Sunday, December 27, 2009

home is where the absurd is

I spent the first 3 days of my ostensibly triumphant return holed up at home, trying to shelter myself from the reverse culture shock of seeing my hometown again. Luckily, it was pretty easy to do with cookies to be baked, family friends to entertain and jetlag to get over. But today I decided to venture into the wild, rough streets of Orlando on my own. I had prepared myself for this moment - I had been hearing "because
of the crisis" as a reason for everything for months anyway, so I figured that would also apply here. Basically, I was expecting to see tons of homeless people, foreclosure signs, and shut up storefronts everywhere. My fears were (mostly) unfounded, except for the notable demolition of the local ice cream joint, Coney's (which was formerly known as Dairy King - the estranged husband of the queen, I presume). But the other greats like Austin, the tea house on Edgewater Drive, and Orange Cycle are still around. And the traffic on 436 sucks as hard as ever.

I have to say, one of my favorite parts about being back is eavesdropping. My Mom and I went shopping in the old money part of town today (Park Ave., in Winter Park) and I heard some very interesting things. Ah, America, for better or for worse, there's nothin' like ya. Here are my favorites:

Overheard in Chico's, a middle aged women's fashion emporium
Overenthusiastic salesgirl, holding up blouse: "So, do you like this one?"
First snooty middle aged French lady: "I HATE it."
Salesgirl smiles awkwardly, shuffles away
Second snooty middle aged French lady [in French]: "I cannot find anything in this store..."

Overheard in a cosmetics store
One salesgirl to another, angrily: "I DON'T like avocados. They smell horrible, they taste horrible, it just makes me want to vomit!"

Overheard in a fair trade store
Flamboyantly gay salesguy to customer: "These purses are made out of used burkas. The women just sew them up when they finish with them, it's fabulous! But we're all out of black. As you would expect it's the most popular color..."

Overheard in a hippie dippy incense-stinking boutique
Southern accented lady with a bouffant who doesn't seem like she could possibly own a hippie store, but does:"Can y'all believe how cold it is out there? I hear we're going to have some cold air blownin' down all the way from Atlanta tonight..."

Meanwhile, I'm wearing shorts and flip flops. I guess I forgot to mention, Christmas in Florida looks something like this:

Could be worse, right?

Monday, December 21, 2009

back to basics

Sometimes I feel like I can only handle simple things, like when I recently congratulated myself for getting up the motivation to leave the house when it was minus 12 outside (I work in degrees C now, boys and girls). Or when I was waiting for the bus for 45 minutes in the cold because it was late, and then took such a hot shower that I successfully felt my little toes again. Although I sneered along with the other Krakowians last year when London shut down because of snow, I have to say it is not fun to experience a blizzard in a country not used to a real winter. At least I know that I should wear shoes with tread, unlike the lady I saw on the way to work today who almost ate it walking on ice in her high heels.

These are much more satisfying victories than the more technically difficult things I accomplished this weekend, such as learning how slippery it is to ride a bike in ice when it hasn't been plowed or salted. Also, I won't tell you how, but I also learned (cue soundtrack of choir of angels) the Correct Way to Make Belgian Fries. I would give you the recipe, but then I would have to kill you. Let's just say it involves a little voodoo magic and a whole lotta love.

So let's focus on the simple stuff. Hit it, Ray!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

all i want for Christmas is...

Since I decided to quit French class, endlessly frustrated with not enough opportunities to practice it, I have a new hobby: trying to make money or win stuff by writing. Or at least get published.

My first endeavor: a contest at a travel writing website. First prize: a trip to Hawaii, woo hoo! Second prize (which might be even better for my hobby): a contract to freelance write some stories for the website.

Check out my entry & vote by clicking here:

If you're reading this, please take a few seconds to vote! You won't get spammed because the site connects you directly through facebook (or you can log in separately if you don't have an account). The deadline is December 23. If you have time to explore, the site is kind of cool because it recommends trips based on your location and the other trips you like. Sort of like Pandora but for traveling.

If I win, my plan is to take the opportunity to join up with an around the world sailing vessel:

I just read this guy's book, he spend 10 years sailing from port to port, circumnavigating the globe. Highlights on his last tour include diving at the infamous bikini atoll, and being the first sailboat to dock in Ho Chi Minh City after the Vietnam War. This, my friends, is the dream.

That is all.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

You're a mean one

Why is it that the Christmas season in Belgium is Christmas, interrupted?

Right now, there are about 30 small Christmas trees and 2 large ones in and around Antwerpen Centraal train station, and only half of them are decorated. They have been up for a week, and some lazy tree trimmer even left the lights dangling off one of the big trees halfway up, like he was interrupted mid-trim, and then forgot to come back. He can't even use the two past weeks of constant rain as an excuse, because half of the undecorated trees are inside. Shame on you, Mr. Antwerp tree trimmer! There are small children just waiting for the decorations to go up, and you are off drinking hot wine somewhere! You're as cuddly as a cactus, and you're as charming as an eel!

Not only that, every time I try to visit the Christmas market in Antwerp, it's closed up. This could possibly be because I work normal working hours, which tends to exclude you from a lot of things in Belgium. So, I decided to go to the market in Brussels today instead, and could only find 20 of the 240 stands the website claims were up there, and nary a sign of the ice skating rink. However I did find a totally unnecessary light show in the Grand Place. There were a lot of tourists taking pictures, but I think they were as confused as I was.

Mr. Brussels market planning guy, you could have made so much more money off me today than you did! Your heart is filled with unwashed socks!

Believe it or not, today I met someone even worse of a Grinch than the lazy tree trimmer and the poor market planner. He was in disguise of a middle aged businessman, and got escorted off the train by SNCB security guards because he forcibly pushed small children out of the way trying to get on. On Sinterklaas day! Sir, given the choice between you and a seasick crocodile, I'd take the crocodile.

Let's hope someone in Whoville invites these guys to a feast of roast beast soon, the world has enough people with their hearts two sizes too small...