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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Anniversary of Sorts

Well, it has been one year since I began calling Dornbirn home. And wow what a year.

I have to be honest; it wasn’t easy - in fact at times it as down right brutal. My first few months were filled with unanticipated solitude and disappointment. I quickly discovered that my Austrian BFF was a bust. My search for a flat was as difficult as my hotel room was small. I missed my son, family and friends. The dialect spoken here was a challenge for me. The few belongings I had fit on one luggage trolley.

I was seriously tested. My normally positive outlook was replaced by a series of emotions that lead me on the wildest emotional roller coaster of my life. I can’t imagine that I was much fun to be around.

But I hung in. If you ask me why I made the decision to stay, I would have to say it was only because I didn't want to give up. Or maybe it was my friends and family that encouraged me not to give up. At least that was how it was in the beginning anyway. Because, thankfully, before long things started to change. Acquaintances and even adversaries transformed into trusted friends. I found a flat. My son, mother and friends came to visit me. People started to better understand my fragmented German. I made not one, but a few new Austrian BFF’s. I actually had people I could text and texted me.

So, I am happy to say that one year later my life does not near resemble the one that began last January. And, I do not know if I would change any part of this experience. I was forced to discover things about myself that would have evaded me otherwise...and the people, the places, the countless new experiences - I kind of think that there is some truth to the adage that we should "do what scares us the most." The biggest risks indeed result in the greatest gain.

Plus there is the incredible satisfaction of not wondering "what if?"

Who knows how this journey of mine will twist and turn. Though there is one thing that I do know, no matter what I do or where I happen to be I will continue to be inspired by the remarkable people that make up such an important part of my life - here, there and everywhere...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Margin of Error

I call the margin of error, and I am missing it.

You see, here in Austria and particularly Vorarlberg things are pretty locked down and structured. Heck, while I am at, lets extend that line of thought to Switzerland and Germany.

It is all about rules and processes. And, what is most remarkable for an expat like me is the fact that people actually heed them.

Let me paint a scene for you. Imagine for a moment you are listening to your favourite song. The windows are rolled up so you are giving it all you’ve got. Of course you are going the speed limit, however fully engaged in a rock star moment you let your focus waver for just a moment. I mean how long is your favourite song – it can’t be more than 3.25 minutes I am guessing. So the vehicle exceeds, albeit briefly the designated speed limit. But before you know it - BAM! Monster flash goes off. Great would have been if that had been an extension of the rock star moment, but alas, it is not. You’ve been pegged, caught and captured on film going an unpardonable 6 kilometers over the speed limit.

No that was not a typo, I did indeed write 6 kilometers. No margin of error there.

I have come to the conclusion that Canadians are a bit of a laid back sort. We like our margin of error. Six kilometers over the speed limit? That’s not even worth a police officer putting down his Tim Horton’s coffee for, he already understands that the driver likely didn’t mean it. I mean, if you are going to speed – make it worth not finishing a donut for.

And hey – if you are wondering just how much that 6-kilometer over the limit rock star moment is going to cost you - I can tell you exactly how much. In Switzerland it is a 120 Swiss Francs.

Happy Little Diddy out of Switzerland

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Friday the 13th Diet

“I’m sorry, I can’t let you do that ‘mam. I can tell you are the sort of person who will wake up in the morning and regret that decision.”

Rendered speechless I could only stare up at the man as he continued. “I suggest one of our salads. The grilled salmon is particularly good,” he kindly offered.

I stammered back, “but I think I am hungry enough for the burger.”

“Mam,” he began again, “I will make sure you don’t leave here hungry.”

And with that, off he went.

The most shocking thing for me was that someone would dare say such a thing. But then I was having that sort of day. I won’t bother with details, except that I hope when someone discovers one day that the computer skin they have in their hand is mine, they may consider how potentially complicated they made another person’s day.

Alas, so here I am in Washington DC wanting a burger but instead about to get a salad. However, it is Friday the 13th and I can’t help but think the whole day is seemingly fitting.

My salad arrived and in all fairness it was great. But I couldn’t help feel some envy as I noticed a fellow at a neighbouring table devour what looked like a really good burger.

The next day I worked up a giant appetite following a long day of taking in many of DC’s famous sites. Still craving a big gourmet style burger I made my way to another neighbouring restaurant. Delighted to find a burger on the menu I knew exactly what I was going to order. Then arrived the waiter. “I am going to have the burger I announced,” with both confidence and determination.

“Mam, did we tell you about the fish of the day yet? It comes highly recommended,” he furthered.

Completely rattled at this point I started to wonder if the whole world could now see exactly how many cookies I had eaten over the holidays. As much as I wanted the burger, I wasn’t about to risk the remorse the waiter had hinted at the day before.

Fish it was.

It is my first trip (albeit completely unanticipated) to Washington DC and I have to admit I like and enjoy the warmth and friendliness of the people here. Strangers have stopped to pay me an unexpected complement; people are quick with a smile, a hello and a helping hand - that in combination with the city’s many sites and history make it a worthwhile place to visit.

However, it is also a good place to go if you are considering a diet.