Saturday, May 31, 2008

True Joy

As a child, I remember how fascinated I was by the sight of snow. I dreamed of touching and playing in the snow and donning those fabulous winter attires I’ve only seen in pictures. The grandeur and beauty of white-capped mountains, veiled by a cotton-like fog against a sunny day, was like a billowing enchanted wonderland that was waiting for me.

When we moved to Canada this March, I finally set afoot into the "enchanted kingdom" in my mind. There was however no king or queen or princesses to welcome me. There was instead the terrible, bone-chilling cold and windchill that felt like a long and sharp kick all over my body followed by numbness. I felt like Cinderella, crying out for help from her fairy godmother, or more like Snowhite wishing for her prince charming to rescue her. Alas, there was not a fairy godmother nor a prince charming to comfort me! Having come from a tropical country where the only weather is "dry and not very dry", it was understandably not easy for me to breeze through the cold weather.

But something very beautiful - beyond words - came out of my winter experience. I saw the fulfillment of a childhood dream. No, I didn't dance or run or roll over the snow. It would take a lot of cajoling for me to do that. I'm talking about my daughters' dream even before we even thought of migrating, coming true. As they played in the snow - building caves and castles and making their own stories - as if they are playing in summertime, I felt a surge of joy slowly welling through me. At first it was a tiny bit of joy, until it became bigger and bigger, setting my soul aglow.

Who was it who said that allowing others to find joy actually leads to your own joy?

Monday, May 26, 2008


As a newly-landed immigrant, I was cautioned that I will not get the job that I want right away. Canadian experience is necessary before I can penetrate the professional workforce. To get that experience, I might as well be ready to work on jobs that I don't like as a starting point, they say.

Stubborn as I am, I nonetheless insisted on applying for jobs aligned with my interest and matched with my skills. Having gone this far in my life with all its twists and turns, I have become convinced that only me can set a limit to what I can do. That my capabilities and potentials are those that I say I have. That while God ultimately defines my destiny, I define the opportunities that will come my way.

So I fired off my resume onto jobs where I think I will do best: customer service, retail banking, office management, administration, human resources. I was careful to tailorfit every resume with the requirements of the position.

The first opportunity that knocked at my door was as Service Coordinator of a global company specializing in self-service financial solutions such as kiosks, atms, scanners and portals. My job would involve dispatching the civilian engineers in the field and making sure that they have completed their jobs consistent with the service level agreements. The job would pay well and the benefits are impressive.

My first few days were spent on rigorous orientation and training. The job was fairly easy - all it would take is mastery of the keyboard and familiarity with Canada's geography. I figured that once I memorized the steps, I can do the job even with my eyes closed! Memorization however, is another thing (hehehe).

On my fourth day of training, I quit.

My friends and relatives had mixed reactions. Some agreed, others did not. The latter argued that so many newly-landed immigrants would gladly trade places with me. That I was such a fool for passing up on such great opportunity. That I would end of getting a worst job that pays the minimum wage.

But this is my life, and I know what is best for me. Of course, there wasn't anything wrong with the job, but there was everything wrong with me being there.

The job was very repetitive or mechanical. I cannot imagine myself being glued to my computer and telephone day in and day out, barking orders to the engineers with disembodied voices out there in the field. There's not much room to grow. Even if I stayed on, I knew that sooner or later, I would eventually quit.

More importantly, the job would take away my Saturdays and Sundays being a 24/7 operations. Henceforth, I wouldn' be joining my daughters as we devour our favorite books at the library, a stone's throw away from our apartment. I wouldn't be attending the regular fellowship with my newfound spiritual family every other Saturday night. I wouldn't be taking part in the Sunday church service with my family. I wouldn't be going out mall-and park- hopping with my family.

Bottomline: The job will rob me of the precious time when I do the stuffs that give me joy and make my life meaningful. It was simply not worth it.

I am glad I am into this stage of my life that I know when to quit and when to hold on. That I am no longer like the waves in the sea mercilessly tossed here and there by the wind. And only because I have the right anchors in place.

Three days after I quit my job, I was offered a new job - higher position, higher pay and with Saturdays and Sundays off - at Sears Canada, a retail business.

Coincidence or luck? Hardly. It's my faith at work.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Phone Interview

I was looking for a job, so day in and day out, I fired off my resume into the cyberspace, via the various job sites such as, workopolis, etc.

After two weeks, the phone rang with an unfamiliar number in the Caller ID. It was the Hiring Manager of one company that got hold of my resume. He was asking for an interview. I said - sure, where and what time. Over the phone, right now - was the answer.

I was baffled. Having played the waiting game for days on end, is this the way the canadian employers would hire people? But the voice at the other end of the phone sounded professional and credible and even before I could say yes, he started firing off a barrage of questions.

* Tell me something about yourself.
* How did you know about our company?
* What are you looking for in a job?
* How can you contribute best to our company?

Those were the usual introductory questions which I have long anticipated. And having anticipated them, I have sort of already rehearsed the answers in my mind. Common sense dictates that preparedness for such questions pays off if you want to create a good impression for the first 10 minutes.

What followed next was a set of behavioral questions, which I found more difficult yet challenging. The interviewer started discussing hypothetical workplace situations presumably to evaluate my behavioral tendencies.

* Supposing there's a conflict involving two people in the workplace over some pettty issues like somebody taking one's hanger and they exchange verbal tussles right in front of the customer - how are you going to handle it as a leader.
* Tell me a situation in the past where you had an argument with a colleague who is on the same level as you are and how you resolved it.

And he rattled off with other similar behavioral situations.

They say that phone interview is a common-place practice for all industry and at all levels. As for me, it will always be a boggling concept, even though I belong to what they call the tech-savvy generation. True, it spares me of the inconvenience of having to travel but it is not as affirming as a face-to-face interview. I don't get to see the facial expression of the interviewer that gives me an idea of how I am faring. Once the interview is over, I'm clueless how I came across. Promoting myself to a disembodied voice will always be discomforting.

The only thing that I appreciate about it is the knowledge that I have already made the first base in my job hunting. Even if it is an elimination round, I know I've already had the first cut, otherwise they wouldn't have called at all.

Next time the phone rings with an unknown caller ID, I better be ready.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bianca's School Band Concert

My eldest daughter Bianca came home from school one day with a clarinet in her school bag. Since being a kid, Bianca has taken a particular liking for music. She sings pretty well and at age 7, can play the guitar and the keyboard almost effortlessly. She is the first (and probably the last as the rest of us are not really into music) member of the family who has learned to play a variety of musical instruments. She brought music into our home and touched our hearts in a very special way.

As clarinet is something new to her, she was all agog to make do with it. Her first attempts were of course - uhhhmmm - not very impressive and as her best critic, I had to point this out to her. Over the next couple of days, she just practiced and practiced, determined to learn at all cost. Why, she has missed a number of her favorite tv shows just to practice. One day, she surprised me with an effortless rendition of some portions of starwars theme song. It wasn't perfect but she has definitely gone a long way in such a short time.

Today, we just attended her school band concert where she, along with the rest of the choir members, participated in a musical ensemble that truly wowed the audience. It was a moving experience to witness children of different colors, of varying nationalities, united by music.

I don't speak the language of music. I don't know the difference between a wind instrument or percussion instrument or string basses or bass guitar. I don't understand how time signatures are integrated with musical notes (i'm sure my good highschool friend marissa can easily give me a crash course on this). But I do know how to appreciate good music. And what beautiful music they created - Mission Impossible, Spider Man, Pirates of the Caribbean, Best of Queen, Cartoon Symphony - to mention a few, with their individual instruments. As I write this, I continue to be in awe.

I figure that it will take me a lifetime to learn to play the guitar or the clarinet. But that is just a piece of cake to Bianca. God really does not bestow equal gifts to everyone, and for a good reason. Imagine if all of us can sing beautifully. No one is there to appreciate good music. At the risk of being branded as a proud stage mother, I will say without batting an eyelash that Bianca, with all her gifts and talents, is an amazing creation of God.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Plain Housewife

Since our arrival here in Canada, I have been stuck with the following day-to-day routine:

  • Wake up at 6 AM to send hubby off to work then prepare the children's breakfast and school snacks
  • Supervise the children at 7 AM as they get ready for school
  • Tidy-up the house (dust the furniture, fix the bed, wash the dishes) at 9:00 AM after the children have gone off to school
  • Do some video-assisted exercise/calisthenics/belly-dancing and bath time by 10:30 AM
  • Read e-mail, surf the net, apply for jobs on-line and blog and bloghop at 11:30 AM
  • Cook early dinner by 3:00 PM just in time for hubby's and kids' arrival
  • Dinner fellowship with family at 5:00 PM
  • Walkathon with husband at 7:00 PM
  • Bonding with the children at 9:00 PM
  • Read favorite books at 9:30 PM
  • Sleep time and bed matters (censored) by 10:30 PM

Pretty boring and unchallenging?

Quite the contrary. Never in my life had I been so happy and contented. Finally, I had all the time in the world to do the things that truly matter - take care of my family, write and read and reconnect with my old self. Why, this is a dream come true!

I don't get paid for what I do. I don't receive bonuses and rewards for my accomplishment. I don't have people to do errands for me. I don't have the prestige of the executive job I once held.

But nothing could be sweeter and more precious than the eager smiles of my children and husband when they come home and find me waiting for them. Nothing could be more rewarding than the realization that my sense of womanhood is complete.

Just when I thought I have come full circle, reality hits me in the face. Tomorrow, I am starting with my new job. Ahhhh... I am back to the corporate world where I only half-belong.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

My Evening Prayer

Almighty Father, as the evening dawns and this day draws to a close, I'd like to spend this quiet moment with you, reflecting on the day that you have brought me through and thanking you for all the wonderful ways you've met my needs.

As I rest my body in your loving embrace, I pour out my entire being to you - my joys, my pains, my longings, my hopes, my thoughts, my everything. Nothing is ever hidden from you, and so I ask you now to remove even the smallest impurities from my heart and mind. Fill my heart with joy and peace that transcends all understanding, peace that can only come from you.

If I have hurt someboday today because of my insensitivity and carelessness, I ask that you restore that person's heart and soul and find it in his heart to forgive me. And as you restore him, I pray that I will become more sensitive and patient to avoid unnecessarily hurting other people's feelings.

If I have been arrogant and boastful, taking pride in my own abilities without recognizing you as the ultimate source of who I am, I ask for your forgiveness. I recognize fully well that who and where I am today I owe to you. Apart from you, I am nothing.

Dear God, I close my eyes today knowing fully well that the moment I sleep, I am completely under your mecy; my life is in your hands. Thus, if it is your will that I should still see tomorrow, I ask for a good night's sleep. I ask for a healthy body and nourished spirit so that I can fulfill the mission that you have set for me in this lifetime.

My prayer is not complete without thanking you for the endless graces and the miracles that you continue to shower upon me and my loved ones. I am truly sorry for the times when I take you for granted; for the times when I fail to heed your voice; for the times when I am such a rotten soul. I am glad that despite my imperfections and transgressions, you love me just the same. Truly, your love for me is beyond compare.

In Jesus' holy name.

Friday, May 2, 2008

My First Bus Ride

Which way to go - taxi or bus? I was scheduled to go to downtown Winnipeg early morning the other day for a job interview and it took me sometime to decide how to get there. The taxi, of course, offered the more convenient and hassle-free means of transport, without me worrying where to get off and how to get to my destination. The bus, on the other hand, was a cheaper alternative plus it offered greater excitement and challenge to a hopeful starry-eyed newbie like me. I admit though that it was intimidating to ride the public transport especially for somebody like me who understands very little how it works - the destination sign, the bus route, the bus schedule, how to pay the fare, how to disembark etc.But I figured that sooner or later, I would have to take the bus, and the earlier I learn to ride it, the better for me. Besides, I reasoned out that if I cannot learn something so easy and ordinary as riding a bus, how then can I be expected to learn biggger and more important things? Life in Canada is definitely more than riding the buses. So off to the bus station I went, complete with map and the directions I downloaded from google, and of course, a dose of forced courage and confidence.

When the bus arrived, I nestled into a comfortable seat at the middle portion where I could have a full window view of the city I now call "home". I quickly surveyed the passengers within my viewing range - a lady in her thirties seated across my seat, deeply engrossed in a pocket book; two black teenage girls with their long black tightly-braided hair in place, surreptitiously giggling over "you know what" girlish things; a father and kindergarten son tandem probably of european descent, the father instructing the kid to eat the sandwich properly so as not to spill on the latter's face, some very polite, soft-spoken latina nannies and some mestizo school boys all wearing i-pod headsets. Each passenger seemed to build an invisible fence around his private little space in the bus where strangers cannot thread into. I felt the same way too.

For the first few minutes, I was grateful that no one has decided to sit with me at any of the stops we made. I didn't want to miss my bus stop number so I focused intently on the sceneries outside the bus, careful to mark the number of each and every station that the bus passed by. I was amused by all the doll house-like bungalows that lined-up the road pavements and wondered about the people who live there. There were tall and small structures, lanky andbig trees about to bloom, busy streets, graffiti on the wall, men and women in corporate suits walking down the street, cars hurrying to beat the traffic - all the hallmarks of an urban life.

Everything was totally new and unfamiliar to me so that every now and then I had to secretly glance at the map safely tucked inside my folder. What a relief that the bus was actually plying the same route appearing in my downloaded map. Of course, I was careful not to show my map to other passengers, else I can become an easy target of some mean people out there ready to take advantage of my ignorance. When you're in a new place like this, much as you would like to trust people, wisdom also dictates never to throw caution into the wind.

And then as if somebody was reading my thoughts, out of nowhere popped two very odd-looking middle-aged couple at the Selkirk area. They were almost triple my size, exceptionally huge and tall and probably of aboriginal descent based on their physical features. To protect their tribe, I will refrain from physically describing them. To my great surprise, they decided to sit next to me despite the many vacant seats around.

So what's wrong with having someone like them seated next to you? Nothing actually, except that I have heard a lot of negative stories about them, like how they can be so unruly and rude in public, or how easy it is for them to pick up a fight with just anybody. The stories are a bit scary although I know deep in my heart that some of them may not necessarily be true. In fact, the first time I heard about them, I instinctively ran to their defense as if I've known them long enough. I felt that they are being unfairly stereotyped, placed in labels that are actually applicable to other races as well, Filipinos like myself included. Why, I have seen a lot of other nationalities who have displayed rude character and rough behavior so I knew it is truly not right to judge them this way. It was very unchristian to say the least.

But being actually with them now seemed to be a different story. The paranoid in me started to dominate my thoughts. What if the stories were true? What if they harm me now? What if they ask money from me? But the better side of me whispered "come on now, where is your sense of fairness? you have no right to judge them". Good thing I let the good side of me dominate my thoughts. Indeed, nothing could be truer that the battle is in the mind. I managed to say "hi" and flashed a smile towards them. They smiled back, albeit sheepishly.

Over the next couple of minutes, my seatmates were simply there - sitting peacefully in their couches, doing their own thing in that little corner of their world, dutifully awaiting for their bus stop. A few minutes later, the man politely excused himself as he pulled off the yellow string tied at the window near my side to signal that they were getting off. And when they were finally off the bus and have walked several steps away, I saw the man placed his right hand over the shoulder of the lady. That's it. I smiled knowingly. They were such a beautiful sight to behold in such a sunny day!

Although my first bus was incident-less, it was one of the most insightful experiences I had during my first few days in Canada. It affirmed what I already knew to be true in my heart all along. There is nothing to fear about riding the bus just as there is nothing to fear about other people, or about other nationalities. There is inherent kindness in everyone. The tough-looking stranger that sits next to you is just like everyone else - beneath the exterior lies a gentle heart, capable of kindness, capable of loving. Most passengers, myself included, are like mushrooms who seem to get on in the middle of nowhere, and then get off a few minutes later, again in the middle of nowhere. Most passengers just like to quietly get on with their lives, eagerly anticipating for their destination wherever that is.