Friday, April 27, 2012

The little engine that could

Right now, I'm a mix of feeling like I'm on auto pilot and feeling the little engine that could.  Of all the times in my life, I'm gonna say that this feels the most challenging.  Yeah, I've had some challenging times in the past, but at least I had blind courage and physical strength behind me.  Both of which I feel elude me now.  The physical strength is obvious, I'm still recovering from what felt short of waking up in a bathtub of ice with an organ missing.  Ok, maybe that's a gross exageration, but my the recent and unexpected loss of an unncessary organ did feel like that.

But thankfully, I have blind courage.   That's my auto pilot, and except for a few times, it hasn't led me wrong.  Just when I think things are unbearable, I have the little engine that could mantra in my head of "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can" and somehow I do.

In the next few weeks, I'll be packing up (well, not me, some lovely movers) my Deutschland life and giving it up for a life in Switzerland.  It still seems surreal that after a quick 16 months in land of Deutsch, I'm packing it in and hitting the reset button.   But alas, after all that's happened, the reset button needed to be hit!

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can....

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Only girl in the world

I don't usually write much about dating.  It seems almost "too" personal to write about, but the way my luck has been with dating over the years, I certainly don't have much to lose.

I was recently dating someone for the past 3 months and for a while, I thought it was going really, really well.   Throughout my dating life, I haven't had issues getting dates, but I've had issues keeping them around for a while.  They mostly fizzle out because I have a short attention span and get bored easily, or after a while they just flake and fizzle out.   Like anything else in life, my motto is "pick youself up, dust yourself off and start all over again"  but this one hurt a bit more and I've finally figured out why!

To be fair, I knew he was "separated" when we met.  However, my understanding of the situation was that the only thing between them and divorce was a yearlong waiting period and since I've been there, I understood.

Because I've learned a thing or two along the way, I didn't let him in right way.  Bit by bit.  I vowed to never be one of those girls that would never trust again.  And we had a great time.  Sure, I saw signs like he wasn't communicating with me as openly or readily as I'd like and he didn't seem willing to make a lot of time for me.  But I rationed them with "he's not ready" and "he's really busy right now". 

Then I let him know I was in the hospital.  And though I certainly don't expect someone to be able to drop their entire lives, I was a little surprised at the lack of empathy on his part.  Again, I rationalized it all.

I hadn't poked in (and he hadn't volunteered) too much what "separated" meant.  A few odd comments poked their head in here and then, but again, I rationalized them.   The one comment that didn't sit well with me was "my ex knows you". WHAT THE (**&(* was my reply.  I don't know her.  Well, she found your business card and googled you. wait, you mean, you're still in close contact and how did she go into your wallet to find it?  Anyway, I foolishly didn't prod more and it sat awkward with me.   Then he seemed to withdraw.  Texts weren't coming as fast and furiously and interest seemed to drop off the earth.   So, for fun, in a moment of being at home ready to crawl the walls with boredom, I put 2 and 2 together.   Or more accurately, filled in the missing pieces with speculation and a facebook picture. 

You see, since she googled me, I then googled her.  To be fair, it was a month later,  I was home recovering and ready to crawl the walls and only after some things about him didn't sit well with me.  And, it turns out, though he thinks they're seperated, she doesn't seem to be on the same page, or at least willing to tell the universe so.  Her social networking page had a picture of the two of them happy as clams and her status is listed as "married".  **GULP**

I asked him about it and he got defensive to the point of being mad.  I, like most people, just wanted clarification.  The anger in his voice, non commitalness and the fact that he didn't show any understanding for the way I felt scared me.   I suggested we end it,  I'm assuming he's accepted my suggestion since I haven't heard back from him.

You know, Rihanna is onto something when she sings about being "the only girl in the world".   no, I don't expect anyone at this age to NOT have baggage or a past, but I DO expect them to make me feel like I'm the only girl in the world.  yeah, you can have a closet full of ex wives, that's great.  I just want to feel like I'm the one a guy wants to be with.  And I've noticed "that" is the single element missing in my past few years of dating.  Have female friends, have a life, have your career, have kids, have ex-wives, you name it, but I just want someone to FEEL like they want to be with me and FEEL strong enough for me to fight for me. 

Well, they say hindsight is 20/20 and I learned a valuable lesson on the way so I know it's not in vain.   Until then, I'm still at the point of my life and trying each new dish on the menu hoping to find my favorite.  And I'll have to give myself my own advice.  A friend is frustrated that she can't find the "right" new place to move into.  I told her, that's because the universe is making sure you're available for when you find the right apartment.  She looked at me and said "that sounds like good dating advice for you".  DAMN. busted, so swallow my own advice I will...

Monday, April 23, 2012

The day shit got real

Today is the 5th day since my surgery.  I have to say, I'm feeling less like I was drugged and got an organ stolen and more along the lines of being kicked in the gut by a donkey.  NOT that I have any idea what that feels like, but if you were to be kicked by a donkey, I'm pretty sure it would feel like this.

Today is also what high school motivational posters would call "the first day of the rest of your life"  or, what I prefer to refer to as "the day shit got real".  You see, in less than 3 weeks I'm supposed to be starting a new job in Switzerland, but, even though I've given notice at my current job 5 weeks ago, they still haven't confirmed when they'll "let" me go.   To the point where I've had to hire a lawyer to negotiate my exit.  Then, we have the added complication of my recent organ departure, obviously healing from that is top priority and work is the last thing on my mind.

And to make sure my life in Germany makes a good country song, I just found out the guy I've been dating and smitten with for the past 3 months is married.  Well, best case scenario is his ex still thinks they're married, worst case scenario IS that they're still married. 

I'm wise enough to know that somehow life will all work itself out and me worrying about things will only make it worse.  I have no idea how I'm going to prepare for a new country move while healing from surgery, but shit works out.  I know this to be true.  But still, is it wrong to want to bury myself under the cover for the next 2 weeks to make the world go away?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

You want a piece of me?

Well, I should have known from my experiences over the past 15 months, that Germany wouldn't want to spit me back out whole. Judging my all of my German experiences, it's inevitable I had to go out with a bang so I'm really not surprised by any of this.  But it "is" poetic.  You see, earlier this week, I had a serious abdominal cramp.  Nothing new for me, I've been a sufferer of abdominal mysterious pains for years.  I went to the doctor and at the first hint that my issue might be female related, he sent me off to the female doctor.  The female doctor checked me out and confirmed everything was in order, but she suspected my issue was appendicitis.  So off to the hospital I went.

My friends had warned me that you don't just show up to a German hospital.  You either arrive by ambulance or your doctor gives you a referral.  There seems be different buildings and not one general emergency but each building/specialty has it's own emergency room.  Thank god I knew this in advance, cause when I showed up, I was in such dire pain.  Far too much pain to even attempt to communicate in German and no one was speaking any english so charades was what it took!  After a quick ultrasound, it was decided I needed an appendectomy.  As I signed my life away in a foreign language, I got scared.  I haven't been operated on since I was 7 and now here I am getting it done in a language I don't understand!  In all of the forms I was filling out, I saw diagrams.  My first thought was "oh my god, it's an F*()*@@#( INSTRUCTION manual for the surgeon!"  Luckily, it wasn't for the surgeon, but it was information for me.  They were showing me which part they were going to cut off.

I got moved up to the ward where the nicest nurse with the best English greeted me and explained everything that was going to happen.  It was going to be ok.  A few hours later, I was given a sexy gown, cap and white thigh high nylons and whisked down to surgery.  I didn't realize how scared I was, until the surgery nurse grabbed my hand, said it was ok for me to cry and that it was all going to be ok.  I had to sign a few more forms and I was whisked onto the operating table.

I woke up from the anasthetic laughing trying to figure out why there were gorrillas in the surgery room.  Also, why there were waterfalls.  I kept asking anyone around why there were waterfalls but it was clearly a hallucination.  Props to the surgery team's sense of humor though for indulging me and saying "ah ya, they're special for you, you're Canadian, they're Niagara falls".  I must have been a nightmare surgery patient, because I kept asking the nurses for sunglasses (it was really bright!) and questioning the waterfalls.

When I got out of surgery, 3 of my friends were waiting for me.  It was such an awesome feeling to have them waiting for me (even though 1 was here on a visit from Canada!)  I hadn't realized how overwhelming and scary the experience would be.

My hospital roommate was a grumpy Franconian lady who never said two words to me (Franconia is this specfiic region of Germany and not known for it's warmth and friendliness) For nine hours, I didn't get a wink of sleep.  I thought there were no bears left in Europe, but clearly, I was sharing a room with the last remaining bear on the continent.

My entire 2 day stay in the hospital, I just shook my head.  Everything that's happened in the past 15 months from tenants' association, the threat of lawsuits, the craziest work experience I've ever had, all of it.  It all culminated to this moment in the hospital getting an organ cut off.  I'm not being ungrateful and I do know how much worse the situation could have been.  Still, there are few things scarier than needing surgery and scarier yet when you and everyone around you is communicating in charades. 

60 years ago, Tony Bennett sang about leaving his heart in San Francisco.  Well, I left my appendix in Bavaria.  Though I've made some great friends and experienced some great things, I don't think I'm going to miss everything that Germany has (and continues) to dish out at me.  It's safe to say I won't be writing a song about my experience and it's going to take me a while to physically (and mentally) get over the experience!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How I was sold a Ferrari but ended up with a Fiat

This is what I was sold, a shiny red Ferrari

This is what I ended up with.  Red and shiny, with a Ferrari logo, but not the same.

I’ve been trying to think of a way that would accurately describe my German work experience. Friends and family have been asking me for a year and a half how it’s been, why I’ve faced so many challenges and a lot of my German colleagues are just scratching their heads at the fact that I’m leaving. I’m the type of person that while something is going on, I’m not very expressive to those close to me how bad a situation is. It was the same case when I was married. It was bad, those really close to me had an inkling that it was a little bit bad, but no one really knew how bad it was til it was over. Though I’m a realist on the surface, I think deep down I’m an optimist, and if I’m a realist WHILE something is happening, I fear things will get worse. Anyhow, now that my German work experience is almost behind me, I’m ready to start processing it and describing it better. And, I believe I have captured my experience perfectly with an analogy. Basically, what it comes down to is this: I was sold a Ferrari and ended up with a Fiat.

You see, two years ago, I received a special invitation to step into the Ferrari showroom. I was ecstatic. I mean, here I was a loyal Volvo driver for the past 7 years and I was “special” enough to be invited to come into the Ferrari showroom. The Ferrari sales team gave me a big presentation about how great their cars are, the history of the company and how they were about to make a new line of cars. The line of cars wasn’t yet available in North America, so I had no way of knowing how they’d be. But on a bit of blind faith, name recognition and the urge to drive something new, I agreed on a contract to buy a Ferrari. Because Ferraris are expensive, the contract has a lot of clauses. But I was blinded by the red shiny sports car and the pure potential it had that I couldn’t imagine wanting to trade in my Ferrari anytime soon. Once the ink was dry on the contract, and I picked up the keys, I realized I was given a Fiat.

To be fair, a Fiat is a cute little car. But just because you paint it shiny red, put a Ferrari logo on it and put (3) racing stripes down the side, it’s still a Fiat. As soon as I started driving my new car, I realized there were issues. But what do you do? You just signed a contract! So, I hoped that since the car I was driving was red and shiny and had racing stripes that it would live up to the fact that it had a Ferrari sticker on it and it just had a few small kinks that would get worked out on the autobahn.

Well, months went by and my Fiat kept needing to go to the shop for repairs. It turns out that even though it’s red and shiny, the engine is still a Fiat. And it’s no coincidence that some say that Fiat stands for “fix it again, Tony”. Over the next year, I was constantly going back to the salesperson and telling them “my Fiat keeps breaking, it’s always in the shop” “You told me that my Fiat would go 300 km/h on the autobahn and I can’t get it past 120 without feeling like the whole thing is going to come apart” and “But I signed a contract for a Ferrari”. My complaints fell on deaf ears. Though I loved my nice reliable Volvo that I’d been driving for 7 years, I didn’t miss it. It was a solidly built car, but it wasn’t fun to drive anymore. But I knew that the Ferrari I agreed to buy, was a Fiat in Ferrari clothing. What to do??? Well, after 15 months of trying to pretend my Fiat is a Ferrari, I’m accepting that my Fiat will never go as fast as promised and will never be the Ferrari it promised to be. So I’ve gone back to the sales team and told them that I’m ready for a trade in. The sales team doesn’t want to lose a sale and admit false advertising, so I have my work cut out for me. But it’s safe to say, I’ve made my decision to hand in my Fiat, it was pretty, but it just didn’t work like it was supposed to. I’ve agreed to purchase a new car and this time, I kicked the tires a little harder and looked under the hood, so I’m hoping that the new car is a little more reliable. But that’s the thing with cars, you never do know, do you?

Thursday, April 05, 2012

How I almost ended up with a roof rack

A lifetime ago, I was referred to a few times as a control freak.  If control freak means the desire to know how things work and understanding the fine print, then I guess I was guilty.

Well, flash forward to life in Germany.  Everything has it's own system of working (not always designed with logic contrary to myth of German efficiency) and is in another language.  Surprisingly, I've gotten by all right (which to me confirms the fact that I wasn't a control freak to begin with!)  There have been a zillion hitches for sure, but I usually end up completing whatever task it is I have to do even if it involves charades and blank looks.

As a woman, there are few tasks more overwhelming than taking your car to the mechanic.  It's a task I've always dreaded.  I feel like the mechanics see a woman assume a lack of mechanical knowledge and see dollar signs.  Well, a few weeks ago, my little Golf binged and demanded service and so I had to take on this dreaded task.  And in German.

Step one, make an appointment.  easy enough, even in German.  In 15 months, my German skills have advanced so that I can make appointments in Germany (mostly due to the fact that I've had to see a doctor more times than I care to remember for being sick so often, but I digress)  I went up to the counter, asked for an appointment and was surprised when they couldn't tell me when my appointment would be.  You see, the guy at the counter only takes my name, registration papers, and phone number.   The mechanic calls me back, tells me what I need (I initially thought thru phsychic powers, but just by the km's on the car it turns out) and gives me an appointment.

Step two, drop car off.  easy enough, even in German.  Give them my key, figure out pick up time and we're set!

Now, my German skills are quite advanced for the length of time I've been here, I still hate talking on the phone.  So when the mechanical called me talking a hundred miles an hour with the background noise of an auto shop, I had no choice but to panic.  I wasn't understanding a word.  and at least in person, you get the benefit of charades.  Not an option on the phone.  After a whole bunch of times of "langsammer, bitte" (slower, please) and "ich verstehe nicht" (I don't understand) we somehow came to the conclusion my car was finished.  

When I got to the shop, they took me over to my car and pointed to parts of a roof rack on a trolley next to my car.  what the ???  They were asking me if they were mean to install the "dachbox" (roof rack)  now, I have NO idea if they were asking me if the roof rack was mine.  How did we end up here?  This, I have no idea.  Maybe when I thought I was being awesome at small talk in German and telling them I didn't need my summer tires on just yet because I was going to Austria this weekend, they thought that my Austria trip would be better with a roof rack? So confusing.   Just when I thought I could get by with some basic tasks, I almost end up with a roof rack.  No control freak would be ok with that.  ;)