November 2006


So upon figuring out that I needed to “get out there” to meet more men, I sought ways to do just that.

I started getting the word out to my friends that I was open to meeting new people, so will you invite me to your gatherings or please send any of your single male friends my way. Also, to further psych myself up, I armed myself with a couple of popular books on dating, including the sensible He’s Just Not That Into You and the very demanding Turn Your Cablight On.

He’s Just Not That Into You was helpful in getting perspective on the inevitable reality of rejection. Of course, it was preemptive reading, given I had no leads, but nevertheless, it provided a logical basis for how not to take rejection too personally but instead to decisively move on to the next possibility. Turn Your Cablight On recommended that I spend 15 hours per week in environments where I would encounter men, whether in a dog park, coffee shop, Home Depot, cooking class, etc. Online dating counted as an “environment,” but only for a maximum of 3 hours a week.

Given my volunteer commitments and a busy social calendar, 15 hours/week wasn’t feasible. I mean, that would work out to be about 2 hours/day, which I don’t have. Or, to put it another way, I didn’t want a guy badly enough to have to radically reshuffle my priorities to make that time (although the writer makes a good point that if one were to spend that kind of time anyway with her honey, why not spend it looking for him?). The idea of online dating, however, was very doable. I DID want to expand my networks enough not to let the (albeit waning) social stigma of this method of meeting people discourage me.

In fact, I have a good friend from high school who met her man from Lavalife (and who would later on give me the unused credits on her account). Also, I had a couple of other close friends on eharmony. However, the service would cost me about $20/month, and I figured that if I couldn’t afford cable, then I certainly wasn’t going to pay for an online dating service.

And then some time in April, I met a friend of Jen, whom (by a set of curious circumstances) I will credit for alerting me to this free service called PlentyofFish. But because I was feeling wary about taking the plunge, I established some criteria and guidelines before getting on the network that would help me manage my involvement and expectations.

I’ll explain what these parameters were in another post.

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… and his name is Sufjan Stevens.

Had I discovered him a month ago, I would have tried getting tickets to see him perform on tour right here in Vancouver. But then, I probably wouldn’t have succeeded. Neil, who went to the concert and is helping me catch up on anything about Sufjan, said it was sold out.

Ahh, something refreshing to listen to!

Last week, I received a Notice of Assessment from the Property Taxation Branch stating that I don’t qualify for a First Time Home Buyer’s Exemption from Property Transfer Tax after a review of my conveyance documents, and that because I don’t qualify, I owed the Government of BC over $3100, to be paid by the end of this month!

My eyes nearly started out of their sockets. What an unexpected blow! I had taken great care through personal research and legal help to ensure that I would be exempt, so what happened? And where was I going to find this money?

After allowing myself to freak out for a bit, I decided to do something more constructive and dug out all boring paperwork and various contracts related to this matter. After some crude analysis of numbers, my audacious conclusion was that the government made a mistake. I say “crude” and “audacious” because, coming primarily from an arts background, I tend to doubt my own abilities when it comes to understanding “government stuff,” business concepts, legalese and the like. Anything technical, dry, and requiring an expert, really.

But how was I going to make my case? While on the one hand I felt that I was in the right, I wasn’t completely sure. I was afraid that I would be talked down by some government official who might presume to know better than me.

So I thought I’d run my situation by my lawyer, just to see if I was on the right track. Unfortunately, my lawyer’s office too quickly assured me that “this is typically what happens,” that the government can tax me if their reassessment shows that the market value of my apartment has increased. But this was not quite my case. By my calculations, it appeared that the government had double-counted some large amount that had already been accounted for, which constructed a situation where I wouldn’t qualify for a tax exemption.

Because I sensed the law office wasn’t all that interested in sussing out the details of my case to give me the best advice possible, I decided that I had to take things into my own hands, in spite of my insecurities about my ignorance of such matters. So I left a phone message with the Ministry of Small Business and Revenue, and padded that with a very professional email explicitly detailing my concerns. I spent over an hour crafting this piece of correspondence, trying to get the right tone and articulate the exact questions I needed answers for. By way of contrast, I also politely offered my own understanding of things, but basing it on the Minstry’s definition of certain concepts (e.g. “consideration“). I thought this rhetorical strategy would enhance my credibility, and not a little bit.

I like to think that my preparation counted for something because at work on Wednesday morning, I got the following email from the Administrator at the Ministry:

“You are right! The contract was misread. I have corrected the error and reinstated the first time homebuyer’s exemption. Please feel free to contact me if there are any other issues.”

These were the sweetest words I have encountered all week. I was so relieved that I burst into tears, right in front of my co-worker Neil! The poor guy, having to put up with my weirdness.

But I was also very proud of myself, that I managed to figure this how-de-do on my own. Sometimes, I surprise myself, that I am more resourceful than I thought myself to be.

OK, enough tooting on my own horn now. But thank God I have brains. And tenacity.

After our meeting tonight, Dot and I headed to the nearest Safeway to stock up on some clean water. It has rained so heavily recently in the Lower Mainland that a public advisory has been issued telling people to used boiled or bottled water for drinking, washing fruits and veggies, and even brushing teeth (my ex-Vancouverite friends, look at the fun you’re missing). Apparently, the turbidity levels have been unusually high, making it difficult to disinfect water.

When we got to Safeway, we found a loooong queue at the water station. People who managed to get to the water supply before we did were wheeling around cases and cases of bottled water. So not surprisingly, the section of bottled water was COMPLETELY wiped, save for a few straggling bottles of Perrier. The demand for water looked so dire that I wished I had a camera to take a picture of the empty shelves. It was a strange, strange sight to behold.

So I’m boiling my water tonight. But this temporary shortage does make me think what it would be like to have to live with an ongoing shortage of water, as many people already do on this planet. Or what it would be like to live in a place where fresh water is privatized. That would be so weird.

Gosh, we have it good here in Vancouver, don’t we?

It hasn’t been the best of long weekends (I have been suffering from a seized-up neck for the past 36 hours). It all started off with some uncalled for criticism (which although well-meaning, I didn’t take very well) on Friday night. And then I had a bad dream (about the same criticism) around 530am on Saturday morning. Tossed and turned, trying to make a decision, which cut into my precious sleep. Precious, because I had an early start for a day trip to Whistler with Simon, Dot, and Jen. I was so tired, I was tempted to jam out on them, but didn’t. I’m glad I didn’t because the excursion to Whistler to check out the Cornucopia Celebration of Wine and Food was the pinnacle of my weekend.

Enroute, I had the Hot Breakfast Sandwich from the Squamish Tim Horton’s for the very first time! Yum! Unbeknownst to me at the time, this menu item enables me to consume alcohol with no adverse effects.

The first thing Simon and I did when we got to Whistler Village was pick up our lift passes from Guest Relations. Then weimg_2158.JPG all headed to the Slow Foods Artisans’ Market just in time for lunch. We tried some very fine things there: wine, cheeses, raclette, soup, baked goods, and best of all a CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN. Jen and I shamelessly licked our drizzled plates. Jen and I also purchased some gourmet cheeses from the Little Qualicum Cheeseworks stand. I picked up a hunk of Raclette and Sans Pareil, which I enjoyed very much today, in spite of my pitiful physical state.

After stuffing ourselves with good things, we walked around the Village and did some window shopping. At some point, the snow came down thick and fast. The flakes were so huge, they quickly blanketed whatever they touched. The scene was incredibly pretty and romantic.

Another highlight: I came across a pair of beaver fur ear muffs. It was the first time I ever touched beaver fur. The texture, luxuriously thick and soft, is to die for. Literally. I can now see why beavers were in high demand in that very boring part of Canadian history called the Fur Trade.

Then we drove back to Vancouver, where we finished off an already great day of eating with a fabulous hot pot dinner.

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A couple nights ago, before getting ready to go to bed just before midnight, I checked my cell (left on silent), not really expecting any calls. To my surprise, I missed two calls from an unknown number, and there were 2 voice mails in my box. The first was a hang-up and the second yielded a quivering voice of an elderly lady speaking Chinese.

It was Mrs. Chan, the neighbour who lived to the right of my suite. Her husband passed away this summer from a sudden recurrence of leukemia. Mr. and Mrs. Chan were the first neighbours I met when I first moved in; we established a good rapport with each other. Mr. Chan always recognized me and remembered my name. Once he even spontaneously invited me over to a family dinner, which I declined because I had guests over.

I remember full well the day in early May when firefighters came in to take Mr. Chan away on a stretcher due to one of his relapses. He eventually came back. But his daughter Elise, who frequently looked in on him, was worried that he wouldn’t get timely blood transfusions to sustain his oxygen levels. I had run into her in late June, when she filled me in that her father was dying. After that, I didn’t see Elise again until September, who then informed me that her dad passed away in July. She also told me that her mom only lived part time in the apartment nowadays, so that’s why I haven’t seen her around much.

So I was really surprised (and a bit alarmed) when Mrs. Chan called. Twice. And the second call at 1121pm! Out of concern, I decided to ring her back, just in case something was wrong. Little old ladies don’t regularly call their neighbours so late at night.

It turns out she was wondering what the new notices on the bulletin board in the foyer were about. They were written in English, which she can’t read, and she worried that they were notices about water or electricity shut-offs; if that were the case, she wanted to be prepared. So I went downstairs to double-check on the notices (which were reminders to people not to leave their key fobs in the car), went back upstairs, and duly reassured her that she had nothing to worry about. In spite of my clumsy Cantonese, we managed to talk for a bit and even exchanged invitations to get together. I quite like Mrs. Chan. She is sweet, unimposing, and genteel (unlike many little old Chinese ladies I know). But I sense she is lonely and feeling a bit vulnerable these days.

I’ve never had to practice being a good neighbour before. I guess here’s my chance.

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been on a keen lookout for any Poppy Fund volunteer from the Royal Canadian Legion. Everyone on this side of town seems have found a poppy (even two) except me, and I’ve been feeling a bit deprived of an opportunity to express goodwill and good citizenship. There’s usually someone stationed around the library, but for some reason, I hadn’t much luck running into one. Until this morning!

Taking my usual shortcut into Library Square through the federal government building, I spotted the Poppy Man through the glass doors. I was so happy to see him, this biggish, bespectacled male presence donned with a Legion beret and jacket decorated with medals. I hurried over to him and breathlessly announced, “I have been looking for you everywhere!” He responded benevolently in his deep, deep voice, “Well … I am here now.” I plunked my toonie into his coin box, picked up my poppy, and went my merry way to work.

For my friends who are teachers (or nerds at heart), here’s an educational guide to Remembrance Day.

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