Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Why do you want to work for our company? (A rant)

Well, it is that time of year again: time to look for seasonal employment. Ugh. I can get a teaching job in Eastern Europe (several, actually), but I can't get a temporary job selling clothes at the mall. And why is that? Because--quite frankly--I suck at filling out applications and answering employee test questions. And the clue to my utter inability to do so is buried (though not exactly hidden) in that last sentence: quite frankly, I'm just too damn frank.

Let's start with the obvious Q&A. Why do you want to work for our company? Well, quite frankly, I don't give a damn about your company. I just want to earn some extra money to fund my next adventure to a country where your company owns sweatshops that take advantage of the economically disadvantaged. Hopefully, while in this country, I can find a job teaching English in an effort to give my students more opportunities to improve their lives--and not have to work for you guys any more.

Yeah. I know.

Next question: What do you have to offer our company? I have an ability to look customers in the eye and smile, then make snide comments once they have left the store. I can fold clothes like a sonuvabitch. I don't smell funny. Usually.

And then there are the on-line questionnaires, where after a series of multiple choice questions, I am judged unfit to even be interviewed. These questions are usually the obvious ones (I like people, I would report a thieving co-worker, I relish the challenge of dealing with a difficult customer). But I do not live in a world of multiple-choice boxes. If a question asks me how a feel about dealing with a difficult customer at the end of a long day, I'm going to respond that I feel utterly exhausted. That is the honest truth. But the question was how I would FEEL, not how I would REACT. If the question asked me how I would REACT, I would respond that I would do my damnedest to smile and help the customer. But this is not fill-in-the-blank; this is multiple choice. And chances are pretty good that my response is not even an option. Or how about the agree/disagree statements? My favorite: In the past year, I have been stressed so much that it has affected my sleeping/eating habits. Strongly agree--of course! But where is the option to explain that in the past year I have lived in a different country, started two new challenging jobs, traveled through 19 countries (mostly by myself), and almost been homeless. Twice. If I hadn't lost a little bit of sleep during any part of all that, it would probably be a pretty clear sign there is something seriously wrong with me.

Anyway, time to go to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. A much more pleasant experience than trying to find seasonal employment.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Test your vocabulary (and do some good)

Just in case the music test was not your cup of tea, here is a vocabulary test:


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Istanbul, Turkey

After my rough night on the train (see Turkish toilet story) and obtaining my visa (which occured when the train crossed the Turkish border at about 3 in the morning. All the Americans had to get off the train and go into a little office and buy visas. I hadn't been sure how much the visa was going to cost--the price went all the way up to $100 when the Iraq war started-and I wasn't sure which currencies the Turkish border guards were going to accept--so I made sure that I was carrying enough to cover visa costs in either Euros or US Dollars (or even Canadian dollars). Anyway, I only had to pay $20 (and endure a couple of less than positive comments on my passport photo--which really is the worst picture in the world. I hope I don't look near as bad as I do in pictures...).

The Aya Sofia. It was an Orthodox Cathedral which was later converted into a Mosque. Now it is a historical building with a hefty entrance fee.

Inside the Basilica Cistern, under the old part of Istanbul. Again from the time of Constantinople.

Across the mighty Bosporus.

Inside the Aya Sofia (yeah, my pictures are a little out of order. Tough luck).

A street of shops right behind the Blue Mosque.

The Blue Mosque.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Take this test.



Kalambaka is in Central Greece. It is nestled in amongst giant rocks that jut straight up into the sky (trying to be creative and descriptive with my writing here. Don't make fun of me--I'm starving). A long time ago, some religious dudes looked at the rocks, looked at each other, and decided that on top of the rocks would be an excellent place to build a bunch of monasteries (ok, it didn't exactly start like that. It started with a bunch of hermits curled up in the little pod-like indentations in the rocks. But I'm going for creative license here, you know). Anyway, the end result is a bunch of monasteries on rocks (and bus loads of tourists).

Me in my monk skirt--ain't I cute? (I had to wear a skirt to visit the monasteries).

The monastery that, according to the Dutch couple I met up with, featured rather prominently in a James Bond film.

Another monastery. I didn't go into the one. Unlike every other tourist there, I did the whole tour on foot. That meant that, from about 10am to 7pm, I was walking. It was hot and dusty--with lots of stairs (as you can imagine, given that each monastery had its own giant rock).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Delphi, Greece

Aegina, Greece

Aegina is one of the Greek islands. I didn't actually have enough time to go to any of the more famous islands (Santorini), so I decided to take a day a jet over to the nearest island, Aegina. (Hydrofoils jet, right?)

Athens, Greece

So, we reach Athens, Greece. Enjoy the pictures!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ohrid, Macedonia

Redeeming the nasty mess that is Skopje is Ohrid, right next to the Albanian border. (I know I should be telling you stories too, but I just don't feel like writing them all out. I do have some Ohrid stories, which I may or may not tell at some point in the future. Feel free to guilt me about it like you guys did with the toilet story.) Anyway, Ohrid was beautiful. I had actually planned on crossing over into Albania, but that right there is its own little story.

Orthodox Church. I don't remember the name of it and I don't have my guide book with me (sorry). The man inside the church was nice and gave me a tour of the frescos that began in English and cycled through Macedonian, French, and German and ended in Spanish. The crazy thing was that I could follow the entire thing (granted, I had pictures to help. And it was all about saints.)

Another Orthodox Church. The grounds around the church were being excavated by University students.

Lake Ohrid.

Lake Ohrid in the sunset.

Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje now joins ranks with El Paso, Texas and Buffalo, New York fin competition for the honor of ugliest city I've ever been to. Congratulations.

The Dalmatian Coast

Here are some pictures of the Dalmatian Coast (Croatia and Montenegro).

Budva, Montenegro. A resort city that had pretty much been taken over by the Russians (the owner of the youth hostel where I stayed was even Russian). The old city had been completely rebuilt, giving it a little-too-perfect Disney World feel--but it was still a neat place to wander. Sv. Stefan was completely closed (the first thing my Mom asked me when I told her that I had been to Budva), so I didn't get to see it. Sv. Stefan is an island/casino/resort/hotel near Budva.

Dubrovnik, Croatia. When we went to Dubrovnik back in the 80s, there we no ruins at all. Instead, there was an old town with multi-colored roofs. But when Yugoslavia imploded, the Serbians bombed Dubrovnik (not to make the Serbs the absolute bad guys on this. From what I can figure, the Croatians were not exactly blameless through the whole thing). Anyway, what you now see are all new roofs. There were only a couple of places in the city that were still in ruins.

Overview of Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Kotor, Montenegro. The largest fjords in the Balkans. Only these aren't technically fjords
(apparently the Scandanavian and English use of the word "fjord" have slightly different geological meanings. Who'd a thunk it?)

Embarrassing Suburban Confessions #1

I have forgotten how to use a mailbox.

Yes. I know. You can stop laughing now. Please.

Bit of background here. I'm currently house-sitting for my friends S&R. They just bought a nice, new house pretty close to where I grew up in Maryland, and they asked me to house-sit while they went on a much-needed vacation. One of my house-sitting duties (okay, my main house-sitting duty is basically to turn the lights on and off at intervals to keep the house from looking deserted) is to get the mail, sift through it, and send back the stuff that was mailed to the previous inhabitants. Easy, right? Sure. If you can use a mailbox. Which I apparently can't do.

So, today I went to get the mail. Brought in a huge stack of it too, ans started sorting. At the bottom were all the things I had tried to send back. What was this? Was the postman on strike? Did he figure that this mail had the correct address (even if the name was wrong) and so it was no longer his problem? There must be some way of notifying him that this mail needed to be taken away. I mean, how would he know which stack of mail was in the mailbox because it needed to be taken away and posted and which stack was left there by a lazy house-sitter who just hadn't picked it up the day before (ahem). So, how to notify the postman?

It did eventually come back to me. There is a flag on the postbox. It just took me a bit of head scratching... But when I think about it, when is the last time I lived in a house? Hmmmm? (Commence finger counting.) Almost nine years ago. Yeah, it has been nine years since I've used a suburban mailbox.