Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It has now been more than a month since I’ve come to Canada. Five days more than a month to be exact, and I have to say it’s been fantastic. Never did I dream that I would have this much fun in only a month! Everyone has been so welcoming that I feel like I’m still on vacation. I’ve seen a number of live performances, tried out a few different jobs, and been to many family parties. It’s been fantastic! However… no one told me about the bugs. Never did I consider I would develop such a fondness for spiders, in that we have a common enemy.....bugs. No one bothered to call and tell me ‘Libby…really…you don’t want to move here. There are mosquitoes and flies. Spiders and daddy long legs. Chiggers and ants. Hornets and wasps.’ Yes I know there are bugs everywhere, and coming from Arizona and Texas, I’m used to big bugs and even snakes, but no one mentioned that the bugs here are everywhere. Everywhere! Inside, outside, on the deck, in the cold, in the heat, when it’s raining, when it’s dry. Everyone seems to think there are rules as to when the bugs show up…but the only rule is that I have to be present somewhere on the island, and the bugs will come. I have killed at least 10 mosquitoes a night, every night that I’ve been here. That’s 310 mosquitoes that are no longer flying around pestering others! That number dramatically increases when you’re at the cottage! And you know the only time you kill a bug is when it’s sitting there on you, sucking away, so I have had at least 310 mosquito bites! Then when you think you’ve killed every mosquito in a twelve mile radius, you will learn, while you were busy killing, they were multiplying, and they’re back, in hoards. I start to dread dusk and have started to run for cover. Sunset is no longer a wonder of nature, it’s a warning sign in yellow and red to run for cover. One morning, I woke up to the sound of a fly buzzing around my room. A fly! What an annoying way to start the day! I decided to take the opportunity now that I was up 90 minutes early, to greet the day with yoga. I went downstairs, under the porch, and became quite serene as I was staring at the beautiful coast of the red sand water. Right as I was in some salutation pose, perfectly happy with the universe and zen, I realize a bug was sucking away at my leg. Stupid mosquito! I am never immune! Not even when I’m at one with the universe! So I paused my budda zen-ness and smacked the mosquito, then resumed my unity with nature. Seriously - no one warned me! I wish someone had. I may not have come then…or at least I would have bought a ton of bug spray in the states where it costs half as much.

That’s another thing, everything here is twice as much or more, for smaller quantities, before the 20% tax. I tried to buy Velveeta cheese. Simple enough, right? A six ounce package cost 8 dollars! Seriously!?! It was maybe $6 for the entire 16 ounce package in the States! Has this ‘cheese’ been made by golden cows? It is somehow a more complicated process to ship it to PEI rather than Georgia? I can’t imagine import fees constitute an increase of 300%!?! That’s for everything – Wendy’s doesn’t have a dollar menu here, it’s the ‘value menu’, which I have to say is no value at all. McDonalds and Wendy’s are over my budget! I realize that only points out how low my budget is…but it blows my budget it by far! A McDonalds hamburger, the 59 cent kind, is 1.69 here, plus 20% for taxes.  Again I ask you, are Canadian cows golden? How have people been putting up with this for so long? I can’t fathom it. It seems nearly cheaper to fly to Boston to have lunch rather than pay for an American brand here.

Now that those two rants are out of the way, it really has been lovely! I worked at our family cottage helping my uncle clean up the brush and trees one afternoon, yielding an ax. (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase and now I can ‘yielding an ax’). I was quite good with it by the end, but it took some practice. The first few tries weren’t too impressive. (Lets just say, I would never have saved Red from the belly of the wolf). Now I can cut down trees with the best of them. In fact, hurricane Earl knocked a few over, but the roots were still very attached, so I had to use my best Paul Bunyan skills to free the tree from its roots. It was quite successful. With Sammy at my side, not quite Blue the Ox but nonetheless supportive, we had a great time chopping wood. That night I felt better about putting wood on the fire in the antiquated wood stove, like I had contributed, even though I left the trees fully intact for my uncle to use the chainsaw to cut it into pieces.

Woodsman skills: 7/10


Twice now I have worked at my cousin’s popcorn stand. Once in a fair environment and once at a Harley motorcycle rally. We sold popcorn, slushies, snowcones, cotton candy, and soda. All my favorite vices! I have helped in years past at various concerts, so the skills quickly came back to me. It was even fun, especially since I was hanging out with my cousin. However, I do not have her up-selling skills. When people walked by, I was quite happy to sell them what they asked for or smile at them if they were just going by. My cousin though, could draw them in and suggested all sorts of food or drinks they needed with their original request, and quite often, the people agreed! It was fantastic. For what I lacked in salesmanship though, whenever I was there, it tended to get much busier.  Clearly, I will not be going into sales as my next career.

Salesman: 6/10


My next attempt at a job was to mow the lawn out at the cottage. Everyone here has large beautiful lawns, perfectly groomed and a gorgeous green. My dog Sampson frolics through these grassy fields. The lawn to mow is not quite two acres and there was a ride on mower, so it sounds simple enough, right? Little did I know there are more levers and knobs on a ride-on mower than there are in the international space station! I get the mower out of the barn, guiding it down the two boards rather than dropping it the foot to the ground. I skillfully check the oil and gas, and add a bit of both to the appropriate holes. Riding high on this accomplishment, I got cocky and thought I could just start the mower. I sat down in the seat, and saw 5 levers staring at me. What!?! The last time I used a mower, it was a push mower, and you hold the bar while you pull the string. I get that. There was one lever that had a picture of a rabbit and a turtle, which I took to be the throttle. I put this to the rabbit as I rationalized that I want to go fast. The lever on the right under my seat was the gear shifter. Gears!?! This is a lawn mower! Well I put this in neutral. Then I looked ahead and to the right of the steering wheel and there was a level selector for the blades. Huh. Level selector. Okay…I pick 3. I didn’t want the grass too low but I didn’t want to have to do this again next week either. Later I will learn that it’s not really what I want that matters for the level. To the left of the steering wheel, there was a lever that said ‘on’ and ‘off’. Ummm…okay. On?? Then I got to the key. Phew! I knew this one – on! Wait. The key was crooked and it didn’t turn anything…oh no. I  turned it to ‘run’ position. Okay…it’s time for the moment of truth. I tried to pull the motor string that’s directly behind me, while keeping my feet on the clutch and brake. This game of twister didn’t seem quite right, so I trusted that I didn’t have to depress the pedals and tried to pull the string, with the image of the mower running away. If only it were so simple. I put all my weight on the mower to brace myself, firmly grabbed the string and pulled it straight into my nose. Ow! Luckily no blood appeared so I tried again. While I avoided my nose, the string still stuck firmly. Something must be wrong. Time to call the person making me do this inane task. I found out that the choke was in the wrong position, the blade should be disengaged (and this means ‘off’… why they don’t put engaged and disengaged is beyond me), and that the key was in fact lost years ago and it’s always in the on position. I’ll figure out how to turn it off later. With this knowledge and all the levers in their correct position, the mower started on the second pull just as was promised! After a quick celebration, I jumped on the mower, depressed the clutch and moved the gear to first. No…the hard part is not behind me. The fun is only beginning. I did about two rows before I realized I should probably engage the blade, which meant moving the left lever to the ‘on’ position. It turned out the grass was much too long for level 3 and I had to do everything at level 6 and redo it at level 3. While I was marveling at my inability to go in a straight line, I realized there was a lot of smoke coming out of the motor. Uh-oh. I didn’t move the choke to the rabbit like I was supposed to. I spent the next 3 hours…yes 3… going over and over the lawn trying to get straight lines. Unfortunately it now looks like a chimpanzee escaped from the zoo, took cover in our barn, got loaded on the booze hidden there, and decided to graciously mow the lawn for us. I believe a monkey could do all this considering one flew around the earth in a machine of equal complexity. It astounds me how complicated this process was. Anyone watching would have thought I should have been wearing a helmet to protect my head from doorways. I mean – I was an engineer working at NASA. I operated a fully functioning satellite while it orbited earth. It didn’t fall from the sky or anything. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in what my friends call rocket science in only 3 years, but couldn’t decipher the difference between the rabbit, turtle, and choke. I got my masters degree in aerospace engineering in only a year and half, but could I guide the contraption in a straight line? No way. Luckily I may never be asked to mow the lawn for anyone ever again, as the grass is now somehow brown, with long and short patches, in curvy waves, and there’s a puddle of water in the middle of the back lawn. I really have no idea how any of this happened. I will leave the mowing to the experts, like my cousin. Let’s be assured – the PGA will never call me up to groom their course. If we are in a life and death situation, aliens have invaded and challenged me to a mowing contest, well I’m sorry Earth, say a quick prayer, because you won’t be lasting long.

Mower: 1/10 (for eventually getting it started even if I had help).

I’ll keep you updated on other tries at careers as they occur. So far I haven’t found anything to leave engineering for.

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