Let’s be on time!

Last week, my world crumbled. It was handymen week, one of my very favourite times of the year as some of you may recall. But shocking as it may be: Everybody showed up on time! I know, I still have to pinch myself really hard, but it most definitely happened.

The guys beamed at me when I breathlessly (I had to hurry downstairs, who expects anyone to be on time for heaven’s sake?) pointed out a miracle had happened. And that made me think (once again) about punctuality.

(Copyright: Anne Taintor, http://www.annetaintor.com)

I am a very punctual person. Full stop. That might not surprise you given that I am German and those are famous for being on time, aren’t they? But I haven’t always been this way. As a matter of fact, for most of my adulthood, I had considered running late quite fashionable as did most of my friends at that time. The question would always be, who comes in last? You know, it seems so much more interesting when you rush into a bar with this diva-like air of stress. Everybody is looking at you while you get to tell the most amazing story about why you are being late. After you’ve ordered the champagne that is.

So this pattern worked just fine for me most of the time. However, I had one very friend who refused to be anything like a diva, and she was always, always, I mean: ALWAYS on time. And although I knew this, I couldn’t snap out of my habit, so when we had agreed to meet at 8, I knew I had to leave my home at 7:45. But mostly, I had just started to get dressed at that time and would only be ready to leave at 8 – by which time my friend would have already arrived at the bar. Every time I felt bad, yet I somehow just didn’t manage to get out of the house in a timely fashion.

Until I read an article somewhere that quoted someone saying that it was a matter of respect to be on time. If I come late, I consider my time more valuable than somebody else’s for I expect the other one to have nothing better to do than to wait for me. Whereas I apparently have something better to do than to hang out with that someone. Made sense to me. All of a sudden, this whole diva thing wasn’t so appealing to me anymore, and ever since reading this statement, I have tried hard to be annoyingly on time. And if I cannot help it but run 5 minutes late, I at least let the other one know.

And so here I am in one of the most unpunctual countries in the world… But I don’t give up, I still haven’t given in to tardiness – and there is a teensy-weensy hope that it might rub off on some people…

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File:Spam with cans.jpeg

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Valentine’s Yada Yada…

We can’t get away from the fact that it’s Valentine’s Day, so brace yourself for the obligatory Valentine’s post.

Early 20th century Valentine's Day card, showi...

This lady seems ecstatic about Valentine’s Day, too. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mr. R. and I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. I’d prefer to get flowers every now and then (a fact mostly forgotten by my undoubtedly wonderful husband) and not just on February 14th when they cost a fortune anyway… The happiest people of all that day are anyway the flower vendors and Hallmark shop owners. I can’t help but notice the big smiles on their faces (probably they are just calculating how many more roses / cards they have to sell until they can buy themselves a new Mercedes). However, I do remember one Valentine, I believe it was our first, when Mr. R. sent me the most amazing bouquet to the hotel where I was working at that time. I felt like a real princess! Maybe I even felt a little happier than the flower guy that day.When I came to think of that moment, I also started thinking about how we began dating. To be honest, the whole time we were on our first date, I had no idea it even was a date. (I never said I was the smartest girl on the planet.) But first things first.

Mr. R. and I met 16 years ago at hotel management school, and apart from Hello and Good-bye, we didn’t really talk much in the beginning. I knew that he had a girlfriend and was living in one of the suburbs, while I was being a single city girl. And as I mentioned before, people from my hometown are a bit peculiar when it comes to neighbourhoods: Only people from certain neighbourhoods tend to mingle, and people from the suburbs are mostly frowned upon. Yes, we are a snobby bunch special.

File:Monchhichi doll.jpg

That looks about right – minus the body hair. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But then a new seating order was put into place according to which Mr. R. and I all of a sudden faced each other from the opposite sides of the classroom, and while he for the first time realized that I had a face, I became aware of his quiet irony that reminded me of my brother’s – a fact that scored him extra bonus points. And as of that day, even the dreariest of lessons became so much more interesting. However, since I knew about his girlfriend, I didn’t even think he might be interested in me other than platonically. And as I have always had more male friends than girlfriends, that seemed pretty normal to me. (Also I pictured him as the kind of guy who is more into the barbie kind of girl, and having just had my hair cut to half an inch length, I clearly looked more like a monchhichi doll. No joking.)

And so one day when he stopped me on the street to ask for my mobile number, I still was a completely clueless chick. Well, in my defence, he did ask in kind of a long-winded way for instead of asking for my number, he asked me whether I had a contract with provider X which I denied. “Could you still write down your number for me?” he asked, and I said Yes and forgot about it – after all, I couldn’t help him with the problems he apparently had with his cellphone provider, could I?

The following Sunday I was just having a nice cup of tea in front of my parents’ fireplace, when my phone rang: Mr. R., who wanted to ask me out that night. Nothing unusual, I thought, he needed someone to keep him company and share a glass of wine with, and we agreed to meet at a cozy wine tavern where Mr. R. gallantly shared a bottle of red wine with me – although he didn’t even like red wine at that time! But that I should not know until much later. We talked and talked, it was a very pleasant evening, and only in the end did I ask him what his girlfriend might be doing that night. He replied that they had split up quite some time ago, and suddenly, it dawned on me that we actually were on a date! Maybe it was a good thing that I hadn’t known before, for I am not sure how well the red wine would have sat with me and thousands of butterflies in my monchhichi stomach.

Never would I have believed back then that one day, we would be travelling the world together as expats! Life is full of surprises!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody! And whether you celebrate this day or not, I hope it may hold only pleasant surprises for you!

Join my exclusive Club of the Ageless

Every now and then, my parents and in-laws surprise us with German films on DVD. And although we always enjoy watching something from home (preferably from our home town where we then can try to figure out streets and neighbourhoods), there is something highly disturbing about it: The actors are getting older!

English: Mickey Rourke at the Cannes film festival

Plastic surgery? What are you talking about? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apparently, German actors are not so much into botox and plastic surgery as their Hollywood colleagues, and of course, not having seen them on the screen for some years makes the aging process even more obvious. All of a sudden, the actor I have always had a crush on, has gone bald! And the formerly doe-eyed actress shows signs of sagging skin, and her eyes – not so “doey” anymore. I have to say that sometimes I am highly indignant about this most unfortunate development. What’s happening to these people? Why is it that the world around us ages so much faster than ourselves? While we remain the same, day after day, children grow up, other people’s parents grow old – not my own, though, they haven’t changed a bit, I swear! The secret to this everlasting youth? My world stands still! I believe it must have stopped sometime in the early 90s (luckily not fashionwise!).

That’s why when I am reading about some celebrities who were born let’s say 1993, I am always surprised that they can already walk! Honestly, those kids sure learn fast these days! Oh, wait… born 1993 means they are already 20, right? Which is kind of weird since I who was born in the 70s am also only in my 20s. (Yes, that’s right, it’s because time for me stopped in the 90s. See, it all makes sense!)

I have to say that I feel very comfy in my little time bubble that I share with friends and family and Robert Redford. If only we didn’t have to watch the world around us age!

Robert Redford

The only thing that has changed is the haircut! (Photo credit: mturro)

How many pages have you read?

Augustine of Hippo by Sandro Botticelli, c. 1490.

Augustine of Hippo by Sandro Botticelli, c. 1490. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently, quite a few of my FB friends posted following quote by Saint Augustine: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

At first, that sounded like a good metaphor to me, but after doing some thinking I am not sure I agree. I mean, I am not sure, whether it still applies.

Of course, travelling broadens the horizon. Living in foreign countries even more so, as all expats will agree. However, to me it seems that HOW you travel is key.

You see, we live in a very touristy part of Mexico, and as you may know, tourist spotting is one of my favourite things to do. There seem to be 3 different kinds of tourists: A) the adventure tourist, B) the comfort tourist, and C) the thing in the middle. A is the kind of tourist who travels around with his backpack, who doesn’t mind to stay at cheap hostels, eat the local street food and who eagerly studies the country’s culture. C is the tourist who isn’t too adventurous when it comes to hotels and food, but explores the region and culture of the country. (I wished I could say that I fell under category A, but I am afraid I am much more of a C… Well, what can you expect from a taurus, right?) And then there is B, the comfort tourist, the one who stays at the resort day in, day out, enjoys beach life and can hardly be found anywhere else. Those are the ones who get home and upon being asked about their travels, they will tell you about the hotel, the food, and of course, the weather.

When bumping into a tourist of the B category, I always feel a little disappointed with the lack of interest in Mexican culture. I mean, everybody has a right to do what feels best while being on vacation, after all, that’s what holidays are all about. Nevertheless, it just almost pains me to think that, in this case, they miss out on the ruins, and cenotes, and whatever else is typical for this country / region. And I never fully understand why they picked this destination then, certainly, there must be cheaper options that are closer by?

Well, whom am I kidding? Admittedly, it can be hard to pull yourself away from the beach...

Well, whom am I kidding? Admittedly, it can be hard to pull yourself away from the beach…

So when I think of that quote, even though these people travel a good deal and can finally put a pin into Mexico on their little map, they didn’t really read that page, did they?

And then there are those people who for whatever reason cannot travel. Like waiter P. in our favourite restaurant. P. is an elderly gentleman who has never left Mexico, after all, salaries are ridiculously low, while cost of living in this part of Mexico is rather high, and international flights are expensive. When dinner service slows down, P. always comes to our table for a chat, and he always asks us many questions about Europe. And although he has never been to Germany, he knows a big deal about that country – things that sometimes I didn’t know, like the histories of famous churches and such. He gains all his knowledge from books, and honestly, that guy should be on a quiz show! So I’d say that he did read more than just one page – in any sense of the word.

Or then there is my almost 99-year old grandma who clearly cannot travel anymore. Instead she watches every single travel documentary on TV, and afterwards she joyfully tells me that yesterday, she travelled to Mexico! Or that last week, she went to the Grand Canyon!

Travel Guides

Poor Saint Augustine had none of these! (Photo credit: Vanessa (EY))

Sure, seeing a film or reading a book can’t teach you the experience of being there, on the other hand, just going somewhere doesn’t mean you do get the experience either, does it? I think it is great that nowadays we all have easy access to whatever information we might be looking for, and that this way people who are not so fortunate to be able to travel, can at least recreate the experience – and hey, they are the ones who never get a sunburn! Of course, Saint Augustine who was born 354 could have never imagined a thing like the internet, he couldn’t even look at photographs, so he definitely had a point there back then. But nowadays?

What do you think? Is it necessary to actually travel some place to get a feeling what that particular country is about?