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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fall Gratitude

It is by far my most favourite season.  Snuggling with a special someone, long dinners with friends, the sound of leaves crunching as I walk. I love fall.

A Perfect Sunday Morning

This morning I woke from a long, deep sleep.  Because it is Sunday I allowed myself the luxury of remaining all snuggled in bed while slowly waking for the day. When I was ready I rolled over to check my phone to see if anything traumatic had occurred during my slumber. A text from my BFF awaited me.  "Isn't it wonderful to wake alone and be free of drama?  To slowly begin the day and drink too many coffees and have no where you have to be?" 

I had to agree.  As I write this I am sipping my second coffee of the morning.  A half eaten oatmeal cookie made by my Grossmutter lay near by.  A couple of hours of work followed by a concert with a good friend awaits later in the day.  

A colleague of mine has a habit of saying "Dawn, you have the perfect life."  To be honest, this annoys me.  I have days, weeks and even months that seem to test me in every possible way - but I do my best to fight through them.  Just like everyone.  However, in moments like these, I cannot help but agree.  

Damn it feels good to be me...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Shedding an Inhibition

My friend and I have started a once per week wellness evening.  It is our effort to replenish our bodies from the ill effects of a rather fun filled summer.  

A few weeks in and I am completely hooked.  This is a rather European thing to do - sauna evenings I mean.  I am shocked as to why we do not do more of this in Canada.  It seems like sort of a Canadian thing to do.

At first I was rather tentative.  Particularly because the whole sauna thing requires one to be comfortable with nudity.  At one point and time in my life I would have have refused absolutely to entertain the notion of shedding my clothes.  However, as the years melt into each other, I find myself adopting more and more of the European ways.  I have learned to enjoy a minimalist lifestyle, I spend money differently than I did back in Canada, I have completely embraced the social routines associated with Swiss life and now I have joined the countless others who head on down to the sauna and shed their attire for a few hours of self indulgence.

As a Canadian, I am filled with the inhibitions that come with our society.  I simply didn't get the whole naked sauna thing.  My friends here could not understand why I was so uptight .  But, as the years pass, my learned Canadian inhibitions become less prevalent.  And then the day came when I was ready to give it a whirl.

I tried to explain to my friend after how the experience moved me.  For her it is a normal thing to do.  But for me, I had to accept myself as I was.  There was no where to hide.  As I sat in the scorching heat of the sauna I felt free.  No one cared about how I looked.  Nor did I them.  We were there for something else.  We were there to enjoy the quiet, the heat, and the pleasure of self indulgence.  And the losing the clothes thing?  Not such a big deal after all...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Baking Day Panic Attack

Today is a big day for me.  Yep.  It is baking day.  

My friend likes to host international dinner parties.  They are pretty cool evenings.  Approximately 20 plus strangers gather together for dinner.  Each brings a dish reminiscent of their home country.  Basically we get  together and  share a delicious mix of food and culture.  

The last time I did it got away with a fruit salad drizzled in maple syrup.  Typical Canadian dish.  Not.  Okay, the maple syrup was typical.  Today however, I am going to shake things up.  I am going to bake fruit pies.  Not crazy ambitious, but certainly more so than the fruit salad.

First panic attack occurred when I realized that my trusted pastry recipe was safety stored somewhere back in Canada.  A few minutes on the computer, and Google lead me to a four star recipe that promised not to disappoint.  I entered the kitchen.  Second panic attack.  No pie plates.  A quick text to my gal pal and she told me where I could procure some pie dishes close by.  Emailed myself the shopping list for the pies.  Third panic attack.  What is lard in German?  

By this time I am starting to ponder whether maple syrup drizzled over vanilla ice cream would suffice. Alas, I am determined, and ready myself to shop for the necessary dishes and ingredients.

Forth panic attack.  How does one carry multiple pies on trams and through the twisty, hilly walkways of Zurich old town?

Then I got to thinking, in Canada it is customary to purchase chocolate cake at the local bakery...

And now it feels somehow fitting that I share another Canadian singer/songwriter.  Chantal Kreviazuk with "Feels like Home."  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Reason

It is Saturday morning and I am enjoying some text chats with a couple of girlfriends while sipping on my fourth morning coffee.   

I am aware that there is nothing particularly unique about that, however this has become an important part of my morning start.

One of the best things about family is that they know you in a way that most people do not.  There is also a great deal of comfort in that. You have the freedom to be exactly as you are - without judgement. 

As an expat, you miss that.  Family is far away and often the time zones make communication a challenge.   The opportunity to be with family is not as easy as it once was so the potential to be lonely is prevalent.  There are many an expat event.  You see the guys and gals mingling and chatting, enjoying the momentary intimacy that these events provide.  Sometimes people win the jackpot and connect with another similar soul, but more often than not it is only temporary.  Still, these events are essential - for without them we would be starved.  And I suppose even though intimate relationships are not so common, there is still a kinship amongst us all.  We have similar challenges, needs and lifestyle.  

I've been living abroad for over three years officially.  Unofficially it has been over four.  Enough time to strain the friendships I enjoyed back home.  Enough time to get used to not celebrating special events and days with family.  Enough time to crave a deeper type of intimacy in my now familiar surroundings.  

As I am texting back and forth with my girlfriends I am comforted.  They know my deepest and darkest secrets.  They know my fears, my desires.  I know theirs.  The veil of pretence has long fallen.  I share this type of communication with a guy pal too.  When he met my son for the first time, he said it was like meeting an old friend since he already knew him through me and my countless stories.  

Yesterday I read an editorial on how as humans we crave intimacy - but we also fear it.  It touched on the fact that many of us turn to social media to satiate our desire for a deeper connection.  That is something that I simply cannot do.  I need the banter, the shared laughter and the sometimes needed hug that can only be experienced in person.  Yet, I do not know of many people who are more fearful of intimacy than I.  In the past my family served as safe zone. Outside of that, was a crafted facade that was years in the making.  However, this whole experience forced me to change.  A little anyway.

I have not lost the connection with my family, it is in many ways even deeper than before.  Something I am grateful for every moment of every day.   But the distance of the comforting arms of my family was too far away in moments I longed for something more than a superficial intimacy.  I had to take a chance or live with the ache of loneliness of being alone.

So here I am.  In my pjs, sipping my coffee, texting with those that know me best.  We share our mistakes, our heartaches, our successes.  I am a happier person as a result.  Unburdened.  Some people manage this without being forced.  I didn't - or couldn't.  I cannot help but consider the irony of it all.  There are few things more rewarding than intimacy - yet as much as we crave it, we also run from it.  Me included.  I don't profess to have mastered it - its simply a reflection on something this journey abroad has forced me to try.  And I am glad I did...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Never Forget

I was a bit reflective this week.  Thinking about the past - the moments, the people.  The ones I left behind.  

So many memories.  

It is difficult sometimes - to rationalize the need to make a change.  

I had to take a moment and say that I am filled with gratitude to those who have held my hand, comforted me and most importantly given me the push to do what I needed to do.   


Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Italian Faux Pas

I remember the first time my Italian friend made me dinner.  He asked me to set the table which I did.  When he saw what I had done, he said "we are having spaghetti, not soup."  Confused I pointed out that because we were having spaghetti I had put the large spoons out.

"You use only a fork, not a fork and a spoon," he replied with a tone akin to what I would expect him to use if I had done something utterly ridiculous.  Just when I was about to protest he added that spoons with spaghetti were so 'American'.  I don't know why, but this sentiment makes me completely uncomfortable.  I loathe it.  There is absolutely no rational explanation for how defensive I become when I hear such a comment, but alas, I do.  I had no other option other than to put the spoons away.

So I made my way through the spaghetti dinner.  It is not as easy as one thinks this fork only thing.  Dinner took me a lot longer than it should have - although he may suggest instead that it was my constant whining about the impracticality of fork only spaghetti eating that added the greatest amount of time.  However, I am the one telling this story so we shall instead go with my version of the details.

Fast forward a year later.  I am out having dinner  again with this friend.  It was a wonderful warm evening  and we were enjoying catching up on the latest developments in both of our lives.  The wine was finished and we were ready for coffee.  I ordered my customary after dinner cappuccino.

"Dawn, do me a favour and please do not do such a thing in Italy."  I had no clue what he meant.   "Cappuccinos are for breakfast, only tourists do such a thing after lunch."  

Bloody hell.  That sounded ridiculous to me, so I held firm.  I lingered over my cappuccino while he downed his espresso.  For some reason I felt that I had won that one - and frankly speaking, I like to win.

A few days later I was having lunch with a colleague and ordered a cappuccino. "Dawn!" he said.  "How can you do such a thing?"  It was then that it hit me - my colleague was also Italian.  "That is fattening right after lunch."  I pretended to enjoy my cappuccino while at the same time pondering if I had completely negated the benefits of the salad I had consumed for lunch instead of the quiche I really wanted - all for the stupid cappuccino.

A few days later my friend texted me a link to one of the top Italian news sources.  The article was actually a summary of the top things North Americans do in Italy that make them snicker at us.  At the top of the list was cappuccino.  

Yeah.  Well, I think you can guess the sort of affect that had on me.  Turns out I didn't 'win' that one after all...  

(A new one from Canadian band Hedley 'Anything' - warning, has quite a few F-bombs in it!)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Stressful Kiss

Kissing is a big thing in Switzerland.  Actually, it is in Europe in general. Some places two kisses are customary, but here it is three.   

In Canada we hug, shake hands or do nothing.  A kiss is for family or lovers.  So for me, this kissing thing was at first extraordinarily uncomfortable.  However, as the adage goes "when in Rome" I went with the customary three kiss greeting hello and the three kiss good bye.  In fact, it is now so completely reflexive that if someone hugs me I get a bit thrown off.  

Today however, I found myself once again in the to kiss or not to kiss predicament.  I was at the train station with two male colleagues. All was normal until one had to leave to catch his train.  Normally in business environments we shake hands. Kiss greetings and farewells are for out of office activities with friends and acquaintances.  Normally.  Anyway, the two guys shook hands, and when it came to me it got awkward.   This fellow is both a collegue and a friend.  We were out of the office.  The handshake seemed too impersonal.  A three kiss farewell seemed wrong in front of the other colleague.  To me.  I think not to anyone else there.  

In the end, I shook his hand.  It felt completely strange.  He laughed at my uncertainty and the handshake.   "We could just hug" he offered.  

...and that was about when I said "see you Monday" and left.  Who knew kissing could be so stressful?

Sunday, September 1, 2013