Still alive…

In case you were wondering (probably, you weren’t, but I will pretend you were – makes me feel better) whether I was still alive: Yes, I am.

We finished our move, but actually, moving our stuff from A to B was the easiest part of the exercise. Lately, I’ve spent my days waiting for handymen. Eventually, they show up. Not on time, of course not, sometimes with a 9 hour delay, sometimes days later, but they do show up. Then they install something, they leave – and then I have to wait for them again to fix the thing they did wrong. Well, in all fairness, not always is it their fault but due to crappy material.

And now I am waiting to get telephone and internet access. We should have gotten it 2 weeks ago, but uh well… Someone who knows someone pulled a few strings. But then that somebody that somebody knew turned out to not work there anymore. Back to square one. Now we have a completely new system: We got a transaction key printed on a piece of paper which we had to put up in a way that it could be seen from the street. If a worker passes by, he will hopefully stop, knock on our door and install our internet. Sounds simple? Well, in order to put up that piece of paper, we had to ask security of our compound. Security had to ask their supervisor who then let us put up the sign for 24 hours. I have no idea what happens if noone stops by within those 24 hours. But I will only be waiting until Thursday, because then I will be off to Seattle for a mini vacation!

So, yeah, in case you missed me (which you didn’t, but don’t tell me, I need a little bit of comfort these days), I am still holding up in my little “moving mess”. And on a different note: We love our new house – with or without internet!

Thoughts on… stuff

Right now, we are in the middle of moving. Again. This time to a new home in the same neighbourhood, and while I keep packing I think of all those moves I made over the years.

Since 1997 (which is the year I moved out of my parents’ home), I have moved 10 times, and what really scares me everytime is how much stuff I / we have – and it is getting more and more.

Don’t get me wrong, I am far from being a hoarder, I LOVE to throw things out. I very frequently scan my wardrobe e.g. and throw everything away, that I haven’t worn in 2 years. But of course, some things I could just never throw away. Some pieces may seem like nothing to most people, but memories are inherent in them, and when I look at them, a part of my life opens up again. Like those two tiny green schnaps glasses that I inherited from my mum. My parents got those for their wedding, and when I was little, each time I looked at them I could picture my parents as bride and groom – which appealed to my girly romantic nature.

My beloved custard jar.

Or a rather shabby looking jar that my mum used to serve custard in when we had dessert. Whenever I look at that jar, I can picture us all sitting around the table enjoying a baked apple with custard. I also keep a collection of letters and cards that I look at every now and then, only to remember that my grandma travelled Greece in 1982, the year I started elementary school or that my best friend got into a fight with her maths teacher in 1986. Good times when we still took the time to write postcards instead of updating our status on FB… And I still keep a box filled with love letters of my first boyfriend who used to write me a letter every day. How could I throw these out? It seems like there is a whole period of my life preserved in those things.

Yes, it is nice to keep things that hold memories. Other things we buy because we think we need them or because we just like them so much. And while it is great to have them, I feel on the other hand that all those things that we have accumulated over the years, are weighing me down. How did we end up with so much stuff? And how much more is it going to be?

My first flat was a tiny studio. The kitchen just had a sink, 2 burners (no oven), a tiny fridge (even tinier than the regular German fridges) and a little cupboard that could hold my 4 plates, 4 cups and some glasses and cutlery. My bed/living room had a bed, a small wardrobe, many bookshelves and a tiny table with 4 chairs, and the bathroom was big enough that I could sit down while peeing. But I was so proud and so happy, and when I met Mr. R., he even moved in with me for quite a while since he had a long commute otherwise.

However, after 2.5 years, I decided it was time for a bigger place, and I added a sofa, a coffee table, and a washing machine to my possessions and stocked up on china and glasswear. Still my clothes and my shoes all fit into the same tiny wardrobe, and I hadn’t got into the habit of collecting bags yet. Mr. R. also got himself a new flat not far from mine, and we started to go back and forth between our places.

Moving back then wasn’t a big issue and could be done in a day. Nowadays, it is getting more and more difficult, as it is getting more and more difficult to find a place that offers enough space for all our stuff. At the same time, I still think that we never were happier than when we started living together in my tiny studio. Taking this into account, I almost wish that the movers might break some stuff – just not that custard jar! Or the schnaps glasses…

When we arrived to Mexico, we had 147 boxes to unpack…

How about you? Have you moved recently? Have you, too, accumulated things over the years, or do you manage to keep your possessions at an even level?

Fun and Games at the Licensing Department

An assortment of Belgian chocolates

An assortment of Belgian chocolates (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I had an appointment at the licensing department to renew my driving licence. Those authority dates are always interesting, it’s a bit like Forrest Gump‘s box of chocolates: You never know what you’re gonna get.

First, you always have to bring loads of papers. And since at the licensing department printers are almost always out of order, it is best to bring the respective copies as well. They want to see the passport, the visa, birth certificate, and my favourite: a comprobante de domicilio, a proof of residency. We don’t do that in Germany, nor in Switzerland, but I know this system from the States. Where it actually makes sense. I guess.

Here, a proof of residency is like in the US an official invoice, be it from the electricity  company or a water bill or whatever. However, unless you bring a phone bill, that invoice never carries your name since you never have to sign up for any of these services. You just keep paying the invoices that land at your doorstep (or in the nearest cactus). So our invoices all are under our landlord’s name. I find that a tad weird: I could just take my friend’s invoice and pretend that was my address. No pudding, no proof. But anyway, once I had handed in all my papers (and copies) and had completed a form, I had to wait in line for my vision test.

I managed to thievishly take a picture.

The vision test takes place in one big room together with everything else. You can take a seat on a wooden bench, and if they call your name, you step forward. Then you have to stand behind an imaginary line that the doctor shows you and cover one eye with a little thingy. Everybody in the room goes quiet for everyone is eager to see how you are doing. The doctor then points at various letters and you have to call out what you see. If you do it wrong, the doctor tries really hard to find a letter that you can read, if not, you won’t get your license but have to get glasses first. Makes sense.

Afterwards, you pay, get your photo shot and check your data on a big screen which is always interesting for everybody. Honestly, the sense of community is huge in those offices! Then they hand you your driving licence. Pretty easy. However, I had to think of the first time that I went. I was very nervous back then, because I had to do a driving test, and I wasn’t so sure about traffic rules. Are there any? Am I actually allowed to overtake on all lanes? Am I supposed to stop at all the red lights? If everybody does it (or doesn’t do it), does it mean it is legal?

Well, I shouldn’t have worried. Upon entering, the staff spotted I was an expat who probably spoke no Spanish, so I could already skip the written test. (But at least that was a hint that rules exist, right?) Then I had to take my car and get in line for the driving test.

Luckily, I was accompanied by a colleague of my husband’s who happens to be a friend of El Jefe. So we were standing in line watching a big lady on a small scooter trying to drive around some cones. She failed miserably, but nevertheless, the tester gave her a pat on her shaking back, and she got her license. Not only did I feel happy for her but also relieved to see that apparently, they were not that strict. However, my husband’s colleague got a little antsy since he had to get back to work, so he went over to the tester, they talked, laughed, some pats on the back (very common here) – and to my astonishment, I was good to go. My companion had been asked whether he had seen me driving which he confirmed, and that was good enough.

Mr. R. didn’t have such luck, he had to show he knew how to drive. His drive tester was a young woman who was more interested in her pink plastic nails than in what my husband did, though. And he didn’t have to do much, only drive once around the block with 40 km/h (25 mph), and he, too, got his license.

When I compare our experience here with what my expat friends in Europe had to go through, I have to say that we are pretty lucky. And we even get an entertainment programme for free – it’s almost a shame our license is now good for 5 years!

Inspired by a hate mail – amazing but true!

Success. This subject has been on my mind for quite some time.

But let me ask you first: Do you also sometimes get hate mails in response to your posts? While I haven’t received any on my English blog (yet), I did get a couple on my German blog. Which makes me think: Geez, Germans, relax! But no, Germans are not famous for being relaxed, and if I daresay so: apparently also not for having a great sense of humour. OK, OK, I get it, my sense of humour is not for everybody, but that’s life. Very often I read something or see something on TV and think: “Not my cup of tea”, however, I never write those guts hating, fire and brimstone breathing emails. Not only because I am too lazy, but mostly because I just decide to switch off.

Anyway. So this person commented on my post about Mexican driving and how much I loved it. Funny thing, huh? I really meant it this time, but this poor person had probably already been so confused by my sarcasm that he or she burst out in tears. (I somehow believe it was a woman, so let’s stick with “she” to make it easier.)

She claimed that I was scum and didn’t deserve being called a human being, that my writing made her sick and that I should go to hell. Well, nothing special, she probably copied that from some courtroom show – they have some really bad ones in Germany. This whole incident was rather laughable. However, she also got me inspired – and I believe she would really hate that if only she knew!

Teacher

Poor guy. He is too dumb to find a job. (Photo credit: tim ellis)

She told me that I was too stupid to find a job (funny, I wonder whether she tells this to her children’s teachers as well!) and just spent my husband’s money (nothing wrong with that, is there?) and that I had accomplished nothing in my life and was a total failure. Apart from the fact that it is funny how someone apparently gets to know your whole life by reading a little blog, that got me thinking about accomplishments and success. What is success? What does a successful life look like? Is it all about a career? If so, I would have to say, yes, I have been successful, I have reached every single goal I had set for myself, and I enjoyed (almost) every step of it. But then I gave up my career for my husband who seemed the bigger priority all of a sudden. Now I am not pursuing a career anymore, but I have a job that is fun and keeps me mentally challenged. If someone had asked me 5 years ago whether I was successful, I would have said yes and pointed out my professional achievements. If someone today asked me, I wouldn’t think of my professional life anymore. Priorities in life can change, for me they have. Maybe they will change again in the future, who knows. For me, also the definition of success has changed.

Let me give you two examples:

SUCCESS (magazine)

SUCCESS (magazine) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A friend of mine studied very, very hard, and it paid off. He landed a very well paid job right after university, he has lived in many different countries, and he clearly is well off. However, he claims to be lonely. Although he is very good looking, smart as a whip, funny and (at times) charming, he always tenses up around women. That’s why we were rather surprised to hear a few years ago that he had got married. After a couple of years, though, his wife left him for he wouldn’t really let her in but kept her (emotionally) at a safe distance. He felt very sad and helpless after the divorce, and has been single since for he can’t find a woman who is right for him. Now, does he lead a successful life because he has a good job and is loaded? Is loneliness just the price we pay for success? Or are there other ways to be successful?

Another friend of mine had been pursuing a career in the fashion industry. She was always the very pretty, very chic, very smart one, and we were having a blast at countless parties. It came as a surprise when she lost her heart to a man on a different continent, gave up everything, moved to a far-away country to not only be with him, but also to have 3 children with him. They are both running their own language school, but things were tough and they still just make enough money to cover the costs of everyday life. Clearly, she would have been more successful in her previous profession, and she would have worn more Prada and Gucci in her life, but when I see pictures of her and her family, she is always beaming, and I keep thinking that her life has been a success through and through.

I believe that success is very subjective and not measurable by anything but by everybody him/herself. There is no right or wrong, everybody has to decide where his/her priorities lie. And again, that might change from time to time. To me, successful people are those who listen to their hearts, who follow their dreams and do not regret the choices they made, even when going through a rough patch (and we all have those).

What about you? Do you feel successful and if so, why? How would you define success?