Thursday, June 29, 2006

Holy COW (that one's for you Shannon M Courtney !) What a bloody busy week it's been. I can't help but think about how much time I wasted in the three weeks prior just sitting here wondering whether I was going to be allowed in Australia. BUt I really don't have even have the time to think about things like that.

So, it turns out that I can actually accomplish quite a bit in a short amount of time when pushed to do so. In the past week I've booked my flights to Australia, booked two hostels in San Fran (will cancel one), booked a B & B for my first night in Sydney, been actively seeking out a flat/house to stay at while in Sydney, got a refund from Wal-Mart for a laptop carrier (the strap broke after a week..while I was at the airport in Glasgow, being sent home), had a meeting with an author about my writing (did not go over so well in my opinion), cleaned my room and the guest room, and did a whole bunch of other things that weren't exactly productive, but were quite fun!! (will get back to that topic in a moment..)

The official flight details are as follows (in case you want to say goodbye to me at the airport!):

Depart Halifax at 6.35 am on July 7. Arrive in San Francisco at 11.40 am on July 7

Weekend spent having a brilliant time on the west coast of US and hoping an earthquake does not strike!!

Depart San Francisco at 9.30 pm on July 11. Arrive in Sydney at 8.30 am on JULY 13!!

Yes, that's right folks , I am skipping a day in the life of Shannon. During the 18 hour journey from San Fran to Oz, we must enter hyperspace or something much more benign (like the int'l dateline) because we end up skipping a WHOLE day.

Ah, but it'll be worth if for all that I will encounter upon arrival in Australia. For instance, I might have the fortune of encountering one of the 10 deadliest snakes on Earth, all of which are native to the land Down Under. Or perhaps, while I am resting up from my long flight, a cute little spider, like the funnel web, will cozy up with me and give me a venomous (and potentially fatal) bite. Oooh, or maybe when I'm out in the ocean, cooling off from the heat of the day, I'll find myself withing stinging range of the most deadly creature on earth -the box jellyfish. Yes, indeed - missing a day on Earth in return for such adventure is surely worth it no?

OK, admittedly, when I decided to go work/holiday in Australia for a year, I didn't really do my research. I never have actually been much for researching a place before I arrive. I like surprises! But I prefer surprises like delicious chocolate (the UK) and lush green landscapes (Ireland) and male strippers on sandy beaches (Spain). Not so keen on surprises that have a lethal bite/sting/touch.

Methinks I best invest in some v. v. good travel/medical insurance. God knows I'll probably need it.

Right, now back to a replay social life in past week. And yes, oddly enough, I've had one. The hullabaloo started last Wednesday - drinks (perhaps too many) with a guy from Ontario and his medic friends. Thursday I tried to recover then went to trivia w/ Patrick and a few of his friends. One of them was a TV/Movie/Music genius and the ONLY reason we were first after the first round. Friday I took it 'easy' and Saturday night went out on the town with Denise M. and met some guys from NL who were here playing golf. One of them sounded authentically Irish. It was quite funny actually. Probably b/c I'd had enough wine andvodka that everything seemed funny.

Sunday I went to the movies w/ my dad then we took a leisurely drive through Malpeque and down into Cavendish, where we had a lovely dinner at the Boardwalk, then home for a nap and, well, the rest of the evening was well spent.

Monday I hung out with Adam, who just returned from 6 wks in Botswana and had tales to tell. We went to the gym, ate lunch and then I thought I had plans for the evening, but they were and I hung out some more and ate some more. He will be the death of my diet I swear!

Can't even remember what I did Tuesday, but last night I went out for coffee with father again and to the movies. Tonight = more eating and drinking! Again with Adam.

Who knows what Canada Day weekend will bring? Hopefully lots of good company and a few good memories from my last weekend :)

Friday, June 23, 2006

OK, so it's Friday and I did a lot today. I booked a flight to Sydney, Australia and in my books that is equivalent to a full day's work. Of course, the flight is out of San Francisco so I still have to get from Halifax to San Fran, but those are minor details. Minor!

And I guess my reputation precedes me, because I've already made the news in Sydney. That's right folks, in the June 23 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, there is one whole paragraph dedicated to me and my name twin, Mr. Shannon Courtney! The article has been archived now, but check out a link to the text !

And that, I believe, is all I have to say at the moment. For once I am short-winded!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

And the story that began with "I got kicked out of the UK...", finally concludes after what seems like an eternal climax (mind of out gutter!), befittingly, with the heroine/potential illegal alien being declared acceptable as a working holidaymaker in Australia. Like a nation in shining visa opportunities, Australia came to the rescue of this very fair (no fake tan here) damsel in distress,offering her 12 glorious months to explore and enjoy the Wonders of Oz!

And so, as is most often the case, this happy ending marks the start of a new story for this Canadian gal. Potential titles for this new series of adventures:

"Shannon Vs. Shannon - A Meeting of the Name Twins"
"Burning Shan (Not to be Confused with the Burning Man)"
"We're Not in Kanada Anymore (From The Blizzard to Oz)"
"From the Shan Down Under "

Yay! I can finally get on with my adventures abroad, thanks to Linda from the Immigration Office in Tasmania. I'm quite glad it was a female that processed my application on Monday, as if it'd been a male, there's higher chance he would have been in a foul mood since the Aussies lost to Brazil just prior to my visa being processed!

Right, so now I'm scouring the net for the cheapest/best flights to Australia. My aim is to be there by the 15 of July at the latest. I am looking at making a wee stopover in San Francisco to catch up on sleep, adjust to time change (a bit) and enjoy the West Coast of the States while I can! Ah life is good again!! Very, very good :)

I must admit, I had pretty much resigned myself to staying in Canada for the next wee while. Not that this would be the worst fate in the world , I'm actually quite enjoying the beginnings of summer on PEI . Now if only my social life were a bit more jazzed up and I had my own wheels...ah, but it doesn't matter, because soon I'll be living it up in a cosmopolitan city that has more than three decent bars and public transit of all..lots and lots of people. And by people I mean males with wicked Australian accents.

Should I start getting a fake bake right now? Am I going to stand out if I go down under with my pale skin untouched by sunlight? Hmm..maybe I should dye my hair blonde too...? OK, kidding!! Good grief - I know that would look terrible on me!

Anyways - last two weeks on PEI should be a blast what with Canada Day and chance to meet with a bonafide writer to talk about my writing! And, oh, if the strawberries come out.....yummmm!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Phew. This whole waiting for my work visa application for Australia to be approved/not approved is taking a lot out of me. I mean, seriously, my days are absolutely exhausting. It's not exactly the waiting that is an issue (although Mom & Jim might have a different opinion about that), it's the not knowing whether I will be approved that's stressing me out.

Now I know how those last two girls on the Bachelor must feel - waiting for the guy to tell them one way or the other if they are acceptable. Am I acceptable to the nation of Australia? True, I was rejected by Britain, but hell, we all know the Brits are stuffy and unreasonable! Perhaps I'm more agreeable with the Aussie way of living. I mean, if they want to brand me a criminal b/c I was dneied entry to the UK, then I'm really just like the first inhabitants Down Under right? Hmph - not good enough for Briitain, fine send me Down Under where I belong!

Anyways, yes the stress is getting to me. It is eating away at me in ways I didn't anticipate. Mostly this is because I now lack a vehicle and am stuck in Long Creek each and every day. It's just me, the computer and Smudgie. And Smudgie is usually sleeping or meowing like a baby or outside hunting things. So really, it's just me and the computer.

I heart MSN Messenger b/c it is my only contact with people now, but it's also causing slight paranoia which I will not go into at this point in time. And then there's the ol' standoff between me and Hotmail. Late at night and first thing in the morning - this is when my stomach turns b/c I know that it's 13 hrs ahead in Australia, thus my judgement will come in the wee hours or be waiting for me first thing in the morning.

Knowing this makes it all the more difficult to get out of bed. I want an answer so badly, but at the same time I dread opening that email when it comes because if it is not the answer I want, I wil have to resort to Plan C, which does not involve leaving Canada in the near future. In fact, it involves doing exactly what I've been trying to avoid doing for the last few months.

Also, if the answer is no, then I will find it difficult to justify this Life of Riley experience I've been enjoying since February. Ugh, I don't really want tothink about it. I need a distraction in a bad way. Hmmm..maybe I need a boy to take my mind off ridiculous things like my future.

On a totally unrelated note, I continue to correspond through my beloved Messenger with my name twin, Shannon Courtney, who lives down under. It seems that within every conversation we find more similarities, which concerning. I wonder if we're not part of some experiment and somehow we balance each other out b/c we live in different hemispheres. Maybe I will screw up the galaxy if I move to the same hemisphere as the other Shannon Courtney.

See what i mean??? Too much time to think!!!!!!!!! I need to get out of here fast!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I have just come back from the most inspiring and riveting talk I've ever attended. This evening, to a sold-out crowd of 300 people, Dr. David Suzuki gave a presentation, complete with slide show and video clips, about his life and the amazing achievements that he has been a part of over the course of his life. To say nothing else, he is a brilliant orator and storyteller. He knows how to reach an audience- not through facts and figures or scientific jargon, but through human stories that we can relate to and with a sprinkling of humour. What can I say, it was brilliant. He spent the majority of the time taking us through his life, from childhood through to the present. He talked in depth about his work the First Nations tribes in Canada and the many battles he and his wife have been involved in as a result.

The most poignant part of his presentation, however, was when he played a video clip of a speech that his daughter, Severn, gave at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1991. At the time, his daughter was 11 years old, yet she had raised the money to go to Rio (as part of a group she started called Environmental Children's Organization) and was invited to give a speech to the delegates. Her words were so passionate and powerful, I daresay there were probably a few tears being wiped away in the room. Near the end of his presentation, Dr Suzuki shifted gears and spoke to us all about the need to act now, to do what is within our power to change the couse of the future - to bring about sustainability within a generation. He spoke vehemently about the need to make the environment THE priority during the next federal election so that whoever is in power will feel the pressure to make change happen.

Of course, to make anything happen we need people power. Most of us have resigned ourselves to the fact that we can't do much about the disasterous state of the environment. After all - what difference do the actions of one person make? Ah, fair enough, not much.... But what about the actions of a million people? And how do we get to a million? One at a time. So, I therefore ask that you take a moment to check out the David Suzuki Foundation website and (hopefully) you will sign up for the Nature Challenge. Just by signing up (it's free of course) you will be providing the Foundation with more power - they can go to politicians and say 'hey we have a million people who've signed up to the Nature Challenge - that's a million voters or potential voters who want to see the government come on board'. And, of course, by doing just a few of the things suggested in the Nature Challenge, you'll be saving the world, one bit at a time, and probably be saving money and getting healthier too!

Here's the link, take the challenge!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

I've spent most of the day devouring a novel recommended to me by none other than Danielle J. For the past two or three years I've 'mostly' avoided fiction in favour of non-fiction and have been served well by digesting books such as Ishmael, 2030 and, most recently, Freakonomics. That being said, sometimes you just crave a really good read - maybe even a really nice love story. And so I find myself engrossed in The Time Traveller's Wide, which is in many ways similar to other novels I've indulged in, but in other ways like no piece of fiction I've read before. It is, first and foremost, a love story, but, as the title suggests, a love story with a pretty big twist. So the story is narrated by Henry, a bonafide time traveller, and his wife, Clare. The book does not follow a particular chronology - or maybe it does, but I can't really explain it. It's funny though - the time traveller can travel back in time, but he can't change the future or maybe it's vice versa. Maybe he is creating his future when he travels into the past and meets certain people and does certain things..or doesn't.

Well, in any case, this has, of course, lead me to do a most dangerous thing: think. And I am thinking a lot about what role fate plays in our lives. Is there such a thing as destiny. Do certain things happen for a reason? Or is everything random and we simply decide after the fact that things happened as they did for a reason becuase this explanation makes us feel all warm and fuzzy about the twists and turns we encounter in life?

For instance, if one were to lose one's job they would likely be quite upset at first. But then maybe this person would happen upon a much better job and be much happier and decide that fate had thrown this curveball into her life precisely so she could get this better job. Or is it more likely that she simply did what anyone does when they lose a job - went job-hunting and merely found a job that would have been there even if she'd quit her old job in order to find a better one?

So I don't believe everything in life is fate or happens for a particular reason. Let's face it, life is pretty damn random and most things that happen are so benign that we are likely to ignore the signficance of most things that happen to us or don't happen to us, unless we are on the watch for such a thing. But then there are other things- like crossing paths with certain people whom you will never forget or having your plans radically screwed up on account of something you could not have predicted or foreseen.

Which, of course, leads me to contemplate my recent experience with being denied entry into the UK. A part of me wants to believe it happened for a reason, but what would that reason be? Is it that I wasn't supposed to be in Scotland this summer, or that I am supposed to be on PEI this summer? Perhaps it is simply that I should be heading directly to Australia as I had originally planned to do before I lost my job in February and all my plans went off kilter?

If there's a reason I am supposed to be on PEI, what am I to do about it? Am I to just sit around and wait for this 'reason' to make itself known, or should I be actively seeking this 'reason'. And if I actively seek it, or even if I don't, won't I simply be creating my own destiny - finding a reason to justify something that happened in the past?

So I am at a loss. Do I believe in fate? Do I believe certain things happen for a reason? One thing I do believe is that we have to try our darndest to make the things happen that we want. For instance, if we love someone and want to be with them, we have to do everything within our power to make that happen. That, by the way, is simply an example - I am (for once) not insinuating anything about my own personal life. For me, the thing I am trying my darndest to do at the moment is get myself to Australia. Fate, if youu are out there and listening, please please let me get to Australia soon.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A new day, a new blog. This time, I vow to actually post regularly and I have just the write incentive - a partner in crime. And yes, that misspelling was intentional. You see, this new blog is intended to be a place for Danielle Jakubiak (fellow K-towner, fellow adventurer and all-round brillant person) and myself to share our writing.

It all began when I was sorting through my very very old papers and came across a masterpiece of literature co-written by Danielle and I for Mr. MacFarlane's grade 9 class. I put it in a manila envelope and postedit off to Danielle, who is currently living it up in Montreal and working crazy hours at the Fringe Festival there. In a note accompanying the masterpiece I suggested to Danielle that we hand off new writing to each other every time our paths cross. Of course, being rather wanderlusty, our paths don't cross all that often, thus I'd deduced it was the perfect exercise in combining procrastination and commitment to my writing. I did, however, know that we would be crossing paths on July 5th in London, England. I would be shacking up in the UK for the summer months, and Danielle would be passing through on her was to Istanbul.

Well, as fate would have it, I recently learned I would not, in fact, be shacking it up in England for the summer (see previous 2 or 3 posts) and so, through the magic of MSN Messenger, Danielle and I decided that perhaps we should pass off writing via the Internet. What a brilliant way to make me write - there's nothing like a bit of peer pressure to meet the 'once a week posting' rule to get the juices flowing! It also helps that I still have no job and am now sans a vehicle as well (due to the fact I didn't think I'd be back in Canada for a loooongg time)

Anyways, enough prelude, this isn't a kiss after all, it's just a link to the blog of Shanielle and Dannon.

Best read from oldest post to most recent!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Well, that's the end of my adventures in being rejected from the UK. At least I hope that is the end, because if this comes back to haunt me when I embark on future adventures I'll be less than pleased.

(See end of post for Tips on How to Avoid Being Rejected by an Entire Country)

Right, well I'm back on the Island. My final night in Scotland was a grand one! I went out with Ailbhe and some for her friends to George Street, which is the somewhat posh street in Edinburgh, thus one that I rarely frequented when hanging out with fellow Canucks last year! I intended to remain sober so I would be ready for my meeting with Immigration the next day, but thanks to Ailbhe that intention went flying out the window. We ended up at a club called Why Not? which was full of pretentious people and an above average number of metrosexuals. The drinks, however, were cheap.

Four hours of sleep and a pizz haggis later and I was on my way to Glasgow airport. Was a bit nervous but ready to state my case for why I should be allowed to stay - I had my bank info, details re: the working holiday visa I had been on and a quote from Aus Travel for price of flight and work visa. And when I arrived at the airport I was told by Immigration that I wasn't having another meeting- they'd given me the wrong form when I left the Sunday previously - they'd given me a form that suggested some hope, when in fact there was no way out of it - I was going home.

On the plus side, I was escorted through the airport, didn't have to wait in any lines and didn't have to pay for my ticket or excess baggage (of which I had a lot). I had a lovely 5 hour conversation with my seatmate on the plane - she was in her 50's and returning to Canada after a holiday in Scotland. She was considering moving to the UK to work and live. How brilliant! See, it's never too late!

Upon arriving in Halifax(late), I gathered my luggage and headed for the exit, only to be told by Customs that I had to have my baggage searched. I don't think this had anything to do with my being denied entry in the UK - just another bit of random bad luck which has led me to conclude the trip to Scotland was never supposed to happen. I just haven't figured out why yet, and maybe I never will...

Anyways, I still contend that I just had a spot of bad luck on my entry to the UK and if it had been another day, another time or another officer I would have experienced no problems. That being said, I've certainly learned a few things from this experience and would now like to pass them along so that no one else ever has to experience the distress and inconvenience of being detained, interrogated and searched.

Tips on How to Avoid Being Rejected by an Entire Country

  • Tell the Truth. Admittedly, in this instance, telling the truth is what got me in trouble. I had a new passport and could easily have avoided mentioning my working holiday visa and I volunteered information about my Scottish bank account when asked about funds. That being said, if I had lied and they had detained me anyways, their search of my baggage would have been evidence of my lies and I'm sure their treatment of me would have been much, much worse. They could, for instance, have denied me entry into the country for the next three years and sent me home immediately. Anyway you look at it - honesty is always the best policy even if it doesn't always keep you from getting in trouble and , hey, it promotes good karma.
  • Get a Visitor Visa BEFORE You Leave. You don't normally need to do this, the visitor visa is provided by the Immigration official you are greeted by upon arrival in the country you are visiting. Getting one befoer you leave will provide extra insurance of an appeal, however, if you are detained and will lower the chance of being detained in the first place. You can contact the Embassy or High COmmission of the country you are visiting before you leave and determine how to go about obtaining this visa.
  • Have a Return or Onward Ticket. Heck, they just want to know you're going to leave when you say you are, so if you can easily do it, book that ticket. On the other hand, after what happened to me I question the wisdom of booking an onward ticket from a country UNTIL you are given entry into it. It's a chicken and egg and either way you dice it you are taking a risk
  • Carry Old Passports with You. I had a brand new passport, which didn't show my work visa for the UK or the numerous times I'd been accepted into countries as a visitor. The Immigration Officials asked for the old passport, but I was unable to provide it.
  • Have Proof of Funds. OK, no one carries wads of cash anymore, but for some reason Immigration seems to think that the amount of money you are carrying on you is somehow indicative of how you will be able to support yourself as a traveller or visitor. Pfft. It's just an easy way for them to deny someone entry if they so wish - they KNOW people use bank cards these days. So, beat them at their own game and carry recent statements from your bank back home or, if it doesn't cost too much, an official letter signed and stamped by the bank. Or I guess traveller's cheques would do the trick too.
  • Carry ONLY the Paperwork You Will Need in the Country. I was stupid and packed my resumes and cover letters, in anticipation of my arrival in Australia. It only occurred to me after I was rejected from the UK that my resumes were useless in any case because they had my Canadian contact details on them. But, yeah, they searched all my papers and wallet looking for some sort of evidence I was preparing to shack up and get a job in the UK. Of course, they didn't find it, but they found some things that they could use as circumstantial evidence.
  • Do NOT get Stroppy with the Officials. I didn't dare get into a heated debate with the fact I 'may' have kind of broke down, but in any case I highly recommend you not argue with them too much because a lot of people in Scotland told me Immigration folks are often on big power trips and tehy culd make things a lot worse very easily.
  • Arrive in a Smaller Airport. I didn't think Glasgow International would be problematic. I'd been told offiicials at Heathrow were downright scary. I highly doubt I'd be home today if I had landed in Edinburgh.
  • Time Your Arrival. Now maybe I'm being a bit paranoid here, but I DID arrive near the end of the calendar month and if officials have quotas, well then I was a Sitting Canuck wasn't I? In addition, if you can manage to arrive in the evening, after a daytime flight, I highly recommend it. I arrived after 26 hours of non-sleep and so my ability to think and answer questions had deteriorated dramatically.
  • Have Proof of Your Intentions. If you say you are a tourist, a tour guide book and the such might be a good idea. That being said, I had a BritRail pass , which the Immigration folks chose to ignore as evidence of my claim that I was visiting/traveling.
  • Have a Story About Your Plans Following Travel. Even though I didn't intend to return to Canada for over a year, they still cited my uncertainty about what I would do upon return as a reason for refusal. Evidently saying I was planning to further my education was not detailed enough. Perhaps I should have said I was planning to move into a brothel and sell crack on the side. Maybe that would have been specific anough.

Above all, be ready to accept whatever fate is delivered to you. There is nothing you can do about it so take advantage of the Duty Free shop as you depart and remember - they won't charge you excess baggage on your way home!!!

Friday, June 02, 2006

My bags are packed, I'm ready (not) to go...

Funny how fitting that song is - when I left on a jetplane I didn't know when I'd been back but I never expected it would be so soon.

So, yes it looks like there's no way outta going back to Canada - I have been rejected by UK Immigration. Obviously, I'm not happy about the way things have gone for me since arriving, but I'm rolling with the punches. There was nothing I could have done differently that would have changed the outcome, unless I was willing to compromise my own morals and lie, which I wasn't.

If there really is a lesson to be learned from this all it is that life is really quite rnadom and as much as we want to control the road ahead, there are a great deal of things that are completly out of our control and so, when we hit a bump in the road, we have a choice: Hang on tight, ride it out and appreciate the smooth ride ahead all the more for it..or let the bump stop us in our tracks and lose sight of the brilliant ride ahead.

I've decided it's just a bump and I'm just a victim of misfortune in this case. Heck I can't really complain about one tiny bout of bad luck, when I've experienced great bucketfuls of luck in the last few years.

Still - an advisory to others who want to avoid this bump: It pays to have things planned out and it pays to suss out the immigration officers and try to find a spot in the line where you can get one that doesn't look like she's out to make your life miserable. Seriously - it was the luck of the draw.

On Wednesday night I caught up with Brandon, Gary and a few other peeps. Amongst them was fellow Canadian Andrea, who had returned to Canada just after I did in October 2005, when her visa expired. She was back here to visit for three weeks and came via Edinburgh airport. The officer glanced at her passport and said 'Oh you're on a working visa, well in you come then'! SO you see - I get the scary woman who thinks she knows it all and Andrea gets the complacent, slightly uninformed office. Luck of the draw for sure.

Anyways - so I've gathered some additional evidence to suggest that I am just here as a visitor (ie bank statements and a quote from Austravel for cost of flight & work visa). I also found evidence that one of the claims the officer made against me was false. She claimed I had violated my working visa conditions by working for 1 yr and 4 mths of my2 yr visa. According to her, I was only suupposed to work part of the time as a full-time employee or all of the time as a part-time employee. Well, I tried to tell her that my visa was issued before these new restrictions but she said they'd ALWAYS been like this. So I went on the net this week and found plain evidence that she was wrong, I was right and I never violated my working visa conditions.

This week, aside from the stresses of impending departure, has been really nice. I am still in love with Edinburgh and caught up with old mates this week. Went to the Walkabout last night and bit steaming... Met a bloke and started rambling about how I was being forcedto leave and needed good lawyer, which he just happened to be. But really - what can a lawyer do in one day? Aside from charge you a lot of money...

Anyways, so I'm getting ready to take Australia by storm. I intend to stay on PEI for as short a time as possible - I'm so embarrassed I have to come back at all. Think I'll be gone within a week and a half of getting back.

Big thanks to everyone who emailed me to express sympathies and outrage - Emily's email wins for 'most outraged'! Thanks to my ma for getting me the paperwork I needed during the week and putting up with my first panicked call. And also a HUGE thanks to my father for coming to pick me up at the airport tomorrow afternoon. You are all brillant :)