May 14, 2014

Stand Up For Yourself

At one point I must have fallen over to the other side of Alice's mirror, because things around me can't possibly be this crazy. Here I stand, trying to make sense of the insanity around me but nothing seems to fit. To put it simple, I'm working at this department where we have quite a simple job, nothing really mindblowing. Get the requests from A, pass them to B or pass them to our different sources, get the replies, fit them into one coherent reply and then send it back to A. Over and over again. We don't work with anyone's requests other than A's. We are the portal through which A talks to us. In my opinion, it's a little much to make a whole department to talk to A, but hey, this is how this rolls.

Within this department there have been several issues from far before I've got here. Nothing all that exceptionally, no massive coworker suicides due to stress or anything of the sort, it's just simply some turmoil (quite contained, if you ask me) result of adding a small sphere of tasks and poor managing. Some would say that's also a result of creating an area with the rejects of other departments, but I won't stand for that because I can't vouch for that information. Anyhow, a year ago this exploded into a "situation" with Human Resources intervention and everything, which was quite poorly managed. There was a whole mixing and twsiting of the results, and in the end, The Powers That Be decided to "make something about it", and took a peculiar road for it: instead of actually solving what was the problem, decided to walk around it and make the problem "everybody's problem" (but that who's problem really is), and came up with a series of projects aimed to divert the attention, but also to serve as escape goats once it's proven that they don't work. What am I saying? Yes, well, it's like A is bullying B and C, and so B and C complain and they make a research and the result says that F bullies B and C. So A decided that, in order to solve B and C, they should do "team spirit building" activities and force them to take part of some activities A decided work for that. All the while A keeps bullying them, and says that if they have anything to complain about is because they are not doing their activities, thus is their fault.

Naturally, this will lead to things to explode and become uglier in the medium run. Actually even in the short run as a lot of people have been forced into these activities, me included, and that will never, EVER end up right. As usual, it seems I'm always the brave of the pack, so I didn't conform. I wasn't going to raise the fight around this, but I made sure to make my stance clear: I'm not volunteering into the activities, I'm being forced. It was a situation where you "had to volunteer" to something, and if you "have to", it's no longer volunteer. If it's no longer wolunteer, then that should be clear, so no one can later be told "but you choose that, you could have not chosen that". Yes, I've experience in this type of crap. So I stood my ground on this, and in the end I achieved the unthinkable: I've got out of the activities. Not without being unfairly labeled, but at least the result was what I wanted: my will was respected.

Today that was made clear for my boss, and she didn't like it. The bullying started all over again. What impressed me most is that she insisted that the single act of unsuscribing from this activities was enough to brand me as an impossible person and diminish the quality of my job. Why? Have I not done my job so far? Has not been my job that of the top most quality? Have I not uphold deadlines? Am I not thorough? Am I not on top of everything? Am I not available at any moment to talk about it? Have I failed in my job in any way? Has there ever been a complain about my job in any way? I'm on the highest level of quality, highest level of accomplishment, I top the expectations regarding analysis, how could that be trampled by some stupid, self-serving "volunteer" little charade? If so, and I told her, this is not a place for me. I meant the area, but she spoke as if I meant the company. I was blunt, made it clear: I have open doors in other departments.

To my horror she asked me if I ever felt "passionate" about the job I do here. As if expecting me to say that yes, what I do here is a chore and I have pleasure from it. I told her that yes, I need my figures, I need my formulas because I'm used to work with things that passionate me, things that drive me, things that I believe in, that make sense. I'm not here simply to spend my time on whatever stupid thing they dish at me and collect my paycheck at the end of the month.

Now she knows: I'm ready to leave, and I will.

The lesson I learned today is that your principles, your values may not be understood by others. The sense of satisfaction from knowing you are wholesome, that your integrity is without stain, that you are honest, that you stay true to your believes is something a lot of people can't comprehend. Whatever your principles, whatever your values, you know what? Only you need to understand them, and when someone questions you about them because they want to undermine them and make you bow to their lesser standards, all you need to do is let them talk, smile and say "and yet I stay true to myself".

I may be branded with a Scarlet Letter, a P for proud or an N for negative, and I'll wear that letter with pride as a symbol of my fight, my honor and my Integrity: I won't sell out, I will stand to my believes, I won't be a part of a charade because that's what's expected of me. I will fight.

Apr 25, 2014

On Wild Dreams and Wishes

Lately I'm struggling to get a good grasp on the reigns of my life. After the last post, I still went on considering these things that are changing and need to be changed in my life. In a way it's like living in the center of a flower and that flower now is blooming, and though the blooing is good, the very opening of the petals fills you with the feeling that not everything can be controlled, and if you know me, you know that I always need to be on top of my business.

AT WORK I'm getting pretty much on top of things, though I recently realized that some details may have slipped last time, which are no biggies, really - nothing that can't be fixed and nothing really, that can't be written of as an honest, human mistake (I may have not sent the last updated file, which is odd and makes me doubt my files, because I'm so anal about that). Regarding the changes I've been thinking about (and this odd slip also gets me thinking more about the need to move, how my brain isn't happy with my current work and might be acting up on me), I had it on good source that I may want to wait a little more as big changes are to be made and it wouldn't be convenient for me to be caught between the moving forces and politics. The "agression" have been waving, truth to be told. One day hot, then there's a piercing icicle here and there, spicing the days. One of the arguments I hear the most about not making the move go about the concept of the "integral professional". This "Integral Professional" is the kind of professional that knows about many fields, not just one, specialized area.

Personally I'm a bit more old-school in this sense and prefer a different approach as to what makes a professional or a scientist a good professional/scientist. I don't think that "knowing about everything" is actually good, specially not the way it's usually managed around: the professional that tries their hand at everything, regardless of their studies. Yes, stepping outside your field is good and enriching, as long as you do it with the purpose of adding to your field. However, trying this and that, getting a feel of the ropes and gathering a whole bunch of information without an actual, deep knowledge (the type you get at the University), doesn't really add up to anything.

I know I'm needed here, but this is no longer the place where I could grow professionally within the line of my field.

AT UNIVERSITY I had some of the hardest, most brutal weeks recently. Though this four-month period (the University  works on four-month periods, not on semesters) I've taken only two subjects (I wanted to take more, but not all the subjects I wanted to enroll for were being offered, and some got filled quite fast), the amount of homeworks, forums, virtual activities and then final papers had me crashing down. Not to mention the tests. It doesn't help either that the level of chaos among teachers is simple appaling. You couldn't possibly get on track with most of the work even if you wanted to, when the teachers upload material and instructions late.

Thanks Hyne we had off the whole Holy Week, (the week before Easter), because that way I could use all those days to get THREE homeworks and the FINAL PAPER done. Oh, are you doing the maths and thinking, how can you have for one week four things to do for two subjects? It's called "lack of organization".

I'm only 5 subjects and a final seminar away from my Accounting diploma. Just what remains of this year and the next.

The sad thing is that I'm actually considering the possibility of continuing and getting my Finance and my Marketing diplomas. Well, Finance first, if I get through Accounting and don't end up too traumatized.

ABOUT MY PENPALS, I'm still on record as the most hideous penpal of history. I'm carrying their letters, but can't really get to write to them.  I read their letters, speak to them in my head, but when I were to land it on paper I'm overcome with guilt because "I should be studying" or working or something of the sort. And when I do have the time, my brain seems so void, like I can't even spoon a single word, a single sentiment to tell them.

Girls, I haven't forgotten you, I'm just going through a crappy momentum.

AT MY PERSONAL LIFE things are sort of split. Generally they are well. Good friends, plenty of series, loving boyfriend, but there's also this thing about what would our future bring and whether there is actually a future somewhere in there. I like to have definition, but then there are things that can't be defined as clearly and perfectly as I like them to be. Thus there's a big haze right now in the box that says "INSERT LOVE LIFE FUTURE HERE".

For sometime I had all this questions in my head, whether this was going anywhere, whether this is healthy, whether this is what I want, whether this will actually become a long term thing or if this is the moment when the thread breaks and things come to an end. I needed to know in order to prepare for any and every possible outcome. Then I realized something important: I don't actually put my whole life on hold for a relationship. Kari has his agenda, and his issues to sort out. I don't have to sit put and wait, but carry on, and so, now I carry on. Honestly, my life is so full of all sorts of things, that the last thing I need is to worry about things I can't change. Eventually something will come out. I put my cards on the table, but the ball is on his court, and there I can't do a thing.


As result of all that, at one point there I decided that I need a break, I want a break, I CRAVE a break, and so a crazy idea started to form: I want to take a trip to Salem, Massachusetts (yes, the Salem of the Witches of Salem). It started like a wild thought that you may not think all so seriously, like "oh, if I do this I'll award myself with five gallons of ice cream". However, the thought stuck with me and I started considering it more and more and more, until I found myself making plans, researching, looking at prices and fares and drafting up a potential budget. I do want to go to Salem!

Yes, I'm currently saving quite hard to buy a house or an appartment - we shall see when we get to that point - and I have other expenses, including my car related expenses and my University related expenses - which don't come cheap - so squeezing in a trip to Salem might not come without effort, but now this is giving me something to look forward, to do, to dream with. It would be actually much longer than my not-Hungary related trips (the average period of most of my trips is 3 days), for I plan on staying a week. For Halloween. Ok, must make sure that I won't have any tests programmed for that week, but I do want to do this, I do want to make this trip, finally go to the States for the first time in my life and get myself a break. I can do it, right? It's ok to dream this big, right?

Apr 5, 2014

Going Through Some Changes... Again

I knew it had been a long time since the last time I wrote, I just wasn't aware that it had passed such a long time! Which is bad, because if I think of all the penpals I've neglected, it means that I've become a legendary Bad Penpal. Of course I won't go here whining about how all of them took their time and effort to write to me, and what a meanie I am for not writing back to them, not letting them know how things are... please. Delays in replies are one of the many, many risks all penpals take when they step upon the path of Penpalhood. Plus, I send postcards here and there to let them know I'm alove, though not enough to sit down and write to them.

So, what has happened since I was here last? Well, I came back to Costa Rica, as you all know, since I was in Hungary for the holidays with the family. This trip offered me a unique chance to gain some perspective on a lot of things about life and life choices and got me thinking about the next steps I should take regarding my future. No, I did not came up with a plan for total world domination. Geez, I would never do that! Too many tasks, too much hassle and the responsability alone! No, no, no I don't want to build my very own Panem. No, the decisions and plans I came up with actually are falling more in the line of the expectations I had some six or seven years ago, concentrated mainly on procuring ease, leisure, fun, stability and professional growth - the way I understand it, of course, not the way the world understands it, which is wrong, by the way. Sorry world, I'm the one who's right, as always.

One of the most important lessons I re-learned was that Integrity should always be above everything. Altruism is overrated, and sometimes you have to stop being good, stop being understanding and stop trying to help others out of the fucking shithole they dig themselves into. I learned that, as ugly as it soulds, Altruism isn't in my nature and shouldn't be in my nature. I'm just too good at what I do and at what I can achieve to afford any altruism. You see, when you are good or you are doing well - be it in life, at school, at work, or whatever project you are in - it may happen that people who are doing less than well ask for your help or start relying on you to get their own load on. Sometimes then, these people - counting on your help or support - start taking more than what they can affort and keep piling on your "because you can help them". Perhaps you helped them but where also expecting to get on with your own program, your own projects, and that stops happening out of the blue because these other people are stopping you from moving forward. I know a penpal of mine with whom this happens more often than not. Well, believe it or not, this happened to me too. Yep, world known Wicked Witch Me. And believe it or not, I actually was wondering whether I should continue helping them in any capacity or leave them in the crap. Honestly, I wished to leave them in the crap, just drop the weight off my shoulders and look at them and tell them: "You wanted this, now you have to shoulder it. I have my own life to live and my is way to amazing to miss out of it". My life is amazing, actually, and I would hate missing a single minute out of it. As usually, I ran a Consulting with some of my friends, just to make sure I was covering all of my basis, getting other P.O.V.s, and then reached a decision: it's time to dig myself out of the situation.

And this is how change begins.

After pretty much a year working at the Legal Department of my company as an Economical Adviser, I've realized that this position doesn't really fulfill my needs. Yes, it is exciting, I love my cubicle in the Central Building overlooking the city, with my ceiling-to-floor windows, kind coworkers (even though they are weird, too "Christians" to my liking, quite close minded, give much to appearances, and tend to be back stabbing, attention whores and their shabbiness in certain aspects that mean a lot to me is getting to my nerves [like why can't they drop the flourish-peppered language when their grammar and spelling SUCKS big time]), and some parts of the job are truly fabulous, BUT there's no maths involved, and after a year, I realized that I'm still a Finance-girl at heart, my mind goes that way, and it's disgusting to try and make me think like a lawyer when that's not what I learned, that's not what I should be doing (understand this: one thing is to learn the laws and how they work, and yet another to give an opinion as if I were a lawyer. I can understand the law and see that as my frame and make my economical analysis considering that scenario, and yet another is to see an economical scenario and give my opinoin about which laws apply and how should a lawsuit be issued. I am not entitled to do so. By Law.), nor is what I want to do. I am an Economist, and that's what I love being, what I love doing and what I want to continue doing.

Las year, when I moved to the area, everything was about getting settled. Things were strange to me but I thought that with time I would settle into them, find my niche in things and be happy. However this year, as my perspective changed, I realized that I was fooling myself. Just because I'm friends with my boss and I love the location of my office, it doesn't mean that what I'm doing is satisfying. I actually felt my brain shrink due to the lack of mathematical thinking. It hit me as a bucket of cold ice to realize that the only type of maths and Excel sheet working I was doing was for my Accounting homework. In the few price-related cases I received, I realized that I was trying to do the analysis of the calculations, the cost construction evaluation, not reviewing whether these were legally regulated or non-regulated services. More than once I was scolded for "butting into stuff that don't belong to us", namely the financial analysis, so in the end I didn't quite understand what they wanted me to do with these documents that a lawyer couldn't do. Yes, it's most upsetting. The style is also completely different, though that's a mostly management question (at one point I was actually asked to say the least possible. It seems I make too many observations for the liking of the others. In plain English, I was asked to do a more shallow work, instead of my bone-cutting disecting style of analysis).

On the other hand, ever since I moved to Legal, my old boss - whom I love to madness, as you all know - has been asking me to go back to him, now that he's in the Financial Management Area. Also, from the same Area but in different departments, people has been asking me to join them. What can I say? People, whatever you go and whatever you do DO ALWAYS A GOOD JOB, BECAUSE PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS NOTICE IT! Never, never let anyone - no boss, no directive, not anyone - drag you into doing a lesser job. Even if you have to swipe the floor, do the best floor swiping you are capable of. That's why I get the requests, that's why departments want me with them, that's why not one of the bosses I've ever worked with (including Moron Lady) has ever let me go willingly. I stand out because of the quality of my work. So, after receiving offers, and also after knowing from the Director of my current department that the new politics for this Area include a need to cut the budget, thus anyone wishing to leave can do so freely with the fix postion we have, I started thinking harder about this whole thing. And so I did a Balance.

I Would Move Because:
1. Working in the Legal Department isn't adding to my career. I had the experience but now my skills are suffering. I know what I am good that, what I'm perfect and top-notch at, and that's not something I can do where I am now. My mind doesn't work the same way with laws as it does with numbers. I can't remember and interpret laws the way I do accounts and costs and figures. That many words and changing rules and illogical fixings and even that "it doesn't matter if it's mathematically or logical wrong, if we can use it to win, we should"-kind of thinking irks me.
2. Going back to my old boss (if I can manage so) would help me continue improving my experience, knowledge and skills in Fees, Costs and Economical Analysis of Service Projects, which happens to be a passion of mine.
3. I don't want to become one of those people who gain some haphazard knowledge of a career they have no paper to prove, and yet loose all their experience and skills of the career they have papers of. Many people agree into that, and consider it becoming "experts in many areas", and never stop to consider the kind of professional suicide it becomes. If I were to look for a job, could I apply for a post as an economist when my working experience is in law? Or could I look for a job as a lawyer when I haven't passed the Bar (the only bar I've ever passed is the Pub kind of bar), and have no diploma that says I am a lawyer? See my point? I am an economist, and I want to put a lot of experience behind that diploma. I believe I have earned enough insight in the law to continue my job as an economist, anymore iddling around would become a waste of perfectly good time.
4. This job doesn't make me happy. I have never before realized how much I need maths and Excel sheets in my life to feel accomplished. I need to put my mind to work in numbers, to find the logical connections between numbers, reseach costs, find the ways to make numbers fit together and get a good result.

I Should Stay Because:
1. They saved me when I needed saving. Yeah, except that I don't do "gratitude" that costs me my personal growth, so fuck that reason.
2. If I go my boss won't have enough people to tackle all the tasks they have to shoulder. Yeah, except that that's my boss' problem, not mine. I am not HHRR, so the lack of employees isn't mine to solve. I'm not Finance to manage their budget problems, and I'm not her boss to manage the workload issues. In other words, yes I know it is a freaking bad situation, but you know what it isn't? My Problem. So fuck that reason too.
3. They do work with two topics I love. Yeah, except that my boss gave those two topics to my other coworker (who has bad spelling, grammar and does a sloppy job compared to me). So that reason also gets fucked.
4. I really like the building.
5. Staying in Legal I'm sure I would never have to work with Moron Lady again.

So, after my balancing of my reasons to stay and to leave, I realized that the only reason for me to stay is the building, and that's the worse reason of all! Yes, I hate the building in which my dear boss - okay, former boss - is located, and the parking there is a nightmare, but isn't it worth it to suffer a little for it in order to do soemthing I really like? The fifth reason, though, is one that really gets me thinking, that really has me considering the whole thing, and I wonder if it is powerful enough to ruin my whole career for. I've been investigating, for as a new change comes to our Government, and thus a change in our Company (we are a public company after all, and the President of the Country always handpicks the people who would manage us, and their friends get to all the power places, thus chips change and fall as result of it), I believe that Moron Lady would be shifted soon, and I would really not want her in Finance in any capacity.

On Monday I'll talk to my old boss, lay the cards for him, and talk it over. I'll be honest and tell him that I had to realize that he's not God, I can't expect him to protect me always from her, and I can't work with her, so if he can give me a fair certainly that we will be away from her, and if he still wants me in his team, he can count on me as fast as HHRR can arrange the move.

I want to go back to Finance, and one way or the other, I will.

Jan 1, 2014

Welcoming A New Year

Well, here it is 2014, and I haven't even been able to catch up with my new filofax, the segments and all the new plans and ideas one has as soon as December 31st becomes January 1st. I'm still on vacations, which is a big, big plus right now as I need time and patience to map out this new year. Already have some Resolutions, to call them somehow (wrote more in depth about them in my Hungarian blog), which could be quickly resumed as it follows:

1. Continue my studies to get my degree in Accounting.
2. Work harder at the office, which in this particular case is a Resolution more oriented to the organizing of my work, which I haven't been able to figure out just quite yet.
3. Keep working on my Filofax. Basically, it means to make it more functional to my needs, and this time add two (maybe three) definitive sections: Work and University (and Finances).
4. Keep practincing archery. My goal hear is to get to 2015 shooting at 70 meters.
5. Read 24 books.
6. Keep doing the List of 13.

Yes, it would have been magical to make 13 of them, but 6 is quite enough, wouldn't you agree?

In this spirit, I have spend my whole day trying to organize in some fashion the files I keep in my computer and erase everything I don't need... and the work isn't even finished yet! To my horror, I realized I had created similar folders for the same thing in different locations and none of them made any particular sense. That's also something I want to tackle, but I won't make it into a Resolution, because it could take years and years of my life. I just know the way I do things. Then worked on some templates and some inserts for my filofax, and haven't even finished and already realized that I've planned so much this new binder would be again bursting at the seams. Hopefully the paper I purchased from filofax will be thin enought to make it manageable.

January is pretty much a month of hope, of dreams, of energy, of plans, where the year seems full of attainable possibilities. Hopefully we won't forget about that. It is, indeed a chance to make things better, to try harder, to make something different, to change something, to get rid of something or gain something. As we have artificially created these cycles, we have in our hands a way to measure our actions and our efforts. What can we manage in a year? Well, let's try it out. It didn't work last year? Well, it could very well work this year! Who knows? Now we at least have the experience we gained in 2013, right? So let's use it!

Now, there's something I would like to take from last year, a little something, a comment really, that could work as a warning for all of us. By the end of the year I came across some people with whom I've had a sort of disagreement years ago - and whom I haven't seen since then. The dispute had been unpleasant, but nothing nearly mortal, or so I thought. They were - how should I say this - well, determinated to ignore my presence, but in a way that came a bit... childish. I was taken aback by their actual effforts to ignore me in a group where the rest of the people wasn't doing so, which, well, came out quite awkward. I did greet, did smile - don't like them at all, but you know, there's a certain level of "hypocrisy obligued by politeness" you must exercise from time to time - but they didn't. Oh well, that's them, life goes on, and everyone behaves the way that makes them feel better. More power to them. Anyway, the next day they talked to someone who was in the previous event and apologized to them (weird, right? Because that person wasn't even the host!), and said that they behaved the way they did because they couldn't forget what I posted about them maybe some five or ten years ago in one of my many, many blogs (actually, not in this, but in one that's hardly read).

Now, I'll be generous and assume that they came up with the first thing that came to mind to cover up some other, shameful reason for their behavior (got into a fight and didn't want to admit to it, had a terrible setback, are under a lot of stress, etc.). However, I must say that my first reaction was disbelief. Could it be that my simple, subjective, humble opinion is so powerful that it actually has the power to mark other people's lives? Because in order to do that, it would mean that my opinion has much more strenght than the opinion people have of themselves. Am I perceived as a sort of Guru of Life? Am I an Oracle of Personality? Or perhaps a Conjurer of Tempers? Actually, no, I am not, but you all know that. Nobody can simply talk someone into change, or alter their selves by simply speaking words. Some words can be hurtful at time, or astonishing, or flattering, or even surprising, but the effect they have on you depend only on you. People only have the power you give them.

They made me think of the Moron Lady, you know, the terrible Director I had in my previous department, the one that harrassed us all. When I was under duress, I did send all politeness out of the window and ignored her as much as I could, even refused to look in her direction when I wasn't speaking or spoken to, basically to be able to keep my composure, and got to the point where stress went to my jaw and I couldn't open it to talk or eat. However, now that I moved on and happy at my new department, I see no reason why not to greet her or smile at her politely. It doesn't mean I like her or that I agree with the way she manages her team - and as a unionist, I plan to work forward to help people under her and other bosses like her to get free of their reign of terror. You don't have to agree with some people or the ideas some people uphold, and you don't have to ignore the damage done to you, but that doesn't mean you must let that harm, those words or that episode take over your whole life. If you do, then that event, those words, that opinion, those actions will become your reality, and you will make them more true than they were ever meant to be.

Well, thing is that this happens all the time: we let publicity convince us and shape our lives in ways that take it out of our hands to become something that suits the needs of a company that leeches on us. We let magazines tell us what to think about our body, let them rearrange our priorities to their convenience, often going against what would be best for our own lives and our plans for it. Sometimes we hold so much and get hung up on something someone said and dwell in it. How many times had it hurt us when some acquintance or just anyone tells us something like "you are fat" or "your hair is quite messy" or "those clothes make you look ugly" or "your nose is too big"? Someone says we are stupid and we fall for it. Then person we have a crush on says we are not attractive (or start dating someone else) and we believe we are no good and nobody will ever love us. We tend to make opinions into inmutable, absolute truths, when they are not. They are simply a point of view of a person. Not true or false, simply a subjective, personal appreciation. Think of the following: just because I say blue is an ugly color, it doesn't make blue an ugly color. Blue is a color, just as lovely as any other color in the chromatic scheme, so my opinion of blue doesn't define the truth about it. Same with everything else. Same with everybody else.

In this sense, I'd like to call upon this curious situation for all of us to reflect on, to take a moment to analize those elements that seem to define us so much, and think of them, determinate if they are really such milestones, or if we have blown them out of proportion, giving them a power taht do not belong to them.

2014, sounds like a good year to recover our power over ourselves and our lives.

Dec 28, 2013

Trip to Bratislava

Yes, this post was due a couple of days ago, but if you go to Bratislava, you will understand why I had taken me this long to write. I actually started to write the entry in my Blackberry, but later on I realized I have no idea how to upload things from my Blackberry to my computer. Indeed, smarphones are too smart for dumb people like me. And they are not helpful. Predictive features? Yeah, not for the smartphones. You seem to need a PhD on Artificial Intelligence so that you are worthy of interacting with them. (Okay, I know my BB wants me to sign up and do all this "protocol" so things can get synched up, but I would love if it would have done the simple stuff without all that electronical or digital red tape.) I'm currently at my favotite place in the world, about to run out of battery in my laptop, while nursing my second Black Magic. Boy, this cocktail should be available everywhere in the planet!

But back to Bratislava. Oh, and prior warner, this post won't be as complete and fabulous as the ones my friend Trish usually does. She's an expert in traveling, and I am not, so bare with me.

Anyway, in order to celebrate our aniversary - kinda, because everything was booked for New Year - my boyfriend and I decided to go spend three days (the usual extent of our holidays, as I tend to get bored too fast) in Bratislava. We did had other options in mind, but when it came to deciding on the destination, Bratislava was not only the most affortable, but also  the best place, considering that it wouldn't mean an extenuating trip, such as Munchen would have... which was the place I really, really wanted to go to (because Meise is too far, and I would have spend all my time with a friend of mine and not my boyfriend, and that wasn't the point of it). Neither of us knew much about Bratislava, so I did some research to know what was there to be seen, and quickly found something that caught my attention: the Grassalkovich Castle. By itselt if may say nothing to you, but for me - having visited the Royal Castle of Gödöllő more times than I care to count, I knew it was a castle that had been built by the noble family that had built the castle that later became one of the favorite places of Empress Sissi. So yes, I had to go there and see it.

Our trips usually don't involve much planning, as we go, get to the hotel, and either start with a nice, refreshing bubble bath or raiding the minibar (that would be me, of course). However I knew I wanted to go and see the Castle. And next time we did. Yeah... don't make that same mistake. The Castle seems to be the private residence of the President of Slovakia, so it's not open for the public, though they nicely fill the streets with informative signs telling you how really beautiful it is inside. Too bad you can't go in and see it.

Well, there are really nice churches, but they are all very, very small. Much like the churches in Sofia. Very ornated but only one small room, that would hardly make 20 square meters, to my rough calculations. You enter, pivot, exit, and you have seen the whole thing.

There is the Hrad Castle, a nice place where the ticket must be paid in cash, and the lady tending the cashier is really pissed at all the tourists. The walk to the castle is quite easy to be made, you can walk it in 20 minutes comfortably, going pretty much around the hill. Through the walk you notice that there's hardly anyone on the streets. Where are the Slovakians in the middle of the day? Not many cars and nrealy no people. Stores are empty as well, and many are strangely luxurious, like too luxurious to belong there, do you know what I mean? Like finding a Carolina Herrera store in a University District: it doesn't mean that there won't be people there with enough money to buy stuff in there, but rather it's not the place for such a store. To be more specific, you really don't expect to see a high fashion shoestore, with shoes that normal people would hardly use or even think of spending on right next to a Tesco or a Spar (or a Walmart, in American terms). Now you get what I mean? It was down right off.

But let's go back to the Hrad Castle. This castle is quite nicely mounted on top of a hill that looks over the Danube and Bratislava, getting quite a magical air through the day, either hued by the hazy lights of dusk and dawn, or sparkling in the crips light of broad daylight. If you are a silly Western child like me and you thought you could pay the entrance with a card, then don't sweat it - there's an ATM 50 meters down the road from the main entrance. But what do you get for your 6€? Well, three floors of... um. Well, there's one floor with big photo signs telling the history of the castle and also a little bit of Slovakia. There's like half a floor dedicated to historical documents where you can see all sorts of old, preserved documents, including old books and certificates (like wanderer certificates) complete with their many hanging seals. Then there's a floor with portraits of a whole bunch of people. Nothing but portraits, and then there's another floor dedicated to an exposition called "How time is measured" and includes calendars and all sorts of devices and old clocks. For many people, this part of the exposition could be terribly boring, but for a filofax enthusiast it's kind of exciting to check these old calendars, and wonder abotu what life could have been in those days when calendars didn't really had any space for you to write down any appointments. No to-do lists, no sections, no alarms set, no deadlines written in, no days divided in hours, no decisions about whether you need a "page per day" or a "week on two pages" to be able to keep all things going on in your life organized.

Then there was an exposition I didn't understand very well. It showed a collection of things, but non of them belonged to the castle or even to Slovakia, or there was any particular explanation at what they did there.

The souvenir store had nothing that would relate particularly to the Castle, save for some magnets, which I sadly lost somewhere. There aren't many souvenir stores, but even in then you hardly see much "typically Slovakian" stuff. Yes, you can get the t-shirt and the postcards, but if you wanted to get some embroidery, dolls dressed in typical costumes, or anything you could call "traditionally Slovakian" you would be looking for a long, looooooong time.

However, one GREAT thing that needs to be acknowledged is the food. Yes, it could be pretty much German, or quite Austrian or even very Hungarian, but their cuisine is FA-BU-LOUS! It's one million calories packed into a hearty meal, it's two years of severe dieting, but it worths it!

Bacon, sour cream, sheep cheese, handmade noodles, it's too delicious for words. And you'll need to bring a friend to help you eat the portions they serve you! So be warned, NEVER enter a Slovakian restaurant alone! This is a battle of Man vs Food where Food will always win, unless Man comes with reinforcements. And not only it never looks little  - it's almost as if a nuclear cuisine sized portion would be considered a national offense - but it doesn't matter how big the dish looks like, when you eat it you realized it's far bigger! For instance, we tried a dish of "samples". Samples won, because the two of us couldn't battle with it! But it was delicious :-D

So, what to do, what to go see in Bratislava? Well, try and find out how the tramways and trolley buses work, and tell us about it, because we couldn't figure them out. Also, go, look around, walk a lot and prepare all day for food.

Dec 10, 2013

Intense Envy and Hatred of Empathy

Everybody hits rough patches. Really. Some people have more rough patches along their way, or rougher ones, or ones that extend quite a lot, but in whatever measure they appear, everybody has them. Throuogh the life of a person, also these patches come in an array of shapes, sizes and frequencies. So what do we do with them? Well, we see through them. It's kinda like the basic Human 101: Take the Hardships and Deal With Them. And how do we deal with them? Well, two ways are to Solve them, or Lay Low and Wait For Them To Pass. Problems with a friend, you Solve, war breaking out in your country, you lay low and wait for them to pass (kind of). But you get the drill, right? Now, you would think that this simple rule is of common knowledge to all of mankind, but you would be surprised at howmany people seems to not have gotten "the memo". Those people act as if in the face of a rough patch, be it the Crisis in Europe or a zip in their face can only be solved through making it someone else's problem, or at least by creating problems around.

Googled Picture. Not Mine.
Someone feels bad because the company they work at seems like in the verge of bankrupcy. What do they do? Quickly! Find someone with job or a small company and trash them! Do that keep them from becoming unemployed? No. Then what was the purpose of it? Oh, just to make someone feel crappier than they do. Hn, curious, because rational people would say "Well, not only are you to become unemployed, but a) you just made yourself a worse person and b) may have lost a chance at being recommended at the place where that person works for a job". Then there's someone who's in a really crappy relationship, or simply has been "looking for love" and haven't been able to find any (wonder why?). Then they meet this new coworker, or this nice friend of a friend, or someone at a hobby gathering, and this person is so nice and so happy and lovable and has been in a very good relationship or is currently single but doesn't mind it because thsi person has a full life, with friends that love them and all. And what the Bitter Bug does? Rushes to say something nasty like "So many years together? Yeah, he/she must be cheating on you", or "That old and alone? Something must be wrong with you then".

When it happens it often takes us by surprise, as well as many other tiny little sparks of passive aggressive behavior, such as when you are suddenly made the butt of every joke, but when you joke back the reply is something in the line of "That was rude" - and I'm talking here about jokes in pretty much the same line, worse when you actually reuse one of the very jokes they have used against you or against each other! Yes, yes, yes, I know it rings a bell - or the (and this one has actually happened to me!) time when you are supposed to go to a lunch with them and then they happen to "forget" because they "thought you were going to eat with your friend". (Word of advise? Do try to look a bit hurt and don't reply with "Oh, it's okay! Actually better, because I really wanted to read my book undisturbed". Trust me, sounds like a nice comeback, but then the office-war goes worse.) However, after a moment, once the surprise for the attitude has passed one thing we must always remember is that this sort of behavior is often prompted by envy. Yep, envy.

People hurting you are often people who resent the fact that you are something they want to be, or you have something they crave. They will look forward to hurt you because they might perceive you as more successful than they are. They will hurt you because you seem happier than they are. Often also, they will try and diminish you because you are not struggling for the same goals they do, and yet you seem satisfied with your life and even happy! You are happy even without being a boss and you have no intention in being a boss. They must crush you. You are happy and don't seem preocuppied for getting married or having kids, and they are unhappy after rushing into marriage and dealing with children that give them more headaches than anything. They must destroy you. You go on happily eating carbs and whatever fancy thing catches your eye and enjoy it, while they try all sorts of restrictive diets and still stay fat. They must nuke you out of the planet.

We must understand something: when someone hurt you or insult you like this, they are actually telling you what they think about themselves. They know their jokes are out of place and born from ill feelings. They want your life, they are unhappy with theirs. The question still remains: why don't they look forward to tackle these things? Solve what can be solved? Well, that still remains a mystery. But meanwhile, if I may suggest something, you smile and picture in your head a little rag doll with their shape... and fill it with pins!

Oct 31, 2013

Blessed Samhain!

Where is the year? What has happened to 2013 and how come we are not two months away from saying good-bye to it and welcome the new year? Well, for once, I've been gone for a while, submerged in studies and work and feeling terribly guilty about all the letters that I haven't replied. I think I have officially earned my "Bad Penpal" badge. :-( Sorry girls! Not that I have forgotten about you - I actually think more about you than I probably should, yet still thinking about you seems to produce no letter for it's own.

I'm also painfully aware of the fact that I didn't post for Mabon, though I wanted to because I really like Mabon, but here I am - late - for Samhain, because the world might end, but I must have my Halloween/Samhain. I don't really feel about talking to you about job or about my studies, because they are currently my main sources of stress - and not for the traditional reasons, but for reasons that really get to my nerves and are product of things that shouldn't be happening AT ALL! so please forgive me if I just go another way with this for a moment.

Well, Samhain is a Pagan celebration also know as the Third Harvest. It's the final harvest of the year, when you clean the land, save up for the winter and sort of retire to rest, and also put the land to rest. It's the moment you stop working and make due with the results of your labor, or in other words, when you face the music. In this sense, what is the music I'm facing now?

That Music

Well, up to this point, I have realized that even the best plans can fall through, that when you go through a change in life - change your job, start studying again, get a new hobby, start a family - things also need to be settled in a different way. It would be delusional to think that you can take a new project, like starting a new business, and still have the same time to dedicate to the activites you pursued before.  I think I have been carrying around some of the projects and expectations I had when I was in Hungary and wasn't working, and filled my day with sending out job applications, and visiting movie theatres and museums. This Samhain makes me realize that I need to actually take my planner, review my current programs, my activities and the time I have to comply with them, and then start making arrangements for all the other stuff.

My creative vein has been kicking in too, with two smashbook projects and then some writing (fanfics mostly, as I'm using them to tone up my skills before hacking into a couple of original stories I have in mind), and also I'm rediscovering the experience of studying, and meeting again with Accounting, something that might stand closer to me that I had already imagined. Discovering the accounting side of me has been interesting. I still have some classes to take, and still have to finish the ones I'm taking now, but I look forward to get ahead with this project and add a second diploma to my CV. This is something I have forgotten, and something that returns to remind me that we are never off the loop whn it comes to learning.

This year I have let myself go in the sense of feeling more free about expressing myself, which hasn't been the best in many cases. Though I am a Christian, being surrounded by very radical Christians at my job, made me aware of other types of hypocrisy and social masks than the ones I was more used to. I also realized once again that since my trip to Hungary, I have severely lost my hard earn capability to be hypocritical and keep my thoughts to myself. My recovered sincerity has proven to be less than adequate in a world that craves and demands sincerity but can't stand it. I need to re-train my hipocrisy in order to properly navigate through 2014.

The Halloween aspect of the celebration has been revealing. I never expected my boss to be horrified by it and down right awkward and concerned. When she saw my Halloween stuff (thanks Hyne I didn't go Pagan and hung pentagrams and Horned Gods and Tripple Goddesses at the cubicle!), she had no idea what to do, and asked if anyone had said anything. Other than people saying I'm crazy, no, they have said nothing... in my face. (One of them was actually aggressive when I referred to myself as "witch" today. She was vehement in denying that I could be a witch, and I didn't have the heart to tell her that I see myself as one, specially because a witch is a person who dares to be different, who works on instinct, seeks knowledge by their own means, and feels drown to seek it in places other consider taboo or stupid.) She was quick to mention a costume party she attended once, where everybody dressed up as the thing they fear the most. She said it in a way where she wondered if that was what all the spooky things were about. I let her follow that line of thought, however this got me thinking about my fears. What do I fear? Poverty? Well, not really. Perhaps being vulnerable, though then again that's a temporal stage for sooner or later you grow confident and strong enough to be able and defend yourself. Death is not part of my fears. Of course I don't want to die, nor I want any of my loved ones to die, but I have no terror of death. If anything, death makes me curious. I feel drown to death.

So, my fear? I realized it might be commitment. But you already knew that, didn't you? :-)

Blessed Samhain!