Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Horse Year! 马到功成!

I've been so busy with work, relocating to DD's home, wedding/elopement plans, related personal/contact information updates, 2014 volunteer and career plans that I didn't have time to update the blog and/or plan group/fun-activities. Thank goodness for friends, e.g. ZS and JX who organized a Chinese New Year (CNY) gathering at their place.

Had Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve reunion dinner 团圆饭 with DD earlier in the night. I had to explain to him how the Chinese Lunar New Year for the ethnic Chinese is akin to Christmas for the Christians and North Americans.

Anyway, given my busy schedule, I did not have time to prepare any CNY food and in my haste I did not buy any prepared food from the T&T supermarket on my way home. Thus we had to adapt with whatever we have for "auspicious foods" -- we ate a large gold coin 金币, growing wealth 生财, and gold surplus 金余。 Can you guess the food items that we ate?

[30-Jan-2014, 年年有余 ]

Yes, we ate a pizza (the yummy Dr. Oetker thin-crust spinach pizza) which looks like a large gold coin 金币, western-style salad 生菜 [raw vegetables -- homonym with "growing wealth" 生财], and Goldfish crackers for 年年有(金)余/鱼 [fish -- homonym with "surplus"]. 

That's adaptation, I guess. I suddenly remember a book that I read as a teen -- "East Wind, West Wind" by Pearl S. Buck.

Wishing my readers: 
出入平安, [Exit and enter in peace and safety]
身体健康, [Good health]
龙马精神, [Vitality]
马到功成, [Horse's arrival brings success]
年年有余! [Have yearly surplus]

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Elopement

DD and I are calling our plan to be legally married -- "our elopement".

Here's the inspiration: DD was visiting his family in Alberta, Canada, over the Christmas break. According to DD somewhere along his family chit-chat...

DD's sister exclaimed, "Without this, without that. That's not a wedding!"
DD's dad calmly remarked/explained, "They are not having a wedding, dear. They are eloping. It's just that they have the courtesy to inform us in advance."

DD's dad loves the idea of a simple wedding. When I told my sister of DD's dad's response, my sister commented that DD's dad seems like "a very understanding and smart guy!"


My sister should know. I was living with my parents when both sisters got married, and what a nightmare each pre-wedding banquet period was with my parents quarrelling almost daily/nightly. Plus, having helped with and been to numerous friends' grand weddings, I don't want any of that stress for myself.
I recall years ago while my younger sister was busy planning her wedding with her fiance. For some reason or other (which I cannot recall), my mother was grumbling repeatedly about the wedding plans. As it was the second wedding in the family and I've observed that my mother would grumble each time, so my response to her was (in Cantonese), “轮到我的时候,我就私奔。” [Literary: "When it comes to my turn, I'll elope." Indirectly reminding my mother to appreciate the fact that my 2 sisters held grand weddings as per her wishes.]
Thankfully, DD is not into grand weddings too. Now in our middle-aged years, we have both witnessed that the grandeur of the wedding has no correlation with the longevity of the marriage nor the happiness of the couple going forward. We would both be happy with just the Marriage Commissioner and 2 witnesses if we could get away with it. But then, it may be the only wedding in DD's family (besides his parents'), so we agreed to have a small and simple ceremony.


Life is like a Cup of Coffee

Indeed each person has his/her own idea of what an ideal wedding should be. Some friends are surprised that I do not want an engagement ring (I asked for a gold coin instead); some surprised that we are not planning on a honeymoon (although we do have to make an obligatory trip to Singapore at some point); others are shocked that we're holding the ceremony in our living room instead of renting "a wedding hall/venue"; yet others are shocked that we may even consider going without wedding rings. So it is really up to the couple to negotiate on what would be acceptable to both. To paraphrase the "Life is like a cup of coffee" story above...
"Marriage is like a cup of coffee; it does not matter if you entered it holding nice-looking expensive cups or plain cheap ones. The only thing that matters is whether you enjoy the coffee."

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

New to BC, Canada

At the end of 2013, I met someone new to B.C., Canada, and emailed her a list of websites for resources/information to help her settle-in. The information is scattered all over this blog, so I've gathered them together in the email and added some new information. FYI, in case any newcomers to BC may find it useful.


There are various immigrant settlements services agency. From my acquaintances' and my experience, "MOSAIC" and "ISS of BC" (Immigration Settlement Services of B.C.) are the 2 more professional ones -- good to approach them.

MOSAIC is an immigrant settlements services agency. They conduct various programs and managed some of the Federal funding to help new immigrants settle into Canada.
Workplace Connections - guide newcomers with job search
Culture Connections - guide newcomers about life in B.C. and Canada


For the weather forecast and warnings, check:

For rules/laws regarding tenancy (i.e. renting a place/room), check:

For driving licence
"You have 90 days to switch over your licence after moving to B.C." -- ICBC website.

For B.C. RCMP (police) news, check:

For guidance on various common legal issues, check the Canadian Bar Association (B.C.) Dial-A-Law website.

To find a physician (i.e. doctor) taking on new clients (patients), check the online physician search from College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.


Here are some other links that might be of use to newcomers.

Check here for the provincial government's website for guide about living in BC.

The library of information for newcomers. Note: Each city has its own library system, but you can generally request to link your own city's library card with the other cities' libraries.

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) - Information about government taxes and financial related policies affecting individuals in Canada. 

Financial Consumer Agency of Canada - Information on managing personal finances in Canada. Tools and advice to guide you from choosing bank accounts, mortgages to analyzing one's budget.

The federal government funds this program to provide career counselling and some funds to new immigrants to obtain Canadian jobs equivalent to their previous profession. There are various groups that handle this. I applied through MOSAIC at Grant Street (along Commercial Drive), Vancouver. My case is now closed since I have spent the entire budget on nursing related courses. The amount is not much ($1,500 or $2,300 depending on one's previous industry), but some "free money" is still good. In addition, one can get one's English assessed for free through them, so that one can have a Canadian paper showing one's fluency in Canadian English.

The S.U.C.C.E.S.S. B.C. Richmond office runs this project, which is funded by the government (I am not sure if it is funded at the federal or provincial level). The idea is to provide financial support to Internationally Trained Professionals as they go about getting employment in their field in Canada. One can obtain a low-interest rate loan ranging from $500 to $15,000 for training, exams, qualification accreditation/assessments, joining professional associations, books or study materials, and living allowance. Note: IMHO, applicants should exercise financial self-discipline with the loan granted. I am aware of someone who utilized the loan granted to him for unrelated purposes and then finding himself back in a "financially broke" situation.,com_mtree/task,viewlink/link_id,1222/

Quote from their website: "ICES evaluates formal for-credit educational programs of study for people who have studied in other provinces or countries and determines comparable levels in British Columbian and Canadian terms. The results of an ICES assessment are provided in evaluation reports that are objective, consistent, and reliable."
Note: Fees are applicable for the above service. The fee charged depends on the evaluation needed to be done.

Student Aid BC
If you want to pursue full-time education to (re-)establish your career here. Those who demonstrate financial need may be eligible for provincial government loans for selected-education programs and basic living expenses for duration of their full-time studies.

You do not have to be a Christian to join the program. In fact, both the YMCA and YWCA in Metro Vancouver are social organizations, not religious ones. Quote from the YWCA website: "This free mentoring program for women in Vancouver connects professional female mentors with unemployed women aged 19 and over who are entering or re-entering professional or skilled careers. Mentees come from a variety of backgrounds. They are women who are starting their careers, returning to the workforce or newly entering the Canadian job market."


For permanent residents/citizens facing hardship, there are various support services.

Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
The CMHA has a website "Living Life To The Full" which has a list of resources for those facing anxiety, depression, stress and other mental health issues.

Employment Insurance (EI)
If you lost your job due to company restructuring or other valid reasons, you're probably eligible to claim EI benefits. It is important to apply ASAP (as soon as possible), and not wait until you need the money. The Canadian Bar Association (B.C.) website gives a good overview of EI with links to Services Canada for the actual details.

Medical Services Plan (MSP) -- i.e. medical insurance
If your annual adjusted net income is $30K and below, you can get MSP assistance after residing in Canada for the last 12 consecutive months.

Fair PharmaCare -- prescription medication subsidy
Whatever your income, register for Fair PharmaCare so that no more than 4% of your net income goes to paying for medications.

Home & Community Care
Persons/families who needs home and community care (e.g. home health nursing) may receive assistance from the Home & Community Care, see below.

BC Bus Pass Program
"The BC Bus Pass Program offers a reduced cost, annual bus pass for low income seniors and individuals receiving disability assistance from the Province of British Columbia." -- BC Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation website

HandyDART -- door-to-door public transport
"If you have a physical or cognitive disability and are unable to use public transit without assistance, you’re eligible to use HandyDART." -- Translink website

Food Bank 
Please do not abuse it so that the real folks in need can receive help. If you're feeling generous or want to volunteer, the Food Bank is a good place to offer your support.
Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, North Vancouver:

This is for hardship cases. Depending on demand, supply, and other eligibility factors matching applicants to the housing available, there may be a long wait-time between application date and allocation of subsidized housing.
YWCA provides non-religous, wide-range support for single mothers.


Btw, IMHO, if relevant employment seems difficult to secure, it may also help for newcomers to just pick-up a minimum-wage seasonal job and/or volunteer at reputable organizations first in order to gain "Canadian experience" and Canadian references.

There are lots of resources available, but newcomers have to be proactive to seek them.