Sunday, August 31, 2008

Employment Success

Got a job! No, not with the IRS. I'll be working at the University of Southern Maine, a state college on the campus in the town of Gorham about 10 miles outside Portland. I'll be doing part time administrative assistant work and part time overseeing student workers in the newly built, state-of-the-art, enviornmentaly green upper class residence hall. It will be refreshing to be working on a college campus. I'll be glad to be out of healthcare which is said to be the most regulated industry outside of nuclear power. Perks include the offer of taking 2 classes per semester with free tuition. I have chosen the work schedule of Tuesday through Saturday, which gives me Sunday & Monday off. It will be nice to be able to take care of errands on a business day. Benefits are generous and start the first day of work. I am pleased.
"When it rains, it pours!" I also have a per-diem job at the Portland Public Health clinic. Just helping with front desk work and with the volunteer database.
Next task is to find an apartment. I'll be looking to settle in a town half way between Gorham and Portland for easy striking distance of work and city. Rents seem to be the same as in Portland, but I believe I'll get more room for the money outside the city.
Soon I'll be settled and inviting folks for a visit. Remember we have spectacular fall color which will be starting soon. Boston is just 2.5 hours away by Amtrak (The Downeaster). I plan to take that trip when the colors are at peak. Our jetport hosts Jet Blue as well as Delta, American, and others. A fun plan might be to fly to Boston and train to Portland. Our international ferry cruises 5 hours from Portland to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Another fun outing is taking the 3 hour "mail boat" that delivers mail and cargo to 5 nearby islands. I want to take that ride in winter which must be spectacular. Lobster is cheap if you cook it yourself and we have more restaurants than Visalia (and only 2 or 3 are chains). More than a few of our chefs are James Beard award recipients. Hiking trails abound as well as many miles of bike paths. Enough said?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rugged Folk

Thanks for your e-mails keeping me up on what you are up to. Glad to see you've been mostly under 100 degrees in CA. We had some high fog form overnight and this AM. I'm in long sleeves and shorts. It will be low 80's today as it has been all this week.
Mainers are a sturdy sort of folk. This week I have noticed they are not scared of germs like the west coast. Twice now I've been asked "how do you want you hamburger cooked" (and no, not at McDonalds). I never got that choice at least in Visalia 'cause of the rare-meet E-Coli concern. A clam shack yesterday had unwrapped straws standing in a glass, so you had to touch several to get one out. A favorite restaurant in town keeps fistfuls of silverware (business end up) in a glass on the table and you have to touch several to retrieve your utensils. I notice these things especially coming from working at a hospital where cross-contamination was on the high priority watch list. I'm not offended, just noticing the difference.
Maine, the pine tree state, does indeed have lots of pine trees, but more noticeable are the hardwood trees that line all roads. Oaks and maples mostly are so dense that one feels "boxed in" driving out in the country. You don't have open vistas unless passing a cleared dairy farm or wheat field up on a rise. You can pass within yards of the many "ponds" (I would call them lakes) and never see them. Sometimes the top canopies of the trees can overlap up high and you drive through a "tree tunnel". Streets are only occasionally signed, so for the novice, navigating the area can be a challenge. Of course the locals don't need signs, so there is little need to put them up. I looked up the active ingredient in poison ivy and it is the same as poison oak, phew... last I checked I am not reactive to poison oak, but they say it can change. Ivy looks only vaguely similar to oak, but still "leaves of three", but much more like other forest gro
Finally... I am starting to get calls for job interviews. It's taken 7 weeks and I was beginning to wonder if I was blacklisted for being "from away" (or old). My thoughts were running to what it would be like to live on the streets in winter. They have a city division that oversees the homeless population for soup kitchens, but I don't know if there is housing. More on the job front as it unfolds. Michael has been a prince for putting up with me and Dedos for 2 months. I have no idea how I am going to show my thanks when this is over and I can get an apartment.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Job Callbacks

Now the call-backs have finally started for interviews. It just seems like it has taken a long time, but feels so much better when you start questioning why nobody is calling. Interesting that things like self-worth come up and dreams have me lost in some way or other. Funny what your mind does to you (me).
Got to get out now for an afternoon walk along the Western Prom which overlooks the back part of Portland and is lined with very expensive Victorian mansions. Difficult to take pictures because the trees obscure the houses. I have a roll of film almost ready to develop and I'll start to include pictures in my reports.
Round the world sounds like a great trip. Just take your time as you go. There are programs that are all set up with optional stops. It will be some time before I can travel again, darn.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Job Hunt

Sorry to hear of your triple digit temps in CA this week.
After 6 weeks in my new town, I finally got an interview with a large health insurance company. It was a 3 hour interview and computer testing and exhausting. It produced an offer of a temporary assignment until the end of the year at a low wage. I declined the offer in order to be considered for full time. At least something is starting to happen in the job search. It just seems things happen slower here.
We have houseguests from California this weekend who are looking for new digs near Boston. One travels a lot for work and needs to be near a major airport, so they are looking there, but they really love Portland. We'll take them out to the 2-lights lighthouse park and stroll along the waterfront, perhaps have a lobster roll at the lobster shack there, then go down to the Old Port for the tourist experience.
The longer I am here, the more I am enjoying being on the water, in a really nice Victorian housed neighborhood, and having the best weather ever. I think I'm really going to enjoy the change, but I need to reserve total judgement until spending a winter here.
Michael is looking at buying a farmhouse away from Portland, so we will go see 2 of them tomorrow, both an hour away.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Social Life

August already! This week was a social one, an educational one, and a rainy one.
Started to meet some of Michael's friends this week. Dinner out at a nice little Pub kind of place with good food and reasonable prices. Also went South past Kennybunkport (while the president was there) to a dinner club to hear more folk music. The musician was American, but lives in Buenas Aires. Then a dinner party of 11 people just out of town. I guess I've met 15 or 20 folks already.
I finally took the "Downeast Duck Tour", the amphibious tour vehicle. I learned Portland has the tallest building in Maine at a whole 16 stories! We splashed into Casco Bay to see a nesting family of Ospreys, the yacht club marina, and under the bow of the 3,000 passenger cruise ship that happened to be in port. Portland will see 48 cruise ships this summer and tourism has become the leading industry.
5 inches of rain already this week! We can get up to 3 inches in a 24 hour period. I understand this is unusual for this time of year, but I'm still enjoying it even if Mainers are complaining its cutting into their summer outdoor activities. Portland actually gets more rain (46") than Seattle (37") . The difference is it rains hard here, then the sun comes out. Summer temps are very similar to Seattle (mid 70's), but it's 20 degrees colder here in winter.
Will take my daily walk downtown after writing this to see today's ship (Holland America's Maasdam) with only 1,200 passengers. The town skyline changes when a ship is in because it towers over all the buildings in the old port area and can be seen from everywhere. Passengers are off on land tours to various locations including the L.L. Bean store just 30 minutes away. Some people roam the Old Port for shopping and I always see people staying on the ship looking out, or eating in tall glassed-in dining rooms.
I am making a conscious effort to refer to Visalia as "there" instead of "home" to get used to the fact I live here now. It still feels a bit strange and not "home" yet, but time and familiarity with the place and people helps.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Long Days

Did I tell you how long the days are here? You might notice we are pretty high in the latitudes which means it gets light here at 4:00 AM and dusk is around 9. I guess its not a lot more daylight than CA, but noticeable especially when your cat thinks 4 am is an appropriate time to start pestering her sleeping master for breakfast.
There are other differences too: The sun rises out of the sea instead of into it, Halibut is Haddock, Mayonnaise is "Hellmann's", Poison Oak is Poison Ivy, Houses are close to the road so you don't have so much driveway to clear of snow, Houses have no eve overhangs because you want all the sun you can get, Some folks have window air conditioners not to cool, but to take the humidity out of the air for the few weeks in summer that are humid. My research also reveals that Mainer men do not pee on the toilet seats of public restrooms! I find toilet seats either in the "up" position, or down and dry. Is this because their friendliness extends to anticipatory courtesy of others? I don't know and I won't be asking those questions until I get to know people better (or just appreciate it and leave it at that).
Some other facts to waste more of your time: Maine has more woodlands than any other "lower 48" state. Maine supplies 80 percent of the nation's lobster at about 65 million pounds annual harvest. It takes a lobster 7 years to reach harvestable size (about 1 pound) and sheds it's shell about a hundred times in that timespan. Lobsters urinate in the face of other lobsters for identification and mating courtship. Because of the economy, whole lobster prices are at an all-time low at $5.50/lb (fewer vacationers and they are eating cheaper food).
Still no job yet, but there seem to be plenty of openings and more all the time. Despite economic gloom-and-doom in the daily newspaper, I've started to relax into a routine of job hunting and submitting applications the first part of the day, then getting some exercise walking or biking and exploring the rest of the day.