Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Lluna

One of my mum's cats died...Lluna
Poor thing, she was so sweet.
My mother has already written it down heartwrenchingly, so I won't.
Instead I'll finally see a dentist and try not to be so terribly self-involved.

UPDATE: Just got back from the dentist who did a root canal. Ow. ow ow.

Monday, January 30, 2006

In my head

"Today is her birthday
They're smoking cigars
He's got a chain of flowers
And sows a bird in her knickers"

This used to be my birthday song, but I no longer have the tape or for that matter a player. I miss it.

Not the best birthday - too much toothache, fever, work, personal annoyance. Way too little sleep.

Also in my head, from watching Closer too often

(I quote from memory this time)
"And so it is
Just like you said it would be
life goes easy on my
most
of the time

And so it is
The shorter story
No love no glory..."

I'll do my best for this day.

Oh screw that anyway. I feel sorry for myself. I can't eat properly, never mind celebrating. Hardly anyone seems to even remember that it is my birthday at all...
I swear I feel like Eeyore:

"You seem so sad, Eeyore."
"Sad? Why should I be sad? It's my birthday. The happiest day of the year."
"Your birthday?" said Pooh in great surprise.
"Of course it is. Can't you see? Look at all the presents I have had." He waved a foot from side to side. "Look at the birthday cake. Candles and pink sugar."
Pooh looked ~ first to the right and then to the left.
"Presents?" said Pooh. "Birthday cake?" said Pooh. "Where?"
"Can't you see them?"
"No," said Pooh.
"Neither can I," said Eeyore. "Joke," he explained."Ha, ha!"

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Think happy thoughts


Thanks for helpful feedback by mail and comment...much appreciated.

I am in a dreadful mood this morning but today it is Hungary, rather than immigration, that is the object of my wrath. I won't go into it.

Enough whinging - there are a few circumstantials that are making me even grumpier than I would be otherwise.
The mermaid analogy still holds, and so for the time being it is all walking on broken glass to get where I want to be - not the Andersen ending.
"Every step she took was as the witch had said it would be, she felt as if treading upon the points of needles or sharp knives; but she bore it willingly..."
Not sure about that last bit, but yes, I will get there, whinging and moaning all the way like Little Faith in Pilgrim's Progress*. Little faith and great stubbornness.
I am a tad dramatic, but drama always reminds me of my sense of humour...

*you're surprised I read that, admit it

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Questpost


It is a lovely blue day in Hungary; very very cold but beautiful. This blog is, as you will know, to some extent the documentation of a very real quest, and today, then, is a questpost.

The quest is a complicated quest.
1. Tangible Holy Grail: living with my lover/fiance/husband, and being able to work
2. Spiritual Holy Grail: making the transition to the above state without losing my enthusiasm for my lover, for finding a really good new job, for new projects. Most of all I must not lose my self-respect or peace of mind in the process either.

It's a tall order and one that I am predictably struggling with as the date for the wedding gets moved further and further back, and the paperwork turns out to be even more of a hurdle than anticipated. Things are complicated further by my constant feeling that things shouldn't be this difficult, that it's not fair. Issues of fairness, especially in bureaucracy, are a distraction only. All depends on your patience, preparation and wiliness. As a better stress management trainer than myself once said, if you can't influence it, then why are you spending energy on it?

This morning, as I am wrestling that beast, I try to keep reminding myself of all that. I try to remind myself of my own stress management course - be nice to yourself, take care of your body. Sleep enough (I do, if not very well), eat well (er, not really), exercise (even worse), meditate (a little). Structure your tasks, try to keep an overview.
What is the worst that can happen and exactly how bad is that?
Do I want to think about that?

The worst that can happen is that my visa gets refused. This, however, is not all too likely if I prepare well. More likely is that the process will get delayed and I will not be able to enter the US until, say, spring 2007. How bad is that? Uhm. Pretty bad. It's a long wait as it is. There are then two options. We can either change the plan and go for a fiance visa instead, which is faster but will mean not being able to work for up to a year and a half. Or we can stick to the plan as it is and I can try to make the best of it. I can start on my fun projects, and earn save some money.

Any opinions anyone?

Oddly enough this blogging business is turning out to be very good for keeping me intellectually active as well as sane...

Update: It is actually going to take much longer that expected to get the paperwork in Belgium done - I mean to simply hand them in and get them authorised. I had counted on 15 days, as is usual, but it turns out we are a special case and it is going to take between four and six weeks. *sigh*
This means April is definitely not going to happen.

More update!! Prize for breakthrough thinking goes to Monique, my colleague, for suggesting that if we go for a fiancé visa instead we can still have a wedding party in Belgium, only make it an engagement party and leave everything else as is. This is a good plan, and makes me feel a lot better about my options.

Really, final update:
I think I am stupid. Really. How come I never noticed these two paragraphs in this site I read a million times:

On the fiancé visa info site (USCIS site, official authority)
"
Will I Get a Work Permit?
After arriving in the United States, your fiancé(e) will be eligible to apply for a work permit. (You should note that USCIS might not be able to process the work permit within the 90-day time limit for your marriage to take place.) Your fiancé(e) should use Form I-765 to apply for a work permit. Please see How Do I Get a Work Permit? for more information. If your fiancé(e) applies for adjustment to permanentresident status, your fiancé(e) must re-apply for a new work permit after the marriage."

"
Who is Eligible (for work authorisation)?
The specific categories that require an Employment Authorization Document include (but are not limited to) asylees and asylum seekers; refugees; students seeking particular types of employment; applicants to adjust to permanent residence status; people in or applying for temporary protected status; fiancés of American citizens; and dependents of foreign government officials. Please see Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) for a complete list of the categories of people who must apply for an Employment Authorization Document to be able to work in the United States."

I would be an applicant to adjust to permanent residence status after we get married. So this means that I wouldn't have to wait for a green card (about a year waiting time) but only for an work authorisation (EAD, takes about 90 days). I think. If that is what it means then...well...that would be good.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Reading and writing

This morning on the underground I was reading with a pencil. I like reading with a pencil, I always learn more, remember more. Mind you, this time I was doing so at the express instruction of the author. The book is The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry. It's been a while since I've read any of his books, but that is his fault, rather than mine, as I love his novels and he hasn't been writing any.

Let me rephrase that - I love all of Fry's novels with the notable and vexing exception of The Stars' Tennis Balls a.k.a. Revenge, which I loathe and detest. I could write a whole tangent about that but I will abstain, I already have done this in a much more appropriate place at a time when I knew a lot more about the whole thing.

Once upon a time Stephen Fry was my hero. I don't mean to say that he has done something to lose that hero status, but well, my attention kind of waned after a while. It is therefore quite apt, I think, that now that I am trying to write regularly again, trying to wake up the sleepy part of my brain, that I should, in a sense pick up where I left off. Stephen Fry is the only living writer that I ever spent as much time on as on the dead ones (perhaps I need to exclude JD Salinger, but he sort of counts as hors catégorie). More specifically, as most of you will know, I spent two years doing some of the most frivolous research possible on the subject, as well as some serious stuff. It was fun. Writing an undergrad thesis is not supposed to be that much fun, but it really was.

I think the main thing about Stephen Fry is that he is so tremendously likeable and writes so well and so cheerfully. It isn't great literature, nor does it have that ambition, but in a weird way it is helpful. As for my present reading, that is just very practical - it is a guide to writing poetry. It has been many years since I have written poetry and mostly people will agree that that is a good thing. But I figure writing of any kind, and with that kind of really helpful instruction ("READ OUT LOUD"; "DO NOT CONTINUE READING BEFORE YOU FINISH THE EXERCISE") is always good practice. Just practice. Keeping the mind supple. So there, that's my book recommendation for the day, for all those of you who could use a bit of practice, or a bit of fun.

Oh and the quote of the day, from the same source, though not the same author:

"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"
P.B. Shelley, 'Ode to the West Wind'

I'll keep it in mind.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Stepford Wives

Last weekend I finally saw the Stepford Wives. In case you didn't know already, it is about a community where the men have their wives transformed into sex-kitten, cooking, cleaning, muffin-baking, perfectly dressed fifties housewives. I am going to spoil the ending for those of you who haven't seen it by saying that in the end, it turns out that this ideal of womanhood originates with a woman.

Obviously I had the conversation with the women I was was watching this movie with about What Men Want. Afterwards, and after the surprising end of the movie, I realised that the proper question is what do women want? Is there something deep inside these modern women that longs for '50s housewifedom?

I have been asking myself this question, not just because of this movie, the though occured to me long before. You see, there is a certain appeal to the idea. There is a certain charm to that kind of life. I have been trying to find out why, in spite of my background and eductation, I can occasionally picture myself as a cupcake-making, oven-cleaning, perfect hostess housewife. I have come up with several theories.

First of all, there is no relation between this fantasy and reality. I wouldn't last a week as a fifties homemaker. Hence the charm - it is an escapist fantasy, an illusion of material, social and emotional stability and safety.

Secondly, as an image it has a very distinct esthetic appeal. Fifties fashion is lovely, and the design is appealing.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I think most women have a very genuine desire to please their partners; and some part of us wonders, every now and again, whether he (or she, but less likely) doesn't secretely want a nice, sweet, docile wife who will cook and look after the kids instead of the careerseeking, highly educated independent creature he ended up with.

Want to know what I think? I think that, secretely, every now and again, every man who is with a smart, self-reliant woman wishes she were more like that (or more like Angelina Jolie). But I don't think he is likely to consider it for any longer than most women would contemplate, in passing, giving up everything to devote their lives to perfect dinners and perfect sex. After all, he didn't have his eyes and ears closed when he met you...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Synthesizers. Organs.

This morning I was listening to Are Friends Electric again and I thought I really love synthesizers. I mean I hate synthesizers when they are pretending to by harpsichords, or pianos, or banjos. But I really love them when they making those random non-existent little sounds. In fact, I love that whole quite embarrassing group of bands that used a lots of sythesizers in the 80s (some still do). Duran Duran. The Pet Shop Boys. Yeah. Although my teenage years were more preoccupied with Blur, Suede, and the sexiest bassplayer of all times, all of whom made, I guess, "proper" music, I always had a soft spot for a good random synth whine. I think it all goes back to liking a good sound effect.

Liking a good sound effect and an interesting sound comes from my very first musical love, when I was eleven; the Doors. The Oliver Stone film had then just come out, hence. Not that I was allowed to watch it - too much nudity. Needless to say it only added to the mystique. The thing about the Doors, in my opinion, is the organ, ie Ray Manzarek. Jim Morrisson, well, ... Anyway, if any of you ever heard the cover that Ray Manzarek made with Prong
for the movie Strange Days, then you realise that it is not the vocals, but the organ that is at the core of the song, and Manzarek does some really, really cool things. He's my hero for being the great musician in the shadow of an overrated twit. For remaining alive, too. I mean, let's face it, musically you can replace the vocals quite easily. But the organ?

So huzzah for musical weirdness, organs and synthesizers. Time to burn all those pan flute covers of great songs.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Are friends electric

You know how sometimes you find a random song and then you get all obsessed with it and you drive everyone completely mad by playing it 300 times a day? It's a teenage thing - I always see myself sitting on my four poster bed with my headphones on and the volume way up. It's really great, and more akin to a sexual thrill than I would have known what to do with at the time. It's a shame when it wears off and you have to wait for the next song to be obsessed about.

Anyway, I am all grown up now, and one of the perks of being grown up, in my case, is that I have a CD alarm clock. This morning it woke me up with Van Morrisson's Brown Eyed Girl which I had dug up from the depths of my CD collection. It's not a bad song to wake up to. The CD in question is one of those collections you sometimes get with things, in this case The Independent, of which I am an avowed groupie. I left the music on as I was getting dressed. The fifth track, right after Brown Eyed Girl, is Are Friends Electric, one of those songs that I am vaguely aware of but that is really from before the time when I gained musical consciousness. It's a live version, and I am not too fond of live versions, but somehow it caught my attention and as I was getting ready for my Grown Up day I realised that I had hit repeat and was busy creating a notable exception to my rule of preferring album versions. It really is brilliant - mumbled lyrics* - halfway through he starts laughing, a low, dark, weirdly cheerful laugh. Not like Donovan's little hiccuping laugh in my live version of Colours (not as good as the album version!), but equally happifying. The atmosphere fitted my memory of last night's dark and exciting dream perfectly, maybe that is why - more weird dreams - but not for sharing this time

The disadvantage of being a grown up in a office job is that you are not allowed to play loud music, or to play songs over and over again. In fact in my case I am not allowed to play music at all. This is the only major downside of not being a teenager that I have identified so far, and it is inconvenient. My head keeps playing tantalising bits of this random song I have happened to fall in love with this morning, and I feel silly, but cheerful, like a 15-year-old on a Wednesday afternoon.

Update: Moosehaha. Are friends electric is as old as I am, which makes me a lot younger than Gary.

*The man himself on the topic: "I can't believe that anyone seriously thinks I'm miming to the main vocal, what with my appalling record for singing the wrong lyrics so painfully obvious for all to see and hear at most Numan gigs."
Somehow that's rather sweet.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Stress management

I am rewriting a stress management training. What is more, I am giving this training of Friday.

The level of irony in these facts is so hight that it is no longer funny.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Today

Sometimes it just seems like life is teaching you something. Maybe that is really how it is. Maybe, in the normal course of things, you come up against situations you need to come up against.

At present it would seem the I am being taught patience and stoicism. Certainly if I could acquire either virtue that would be absolutely wonderful considering what is ahead (a mass of paperwork hopefully enabling me to live with my love in a year or so). I don't have high hopes that I will though, considering how much patience I could have cultivated over this year-and-three-months of long distance relationship, and how impatient I still am. In fact it is more likely that I have become less, rather than more, patient.

I spent a far too large chunk of my day at the post office. I won't go into to it; it was very trying. Maybe I am learning to calm myself down a bit better; if nothing else Hungary is an excellent lesson in placidity while waiting. Today felt like a scale model of the paperwork to come - endless waiting, endless stamping of papers, and a trip to the cash machine. So perhaps the lesson is - having finally gone through the whole procedure I was surprised to find that it was worth it, and that I was happy.

Update: Actually, I would like to add something to that post. I think a lot about these things lately; in mean the future. Happiness. Life. Love. All those big things. I think about the idea of loving one person for the rest of your life. I guess it's natural. I also think about paperwork a lot. I guess it is natural to have to to adjust to the idea after a lifetime of thinking I was not the type.
I have this ring on my finger and there is no doubt that it will change my life - more palpably so than for most couples. It means that I will give up my job - in fact I already have - and that I will do all this paperwork. It means that of all the times I have packed up my things and moved life, the next time will be the most drastic. I hate how traditional that sounds. I hate how it like sounds as if I am giving everything to be with you, love, although it is true. True but not in the usual sense. True that I love you enough to do all this. Not true that this was a foregone conclusion. Not true that I am moving to your country indefinitely. Not true that I am giving up my own life. Not true that you expect any of this from me. I have moved countries before; this is different; but this time, like the others, I will rebuild, I will find new friends, a new job, new social activities. This time I stand to gain all the usual - a better job, friends I wouldn't have made otherwise, experimental activities. It will be tough, it always is. Living with you won't be easy either, I have no illusions about that. There will be so much to adjust to, so much balancing to do.

I'm cautious really, and I try to see what's ahead in a realistic way. I don't like my illusions shattered, so I limit them to the sustainable ones. It's easy to forget all the rest - how I want to put ribbons on all the trees to celebrate the unset date. I always expected to be besieged by doubt the moment anyone proposed this to me. That is what usually happens the moment any time I take a decision. Maybe it is still to come; it would be normal, natural even. So far I have only been taken aback by the hassle. As for the idea of spending my life with one person, it is weird to me, but I don't doubt. The immigration paperwork seems like an unfair hurdle to reaching a goal; but the goal is unshakably worth getting to.

That's strange. It's strange I have no problem taking this leap. Curious. Maybe it's because I have had to believe in us at the unlikeliest times (there were many). Things slot into place quietly as we sit and talk - I forget the author and the exact quote, but am reminded of it all the same - you came to me and talked to me about nothing and I knew that this was what I had spent a long time waiting for. Only we talked about Orwell, which is hardly nothing.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Up here in the noodle

Math or football, what do you think?

My boyfriend needs to teach me calculus. I am odd, I know, for asking my lover to teach me these things, but I am an absolute idiot with math, and he very obviously isn't and besides, he is such a patient sweetie.

Why did I ask him to do this? Good question. I think it is all part of my occasional impulses Use My Brain. You see, my brain is getting very good at dealing with excel files and suchlike (in fact I positively enjoy it) but it doesn't get much exercise in the more general way. In addition to this I am rather good at Having Ideas but not so good at thinking them through or working them through. I am trying to change that.

Last Friday I asked some of my friends to participate in this idea I have for a blog project for me to start at the moments when I will not be working over the while, i.e. a sort of semi-academic forumblog where people can discuss diffent ideas and try out really interdisciplinary stuff. Just an idea, but I will see if I can beat out a proper setup when I return to Belgium in March. I am dreadful at carrying through ideas, so I hope people will kick me into action periodically. Which reminds me, one of the ideas I really want to try out is Bram's about Catalan/Norther Irish lit. And football. I can't even begin to explain how funny it would be for me to write about football.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Blue Jays

When I was working my first job, i.e. my previous job, I had these recycled paper notebooks and I loved them, I really did. I liked the job too actually, especially the colleagues. Nonetheless it was never particularly challenging, and after a while I found I ended up writing random thoughts and moments and quotes in these notebooks. There is a large number of these pages stapled into my Proper notebook from that time. By proper I mean that it was one in a long line of journal-type-things in which I collect thoughts and ideas, partly as a diary, partly as a source of inspiration for writing.

These pages were a great inspiration for writing, it turned out. On random odd and ends of brownish paper I started my favourite writing project, the only piece of writing of mine I really like. I ended up feeling like Tennessee Williams in the shoe factory, writing poetry on shoebox lids. It felt good to have a creative outlet hiddin somewhere in my working hours, and I think it was good for both my personal and professional self I think. Of course my job then was nothing like a shoe factory - it was a pleasant, informal job, and it did me lots of good.

When I started this job it was like I lost that. The company I work for has a personality so big it is hard to get any non-work creativity in. In fact my writing slowed down until it disappeared completely sometime last year. It took me a while to notice that something was missing. Lately, however, I have started blogging, initially at someone else's request in their blog, and, when I got sick, here, for practical reasons. I notice that, abrupt and ill-structured as these posts are, they are flowering slowly. Writing is like any craft - you need to practice it, otherwise it wilts. Today I realised that, while I am starting to write in my notebook again, I have in some sense been keeping one for months. As my yoga teacher keeps saying - it's only practice. Nothing to prove, no one to impress.

When I was seventeen and obsessed with Tennessee Williams I started using, in my head, his notebook brand - Blue Jay, he never used anything else - as a general word for staying creative at any time, on the bus, at work, at night. Blue Jays signify the process of tracking, of making notes, of underlining. Notebooks to keep awake.

More weird dreams

This dream thing keeps getting more bizarre. Last night I dreamt I was Priscilla Presley, and That Nice Christian Boy was Elvis. We looked exactly like the picture, only without the wedding outfits. What is my subconscious trying to tell me? Maybe that I should be getting married in Graceland?

Yes, can we?

Somehow I don't think the Betrothed would approve, sadly.

"The mississippi delta was shining
Like a national guitar
I am following the riverDown the highway
Through the cradle of the civil war
I'm going to Graceland..."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Paperwork

Must try not to obsess over paperwork.

Must focus on work, not embassies. Possibly also on wedded bliss.

Must however also translate CV into Dutch tonight, and try to find out more about processing times.

*sigh*

And the irony of it all?

I am working on a stress management training to help me focus on work; obviously I am an expert at not getting stressed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Dreams

I am having weird dreams.
Last night I dreamt three things (that I can remember):

First of all I dreamt about David Bowie. More specifically I dreamt that he was at my dad's house and hitting on me. In my dream, as in reality, I have no special fondness for the man, and I kind of push him away and eventually he leaves. At that point I start thinking that maybe he is not so bad and well, he is undeniably famous - but obviously it is too late to change my mind.

The second dream starts very peacefully - in so far as I am present in this dream at all, I am looking out at people standing out on the lawn on a beautiful, clear night, stargazing. Then, as it were, the whole thing kicks into motion, the focus goes from outside to inside, a series of rooms. The peaceful mood is dispelled very quickly as I see people with bloody albeit superficial lacerations all over their bodies. I have dreams like this one with some regularity and bizarrely enough this one is actually comparatively ok, not nearly as bloody as the last one, not as scary, and without actual corpses. This is progress.

The last dream is the most logical one. It is the Wedding Dream. I have had dreams about getting married three or four times before over the last two years or so, and they are always absolutely awful. Things go wrong, it's not what I want, etc, etc. In this one we are standing in a room with a glass wall looking out over a stony courtyard, like that of an neo-classical official building in southern Europe. The chairs for the guests are lined up in the courtyard. As the magistrate performs the marriage there are hardly any guests, and workmen are still getting things into place, but somehow I am quite calm and feeling very...peaceful, managing not to be disappointed. When the ceremony is over, to my surprise a mass of people files into the courtyard, mostly my family, including my great-aunt, who is old and frail and whom I haven't seen in ages. The dream ends with me talking to her.

Anybody any ideas about the state of my psyche?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Dear All/Lieve Allemaal,

Het ziet er naar uit dat ik eind februari terugkeer naar Belgie, waarna ik nog een tijdje voor IBM zal blijven werken om mijn baan over te dragen/
It looks like I will be returning to Belgium in late Februari, and will continue to work for IBM from Belgium for some time after that.

Ik zit volop in bespreking met mijn manager en dit kan dus nog veranderen, maar dan weten jullie alvast wat er gaande is.
I am in the middle of discussions with my manager, so plans may change, but I just want to let you all know what is on the table.

De planning verandert verder niet - de burgerlijke ceremonie zal begin/midden april zijn.
Otherwise, plans stay as they are - the civil ceremony will still be early/mid April.

Updates will follow/Meer informatie zo gauw ik meer weet

Monday, January 09, 2006


Time to migrate

Time also, to tell my manager.

"A time to seek, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to cast away."

All that. There will be much seeking and much losing in the near future. The beast is questing yet again, and like the king chasing it I know to remember that the joy is in the seeking, not in the finding.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Expectations for the afternoon

Today is my lovely love's last full day here. We both have the afternoon and frankly, I think some pampering is in order before I start the weekend. Which will be lonely and miserable.

Today will be a day of bathing, or if that cannot be, massage, leisurely lunches and random pauses for breath.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Dramatic

Like this, only with a cup of coffee and a croissant.

What a godawful morning.

The kind of day that makes me quote Shelley, offhand:
"The lone and level sands stretch far away"
Although I haven't really read Shelley.

But then that is exactly why it is appropriate.

Lone and level I do feel, but with no grander yearnings than a desire for more coffee and more croissants. No muse can survive in a call centre (not that it is, I am being depreciating). I will arise and go now, no, well, maybe at 5.30, and I will go home and read Stephen Fry's The Ode Less Travelled.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Too much thinking

As Billy Bragg has it "a man can spend a lot of time/wondering what was on Jack Ruby's mind". I would not necessarily object to examining Ruby's motives, or pondering current politics, or even current entertainment.

Instead, however, I spend my time thinking about guest lists and invitations. Sigh. I feel like I am not me at all. The good thing about this is that the paperwork is at this point a relief from the nightmares about turning into a conventional girl...

Oooh and the delays involved, unpleasant though they be, do mean that I potentially could take Tams and Bram up on their offer to submit a paper. Hmmm. Interesting.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy new year to you all.

I hope it will be a special year, one to remember; one with good food and good company, with good health, and good ways to find happiness in small corners and big displays.

Next year I may be watching this instead of the Campanadas from the Puerta del Sol in Madrid. I may be subversive and keep twelve grapes ready anyway, and go be European in a corner.

Then again, I may just be home. In fact it looks like I may be going home soon - a strange thought - home after these weird years abroad. It is so sudden after the long struggle to make my time here a good time.

Home. For a while at least.