name and address, which was acceptable.

Okay, well it's scarier on the inside.As I said, the Consulate General of Brazil is in the same building as the TD. For anyone who knows Toronto, this is on the corner of Bay and Bloor; and yes, it is a giant high-rise. 77 Bloor is a scarily corporate building, with a lobby, a front desk, and two types of elevators for different spans of floors. I had to go in the higher one. I was sweating bullets already, and it had nothing to do with the 38 degree temperature outside (yes, it’s 38*C in Toronto. I was here six months ago and it was literally -38*C).

On the eleventh floor, I entered a long, quiet hallway of tall, opaque doors. I entered the correct one hesitantly, to find a room like a fishbowl with a bunch of other nervous-looking people milling around. I found the window for visa requests, and fortunately there was nobody there, so I stepped up.

The woman I spoke to was nice, but didn’t really crack a smile (perhaps she was just naturally mimicking my demeanour, as I’m sure my fear was projecting as seriousness). She rifled through my documents, commenting that the photos were the wrong size (I had the other size too – no issue), my application was two years out of date (not my fault! It was sent to me by IICA!), and worst of all, she noticed the one signature was not an original but a copy. I remained quiet as she examined the page, then offered a copy of my email correspondence with IICA where I asked them to send me the originals and they told me to figure it out because there wasn’t any time.

Luckily, the woman told me I could just fill out the correct application on a computer in the corner and she’d print it out for me. She cut the photo I had down to the right size and gave me a gluestick to put it on myself. She collected everything, took my passport, and then told me I’d be able to pick up my visa…next Thursday!

What a relief! What did I say about my crazy attention to detail paying off? I can now officially say that I am for realz going to Brazil in 20 days!

(Oh God, I hope that wasn’t premature; I don’t have the visa in hand, after all. Let’s ignore that and celebrate my success, okay?)

The only thing I had left to do was run down to the post office across the street and pick up an ExpressPost envelope so she could send it to me. Much as I love Toronto, I don’t really know what I’d do for yet another week with no money, no AC, and no bed (still on the sister’s couch). So I’ll stick around here for another day or two, then mercifully head home to enjoy the beach and use of my parents’ car for another two weeks 😀

Add cachaca to crushed ice, muddled lime, and sugar. Stir and serve!

And because I’m anal retentive and have already bought, packed, and planned almost everything else I need for my trip (with some exceptions…you’ll get details later, rest assured), I can fully enjoy some catch-up time when the Third Musketeer, my friend Breanna, comes home in a week or so. I picked up a bottle of cachaça the other day and am very much looking forward to testing out some caipirinhas prior to the real thing in Brazil!

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Filed under Brazil, Canada, crazy like a fox, Excited!, mail, red tape, Toronto, travel documents

The Sticker Picker-Upper

I’m sitting on a bus on my way to Toronto, which means I got my criminal record check this morning! It was a little hectic, as I had to drop my mom off at work, stop off at my work (to deliver a notice of resignation), and then go to the police station all before 9:30 am. I was hesitant to go to the station, because the woman I’d been talking to had done me a great favour already, and this was the second time I’d be showing up without waiting for her phone call. I approached the customer service window with a sheepish look, but fortunately she had the envelope right there waiting for me! Bingo!

I called my dad to confirm that I could come with him (he is doing business in London today), then rushed home to pack. As I was rushing around triple-checking I had all my relevant documents, my grandma shuffled downstairs in her nightie and handed me a twenty. I asked her what it was for, and she just replied, “For being a good girl.” Adorable. It’s going towards my subway fare, as I don’t have any cash on me, but at this point $20 is a big help towards not dipping into my travel savings before I leave!

I also sneaked in a quick email to my prof, notifying her I’ll be in town. I’m hoping I can meet with her today, so I can go straight to the Consulate tomorrow morning – and thus have time to deal with any potential problems before the weekend (here’s hoping there are none).

Have you ever seen the TV game show “Minute to Win It”? It’s a pretty new program, but the concept is really simple: teams of contestants perform challenges with props made of household items in a series of minute-long rounds. Each round brings the team closer to the ultimate prize of one million dollars. I don’t usually watch it, but my grandma does sometimes. The other day it was on, and I watched one team compete in a challenge for $125,000. Their task (or one girl’s; only one person plays at a time) was to hold an egg on a tray and roll it around to pick up these little red stickers without letting the egg roll off – in under a minute. It took her two tries, but she did it and won the $125,000.

This may sound like a stupid challenge, but when you’re standing in front of a studio audience with spotlights and there’s that much money at stake, I can imagine it must be pretty nerve-wracking. In fact, I’m pretty sure I can relate. It’s like I am that egg rolling around on a tray, trying to pick up elusive stickers on a timeline. Strategy goes out the window, and so many times you think you’ve got one of those suckers when in fact, due to the natural curve of the egg, you missed it entirely. I feel about as vulnerable as an uncooked egg too; my emotions are stretched so thin that if all of this falls apart (and I metaphorically roll off the tray), I’ll crack for sure. Let’s just hope that doesn’t happen – or if it does, that I have a lifeline like the girls on the show and get a second chance!

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Filed under Brazil, Canada, cheesy metaphors, IICA internship, red tape, Toronto, travel documents

Aimless in Toronto

A stereotypical Toronto photo...not mine, clearly

…Which is my current location. I’ve been chilling in T-dot for about 3 days now. You may recall a few posts back that I mentioned I didn’t know what would come next once I was done. Well, shortly after writing that, I got the bright idea to call up my old boss at the language school where I worked last summer and see if I could do some supply teaching. They’re always really busy in July. So I emailed him that night, and he emailed me back early the next morning to say sure, there would most likely be work for me. Hooray! I was super pumped about that prospect. I know, I know…a three day weekend isn’t exactly summer vacation, but I don’t take well to idleness. Or rather, I take to it too well – and then I just never get around to doing anything, ever again. I was also really excited to get to spend some time with my former co-workers, who have turned into great friends. And on top of everything there is always a good possibility of meeting some cool Brazilians (after all, it was working at this school with Brazilians that gave me the idea to go there in the first place).

The idea was bright and everything, and I thought I’d had things so well planned out. I would stay at my sister’s place, work during the day like everyone else I know in TO, then hang out with my various groups of friends in the evenings. If I didn’t have work I would read, blog, or learn some Portuguese (as I’d mentioned before). Well, here I am on Wednesday night, and no call from the boss to work. Which is strange because I have it on excellent authority (friends who still teach at the school) that enrolment is high and experienced staff is few. So that means that I’ve spent the last three days trying to sleep in (no such luck – sister and her boyfriend are babysitting a very needy cat [read: I am babysitting a needy cat]), shopping (I’d already bought everything I need for Brazil, and now I have no source of income), and reading in random locations across the city.

Future Bakery, a pastry shop/pub that's open until 1am every night - a student's dream!

The reading part forces me to be very creative, since I don’t want to just sit around in my sister’s basement apartment. So far I have nursed iced coffee on the patios of two Starbucks and one famous bakery, and read approximately 75 pages of Tina Fey’s autobiography Bossypants without buying it by hiding out in the corners of different bookstores for prolonged periods. I intend to finish the book – without buying it – before I leave Toronto.

This could be me at any Indigo location across the GTA

In theory, I’m doing everything you’re supposed to do on vacation. I’m reading, visiting friends, I’m eating well (I got groceries on Monday), I’m getting lots of exercise on my lengthy and unnecessary walks through the city, and I’m sleeping in (ish). Things should be great! But I am SO BORED. And antsy. And feeling not a little guilty that I just gave up an amazing job for seemingly nothing! Also, I know my disposable income (i.e. the money not allocated to travel) will run out very soon, and then I’ll either have to stop doing anything fun or leave for Brazil on my own. I really don’t know which is scarier (you probably don’t live in my hometown, so you wouldn’t understand. Or you do, so you know what I mean). Basically I thought I’d feel cool and carefree in Toronto, but instead I feel like a homeless, couch-surfing cat lady who loiters overlong in coffee shops and bookstores and makes other customers uncomfortable. At least I’m not talking to myself yet (or am I? What is a blog, after all?).

Anyway, I sent a long and hopefully evocative email to the internship people just before writing this, so hopefully they take pity on me and something gets done about this interminable snail mail limbo in which I’ve been mired for the past six weeks. I’ll try to write something less whiny and more entertaining and substantial in the near future. Until then, wish me luck!

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Filed under Canada, cat lady, fear, friends, insecurities, Toronto