Friday, November 27, 2009

To be zen or not to be zen

I know – blogging hasn’t been on my priority list lately. Shame on me. As usual, when I’m not blogging, that means
a) I’m on holiday
b) I’m having computer problems
c) I feel too depressed to write
d) I’m simply to busy to write
e) I’m going through a “don’t feel like writing”-period
f) I feel ashamed to keep on writing time and again about the same things.

In this case, the main reason is d). And all right, f) as well. I really didn’t want to become one of those “wedding-blogs” – for the simple reason that I hate those myself. Hey, until recently, I even hated weddings. And look at me now. I even had a bachelorette-day with all my girlfriends. I did perfect imitations of bridezilla (ahum). And I almost got into a fight with the food&banqueting manager over the wedding cake.
Still, when the events manager starts to be all stressed out because we don’t have a “table d’honneur”, and when he acts like “the image of our hotel will be ruined if we serve red wine with the fish” , I wish we had eloped to Vegas.
Get this straight : I’m not stressed (yet). It’s the people around me who make me stressed.
Friend : “Whoooaaaa!! One week to go!!!! And?? Nervous yet???”
Mother :“Have you packed your suitcase for the honeymoon yet? NO??!!!”
Mother in law : “We need to do a rehearsal.”
Hotel : “Oh yes, that’s an extra 10 eur. per person.”
Friend : “I’ve already lost 2 kilo! And you??”
Maid of honour : “ How will we go to the city hall? In what car? With whom?”
Mother : “Do you have the rings?”
Mother in law : “The booklets MUST be printed this weekend”.
Priest: “ You’ve put the wrong pope in your prayer”.
P : “The DJ? Oh right, I still have to call him”.
Lawyer : “If you marry with this kind of contract... (the rest I didn’t understand)”

Let’s put it this way : maybe a honeymoon hasn't so much to do with romance. By the time you’re actually married, you’re just really really really in need of a holiday...
Which reminds me to tell you : we’re going to Argentina!! And then to Mexico to celebrate Christmas!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Two funerals and a wedding

Saturday we went shopping with my grandmother for her outfit for the wedding. Wednesday morning she quietly passed away in her sleep. We took the adress list from the wedding invites to send out the mourning letters. While getting my mom a suitable outfit for the funeral, I had to pick up my jewelry for the wedding.
Friday noon I was choosing a coffin and flowers, Friday evening I had to choose the menu for the wedding dinner. And while we were having that dinner, P's best man called to tell us his dad had passed away.
It's becoming surreal, and I'm very very tired of all the emotions I feel. For the moment I quite like the dulness caused by the tranquilizer.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Carrots!


This cartoon sat waiting in "my documents - wedding" for the last six months. Waiting for the moment I could finally write the "ring-post". And behold - the moment has arrived! As of Friday evening, there's a beautiful "carrot" ;-) on my left ring finger. Needless to say, I'm soooo happy - especially 'cause P managed to completely surprise me with it.
It's quite a change from 3 Euro, brightly coloured, plastic rings; and I have to admit it still feels a bit weird, and very...grown-up, in a way. But at last now it is for the world to see : here's a shining brightly bride to be!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

La promesa de amor y de fidelidad

I can’t believe it, but it’s true : the wedding is in more or less one month. All the invitations are sent (“almost” to be honest), my dress finally fits, the logistics are taking form and all the admin stuff is nearly done.
The maids of honour are dressed, the food will be tasted in two weeks, the rings are on their way, my hairdresser knows what to do, the mass is almost written in 4 languages, and even our parents have their outfit.

This weekend, we finally took the time to forget about all that practical stuff. And think about the meaning of the marriage itself. Saturday we spent a beautiful evening with our Mexican priest – who talked and prayed with us, listened to us, and asked us some important questions. We also had a taste of what it will be like to say our wedding vows to each other: a very special experience, which learned me that I don’t have a doubt in my mind. I mean every word of it.
Saturday evening, the “wedding” finally became something else again than the “project-management” it has been for the past few months. Granted, all that had to be done, but in the rush of things it’s so easy to forget what it’s really all about.
Thank you padre R.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lullaby nr.2

I’m so tired
Guess I’m wrongly wired
So it’s time I retired
My energy pills have expired
And sleep is required

I’m so sleepy
That I almost feel weepy
Guess I’m going loopy
And I’m looking all droopy
‘Though I’d love to feel whoopee

Maybe it’s the autumn blues
Guess that’s the only excuse
Allthough I have a few other clues
I hit and rehit the snooze
And fall asleep in my shoes

I’m living on sugar and green tea
Being all bitchy and cranky
Suffering from an outburst of acne
Becoming more and more fatty
And less and less chatty

This being said
I’m now off to bed
Counting the nights ahead
‘Till I’m finally happily wed.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Hallelujah!

For more than two weeks I had been calling the priest for our church wedding. No luck – the priest was never home, I always had the former (now retired) priest on the phone. I went to the church for the second time. No luck, it was the former (now retired) priest who did the mass.

On Tuesday I finally got the present priest on the line. Not that this helped me any further. “Oh, but you first have to check with the *French-speaking* priest if the church is available that day”. I started to loose my faith at that point.....
But not without a final battle. I went to the headquarters of the “Dutch-speaking” Church in Brussels. Guess who opened the door? Right, the former (now retired) priest.

“Miss, you again!”
“Yes, me again. And I still want to get married in your church, and I still didn’t get any help from your new priest, and I’m starting to get desperate.”


So the kind old priest let me in, and started the whole process to marry us in church (including sending letters to our “home-churches” to see if we aren’t secretly married to someone else).
The old priest kept talking and talking – apparently he was more than happy with my unannounced visit. We ended up discussing celibacy, the values of marriage, the problems of the church today, his entire career, etc, etc. I even got a tour of the house. I finally got out after almost three hours. With the promise that he would call me the next morning to tell me if the church was available on the 5th of December.

I came home, and inspired by the priest I started writing our wedding mass. Until well after midnight.

On Wednesday I waited. And waited. No phone call. Around 6 pm I lost my patience, and I decided to harass the former (now retired) priest once more.

“Yes, miss N, how can I help you?”
“Well, I was just wondering if it’s ok for our wedding – you know – on the 5th?”
“But of course it is! I told you yesterday not to worry!”


So, my faith was tested. And I actually start to believe that this wedding is going to get planned in time after all! Talking about miracles...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Amen

Just reporting - still alive
Too tired to do anymore writing.
Just wrote our entire wedding-mass.
Never knew there were such beautiful words in the Bible.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Amsterdam, no cars & hot milk

On my programme the past weekend:
- going to a great wedding in Amsterdam with P
- driving back to Brussels in the middle of the night, ignoring the GPS-lady, only to realise that she was right, and that, yes indeed, the entire highway was closed for road works.
- enjoying the car-free day in Brussels. Fresh air! Silence!
- updating our guest list in Excel for more than 2 hours. And P doing all kinds of stuff with pivot-tables. I only understood the part that told us that the “sum” of people who are “80% likely to come” is still too high.
- Creating a wedding-blog with all the details.
- Going to bed really early tonight (even skipping House MD), only to realise that I keep organising the wedding in my head, and that “sleeping” is wishful thinking.
- Getting back up to drink some hot milk, and spilling the entire contents of my mug all over the kitchen (and over my PJs).
- Yawning and thinking I might go back to bed after posting this on my blog.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Girls' night out

We went to the september-fair in Leuven : it's a tradition we started when we became collegues about 5 years ago, and up until today, we managed to keep it alive (allthough we all changed jobs in the meantime).
So, as usual : we screamed our lungs out on some adrenaline-boosting attraction, we ate loads of sugar, we jumped up and down as we finally managed to grab some cuddly bear, and we just walked around, enjoying all the colourfull lights, and all the greasy smells.
Now I'm going to bed with my brand-new Eeyore :-)

To Anonymous

To "anonymous", who sent me this comment today:
"Stop whining and start to communicate. Stop this blog as it is a shame to your fiancé and others."
- if you're someone I know : have the guts to tell me what you think in person.
- if you're someone I don't know : thank god - let's keep it that way!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Stop, in the name of love

If I would have had a camera-team following me this weekend, they’d have enough material for a few episodes of “Bridezilla”.
On Saturday, I started talking about “colour-schemes”, which was already bad enough. But that was nothing compared to what followed on Sunday.
A fight with my future mother-in-law, me walking out with slamming doors, and me being stranded 15 km from Brussels, in some hotel, waiting for a taxi to drive me home. What led to all this?

a. P is working 20 hours a day, on average. He’s energy / time to do something for the wedding is nihil. He’s too tired to show any enthusiasm, and I’m taking this very personal.
b. I’m trying to get everything organized in time, on my own.
c. When I have to do it all on my own, I don’t do well with criticism from people who haven’t done a thing
e. My mom is loosing her hair again, and is crying every day. Scared that she will be bald on my wedding day, or even scared that she will not be able to be there. Of course, she puts on a big smile every time I see her, but my dad tells me the true story.
f. And on top of all that, my mother-in-law dropped the bomb on me last Sunday, by saying that “she feels excluded, wondering if I have a problem with her, if there’s a conflict, and complaining she doesn’t know anything about the wedding”. This while I have invited her to the first fitting of my wedding dress, I’ve called her on Friday to let her in on everything I had done this week, and I’ve asked her on Saturday to help organizing the reception.

I don’t know why I’ve deserved this. I honestly don’t get it.
What do people expect?
Do I have to invite my mother-in-law for every appointment? Even when, let’s say, my own mother is in hospital or too sick to come?
Do I once again have to agree to postpone the wedding, making my mother even more worried & depressed? (not to mention what this would do to my own “emotional well-being)

*Sigh* I really am at the end of my wits here. It’s already not easy with P’s crazy working schedule and with my mom’s illness. We’ve got a very tight deadline, and decisions have to be made fast. There is simply no time to discuss everything with everyone all the time. I’m doing the best I can by keeping my parents and P’s mom up to date. If that’s not enough, well I’m sorry than. I’m not superwoman.
All I want is a fiancé who is as enthusiastic as I am, and people who are focusing on the positive in all of this, instead of searching for opportunities for conflict.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I'm on a roll!

Now that we have a fixed wedding date, nothing can stop me anymore.

Since yesterday afternoon, I have :
- asked my two maids of honour, who were over the moon.
- written the first draft of the wedding invitation
- gone to the travel agency for our honeymoon
- found an excellent photographer who is miraculously still free on our day
- made an appointment in a print shop to look at invitations
- called the venue where we want to have our reception right after the ceremony, and made an appointment for Friday
- found a professional beautician to do my make-up and nails on the big day

Still urgently to do:
- send the “save the date” email (it’s the 5th of December :-)
- make the final decision whether we want to have a religious ceremony or not
- update the guest list, and find everyone’s addresses
- book the DJ
- find someone for the flowers and the decoration in general.

A deadline can do wonders....

Monday, September 7, 2009

Yes we have!

To me, that sounds as powerful as Obama’s “yes we can”.
Because, dear ladies and gentlemen : we have indeed. We finally have. “We have” after all hope was gone. “We have” and we can finally spread the word. Yes we have!
We have a wedding venue and a wedding date!! We have an appointment at the city hall to do the official declaration. We have “a slot” booked at the city hall for the actual wedding. We have a venue smack in the middle of Brussels where we can party until dawn. We even have the honey moon suite booked.
We have it all..... (well, except for the DJ, the photographer, the invitations, everyone’s addresses, the flower arrangements, the live music, the rings, and God knows what more...)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hidden personality

I told you a few days ago how I had used every ounce of assertiveness in my body in a discussion with my boss. Apparently, I came across quite convincing. Now he thinks I’m the most assertive teacher on his staff. And so he asked *me* today if I could teach a group of male immigrants, who are following a course to become electricians. What it comes down to : I have to develop lesson material, focusing on vocabulary related to electricity and manual work, and I have to stand in front a bunch of guys who require an “assertive” teacher. Challenge, here I come! If you see me running around Brussels in a few weeks with a toolbox full of screwdrivers, lamps, electric wire, drills, etc : I – am - still - teaching. No need to call me if you need help with your burned fuses at home.

Point 2 in what is beginning to look a lot like a personal development program: I had to negotiate our offer for the wedding this afternoon. The word “negotiate” is not in my dictionary. I’m bad at it, I don’t like doing it, and I avoid it whenever possible. However, P was stuck in a meeting, so I had no choice but to face the music and dance. Wonder oh wonder, it went well! The guy even asked if I had a commercial function too, when I tricked him into a discount for the third time. At the end of our meeting, I had reduced the total price by 5000 Euro, and we were still the best friends. I still can’t believe I did this.

So, this week, I’ve made people believe that I’m
a) incredibly assertive
b) a commercial talent

Maybe next week I’ll become an absolute math-genius.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dreams

As romantic as the title may sound, believe me: it’s anything but. For the past X months, I’ve been taking medicines that increase the amount of REM sleep. I already was a vivid dreamer, but now, due to this medication, I’m having nightmares non-stop. A hairdresser cuts of all my hair, a killer sneaks into my bedroom, evil ghosts try to strangle me, my parents make me marry an ex-boyfriend, I have one week to write my entire thesis at university, my mom is dying, I have to do high school all over again, my wedding dress turns out to be the wrong colour, I appear to be pregnant, only there’s nothing in my belly, my front tooth breaks off over and over again, P becomes someone I don’t know, a wolf attacks me when I try to feed my grandmother’s chickens, and so on, and so on. My God, Freud would have loved me. And would probably have put me in an asylum.

Anyway, all this makes that I’m still very tired by the time the alarm goes off. And that I need the entire morning (or sometimes the whole day) to recover from whatever horrible dream I’ve had. And I’m not the only one suffering. Every so often, I start talking or screaming in my sleep, waking up P (and probably a few neighbours). Even furniture gets damaged in the process. In Mexico, I screamed so hard one night, that P literally jumped on my bed to wake me up. Resulting in us falling through the foresaid bed. (go and try to explain this to your in-law family whom you’re visiting for the first time. “I’m sorry, but I had a nightmare”. Right.)

It’s getting so bad that I’m becoming afraid to go to sleep. The only dream I have now, is to have a dreamless night.

Monday, August 31, 2009

I'm small, not stupid

I love writing when I’m upset. So why not take advantage of the situation....
Yes, I’m upset. Big time.
Who wouldn’t be when his/her boss is only paying 7 hours out of 25.

First I didn’t understand what was going on. On the desk were a pile of invoices of the temp-agency (through which I have my contracts), a calculator, and the overviews of the lessons I have given the past 2 months. It’s no secret that I’m really bad with numbers, but that I have a great 6th sense. I knew something wasn’t kosher, I just didn’t get what. So I asked again and again to walk me through the numbers. Finally I got it: because he claims that the temp-agency is asking him too much money in their invoices, he won’t pay me the last week of August. Of course he didn’t say this, but that was what it came down to. And when he finally realised I wasn’t stupid (don’t tell ME what there has to be in an employment contract for God’s sake, I made hundreds of them), and I bluntly confronted him with the bare facts (“So you’re not paying me for hours I actually worked?!”), he said “well, um, yes, that’s it”.

Now get ready for a “premiere”. I said: “sorry, I don’t agree with that” – something I’ve never said to a boss before (actually, I did, once, but only after he had fired me). The discussion went on for 30 more minutes, but I refused to give in. I seriously thought: if he doesn’t agree to pay me, I’m out of here by Friday. In the end, I guess he got tired of my thorough HR legislation-knowledge, and he gave in.
You could say I won, but it doesn’t feel like a victory. Do I want to continue working for someone who treats his teachers like that? It’s not the first “weird” thing that has happened these last few weeks. And then I’m not even talking about the loads of gossip I hear about him, but that I’ve always ignored and thought of as exaggerated – up until now.

It’s becoming a repetitive story in my life. People think for some reason that I’m an easy target (sweet, small, kind, etc), and when they realise I’m not, they are clearly not prepared for that. Resulting in:
- even nastier behaviour and dirt-throwing behind my back
- pushing me to the point where they can finally say “see, she’s weak and sensitive – I was right”
- firing me ‘cause I don’t turn out to be the puppet they took me for
- and now: not paying me for my work.
God only knows what will be next.
I just know that I’m fed up with it. Maybe I should go for short black hair and a black leather outfit. Bye-bye blond curls and flowery shirt. And instead of saving up for a Vespa, I should immediately go for the big, bad Harley. Start getting scared.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Go-Go Gadget!


If you grew up in the Eighties, you know Inspector Gadget. “Gadget Copter!” and a helicopter would come out of his hat. “Gadget Lasso!” and his tie transformed into a lasso. “Gadget phone!” and an antenna popped out of his finger. And so on. More than 20 years later, I still remember the begin tune.
Nowadays, “Inspector Gadget” is German. He lives in Brussels, and happens to be a good friend of ours. He has 1 remote control that controls...well, everything in the house (the next step is probably that it becomes voice-activated). He has at least four hard-disks, with more DVD’s on them than you can find in your average DVD rent-out. There are I-don’t-know-how-many speakers that provide a dolby-suround-THX- movietheater-sound experience. The lamps dim when you touch them. He has a movie-screen + projector. His peppermill is a flashlight at the same time. And believe me, that’s not the only cool thing in the kitchen.
Every time we visit, the same thing happens. The boys start drooling over everything related to film and music they see in the living room, while the girls throw envious looks at all these funky cooking appliances.
All the above makes that every dinner party over there is a real success. The food is always great (home-made Ben&Jerry’s anyone?), the gadgets are always a fun discussion topic (No honey, we really don’t need that at our home as well), watching a film becomes a real experience (popcorn included), and every time there’s the question : will there be a cool, new gadget that we haven’t seen yet? (Mostly: yes.).
It’s really just a matter of years before we can visit him just by saying “M, beam me up!”.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm the teacher

I finally found an aspect of my job that I really don’t like.
It’s saying goodbye to students. Sometimes you just “connect” with them, you spend hours together, and then, suddenly, they’re gone. Went home. Moved to another country. Finished the course. I try to stay professional about it, safely in my role, but what I really want to do is give them a good hug, have dinner together and plan our next get-together.
Maybe I’m being a bit transparent during my lessons when I try to convince them to “just take that job in Belgium, even if the salary is no good”... or when I already try to book their next lessons in one year, when they’re visiting the Belgian part of the family again. I make it sound like a joke, but actually I really mean it.
So you’ve heard me, right? You there, yes *you*: you’re not moving anywhere. And you two, yes, I’m talking to *you*, you’d better visit your family again very soon.
And since I’m the teacher, you’ll all just have to listen to me and do as I say. There.

Somewhere over the rainbow...

Yesterday evening, view from my living room. Isn’t it amazing?
I took more than 10 pictures of it, and kept watching until it disappeared. If you look closely, you’ll see that there’s even a second rainbow (reflection of the first one). I was so full of it, I even made a Facebook status of it. With different reactions:
- “Go on a search for the pot of gold.” Did it. In vain. As usual.
- “Every time there’s a rainbow, God kills a leprechaun.” What??! I’ve never heard of that one!
- “And somewhere over it, dreams come true”. That one has to be right though, ‘cause on this side, not much is happening.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

About...

Summer appears to be “not good for writing”. The blogs I read seem to be deserted, and yours truly is not exactly in writing-mode either. However, seeing my reader-count go do down to unknown depths, I thought it was time for some action.
Right.
Ummm.
Hm.
I don’t want to bother you again with: our failing wedding-planning, my mom’s cancer, my love for the job, our noisy neighbours Beavis & Butthead, my insomnia, or other recurring themes.

So...something totally new today : Goji berries!
While these little red berries appear to be the hit in the UK and the US, they are still largely unknown in Belgium. Unless you have a colleague who’s into bio-, and even macrobiotic food. The guy started teaching at our school two weeks ago. By now, everybody has switched from black teabags to loose green tea leafs during the break. And everybody is munching Goji berries. After classes, we do our grocery shopping in the nearby “bio-shop”. Ok, I might be exaggerating a bit – but let’s just say there’s a small “health-wave” hitting our teachers’ room.
The Goji berries promise heaven on earth: you’ll get happier, you’ll live longer, you’ll be protected against a list of diseases, you’ll sleep better, and you’ll even loose weight. I did some research online – and apparently the little berries do contain loads of antioxidants, vitamins, etc. As from last week, a handful of them go into my cornflakes every morning. I’m still waiting for the spontaneous weight loss to kick in.
Anyway, so far my writing-contribution of the day. I know, I know: it’s not an outstanding literary achievement and it won’t make this blog into an overnight hit, but at least: I’ve posted something. And I’ve convinced you to start eating Goji-berries.
(Did I?)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A French afternoon

Sooo, I’ve been engaged for five months. We’re three-four months from our “ideal” wedding date, and we have (drum rolls).......NOTHING.
I thought the deal would be closed last week, and that we had a venue. Finally. But no. It didn’t happen. Then I thought it would definitely happen today – as P went over there to discuss the details of the contract. But no. It didn’t happen. As a matter of fact, it seems farther away than ever. The options I had taken on other venues are expired by now.
Instead of bursting out in tears on the metro while talking to P on the phone, I decided to do the only reasonable thing: eat and drink. So I went to the deli, bought five different French cheeses, a freshly baked baguette, and a small bottle of wine. By now, I’ve eaten and drunken most of it – and the heat on my terrace is making sure that the alcohol is doing its job. Even to the degree that I write about it on my blog.
Anyway, I’ve got different options at this moment (besides getting drunk and overdosed on French cheese)
a) I can cry my eyes out, convinced that my dream is never going to happen
b) I can get mad at P for never taking decisions, and always waiting until it’s (almost) too late
c) I can say “Fuck it”, and drink some more
Right now, all the votes (right and left hand) are in favour of option C.
Cheers!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What's the deal with pigs today?

I dreamed the entire night about piglets (who had lost their mom, and I had to take care of them)
I checked my favourite website Cute Overload this morning, and was greeted by the picture you see above this post.
I opened my weekly magazine when I came home from work, only to find a weird article about pigs on some beach in the Bahamas.
All this while I have a nice little headache, feel very tired, and just got back from Mexico.
Just to be on the safe side, I’ll go wash my hands once more, and take some extra vitamin C....

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The real life

Almost all the gifts have been distributed, the pictures are uploaded and on Facebook, my schedule for the coming week is made, my lessons are prepared and my working bag is packed, Lucy’s back home, the alarm clocks are set and the overdue bills are paid.
Here’s real life – snapping me out of the Mexican Dream.
Babies have popped out left and right again while we were on the other side of the Atlantic, and mom’s cancer decided to pay another visit as well. So it’s back to chemo for x weeks. Every time I dare to think it’s over, it starts again.
To end on a positive note: we might know our wedding-date next week…

Friday, August 7, 2009

Mexico : the travel notes

<< straight from the Moleskine >>

22/07, 4.00AM : Hola!
Son las 4 de la mañana, y estoy “wide awake”. I’ve spent the better part of about 13 flight hours listening to “Earworms – rapid Spanish” on my iPod. So captain, please put this plain on the ground, I’m ready!

22/07, 6.30 AM (Belgian time) : final destination
It’s 6.30 in the morning Belgian time, and it’s sometime in the evening here in Mexico
“Lost in translation”: Mexicans have numerous expressions to say “sorry”. I thought “Lo siento” was a save bet, but apparently that’s rather heavy. There’s also “disculpe”, “perdone”, and “con permiso”. Furthermore, I practised “encantada” as “pleased to meet you”, but here everybody goes “mucho gusto”. “Vale” is supposed to be “ok”, but only so in Spain. Here it’s “bueno”. So far the success of my Earworms.
24 hours without sleep + all the above + the stress of meeting “la abuelita” for the first time, and my mind went blank. I started speaking in French without realising it. I really did.

23/07, 8.00 PM (Mexican time) : primer dia en Mexico
Surprisingly enough, I slept until 9 AM this morning. We were served a lovely breakfast by Juliana, the housemaid. Right, housemaid. Something I’m really not used to, nor have any experience with. But here, it’s appears to be the most normal thing in the world.
Then hopped onto the roof of the “turibus”, visited the cathedral, el templo mayor, and the palace. Also bought two lovely dresses (at the ridiculous price of 10 Eur/dress). We had a lovely lunch overlooking the historical centre in La casa de la Sirena.
Short of breath and slight headache all day long because of the height. Plans for dinner are, at the time of writing, still vague. I’m doing my best to get into Latin-mode, but it ain’t easy...

24/07 (well, no, make that Saturday 25/07, as it is once again after 1.00AM)
We did : museo antropologico, A quick tour in the zoo to see the giant pandas (who were fast asleep). Big walking tour through fancy neighbourhood Polanco, and shopping mall. Dinner in a famous restaurant with P’s tio Alejandro. And again midnight madness at casa tio Victor, our home during these holidays. Now sleep, finally.
Words of the day:
- “padre” : I guess it means nice, cool, beautiful. They say it every 5 seconds.
- ‘muy tuju” : meaning very trendy, à la mode, fancy.

25/07 (actually, once again, already 26/07) : The village feel of Mexico-city
A few words before going to bed for barely 4 hours of sleep (as we take the early plane to Oaxaca in the morning). We went to two different “barrios” today: San Angel and Coyoacan – lots of colourful colonial buildings, cobbled streets, craft markets,...Also the double house of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and the blue house of Frida.
In the evening : dinner with P’s nieces + husbands + kids. And in the end of course : nocturnal tales by tio Victor.
I could write so much about all the impressions of today, but I simply can’t keep my eyes open anymore. I start to understand why the have siestas over here...

26/07 : Oaxaca
After a very early flight, we arrived in Oaxaca this morning. The cathedral of Santo Domingo is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen. Our hotel room looks out over the main square : “El Zocalo”, always filled with bands, music, playing kids, colourful balloons, vendors, etc. A lot of tropical rains in the afternoon and evening.
Great dinner at hotel restaurant, were we had “chapolines” (um, yes, indeed: grasshoppers).

27/07 : Latin rhythm
The grasshoppers are hopping around in my stomach, so we decided to take it slow today. Just hanging around @ El Zocalo, watching the world go by, walk slowly around town, wander through numerous craft markets, spend all the time of the world in a great bookshop, and take sprints to the nearest toilet.
We discovered a great juice bar for lunch in a tiny square surrounded by colourful shops. I took the “gastritis” – which actually helped.

28/07 : The real Mexico
Visit to the Zapotecan temples of Monte Alban : very impressive! Driving through the countryside and small pueblos : also very impressive!
Visit Guilapan de Guererro, a convent and roofless church build by the Dominicans in the 16th century. Onwards to San Bartolo Coyotepec, famous for its black pottery, and to San Martin Tilcajete, where they make “alebrijes” : very colourful wooden sculptures.

29/07 : Aerotucan
8.30 AM : ready to board a small Cesna that will (hopefully) bring us to the “bahias” of Huatulco.
14.00 PM : 39°C – that’s not only the outside temperature, but also P’s fever. He promises to call a doctor tomorrow of the fever persists. Needless to say I’m “slightly” worried.

30/7 : Lazy pool day
This is my first “huge beach resort-experience”, and I still don’t know whether to love or hate it. P and I installed ourselves at the most quiet pool we could find, far away from the open air Zumba classes, the ping-pong tournament, the aqua gym, etc.
The fact that a lady walks by with drinks every 30 minutes is nice. As is the fact that room service is also “included”.
Unfortunately, El Pacifico is a bit too rough today for swimming. Too bad, ‘cause the water feels nice & warm. P’s fever is better – almost gone.

31/07 : First break from Mexican food.
Simply ‘cause we needed it.
Other than that, nothing exciting to report. Swimming, sunbathing, reading,....

1/08 : Last of the Lazy Pool Days
Um, yes, so more swimming, sunbathing, reading,...

2/08 : Day in transition
Flying back from the beaches of Huatulco to Mexico City. It’s good to be back @ tio Victor’s.
In the evening: romantic dinner with P in La Condesa.

3/08 : Mas shopping
World’s 3d largest shopping centre in Santa Fé. 70% discounts : Olé! Whole “petite” – departments for ladies : double Olé!
In the evening : dinner with tio Victor in La Condesa. Enough material there for at least 10 blog posts. Key words : bread, art deco buildings, Pain Quotidien, random German guy)

4/08 : A day off
8.30 AM : suffering from “intestinal upheaval” for the last 10 days, covered in an itchy skin rash, at least 15 mosquito bites, again headache from height....
9.00 AM : cancellation of plans to go on a day long tour. I just feel not up to it. Instead we go to the local supermarket to buy Mexican food, and relax for the rest of the day. Evening: dinner with the whole family.

5/08 : El ultimo dia
Morning : visit to the soap-factory founded by P’s grandfather, and named after P’s grandmother. Very interesting industrial tourism! Then walk through La Condesa by day.
Afternoon : beautiful dinner with tio Alex @ lake-side restaurant in Chapultepec Park. Back home : visit to P’s grandmother + packing all our stuff.
Evening : late-night dinner with tio Victor. Again up talking until 1.00 AM. Lot of wise words from el tio. I love this guy! Also saying goodbye to Juliana, who took excellent care of us. I’ll miss being pampered by her.

6/08 : Leaving
Saying goodbye to tio Victor at 6.45 AM, and then taking a taxi to the airport. Starbucks-breakfast. Bumpy flight to Washington + sleepless flight to Brussels.
Loaded with “regalitos” for everyone.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Packed

There, I’m ready. After three hours of trying on, selecting, putting in the suitcase, taking back out of the suitcase, and searching for that one T-shirt I had in mind, but that seems no longer to be on this planet. Packing for
a) A city trip
b) A beach holiday
c) maybe some hiking
d) and ...meeting the entire future in-law family for the first time
is simply hell. Trust me.
The panic started already yesterday when I realised that my little red trolley would never do. So now I have a bigger, screaming green, and Hawaii-style-flowery one. Plus a bag just for the shoes. That a quarter of my suitcase-space is taken by chocolates and a huge champagne bottle isn’t helping either. Nor is the fact that I’m dragging an entire pharmacy along. But, like I said : it’s done. I think I have everything in my suitcase to make a nice first impression, to walk endlessly through Mexico-city, to climb some pyramid in a jungle, to enjoy the beach, and to go out in the evening. Mission impossible achieved.

Other random things that happened today:
- It’s the Belgian national holiday
- I got hit by hailstones the size of golf balls
- And I wondered: What’s better? Wanting to achieve a dream so badly that it’s killing you softly? Or giving up on the dream, and surviving, sort of? I don’t know.

Monday, July 20, 2009

36 years

Speaking of marriages, I almost forgot: it’s my parents’ wedding anniversary today. They’ve been married for 36 years! Wow... I’m so proud of them because they always managed to make it work. Even when money was tight, even when my dad lost his job, even when they argued...They always made our family a safe haven for me (maybe too safe).
When I left the “nest”, I was really afraid that things would go wrong. But it was the opposite. Year after year, I see my parents getting closer – enjoying every day together. Sure, they still argue. I guess the day they stop doing that, I really have to start worrying.
They walk hand in hand, my dad does romantic stuff like buying a surprise treatment in a beauty farm for my mom, and my mom gets up at 6.00AM every day to have breakfast with my dad. I hope they can still be together for a very very long time...

Dear amigos,

Today, P and I checked out yet another wedding venue. I have a very good feeling about this one, even if it’s not really the most beautiful one we saw the past few weeks. But it has so many plusses, it’s hard to say “no” to.

- It’s still available on the date we want.
- It’s in one of the most renowned hotels of Brussels. So everybody can go straight to bed after the party, and we can all have breakfast together.
- It would be in less than walking distance from the place where we (hopefully) get married.
- We stick to our plan of getting married IN Brussels, and not in the middle of nowhere.
- So no logistical nightmares to get everybody to the party and back again.
- The chef has a Michelin-star; and the menu looks very very mjumie
- It’s right near one of the most beautiful spots in Brussels.
- The service appears to be great. I got a phone call the day after I sent a request for information. (this might sound normal, but believe me – it isn’t; with all the others, I had to make an average of three phone calls and send numerous emails to get some sort of reply)
- The event manager made it clear there’s room for negotiation concerning the price.
- Because, yes, right, ....it’s *expensive* - to say the least. (This is the only minus-point I’ve found so far, but then again : it seems that getting married just is expensive. Period.)
- Getting married in a hotel has this touch of American Glamour to it – which I kind of like, I must admit.

If it was up to me, this would be it. The total package looks ideal, and we can offer our guests the very best. Not to mention that we get to stay in the Bridal Suite, and our bed will be strewn with fresh rose petals (cliché, I know – but girls really do dream of these things).
Now, all that is left to do, is hope that P will become as convinced as I am. And then, dear ladies and gentlemen, believe it or not, but then......we have a date!!! And with that cliff-hanger I leave you, until the next episode...

Cute-therapy


With thanks to http://cuteoverload.com

Things to be grateful for

About a month ago I made this list of “things to be grateful for”.
Looking at that list today, I can only laugh at myself. In a cynical way.
Let’s go through the list again.

- Friends who are concerned about me.
Yes, they are. But I tend to shut myself off when I’m in pain. So what’s the use?
- Healthy parents, who are always there for me.
One week after writing this, we found out my mom had to be operated again.
- P who loves me, protects me, and gives me security.
And who shows as much interest into our whole wedding planning as I did in algebra.
- A cute little hamster to hug whenever I feel a bit down.
Yes, sure. Like half an hour ago – and then I accidentally drop her, get all the blame for it, feel guilty as hell, and feel even worse.
- A nice, big apartment.
True. How much longer I’ll be able to pay my share of the rent without burning my savings account completely is another issue
- A job I really love
And that is not paying the bills.
- A doctor who listens to me
And happens to be on holiday, and then I’m on holiday, and does it help anyway?
- A marriage to look forward to
If I manage to find the courage to keep on planning it.
- A closet full of nice clothes.
Way too many clothes, that is. Shopaholic, anyone?
- A subscription to a gym to have a good workout
A subscription that is giving me nightmares, as the gym-people keep messing up my account.
- Meditation exercises that help me relax and unwind
OK, that one still stands. (for now)
- A nice park in the neighbourhood, giving me the green space I need.
And which also happens to be invaded by moms + babies all the time. Sensitive spot.

Did you notice I’m in a bit of a bad mood?
Make that bad mood, angry, sad and disappointed – all at the same time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One year ago...

...we arrived back in Brussels, with two overloaded cars. I felt completely and utterly lost. We had just left our Barbizon-home, Fonty and all of our INSEAD-friends. I had lost the safety and security of healthy parents. I was about to loose my own little apartment as P and I were looking for a place big enough for both of us. All my belongings were or in boxes, or at my parents, or at P’s home, or simply lost. And I was still stuck with a job I didn’t want to go back to. It was hell. It was the beginning of the end. I fought for a few more months, but then it was over&out.
Looking back on last year’s summer, I can only be happy that it’s somewhere in the past. It can’t be undone, it’s still very present in my memory and the scars are still there. But life is much nicer to me now. And I’m much nicer to life as well.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Moving movies

I know, I know : I haven’t written a lot lately. Well, as a matter of fact, I’ve written loads. Entire textbooks. Literally. But I guess this blog would become a little bit boring if I started posting, let’s say, grammar exercises. (Hmm, maybe I could make a blog like that...Food for thought)

Anyway, this week was, beside a lot of teaching, all about movies.
I saw two movies in one week, which, for me, is an absolute record. The other exceptional thing is that I saw these movies not a) in you standard giant theatre or b) at home, in front of the TV.

Movie-experience nr. 1 was “Pirates of the Caribbean”. And we saw this one at what you could call “a home cinema”. One of our friends has an enormous projector screen, a high definition projector, a sound system that makes the entire building tremble, and lots of other geeky stuff of which I don’t even know the name. So with a pancake-induced food coma, we let ourselves sink away in the couch, armed with popcorn, and watched the pirates. I must admit I fell asleep a few times – it was just too comfy.

Movie-experience nr.2 was “Gran Torino”. For this we went to the Movy Club in Vorst (part of Brussels). The Movy Club has to be one of the best kept secrets of Brussels. It’s a very old cinema: stepping inside is like time travelling back to the Fifties (including flowered wall paper, and curtain in front of the screen). The theatre is kept by one old guy, who does the ticketing, the bar, the movie,...well: everything. A ticket costs 4,80 Euro, so it also has to be one of the cheapest theatres in town. And yet : there’s never a crowd. There’s also no heating. So remember, if you go in winter, to bring a blanket.

In our very own movie “The impossible quest for a wedding venue” we are still stuck at that point in the story line where you think there will never be a happy ending.
To be continued...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Seven Dials

Three guesses. Where is this?
....No
....Nope
....Sorry, wrong again!

It's London! In a neighbourhood called "Seven Dials", and more than one Londoner looked at me with a lost expression on his/her face when I told them about it. "Huh? Should I know that?" Well...yes. It's near Covent Garden, it has a village-feel to it with all the cobbled streets, and last but not least : it's full with all kinds of cool and funky shops. Check it out next time you're visiting the Queen!

Books, books, books

After my classes, I walked past this little second hand bookshop opposite the church, called “Het Ivoren Aapje” (The Ivory Monkey, named after a book written in the 19th century about life in Brussels). Outside, on a table were some books, and one, for some reason, caught my attention. It’s been ages since I bought a Dutch book, but what can I say? Maybe teaching my mother tongue has made me love it again.
There was no price on the book, so I walked in – immediately overwhelmed by that sweet, comforting smell of old books. The owner and someone else were hidden behind piles of books, playing chess.
Me : Excuse me, how much is this book?
He : One!
“Damn”, I thought, “this is one of those shops where you’re not allowed to buy just one book. They sell by the kilo or something.”
Me : Umm, yeah, just this one.....
He : Well...One!!
Me : (still in teaching mode) Yes, this is “ONE” book. (followed by an awkward smile, and the feeling that I was definitely missing something here)
He : So it is! So it’s ONE Euro!
Me : Ah, ok...!
I felt I had walked straight into one of Ionesco’s absurd plays.
But I mean, seriously, who would thing of “one Euro” when someone tells you the price of something?

Anyway, this experience kicked my love for books into fifth gear again, and I decided to check out the Dutch library of Brussels. After living here for almost 7 years, I must admit I haven’t been to it once. Shame on me. I had a quick look around, and decided to go for a useful visit : check out the Dutch courses and text books (where I bumped into a few of my colleagues).
All in all, the visit to the library was a strange, but nice experience. It’s like this bubble of Dutch in an otherwise 95% French-speaking city. I even found it weird to ask for information in Dutch – when I walk around, shop, etc in Brussels, I automatically switch to French. I didn’t do so the first six months I lived here, but after a while you just get tired of a) having to repeat everything in French anyway and b) getting unfriendly looks because you have the nerve to speak Dutch, and assume everybody will understand you.
So you realize “Ok, this is my capital city, and (almost) nobody speaks my language.” And that’s even more absurd than Ionesco.
Like the second hand bookshop this morning though, even absurdity can be charming.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A day in the hammock

Whenever I try guided meditation, and they ask me to picture a “save place” in my head, I go to the hammock in my parents’ garden. Hanging between the chestnut and the cherry tree, it’s the perfect spot to relax and dream away. I spent almost the entire summer after graduation from uni in that hammock – reading all the books I brought from New York, and dreaming about yet another date with P (who, at that time, was pulling every romantic trick in the book to win me over). Even the hammock itself was a gift from P. After that hot summer, the hammock was barely used. I started working (no time for daydreaming anymore), the summers got wetter, and I moved out.

A few weeks ago, I decided to ask my dad to install it again. All my meditation time spent in it, made me long for the real thing. And so today I hung between the chestnut and the cherry tree again. Looking up at patches of blue sky between the leaves. Listening to the silence and the birds singing. Smelling the spiciness of fresh cut grass and the sweetness of the roses. Reading until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. Mom, dad, and the two cats within close distance. For a moment, everything felt as safe again as that summer of 2001.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

G's repair shop : you break it, we fix it!

Hospitals can bring me so down. I hate the smell, I hate the overly cheery people celebrating another birth, I hate all the pain and suffering I see, I hate the tasteless food, and I hate nurses who hate their job. I love the little yellow ducks in the pond outside though. And maybe also the newspaper shop, where you can pretend for 5 minutes that you’re outside, in the “normal” world.
To me, this hospital is a factory, or more accurately: a giant repair shop. What part is not working? Can we fix it? Do we have to replace it? Done. Thank God for it of course, but is it really so hard to remember that they’re dealing with feeling, thinking human beings – and not, let’s say ...bread toasters?
Hopefully my mom can go home today – and that’ll be the end of another week on Planet Hospital. I hope the next trip to this unfriendly galaxy is a million of lightyears away...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cornetto

After a crazy week, I can finally sit back and relax a bit. On my terrace, with an ice cream. There was my little London-flu, basically pounding my head every single second wit a huge hammer. There were a lot of lessons to teach, and then there was a lot of rushing to hospital to visit mom in between foresaid lessons.
This morning was the last lesson of the week, and mom is finally doing better. And my flu is almost history. Pfew. I still have a ton of prep work to do for next week’s intensive course – but for now it’s just me and my ice cream. Zen.

Despite all the “setbacks”, I realised once again this week how much pleasure my job is giving me (sorry if this is beginning to sound boring). On Tuesday I dragged myself to my little group of 8 female immigrants to give the last full day of their crash-course. I came home with a fever, but feeling so happy and satisfied. On Wednesday there was another “first” : I taught someone who reacted on the blogpost in which I “promoted” my Dutch lessons! It was a great lesson, with a very motivated and talented student and I’m really looking forward to our next lesson (I have to write this, as he’s probably reading this ;-). And today another student decided to postpone all her lessons until after my holidays – she doesn’t want a substitute teacher :-).

All the fun of the new job aside though, I stumbled upon my “old job” today. In a rather strange way. At the language school around the corner, they have a magazine stand. Every week, there’s also an issue of “HR tribune”. Which I’ve refused to read ever since the beginning of “Episode 3”. Today I thought : “Hm, one of my students has his own recruiting company – an HR related article might be useful lesson material”. So I grabbed the HR Tribune. I opened it at a random page, only to stare at a huge picture of my former boss. I couldn’t believe my eyes. And I couldn’t believe all the lies in the article either. All the blahblah sounded so ridiculously untrue.

Conclusions of the week: there’s not only a Mexican flu; there’s a London one as well. Teaching is great fun. And don’t read the HR Tribune; it’s a load of crap.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

All in one afternoon

Nurse 1 : (semi-agressive) Have you *refused* painkillers today?!
Mom : Uumm, no they just didn’t give me any. That’s why I’m in pain. That’s why I’m asking them now. Please.
***
Dad : Shouldn’t you check her sugar levels?
Nurse 2 : Oh yeah, I hadn’t thought about that...
***
Mom : I haven’t received a certain shot today. Is that normal?
Nurse 1 : Uuum, nooo, I guess not. Oh, you’re right : you still need to have that shot.
***
Nurse 2 : you will have to drink lots of sugar water to improve your sugar level
Mom : The doctor told me yesterday I’m not allowed to eat or drink anything...It’s in my file.
Nurse 2 : Oh yes yes you’re right. Well, no sugar water for you then!
***
Nurse 1 : Why are your baxters still full?
Mom : I don’t know....
Nurse 1 : Let me call nurse 2
Nurse 2 : ah, I see. It’s because *you* vomit all the time. *You* block the tube when *you* do that.
Mom : you know, I have an implanted catheder from the chemo. Normally they use that...
Nurse 2 : No no no, we don’t use that here. It will have to stay in your neck. If *you* stop vomiting, it will be okay.
***
Nurse 1 : Look at you, you’re covering yourself completely with the sheets. It’s 26 degrees outside!
Mom : Well, I am cold, I pay for this room, and if I want to cover myself, and even turn on the heating in here – I’ve got every damn right to do so.
***
As you see, it was another beautiful day on Planet Hospital.
To be continued.....

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kleenex anyone?

Snif. Snif again. Cough-cough. Sneeeeze (x 6).
That’s right, another visit to a cosmopolitan city, and I catch another cosmopolitan cold. I’m getting old. INSEAD-weekends ruin my health (and my bank account). Or maybe it’s just my body warning me : working – partying – running to hospital – not sleeping - worrying : DON’T you dare do it again!!!
So I’ll listen. I’m off to bed, I won’t do any more work tonight (first improvised lesson starts tomorrow at 8.30 am), and I’ll skip hospital tomorrow.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Doing a little bit of London

For the first time in more than 10 years, I made it back to London. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t buy a city guide, I didn’t make a list of things to do and see, and I almost didn’t pack a bag (this was done in the 30 minutes between coming home from work, and grabbing a taxi to the Eurostar-station).

The main reason to be in London, was another INSEAD reunion. We stayed at our friends’ place, who live just behind Primrose Hillpark. If I ever move to London, this is the neighborhood I want to be in! A huge park, overlooking the entire city, cosy streets with quaint shops, lovely houses, etc.

After arriving on Thursday evening (bringing the obligatory Belgian chocolats and Belgian beer to our lovely hosts), we got up on Friday to do “some shopping”. We got back home, carrying several huge bags. With the nice Euro-to-Pond rate, and the start of the sales, we let ourselves go completely wild. So wild we weren’t able to close the door of our bedroom, because there were simply to many shopping bags.

Friday night was the first INSEAD party, Saturday was INSEAD visit to Saachi Gallery, Saturday night was INSEAD dinner + party, and today was INSEAD pic-nic. It was good fun to see everybody, especially my dearest K, whom I hadn’t seen in one year! Seeing her again made me realize how much I miss my INSEAD-girls...

And with that, I’m more tired than ever. Tomorrow is another working day, my mom is in hospital, and I still have to do all my prep work for this week.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A lot of ifs

*If* my mom didn’t get ill, maybe I wouldn’t have crashed.
*If* I wouldn’t have crashed, maybe I would still be stuck in my HR job.
*If* I would still be stuck in my HR job, maybe I would never have considered going back to teaching.
All this to say that, at this very moment, I’m sooo happy that I lost my job, that I started rethinking my life from scratch, and that I ended up teaching again.
I can honestly say I haven’t felt this good after a day’s work in, let’s say, the last three years. I mean it.
A) I got stuck with the most dysfunctional boss on the planet.
B) I never got thanked or rewarded.
C) As a consequence, my self-confidence was always below zero

An example: even if I managed to recruit the so-called “sheep with five legs” in an overheated job-market, there would still be complaining ‘cause She hated to make time in her planning for contract-negotiations (No, no way she would let me or anybody else do that). Forget “well done”. No, instead She would postpone and postpone making an appointment with foresaid candidate, after which this one would, of course, be of the market by the time She finally called him. Next : an e-mail from the general HR director to ask me why I hadn’t managed to fill in the damn vacancy yet.
I once had the nerve to tell him that it was because She had no time for contract negotiations. Next : full scale war. And guess who the victim was? Right.
This was your daily menu. And I ate it for three years. Now the mere thought of it makes me throw up.

I went into HR to be able to work with people, to help people on their career track. I never had the feeling that I did those things. Maybe only in the beginning when I worked in a temp agency, and got a lot of people their first job – but on a corporate level? Forget it. It was all politics.
Now, I see the difference that I make – instantly, with my own eyes. I get gratitude, loads of it. I get rewarded, not with money, but by seeing that all my efforts are never lost. And my self-confidence? I feel it growing day by day. I’ll never let anyone bring me down like that again. That is...*if* I can keep that promise to myself :-)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Crash course

Here we go again. It’s 10.30 pm – and I totally forgot to eat. The reason behind this, is that I get so lost in lesson-prep work, that I completely loose any sense of time (the fact that it’s not getting dark outside before 10pm is not helping either). But the result is something I feel proud of : my own crash course Dutch for people who have zero knowledge of the language. And I really mean zero. I just wonder who is going to crash first here : the teacher or the students... 4 days of intensive teaching, morning till evening, to 8 women from all over the world. Challenge, here I come!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Inertia

Mom on the phone. Good news and bad news. Bad news: new cancer cells. Surgery as soon as possible. Good news: they should be able to take everything away, no more chemo necessary. “It’s just two small spots”.
My brain refuses to process the information. I wish the tears would come, but they don’t. I feel completely numb.
All the fighting we did – mom, to get well, dad, to support her day and night, and me, trying to get my life back on track. Why? At the end of the ride, no matter how much fighting you did, it’s out of your hands. No matter how many gallons of Japanese green tea you drink, the cancer does exactly what it wants.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Another visit to Planet Hospital

Yesterday my mom spent 40 minutes in a claustrophobic scanner to see if she needs further chemo or surgery. Needless to say, this has been causing us stress for weeks. Normally we would have the results today. Good or bad, we just want to know. Only, small problem: this morning the doctor announced that “Oops”, they took the wrong scan yesterday. So we’re not one step further – and believe me, every hour of this kind of stress lasts an eternity.
The doctor himself, although not in the wrong, was visibly embarrassed – and with some pushing and negotiating, the right scan is now scheduled for tomorrow morning.

I should face the fact that there is the possibility that it’s going to be “bad news”. But I just don’t know how. I’m so scared to feel again the way I felt last year. Already I feel anger boiling up – it can’t be bad, not now. Please, for once, let everything the way it is in my life. Don’t go turning it upside down again. Just don’t. (I don’t even know to whom I’m saying this. God? The universe?)

Monday, June 8, 2009

And the fish said "blub"

Am I drowning? Or just swimming to fast?
As you know, I’ve started teaching in Language School nr2.
Then all of a sudden, last week, Language School nr1 contacted me again, after weeks and weeks of silence. So as from today, I’ve started teaching there as well. And in between are the first private students announcing themselves.
Every day feels like “the first day @ the new job”, ‘cause then it’s a new school, then it’s a new student, then it’s a new group, etc. And although it’s all very exciting, and I’m having a really good time, I’m also spending loads of energy on just staying focused. Staying focused on controlling the stress. Staying focused on feeling self confident. Staying focused on, well, just not losing myself.

Day after day, I keep on telling myself:
Yes, this is what I want to do. Yes, I love teaching. Yes, the financial aspect will work out in the end (just keep on living of your savings for the moment). Yes, the administration is a pain, but you can do it. Yes, you are good at this, no need to stress. Yes, you've made the right choice. Yes, you can say “No” if you want to.
And once again : Yes, damn it, you've made the right choice.

As if to test that, I got an email from an old colleague in my mailbox today : “I have a great project and I really really see you working on it! Give me a call asap! I believe you are THE person for the job”. She was international sales manager at my previous company, and we got along well. She left, and, together with another partner, started her own HR company. That company was on my “to contact-list” in case I‘d decide to keep on working in HR. And now, exactly one week after I made the choice to teach again, they contact me. *Sigh*.
I never knew that making a career change would be this challenging...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Saturday sucks

Maybe you’ll find this weird. No problem, I find it weird as well. For a couple of weeks now, Saturday has become my ultimate down-day of the week. Maybe these are the reasons:
- my weeks are filled with thrilling, new experiences day after day. I’m drowning in lesson-prep work, but that keeps me focused. All week long I keep myself on a kind of energy-high to keep on going.
- also all week long, I miss P, and I look forward to Saturday. In my mind, Saturday will be this absolutely great day, when we will do tons of fun and romantic stuff together, making up for the time we were apart.
- I also expect, week after week, that *this* Saturday we will be a few steps further in the whole wedding planning.

And then comes Saturday.
- P is too tired for words from another killing work week. He sleeps until noon, and I don’t blame him (as I have woken him up once again in the middle of the night with one of my “screaming nightmares”)
- I want to share all the happiness and excitement I’ve felt during the week, but, as we are on such different wavelenghts, find that very hard to do.
- When everybody is awake, there’s a little piece of the day left, in which have to fit all hopes and dreams for the weekend. At the end of the day, we’re not one step closer to organising the wedding – because, understandably, after a very stressful week, the last thing P needs is stress about the wedding.
- I feel down and lonely, because once again “waiting for Saturday” has become a disappointment. And what I’ve been looking forward too all week, again didn’t happen.

Comes Sunday, with sports, family visits and preparing for work, and voilà, the weekend is over. Time to hope and dream about the next one....

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wanted

(Forgive me for once again using my blog as free ad-space)

“I’m a poor little girl who wants to have a huge wedding in the centre of Brussels. I’m looking for a beautiful venue with parking facilities for the guests. And I still want to have a little bit of money left at the end of the ride.”

Yes, I’m getting desperate. For some reason, NO ONE gets married in Brussels. Everybody moves out of the city for this event, and goes to some castle or some huge farm in the middle of nowhere. That’s nice, I know, but not if you have to consider the logistics of 50% of your guests – who come from abroad, and don’t have a car.

So far, the options in Brussels seem to be
1. a beautiful, historic venue. Where you have to pay two guards to protect the building all night long, and where your guests are barely allowed to move. (Do I want the additional stress caused by the possibility that someone might throw up on some old and precious book collection on my wedding day? No)
2. various other nice venues. All in neighbourhoods with close to zero parking space. (Do I want my guests to arrive late, or simply not? Or do I want to make sure they all get huge parking fines? Double no)
3. a beautiful, historic venue with parking space, but ...close to unaffordable. (Do I want to be completely bankrupt after this wedding? You’ve guessed it: no)

Seems I’m running out of options. I’m also running out of time if I still want to get married this year. So please, if you got any wild ideas, just shoot!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Job

Thanks to some lovely comments on my previous post, and thanks to P’s efforts in being the “supportive boyfriend”, I was in a better mood today. So please allow me to finally show my enthusiasm and bore you with all the details of my teaching-job.

The school itself is rather small. There’s a relaxed and cosy atmosphere, everybody knows everybody, and people appreciate you for your work (which is a world of difference compared to my previous job).
Every lesson consists out of : reading a newspaper article about a controversial subject, a discussion about the article, a listening exercise, a role play, a grammar topic, and a Simon-says game (where the students have to repeat a sentence that gets longer and longer).
There are no mandatory books to follow – every lesson is made completely to fit the student’s needs. So as a teacher you have great freedom – and you have to use all your inspiration and creativity, lesson after lesson. This demands a lot of preparation time – which I honestly don’t mind. The satisfaction you get from building “your own” material is well worth it.
As it is a kind of freelance contract, with no fixed amount of hours, and as I’m only beginning, I haven’t got a lot of hours yet. (around 10 every week). Hopefully this will improve fast.

So, if you happen to be looking for Dutch lessons, and happen to live in or near Brussels, just drop me a message - see “contact me” button on the left side.
(Sorry for the shameless advertising ;-)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Back @ work

Last Friday was “My First Day @ Work”. I hadn’t worked since mid December ’08, so – understandably- this was a big moment for me! And I can safely say that I really enjoyed it.
I had to teach 4 hours of Dutch to a little group of three: an American, a lady from Brazil, and a guy from Cameroon. The 4 hours flew by, and I left the school feeling amazingly good (and a bit tired). I felt confident that I had made the right choice, and really proud of myself. The good-luck wishes from friends on Facebook almost made it better than a birthday-party!
Then a few things happened along the weekend that crushed my party-mood.

I still don’t know what P really thinks about my decision. I think he would prefer me to have a really cool job/career of which he can proudly brag about to his friends and colleagues. Like “my girlfriend is an HR consultant at – insert cool company where you work ridiculous hours- “.

Yesterday we were invited to a BBQ, and at some point, the whole conversation turned to “work” for the rest of the evening. Imagine a table with a consultant, an investment banker and two lawyers, bragging/complaining about their working hours. I felt hugely out of place. Part of me wanted to scream “wake up you all, and start realizing what is really important in life before you all end up with a burn out”. Another part of me felt really “low”, bereaved of any self confidence. Here I was, the “language teacher”, working part time, between all these hot shots earning loads and loads of money.

I don’t know – maybe you have to be confronted with serious illness, go through a nervous breakdown, or whatever to realize that life is so much more than the company you work for. So instead of saying anything, I was at a loss for words. I didn’t know anymore whether to feel sorry for myself, or to feel sorry for them. I just felt bad. P asked what was wrong, and I found myself unable to explain how I felt and why. So I just went to bed, and luckily fell asleep pretty fast.
I know, deep down, that I’m happy with the choice I’ve made. I know this is right for me. And I’m proud that I’ve just followed my heart. But it’s always so damn important to me what others think of it...I know: it shouldn’t be. Easier said than done.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

INSEAD gym: the true story

Apparently one of the searches that still leads people to my blog is “INSEAD gym”. Obviously due to a post I wrote back in February 2008. And boy, that became something to remember.
Back then, the gym was “hot news”. After being closed for the better part of the year, it finally reopened – and we were among the first ones to try it out. After my first few visits, I wrote a piece on it, which you can read here.
The day after, I went to the gym again, late it the evening. I was the only one there. The girl who worked there came over to have a chat with me while I was sweating and puffing on one of the bikes.

N: And how does it go with the new gym? A lot of members yet?
SHE : Well....it starts. But it really isn’t easy. We get so many comments.
N: ??
SHE: Yeah, there’s already a blog that completely criticized us.
< after which she began quoting MY foresaid post almost word for word>
N: Oh...that’s awful (heart rate speeding up even more, head becoming even redder)
SHE: Yes, it’s one of the *partners* Sigh! They are the worst!
< Obviously for some reason, maybe because I spoke French, it didn’t occur to her that I could be a *partner*> And now this piece on this blog is already read by the dean and everything....
N: Owww..
SHE: They really are something. They are worse than the students or the staff. I have the impression that it’s never good enough for them.
N: Ah well, it’s just the beginning. Maybe they are also used to a lot. Most of them come from big cities like NY etc, and are probably used to the newest, hottest gyms in town, no?
SHE: Yeah maybe...Still it’s really not motivating..
N : Ah, you’ll see...it’ll get better!

Meanwhile in my head: Shit! Fuck!! This can’t be! They have read my blog! HOW?? How did they find it? How on earth did they come across my blog! And now she is telling ME...What are the chances? What do I have to do?? HELP!!

I rushed out of the gym, straight to P. “P, blog emergency. Need to talk to you, NOW!” P’s cool response was “Well, it’s a blog, it’s public, so people read it, right?” Right. At which point I finally realised that yes, indeed, it’s not some kind of personal diary. It came as a shock, really. I put everything into question. Did I have to stop writing? Did I have to leave all sarcasm and irony out? Did I have to consider my readers with every word I wrote? All of a sudden my blog became “known”, and I just wasn’t ready or prepared for that. I did some heavy thinking about it, and some writing (here). Looking back on it, I don’t think my post on the gym was that bad. Sure, I made a bit of fun about the guy teaching us and about the lady in charge – and I can imagine how they must have felt about it – but it’s not as if I didn’t say a single positive word. And to be completely honest: I still miss that gym. I really do.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Teaching & planning (and freaking out)

6 pm
The levels of adrenaline were finally lowering. Only this afternoon, I was lying on the couch, reading, and realizing how relaxed I felt – for the first time in a few days. Then the phone went. It was the language school. To ask me if I could start teaching...tomorrow.
That’s right, tomorrow. From 9 am till 1 pm. I’ve received a very short briefing on who my students are, and everything else is basically up to me! I immediately started preparing my lessons, and now, two hours later, I’m satisfied with the results. But I’m by no means less stressed out.

10 pm
I’ve got the nerves under control. More or less. Ironically, by planning the wedding all night long with P’s brother. We are on the same wave lenght about almost every single detail – it’s amazing; we even had the same hotel in mind for our guests from abroad. It feels so good to finally get somewhere...I even believe we almost have a date! To clarify things a bit : organizing the whole wedding is my brother-in-law’s gift to us. You have no idea how grateful I am for this...Thanks E.
And now: off to bed! Big day tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Parachute: the sequel

Hmm..What's this? Color of Parachute? One of N's new books...let's see..What are my skills? What do I like doing?

I like to test if whatever I find is eatable,umm...I mean edible

I like to have my daily cuddle with N

That's it - I'm done with the book! Easy!

A pizza after 4 am

It's after midnight, and here I am again! Unable to sleep. My mind jumping from "new job" to "song for opening dance". I listened to a meditation track on my ipod, which was supposed to bring me to a tropical island. And I ended up there all right, together with our 200+ guestlist...
Feeling as hyper as Lucy (who is running one of her midnight-marathons in her little wheel), I just decided to get up again, come down, and call P. To bombard him with one question after the other about the wedding, while he was getting ready to go to bed in Ireland, after a very long day full of meetings. "Everything will be all right N, easy...Just go back to bed". Right.
So I flipped open my laptop to have a look at my blogger-statistics. What else does one do at 1 am, right? And a few surprises were in store. For instance, one of the searches that leads people to my blog : "the perfect lover is the one who turns into a pizza after 4 am". I'm pretty sure that I have never ever written such a thing (well, not up until 5 seconds ago). Although I could do with a pizza right now...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What a day for a daydream

If there’s one positive thing about being HSP, it’s that you can feel so intensely happy you could burst. Forget “cloud nine”. Forget “over the moon”. It’s over another galaxy altogether. And that’s exactly how I feel today!

I finally got to try on the dress I fell in love with, just by seeing it online. And it was a hit. A big hit. I immediately knew: this is MY wedding dress. It was love at first sight. When the sales lady left the fitting room (which was again the size of my bed room), I started jumping up and down in my underwear, giggling, smiling, repeating endlessly “I have a wedding dress! Can you believe it? I – have – a – wedding dress! Me! A wedding dress!!!”. This went on for about five minutes. Then I saw the price tag. But my mom left no room for discussion. “This is your dream dress. You get married in it. And that’s the end of it.” Thanks mom. Wow.

After that we went for lunch to celebrate. Champagne, nice pasta, some red wine, and a sambuca to finish. The alcohol only enhanced my already ecstatic mood. By the time we left the restaurant around 2 pm, I felt I could conquer the world. Which was a good thing, ‘cause I had a job interview at 2.30pm. Not joking.

I rushed to the metro, and got there just in time. The rain helped to sober me up a bit, and the interview went like a high speed train! After thirty minutes, the guy basically told me I was hired. The first available student he has, is for me. He was not kidding: he called me back this afternoon to confirm, while I was buying my wedding shoes!
I still feel like I’m on some happy drug trip (at least, I think that’s how it must feel). One of my friends just compared me with one of those little rubber bouncing balls, going “boing-boing-boing-boing” all around the house, unstoppable. And I indeed start to wonder how I’m ever going to unwind after such a day. Luckily, I bought an emergency packet at the brand new Lush Store in Brussels. I think this qualifies as an emergency... :)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pet

Just a quick little post before going to bed.
Tomorrow morning I have to get up at 4.15 AM, 'cause I'm once more going to Ireland! I'm all packed and ready, and looking forward to the trip.
If only I could take Lucy with me...*sigh*. That little hammie has sure conquered my heart. And every time I leave for more than a day, I feel like a "bad mom". All right, laugh all you want, but that's just the way it is. I wonder: would airport security mind if there's a little, super-cute & adorable white hamster in my handluggage?
To be continued...

Election fever

This is what our hallway looks like. Every single day. Around 10 flyers, leaflets, booklets, posters, etc of election candidates. You also get this stuff pushed into your hands every time you leave the house. And when you park your car somewhere...right, there’s a leaflet under your wiper when you get back.
Needless to say, I’m getting seriously fed up with this. Not to mention that I just cannot take politics in this country serious anymore. Last time, after the federal elections in June 2007, it took them no less than 7 months to form a federal government – and even then it was only a temporary solution for three months.
Moreover, we have so many governments and parliaments in this tiny country, that nobody knows what elections are actually taking place. Is it local? Provincial? Federal? European? Regional? Ask 10 people in the street, and if you’re lucky, one will know the answer. Just to clarify it on this blog: this time we’re voting for the European parliament, for the Flemish parliament, for the Walloon parliament, for the Brussels Capital parliament and for the parliament of the German speaking Community. Are you still following? Don’t worry; none of us Belgians are either.
Even the guy who was supposed to become prime minister last time ended up singing the French Marseillaise when asked for the Belgian national anthem. So why should we feel ashamed if we bluntly admit that we don’t have a clue about what’s going on?

Maybe by now you’ll start to understand why in Belgium we still have compulsory voting (that’s right, we don’t have a choice – we have to vote, or at least show up). And because of this, people have no other way to out their unhappiness than by voting on all kinds of extreme and populist parties. Or they keep on voting for the same old parties without giving it any thought, because they believe that nothing is ever going to change anyway. And who can blame them?
Politics has lost its shine and glory a long time ago in Belgium. And when I look at the little wooden matchbox with my grandfather’s picture on it, from back in the 60s when he was having his own campaign, that really makes me kind of sad.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The first dress

I had two glasses of wine during a lovely dinner, and I feel totally knocked out. God, INSEAD is a long time ago... ;-) However, I want to share my experiences of wedding dress-choosing with you.

I always thought that I would get super-emotional. I believed I would burst out in tears once I saw myself in an actual wedding dress for the first time. Well...that did NOT happen. On the contrary. The whole thing was rather un-romantic. Let me explain.

1) I was led into the fitting room, which proved to be the biggest I ever saw. And...every single wall was a mirror. Forget about subtle lighting. I immediately thought “Right, this is going to be, umm... revealing..”
2) To my absolute horror, the sales lady did not leave the fitting room, but stayed there with me. As if the 4 mirror-walls were not enough.
3) So I got undressed. And as this fitting was totally unplanned, there I stood, in black panties and a pink striped bra. Great. Add unshaved legs, armpits – and let’s not even talk about bikini-lines.
4) I looked, well, in every possible direction, and all I could think was “I MUST go to the gym tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that. And every single day until the wedding.” I also thought “I’ll never leave the house again in unmatching underwear”.
5) The dress itself. They don’t have sizes. They just have try-on models. Then you choose a dress, then they take your measures, and then the dress is made to perfectly fit you. So, basically, this meant I had to try on a size 42 (or L) while I have a size 36 (or S). This also meant that what was supposed to be the middle of the dress, was somewhere near my feet. After 5 minutes, I felt like a human pin-cushion, while the sales lady went “of course, you have to imagine it shorter, and on this side you have to imagine it narrower. And on that side, it will be fitting much closer to your body. And imagine that the cleavage will also come higher.” In short: the whole dress was left to my “imagination”. The sales lady and my mom both assured me that I looked gorgeous in this dress, but all I could see was meters of superfluous fabric, with me somewhere lost in the middle of it.

My mom and I ended up having a good laugh about it; we had a great afternoon. I didn’t care about finding the right dress. I was just very, very grateful that, in spite of everything that happened last year, I was here now, sharing this with her.
Next week we’re going to another store – the one I’ve had in mind ever since the engagement. And this time I’ll be prepared! I’ve learned my lesson....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

And thank God for that!

Conversation nr 1 (on the phone)
P: What are you doing?
N: I was reading ‘bout my MBTI profile
P: Interesting!
N: Did you know that my type, INFJ, is actually the least common? Less than 1% is this personality type!
P: And thank God for that!
N: Excuse me?
P: Yeah, thank God for that! Imagine more people like you – the world just couldn’t handle that!

Conversation nr 2 (also on the phone)
N: Guess what I’ve done today?!?!?!
P: Umm, don’t know..
N: I’ve tried on a wedding dress, for the very first time!! Yay!!
P: You know you’re not supposed to tell me *anything* about that, do you?
N: Umm, yes...I know...
P: And thank God for that!

Don’t worry. I’m allowed to drive his big BMW while he’s in Ireland. I know he loves me.

Our newest acquisition

Belongs in the category : totally unnecessary, but really nice to have. I’m talking about...tadaaa.....: a patio heater.
I secretly wanted one of these things ever since we moved into our new apartment, and have a very nice terrace. But I never mentioned it, because, right, it’s in the totally-unnecessary category. A few weeks ago however, P showed me all the stuff he could get for free with his Amex-points. And he goes “Look, a patio-heater! Wouldn’t that be nice?”.
One thing lead to another, and yesterday a delivery guy dropped the foresaid heater on our doorstep. Leaving it to me to carry the heavy thing all the way up to our apartment.
As you might have deduced from the picture, yes, the heater still has to be assembled. And carried to our terrace. No, not finished then. Then I have to go and buy a gas canister and, right, also carry it up 3 flights of stairs, through our apartment and on our terrace. *Sigh*, life can be so hard ;-)

Monday, May 18, 2009

What color is your parachute?

I’ve read the first 100 pages of “What Color is your Parachute” today (the Bible for job-hunters or career-changers). And I already came up with 3 interesting insights. Maybe they’ll look trivial to you, or you might think “of course” – but to me, they are meaningful. Here they come:

1. First focus your energy on “information-gathering”, as in “Do I really want to work here or not?” . Only afterwards, turn your energy towards selling yourself.
See, that’s where I always went wrong. With my eagerness to please the whole world and everybody in it, I always start selling myself immediately. By being very enthusiastic, by convincing the recruiter that I am the right person, etc. Only to find myself in an existential crisis, and really not knowing what to do once I have the actual job offer in my hands.
2. Send a thank-you note after the interview
This is so straightforward. And I know for a fact, from the other side of the table, that it really works as well. And yet, I’ve never done it.
3. A resume first presents itself to the fingers
If the company asks you to mail it by post, or if they ask you to bring one to the interview, that is. This happens on an unconscious level, but it’s true. Nice, thick paper versus low-quality, almost see-through : you notice the difference. I never gave it a thought, but last week I presented my resume to a good friend (who happens to work in HR as well). I had just bought a new printer, and had printed my resume on the over-priced paper that came with it. Her reaction was “wow, nice resume. And on such nice paper” (and this was without even reading a word).

I have a habit of never finishing non-fiction books. But this time, I really really want to get through the whole book. So I’ll make a promise right here and now that I’ll keep you, dearest reader, further updated on my findings. Book has to be read by the end of the month.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Baby elephant, Bones, and dodgy Italian

And that sums up my Sunday!
I spent the entire morning in my PJs, glued to the computer screen, watching live-images of the newly born baby elephant K (in the Antwerp Zoo). It’s the first elephant ever to be born in Belgium, so there was quite a media-circus around it (in which I happily joined).
The rest of the day, P and I cuddled up on the couch, and watched episode after episode of our favourite series Bones. Just to keep up appearances, we went for a 30 minute walk around the neighbourhood (there was a huge flee market). Only to continue our potato-couch marathon afterwards.
We ended our super-lazy Sunday by going out for pizza. Just around the corner, there’s this very dodgy looking place; we were always too scared to give it a try. But...it was the only pizzeria open for business. We went in, and I have to admit : damn good pizzas! The fact that they were being served by a seriously overweight Italian with the biggest moustache I’ve ever seen, only added to the flavour.
To say that I didn’t do anything productive today would be a lie. I wrote an application letter and filled out all the necessary forms for another teaching job : as an HR professor at the College for Social Studies in Brussels. My self confidence is about as high as my ankles, and I know I will break out in cold sweat tomorrow when I actually put the letter in the mail – but hey: just the fact that I’m doing it, is a little victory all in itself! Step by step, just like the baby elephant, not trying to break any Bones, and just going for it, even it looks dodgy or scary at first sight ...: if it works for perfect Sundays, it might work to find the perfect job as well!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lullaby

Yawn-yawn. I really should be in bed by now – but once again I’m still up after midnight. Bad habits die hard. Anyhow, what’s the point? Yesterday I went to bed on time, only to be still wide awake at 2.00 AM. (the fact that I’m reading a great book – Mao’s last dancer – is not really helping)
I had a nice evening with E, P’s brother. We’ve always got along really well, but tonight was the first time it was just the two of us, having dinner, catching up, watching a movie (oh yeah, and driving through knee-high flooded roads). It’s difficult to put in words how much it means to me to be so accepted, and well… loved, I guess, by my “extended family” (yes, that even includes my “mother-in-law” :-).
And on that bombshell, I kiss you all good night and wish you the sweetest dreams!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Eat that frog!

A few years ago, on a sleepless night in P’s apartment, I came across a little book with a picture of a frog on the cover. I finished reading it around 4.00 AM, after which I finally fell asleep. Ever since that night, the baseline and the main idea of the book (by Brian Tracy) has helped me to get into action.
“Eat that frog” is doing NOW what you actually want to postpone – because you don’t like it, because you can’t motivate yourself, because there’s always an excuse...So this morning I had two frogs for breakfast : I called the language school (again!), resulting in another interview with them next Monday (this time to teach English). And I sent my CV to another language school. Hell, this afternoon I almost became an amphibian myself, getting caught in the worst rain and hail storm Brussels has seen in a very long time.
I realise there’s is still a pool full of tadpoles to be dealt with (stop doubting my career change, filling out my tax papers, getting my pension fund sorted out, etc, etc), but for today I had enough. Leaping on to nicer things!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What do you want?

I’ve tried to find equilibrium on this blog : be honest, but don’t hang out all the dirty laundry. Show glimpses of how I feel, but don’t spill all the guts. It’s not easy. What I don’t want is to be one of those “marketing-blogs” : hey everybody, look at how great my life is!!! I don’t want to sound suicidal either. What do I want then, exactly?.

A few days ago I did a meditation exercise where you had to picture your ideal life. In other words : what do you want to do when you grow up? (as I’m only 1.58m tall, this is a completely relevant question).
This is sort of how my dream looked:
I had a beautiful house, with big windows, and lots of light streaming in. There was a huge garden with some rabbits, some chickens, and some home-grown veggies. I had two kids, who were off to school, and a little baby, still sleeping in its’ cradle. Two cats were turning round my legs, begging for some food and attention. You could hear nothing but the singing of the birds in the garden, and the silent music of a radio in the background. I had my own little office in the attic, overlooking the garden, where I did my translation work, wrote my articles and gave language lessons. Two days a week I went to the company to catch up with my colleagues, and do all the necessary admin. P was abroad, but made time every day to catch up on video-skype with me and the kids. Weekends were family-only time, where we went on little excursions to the seaside, the woods, or some city. We often had guests from all over the world, and I enjoyed pampering them and showing them around. Sort of a B&B, but only for friends :-).
Oh, and of course, before I forget : we had a cute hamster.

So, let’s see : I have P, I have the big windows with lots of light streaming in, I have the cute hamster, I already have 1 language class I give, I write no articles, but I do have this blog.
Almost there!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hi, it's me! How are you?

Did this ever happen to you: you call up a friend because you feel horrible, and you just want to spill it al out to someone and be understood? But instead, as soon as she picks up the phone, you’re trying to sound rather upbeat than down, and you end up listening for 30 minutes to stories about work, kids and how she spent mother’s day. You hang up, and you haven’t said a word about how you feel.
You try another friend. Same story: she sounds so happy, she’s getting ready to spend mother’s day with the family and you hear the kids playing in the background. So who am I to spoil a party, right? Even if it is only by phone. Again: I try to sound happy, continuing my tour of wishing happy mother’s day to my closest friends. And feeling lonely as hell.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Swine flu


There, that should get me a few extra hits!
But I’m really going to write about it.
On my way from Cork to Belgium, I had to catch a connecting flight in London: posters everywhere warning all passengers for the dangers of the flu, newspaper headlines about nothing else,... And I have to admit, I started to feel a bit ill at ease, thinking “the virus did also come through this airport”.
Soon after, I discovered I was not the only one feeling itchy. At the gate, a Dutch guy behind me sneezed. Immediately 5 scared looks in his direction. One lady even moved seats. When I sneezed a couple of minutes later, I felt as if I had a scarlet letter F (for flu) sewn onto my jacket.
Landing in Brussels, thinking I’d left all the flu-craziness behind me, someone from the National Health Service was distributing flyers to everyone leaving the airport : “feeling feverish? Nauseous? Etc? Stay indoors and immediately contact your family doctor.”
So now, every time I sneeze or have a slightly aching muscle, my mind goes, unwillingly: swine flu?? Something tells me my paranoia will not improve when P’s mom returns from Mexico in a few weeks...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore: some travel notes


Friday morning, 5.00 AM
Hopping into a taxi to Belgium’s low-cost airport “Brussels South”, which is nowhere near Brussels, but is in Charleroi.

Friday, 7.30 AM
My first experience on the best known low-cost air company. A guy in swimming trunks, goggles, snorkel, flippers and inflatable duck is standing in front of the plane, singing “row the boat, row”, and everybody’s singing along, waving arms from one side to the other. 5 minutes later, the cabin attendants are selling lottery tickets to the passengers. Welcome aboard!

Still Friday morning, Dublin
Arriving in Dublin, with...ok...5 minutes left to catch the next flight to Cork. Running across endless hallways. And with no time left, I still manage to stop at the Accessorize shop and buy a new rain hat. Of course, the price tag is lost, and the sales girl goes on a 10-minute search for it. I curse myself, but catch my flight to Cork :-)

Friday – on the flight to Cork
“Lme hlp ye wif tha” Um? What? But the nice steward is already carrying my little, but heavy suitcase up the stairs and into the plane.
“D”ye wn mi the git t fr ye?” Sorry? But the guy in the business suit is already lifting my suitcase in the overhead compartments.
Nice people, those Irish! (but I don’t understand a word they say)

Friday evening
Getting motion sickness from first experience with driving on the left side of the road.
And having an absolutely great dinner in Kinsale. Where the lovely staff finally kept moving all the tables in a desperate attempt to kick us, the final five guests, out.

Saturday
Exploring Cork, visiting Blarney Castle (where we risk our backbones to kiss some stone, which will make us eloquent for the rest of our days), and finding out how whiskey is made at the Jameson Distillery in Midleton (and realizing that it’s really not my drink).

Sunday
Road trip to the Killarney Lakes, the Beara peninsula, and the Healy mountain pass. *sigh*...nothing but beautiful landscapes, wild nature....and a lot of tuned racing cars for the yearly car rally held in these parts of the country.

Monday
Other road trip along the coast, more breath-taking sights. Bringing our rental car back in one piece to the airport.
Followed by the most relaxing facial treatment I ever had in the hotel’s spa.

Tuesday
Sad to be leaving already. The taxi driver bringing me to the airport senses my mood, and puts on some Irish folk song that goes : “farewell my dear Ireland, farewell Paddy’s green shamrock shore. Farewell my love, the one I adore”.