Friday, February 28, 2014

This Is Not the Movies (long post)

Warning: some language.

Let's be honest, this blog is my therapy.  Sure it's nice to write and catch you up on stuff, but it also helps me to talk about things that happen.  Like last night.  Sooo.... I'm gonna start out with the not so good.

The not so good: I was at choir last night for practice and already for the first song I was a bit overwhelmed.  Remember I'm learning new music to new words in a new section (alto).  Not only on top of having to pay attention to all of that, I have to *try* to understand what the director is saying (thank goodness for hand gestures).  Oh and hey, did I mention the song we were working on changed time like.. 5 times?  3/2, 4/4, 3/4, 5/8 and hey, let's bring it back to 3/2 time again.  I almost lost my shit.  Okay, so mostly I just listen and word-follow until I get the hang of it.  We're on a small break between songs and this old man behind me taps me on the shoulder and starts saying something in Dutch at like, 100 mph.  My head kind of spins at that point and I say with a smile, "Woa, sorry sweetheart, you're gonna have to say that in English." "You're going to have to learn Dutch!" he says.  I want to burst into tears.  Instead, I pull myself together in a micro-second and say pleasantly with a smile, "I am!" He received that well and continued to tell me he could put a 'map' together for me if I'd like (map in Dutch = folder in English).  I said that would be wonderful and anything will help.

I was 'off' the rest of the practice.  I wanted to walk away, do an ugly cry and sit in that church and ask God why the HELL I'm even here.  So I did that, at coffee break (where we practice is a separate room from the nave of the church).  I didn't really feel like conversing with anyone else, so The Big Guy and I had a few words.  I stood facing the altar.  Well, perhaps I was more upset and angry and maybe doing a, "I've gotten myself into this, please help me get out of it" stare.  I took a breath and returned to practice, fighting back tears and asking myself the entire time, "Why am I even here?" & angry at the man's remarks.  I knew it was going to take one asshole to make a comment like that, I'm just surprised it took so long.

Now don't get me wrong, I sing with very pleasant people.  This is just a man who didn't bother to think before he spoke; I've been to like, 4 practices, I've been in the country 8 months, I'm not fluent yet.. and you can't start rambling to me out of nowhere at 100 mph thinking I'm going to understand you.  This is me being defensive.  If I'm going to be proper about it, maybe I need to take ownership of what I said, and maybe he was the one being defensive.  Maybe I could have worded what I said differently.  This isn't the first time.  Maybe I need to acknowledge this instance shook me to my core because he hit a nerve.  If I'm *really* honest, I need to acknowledge I haven't been pushing myself as hard as I a) should be and b) normally would to learn the language.  Why?  Multiple reasons I guess, but it doesn't matter right now.

When you see Julia Roberts (Eat, Pray, Love) move to Italy, practicing the language, speaking fluently without any negative responses or heartache, it lends romanticism to being in a new country.

Nothing prepares you for this transition.  Absolutely nothing.  I walked into this knowing there would be hard days, I knew it wouldn't always be easy and romantic.  But some days just drop kick you out of nowhere and you're lying on the ground with cartoon stars and exclamation points shaking your head wondering wtf.

Don't get me wrong, I still want to be here.  I still want to continue living and creating a life here.  When you ask me how I'm doing, I'll say fantastic.  That's 'cause the good out-weighs the bad ten-fold.  I don't know what these days do.  I guess they sort of keep me in check, remind me (like I needed it) that I'm the foreigner, keep me grounded, that with 1 person who doesn't understand, there are 20 who do. I've been out of my comfort zone for 8 months.  Do I even have a comfort zone here?  I don't know what defines that, yet. Also, I think your perception of inhabiting a country is different for when you just visit, or move there permanently.

Bah.  Enough of that stuff.  I need to catch you up on the good.

The great: I went to the retirement home a few weeks ago and had a meeting.  It went fantastic!  In a strange twist of fate, I went in inquiring about socializing with the residents, but once she heard about my food/kitchen experience, she was on me like white on rice to volunteer in the kitchen.  I don't think I could have said no if I wanted to :P  She told me they barely use their kitchen anymore (they bring food in).  Maybe basic things like soup or stamppot.  There's an oven there that's barely being used.  "Oh, that's so sad!" I said. "It is!" she returned.  So she was going to talk to her collegue and get back to me.  We now have a meeting next Thursday.  Dude... a kitchen all to myself.  I can't even wrap my head around it.  She took me for a tour and indeed, it was pretty empty.  That lonely oven was just sitting there, calling to me :P  So we'll see what they need me for and how else I can contribute.  The cogs are already turning.

I've created a Facebook page for my "business" (I still use the term loosely as I'm not fully developed yet), FKNL (Food Knows No Language).  Please go 'like' it if you haven't yet!  And W and I were looking at web hosting sites to see who we should go with, to make a webpage.  I still have to price my recipes, order packaging, make sure I have an extensive list of what I want to sell.  These are all tedious things and I keep putting them off.  When we create the webpage, I'll publish it here so you can take a look!

We've had great weather lately.  Temperatures have been hovering around 10 degrees C lately (aside from today and the next few).  Still, being so close to the sea it's cool and often windy.  Doesn't feel as nice as 10 degrees should.  I hear you're still getting hammered with snow back in Canada.  You must be sick of it.  Hang in there, March is just around the corner.

Busy day today so I'm going to get moving.  Not many plans for the weekend; W works tomorrow so I'm not sure how I'm going to fill my time.  I have a chat date in the afternoon though, that I'm highly looking forward to.  Sunday we've asked W's parents over for breakfast (pancakes - Canada style).  Maybe I'll go to market tomorrow morning, if the weather is pleasant (read: not raining).

Hope you have a great weekend!  Have fun!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Jobs? What Jobs?

So.. I'm really not 100% happy with yesterday's post.  I had a mix-mash of thoughts/emotions and I couldn't quite get them out and be as articulate as I would have preferred.  Yet it was a start and I think it's helped force me make more decisions (mentally) about letting go of this 'protection dome' I've created around myself.  I really need to let down all my defences (eek!) and get more involved in life.  This is my silent battle.

Anyhoo, the point of this post was to show you what I'm up against for jobs.  I believe when I first got here I told you I wasn't accepted for a job due to my age. This poster in a floral shop at the station is a prime example. Click to enlarge.

It says, "We are looking for an enthusiastic sales person/flower arranger (for lack of better translation), for 20 hours a week, must live in Leeuwarden. Age +/- 16 up to 19 years. Interested? Contact... yada yada yada.. "
Bah.  It's all crap.  Everyone around here is used to it but I sure as hell ain't yet.  It's all about money. Just wanted to show you that so you see for yourself that I'm not crazy :) 
I'm heading to the gym after lunch, coming home, having a quick shower and heading to the retirement home after.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

More Confessions (a long, rambling post)

I remember a quote that has stuck with me from many years ago, "Face fear with fear." I might have challenged the phrase a bit in my head now and then, but for some reason it always stuck with me.  Or perhaps you've heard,"There's nothing to fear but fear itself." That one is easy - fear can cripple you and incapacitate you.  Sometimes we give our fears too much of a voice and they take centre stage.  Sometimes we actually get to play the main character and tell fear to f*ck off.  I'm trying to make today one of those days.

In usual fashion, I'm voicing things outloud here that I haven't fully given voice to otherwise.  I think it's something I need to write down to make more tangible instead of continuously kicking it around in my head.  I think today I am ready. 

When I was at my 6-month mark here (Jan 4th) I felt a sort of shift; I became a bit more comfortable, a bit more settled.  Not completely, of course, but a new sort of settled than I was before.  The past month (wow, it actually has been a month as of today; I am now here 7 months) I've done a bit more shifting, a bit more... remembering how I would like things to be (instead of always feeling overwhelm or just trying to figure shit out or plan my future for the next 6 months).  This is good because it helps shift my perspective.  I think I've become a little self-absorbed (not in a way that affects others, in fact I have kept this persona very quiet and personal) when instead I need to be self-absorbed but in a, "I need to do .. whatever action... for my own benefit and productivity" sort of way.  I don't know if that makes sense?  Anyways, I'm getting off on a tangent.

I've neglected to inquire at the local seniors centre for volunteering because I know immediately there will be a language barrier.  Sometimes I get so (mentally) exhausted having to translate things in my head (rather what they're saying to me or what I need to say to them) that I just want to throw in the towel at the end of the day and not even try and just take a break.  I don't want to deal with puzzled looks, hesitations, fumbling.  It really is exhausting.  Even thinking about it exhausts me and causes anxiety.  But, I signed up for it, so I suppose I should suck it up.  Anyways, fear of a few things has prohibited me from speaking to anyone at the retirement home and I've just kept putting it off.  In fact, I originally had the plan of a girlfriend to come with me for support; she would do intro discussion and I didn't mind carrying on the rest, with some translation help of course.  She's incredibly busy, though, and getting together is difficult.  I haven't been ready to go it alone.  Until this week.  I don't want to wait anymore.  My desire to volunteer there because it's something I know I enjoy doing is starting to outweigh my fears of putting it off.  So I'm going to try to take my fear - the part of me that paralyzes me and incapacitates me - and go speak to someone at the home.  The worst that can happen?  We don't understand each other and I go back with my friend, or W. The best thing that could happen?  It gets the ball rolling right away.  I think that's  part of what scares me, too; that it's going to force me more interaction into people/society than I've had yet (which involves of course, more puzzled looks, more translations, more hesitations.. more exhaustion) but I have to treat this the way I did with choir; maybe my fears are bigger than reality.  Maybe I will be well received, even speaking mostly English, and I'll actually get along okay.

Since I'm getting over (yet another) cold, I went for a walk tonight instead of going to the gym.  It was dusk and there was just enough light to go around the neighbourhood for half an hour.  I was very cognizant of my walking; it was brisk, I was clenched and had irratic breathing.  No.  This was meant to be a relaxing walk.  I had to actually force myself to slow down my pace and breathing.  When more calm, I would still notice feelings of anxiety pop up now and then; I just had to breathe them out.

The theme that's been presented to me the past few days is to "let it go," whatever 'it' happened to be (I can think of a few examples where this applies).  Without going into a long story and making this an even longer post, I have been exhibiting possible personal attributes that are causing me to 'protect myself' (I use the term loosely). Protect myself from what I don't know, but I think being in a new land has affected me on a deeper level than I'm able to realize.  Getting on the plane and coming here was the easy part.  Integrating permanently in a country where you don't speak the language?  Much harder.  Whatever 'it' is that I'm protecting myself from, I need to let go of those fears.  I have to remind myself I'm surrounded by caring friends and family that are hella supportive and will catch me if I fall.  Oh... but what if I succeed.  I think for me that's even scarier.  But that's a whole other post.

So.. onward I go.  That's where my thinking stops, so if I come up with more you can be sure to hear from me. 

Hope the week is treating you well.

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