31 December, 2007

"Dear Ms Legit...."

My acceptance letter came today. I am officially IN, and all I need now is my OSAP assessment and a trip into Toronto to get fingerprinted.

After all these months of waiting, things are finally beginning to move fast, very fast. If I get my biometrics done on the 2nd, and post the visa application on the 2nd, it could conceivably be back to me by the 11th, and I could be at York no more than one week into term. After all the frustration and waiting... I want things to slow down again.

29 December, 2007

Setting up the next domino chain

Time to start thinking visa. Here's my to-do list.

  • Go to the CAA and get a passport photo taken. Remember to not look like doofus, as in past two occasions.
  • Fill out VAF1 form.
  • Write cheque for fee.
  • Make copies of degrees. Make copies of funding proof.
  • Write "a letter stating [my] intentions on completion of [my] course".

I will do the paperwork tomorrow night at work, and get my photocopies and photo done shortly thereafter. Hurry, hurry, OSAP and York paperwork!

28 December, 2007

السلام عليكم

As-Salāmu `Alaykum, Alia.

Alia Qureshi died 19 December, 2007. Alia and I lived together at the l'Arche Daybreak "Green House" in 2003. I remember my time at the Green House with mixed feelings. On one hand, it was a joy to be at l'Arche and among people I loved. At the same time, it was hard being separated from people I loved, and un-l'Arche-like politics clouded the time.

Through the months I was there, I remember getting to know Alia. I remember arriving in the house and feeling quite intimidated by this tiny woman in her wheelchair. I wondered how we'd relate to each other, how we would communicate. Others seemed to enjoy a bond with her that transcended the words she couldn't speak. I was scared.

Then I got to know her a bit better. I enjoyed the time we spent together in the mornings and evenings, and bath time, which was really more like spa time. We would listen to music together; she had a tape deck and a number of Muslim music tapes. Sometimes we would listen to "A is for Allah," and I would learn about the Arabic alphabet. More often, we would listen to Dawud Wharnsby-Ali's tape, The Road to Madinah.*

Gradually, as we spent more and more time together, I remember feeling overwhelmed. At one point, I was the only person in the house doing routines with her on a regular basis, I had injured myself, and the general mood in the house was tense (for many other reasons). Meals could take upwards of three hours, and Alia would still be feeling sick through them. Looking back now, I wish I had been able to joy in the time better, but then I was exhausted. I wish I had known her better.

I remember her as a dancer, primarily. The sickness was a disguise. It shadowed her, and when she danced, her real self was allowed to shine. When she danced, her wheelchair was transformed from a necessary encumbrance to a vehicle for her art and her spirit. Many nights when she was well, would would dance in the dining room together, wheeling her in loops and circles in time to the music she loved so much. She would throw back her head and laugh: a deep, whole-body laugh that made you laugh as well for the sheer joy of it, of life and living.

I remember doing so much to try to coax her to laugh. Until this very minute, I was wondering if our relationship had ever been very deep, but remembering her laugh, and all the times I made noises for her to giggle at or danced with her, I realise how much her laugh meant to me. It was infectious, and a delight when it was heard.

Ali-Liu Qureshi. Daybreak core member, daughter, sister, friend. Loved by her family and the many people who lived with her, danced with her, or simply saw her dance.

I compare my time with Alia to my time at Oaklands. At Oaklands, bathing is often done as quickly as possible. There are too few staff for too many residents, and it's a good day when we have time for bubble baths. With Alia, it was simply the way things were. It was important to spend the time together, to relax. It was not a matter of business, it was facilitating a bath that was as much as possible the bath I would wish to be given. It's an interesting thing, and a good thing, for me to remember.

I don't know if other people have trouble thinking of acknowledgements or thank-yous, when it comes time to affix them to a dissertation. I know mine will be a simple matter. To Alia, and Keith, and Jane, Mike, Carol, Francis, Peter, Whitney... to all of you, living or departed. Thank you for opening my eyes and teaching me to love.

Carl MacMillan, the community leader, wrote a wonderful tribute to Alia on the Daybreak website, and I recommend reading it.

As-Salāmu `Alaykum, Alia.

26 December, 2007

And now, the packing.

Being the proud new owner of two 32" suitcases and one 24" suitcase, I'm beginning to turn my mind to packing.

So I ask you, what should I remember not to forget?

21 December, 2007

More Useful Links!

Okay, so just one for now.

Information for International Students who are looking for part-time work.

Student Living and Student Life

Sent the housing application off today via regular post. It has carbon copies and suchlike, so I couldn't fax it.

I've applied to two houses near King's Manor (the building which houses the Centre for Medieval Studies), one a bit further away, and a couple on campus, ranked largely according to their proximity to my building. Here's hoping, though I'm worried because I'm arriving in January and will probably get the dregs.

I've found some interesting links over at the York website, namely the Clubs and Societies website. The Medieval Reinactment society looks fun, as does the Astronomy Club, the Real Ale Society, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy group. I'm a little disappointed at not seeing a Catholic society listed, but I imagine I'll find one around when I get there. Ah! There it is!

Oh, and Worship services. I'll feel much more at home if I can find a church I'm comfortable at.

I'm also a little disappointed to see that the university gym doesn't have a pool. However, they do have a good number of martial arts groups, including aikido, capoeira, fencing, jujitsu, and karate. The list of sporting clubs also includes Ben Lairig, which seems to be an organised "ramble through the countryside" group. Further digging reveals a swimming and waterpolo group. Sweet! There's also caving and canoeing and "octopush."

I'll have to see how my class load is, but I think I'm going to try to get involved in at least one social activity and one sporting activity. Perhaps I'm finally going to be geographically stable enough to take up a martial art! I know I'm going to be lonely, so I'm going to take active steps to not be a hermit! Plus, I'd love to get back into swimming. Or take up a martial art.

I'm feeling the positive, for once, not the SCARY LONELY FEAR. It's a nice feeling.

The systems stink, but sometimes the admins are golden

Last night at work I realised that if my OSAP paperwork didn't arrive today, I would not be able to submit it to York before the office closed for Christmas, effectively losing two weeks of Red Tape Time. And even if by some miracle it did come, the time difference would mean the office would be closed. Drat.

So I called York, fully prepared to beg. I was eventually connected with a wonderful woman in the Graduate Studies Office who consulted with someone else (a superior of some sort, I guess). She said that if I faxed the funding documentation I have now (two bank statements, a credit card statement, and the line of credit document), they'll assume the student loans paperwork will arrive before I fly over. And she'd mail out the final offer of admittance right away, so it would get in the post today.

So even though I can't send it back to them until January, I can get going on my visa as soon as it gets here. I was beginning to despair of getting out of here before February. Moral of the story: sometimes people are really nice and understanding, if you just call and ask. Thank you, wonderful Ms. Libby, thank you. I hope your Christmas break is wonderful, relaxing, and joyful.

In semi-related news, my manager at work informed me last night that he will extend my contract if I am still around past 05 Jan, which is when it would otherwise expire. I'm glad, because I'll have something to do, and can pick up shifts at the PT rate.

I've decided to keep working until I submit my visa application. The visa turnaround is supposed to be quite quick, and I'll be flying out as soon as I can after I get it. I'll use that time to freak out and be clingy. And pack.

17 December, 2007

On the road again?

My transcript from UofT arrived today.

I will post it "next day" shipping this afternoon, along with all the other paperwork OSAP wants.

Hopefully we can get this show on the road again.

I suppose the silver gilt on the cloud is that all these delays have resulted in the deposit of another couple of paycheques into my account, making that number also kind of nice to show York.

Can't wait to be on the road again....

12 December, 2007

OSAP: Basil Fawlty Edition

Advice for those with one-year M.A. programs, cleverly disguised as angry ranting.

At least, if you live in Ontario (though I imagine other provinces are similar).

If you take a one year M.A. program, OSAP gets suspicious when you apply for another "first year" the next year. They understandably don't like it when students switch programs too often, since it shows a lack of focus and they probably aren't getting their money's worth.

But honestly, folks. Did you even glance at my application? At the part that makes me fill out my entire academic history and what programs I was in when? Go on, take a look. Yes, see the M.A. clearly listed as "Year 1 of a 1 Year Program." Mhm. That means that I am now done that degree! It's over!

And under the space for the current program? Where it says Ph.D.? Folks, this is not some directionless drunken general arts major farting around. It should be quite clear why I am applying for the first year of a program again.

And UofT! Yes, you! What's up with the transcript nonsense? Any time a student needs an official transcript, they need it in a sealed envelope, or else it's invalid. That means if I order two transcripts, and you send them both in the same envelope, one of them is completely rahling useless! This should not be news to you. This is true for every instance in which an official transcript is needed.

So, folks, here's the advice part of this post. If you have applied to the first year of a program two years in a row, OSAP is going to demand transcripts, a photocopy of your SIN card, and a letter from you explaining things. They will not tell you about this until very late in the process. So get them ready beforehand.

Or you will end up like me, feeling much like this:

07 December, 2007

Forgive a Girl Her Excitement

The Halcyon's December issue is out!

My article begins on page 7: "A Neapolitan Royal Book of Hours."

06 December, 2007

Publish or Perish: You Have to Start Somewhere

Today I attended the Centre for Medieval Studies (U of Toronto) party celebrating the achievements of the codicology seminar last spring. That is, the work of the seminar students was of such a calibre that the professor and the director of the library decided it should be showcased in the semi-annual library newsletter, The Halcyon.

I was a member of that seminar, and I was assigned a lavishly illuminated Franciscan book of hours. My partner and I jumped at the chance to add this publication credit to our curricula vitarum. Also, we really loved our funny little manuscript, with its grinning skeleton and complicated provenance.

The result was unveiled at the party today. It was so exciting to see! My first academic publication! Scary David was the professor for the seminar, and he gave a warm welcome speech to us all. He's become... a little less scary.

I did good work in that class, and I'd like to think that's the impression he keeps of me. I had the chance to thank him afterwards for all that I learned in his classes. I did learn a lot, and I really value it. Not just the facts and names, but the mindset, the approach to medieval text, and (in general), how to be a grad student. I've come to realise I owe him a lot and I'm glad I was his student. I'm also glad I got to tell him so. (After all, Excellent David scared the living daylights out of me at first, too. And I struggled manfully in his class. Perhaps a trend?)

The Halcyon is available online, but the current issue isn't up yet. Those of you viewing the .pdf version are lucky: it has the colour manuscript images, as opposed to the black-and-white of the printed version. I only wish we could have included more images: they are truly amazing, especially the abnormally cheery skeleton heralding the Officium fidelium defunctorum.

03 December, 2007


Two people have pointed out to me that SSHRC's investigation of my application means that at least they haven't dismissed it out of hand.

WHACK! Down, hopes, down!

02 December, 2007

Oratio contra consilium ad considerandum trivii quadriviique

Quo usque tandem abutere, C.a.C.T.Qq, patientia nostra? Quam diu etiam furor iste tuus nos eludet? Quem ad finem sese effrenata iactabit audacia?*

There's a bug in the SSHRC website that allows one to enter a 2008 studies start date, but not the second field where you enter the information (it requires a 2007 date).

Ad mortem te, C.a.C.T.Qq, duci iussu consulis iam pridem oportebat, in te conferri pestem, quam tu in nos omnes iam diu machinaris.**

SSHRC has noticed this inconsistency and emailed my advisor at York, who emailed me. I explained the situation to her, so hopefully she will be able to clear it up with them.

Tum denique interficiere, cum iam nemo tam inprobus, tam perditus, tam tui similis inveniri poterit, qui id non iure factum esse fateatur.***

I'm going to be very upset if I lose out on a SSHRC just because their stupid website has inconsistent field value requirements.


* When, O SSHRC, do you mean to cease abusing our patience? How long is that madness of yours still to mock us? When is there to be an end of that unbridled audacity of yours, swaggering about as it does now? (Cicero, Oratio in Catilinam, I.1)
** You ought, O SSHRC, long ago to have been led to execution by command of the consul. That destruction which you have been long plotting against us ought to have already fallen on your own head. (I.2)
*** I will put you to death, then, when there shall be not one person possible to be found so wicked, so abandoned, so like yourself, as not to allow that it has been rightly done. (I.5)

A New Month, the Same Old Red Tape

It's December 1st.

I still have not heard back from OSAP. This is incredibly depressing, and I have the sinking feeling that this is going to stretch out into mid-January, wreaking havoc with both my classes and my living arrangements. Hopefully some of this can be arranged via fax, because otherwise there's no way I'm going to make it.

But if I can fax York the financial paperwork and if they can fax me back a copy of the acceptance letter, there's a tiny chance I can get this done.

Flight prices are going up and up, which makes me awfully nervous. Zoom currently has a seat sale for travel to the UK between 15th Jan and 30th April, if you book return. Since I kind of want to come home for Easter, my birthday, and Kalamazoo, this may work quite to my advantage, still. I need to check it with my advisors, but seeing as Kalamazoo is part of that, I hope I won't have much trouble.

On the up side, it seems I am getting out of this frozen wasteland before we head into the worst winter in over a decade. It's something of a comfort. I hate the cold.

Waiting. I hate waiting.

01 December, 2007

De divellendo et plorando animae meae

The anticipatory homesickness is once again rearing its ugly head. We all have demons in the deep wells of our souls, and one of mine is the Uprooter. If only he could be vanquished with the liberal application of a flamethrower. Alas.

Last night I had dinner with Excellent David and Joni. There was beer and laughter and Latin Scrabble. There was palaeography and whiskey and enviro-doom. It was a grand old time, and something I treasure. It's going to be hard to leave such joy behind.

Last weekend, I went to the movies with Ramona. We saw Om Shanti Om, and it was a blast. It was campy and romantic and hilarious. Almost smack dab in the middle of the film there is an outrageous song-and-dance scene. A veritable legion of Bollywood stars show up one by one to sing and dance. In the film, the party is thrown for Om, an actor (wheels within wheels, dear reader), but it's fairly evident that the stars of the film and the stars making cameos are just plain having the time of their lives.

Anyway, right in the middle of this, I realise how much fun I'm having and how much I love spending time like this. And how much I am going to miss it. I'm going to miss Ramona, and her family, and all the fun and amazing things I've been exposed to over the year because of them. Of course I can go see Bollywood films in England, but it's not nearly as much fun when there's no one to share it with.

I have so little time now, and I want to spend so much of it with so many people that I feel like I get not enough time with anyone.

Anyone have a metaphysical flamethrower they want to loan me?