Thursday, September 29, 2011

What's in a name?

As many of you know, last semester I was the proud Captain of WE BONED YOUR MOM, AFTER WE WINED AND DINED HER, AND WE DON'T PLAN ON CALLING HER BACK. We triumphed with a 2-8 record, good enough to proudly squeak into 8th for the playoffs, where we were soundly defeated. It's a damn good team, and I'm proud to be its captain. With that in mind, and with some genius contributions within the team, we came up with a jersey to wear for the upcoming semester:

Intimidating and hauntingly beautiful at the same time, we were sure to make our opponents collectively shit their pants.

Alas, I got an email a couple of weeks ago, telling me that due to complaints about our team name, we had to tone it down. To be honest, no offense was taken: this is a pretty crude name for a hockey team. We actually debated going ahead with it, when we originally came up with it, for fear that some of the students on the team might get in trouble, which frankly is just not worth it. We went ahead anyways, and we were politely asked to change the team name. We're more than happy to oblige, but now we have these awesome team jerseys to deal with.

So what to do?

Kudos to Brian, tied for lead scorer last semester on the team with Ned, for coming up with our new name. It is both appropriate, and incorporates our old jersey:



And no one was the wiser. We can still strike fear into our enemies, what with our baby blue jerseys flying past them in a blur of goal-scoring, while keeping a wholesome name that teaches children the value of both science and family involvement.

Also, please note how much more intimidating I look with my impressive facial hair.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How to Start a Business in Dominica Part Deux

Way back when, in April, I wrote a post about starting a business in Dominica. As Island Thrift inches towards the finish line, I thought I'd update on our progress. So where are we now?

"I'm going to need you to poop into a cup."

Wait a second. Let me back up.

When I last posted about making a business down here, we were almost done most of the paperwork. Obviously, because we're not open, that little bit of paperwork took several months. During that time, we hired a new guy, Nick, who gradually took over the reigns, and I am now employed largely to help him get the business up and running. This is especially key, as I am leaving in a few months. As it stands, the only thing stopping us from opening the store right now is the legal department of Ross University. Word is they're playing ping pong at the CAC while our contract sits on someone's desk.


Here are some of the highlights of the last few months.

1. Officially getting my work permit:

This was supposed to be the last step along the way to getting the coveted contract with Ross. I happened to discover that I got my contract by accident when I was helping Nick start on his. Once he got his badly xeroxed copy of a work permit application (which of course, is not only unavailable online, but can only be handed out to those with passports), the secretary informed me that mine was ready.

"Weren't you supposed to phone me when it's ready?" I asked.

She looked at me for a full ten seconds, and then slowly shrugged.

"Whatever, so I can have my work permit now?!" Excitement grew within me. I could feel myself metaphorically burst through that tape at the end of a race.

I would be the black one in this image.

"Yes," and she handed me a small envelope. Just as I was about to pump my fist in the air and twirl, as all major video game characters should, she said: "You just have to take this to Inland Revenue to stamp it."


So we hop in our taxi and shout, "INLAND REVENUE! STEP ON IT!" And we're there in a flash.

And then I wait in line. I think if they had access to it, it's a place where they would play a midi of "Girl from Ipanema" softly, over and over again in the background. Finally I make it to the counter.

"My work permit please!"

"Ok sir, that'll be 200$"

Dammit. I fork over the equivalent of 75$ US.

"Just a minute sir." He goes in search of something, and returns five minutes later, carrying an official looking green paper. Holy balls I'm pumped. It's right freaking there!

I reach out, my fingers tingling in anticipation of a job well done, when he says: "Ok sir, now you must take this to the Police Headquarters, for them to stamp your passport."


So we hop into the taxi and yell, "POLICE HEADQUARTERS! STEP ON IT!" And we're there in a flash (We get everywhere in a flash, because Roseau is a small town masquerading as a city).

I run into the police headquarters. "I'd like my stamp please."

"Sir you're in the wrong building. You need to leave, go around the corner, and go in there." Out I go.

I run around the corner and into the police headquarters. "I'd like my stamp please."

No one answers. I'm in what appears to be a courtroom shoved into a closet, and the two officers ignore me. "Hello?" I ask. No answer. I sit down. After five minutes where I slowly curl into the fetal position, an official looking man walks in, looks at me and asks, "Have you been helped?"

"...could I have my stamp?" I whimper.

"You're in the wrong building sir. Go around the corner and go into the room there." Out I go, around the corner.

This must be it. It has all sorts of signs about passports and things. I enter, and talk to a police officer behind a glass partition.

"Hello sir. Could I have a stamp for my passport?" I hand him my passport and the documents I've acquired. He looks up at me and sighs. He stands, and goes to talk to a colleague. He returns, and closely examines the documents. He then stands again, and goes to talk to the same colleague. They have a good laugh. He returns. He grabs a stamp on the desk and lets it hover over my open passport.

Do I dare let my heart grow excited? Do I try to push down that warm fuzzy feeling that comes along with a job well done? A smile creeps up on my face.

The man is about to stamp it when he stops, and examines the stamp. He looks confused, and tilts his head sideways, squinting at the underside of the stamp. He exchanges it for a different one, then confidently holds it over the passport. I ready my fist for an air pump and my body for a righteous twirl.

"Please hold on sir," says the man, the only words he's spoken to me the entire time. He then goes to his colleague, and shows her the stamp. She also holds it quizzically. They converse in hushed tones, and look my way with suspicion. She hands him a different stamp.

He sits down, inks the bad boy, and stamps my passport.



2. Getting Nick his work permit.

We soon found out that even though I had my work permit, we couldn't open until Nick had his, because I couldn't guarantee consistent open hours on my own (allegedly against the rules for in this mysterious contract I keep hearing about). So we start the entire thing over with him. Luckily, it wasn't as bad because I, being the trailblazer that I am, knew most of the steps. There were, however, a couple of hiccoughs.

When we got to an early part of the process where he happened to need the Police Headquarters, I confidently walked him to the right place, smug in my knowledge of how things work. Nick goes in, and for some reason is called behind the partition. I sit and wait, nodding to the other chumps in the room who didn't have their work permits yet.

Five minutes later, Nick comes out, looking nervous, and beckons for me to join him. Turns out, he's been talking to the Chief of Police.

"I should arrest you two," the Chief informs us. Strangely, this doesn't really phase me, and I stifle a laugh. This has all reached ridiculous proportions long ago.


"Your friend here has been illegally living in this country for two months."

I look to Nick. He raises his eyebrows and shrugs.

"I believe, sir, that we assumed it was alright because we are members of the Ross community, and they normally take care of these things. Plus he's applying for a work permit."

"He's still here illegally! I could throw you two in jail." Nick gulps. "But instead I'm going to make you pay 200$ to update your visa."

"Oh thank you sir, we really appreciate your effort." (This is something I've learned along the way. Every action done by a bureaucrat should be met with one of two counter-reactions: Graciousness to the degree of grovelling for even the smallest of deeds, or persistent anger when something is delayed until you become the most annoying thing in their lives.) So off we go to spend more money, and he eventually gets his permit in faster time than I.

This is Speedy Gonzales, according to Google, if the reference isn't clear...

3. Acquiring the food handler's permit.

Here we are now. We've gotten every single document ready, with the exception of one: the food handler's permit. Why we need a food handler's permit to serve coffee is beyond me, but as usual, we grin and go through the motions. So that was this morning.

I had no idea whether the training would take one hour or four, so I settle in for a boring day. It turns out to pretty much be a small lecture by one guy, telling us the following things: Wash your hands, bacteria grows on foods that are not boiling or frozen, and watch out for the typhoid! I tune in long enough to hear:

"So that pretty much wraps it up..."

YES!!! I think. Sweet mother of mercy this is all almost over. I was thinking about whether or not to buy a bottle of champagne in victory, when I tuned in again:

"...and you can drop off your urine and stool samples on Tuesday."


Turns out that for me to be able to serve coffee, I need to bring my poop in a cup of my choosing, my pee in another cup of my choosing, bring it to the hospital, wait for them to be sure I don't have worms, and only then are we good to go. When we told them that we had to get a physical before coming to Dominica, they graciously replied that if we can get our doctor to sign off on our certificate, then we can avoid the uncomfortable process.

And we'd better be able to find a doctor to do that, because as I told my boss this morning: I'm very fond of whom I work with, and I'm proud of what I've done to get Island Thrift to become a business, but there is no way that I am shitting in a cup.

No way.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Anatomy of our Summer Break (including engagement photos)

Hello world,

Today is the last day of the first week of my last semester on the island (hopefully).  What have I accomplished for far this week?  A whole lot of nothing.  I can't seem to find the motivation needed to get over this final hump.  Fortunately (?), it seems that many of my classmates feel the same way.  Here's hoping that we all come out on the other side.

As you all know from Mark's last post, he and I went back to Canada for the break.  We saw friends and family in Toronto:

Bridesmaid dress shopping with Cruddy and Stef...
Dinner at Le Paradis with Greg...
and Faysal, courtesy of Derek and Wendy McLean.
Meeting babies Abbey and Libby at Ian and Kelly's house for brunch....
How cute is this photo!?!?
We saw our friend SJ too, who is studying Law in Toronto...however....we didn't take a picture with her, so I decided to just poorly photoshop Mark's face onto a picture of her with another ginger...

Toronto was a great little mini-vacation.  We stayed with Mark's brother Greg and his boyfriend Faysal, who were fantastic hosts.  I drank lots of Starbucks, went shopping, ate at restaurants...the usual first world stuff.  After 3 days there, it was off to Vancouver.

Vancouver was a whirlwind of To Do lists and food and visiting people.  In the interest of not turning this post into a novel, here are the highlights:

- seeing my family (duh)

- watching a friendship blossom between my brother, Derek, and Mark's sister, Jocelyn...even though Jocelyn kicked his ass at bowling (sorry Derek...)

- seeing old friends (you know who you are)

- buying a wedding dress (2 stores and 10 dresses later)

My beautiful entourage: my mom, bridesmaid Laura, and maid-of-honour Vanessa...
couldn't have found it without you guys...
- seeing our reception venue in real life

- picking a church (even though we got yelled at by a minister from another church...more on that another time)

- eating creme brulee 4 times

- trying on bridesmaid dresses for my wedding AND my best friend's wedding

Here are the colours I've chosen for the bridal party (except for the bouquets)...I am getting way good at this photoshopping stuff, don't ya think?
- Sousa/McLean dinner with my family & Mark's family

- getting engagement photos done by Jeff and Cat of Jeff Chang Photography (here you go everyone that harassed me on facebook...)

My eyes got more sparkle than a Stephanie Meyer novel...

I think this is my favourite...

Mark's favourite

A close 2nd for my favourite...

We have more photos, but I feel like this a good sample to keep you guys happy for now.  There is one more photo I would like to share though....it's a photo where Mark looks GREAT (like political-ad-campaign or toothpaste-commercial great) but I look like a mess....lol....so, I have modified the photo, just a little....

Well, this post is long enough for now...time to start studying....

I look forward to your comments on how Mark and I should quit our current careers and become professional models...


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On Second Thought...

We have returned from our lovely, hectic trip to Vancouver, with a brief stop over in Toronto to see my brother and his partner. It really isn't easy adjusting to life back in Dominica, and we're definitely sulking. We'll get over it. Visiting my family and Denise's was fantastic, and running around two major cities, while exhausting, was exhilarating because it reminded me of what it's like to be in a bustling city. My brother Greg commented that Denise and I have become country bumpkins after a year in a third world country. He's right - it's easy to forget that life outside of Dominica is, frankly, far far better than life in Dominica. We marveled at everything.

On that note, we have reconsidered where to go for fifth semester. In a previous post, I said (to the surprise of several) that we were seriously considering staying in Dominica for the extra three months. Well, no more. It was somewhere in the air between Dominica and Toronto that Denise remembered what life in North America is like, and informed me that we wouldn't be staying in the Caribbean any longer than needed - before the plane landed. It took me until my first sip of a good beer to agree.

Good stuff, thanks Greg!
So it seems like right now it's Michigan or bust. Obviously, if we're not accepted in Saginaw, we won't turn our noses up at Dominica - indeed, it would be my next choice. So fingers crossed with the application process.

A second thing that I've reconsidered is the use of sleep masks. I had previously dismissed them as only for the elderly (no disrespect to the elderly who read this), and ridiculed a friend of mine, who had used one, on the plane to Toronto.

"I slept great this flight," he said. "What did you do?"

I grumbled and shuffled my feet.

Well, I tried it for the red eye back down here, and goodness it makes a difference. I was so much better rested than any other flight I'd taken. Heartily recommended.

Strangely, there are very few pictures in a Google image search of sleep masks on men...
The third thing both Denise and I are struggling to reconsider is the highly discussed Big Bang Theory (the show, for those who are unfamiliar). I'd seen an episode and thought it pretty lame. Denise saw two and dismissed it. But increasingly, people whose opinions we value have been harping on us to watch it. The result? Denise still doesn't find it funny at all, and I...kind of find it funny. I tried not to, and it's still early on, but I couldn't help but laugh when I watched the first two episodes. Stay tuned.

*Disgusting facial hair update: It's all gone. Very sad. I rocked a mustache for a few days, but had to shave it for engagement photos. Don't worry though, I've already started getting ahead of the competition for Movember. Pictures will be forthcoming when I find a camera with high enough resolution to actually see my two-week-shadow.