Monday, December 22, 2008

Reason #3, Why I'm Going to Vietnam to Volunteer

Because I'll be so much closer to Jeannette.

It's true. I want to marry her. We will be on the same continent again.

Wine and Dine and Raffle Fundaiser: Success!

Thanks again to my brother, my family and my friends for making the dinner and a raffle a big success! We ended up raising over $650!

Here are the winners for the 13 prizes:

1 - Basket from Bath and Body Works full of skin care products (worth 150$) - Hoa (ticket # 105430)
2 - Basket from Bath and Body Works full of skin care products (worth 150$) - Simon B. (ticket # 105439)
3 - $25 gift card from Chapters - Marcel (ticket # 105369)
4 - $25 gift card from Chapters - Patrick C. (ticket # 105269)
5 - $25 gift card from Chapters - Patrick C. (ticket # 105264)
6 - 750ml bottle of Blue Lagoon - Gilles M. (ticket # 105171)
7 - Woman's medium dress from Nicky B Collection - Mary (ticket # 105444)
8 - Alternative Apparel Floral Thermal - My Mom (ticket # 105241)
9 - $10 gift card from Second Cup - Marcel (ticket # 105362)
10 - $10 gift certificate from Elio's Restaurant - Linda D. (ticket # 105222)
11 - Large Luggage from Victorinox Swiss Army - Nina B. (ticket # 105158)
12 - $50 gift certificate for dance lessons at Studio Arc-en-Ciel - Linda D. (ticket # 105228)
13 - Men's dress shirt and tie from Reprt Collection - Unclaimed (ticket #105199)

There are also more gifts that were drawn as door prizes:

1 - Gift basket full of skin care products from Bath and Body Works and C.O. Bigelow (worth 150$ each)
1 - 50$ Gift Certificates for dance lessons with a well-known studio
1 - Women's Blouse from Nicky B Collection (size small)
1 - Fallen Pryde Thermal
1 - A chosen article from the Fallen Pryde Collection
1 - Pair of Tickets to see DJ Victor Calderone on December 20th, and a bottle of vodka at the club
1 - Pair of tickets for DJ Victor Calderone (without the vodka)
1 -750 ml Hypnotiq
1 - 25$ Gift Card for HBC (the Bay, Zellers, Déco-Decoverte)
1 - 20$ Gift certificate for Elio's Italian Restaurant

All together, the prizes were worth over $1000! Ideally, we should at least recovered the costs of these gifts, but they were all donated, and we were able to still raise a good amount.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Countdown: 3 Weeks

Everything is pretty much coming along fine. Today was my last day of work. I can now focus my energies on packing my stuff and making last minute arrangements. My room-mate Jasmine's boyfriend will be moving in for the four months I'll be gone, and so I'll have to clear out some stuff from my bedroom.

I'll also be able to come up with my 'volunteer's work plan'. Basically, because I've organised this all myself, I have a lot of freedom in terms of what I'll actually be doing. I'll be looking at all their activities on their website, as well as some documents that they've sent me. I've found a couple old volunteer offers on their website, and so I will structure a sort of proposal that will outline exactly where I would like to help and what my capabilities are in those areas. I really have to look at where I want to be in 5 years, and how this experience can help me achieve those goals. Not as easy as it sounds.

I found this awesome resource from, the International Volunteerism Resource Centre. They have a whole section on the pros and cons of joining a volunteer organisation, or going it alone. And there's a whole section about tips and advice on organising it by oneself and on fundraising. It would have been helpful had I come across it earlier, but I feel like I've done a pretty good job.

I have still to organise a place to stay while I'm there, but I've decided not to stay with a Vietnamese family that I've been in contact with. I think that I would enjoy it a lot more if I stayed with expats who are experiencing the same thing.

Learning Vietnamese is going alright. I've kind of been stuck on lesson 6. I soaked up the first four lessons like a sponge, and now I find myself repeating the last couple lessons over and over again. The lessons have been getting more and more bizarre. I now know how to ask a woman if she'd like to eat at my place... no wonder I'm having a hard time learning, I have no interest in that!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Haircut Fundraiser: Haircut-a-Thon a Success!

Photos by Reese

The Haircut-a-Thon organised by my brother was a success! We managed to raise $139 to my Vietnam internship fund.

We had an awesome hairdresser, John Paliotti come and offer haircuts with a price range of 25-40$ depending on hair length. For every haircut, 10$ went to the Vietnam fund.

I made vegan coconut espresso-chocolate chip cookies and my mother made pizzele that we served to people. As well, we sold mimosas for 2$ each.

It was pretty easy to organise, my brother had organised everything using a Facebook event. People clicked on 'Attending' for the event, and my brother asked them to pick a time for the appointment. They were pretty much back-to-back.

I've been wondering what reason my brother has taken an interest in me going to Vietnam, and why he has chosen to help me so much (as you can see in his blog, hot guys and Victoria Beckham is more his cup of tea). In any case, I'm very thankful for his help, as well as John Paliotti and all the friends who supported this event.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Reason #46, Why I'm Going to Vietnam to Volunteer

Because people think I'm a volunteer anyway.

Some people seem to think that because my job involves promoting recycling and 'environmentalism' that I surely cannot be paid! I've been asked "do you get paid to do this?" by about 5 people a month. Every now and then there's a "You're not paid to do this, are you?".

I mean, there are tonnes of people out there looking for real jobs...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Waffles and Fundraising - The Perfect Combo

It started with a George Forman G5 Next Grilleration Grill. This amazing machine was sitting in a box in my parents basement. As with every single gadget my parents buy (including the fruit dehydration appliance I bought my mom when I was 10, and she never used), it had never even been opened. This sweet machine has five interchangable panels that can turn it instantly from a pannini press to a griddle to a waffle iron.

When you are vegan, there are certain things that very rarely come across. For some unknown reason. waffles is just one of those things. I suspect it's because it requires a device that usually only makes - waffles. I can tell you when the last time I had waffles: Jeannette and I went to New York City in 2004 and ate brunch at the Candle Café. And I can tell you, they were not the best (and I later found out their dinners are amazing).

The night I took home the G5, I decided i was making waffles for dinner. I called my fellow culinary friend Sarah, who though does not cook regularly, loves cooking together and is adventurous enough to try almost anything. I instantly become hooked. But something lacked in the recipe I found. It lacked the essence of a Belgian waffle (which I found out includes 'butter', sugar chunks, 'butter', yeast and 'butter').

I found an amazing recipe and then announced a waffle party would be going down the upcoming Saturday. It was the success of this waffle party which brought many friends together under one roof enjoying the warm butteryness of smooth waffles interrupted only by the occasional crunchy sugary clump that reminds you that life can sometimes be rewarding.

Okay, sorry I got lost there. It was actually Simon, who suggested that I could use the mesmerizing waffle as a fundraising tool. Why not make brunch for people, and ask them for a donation in return? Everyone loves brunch!

I made a Facebook group, and set up 5 brunch events until I leave for Vietnam. Every week, the brunch changes: waffles, pancakes, scrambled tofu and cornbread, french toast. I ask for minimum $10 for the full brunch (including coffee, fruit and juice) and minimum $15 for the full brunch and 2 mimosas. If my friends want more mimosas, they are $2.50 each.

I would say that the brunches have been very successful (I've raised $275 from three brunches with around 7 people each time). It's been great having people come together for brunch, and even greater to know that there are people that support you.

Great big thanks to everyone who has come to a brunch over the past month!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Roadblock #1 : Costs

It is not cheap. Nothing is cheap. And going to a far away country to volunteer for 4 months is not an exception. My original budget estimates brought in the total cost to around $3,000 Canadian. I wish. Much like government expenditures, my budget has totally 'mega-hospitalled' to $4,000.

Here's a rough list of what I have estimated and spent already:

Airline ticket 1900
Travel clinic 194
Travel Visa 197
Rent in Vietnam 800
Food 400
Transport, other, etc 300
Health Insurance 250
Last Minute Items 100

total 4141

While I have incredible saving capabilities which allow me to save up money pretty fast, time limits and a relatively low paying job require more super-hero abilities.

Or fundraising.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Learning Vietnamese

I've started learning Vietnamese in preparation for my trip. I've decided I will not pull a Jeannette, and so will arrive with at least enough knowledge of the language that I will be able to ask someone if they understand English (sorry Jeannette!).

Or announce to everyone that I am American! Even though I am not American.

There is no doubt that the series of CDs I bought, Pimsleurs Conversational Vietnamese, is American. This is how a typical lesson goes (note these are phonetic spellings, because there is no guidebook that shows me how these words are actually written):

Man's voice: Imagine you are an older American man, and you walk into a café and notice a young woman from your hotel. Say hello to her.

Me: Chao Chi-i

Vietnamese Woman: Chao Aum
Man's voice: Ask her how she is doing.

Me: Chi co kray-ay krom?

Vietnamese Woman: Doi kway-ay làm, cam unh ang.

Man's Voice: Ask her if she understands English

Me: Chi co héa-ho din Ang krom?

Vietnamese Woman: Krom

Man's Voice: Tell her you are American

Me: What?! How is this normal?!

In about every lesson, the man makes me say this! It's quite funny (and typically American) that before i learn how to say 'Sorry', or ask someone what their name is, that i know how to say that i am American, and even know how someone would ask me if i'm American.

And why an older American man picking up some young girl in a café?

I'm still waiting for the man to teach me how to say that I am Canadian. Or Australian. Or British. Or how about how to order a bowl of pho?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Next Floor: Work Experience

So I have now changed the name of this blog from Chronicles of the 12th Floor, to Chronicles of the Next Floor. For those you don't know, the 12th floor is where I spent most of my time in University: the 12th floor of the Hall Building at Concordia. The change to the Next Floor represents my quest to find the next level, the level where I can continue learning in a more practical and technical way. I believe in some camps this is called experience.

In my very long search for employment following graduating, I became incredibly bitter with the fact that without experience (or sometimes more vaguely, time since graduation, as i had already some years of experience in my field upon graduating) you can't get a job. Even internships, that are meant for people with no experience, are looking for people with experience.

Luckily, I ended up finding a job, but in a field that I am just so tired of :recycling. It leaves no room for gaining more real experience. Just plain recycling. Oh and sometimes garbage, composting, and waste-free lunches at schools. There's only so much beneficial experience i can absorb by helping people figure out which plastics are recyclable and explaining that they can only put their garbage and recycling out between 5am and 8am on the day of pick-up. I don't care if you're attached to an oxygen machine that only turns off at 10am. Find a neighbour who can help. And stop telling me you don't have neighbours, you live in a god-damn city!

I've decided then that in order to get real experiences, one needs to sacrifice a little. And that is why I decided I am going to Vietnam. I will be volunteering for 4 months with an organisation who needs help, but who have very little to offer except experience.

It's something that i want to do, and need to do. Need to do in order to gain experience, become more independent, know where i really want to be (do i want to be in Montréal forever?), and know where i really want to go (do i want to break into the community sector?).

And so this blog will follow me on my journey to answer all these questions and to overcome the million roadblocks that i can see in the horizon. Hopefully i will find the Next Floor.