“So What Are Your Lunch Plans?”

Always around this time of the year when people ask about my lunch plans and I tell them I won’t be eating because I am fasting during the month of Ramadan, they become defensive and apologize for bringing the subject up. I don’t think discussing the topic of eating or drinking has bothered me for as long as I can remember. If anything, it reaffirms my belief and the reasons behind why I fast. Again this year, it has given me the opportunity to tell some people about Ramadan and why Muslims fast – a discussion I will gladly have with anyone who is genuinely curious. It is still pretty amazing to see the looks of people’s faces when they hear the fact that we are not allowed to drink any liquids as well during the course of the day. I suppose the western culture here have adapted the fasting to exclude water should one become thirsty.

Aside from the spiritual benefits, a few clear cut physical and material benefits are pretty easy to see. When you limit the amount of times you can, it has a direct and positive effect on the amount of money you are spending on breakfast or lunch while during the work week. To kill off some time during my lunch hour, I usually head out for a walk around downtown Toronto going to places like Nathan Phillips Square, CBC Tower or just underground to wherever the random paths will take me. That’s a decent amount of walking during the middle of day to change things up although the lack of energy towards the evening does take away from my will to properly exercise or go for a run.

Throughout all this, we are all susceptible to mistakes and can be found complaining, waiting for the sun to go down before we can break our fasts. I am no different on that as some of the people I regularly talk to can attest but most of us have it pretty easy here in the west – especially for the fasts during the summer months. Most of our days we spend in a fully air conditioned work building or at home, staying away from the outside heat as much as possible while those in less fortunate countries in less than reasonable conditions.

I’ll finish with you don’t have to be a Muslim to fast on a regular basis, and you certainly don’t have to do it for a month but why not give it a shot. It not only has personal health and financial benefits but it also serves a greater purpose in opening your eyes and seeing how the other half lives – if only for a day.

Quick Working Stats

While there is some down time at work, I pulled up a file I created when I started work here which has been breaking down the data of how much I am working and when. By no means am I complaining of the hours I work because the things I have learned so far and people I get to work with have taught me a tremendous amount in a very short time span but I am a math major and we do these types of things so here is a quick snapshot:

Time In Time Out Avg/Day Avg/Week
Jul-10 8:33 17:06 8:32 42:42
Aug-10 8:09 17:40 9:30 47:33
Sep-10 8:10 17:31 9:21 46:46
Oct-10 8:12 18:15 10:03 50:15
Nov-10 8:09 18:07 9:57 49:49
Dec-10 8:10 17:21 9:10 45:53
Jan-11 8:09 18:15 10:06 50:30
Time In Time Out Avg/Day Avg/Week
Q3 2010 8:17 17:26 9:08 45:41
Q4 2010 8:10 17:54 9:43 48:37
Q1 2011 8:09 18:15 10:06 50:30

Just interesting to note that following the very first month, the time that I can into work got pulled back half an hour and the time I left pushed forward one half. A fantastic start for January so far and we’re barely half way through since I was here unexpectedly until almost 10PM last week which did well to push that average up near record levels although I don’t think (and hope) it won’t sustain during the next two weeks as lots of things are progressing steadily.

The end of December was kind of nice with people going on vacation and not a lot of things on my plate before the year but I still averaged leaving at pretty high 5:21PM leave time given those numbers includes a 1:30PM, 2:00PM and 3:00PM dismissal in consecutive weeks leading up to the new year.

Monday 9:40
Tuesday 9:17
Wednesday 9:49
Thursday 9:23
Friday 9:19

One surprising note was that initially hit me what that Friday HAD to be the day which I worked the longest but the average per day just didn’t show that. It just turns out that if I take away those “early dismissal” prior to long weekends, the Friday average jumps a whole 41 minutes to 10 hours per every Friday which includes a 13+ hour day this past Friday.

With that, I’m off to lunch.

It’s Almost Time For Eskimos And Igloos

Day #128:

I can’t believe it has been over a month since I last posted and it has even gotten several people to ask why. The primary reason I haven’t had a chance to post is since that post I have worked a 40 hour week (in 4 days), followed by a 50, 60 and another 50 hour week. I finally have some time this week as there is a slight downtime in between projects but I don’t expect that to last very long. I was excited for a week or so thinking I would getting a day off for Remembrance Day but apparently the entire of Canada gets that day off except for Ontario because we have some Family Day in February.

The weather here has become increasingly cold with lows often in the lower single digits and even hitting negative degrees a couple of times. It is such a pain now, having to wait to defrost the windshield before leaving for work in the morning and I can only imagine doing this daily once the snow starts falling down which isn’t too far away as reports come in weekly of flurries or overnight accumulation of snow in places about an hour away or so.

One thing I have noticed is that I need to keep better track of my change. Every time I go out at lunch or for a coffee break, I would come back and put the change in a pocket in my bag. I never really looked back into that pocket since I have started working here which was back in July. Over the weeks, that certainly started to take a toll on the weight of the ball and it finally tipped over in my car yesterday morning – fortunately it was there and not on the train or something. It turns out that I had nearly 200 coins in there including several Loonies and Toonies and there is more than enough money there to buy me a full tank of gas, although I don’t think they’d like it if I paid a $50 fill up with 200 coins.

As it gets closer to the end of the year, I am looking forward to heading home down south towards the end of the year and I wouldn’t even mind driving this time since I can probably take about 9 days in total with the three weekdays being off due to Christmas, Boxing Day and New Years. There are only 46 more days (33 not including weekends) but it’s not like I have a countdown calendar at work or anything. We have recently moved into a new house where we weren’t completely settled in last time I visited so that’s going to be a change for sure. I want to connect back with my old soccer coach and my high school but given the timing of my visit, that’s probably going to have to wait for another time.

As always, if any of you are going to be around in the area at the end of December (or in Toronto any other time of the year), give me a shout.

First Update From Canada

It has been quite the first few days for me since moving back to Canada on the Independence Day of the country I was previously living in. I will try to give an update every week or so in a segment I am going to call “Toonie Tales.” Enjoy reading these, send me back some comments and as always, let me know if you’ll be in the area.

The drive up was relatively smooth, without much traffic and I only took a couple of stops – and thanks to the people of Cortland, NY who provided the free coffee and snacks at the one rest area I did take a break. The radio channels going in and out was a little bothersome though, at one moment you would be listening to some sports update and a fraction of a second later due to channel interference, it would switch to some religious feed with cry for “May the Lord have mercy on all of us.”

First day of work, I went through the motions of a new employee getting a tour, getting my ID and filling out the proper HR paperwork and was pretty uneventful – until it came time to go home of course. Due to the extreme heat in the area, there was a fire that took out a major transformer in the heart of downtown Toronto leaving much of the city without power at peak rush hour time (at 4:45 pm). I was fortunate enough to only have to take 8 flights of stairs down but I know of others who took well over 20 but I guess it is easier taking them down than trying to climb.

The environment outside was nothing like I have ever seen in the “civilized” West with all the traffic signals and crossing lights out of commission, it was initially an every man for themselves situation. Cars were creeping forward from all four directions until one person stopped and the entire row of cars would just follow suit. Hoards of people had taken to the street by this time and were all moving towards Union Station. Although there were some civilians who had taken to the crosswalks and were guiding human traffic and stopping and directing cars as people crossed, most were just anxious to get out of the glaring heat.

With a first day like that, the rest of the week seems relatively unexciting. First week of employment is always a little slow as work starts to streamline in towards you but I did have a couple of meetings yesterday and the workload will definitely pick up big time as more of my software and application requests are approved shortly.

A couple of things to note however: I had really forgotten how much everyone says “eh” in everyday conversation. You tend to lose that sense of reality when you only hear in terms of mocking back in New Jersey. Also the ease at which people travel not only through public transportation and the way they enter and leave work buildings, is a huge contrast from America. You couldn’t enter or leave the main doors without providing professional ID back in the States but here you just say hello to the person at the security desk and you just swipe in on your floor. On public transportations, you have your monthly pass with you but they don’t check every day, heck they haven’t checked for yet and it has been four days already. It really is an “honor system” but the penalty is so severe if you are caught on board without a ticket, that I don’t believe any everyday rider would risk it. Finally, the roads here are so much wider and a lot more fun to drive on. Once you are no longer in the cramped spaces of the tri-state area, you really notice the difference traveling through 3- and 4-lane local roads on a regular basis.

It is definitely a harsh transition from a smartphone to a regular one but in the meantime, I am enjoying keeping in touch with colleagues from south of the border through Google Voice and even exchange some emails in between. Please, feel free to send a text my way to my new number to keep me occupied during the slow days. Also if you’re somebody important, I might even give you my work contact information in case you need to reach me.

I’m Moving To Canada

I have been looking forward and dreading this day for a little while now. I was more than certain to move on from my undergraduate life at Stevens and into the next stage– but I had no idea it would involve me moving back up north to Canada. I was never sure how to make such a decision and how much I would debate it from the moment I know that I might have the opportunity. Slowly but surely, more and more people I know have begun to find out about the next chapter in my life that I have decided to accept employment in the great city of Toronto in Ontario, Canada. It wasn’t my first choice but in the end, it was my best choice because of where I wanted to progress professionally.

The last decade that I have spent in the Garden State has been something remarkable. I was never a big fan of moving down here in the middle of 7th grade but I have since grown fond of this place. I may not have always liked the political decisions made here, their sports teams or even their lack of Mars chocolate bars, but the people were a different story… and seriously, why aren’t there Mars chocolate bars here?

Dating back to 2001, I decided to go to the Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Technologies (MCASMET) for high school which was only in its second year of existence when I first started. I like to think, that along with several people from our class, I had some sort of influence in the way things developed in that school. This is the place where I learned to question facts and not take them at face value. This is a place where I learned to be disciplined while debating with a classmate who was fundamentally incorrect. However, this is also the place where I got into trouble for not being “patriotic” enough during my freshman year but this is also a place where I made a best friend who I rarely go the stretch of a full day without making contact of some sort.

I hope to continue the lasting relationships I had formed not only with those that I was fortunate enough to learn from in my classes but a couple of old teachers and a soccer coach as well. It has been five years since I graduated from MCASMET and I was just at the reunion a couple of weeks and I am already looking forward to where everyone will be in the next five years.

My undergraduate studies just concluded with my commencement in late May and even though I will not say it was everything I hoped it would be, I will add that it wasn’t too bad. I think I am correct when I say the first person I befriended at Stevens became one of my better friends and would go on to become my eventual roommate several times over, including this final year. I had another roommate who was more civil-ized than the rest of us but I am not sure how he survived the constant slew of cheeky insults tossed his way. I was certain he hated me at times but hopefully that’s more temporary than a full time thing. I’m gonna miss competitive games of basketball and racquetball down here in Hoboken and sometimes down right painful games if you played with the right (or wrong) people.

A tidbit: Did you know one of my best friends from high school went to graduate school with a best friend of one of my aforementioned college roommate?

One thing I never did understand was how big the western culture is on moving away from home or disassociating ties from those that raised you. That is probably the one thing that puzzles me the most. Family is the one place you can always turn to whether it is in a time of need, time of celebration or anything in between. It is time to grow up now but moving to another country away from your immediate family will always be difficult but strong faith and belief should see you through. Hopefully, this next chapter is as resourceful as I expect it to be and we’ll see where I go from there.

For those looking to get in touch with me, can still use my same email address or cellphone  number starting July 4th but in order to text me, you should use my Google Voice number because I won’t have an international text messaging plan to start off. If you need any of those information, feel free to contact me and we can exchange information.

Now, who is up for a visit to Toronto to visit me?