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


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.
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.

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.