Sunday, September 24, 2006

Missing Maria

Maria graced us with a two-week visit all the way from mosquito-land Winnipeg in the summer. Here's some fun shots taken on her last day in humble St. Catharines...

Here she is herself, lounging in Mark and Rita's pool.

And here I am, trying to stay cool by reading a magazine in the pool.

And here I am, being beaten up by crazy Jeff.

And Maria, post Jeff-beating.

And Jeff, just being Jeff...

And Lisa, clothes and all, who finally just decided to jump in after all of our badgering. (It WAS really, stinking hot.)

Had a great time, Maria. Miss you lots.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ottawa in June

Hey everyone...

So this summer was a definite blur of ups and downs, of learning once again what we both love and hate about our wonderful Canadian home. And now, here we are in September, and as one of my previous posts revealed, it's finally hit that we really are gonna be here for awhile! So since that's a fact, we might as well all get comfortable with this new situation, and I better start sharing about our lives in Canada!

With that said, I've been browsing through some of the pictures Jeff took throughout this mixed bag of a summer, and I've realized that we had some pretty fabulous times reuniting with family and friends. So over the next while, along with updating you on the joys and stresses of "life after Japan," I want to share some of these great pics with all of you.

In June we went to our country's capital with Dagmar and Dave for a weekend. Here are a few of the sights Jeff captured during our time in Ottawa...

We stayed in a quasi-bed and breakfast/old folks' home that was situated really close to the ByWard Market. On one of our strolls through the market, we noticed these funny looking dogs. When Jeff asked their owner if he could take their picture, the guy suddenly started this routine with them, involving amazing obedience. They actually have treats hanging out of their mouths in this picture, and they are patiently waiting for the "okay."

And a close-up...

And these two pictures are of a nearby cathedral taken from the balcony of our room at something like 5 in the morning. No, I was not up. That would be Jeff, with the other woman, his camera... :)

Thursday, September 14, 2006


So I've almost made it through my first full week back to teaching. Wow. What a mess. I mean, it's mostly been a good mess, but what a mess.

After over three months of generally lying around, I've HURLED myself back into the workplace. This is an amazingly welcome change. I am a teacher. I love teaching, and after a summer of nothingness, I was starting to question my existence. It's amazing to be in a multicultural ESL environment again... to be challenged and stimulated again.

That being said, I'm already starting to second guess the path I've set myself on for the term. I landed a 15 hour a week contract at Niagara College. I had hoped for the max of 20, but thems the breaks. Not one to be deterred, I kept up my contacts at Mohawk College, and was rewarded with a lucky phone call last Friday (coincidentally, also my birthday). Elizabeth called desperate for teachers. I offered her the only time I had left, Monday and Tuesday afternoons. And I found myself accepting 8 hours more of teaching work. This brings my total to 23 hours of teaching per week (ya, kept my math skills), with a WHOPPING 8 contact hours on Tuesdays.

EEGAD! What am I doing????

So after my Niagara classes finished on Monday, I hit the road to Mohawk, where I was WHIPPED through a quick tour of the office, the classrooms, and the school in general. I received some textbooks and was on my way...didn't even get the class list till I walked into the classroom on Tuesday. Nothing like teaching on the fly.

So now not only am I still trying to learn the system at Niagara (still don't have a computer password, but I found the stash of free binders yesterday!) but I've thrown myself into a new system at Mohawk as well! Complete with parking hassles, lengthy union explanations, and not-yet-clear contracts.

I have to say though that I LOVE the two contrasting environments. Niagara is more what I'm used to from Brock: an academic prep program with its share of spoiled 18-year old machismo Latinos (sigh) and Asian students who've picked "Rookie" as their English names (double sigh). Mohawk, on the other hand, is much more multicultural and has many immigrant students as well as students of a variety of ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. It's a very exciting environment.

But from now on, it's delivery pizza on Tuesday nights!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Reality Bites?

So, it's September, and I keep getting this nagging feeling that we should be getting on a plane and going back to the land of sushi and onsens.

But, of course, we're not.

I think I've been feeling this way because the past two Augusts were spent in transit to Japan. It's kind of an eerie feeling, and it's a little hard to shake off.

As I walked from the parking lot into my new workplace on Tuesday morning, it hit me like a brick. I've started a new job here. It's for real. We're staying. Since Tuesday morning, I've teared up on numerous occasions. Just about any news story or sappy email can make me cry right now. It's kind of embarrassing, really. But at least the tears mostly manage to keep from rolling down my cheeks... although I still have to monitor what music I let myself listen to!

Luckily I work with a bunch of people who, like me, love to travel for a living and understand the pain of leaving a place you've become attached to. We talk about "re-entry shock" and even the "grieving process." I know, it sounds extreme. But don't belittle it, please. It's all part of the ups and downs of the gypsy life we've chosen. But even in the sad times, I wouldn't trade it for a second.

Shari said it perfectly yesterday..."When I came back from abroad, my boyfriend told me it was like I was doing 50 in the 80 zone." It's so true! I often feel like I'm living life in slow motion...I'm observing so much, and thinking so much. Thank goodness it's just a "re-entry" thing. I was worried that at 30 I've already lost my bounce!

Work, by the way, is fantastic. I teach the Level ones. They are a mix of warm and wonderful people from South Korea, Colombia, Mexico, Switzerland, Venezuela, and China. Ironically, I have no Japanese students. That's probably a good thing. I have had to bite my tongue many a time already to keep myself from breaking into Japanese. It makes me realize how much I "cheated" when I taught at Minami chu. I have to re-learn my teacher speak! I caught myself pointing to my nose in class today when referring to myself. I even need to re-learn my body language!

Jeff continues his quest to finish our bathroom. He bought beautiful ceramic flooring today from Home Depot. And no, no teaching positions have been offered. Supply work begins in October. Till then, painting jobs call.

This is it. We're really back.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Bathroom Reno

We've been working on our new house now for about a month. This past week was the first week I wasn't working fulltime while renovating. The floors on the main floor are done, the stove and fridge are in, and the carpet is in. So why not start with the main bathroom?

I ripped the tub out with my brother's help. I realized the mirror in the bathroom was actually a built-in cabinet. After taking the cabinet out of the wall I realized that the wall I saw wasn't actually the outside wall. There was another wall in behind, with another built-in mirror/cabinet and the funkiest wallpaper I've ever seen. It has mermaids riding dolphins or something of the sort. I had to post a picture.

During the demolition process I pulled out some piping which was insulated with newspaper. I love that. It was the St. Catharines Standard from July 1926! This house is older than I thought. Very cool.

Only problem is that there is still only a hole where our bathroom used to be. It's been five days without a tub or shower. At least we have water in the rest of the house!