Fuzzy prognostications for 2019

Every year I get a kick out of reading the weather prognostications in Old Farmer’s Almanac. The graph is pretty but wildly inaccurate as you’d expect from long range forecasts, and the comments are vicious. Last year’s chart is here.

Temperature and precipitation November 2018 to October 2019

Source: Old Farmer’s Almanac

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Pif Gadget

As a kid, I loved reading Pif Gadget, a French comics magazine. I couldn’t buy it every week, so whenever my savings allowed I would wait outside the bookstore before opening time, eager to get it. And sniff its fresh pages which felt rough and porous.

Wikipedia says it ran from 1969 to 1993, and 2004 to 2009. As an adult, I subscribed to it in the latter period, before it went extinct. It was as much fun as always, only glossier with less pages and none of the sand paper feel.

Recently, I stumbled on a Pif archive and been reading the comics to try and revive my French knowledge. It’s a blast, I could spend all weekends giggling at the colourful characters.

Learning from repatriation

Reader, I think it’s about time to address the other elephant in the room, Expat Regret, cousin of Crashy Fatty.

It’s been a few years since I returned to Canada from my expat adventures in Europe. I’m overwhelmed with the prospect of living in a city I dislike for the rest of my working life. Yes, I stay because of job opportunities and the chance of saving some peanuts for retirement. It feels like I’m living my life backwards: suffer now for some meagre enjoyment later.

Still, I learned some important things the hard way.

Don’t cut ties or burn bridges at home when moving to a different country.

I went to Europe determined to make it, but last minute changes in my job offer had me moving to a place that wasn’t in my plans. Despite the initial setbacks, my mind was inflexible: I was not going back to Canada, no matter what came my way. My plan was to trek all over Europe if I had to, in search of my happy place. This mentality led to a constant search for jobs elsewhere, while working full-time in a very demanding job, and trying to learn a new language. This resulted in severe emotional turmoil and financial losses. I felt like a cornered animal, with no way out. Going back home should always be an option in case things blow up spectacularly.


Don’t use the expat route to escape your problems at home.

I had major stress and problems in my life before moving to Europe and used this opportunity to run away from all and sundry. Obviously it didn’t work, in fact everything got worse. Stay, evaluate the situation, fix things and then leave with some peace of mind.


Don’t underestimate the difficulty of learning a new language and integrating in your new surroundings.

Even though most people spoke English at work, and there were no language prerequisites, it was very challenging to communicate at times and prove my worth. I was regularly excluded from important meetings and decisions which lead to early alienation and despair. Outside of work, it was even worse. I couldn’t hold a basic conversation in a shop, or make a doctor appointment or ask for help. I was living on the fringes of life and society. It sucked to be marginalized and misunderstood all the time. I realized that my career was going down the toilet and there was zero satisfaction with work that had potential to be quite fulfilling. Be patient, make a plan to stay and learn with clear goals and outcomes.


Don’t miss the opportunities to travel and explore, even if you’re unhappy with your expat choices.

I became unhappy and disillusioned with my expat choices very quickly. So I closed the door to any fun, travel and exploration. Instead of making the best of living in a beautiful country with easy, affordable access to all of Europe, I spent my generous annual 30 days of vacation brooding and planning my escape. What a fool! I have so many regrets about not seeing the amazing beauty of Europe. Get out of your head once in a while, see the bigger picture and stop taking everything so seriously.


Don’t expect a place, or a person to make you happy if you’re unhappy with yourself.

This was the most important epiphany I had while on my expat adventures. And the realization knocked me sideways. Deep seated unhappiness and unhealthy thoughts about myself did not magically go away in a new country. Nothing and no one can fix what’s broken inside. You have to fight your own demons, slay them and move on. Easier said than done, I’m still learning how to do it.

Vancouver

A cool salty breeze wakes me up in the morning, sea birds call for breakfast outside my window. The Pacific is a few hundred meters away and I feel at home, finally.

After years of yearning, I finally visit Vancouver. A week of heat and cold waves reinforce that I’m happiest and at peace by the ocean. Even my nose and ears get a break from the constant blockage and congestion. No doubt, it’s easier to be healthy here.

I stay on the UBC campus, in a Carey Centre room that’s unexpectedly upscale with lots of windows, even in the bathroom. This area is very beautiful, with lush gardens, trees and posh houses. I walk to the Save on Foods store every day in the charming Westbrook Village.

The clothing optional Wreck beach is the highlight of my trip. Naked in the surf, giddy with freedom and cold waves. No one is shocked or intrigued, except for the awestruck foreign tourists who stare in disbelief. Haven’t they ever seen a happy woman frolicking sans culottes?

In the botanical gardens, I walk on canopies high up in the trees. Swing like a tree critter on the rickety bridges and laugh nervously at the precarious physics that hold me up there in the tree crowns.

I belong here on the deserted campus with ocean mist instead of lake staleness, with crows instead of squirrels. Would trade my city for Vancity anytime.

42 things on turning 42

In random order:

1) Overdrive, Libby, Hoopla via my library card give me so much joy. I can borrow books, magazines and watch shows from the comfort of my tablet.

2) iPad is life.

3) I am slightly afraid of the future, being alone, weak and poor in old age.

4) Medical cannabis oil is my lifeline for migraines, insomnia and anxiety.

5) Five years in a happy marriage. Becoming a wife is still the biggest surprise of my life thus far.

6) I prefer podcasts to movies/shows. My list is short but satisfying: The Naked Scientists, Hidden Brain, Invisibilia, BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour.

7) I live in a small one bedroom apartment, which gets very hot in summer and very cold in winter. Realizing that I may never move until I’m retired and need a cheaper place.

8) Travel is very difficult, my bleeding is horrendous and unpredictable.

9) I cannot live without my kitchen gadgets: Instant Pot, popcorn maker, waffle maker, flour mill. My kitchenette is not suitable for elaborate cooking and these give me a chance to make healthy meals.

10) I loathe that my mother is financially dependent on me and I have to throw my hard earned peanuts her way.

11) Working from home is a such a gift and long may it last.

12) My morning smoothie sustains me six days a week. I add frozen blueberries, fresh ginger, chia seeds and sunflower seeds to a vegan protein powder (chocolate flavoured from Genuine Health).

13) I eat plant-based meals with the occasional eggs and smoked salmon.

14) I am a secular atheist. Always been an atheist but getting more tolerant of other people’s religious paradigms.

15) I long for menopause and the release from bleeding, estrogen and fibroids. Please hurry!

16) Got to see and feel the ocean this year in Vancouver.

17) Stopped using minoxidil (Rogaine) and hair is falling out a lot especially on the crown. Somehow I believe that my fibroids will shrink if I don’t use it. Time will tell.

18) Got my first wall decal and I love the whimsical feel it adds to my bedroom.

19) Love reading expat blogs from places where I might want to live. Sometimes I waste a whole Saturday or Sunday enthralled by these people.

20) My guilty trash TV viewing has decreased to two shows: Married at First Sight (US version) and 90 Day Fiancé.

21) I am a talented human behaviourist and can read people accurately with little information. I use my ability to predict people’s behaviour to my advantage.


Phew… half way there… writing this kind of list is hard when you’re getting long in the tooth


22) It’s probably unrealistic to dream of retiring to Europe and I’m coming to terms with it. The Maritimes might be a good solution.

23) I’m trying to enjoy the present more and stop wishing and hoping and scheming for a different life. I want to be grateful and happy now.

24) I love discovering new things about my hubster and listening to his stories.

25) Yoga plus the ambient music channel on DI.FM is my therapy.

26) I am obsessed with silence and peace. Noise of any kind is very traumatic to my brain.

27) I still have trouble accepting that I’m middle aged.

28) My eyesight is deteriorating but I refuse to get glasses so I keep increasing the size of fonts on all devices.

29) Have some grey hair but I wish it would all change overnight. It’s very cool to be fully grey while still young.

30) Thankful I can use public transit (as inefficient as it is in this city) and don’t need a car. The high prices suck though.

31) I dream of living in a house by the ocean, in quiet and solitude. I’ve never lived in a house. Was born in an apartment and will probably die in one.

32) My choice to be child free is the best decision I’ve ever made.

33) I am teaching myself to write with the left hand. It’s hard, the world is definitely not made for lefties.

34) I am a crabby hermit and I love it.

35) Watermelon has become my favourite fruit. I’ve been eating it with abandon this summer.

36) I can still do cartwheels.

37) I make my own liquid soap with Dr Bronner and distilled water. It has saved my skin and money.

38) Three pairs of Birkenstocks are my non-winter shoes: sandals, open heel and fully closed.

39) Want to learn chess but I might be too impatient for it.

40) It’s impossible to be a minimalist since I share my apartment with a pack rat.

41) I had my very first massage this year and learned I have knots all over. Tightly wound and ready to break.

42) I am probably a repressed hippie.

Berlin summers

It’s cold, misty and church bells sing off in the distance. I stretch out wide in bed, a perfect summer Sunday flooded with memories from another life.

I lived in Berlin for a few years not so long ago. Moving there was a crazy decision with unprecedented consequences. But that’s a wild story for another post.

This day urges me to remember the sights and sounds of German summers. Cool and breezy, they are lived with an intensity that was unknown to me. Berliners have it easy in winter, yet they dive into summer thirsty for warmth and unrelenting fun.

Every day is a Friday and Feierabendbier is life. Work is an afterthought. Where should we go for lunch? Which Biergarten for dinner? Beer and bicycles should be on their coat of arms.

I wondered the streets in awe of the architecture and beauty. Never got the urge to leave Berlin in the summer as there were too many great places to explore within it. Best part of my day was getting off the bus after work and walking home through my leafy neighbourhood. On Sunday mornings I lingered in bed to listen to the church bells that went on forever. And I stared at the magnificent tree unfolding outside my apartment window.

Things seem simple and easy for everyone but yours truly, the serious grump. I am slightly out sync with the world. Always brush against the summer joy but never quite hold hands with it. To me it’s a suspicious blip in the eternal winter of the great white north.

The elephant is back

It’s 4pm and I’m trying to finish up some work. All of a sudden, I feel heavy and depleted, knocked back in the chair as the life force leaves me. I need to lie down to cry for mercy. The elephant, government name Crashing Fatigue (aka Crashy Fatty), is back and pins me down carelessly with all his weight.

Crashy Fatty arrives unannounced just like last week. In fact he’ll probably become a permanent resident soon. Application is pending, but my hormones have been bribed and it’s mere formality at this stage.

How could I go from presenting heavy stats and models in the office a few hours earlier to whimpering under the duvet in early afternoon? Where is the girl that would come home from work, take public transit through half the city to go rollerblading on the lakeshore till nightfall?

I merely think about the energy and spunk from a few years back and get tired. Someone please tell me it gets better.