Real Life


How I wish that were still true. It’s strange, but I got a packet of coffee beans for Christmas (yummy!) and now that it’s been opened I keep it in the fridge. So now, every time I open my fridge I get a whiff of coffee. Again, I say yummy. But what’s even stranger is that it bothered me for a while. Not in an unpleasant way, it was actually kind of nice, but it niggled at me.

And then, I finally had my epiphany a couple of weeks ago: that’s the smell that I was always wonderfully bowled over by when I opened my grandmother’s fridge. That small fridge that sat on the counter of her teeny kitchen in her studio apartment on the top floor of the building, with a stellar view of the small town and the awesome ruins on the cliff, the Rosenstein.

I have great memories of the time I spent there, and the wonderful meals she made (cooking was a labour of love: her first question whenever we told her we’d be visiting, was what we’d like her to cook for us). I even have nice memories of the time I spent among the ruins.

My grandmother died almost two and a half years ago from complications of an issue with her intestinal tract. It was highly sudden, though not completely unexpected given that she had been in a home for over two years at that point. It was hard, because she rightfully resented her loss of independence and seemed to shut down almost completely once she lost her home. It was strange somehow, because when she died, it didn’t seem to touch me until we had travelled to Germany and seen her body and gone through the motions of the funereal rituals.

Nevertheless, I remember weathering the storm rather better and more quickly than others, and realising at the time that this was largely due to her change in circumstances: it wasn’t grandmother’s place I stayed at when I visited anymore, nor did she go to the bakery early every morning for fresh pretzels (real ones, not bread-y!), and most important of all somehow, the good smells from her kitchen were missing. In some way, I had already been mourning her since she had moved into the senior’s home several years earlier.

I know it to be true that our sense of smell is most acutely tied to memory. Now, when I open my fridge, I get a whiff of my Oma and am flooded with memories. While I regret that she’s no longer here, it also reminds me of the great things we had together. Food was definitely a common bond (I love to cook), and as I write this, I remember that the last time I saw her almost four months before her death, we met for lunch. I went to the local Asian restaurant we both loved so much and got take-out to bring to her new place. It wasn’t the same, I’ll grant you, but it was still nice.

Even if I don’t necessarily believe in heaven, I do believe something comes after this: whether it’s another life or some sort of reward, I don’t know, but souls don’t just die, at least not completely. Knowing that, I know my Oma has finally had her chance to meet Pope John Paul II, and probably cooked for him, just as if he were family. And that just tickles me.

Ich habe dich ganz doll lieb, Omi. Danke für alles und ich hoffe du geniesst deine Ruhe in Frieden. Und liebe Grüsse am Papst, ja?

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So, the fall semester started and I was somewhat dimwitted when choosing my classes: I decided that I was going to try to be good and take four classes, especially considering Tasha’s motivation was rubbing off on me. What I didn’t consider was that the one class had a lab every week and the way it was put together, the lab was basically like having a fifth class, which totally did me in. And the hell of it is, I should have known, because I had already taken the class once before (and failed it miserably). In any case, I wanted to also participate in Vox Musica again, but quickly found that I simply did not have the time or the energy.

The fact that I had classes every day of the week last semester only exacerbated things, as well as the fact that I did not take the Meliorist’s production schedule into account. I was almost overwhelmed, to say the least. But in the end, I managed to get through it all and passed all of my classes, even the stupid stats one that I struggled with (along with the stupid lab). Yay! It was a D, but nevertheless, it’s the passing grade that counts.

I also got a job later in the semester as a tour guide on campus, which has been really interesting and fun. The best part is how well it pays, which is always a good thing. I applied for a student proctor position in the university labs, but didn’t get one, since they had more people come back than expected (according to the guy who did the hiring). He practically begged me to reapply for the spring semester, since there would be four people leaving, and made it seem like I was pretty much a shoo-in. Unfortunately, no go, apparently. But more on that later.

I also turned 25 in November, which was somehow scary. I’m now a whole quarter of a century old. I had some people over, which was nice and even got some nice gifts 🙂 There was a turnover at work, as well, with a new manager coming in from Lake Louise. He’s a U of L grad, but he’s bloody well two years younger than I am too, and that’s frakking weird.

Wayne, my mother’s partner of almost a decade and almost a step-father to me, left for Yuma in Arizona shortly after Thanksgiving (which dinner I had at my place, a first for me; it went well and was totally great). This is the second time he’s done it, and he rather enjoys it and is therefore now a Snowbird. The fact that he and my mother decided to buy a park model trailer down there, instead of hauling the whole thing back and forth every year just cements it.

My mother also decided that she would be retiring at the end of the academic year, which was a big step for her, but she felt really good about the decision once it was made and I’m very happy for her. Her replacement was hired and she trained Amanda as much as she could before the Christmas break.

Not too long after Wayne left, he bought a plane ticket home for Christmas, and shortly after that, my father calls me out of the blue to invite me to celebrate the season with them. In Switzerland. That’s all well and good, I thought at the time, and I appreciated the thought, but he left it a bit late. By that time, I would have been unable to get a ticket from Delta using my points and the flight options were not huge or very cheap, unfortunately. Nevertheless, the notion of the invite was mighty nice, and we agreed that I would plan on it for next Christmas (read: later this year).

While Tasha went home, I stayed here and celebrated Christmas with my mother and step-father, who had flown home for the event. I actually worked on Christmas Day, since we celebrate on Christmas Eve, and it was quite nice. Got some mighty nice gifts, had some mighty swell things to give away, if I do say so myself. Things went over well, I think. Shortly after, they left me in the wintry north to go to Yuma together. Mum had two months of vacation on the books, and she wanted to redeem it before she leaves the uni.

I had a little get-together with some friends for New Year’s Eve, and Mike and I got into the vodka. He bet me he could drink me under the table, and of course, I had to prove him wrong. I so kicked his butt. Heh.

Tasha came back a couple days later and the new year began not so much with a bang, but with a whimper. Same old, same old.

Since the events of September 11th, 2001, the picture of security around the world has undergone wholesale change at least in the public’s perceptions. However, we in the West seem to constantly be skating on the edge between true security and the illusion of security, often pulled to the latter by some not-so-intelligent politicians who merely want to get re-elected. As a result, our fear has generally also manifested itself as xenophobia, in one way or another. A case in point would be the naturalisation laws in Switzerland: you cannot apply for citizenship until you have lived there for at least 12 years. There are few nations that have more stringent rules in this area; in fact, no European nation surpasses Switzerland in this regard. In many ways, Switzerland is one of the most progressive nations on earth, especially with respect to citizens who live abroad being allowed to vote in federal elections. This goes for several nations.

But those same states seem utterly backwards in other ways. Again, a case in point is Switzerland, which in its last federal election re-elected the Swiss People’s Party, increasing their hold on the Federal Council. They ran a despicable campaign, including inflammatory posters depicting white sheep kicking black ones off the Swiss flag. They were nearly all defaced with a single word: shame. Nevertheless, the SPP’s power base is generally in the rural areas, and their immigrant concerns and other issues like joblessness and the economy, appeal to people who feel uncertainty about the future.

Unfortunately, this is spreading, mostly in Europe, which is so used to being a community of nations of emigrants and now must reconcile itself being one of immigrants, but also in North America, where politicians’ fear-mongering runs rampant in the new 24-hour news cycle.

Is the world soon going to be at war with itself? Are we already? And how do economics fit into all of this?

I have reason to be awfully grateful to my parents. Despite all of the mistakes they may or may not have made, they gave me choices and the tools to navigate through the new social world that young people have to get through to get to adulthood. That’s all, just thought I’d put that out there.

Thanks Mum and Dad. You guys done good.

I love the internet, it’s great and wonderful and I’m so grateful for it’s invention and publication. It’s a big deal especially that it’s supposedly free: there is very little body of law which regulates the Internet, although the NSA ain’t too pleased about that. And they have a project underway to change that, but I hope for everyone’s sake that they don’t manage. At least not too well.

I don’t remember what I did before we had the internet, though I admittedly was in on it from almost the beginning. I remember that when my dad went to Australia for half a year in 1994, we would chat with him. No, I don’t mean on the phone, that was still too expensive then. We chatted in DOS, using the old system of cross-posting bulletin boards. It was very cool, trust me, but far more rudimentary than what we think of as chatting today. Frankly, I don’t know what I would do without the telephone and the internet: except for my mum, my entire family lives overseas, and I don’t see them as often as I’d like. The vagaries of long-distance relationships 😉

And blogging is a good thing. As long as you slightly censor yourself and don’t have major privacy issues, it’s an awesome replacement for a diary, while also providing the forum for a rant that you feel the need to get out there. It’s a great thing, honest. I confess, I was really not so convinced at first: I had a livejournal many moons ago and posted maybe three items. That’s it, that’s all. But then in the spring I took a Sociology of Mass Communication class and my prof was a young guy who recently graduated. He was totally into the whole technology thing and decided that everyone in the class would set up a blog at WordPress and would post at least once a week for the duration of the semester on things that related to the course content.

Very cool. I got a good mark in that class too, imagine. So now I’m kind of hooked, the only hang up is that I have a dial-up connection and hate to tie up my phone long enough to do a decent post, and by extension it takes a lot of time. It’s time-consuming and addictive, but it’s not like you get much reward from it. Not even comments. *sniff*

But I am now a junkie. I am incapable of simply leaving it be, especially when I get right annoyed every once in a while and feel the need for a good rant. Besides, the Internet doesn’t have ears, or a voice, so it can’t complain 😉

I want to be an adult! No, wait…..I just want to live without responsibilities, but with all freedoms. And excuse me: my youth is not a form of social deviance! It would be so nice to just live and do as little or as much as I want, without having to worry about bills, and not having to do any work (that means anything I don’t actually *want* to do).

Alas, this is not to be. Society has not been built that. But one thing that struck me as I began reading my textbook by Reg Bibby was that a lot of young people keep saying that governments should listen to them because they’ll be running things soon. Bibby astutely points out that this is not so, they get added to the system which is already in place and is inherently inter-generational. Okay, so that’s not a reason to listen to young people. But frankly, I would advocate a policy of listening to them just for their differing perspectives.

Youth is still idealistic and much further removed from the system. True, they have less education, so they might have less useful ideas because they’re simply so outlandish. But what about the one in hundred ideas that is so simple and such a perfect solution but would never be thought of by the older generations?

And by the way, just because you have more formal education and are older, doesn’t mean you know best: thanks to the older generations, we get to try to fix the planet that they started killing.

Appreciate it. Really.

Thank the gods, finally a bit of encouraging news! My mother spoke with my aunt yesterday morning and apparently her oncologist and radiologist are pleased with her progress. There was some question because they couldn’t agree on what was going on, but now they’ve decided she’s doing well enough not to need another round of chemo. She’s already had three or four, I think, and I know it’s been hard on her with all of the usual side-effects like loosing her hair, fatigue and nausea. The tumours on her back remain encapsulated, which was one of the first things they were concerned with. Her mastectomy went well, I think, though I don’t recall if it was a complete radical or only the one.

My mother’s friend in Munich is an oncologist and was apparently quite pessimistic about my aunt’s prognosis, saying that it was unlikely that she would be able to beat it. Apparently this is better.

Please gods, let it be better.

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