Niall’s virtual diary archives – Saturday 27th October 2012

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Saturday 27th October 2012: 2.50pm. My first entry from our new life in Canada! Looking back over the past three months, it is striking how both expensive and stressful moving continents is, requiring about €15,000 in temporary bridging money and a good €5000 in non-retrievable costs, and that was with RIM paying directly for about half the total cost and them reimbursing us about €3,000 of expenses. Now, admittedly, we didn't need all of that €15,000 at all - perhaps about €10,000, but I deliberately added on 50% before I began to cover any unexpected surprises. Which I'll come to just shortly.

After the last entry, things of course got hectic. I went to visit about 60% of those I'm still in contact with from Cambridge, Hull, St. Andrews and beyond, and that of course involved a lot of travel and a lot of restaurant meals and drinking. Simultaneously, I had to organise the move itself which involved never ending emails between myself and various others employed by RIM to supposedly make our move easier. I have to admit, looking back, that while they made the bridging cost outlay much lower because they spent RIM's money rather than us having to fork out now for reimbursement later, they did not make things massively easier. Call me a control freak, but I didn't appreciate the extra layer of people between me and our relocation plan, especially when they point blank refused to do what they were told or in some cases, did something different to what they were supposed to without telling me. That added stress, because I had to rejig our schedule to cope with the uncertainty of people not getting back to me with necessary information for scheduling or not doing their jobs in a timely fashion. It wasn't helpful. No wonder I started smoking cigarettes again for the first time in years!

Still, it was great to see everybody and to say goodbye properly, even with the unbelievably tight scheduling constraints (after all, who moves continent and visits most of those they know in the world and starts a new job in exactly one calendar month!). I know from experience we won't see most of those from St. Andrews in particular ever again, and it was especially good to draw a solid line under the St. Andrews experience, four years after graduation. It closed things off especially well as I went to St. Andrews in 2004 at the age of 26, and those whom I knew there who were 18 are now aged exactly 26 as well, so they are now at exactly where I was at back when they first met me. And that did generate quite a lot of reflection: it came up frequently with each who I visited the loneliness and pointlessness of existence that graduates feel post-graduation, because you've had a few years post-uni to do something with your life and you find every worthy avenue closed off to you due to one overriding factor: society doesn't give a shit about you or your opinions or what you want or what is right. You get one binary, dimorphic choice: either join the capitalist machine working some unimportant, probably self-destructive job, have just enough time for acquaintances rather than friends, work till you get sick and we'll give you just enough money to have children and live an okay life, or else choose to be irrelevant and get nothing and be nothing. That realisation, one which I promulgated to 18 year olds who didn't quite believe me back during 2004-2008, is now as stark and as real and as depressing as any trauma a person can experience in a lifetime. The huge and only question remains: now that I understand this, what do I do now?

And of course, I don't have the answer there either, not like I had when they were 18 and answers were so much simpler. I returned to university aged 26 to try something different with the explicit goal of making possible a series of opportunities not normally available to those aged 26. Having mostly succeeded, I then had to pick from those opportunities, which I have done, and hopefully I haven't screwed up too badly. That's "the" answer, and I have no idea if I'm right yet. I guess we'll see. I do agree with my fellow St. Andrews graduates though that life after university isn't much fun, especially if you didn't graduate with a numerate degree. Even with a numerate degree, the drudgery, loneliness and pointlessness of the self-destructive rat race wears you down. Without a numerate degree, add to that constant worries about lack of money and lack of security and most especially, lack of self-worth because good jobs are especially hard to find when society is ambivalent to you about your value to society. There you go: that One Dimensional Man by Marcuse you studied at St. Andrews was actually true. And now it's the sole choice of life they give you. Welcome to adulthood.

So, moving on from depressing truths of our reality, Megan finished up her work at the end of August and almost straight after we went to Canada for our five day house hunting trip (paid for by RIM) and for me to meet my team for the first time, where it turned out that both my manager and his manager had left RIM and my team had been broken up and reassigned (more later on this, probably the next entry). That was obviously pretty intense, but the most useful result from my perspective was a Canadian bank account to which money to keep us alive could be sent, if we could figure out the SWIFT/IBAN to Canadian bank routing (I ended up sending multiple €100 wire transfers each using different methods, and those that got through were the "right" ones). We also sorted out our immigration and work visas during this trip, which I'd definitely recommend to anyone to sort out as soon as possible. Once back in Ireland, we did a whistle stop tour of Britain to say goodbye to Megan's friends, and went to Sweden to say goodbye to Johanna who was the only one out of everyone to get two of our days. This wasn't quite as expensive as my tour of my friends, but it was certainly as tiring. One thing which was interesting was that I took only my Android 4.1 phone with me and left my laptop at home, and other than battery life it performed surprisingly admirably as a general purpose computing device. Put another way: it let me manage the never ending email stream organising our move to Canada, and the Maps navigation saved our skins a number of times like when the taxi driver got lost in Manchester.

Back in Ireland for the last time at the end of September and with just days to go, the removers paid for by RIM came and took away all our stuff. By this stage I was quite fraught, as mistakes made here would deeply negatively impact the first two months of our time in Canada due to missing vital items (the stuff moved by removers takes about two months to get delivered, so you must separately send important stuff like clothes and cloud nodes by courier to get it there in a week). Hence racking your brain to make sure important things you'd urgently need in Canada weren't being removed. Sleep during this time came more from exhaustion than mind and body resting - not a lot of fun. I also had unexpected problems with moving a chunk of money - I had sent over our Canada living money via three separate parallel means to spread the risk of problems, and indeed the day before departing one of those means had got stuck so about half our money was in limbo. Better than all of it, sure, but also without that half I couldn't pay our deposits on accommodation, so not helpful. I remember being very tense indeed on our last day in Ireland, finding myself regularly snapping at people. Not how you ideally want to say goodbye to friends and family.

So, the day of emigration came, and in a weird way for me at least that was the day I could finally relax because from now on, nothing more could be done. Where you were at is where you are at, and what comes will come. After some difficulty locating our limo (paid for by RIM), we made it to our temporary flat in city centre Waterloo for the first two months (also paid for by RIM) in which I am currently typing this diary entry. So, basically, it had all worked out.

Having just arrived in Waterloo, I - despite being exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually - was in a strangely celebratory mood, so I wanted to go out on the town which we did despite it being extremely noisy and packed because the university term had just begun, so everywhere in the city centre was packed with drunk students (Waterloo has two of Canada's largest universities in it) and loud music. Unfortunately, I in my hazy, strange state misjudged a kerb and put a 90 degree kink in my left ankle which put an abrupt end to the festivities, and indeed even now one month later it's still painful. At the time, despite having plenty of cash, there was no obvious source of medical treatment - we weren't registered with the Canadian health system yet, and we were advised that doctors in Canada aren't allowed to privately accept cash for treatment so our only option was the hospital and spending the entire day waiting in A&E when probably it wasn't broken, and just needed time and ice packs and rest to heal. So much, in the end, of bringing plenty of spare cash for emergencies! Unfortunately, the following week involved a great deal of walking - to register for a monthly bus pass for which we had to go to Kitchener; to pick up my new BlackBerry work phone running BB10; to pick up a SIM for said phone which required twenty minutes of walking; to register for my security card and so on. My ankle, braced and compressed to hold in the swelling, and me dosed up on lots of codeine and anti-inflammatories for the pain, didn't exactly get the rest you're supposed to give a badly sprained joint. But, we make do with the hand we're dealt.

So that brings us to the past three weeks which mostly have consisted of us going on a mostly vegetarian diet to begin to shed the weight we put on during our goodbye tour, Megan spending the day at home alone or out registering for things like doctors while I'm at work, me weaning myself off cigarettes, off pain killers, off alcohol and finding and getting started at a gym again which was just this past week. On the 17th I took my OU M208 Pure Maths exam in London, Ontario for which I took the train between Kitchener and London - and the train system in Canada, which while better than in the US, is a pale shadow of even the worst and most run down train system anywhere in Europe with one of the roughest and bumpiest rides I've certainly ever endured, and in coaches which while they are clean, maintained and comfortable, clearly date from the early 1980s in terms of decor. Interestingly, trains in Canada are run by a single crown corporation (state owned company) called VIA from Quebec, and unsurprisingly the train system the Quebec side of Toronto is passably European. Unfortunately, I'm west of Toronto, and decades of underinvestment and political footballing show through - though it's far worse once you go west out of Ontario where 1940s era tracks just cannot remotely compete with air travel.

And this weekend is the first since we arrived that I wasn't passed out recovering from the week made worse by that inevitable fluey sickness you get after an extended emotional strain - indeed today I woke up at a reasonable hour feeling reasonably good. I also don't have to be going out to buy electricals (as the voltage is different here, we had to leave all our electricals behind in Ireland which has required repurchasing lots of simple things like printers) or get things we urgently needed like our own telephone line and local number (run over VoIP), or a semi-decent coffee in the morning as Canadians, like Americans, don't really do decent espresso based coffee, even in dedicated coffee shops, so I dropped $500 on a second hand bean grinder and a second hand espresso machine off eBay and now our coffee isn't sour, bland muck. It's actually amazing what you can do with average beans using good equipment - our morning coffee using some locally purchased beans is actually pretty good, though it won't be anywhere near the same league as the Jamaican Blue Mountain I dropped $55 a bag on last week. No, this is my first proper, non-busy weekend. Hence the diary entry!

Now, what's coming next to this diary is a reasonably long entry about my first month working for RIM. For the first time ever for a diary entry here, I'm going to have to get approval from RIM for that diary entry because it's going to talk about a raft of internal RIM stuff and I'm not sure how much of it they're going to be happy being made public. Still, I want to document and write down what I'm thinking at the end of this first month, because I think it'll be valuable to me personally later on but also because it'll be valuable to RIM and moreover, particularly valuable to those watching RIM as there's an awful lot of ignorance out there, and I'll be blunt in saying that RIM have done a poor job in communicating themselves recently and that's going to become a problem for the Q1 2013 BB10 launch. In particular, I would like to talk about what BB10 is and especially what it isn't, what RIM has done internally to itself this past year or two, and if I'm allowed I'd like to talk a bit about BB11 too as that's mainly what I was hired for. In short, I'd like to give my unvarnished impressions of RIM acquired during the past month and people can take them or leave them as they see fit.

Ok so, time for the rest of my weekend - oh how so valuable they are when you work non-stop all week! Until next time, be happy!

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