Boring New World

Canada is drop-dead boring, apparently. For the past two or three weeks, my uncle has been visiting from out of the continent. It’s his first time being in Canada and quite frankly, he’s not enjoying it. In order to visit Canada, a lot of paper work and planning had to be done since he came from a country that is not so fond of its citizens leaving the country. He was expecting this new country to be absolutely fantastic and filled with maple syrup and polar bears.

Unfortunately for him, his misconceptions were pretty munch debunked. Harshly. My uncle’s impression of life in Canada (and perhaps North America) was shattered. He’s just so bored here and I don’t blame him. Being too far away for school, I can’t really be there to talk to him. Similarly, my parents are at work. They can’t afford to take weeks from work for him. They have taken him to see local tourist attractions and explore the downtown wonders of Toronto, but those kind of activities only take up one day, respectively. Last and definitely not least, he doesn’t speak English and English is the only language my two younger brothers (whom are off from school for summer vacation) are fluent in.

The situation has made me ponder what citizens in other countries think of people in Canada and perhaps North America. A few Canadian bloggers I follow ( Simon and Martina from eatyourkimchi) once described in a vlog that while they were teaching in Korea they showed their students pictures of their humble bungalow back in Canada. The students were shocked. They thought that Simon and Martina were extremely rich for owning a home with LAND.

The two explained in their video that the reason for this misconception was because of the condensed nature of real estate in Korea. Homes are built upwards due to lack of land. In Canada, land is a little (read, a lot) more abundant, so it’s typical for a house to have a front and back yard.

I guess there is only so much you can learn about different parts of the world from the internet and other forms of information. Sometimes, you just really need to experience something to be able to truly understand it. I’m thankful to live in Canada where I can experience many cultures via a vast number of people to interact with.

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Oh, you got sick during your vacation leave? Have another.

by Willem van de Kerkhof

The Court of Justice of the European Union made a decision this week that if you get sick during your guaranteed, annual, four to six weeks of paid vacation leave, you should get to have another. After all,

…the purpose of entitlement to paid annual leave is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure. The purpose of entitlement to
sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused him to be unfit for work.

I thought this was a great ruling on the side of the European Union, particularly during a time when Europe is ” mired in recession, governments struggling to reduce budget deficits and officials trying to combat high unemployment.” In light of the economy, I’m sure this was a difficult decision to make. People are still people, and they deserve to live their lives well without working themselves to the bone. After reading about this ruling in the NY Times, I decided to research other countries’ vacation policies.

In doing so, I have learned that Canadian workers are entitled to two weeks of vacation leave per year, paid a minimum of 4% their regular wage.

In China, the number of days granted for paid leave increases with the time length of consecutive employment (this is not uncommon among countries). That is to say if you have worked under an employer for one to ten years, you are entitled 5 days of vacation leave with full pay; 10 to 20 grants you ten days; 20 and above grants you 15 days.

On the other hand,  Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of the USA “does not require payment for time not worked, such as vacations, sick leave or holidays (federal or otherwise).” Although there is no legislated minimum, it has been estimated that average employers grant their employees 15 days of vacation. The USA is the only advanced country without a national vacation policy.

This information really made me think about the extent to which full-time employees (in the most generic sense) spend working. I can’t help but be reminded of the feelings I had when I wrote my previous blog post: What can I do with my life such that I will feel satisfied spending 8 hours a day doing my work? Will I really be able to find a career for which I will happily wake up at 7am every weekday? I’m not sure about my future, but for now I will concentrate on gaining experience and information about careers I can potentially pursue as I finish up my undergraduate degree.

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Why I will (hopefully) have a successful career

I am inspired this week by a man known as Larry Smith. Smith works primarily as an economics professor at the University of Waterloo. On Monday, he told a room of 100 hundred other students, including myself, why you will fail to have a great career. He then told us how to fix it.

I mean really, have you ever seen a gravestone say “Here lies a terrible parent, an untrustworthy friend, and an unfaithful spouse?”

The main point of his presentation was to follow your passion, or else you will die as wasted potential. He urged us to do something that will make our life worth living, and not just about making a living. One thing I really enjoyed about Smith’s talk was how down-to-earth he was. His presentation was essentially an expansion of the TED talk he had presented for TEDxUW, which I felt was too short to do him justice. He was very much aware of the common issues students—and people in general—have when they want to pursue a job based on passion: the risk , the loss of resolve, and the hardships of actually making a living off that passion.

by nogiba

the Risk

For students such as I who are in the middle/late stage of their first university degree, it can be a frightening thing to think about what will happen to our future. Like many in post-secondary institutions, I chose my program not for passion but for the guarantee of a safe living (well even then, I can’t say it’s a guarantee since I haven’t actually graduated yet, heh). During the Q&A portion of the talk, a student raised his concern over the dissociation between his passion and his current program of study. Smith responded with two major points: sacrifices must be made, unconventional connections always exist. Even if you already have a well-paying job or have already graduated, if you are feeling dissatisfied with your career and you have a passion so strong you want to quit your job to fulfill it, you will find a way. It will be at that point that your creativity, resourcefulness, and determination will be your best friends. How will you know if your passion is strong enough?

Oh, you’ll know. And if you don’t know, it means you’ve never felt it. Once it hits you, you’ll know you have your passion.

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This is a rant.

I had a really bad day yesterday.

Every Thursday I have rehearsal with my university’s A Cappella club. I love it; it is easily the highlight of my week. On the Saturday preceding this week’s practice the club had hosted a kind of boot camp day where all the members of the club got together to get to know one another and really drill into our musical repertoire. I was forced to miss the boot camp due to work. I was pretty sad, especially since I work on campus and was thus a mere five minute walk away from the club’s activities. Alas, priorities must be made or life would be a mess.

In light of missing this boot camp, I had practiced really hard all week for this rehearsal. I’m actually a section leader for our club’s alto section, so I knew I had to make up for my absence. 

That’s when my day was ruined.

Our section was split up into two parts: a higher “alto 1” and a lower “alto 2”. I was to lead the higher alto 1 section in practicing one of our songs. I was feeling confident because I was sure I knew my part; I had easily put in 2-3 hours of practice on our newest repertoire just that day.

And then I cracked.

I couldn’t remember how one bar of our music went. I tried to get it but my mind was blank. I subsequently couldn’t remember how the rest of the page sounded. I decided to play it on the piano. It turns out my crappy printer had not printed out one line of the musical staff. If you’ve ever played music, you know that missing just one line completely changes the music like as if you begin to speak a different language.

I was kind of really devastated. To make matters worse, one of the alto 1’s I was supposed to help is actually co-president of the club. I felt so nervous around her; I hate to let people down.

But I did. For someone reason, I blurted out that I had heard that the practice on Saturday had only gotten up to the part before I messed up and was thus uncomfortable with the next part. I don’t even know why I said that… Well actually, I’m quite sure I said that because I didn’t want to say “I’m sorry, I went over this but I still can’t do it.”

My self-esteem has been severely damaged. On my walk home from A Cappella I could only think of how badly I was handling my so-called executive position. I really felt inadequate. I really hate feeling inadequate… This isn’t even my first time as a section leader. I was a section leader last term, too. My fellow alto section leader is amazing. She takes control and has such a powerful personality! I want to learn from her and do as well as she does, but I just feel like I’m really useless right now.

And now I’m just publicly wallowing in shame because writing stuff makes me feel better about life and I haven’t posted anything on this blog for awhile. My posts usually have more intellectual value, but I guess it’s okay to rant once in a while.

I’m not looking for sympathy. I just want to use this blog as a medium to express myself.

I will do better next week.

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