So What's My Story?

After 3 years of being a poor social worker (the work I loved, the pay I didn't), I decided it was time to go back to school and get my Master's! After weighing my options (school far away from home, or school in a different country that is only an 8-hour drive from home) I decided to try my luck in British Columbia, Canada.

For a year I lived in
Surrey, BC while attending Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC. However, as the final component of my work toward my Masters degree in Criminology I have moved back to the states to complete an internship at an Independent Living Program for youth leaving the foster care system.

Here is the story of my adventures as a graduate student in a "foreign" country as well as my current work back in the states.

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

What I Miss About Oregon...

  • Sweet Life
  • 6th Street Grill
  • Being able to go to the grocery store at 2 AM if need be
  • Not having to have a dollar every time I need a grocery cart
  • Saturday market
  • Getting into bars/clubs without having to wait in line forever
  • No tax!
  • Being able to bake and not have to convert units of measurement
  • Having friends who also have cars
  • Being able to find 65 cents in my wallet without having to individually identify each coin
  • Being able to understand someone who speaks the same language as I do
  • Carl's Jr (why do all my "miss"es have to do with food?? lol)
  • Tillamook and Umpqua cheese and ice cream (there I go again!)
  • Bike paths/routes through town
  • The coast... with an actual "beach" and ocean

What I Love About BC...

  • The woman at the liquor store today called me "love"
  • I can buy produce, a roast, and a bottle of wine... at the mall!
  • They refer to electricity as "hydro"
  • They really DO say "eh" ;)
  • I can get anywhere on mass transit... usually in the same amount of time (if not less) as it would take me to drive there
  • They have one kind of vegetable oil at the grocery store, but about 5 different brands of sunflower oil
  • There are islands... you have to take ferries!
  • On the same note, there are boats... EVERYWHERE!
  • Seafood is the cheapest meat at the grocery store
  • Any place east of Vancouver (so pretty much everywhere else) is called the "interior"
  • The views are GORGEOUS
  • The coffee shop at school uses Oregon Chai mix!
  • Cheap, GOOD sushi restaurants!
  • There are a LOT of different fantastic outdoor activities available... just need the weather to DO them! lol
  • Two faculty members at my school regularly put up baby gates in their offices and bring their dogs in with them
  • Cultural variety

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Adventures on the Skytrain

In order to get to school in the morning I need to take a bus from my apartment to the skytrain station... then I take the skytrain to another station where I transfer to another train... after which I take a bus to get me up the "mountain" to campus. Needless to say, with all the time on transit (about an hour either way) I get a lot of awesome people watching in... here are a few of my favorites:

1) There is a blind man that rides my morning bus sometimes. He has a golden lab as a guide dog. When he gets to the bus stop in the morning he says, "Anybody else here?" To which we respond in the affirmative and he says, "Good... didn't miss the bus." One rainy morning his dog was wearing a little doggie parka thing... and, once on the bus, the man pulled out a towel to dry off his companion. This simple scene touched me... the connection between the man and the dog was simply stunning.

2) Today a college aged guy rode 2 of my skytrains and a bus up to the university... wearing an admirals hat. (This is not him by the way... lol).

3) A couple weeks back I was waiting for my first train. There was a rather attractive young Asian guy standing next to me... I was enjoy the view when, out of the blue, he starting do squats on the platform! Full-out squats... exercise breathing and all!

4) On my first bus of the day a woman got on while talking on her cell phone. She sat down behind me and continued her conversation about, I'm assuming, and ex-boyfriend and how he needs to stop sending her demons and "all the transportations".

5) This morning (today was a good people watching day), I got off the train at my connecting station and stepped into an ocean of elementary school kids. There were dozens of them (I'm going to guess about 50 kids plus chaperones). It appears as though they were headed on a field trip down town and someone thought it would be a good idea to take a bunch of 8 year old on the skytrain... let's just say I was VERY happy that I was getting OFF that train!

6) I was eaves dropping on a conversation a few months back between a couple guys (from their accents I think they were from the Caribbean or some other islandy place). I thought they were speaking a foreign language and was trying to figure out what language it was... they one of them used an English word and I realized that they had been speaking English the whole time! Just with a VERY thick accent with a LOT of odd slang.

7) My favorite people watching experiences are the kids with their parents... the kids who obviously don't ride on the skytrain often and still see the wonder in it. They peer out the windows (especially when we go over the river) and point "cool" stuff out to their parents (who are taking pictures and also pointing out things for their kids to see). This is how I feel on the skytrain... wonder, excitement, joy... but I'm 26 years old... too old to have my head pressed up against the window and getting excited over freighter boats and taking pictures... I find this revelation pretty sad...

Three little girls with their parents... marveling at the view from the skytrain.... the dude on the right is wearing the admiral's hat! ;)

25 Things...

I was wondering how long this was going to take to get to me! lol

25 Things

1. I'm pretty sure I can recited the alphabet backwards faster than I can forward.

2. I secretly judge girls who get all made up to go to the gym.

3. I take a LOT of pictures of my cat... quite like a parent with a newborn.

4. When my brothers and I all came down with the chicken pox at the same time they all got comic books... I got a chess set.

5. I'm no good at chess.

6. I love traveling.... and would happily go into debt to do so.

7. I still don't really know what I wanna be when I grow up.

8. I started applying to grad school as an idle threat... I finished the application process in order to run away.

9. I have never smoked pot... or anything else for that matter.

10. Sometimes I can't remember how old I am.

11. When I get into my car alone at night, I turn on the overhead light and check out the back seat for hidden boogie men.

12. I own the entire "Friends" series... and watch it... a LOT

13. I use examples from "Friends" in every day conversations... lol

14. I think a LOT in the first few minutes after going to bed for the night... and I'll get up again if I remembered something I needed to do or if something comes to mind that I feel the need to google.

15. If I don't, I'll forget all about it in the morning.

16. I look like a clone of my mother.

17. Sometimes I feel like I'm too young to be married and have kids, etc., etc.

18. Sometimes I feel like my clock is ticking and need to get a move on... NOW!

19. I have enough baby names picked out to name 6 children... 3 boys and 3 girls.

20. I only really want 2-3 kids.

21. This is the first time in a VERY long time that I can think of enough GOOD female friends to round out a bridal party. =) For that I am SOOO thankful!

22. I didn't get my ears pierced until I was 25...

23. I got my nose pierced a year before that.

24. I slept outside naked once on a REALLY hot night in Ashland.

25. I'm ready to go back home (the U.S.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I forgot about this one!

"Little Mosque on the Prairie" (thanks for the reminder!)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I'm in love....

The Boob Tube

Guess what Canadians watch on TV up here?

Grey's Anatomy, Law and Order, Lost..... AMERICAN TV! lol I was expecting to find some cool Canadian shows when I came up here... but this is what I found... I present to you... "Corner Gas" (any show where the lead actor's last name is "Butt" has GOT to be interesting, right?)

I did find one I like though... it's called "Being Erica".... though, since I don't have cable and only use rabbit ears, it's not one I can get... thank goodness for Jacob's mad downloading abilities! =)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Can I do this?

I'm really starting to wonder just how long I'll be able to make it in my line of work... if I'll even make it to retirement. My dad has been working for the same place for 20+ years and will be retiring this year... but I just worry about the kind of person I'll be if I spend that much time working with, and hearing the stories, day after day, of youth who have been abused by their families and people that they have trusted.

I spent the majority of yesterday reading journal articles about youth who, after being taken from their abusive parents, were then abused physically, emotionally and sexually by their foster parents and foster siblings... the statistics are sad. Especially the one that said that in 44% of the confirmed cases, the perpetrating foster parent already had a history of accusations... WHY ARE KIDS STILL PLACED THERE???

It seems like foster kids leave the system more messed up then when they went in. They leave with a variety of educational and mental health problems, not to mention a lack of emotional support and few actual life skills... they end up homeless, drug addicted, teenager parents, unemployed, high school drop outs, criminal offenders... how much of this can we really blame on them? And how many of these stories can I take for the next 20+ years??

Amongst all my readings, I had an phone appointment with one of my distance ed students. Their first essay assignment is due this Thursday and I figured she wanted to clarify something about the paper with me. No... she wanted to inform me that she was having trouble putting her all into the paper because the various readings of child pornography and prostitution were bringing up past traumatic events from her own life... I can't get away from it... and the scary thing is... I'm choosing not to.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Quite the Work Out!

Back when I was choosing my on-campus housing options at Southern Oregon University I took into account the fact that one of the residence halls was in the same building as the cafeteria and one of them was down the hill... I figured, in order to avoid the legendary "Freshman 15" it would be wise to get a room in the hall at the bottom of the hill... forcing me to exercise every time I wanted a meal.

Over the course of my undergrad career I still managed to gain the weight (if not a bit more), AND I seemed to have cursed myself into only attending schools built on the side of mountains! lol.

SFU is located on Burnaby Mountain (about 1200 feet above sea level... SOU, by the way, was about 1800 feet). The entire campus is, pretty much, built as one extended building. You can walk from one end to the other without ever getting wet in the rain.

The problem with this, however, is that the campus is built on quite the incline, and the multiple "buildings" that are interconnected are not interconnected at each level. For instance, I cannot walk straight through the lower level of my building... if I want to get from the coffee place (on the beginning of the lower level) to my office (the end of the lower level), I either have to go up an intimidating flight of stairs and then down another set of stairs, or I have to walk around outside (which is usually what I choose to do).

There are two main bus "terminals" on campus. Both, obviously, are on the street level of the university. However, to walk from the first one to the second one, you must go up 4 or 5 flights of stairs (in a maze like pattern). It's pretty ridiculous.

When I started school this fall and walked up and down all those stairs I started to think about how difficult it would be for a person in a wheelchair to get around the campus. Sure, there are elevators, but they are hidden away. I don't even know where most of them are. Then I started to realize that I don't see any wheelchairs on campus... ever. I wonder if I'm on to something! =)

** P.S. All of this came to mind yesterday when I saw TWO wheelchairs in the student service building... I'm assuming they were on a tour or something **

Hey Sarah Palin...

This is a bit late, but still great!

These guys have a bunch of other politically based stuff on YouTube.... check out VengaProductions

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Where Would You Rather Live?

U.S. comparisons come up a LOT at school. I suppose its easy to do since the U.S. and Canada are not really THAT different. I put up with a fair amount U.S. bashing (since most of it I agree with), but I was a little surprised at the seemingly ignorant following of anti-U.S. sentiment that I felt from my students today during my tutorial.

The class discussion was about governments that have a parliamentary supremacy model and those that have a separation of power model. We talked about what this different models meant to their citizens and which system the class felt better about. The resounding majority of the class felt that their rights were better protected with an SP model. So, then we talked about countries with this models. The prime example of countries with PS and SP models are the UK and the US, respectively. The question I presented to the class was, "Which country would you rather live in?" I heard about 15 voices say the UK all at once...

O.K., no big deal, but here's the kicker... not ONE PERSON could tell me why! Even though 5 minutes before hand everyone said they would rather live in a country with an SP model, nobody could tell me why the UK would be a better place to live than the US. The only people who were able to give me any sort of reasoning behind their answer were the 2 students who said they'd rather live in the states! I couldn't believe it.

I don't care if you dislike the states, but could you at least have a reason?

Laziness Creeping In....

I only have class 1 day a week.... and on-campus work 1 day a week... why is it that on those 2 days out of the week I have to drag myself to school? I need some motivation and energy...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Plastic People"

Have you ever googled your name? I do it on occasion when I get bored or tired of reading academic journal articles... which was the case this evening.

There are a lot of "Brittney Boyer"s out there (and no google, I do NOT mean BrittANY! =P), and, after shuffling through those that weren't me (job profiles, half dressed women, 16-year old who think they've met their soul mates, and obituaries), I found something that surprised me... a new entry that WAS me.

Most of the stuff that comes up in a google search of your's truly are JEA and NSPA award listings from high school... but this was created last May. The Register Guard's columnist, Bob Welch, wrote a piece about a 20Below kid, Chad, 10 years after his tenure. Back in 1998 this kid wrote a column in which he was justifying dropping out of school by putting down everyone else around him... especially his peers who did well academically, he coined this "plastic people." My name came up with this because I wrote a letter to the editor response and Welsh included it with his recap of Chad's story (who recently graduated from college). Below is the original article by Chad and the letter that I wrote in response:

05/25/1998 Who needs high school? Not me

By CHAD ANDREWS, 20Below News Team The Register-Guard

ALL MY LIFE PEOPLE have been telling me about how important school is to my future. “Without a good education, you won’t go anywhere.” “You’ll never have a job if you drop out.” “You’ll never succeed without a diploma.” “School is the best thing for you,” they say. I beg to differ.

Most of my earliest memories are of when I first started kindergarten. I remember sitting there, among a bunch of strange kids, listening to the teacher - Mrs. Wikel, I believe - droning on in a cheerful voice about all the fun things we were going to be doing and learning now that we were in school.

Boy, was I pumped. I was one of the big kids now. I was in school, and I was going to learn how to tackle the world.

They sure fooled me. From the day the teacher started singing the ABCs, I knew I was in for a long torturous ordeal that would leave me drained of my mind, my soul and my dignity.

As I got older, I began to realize that I didn’t have to let them take me. I watched the people around me, the ones who always get those ridiculous little paper awards for their achievements that they wave around like little banners that proclaim, “Look at me! Look what I did! Look at what I am that you’re not!!” and I am always reminded of the little poodles in pink tutus that do back flips and walk upright for treats at the circus.

I always look into the scholars’ blank little eyes, and there’s always pride shining in them, and I think, “Woo. You got a paper. Way to go, genius, now go jump through the flaming hoop and see if you can get a fish.”

Even worse are those I deem “plastic people.” Those who have spent their whole lives being led around by Mommy’s apron strings. The people who are on scholastic honor roll and the ones who have never missed a day of school and are devastated by a B on their report card.

They disturb me because I see them sitting next to me in class looking up words like “derision” and “irony” and struggling to understand the definitions they find. I see them sitting there sounding out the words in “The Great Gatsby” and saying Versailles “Vuhr-say-leeze.”

These people get all kinds of “honors” heaped on them, because they are willing to toss their wills out the window and leap through hoops, because they are willing to kneel down and take whatever they must just so they can get their circus treats. I will not be made to kneel.

People tell me I am making a big mistake. My own brother calls me worthless. My mother says nothing, but I know her dreams are crushed. As much as I would like to be able to stand side by side with my peers, doing handstands and begging for scraps, I will not.

The vast majority of what I know, most of my skills, were not learned in school. I figured it out on my own. I know the teachers (most of them) are far smarter than I am, but one of my favorite things to do at school is play “Stump the Teacher” because, even though they know a lot more than me, I can find what they don’t know, hunt down their weaknesses and exploit them. I got nothing better to do.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that education is important, but I can’t take the way they try to give it to me. I’m done. I’m going to ruin my life by throwing in the towel and quitting after this, my junior year.

I’m dropping out of high school because I just don’t belong there. I don’t even have a shot at graduating because I just can’t make myself sit there and do what I must to pass. Every time I try to do my homework, I can almost feel the little pink tutu growing around my waist, and I won’t stand for it.

Teachers do what they feel is right, and I respect them for it. If they want to interfere in other peoples lives, I’ll leave them to it. Just leave me out of it.

A wise man once told me a story. He told me about a young cocaine dealer he knew. He remembered asking the 15-year-old boy, “Where will you be in five years?” and the boy told him he would be rich, living on an island and waterskiing all day. The young man is now 27, in his fifth jail. No island. No waterskiing.

When he finished comparing me to a cocaine dealer, the wise man asked me, “Where will you be in five years?”

I had no answer for him. I still have no answer, but at that moment, something changed inside me. For a moment I wavered, my resolution thinned, and doubt crept into my mind. I could hear distant doors slamming shut on a distant me. The sound of crumbling dreams boomed silently in the air, and I thought, My god, he’s right! If I do this I’ll end up like his cocaine dealer, maybe not in jail, but, in my own personal prison, with all the exits barred, trapped without hope of egress until the day I die.

Then the moment passed. He was gone and I was alone. The fear washed away, and I was certain that I would make it. I may never be rich, but I will not allow myself to be held prisoner by my past.

I am a survivor, and I mean to survive. Even if dropping out of high school means scrapping my dreams of being a journalist, or possibly a novelist, it’s what I feel I have to do.

If I am condemning myself to doing grunt work for the rest of my life, so be it, but I will not be made to kneel.

Dear 20Below,

I started reading your article in the paper this morning (ÒWho needs high school? Not me") and I was thinking, “this kid may not have the same views as I do, but he knows what he wants.” And then I got to the fifth paragraph and from there the whole story went downhill. ...

“Those who have spent their whole lives being led around by Mommy’s apron strings. The people who are on scholastic honor roll and the ones who have never missed a day of school and are devastated by a B on their report card.”

I am one of the people you dubbed “plastic.”

I take pride in my grades and my achievements, though I don’t wave them around or jump through flaming hoops to receive more. School is something I can master. Something I can do well if I try. And that is exactly what I’m doing ... trying. You have made up your mind to stop trying to master school, and that is your decision. I’ve made up my mind to stay in school and try my darnedest. I’m not making fun of your plans ... so why make fun of mine?

Brittney Boyer,

Junction City High School

(A former 20Below columnist)

Friday, January 16, 2009

U.S. Secret Prisons

I need money. So, I took a second campus job. In addition to being a tutor marker for an online course, I am now also a teaching assistant for an on-campus course. This week I sat in on the lecture as well as the tutorial that the professor is over seeing (so I could get an idea of what a tutorial should look like as I have never done one before).

The question presented to the students was, "What countries can you think of that don't have a rule of law?"

(For those who aren't criminologically minded, a "rule of law" has two parts, 1) governments are not able to make arbitrary decisions [they generally have to answer to a court system], and 2) nobody is above the law.)

Many of the answers were reasonable... Zimbabwe, Pakistan, China, etc... and then one kid piped up and said, "The United States". This took the professor off guard... he asked what the student meant. The student replied that the U.S. obviously doesn't have a rule of law with all the secret prisons they have.

This was a new one to me... (and, thankfully, to the prof as well!)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What Would YOU Do For Nicorette Gum?

In school, somewhere along the line, I remember watching commercials from foreign countries that I couldn't BELIEVE would actually air on TV! They were often high sexualized and inappropriate... little did I know that Canada had different commercials all of their own!

Canada's commercials aren't inappropriate exactly, but rather, weird, odd, and somewhat humorous... here are a couple of my favorites.

BC Dairy Foundation
This is equivalent to our "Got Milk" campaigns...

Lotto 649
As I've mentioned before, the lotto is HUGE up here. This one makes Jacob laugh every time!

Nicorette Extreme Chill Gum
What would you do to stop smoking?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Way too much to do!

Do you ever feel like you have a lot of life ahead of you and you just want to get going and see where it takes you?

That has been the story of my life for the last year or so. I wanted to get to Canada and start school... for months I looked at housing on craigslist (even though I knew there was no way to get something 6 months in advance, but I was just curious about what was out there!), now I'm in Canada and I find myself planning for what's going to happen next!

I am going the unconventional route for getting my Master's. Rather than writing a thesis as the end of my tenure at SFU, I will be doing a "practicum" that includes a 3 month internship and then a written literature review. Originally I was thinking about how great it would be to do my internship somewhere far away; get the opportunity to travel a little and see more of the world. So, I spent the last couple of months researching social service agencies in New Zealand, air fare, housing, locations, etc. Then, over the winter break it occured to me that it would probably be more "practical" (I hate that word) to do my internship somewhere that I may want to settle down and possibly get hired on.

I really love the Pacific Northwest and want to stay here, and Jacob wants to end up back in the Portland area, so, I'm now looking at agencies in Portland . I think I found one I like, The Inn Home ILP, but I am still very much up for suggestions. So, now I'm looking at housing, etc. down in Portland... and I still have 7 months to get through up here!

Argh... I REALLY think too much!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

This Is What Jacob Does On A Snowy Day In Canada...

I'm reading 85 pages of the Youth Criminal Justice Act for one of my courses... he is currently playing a video game in which he is a tattooed escaped prisoner shooting people and stealing cars while wearing a cheerleader's outfit... he thinks it's hilarious... hmm... what it must be like to be a boy!

This would never have happened at SOU!

I convinced a professor to RESCHEDULE a class session...

Now I get 5 day weekends...

I kinda like grad school! =)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Obama Would Have Won in Canada, Too

I know this because, when I met someone new and they found out I was from the states, they would generally ask "Are you going to vote for Obama?" (right before the ask me if I own a gun). I heard SOO much on the bus and skytrain about the U.S. presidential election. Information on the movements and progress of the campaign were in the papers up here almost daily. The Canadian people appeared to be HUGE Obama fans. In fact, many of them actually watched the election coverage as well... even went to dinner parties that night to watch the race with friends.

Here is the funny thing though... Canada had their own election about a month or so prior to ours, I did not hear nearly as much buzz. In fact, I can't even tell you who all the different parties were who ran (they have about 5 primary political parties up here, I think). I mentioned to a classmate of mine how odd I thought this was that Canadians seemed to be more interested in the U.S. election than their own. He told me that it was due to the fact that the election in the states was more interesting; stances on issues were different and more extreme between candidates than they are for those in Canadian elections. He explained to me that even the conservatives in Canada were generally more liberal than the democrats in the states.

Oh... and they are definitely not Bush fans either! This became quite apparent to me in one of my courses last term as the professor was quite to use Bush as an illustrative example of a buffoon... not to mention the popularity of the movie "W".

Monday, January 5, 2009

Because All Canadians Live in Igloos

A friend of mine forwarded this joke e-mail to me... I found it amusing and wanted to include it here because I have plenty of my own comments and observations to add!

Because Everyone In Canada Lives In An Igloo.

Now that Vancouver has won the chance to host the 2010 Winter

Olympics, these are some questions people from all over the world are asking. Believe it or not these questions about Canada were posted on an International Tourism Website. Obviously the answers are a joke; but the questions were really asked!

Q:I have never seen it warm on Canadian TV, so how do the plants grow?( England )

A. We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around and watch them die.

** If you saw the weather we've been having the last few days, you wouldn't think this question was so out of line!

Q:Will I be able to see Polar Bears in the street? ( USA )

A: Depends on how much you've been drinking.

** You may see other kinds of bears though... even completely sober. My first week on campus someone saw a bear roaming around. There's been bear sightings in local neighborhoods, too!

Q:I want to walk from Vancouver to Toronto. Can I follow the railroad tracks? ( Sweden )

A: Sure, it's only Four thousand miles, take lots of water.

Q:Is it safe to run around in the bushes in Canada? ( Sweden )

A: So it's true what they say about Swedes.

** See this sign posted in a local park... they tell me what you think of question!

Q: Are there any ATM's (cash machines) in Canada? Can you send me a list of them in Toronto , Vancouver , Edmonton and Halifax ? (England)

A: What, did your last slave die?

**They exist, but none of the banks are the same and international fees for withdrawing are pretty high. Bring cash!

Q:Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Canada? (USA )

A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle-shaped continent south of Europe. Ca-na-da is that big country to your North...oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Calgary. Come naked.

Q:Which direction is North in Canada? ( USA )

A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Canada?( England )

A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.

** You can fined $300 for bringing in an apple... I don't think this is a ridiculous question!

Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? ( USA )

A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is...oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Vancouver and in Calgary, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.

Q: Do you have perfume in Canada? ( Germany )

A: No, WE don't stink.

** After spending hours on the skytrain, I think I'm going to have to disagree with this answer!

Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Where can I sell it in Canada ?( USA )

A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Q: Can you tell me the regions in British Columbia where the female population is smaller than the male population? ( Italy )

A: Yes, gay nightclubs.

Q: Do you celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada? ( USA )

A: Only at Thanksgiving.

** And in OCTOBER! Thanksgiving is not supposed to come BEFORE Halloween =P

Q: Are there supermarkets in Toronto and is milk available all year round?( Germany )

A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of Vegan hunter/gathers. Milk is illegal.

** Milk maybe.... eggs No! Today is the second time I've gone to the grocery store and they've been out of eggs!

Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Canada, but I forget its name. It's a kind of big horse with horns. ( USA )

A: It's called a Moose. They are tall and very violent, eating the brains of anyone walking close to them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? ( USA )

A: Yes, but you will have to learn it first.

** You can speak it no problem... its understanding it from others in the
area that's the problem!

An "A" By Any Other Name...

As I mentioned in my previous post, grad students at SFU are pretty much guaranteed a job as a teaching assistant... which brings in enough income to completely pay tuition fees. Of course, I jumped right in!

Prior to fall term I was offered a position as a Tutor Marker (teaching assistant for an online, distance ed course) for Crim 312: Criminological Perspectives on Social Problems. This course is pretty much right up my alley. The focus is on mala prohibita crimes rather than malum in se (actions that are not evil within themselves, but rather deemed wrong by society) such as pornography, prostitution, drug use, and euthanasia.

Marking an online course is fantastic. I work around my own schedule, don't have to be any where at any specific time, and don't need to sit through undergrad lectures. I grade 3 papers a term (for a class of about 60 students), and 4 online discussions. Reading 60 papers 3 times a term can be a little frustrating, but over all it's a pretty good gig.

My mom asked me what I did for my job, and this is what I told her... Imagine that you walk into a classroom on the first day of school and the teacher gives you all the assignment prompts and textbooks for the term and then walks away and never comes back. This is pretty much me. My supervising professor has put together the reading list and the assignments for the term, but after that the course is mine. I answer all questions, grant extensions on assignments and determine what grades each student deserves (both for assignments as well as for final grades).

I enjoyed the course and the flexibility so much last term that I applied for, and was granted the same course again for this term... and the same course is offered during the summer as well... so here's hoping!

My only complaint so far is that I don't feel was very prepared. I work well independently and sometimes really appreciate being let loose to do what I will. However, I had no experience with grading papers, or even the Canadian grading system (which is different than the U.S.), so I think i would have liked a little assistance with that early on.

In the U.S. the standard grade scale is 90-100 A, 80-89 B, 70-79 C, etc. However, in Canada the scale is generally 85-100 A, 70-84 B, 55-69 C, etc. You can see how this might have gotten me in trouble. As I was unaware of this change in scale, for my first two assignments were graded with the U.S. scale in mind. When my students threw a fit I spoke with my supervisor, who told me that I could use whatever grading scale that I wanted and that he was more concerned with the distribution of the final grades being on 20-60-20 curve. I explained all this to my students. And found, at the end of the term, that the US grade scale as I was using worked out to the curve my supervisor wanted, therefore those were the grades the students received. Unfortunately, for WEEKS afterwards I was getting e-mails from students complaining about their final grades. Fortunately for me, my supervisor backed me up and its time to start fresh... I made everything VERY clear to my new students at the BEGINNING of this term! lol

This is Grad School?: First Impressions

Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC

I don't know what I was expecting when I starting up the Master's in Criminology program at SFU, but what I got was not it! I expected lectures, lots of classes, and many, many students. Instead, classes are more discussion periods, professors see you a colleagues rather than students, and there are only about 14 other students in my cohort.

I have pass codes to secured areas of the building, have access to a private computer lab, get a printing allowance each year, have an office that I share with 3 other classmates with my own desk area and large storage bin, and another office to use for any teaching assistant duties. As a grad student I am pretty much guaranteed a job as a teaching assistant for an undergrad course, which pays my tuition completely.

I only have 3 classes a term. Last term I went to school 2 days a week, this term I'll be there for 3. However, after this term, my coursework is done and for the next year I work independently, never having to go to another class.

Professors don't want to give grad students anything less than an A- and will adjust their grading scale in order to reflect that.

On my first day of class, we were told not to sleep with professors or undergrad students... I guess I should have known at that point that this was going to be an interesting experience!

Moving to Canada: Trials and Tribulations

In early August Jacob and I set out for Vancouver to find a place to live. We decided to stay at Dogwood Campground in Surrey (just outside of Vancouver), since it would be cheap and still within the city area.

Prior to leaving I searched craigslist for different rental openings... however, upon arriving in BC we soon discovered that cheaper housing (which we were looking for obviously) was such a commodity in the area that apartments are gone within days, or even hours, from when the posting goes up. Thankfully, we borrowed a friend's lap top and were able to search new listings at a Wifi coffee shop near our campground.

We looked at about 15 different apartments... 12 of them sucked. They were either too small, too weird, too gross or they were rented out minutes before we got there. We put in applications at 3 of them, they were:

Third Choice: A large apartment complex in Surrey, on the other side of the river from Vancouver and about an hour commute to school. Nothing really special about it, but not horrible either.

Second Choice: Private apartment building in Vancouver suburbia. Older building but really pretty. Wood floors, higher ceilings, character in the architecture, nice neighborhood. Would have probably taken me a half hour or so to get to school.

First Choice: Mid-sized apartment complex in Coquitlam. IT HAD A DISHWASHER! Clean, big, nice sized closets. Within biking distance to school (if I chose to bike up the mountain.... who knows... I may have tried!).

We were the first people to fill out applications for both our first and second choices. Our third choice was a property management company with a lot of openings so if our application was accepted we were pretty much guaranteed a place somewhere. We never heard back from our second choice, heard that we were accepted at our third, and were just waiting to hear back from our first choice.

Our first choice was shown to us by the man currently living there. He and his family were moving to India for work and he needed to find someone to take over his 6-month lease. He told us that he'd take our application to the rental office and get back to us... and he did get back to us, after we'd already returned to Oregon, to tell us that there was a miscommunication and that we needed to submit a deposit with our application. He wanted to know if we could "stop by" and drop it off. After telling him that we were already back in Oregon, and lots of begging and pleading, we finally got him to agree to give us 3 days to get our deposit up there. We hung up and took off for Fedex. We sent the check and thought everything would be alright. I watched the tracking on the package for the next 3 days... only to discover that the delivery man was unable to find the proper address on the last day and no one was answering the telephone number we included. Our check did not get to the rental agency on time and we lost our top pick apartment.

Thankfully we had been accepted to our third choice. We contacted them and picked out an apartment in their Regent Place complex. Unfortunately, it was an apartment in a complex that we had not seen so we would be surprised upon arrival (I was not too fond of this idea).

We were told that the apartment would be ready on the 1st of September, and then the 5th... and then the 8th. I told them that I needed a place on the 1st, so they allowed me to stay in another unit until ours was ready. So, on September 1st I arrived at the apartment to sign papers and see, sort of, my new home. The rental agreement was signed, my temporary accommodations shown to me, and it was time to pay the rental fees.

I started a bank account the week prior, but because my funds were coming from the U.S. I was told that they wouldn't be available until the 2nd of September. Due to this, I figured that I would just pay the move in costs for the month with my U.S. debit card. Unfortunately, debit card systems in Canada are not like those in the U.S., so my Wells Fargo card did not work... and I had no money.

I explained my situation to my the property manager. I told her that my funds would be available the next day and that I would be more than willing to come in then the pay the fees. She already had my deposit so I was hoping that it wouldn't be a problem... Surprise! It was. She told me that she couldn't let me in without the money... and they didn't take checks. I left the office feeling lost and scared. I didn't know what to do or where to go. I tried going to get cash out of ATMS, but I couldn't get enough. I went to the mall, ordered a slide of pizza, and just sat there. I called Jacob (who was waiting until the 8th to move our stuff up) and cried. Finally, as I was wondering around Walmart wasting time, the property manager called me back. She said that she was feeling bad about my situation and said that she would accept a check if I would come back the following day to trade the check for a debit transaction.

I agreed and got the keys to my temporary unit.

I went back to the rental office on the 2nd to pay with my debit card. She ran the card and the screen flashed "insufficient funds". I couldn't believe it. I ran to the bank and talked to a teller, who told me that the funds were not available until 11:59 PM on the date I was told. I found this incredibly strange... if they aren't available until the last minute of the day in question, just tell the customer they will be available the next day! At least, though, the banker was nice enough to make the funds available so that I could pay my rent.

I slept on the floor in that unit for about 5 days. It smelled bad, it was dirty, the window panes were broken, there were no screens on the windows and big bugs flew in when I tried to air the place out. I was not happy. I told Jacob about it and we agreed to look for a new place. But then, on the 8th, after finally seeing our new apartment (which had been slightly renovated) and we hauled all of our stuff up to the 3rd floor, we decided the place wasn't that bad after all... and we could last a year or so here! lol

Our apartment isn't any fabulous. The kitchen is kind of small and there is no dishwasher. We have go down to the office area to do laundry, and we don't have screens on the windows. But it's cheap, somewhat clean, and has a walk-in closet in the large master bedroom. We're happy here and we're making it into a home.

Life in Review, 2008

My life has changed a great deal in the last year... I became part of a new relationship, moved to a different country, went back to school after 3 years away, started a new job and made lots of new friends! Below is a month by month playback on my life, my experiences and the changes that ultimately led to where I am today!

I started out the new year as a newly single woman... but it didn't last long! Less than two weeks after the end of 2007 I met a fantastic guy, Jacob, and we quickly became a bit of an item!

However, prior to our first date, after a rather large turning point in my life, I decided to complete my application for the Criminology master's program at
Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC. It probably wouldn't be far from the truth to say that the last of my paperwork arrived at the university the same day I met Jacob.

I told myself at that point that I needed to start thinking about myself, and what I wanted to do with my life. That I needed to stop putting my desires on hold for a man (which was, unfortunately what had occurred in the past). Jacob knew from the start about my pending application, but we decided there was no harm in spending time together... we kinda liked each other after all!

My relationship with Jacob continued to evolve. For Valentine's Day he took me on a weekend getaway to his parent's beach house in Waldport. I absolutely love the ocean, and this trip was no exception. However, it was definitely an added bonus to be staying in a house with a large picture window that looked over the beach... perfect for hot chocolate and nights watching the ships go by.

I received notice in March that SFU had accepted me into the Fall 2008 program and I had less than a month to make my decision and pay the deposit. My thoughts were on how fast everything was happening! I had a lot of very difficult decisions to make in a very short amount of time... however, the first step was to actually go SEE the school! (I had only learned of the program via Peterson's College Search based on the location of the school and the fact that they were the only university on the western side of the "country" to offer a master's program in Criminology).

My mom and I decided to take a road trip up to BC to check out the university in April. I remember my eyes getting big when we drove by the city and I saw all the tall buildings in the downtown area. Growing up in Junction City, Oregon, buildings with more than 3 stories are pretty rare... and here skyscrapers with floors in the double digits!

When we pulled into the parking garage and I first saw Simon Fraser University I remember thinking how ugly it was; it was all concrete and gray (later I would find out that they refer to it as the Concrete Jungle). But once we got un-lost and found our way into the actual university (the campus is almost completely enclosed) my opinions changed and I could see myself walking those halls, studying in that library, and looking at the fantastic views from the mountain that the university resides on.

I called Jacob that night and told him that I thought I wanted to go to SFU. I told him that I wanted to be selfish and ask him to come with me, but I knew that it was too early in the relationship to do so. I told him how much I wanted to be with him, but how scared I was to do the long distance "thing". He assured me that everything would work out.

By the time I got back home to Oregon, he was already telling people that he was moving to Canada.

We celebrated my Dad's 50th birthday in May over the Memorial Day weekend. His sisters threw him a party in Bend, OR... Hawaiian themed. It was nice to have my whole family together in one room... even if we did have to travel all the way to Bend! All of my brothers and their significant others were there and we all stayed together in a little house that Jacob's parents set up for us, while my parents got a hotel room. It was nice to get the opportunity to spend more time with the women that my brothers had chosen to spend their time with. I never had sisters, so my hope was always for good sister-in-laws!

My baby brother graduated from high school this year! No more Boyers at JCHS to hassle teachers and make a ruckus! =)

In addition to graduation, June was also the start of the sand volleyball season! My friend Holly and I put together a team of friends and relatives to play in the city league. We had fun... we'll leave it at that!

July was full of all kinds of fun! The summer was finally here which meant picnics, rafting trips down the river and camping at the coast! I also got my fill of fireworks with displays at the Em's game, the rodeo and at the beach.

Unfortunately, the coming of July meant that my time in Oregon was getting shorter. Jacob and I were living together by this point (my stuff remained in boxes in his living room as I knew that I would be packing everything up again soon) and trying to figure out how the whole thing was going to work. He wanted to come with me, but I was concerned about his job, his duplex and visa requirements for the two of us (I also had to get all my paperwork together for my student visa). I was also stressing up about living arrangements and how difficult it was going to be to find an apartment from such a distance.

To address our housing worries, Jacob and I took a trip to Vancouver at the beginning of August to try to nail down a place to live. It was a complicated process and I think I may blog more in depth about it later! lol

After returning from BC, Jacob and I both finish up our jobs and then took off with 4 friends for goodbye weekend away in Las Vegas. We stayed in condo off the strip and took the shuttle in every day to explore and see the sights (and usually a cab back since we stayed out a bit late!).

The last two weeks of August flew by in a whirlwind of activity. We packed up Jacob's house, had to say goodbye to all our friends and family, and moved everything we owned to Jacob's parents place in Sandy, Oregon. I started orientation at the end of August, but our apartment wasn't going to be ready for us until September, so our stuff would be stored and I needed to find a place to stay for a few days in BC. Thankfully the university set me up with a "Partner in Crime": another grad student to be a mentor and answer any of my questions. And, thankfully still, she had a spare room in her apartment on campus that she offered to me while I waited for mine.

Orientation went by in a blur. I remember getting horribly lost... a LOT!

September was a busy month as well! Amid all kinds of apartment related stresses (which you'll here about in a different posting), Jacob and I moved our things into a 3rd floor, 2 bedroom apartment in North Surrey, BC. For those of you who know Eugene, Surrey is the "Springfield" of Vancouver... both by location and reputation.

We were here for only a week or two before returning to Oregon to celebrate our birthdays and attend Jacob's annual family gathering at the coast. After a week away from BC, we made the 8-hour drive back, looking forward to some relaxing time in our new home.

I started to make new friends right away at school. The cohort of incoming grad students is pretty small (about 14 of us I think), and pretty much all of our first term classes were together, so we saw a lot of each other! October was spent continuing to form friendships, figure out the grad school thing, and explore Vancouver. Over the first two months in the area we tried to take a few different "tourist" days... roaming around the Historic Gastown neighborhood of downtown Vancouver, taking a ferry out and hiking around Bowen Island, and exploring the Green Timber Urban Forest that is pretty much in our backyard.

It was also in October that my friend Josie and her husband flew back to the west coast (Seattle) from their home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We met half way to go bowling and eat Chinese food. It had been over a year since I'd seen Josie and I was really happy to have the opportunity for such a good, close, old friend of mine to meet Jacob and give her opinion! lol.... he passed her test!

FYI... Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October. When asked what the story behind the Canadian Thanksgiving is, one of my classmates looked at me and said she had no idea! lol

November was a rush of finishing term papers and group projects. The semester ended the last week of the month, when I should have been home celebrating a US Thanksgiving with my family. Instead I convinced my mom to postpone Thanksgiving until the following weekend and finished up my first term as a grad student.

In addition, early in the month Jacob and I took a belated birthday trip to Victoria, BC. We spent several days exploring the harbor and taking in the sights... and just relaxing in the condo we stayed in!

Jacob stayed in Oregon when we went back for Thanksgiving, but I had to return for about a week to finish grading papers, so I took Amtrak back up to BC. It was pretty lonely. Jacob was with his parents and my cat, Scout, was with mine. I left my car in Oregon, so I had to rely on public transit, thus I didn't want to leave my house after dark by myself. It didn't take my long to finish grading however and I was back in Oregon less than a week later.

December was filled with family, friends, and holiday festivities. The Pacific Northwest was hit by a freak snow storm with ruined many of our holiday plans. Jacob and i were going to meet his family at the beach for a Christmas Eve celebration, however road conditions were not good so his family decided to have the celebration at their place in Sandy... and then they got snowed in. His family ended up postponing their Christmas until New Years Day. My family was going to have Christmas day celebration, but my relatives in Portland also go snowed in and didn't feel safe driving to and from on Christmas, so our celebration was postponed until the following weekend... even though we still had a Christmas dinner with my Grandmother. So, in the end, Jacob and I had 3 Christmases this year!

It was also nice to be able to spend time with friends again. We went out to dinners, went ice skating, played pool, and overall had a great time with great people... with whom we ended the year right. New Year's Eve was spent out with friends listening to live music at the Cooler in Eugene, talking, laughing and having a great time.

2008 was a great year, and I'm looking forward to 2009!

If you are interested in seeing more pictures of our life in Canada, you can check out my albums:

Life In Canada 1
Life in Canada (Part 2)
Vancouver Apartment Hunting