Friday, April 30, 2004

Bits and Bites

Bits and Bites

We have another long weekend ahead of us and I'm not quite sure what I want to do to fill it.

There are two festivals going on in the city - a music one and an arts one - so I'm guessing we'll head out tonight and tomorrow and see what's happening.

It feels a bit strange to me to be in a city where there seems like there is always something going on.

Even weirder, that I did live in Toronto and have no recolection of 'events' happening in the city.

I always seemed to be broke, no money to actually go out and do anything. Now, we seem to have ourselves on this unspoken budget - and we've managed to be able to have a life.

*****

Another top priority is editing/writing for Mosaic Minds. It's amazing to think all these people work together through email - not many of us have ever spoken on the phone and I'm not sure how many have actually met each other.

It really shows the way of the future will be through written communication. I realize that we can now do video conferencing with sound but for now, it's mostly email.

Perhaps because we are all writers - and mostly all of us have blogs - we are able to pull things together.

Writing is more then just a craft for a hobby or a way to earn your living. It actually allows you to communicate without saying a word.

This month's issue is Heros and Role Models. I'm really looking forward to reading some of the pieces this month.

The writing just keeps improving plus, with a theme like that, it will be neat to see who people look up to, who they aspire to be, who gives them drive.

*****

I don't usually open forwards but today I was sent an interesting one. I would give credit but there was none at the bottom so I found this link on the internet.

It was one of those ones that gives descriptions of various personalities. This one had to do with what day you were born. It defined you as a tree. I was quite impressed because I would say it's quite accurate.

Chestnut Tree (the Honesty) — of unusual stature, (I'm short) impressive, well-developed sense of justice, (I like rules) fun to be around, a planner,(and sometimes, not so much a doer) born diplomat, (I like arriving at an understanding) can be irritated easily, (I have no patience) sensitive of others feelings, (As a child, I cried whenever ANYONE cried) hard worker, (I try to be - but don't we all?) sometimes acts superior, (ouch) feels not understood at times, (People just don't listen:)) fiercely family oriented, (I miss them dearly) very loyal in love, (I've been with they boy almost a decade!) physically fit. (well, let's not push it shall we?)

How does that happen? By picking the date that you're born, suddenly, someone can pretty much describe you in a few sentences?

I guess it's the old astrological debate. Are we like our sign because of the cosmos or because we have been reading it every day for years that we have simply developed into what they describe?

So then I started to look at people I knew: D's was sort of accurate, however, I see him a bit stronger then they give him credit for:

Pine Tree (the Peacemaker) — loves agreeable company, craves peace and harmony, loves to help others, active imagination, likes to write poetry, not fashion conscious, great compassion, friendly to all, falls strongly in love but will leave if betrayed or lied to, emotionally soft, low self esteem, needs affection and reassurance.

My mother - again, not as accurate as I would say but there is some essence to it. Plus, I do recall it was one of her favourite trees:

Weeping Willow (the Melancholy) — likes to be stress free, loves family life, full of hopes and dreams, attractive, very empathetic, loves anything beautiful, musically inclined, loves to travel to exotic places, restless, capricious, honest, can be influenced but is not easy to live with when pressured, sometimes demanding, good intuition, suffers in love until they find that one loyal, steadfast partner; loves to make others laugh.

My father - I can see a few of these in him but perhaps my mother would have a different perspective:

Elm Tree (the Noble-mindedness) — pleasant shape, tasteful clothes, modest demands, tends not to forgive mistakes, cheerful, likes to lead but not to obey, honest and faithful partner, likes making decisions for others, noble-minded, generous, good sense of humor, practical.

And I went on and on, finding people that are close to me, trying to figure out whether or not this theory was true.

Perhaps it's just a nice distraction.

For those who I know read - here you are:

E - Oh, how Canadian :)

Maple Tree (Independence of Mind) — no ordinary person, full of imagination and originality, shy and reserved, ambitious, proud, self-confident, hungers for new experiences, sometimes nervous, has many complexities, good memory, learns easily, complicated love life, wants to impress.

The Js - well two of them at least - both competing to be the centre of attention

Rowan Tree (the Sensitivity) — full of charm, cheerful, gifted without egoism, likes to draw attention, loves life, motion, unrest, and even complications, is both dependent and independent, good taste, artistic, passionate, emotional, good company, does not forgive.

Sister C - your decision making skills come in handy for thos of us who panic

Cedar Tree (the Confidence) — of rare strength, knows how to adapt, likes unexpected presents, of good health, not in the least shy, tends to look down on others, self-confident, a great speaker, determined, often impatient, likes to impress others, has many talents, industrious, healthy optimism, waits for the one true love, able to make quick decisions.

Sister H - you ARE always saving your pennies

Ash Tree (the Ambition) — extremely attractive, vivacious, impulsive, demanding, does not care for criticism. Ambitious, intelligent, talented, likes to play with fate, can be very egotistic, reliable, restless lover, sometimes money rules over the heart, demands attention, needs love and much emotional support.

Bro - so you'll be the first of us to have wee ones - ha!

Apple Tree (the Love) — quiet and shy at times, lots of charm, appeal, and attraction, pleasant attitude, flirtatious smile, adventurous, sensitive, loyal in love, wants to love and be loved, faithful and tender partner, very generous, many talents, loves children, needs affectionate partner.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

My Legs Have Not Thanked Me

My Legs Have Not Thanked Me

When we were in Berlin, we took a day long walking tour, that had us going at a fast pace for almost 12 hours. As my legs thawed out from exposure in the bar, enjoying the beer was so sastifying.

When we were in Cinque Terre, Italy, a very-hungover group of us decided to "walk" it off by hiking from Monterossa to Vernazza. The walk turned into stairs upon stairs up the mountainous countryside. We had sweat so much over the hour and a half walk that we were no longer hungover. I couldn't get back to the beach fast enough.

Neither of these activities, however, compare to the "walking" I did yesterday.

I would not so much call it a walk. It was a hike. It was a mountainous hike. It was like a mini Everest expedition - okay it wasn't THAT strenuous but it was absoutley that spectacular.

I went hiking - with walking pros - in the Mournes, Northern Ireland.

At first it didn't seem to bad. I was the only one in running shoes but I figured, they got me across Europe, they can get me through some fields in the Mournes.

It would have been useful to find out what the Mournes actually were before I decided what type of footwear would be suitable.

They are mountains, lined with rocks and foliage as far as the eye can see. In some seasons, the heather is in full bloom, making them look like a larger version of Barney the dinosaur.

It was just after 2:00 p.m.

I had to take a few deep breaths as we were at the bottom of the hills. We were going to climb those? Up to the top? The distance seemed difficult enough but what about the incline.

It didn't take me long to start huffing. Somehow, at the beginning of the walk, I became the pace setter. I was in front for all of about 20 minutes...and then, everyone had passed me.

The first mountain was the most difficult because although the incline was not as treacherous as the second and third, the distance to the top was much longer.

It wasn't just me who was having trouble. The lady who talked to me about it decided we could be 'Team B'. B for Behind.

As I ascended, I took the time to check out the view. Perhaps, it was also a good reason to stop.

I learned yesterday that the stone walls that run around and up to the tops of the mountains were actually built to keep the sheep from grazing in certan parts of the mountains.

As I gasped for air halfway up on of the hills, I was reminded that men would have to climb these hills to be at the top by 8 a.m. to start their day working, building these walls. After finishing at 5 p.m., they would trek home again, possibly miles to where they lived, only to get up the next day and do it all over again.

The thought, however, didn't make my legs feel any better. It got to the point where the leader decided that taking my backpack would help.

Sheepishly, I made my way up the moutain, with a bit more ease and less weight on my back.

It took probably a couple hours to get to the summit. It was two mountains before we were finally at the top.

The view was breathtaking. It was one of those odd Northern Irish days where the sun was shining and the blue sky was out.

I looked down to the bottom - our cars looked like dinky toys. We were so high up.

I had actually climbed to this height. Amazing.

I could see the Isle of Man from where I was standing. There were lakes from above, almost as beautiful as what we'd seen in Intelakken, and just as breathtaking.

You could see the shadows of the clouds slowly moving across the mountains across from where we stood. It was windy as well. You felt like you had to hold onto the rock just to make sure you weren't blown off the top.

The group climbed onto some rock formations that were at the top to get a view.

Stating the obvious, this made the hard work all worth it.

And so we began our decent...only to come across another "wee" mountain everyone thought would be good to climb. Either my legs had given up or gotten stronger but I managed to ascend AND have a "yes" "no" conversation with the nice gentleman who was carrying my bag.

Finally at the top of this mountain, we made our actual descent - and this is where I realized I need to get walking boots. My trusty little shoes did their best but there was no way they could have saved me from twisting an ankle if I had tried to go any faster then I already was. Plus, I needed to keep my eye open for the bogs - not that it mattered much since I had step in abotu 3 by that point anyway.

And my knees were not happy campers by that point. Every step was starting to become torturous. And we seemed to have so far to go.

About an hour later, we finally got back to our cars. Off with the shoes, off with the socks. Heaven. It was after 7:30 p.m.

I looked back at the mountains. They seemed even larger then they were when I saw them in the morning.

Somehow, though, less unsurmountable.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

A Canadian Friend

Ohhh!!! I made a Canadian friend here in Belfast. Well, let's say I met her and will see her again.

I had decided over the weekend to start taking some courses Queens University. Their Open University has classes in the evenings and I thought it would be a great way to get my brain going again. I relish the idea of just learning something, anything, and I've chosen an literature course as my first.

And, sure enough, there was another girl, probably a couple years younger then me, who, was from Canada! I immediately started asking her a ba-zillion questions, walked part way home with her and almost got her mobile but decided perhaps I'd wait to know her longer than 2 hours before I started stalking her.

We parted ways, saying 'goodbye' and that we'd see each other next week.

I was quite excited to have met someone but walking home, the two sides of my brain starting chatting - kinda like the Seinfeld episode, where his two brains are playing chess? except, my brain was not split into intellect and sex drive, more just adventurer to lazy side.

A side started:

There were 8 other people in the class, mostly from Belfast. One was a highschool teacher, another a retired lady, a couple of foreign student-looking people who were looking to brush up on their english - and perhaps do the same thing I was; meet people.

I could have engaged these people in conversation, found out about their lives, what they thought of Belfast, what kinds of things they would suggest for foreigners, ask them questions about what it's really like living here.

I could have made friends with people FROM here. But why did I suddenly latch on to a Canadian, a person similar to ones I have grown up with? What is the point of living in another country if you're just going to 'stick to your own kind'?

Then L side argued:

It was not just that she was Canadian but also that she was a traveller, new to a city where she didn't know many people. Just like me. She had actually been here longer then me but at the same time, I knew she probably had been through the 'meeting new people' thing before. She somehow could understand that desire to meet people to hang out with.

Not only that, we also had the Canadian connection.

We all know it's a big country. And she's from out East however, there we still had the our red and white in common.

I suppose this whole entry is stating the obvious but being people like to be comfortable, they like to be surrounded by things they know.

Maybe it's because the amount of energy it takes to put yourself in a new situation. It's a nice release to just be with someone who you don't have to try too hard with.

This did not seem to convince Side A:

But then, why did I move away from everything comfortable if I just wanted to be able to have easy conversations with people?

L side of the brain back at you:

To experience new things, to meet new people and yes YES sometimes, to meet someone who has come from the same place so you can have conversations about the new place, get all the things that frustrate you, exhilarite, infuriate you off your chest and go on with the rest of your day 'getting into' the culture, which is what you came here for in the first place.

A side was too tired and confused to continue. Yay for cryptic stream of consciousness.

I'll see Canadiana girl next Tuesday and take it from there. Maybe next week my A side will be in charge.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

What is the Point?

There has been a bit of a debate over the last couple of days on the sites I frequent, specifically this one and this one that has got me thinking about what is the whole point of a blog?

I have been writing in a journal ever since I could pick up a pen. When I was younger, I was much better at filling it in ever day. "Today I went to school. I have a crush on J. I hope he likes me too. We are going to the zoo this weekend" that sort of thing.

Other times, I would be more reflective, especially during my teenage years. Reading over some of those entries makes me realize just how melodramatic one can be. But, as we all know, it's the hormones, isn't it?

University came and there were a significant amount of entries but nothing about the day to day. More reflective, perhaps less melodrama and definitely less frequent.

And, somewhere along the way, it stopped. I have little or no record of many months of my life. It was like the real world had sucked all the creativity out of me.

I didn't want to write about anything because I hated most of the things that were going on in my life. I was angry at myself for many of the choices I had made, not realizing that I'm not well suited for perfection and making mistakes is all part of the journey.

Not only was I miserable, but I had lost all desire to record my life as I had always done.

And then I was introduced to blogging. It was my late friend Thea who suggested it for me.

She had actually seen right through me during my greedy corporate time. I went for drinks with her once, complaining about my job, my going-nowhere career, my lack of creativity.

I was doing the 'if only' routine. If only I was working for a newspaper, magazine, website. If only I could become a freelance writer.

Why not start a blog?, she said. Just write.

And so, I did. And at first, it was very cryptic. It was actually at another site . I haven't looked back at that page until today. Scary.

When I decided to take off on my travelling adventures, everyone was telling me to keep a journal. And since I had found this new way to write my thoughts, I decided to dedicate a blog specifically to my experiences abroad.

And so, Coulda Woulda Shoulda was born. I have been writing ever since. Between this and Mosaic Minds , I am a writer, even if I don't do it for that much money yet.

And every morning, when I sit down to my computer, I use this blog as a tool to get my day starting. It's part of the creative cycle. It allows me to use my creative muscle first thing in the morning. Feisty gives a great explanation of the creative benefits of a blog on her site last Friday which, as I was reading, had me saying 'exactly' over and over again.

What is hard to separate, sometimes, is that people might actually be reading. I know of certain friends who pay attention but I am not always conscious that someone may want to make a comment - positive or negative - to what I'm saying.

These comments would be unsolicited, and yet, I have the comments screen up on my site, am I not asking for it? If I validate the positive comments do I not also have to validate the negative ones?

Fair question however my answer is no and I'll tell you why:

This is a space for me. This is a journal and if you opened up your hard copy journal to anyone, they could say all they liked but it would still be your space to write.

I can also choose to ignore it and continue to write whatever I like.

Comments do add another dimension. They can open your eyes to your own writing or can be simply used as a tool to say,

'hello, i'm here and i enjoy reading'

or

'hello, i'm here, i don't enjoy reading but i'm obviously a big loser because why would I spend the energy writing to someone i obviously don't enjoy when I could just as easily CLOSE THE BROWSER OR CLICK SOMEWHERE ELSE!'

If I want constructive criticism, I go to people whom I trust and respect for that. I don't use this blog as a space for people to critique. I also don't necessarily post my best writing to this site. It is a stream of consciousness, a mental release, that I choose to do for myself. If others are keen to read, great. But, I've really just become attached to the keyboard as opposed to the pen.

I have also learned a lot about my writing through the process. How I structure sentences, how to end a story well, how tell a good story without being longwinded, how to focus my energy.

With all the moving around I do, this is better than a hardcopy journal. This allows me to record details, events, thoughts, hopes and dreams that I have, without having to lug around a book with me everywhere I go.

Another part of the discussion that is going on has to do with doing more than one creative task ie writing, painting, designing, photography.

Creative people get bored easily. So do Geminis, which makes this a double edge sword for me. I know I will end up doing many different things career wise as well as personally, simply because, I will go mad if I am stuck doing one thing for the rest of my life.

And I learned this early on. When I was little I took a soccer summer course, my sister took ballet. The next year, I tried breakdancing, my sister took ballet. The year after that, I gave Judo a whirl, my sister took ballet. The following year came the drama class and my sister...you see where I'm going with this.

My sister has almost 20 years of ballet training, and she continues to teach to this day. It's something she loves. It's something she's good at. It's something she will never get bored with.

Me, I have tried judo, breakdancing, soccer, canoeing, drama, creative writing, violin, track and field, field hockey, yearbook design, fencing, badminton, rowing, horseback riding, conversational french, girl guiding, creative writing...and the list goes on.

What am I good at? What keeps me from getting bored? Being creative.

And so that's what I'll continue to do, even if it means I will never be perfect at one task. I would rather be a jack of many trades than a master of one.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Patio Weather

Our little baclony came as a great asset this weekend. Belfast was hit with beautiful sunshine. And we didn't have to leave our house to enjoy it.

Although we did, wandering around the streets of the city centre, amongst the shoppers and families who were also enjoying the day.

We stumbled across some live music, as well, as part of a festival put on by the BBC. For two weeks, they are featuring live artists in various venues around the city. What a great way to get to know some local bands...and pubs.

And, around 3:00 in the afternoon, we made it home in time to catch the sun rays off our balcony. Me, with my wine spritzer and D "in his Carlsberg years" bottle of beer.

We sat and we chatted. About things that had been bothering us. About ideas that we wanted to cultivate. About actions that we had not yet put into plans.

And I finally felt better. Was it the sun? Maybe. Was the spritzer? Well, I was relaxed. I think it was mostly him. Being able to sit with him and be really honest about my fears, my disappointments, my frustrations, my worries, my enthusiasm for things that have not started but that I had no control over.

There are so many things I want to do. There are so many wishes that I am having. There are lots of "if onlys". If only I had a computer. If only I had a gym membership. If only I was already working for a publishing company. If only all those media jobs we see in the paper weren't in London. If only.

But I felt much better because I was reminded why we chose Belfast. It's smaller. It has a many different kinds of companies but not massive amounts of people. It has the sea side not too far off. It has beautiful hills. It has friendly people. It's new.

This is important. IT IS NEW. Anything new will be an experience - whether good or bad. Things are working out differntly then they did when I arrived in Leeds but they should. I'm a different person, in a different head space. And this is a different city, chosen for different reasons.

I'm so glad I have someone like D to remind me. I'm so glad after all these years, we still have the best conversations, 'good talks', as he likes to say.

Friday, April 23, 2004

The Office Breakfast

I used to be VERY bad in the morning. I used to leave the house without eating breakfast.

In Toronto, I would walk to work and hit one of the two bagel shops on my way. One place made a great BLT bagel - I used to get that on poppyseed, well toasted.

The other place was better for a greasy egg and cheese. That was on a toasted sesame bagel.

Bagels don't seem to be as big a 'thing' over here. Actually, breakfast on the run doesn't actually really exist that much either. You can always get McDonalds but who doesn't have McDonalds?

Perhaps that's why I started adding in the 10 minutes to my routine to sit and have some breakfast. And of course tea.

Although they don't have the grab and go breakfasts I would find in Toronto, they have something even more quaint and homey - a trolley lady.

In Leeds, every morning around 9:30 am, the trolley lady would wheel in her goodies - cakes, chocolate bars, chips - or crisps as they call them here - and most importantly scones.

I thought this was a wonderful idea! Having tea and scones as a morning snack. I would always buy one - either date or cheese - and grab myself a cuppa to enjoy together.

I always remember her voice in her Yorkshire accent - "Trolley!"

In Belfast, it gets even quainter. We have a lovely lady who doesn't have the full cart but brings jugs of tea and coffee for everyone. She knows everyone's name, usually knows what they have, and dishes it out like a kind mom or grandma pouring you a cup of warm drink as if you were in her living room.

She sells scones too - just plain ones - but she bakes them...FRESH....in the kitchen that's located on the third floor of the building...EVERY MORNING.

So, every morning, instead of bagel man I am greeted by friendly Irish Granny lady with fresh scones and tea.

You can't get any more quaint then that.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

It Was Too Good to be True

You knew it had to happen eventually. You knew things couldn't got smoothly forever.

You knew, eventually, there would come a time when something went wrong in Belfast.

It has just been too smooth a ride for us not to expect hiccups.

And so, the winning record has been broken by none other than...

the Cable Guy.

Perhaps not in the true Jim Carey sense of the word - We don't have a psychopath stalking us, peering through our peep hole.

We actually, have the opposite. No Cable Guy at all.

It all started about 2 weeks ago when we decided that perhaps we should look into getting cable. This was a big step for us. We had prided ourselves on the fact that we were happy living a modest lifestyle.

No need for cable or a landline phone. We are both in desperate need for new clothes but until we get better jobs, we know that's not in the cards. We even got our TV second hand for £30. And the antenna we have wasn't more then a tenner.

It wasn't that we weren't happy with the four channels. We only had five channels in Leeds and we didn't find the need for any more than that.

The problem was more in the reception. Because of the building we live in, EVERY channel was fuzzy and EVERY channel was on a different frequency - if you changed the channel, you were fiddling with the antenna for 10 minutes to get a clear picture.

We figured an expensive antenna wouldn't do the trick. The BBC building is a stone's throw away from our house - it was all the big buildings around us that was giving us the bad signal.

So, we called the company. The price was okay. Plus, you got a free phone with it. Brilliant!

Down side was, it would take 2 weeks before they could come and install it. Aw shucks. Well, at least we could have some time to get excited about our 30 CHANNELS!

So, we would make jokes, when the commercials would come on advertising a show on one of the cable stations.

"Soon, we will be able to switch over.."

"A couple more days and we will be able to watch that show"

Who knew falling in love with TV all over again could be so rewarding?

We had actually been pretty good over the past couple of years and took to reading books more than watchingTVv. When we were travelling, we rarely had aTVv and if we did have one, we were usually forced to watch game shows in a different language.

Having lots of channels and variety would be great. Plus, I could call my mom from the couch instead of from the pay phone.

They were to come this Saturday and we were counting down the days.

So, the call came into D last night as soon as he got home from work.

"Good evening sir, I'm calling from .Unfortunatelyy we won't be able to hook you up this weekend as we have run out of space in your building."

Run out of space? WHAT????? I know it's pretty populated over here but how do you run out of space for a tiny cable?

D - the lover of TV - almost had a coronary.

"What do you mean, you've run out of space?"

"There are not more phone line spaces sir, for us to get into your building."

"We don't care about the phone! We just want the cable"

"Oh sorry sir, we don't do that"

"Why?"

"Because we're a phone company"

HUH? WHAT? DUH?

So, you're a phone company. But you don't have any space left to add a phone line. And you can't give us cable unless we have a phone.

This was confusing enough to understand. Especially since when we asked him where else we could go for cable, he mumbled "I dunno" and sent us on our way.

Plan B - call what we thought to be another cable company.

Yes - good rate - all you need is a phone line.

Okay - now what? Phone another phone company.

Yes - we can set up your phone. Oh, but we have to install the line.

But, we already have the line - at least the capability to have one.

Oh yes, but it belongs to
WHAT....THE ..... FREAKIN?

I'm so lost. The fuzziness in my head now matches the fuzziness of our TV. Perhaps they'll cancel themselves out.

********

On a In A Funk note, I'm slowly slipping out of it. Happy to realize it was just Mother Nature rearing her ugly hormone head. Unhappy to hear the it seems I will become a hormone headcase once a month again.



Wednesday, April 21, 2004

In A Funk

It hit me last night that I have been extremely cranky the last couple of days. I don't know why.

I even feel, by posting this, that I'm admiting some weird defeat, in a way. Like I've been given everything I could ever want to be happy and I still seem to be moaning. Out of everyone I know, shouldn't I be the LAST person to be complaining?

Well, I did say that this would be a blog about my experiences. And this is all part of the experience, I guess.

Before we left Canada the first time, I used to get very upset and melancholy about my life. Things would upset me - my job, my money situation, my weight - and I would feel as though it was the end of the world.

It did usually come during a lady's favourite time of the month, when hormones were raging. Happy and content one minute, sad and angry the next. I used to hate it. So did D.

Perhaps that's what it is this time. But I haven't felt like this in over a year. Since we left, this is the first time I have had this same annoyed feeling, irritated by the silliest things.

I'm not getting as anxious as I used to be but I am definitely feeling defeated. I think I'm scared that I've finally gotten to the point I've been talking about getting to since last summer and now I have to really get out there, start applying for those publishing jobs and the worst little inkling in the back of my head...

What if I fail? What if I send all my resumes out and I hear NOTHING. What if my experience travelling around doesn't actually hold any weight? What if being from another country doesn't give me the edge - the hook - that I think it will? What if I have jepordized my career by taking off to gallavant around Europe for a year?

Then other voice pops in - when did you become obsessed with your career? What happened to that positive, big picture type of girl who was always now happy and grateful for what she had been given? Who had no regrets and never wanted to say she 'wished she hadn't...' ever again?

So, then, I get angry with myself. And even more irritated - WHY AM I FEELING LIKE THIS!??!!

I keep making jokes to D that I need the happy seratonin (sp) - the hormone high you get from exercising. Perhaps this is just my latest crutch.

I always seem to say, "Oh, well, I can't do A because I'm waiting for B, C and D to happen first".

D treds on dangerous grounds when he suggests ways to elimintate doing B or C or D. Is he suggesting that I don't know what I'm doing?

That I'm doing it WRONG!?

That I'm simply procrastinating, making up excuses, that I don't really have a focus or know what I want to do?

That I'm being too picky and should just apply to anything and everything that has to do with writing?

What's the point in taking a job I don't want to do now? Then, I'd be right back where I was a year and a half ago - back to the spot I said I would NEVER go again.

But he's just asking questions, trying to help. It's my sensitivity to it that makes me jump down his throat.

I have always hated being told what to do. I would clean my room, as long as my mother never asked me to. I would unload the dishwasher, as long as it wasn't 'my job' to do so. I don't know why but I just liked to do things, only if they were my own ideas.

Perhaps I'll feel better next week. Who knows. But I hate that I am feeling this way now. This person was GONE! GONE-DY! ASTA-LA-VISTA! AU REVIOUR!

How did she get back here?

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Thank You Anyone?

They're not as friendly to bus drivers on my new route as they are in Leeds.

In Leeds, every morning, when you got on the bus, you would say, 'good morning' or 'ya all right?' or at least 'hiya'.

It seems I am the only person who actually says 'good morning'. Feel a bit awkward as well. Like I'm doing something out of the norm, sticking out as a foreigner, as if my accent doesn't do that on its own.

In Leeds, as people would file off the bus, you would hear 'ta' and 'ta love' and 'cheers mate' or just plan 'cheers' sometimes 'thanks', very rarely a full 'thank you' but there was always a recognition that as bumpy and long as the ride was, it was muchly appreciated by all.

I wouldn't say it's because people in Belfast are rude. They have been some of the most polite people.

In Leeds, there was a harshness, a real in-your-face-no-pretenses-what-you-see-is-what-you-get-type of attitude that could be intimidating and appear rude. You had to get used to it. It was refreshing to not be patronized to but I can't say I ever got used to explaining why one says 'you're welcome'.

Belfast doesn't have that. It feels a lot more like I'm used to. I can judge people it seems a lot easier here and I seem to say things that sound less like I'm from a foreign country.

But this whole bus thing has me stumped. Everyone is so friendly and polite here - what's the deal with not thanking the driver?

Ah, the mysteries of life.

Monday, April 19, 2004

A Case of the MUndays

I know I've raved about this movie before on this blog but I just had to mention it again.

Office Space holds one of those 'poingnant moment' movies in my life. A movie that really sticks out in my head as giving a wake up call, sending you a message, an epiphany.

I know I know, I'm always being melodramtic and going on about these "significant" moments in my life. You must wonder if I ever get through a week with out a having some sort of "moment of understanding". I like to think it's because I'm quite a relfective person although I have a feeling it maybe more that I'm not all that observant.

I'm also very good at going on a tangent - where was I? Oh yes, my Office Space moment.

You know the first time you saw Dirty Dancing? When she does the jump at the end of the movie? You'll always remember wanting to find a guy that could move like that and DEEP DOWN wanted to find one that would stick up to your dad, even if he was the cop from Law and Order.

It was a similar feeling with Office Space, only not about love and nothing about my dad. The heros weren't hunky Patick Swayze and angelic 'Baby' but Peter, the office guy, and his girlfriend, played by Jennifer Aniston.

Peter tells his boss, in a calm manner, that he just wasn't going to be coming in to work anymore. Jen's character also became my hero when, which working as a waitress, she stated "this is me, expressing myself" while giving the finger to the restaurant manager.

Anyone who has ever worked in an office can appreciate this movie.

Anyone who has every worked in the service industry can appreciate this movie.

I've said a gazillion times but this is a movie that dares you to follow your dream of being yourself...even if it is telling the boss off.

And, on Friday night after out at girl party with ladies from work, I was so giddy that it was on tv.

I laughed and laughed. D has no idea how I can find a movie I've seen tons of times still so extremely hialrious.

It brings back memories of seeing it the first time and making a promise to myself that I wouldn't get stuck it a job where the secretary insists on annoucing that I have a 'case of the mondays' or where I am constantly cursing the printer with its' "PC LOAD LETTER" error message - what does that mean anyway?

When I first saw it, I could relate. And that's what made it funny.

I still laugh today. I guess any nostalgia cab be funny, even the not so enjoyable.

Friday, April 16, 2004

What a View

It's a beautiful sunny day in Belfast..and I'm stuck here at work.

I shouldn't complain. I've only been here since Wednesday. With Monday and Tuesday off, I worked my first ever 3 day work week.

I must admit, we haven't really seen that much sun since we arrived. People used to tell me you'll miss the sun. Well, I am actually, missing the sun.

When I was in Toronto, I loved to wander at lunch in the sun, grab a vendor dog or a huge box of salad from the salad bar and sit outside, enjoying the nice day. When summer came, it was always hot - most days there was always sun. YOu would rarely have a rainy day in the summer.

Over here, they always say, "you never know". They always are hesitant to speak of the summer months with too much enthusiasm in case the weather Gods are listening and decide to keep the sun away.

Last summer was spectacular in Leeds and here in Belfast I'm told. There was sun pretty much every day. I just assumed this was normal as it was what I was used to.

Not so normal. It has been rainy and windy most days I go for my lunch walk. But I have found something just as gratifying to do on my lunch break.

Every day, I leave my office at lunch and wander over to the mall across the street. With a big Sainsbury's grocery store, I always find an excuse to buy more food.

As I wander from the office, across a round-about, across a busy street I always make sure to look to my right.

There, towering above the city, off in the distance are the hills of Antrim - that's just what I've decided to call them because they are my breathtaking work-view. Somewhere beyond them I know there is the Coast Road - the drive that made me fall in love with this place.

This mountain view is the view that reminds me I'm here. You can see houses set along the mountainside. You can see beautiful green, probably so beautiful because of all the rain - I guess that makes it worth it.

Today was even more fantastic - the sun was bouncing off the tips, creating shadows for the buildings below.

You actually feel like you're in a little village in the valley of spectacular mountains.

I never thought I'd live or work in a place that would make up for the lack of sun.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Memories from a Month

I was editing a webpage with dates today and wrote "April". For some strange reason, I was reminded of a girl I knew when I was 10 or 11 named April.

I always though it facinating that she was named after a month. How clever of her parents to think "outside of the box" and give her a name that was not all that popular at the time.

I had just moved to the small town into our fantastic family home. As a 10 year old, I thought it was a mansion. I think it was when it was first built in the 1800s.

While there were many kids who went to my public school who lived in nice, 'normal' households, we also were home to the lesser fortunate or as we so lovingly called them 'skids'. Amazing how it's ingrained early on that image and money make you worthy. Or should I say, your parents, material things make you cool. Kids can be so cruel.

Being the 'new kid' in class meant that I wasn't really sure of the cool and not cool lines that had already been drawn in the small public school. April was one of the first people to talk to me. In hindsight, I suppose people who are the outcasts cling to each other and so, she recognized my uncomfortable state and reached out to be my friend.

It's funny to me to think that at that point, I was not yet jaded by popularity - just happy someone was trying to be my friend. It was only later I became obessed with the 'popular group' and friends like April kind of drifted away.

It's also surreal to think, at that age, we had a lot in common. Although, I do remember realizing that we were different.

I remember the first time I went to her house. It was big, old, grungy looking place on a street just around the corner from my house. It was set far back from the road - almost looked like a haunted house or one that an old hermit would live in.

She seemed a bit embarrased, I think, to even let me meet her family. It's a fuzzy memory, but I'm sure that I never met her mother, only heard her scratchy voice, bellowing out 'don't be too late' as she exhaled cigarette smoke.

This was a poingant moment for me. It was when I realized that not everybody had a life I had, with two loving parents, three fun siblings, a cat and a dog. Not everyone was the same. And I, was lucky.

Looking back as an adult, I wonder what torture it must have been for her. Having a mother - no sure where her father was but I think he was still married to her mother - who appeared so uncaring and unloving. And on top of that, to deal with the way kids treated her.

She didn't have many clothes. She used to get made fun of for wearing the same outfits. As we aged, she may have even had B.O.

Our friendship did not last for long. She was a year older than me and at that age, best friends change as much as your underwear.

But I would always say hello to her. I remember the years at 13 and 14 I would say hi in the hall and girls I was with would make a snide remark. "Do you know her? Why?".

I won't say I never did mean things or say horrible words to people but I always had a hard time treating other human beings inhumanely. I'm not pretending to be a saint, it's just the way I have always been. I hate to see people cry. I hate to see people's feelings hurt. And maybe, because being a kid with coke bottle glasses, you're bound to get some teasing, I knew how much words could really hurt. I never wanted to make anyone feel the way I felt by being teased.

Being a kid is hard work. Being a teenager is even harder. You don't have the benefit of normal working hormones or life experiences as an adult to help you recognize the kind of pain you are able to inflict.

I remember seeing April in high school, pregnant, working at the local doughnut shop. She seemed content, but I always wondered what she would become in later years. Another version of her mother? Or would she have learned lessons from that type of behaviour?

I'm sure she's quite happy now. I sometimes wonder what she's up to. I doubt she ever thinks of me. She would probably find it odd that she comes to my mind. And a bit scary.

But most importantly, she reminds me of when I realized that I was lucky. Although I frequently forget how fortunate I am, it's always important to have my memory bank give me a reminder.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

How Long Have I Been Here?

It has been a month at the end of the week that we fly from Canada. That means, that we have really only been in Belfast for 3 WEEKS. 3 WEEKS???!!!

It feels like I've been here forever.

Which is perhaps why I'm putting extra pressue on myself to get a career job as opposed to the temporary one I have right now. I feel like I'm going to start getting lazy and begin to feel content in the job that I have and never fufill my dream of getting back to writing for a living.

I'm getting so nervous that I'm at the point where I have been talking about for what seems like an eternity and I'm not actually doing anything to progress.

Then, I have to take a step back and it hits me: I have only been here for 3 WEEKS!! In that time I have:

Found a place to live
Found a job that pays well, has nice people and is mildly challenging
Socialised with locals - Belfast borns and not so locals - French couple from Brittany and Aussie from Cambria (sp)
Managed NOT to buy any clothes, even though many days of wandering through shops has been tempting

Perhaps it's because I feel like my life has been on hold since we left in 2002 and I'm comparing myself to that. But, since that time I have:

Travelled Europe
Lived in England
Become a Travel Editor
Moved back to Canada
Moved to Belfast

So really, what is there to stress about? Perhaps because I've accomplished all those things I feel like I should be getting a move on finding my dream job.

It will come. I know it will. I just have to be patient. I might even use a sticky note. I heard it made someone else's dreams come true.

********

On a personal note, Happy Birthday Erin, if I don't get to this before the date. I also have a lovely card sitting at home for you, which I have been unable to mail due to the Post Office being closed since LAST THURSDAY!!! for the Easter long weekend. Europeans sure do know how to milk a holiday.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

I Was Right

I've confirmed an concept that has been rolling around in my brain since we left Toronto in 2002.

It's sounds quite cliche but material things really do not bring you happiness. It's all in what you are doing with your time.

It's been proven to me over the last couple of weeks here in Belfast. Let me explain.

I have a really modern, clean, centrally located flat with a washer/dryer, fridge/freezer, bath and shower, balcony and trendy dining and living room furniture.

I am minutes from the movies, the market, the pubs, the library, the shops.

I have been able to buy things for the apartment this time because we are not pinching the pennies for months when we're not working and travelling.

I now have a work and play wardrobe with nice shoes, two outdoor jackets, and triple the amount of shirts, pants and skirts that I had last year.

All of this has not made me any happier than I was last year in our modest flat with a damp basement.

It's not that I'm not happy with the flat. Or the fact that I've gotten an interesting temp job. I am quite content.

It's just more that there is no extra happiness from it. A bit more comfort perhaps, but I think that is all relative. You become comfortable in situations.

I became comfortable in the flat in Leeds. I became comfortable with a bag on my back, wandering from city to city in search of accomodation. I became comfortable having to use public toilets or restaurant facilities to "go number 2".

I became comfortable wearing the same evening outfit in different cities - my "go to" black turtleneck with a beige skirt.

I became comfortable extending my hand to strangers who spoke English in strange countries just so that I could meet a new friend.

I became comfortable having to make decisions about everything I had to do in a day - where to sleep, what to do, what to see, where to eat.

You can be comfortable anywhere, doing anything. But you need to make sure you're happy.

I kinda sighed a bit of relief when I was explaining to a girl I met at a party the other night - (already meeting friends and being invited out!! much faster than in Leeds) - because it also affirmed to me that I did do the right thing by picking up and leaving it all.

I made the right decision when I chose my happiness over stuff.

I hope I always live my life that way. I hope I always find happiness in the little wonders of life and not the Prada shoes I'm hoping to be able to afford after I write my first book.

Monday, April 05, 2004

My Brain Is Mush

First, my comments seem to be gone. Perhaps it's just on the library computer. Hmm. Will investigate at work tomorrow.

Ah, yes, Work! I am happy to report that this is the first temp job that I do believe I will a) learn something new and b) further my career as a future freelancer/book editor/author/travel writer.

Working in an information centre dealing with queries and information all day really gets the brain going. No diary appointments. No email filtering for others. No scheduling. Or filing. Or answering EVERYONE's phone.

In a temp world, this is a step up.

I am so exhausted after my first day. I'm going through information overload. And I love it.

Do you know how long it has been since I feel like someone else has challenged my brain? Mosaic Minds has given me a good run for my money but the pressure always comes from me more than anyone else.

I had so much I wanted to say but I'm having trouble even forming one sentence let alone a coherent paragraph.

Why do I feel so at home and at ease here? I should investigate past life stuff or something. Belfast just rocks. I don't know. There really isn't any other way to describe it.

Well, it rocks except that I am starting to miss my buds. Ah well, been through this before...

Friday, April 02, 2004

Support Your Local Library

I am now free. Free to enter and write as much as I want. As long as it fits into an hour.

Got my library card today and a list of the Belfast library opening times. I am really part of the community.

I felt SUPER part of the community when after telling the fish man at the market that I was from Canada, he proceeded to have a full conversation which ended with me getting his name and a discount on the fish. Who knew an accent could be such an asset.

Feel like I've been in the flat we rented last Friday for a year. I'm also realizing how anal I am about clutter. I start having anxiety if things are in their place. "oooo..piece of paper...needs to go in the top drawer of the cabinet where the 'paper' goes..."

I'm sure Mosaic Minds has launched and I'm going to check it out right after I post but I wanted to get something uploaded before they kick me off the machine. Check it out.

My writing bug is back with a vengence. I just wish I had a computer. Or a typewriter.

Did a typing test the other day - 87 word per minute!!! - Although, that doesn't account for all the errors and the 'backspace, backpace, backspace' that I had to do.

I'll be back tomorrow with some relfections...some stories...and some observations...although, those words really all mean the same thing in the end don't they?

Ah, the Blarney has got to me all ready. I just can't shut up.

It feels good to feel at home.