Jun 21, 2018

Blessed Litha!

It's that time of the year again, when we celebrate another turn of the Wheel of the Year, and honor another Sabbath. "Sabbath": I have some issues with that word, don't you? I've seen is spelled as "sabbath", "sabat", "sabbatt"... I'm choosing to use "sabbath" because that's how I've seen it mostly spelled in my witchy books, but hey, if I'm mistaken, please let me know. But back to the topic :-D.

Source: WiccaSpain RITUALES
Found through Google.com
Today we celebrate Litha or Midsummer or Summer Solstice. You want to know something funny? Well, you know I have a Book of Shadows, right? Well, mine is a... practice-Book of Shadows because I started it when I wasn't entirely sure I would go Pagan. As result, my circle casting spell has Christian references, which I have striken out by now. The point is, in my Book of Shadows I separated pages for each sabbath, with the intention of writing something about each and my experience with it in time. If you were to flip through those pages (which you will never do, because, you know, Books of Shadows are personal), you'll find that I actually have "a lot" written and prepared for Imbolc and maybe for Ostara, but not for the rest of the sabbaths. My section on Litha is quite... empty. Yeah, that might reflect also in the kind of Pagan I am: one that starts the year really dedicated, and then ends it up with the general "let's just see what comes out of it" attitude. Hey, it's not only the generic Christians that do that! Pagans are people too, and yes, we can be lazy people too. Deal with it.

One thing I totally love about being Pagan is the freedom I have to live my spiritual path. No third parties preaching about what constitutes a good Pagan or a bad Pagan, what should you observe and avoid and so on. With no set book of instructions, I am free to follow my heart there whereit would lead me. As result, as I do my research - lazy or not, this witch loves reasearch, even though she may not dutifully write it down in her Book of Shadows, mind you - I can check on different experiences, different suggestions and then pick and choose my rituals.

In previous years I have reflected upon the sabbaths as milestones in a project. I believe I have post in this blog that reflect this thinking. Was it 2015, maybe? (Perhaps I should go back on them and copy those posts out into my Book of Shadows...) Though this leading idea remains in my rituals, for this year I was seeking to complete better my notes, and so I started researching on two lines: one, I wanted to get more information on elements traditional for Litha, particularly food types (in this sense, I'm so much more prepared for the Three Harvests, Yule, Imbolc and Ostara), and also getting more information on one of my gods, Mercury.

Source: Google.com
For the first part I roamed aimlessly here and there, and found information about using fresh garden produce, like veggies and fruits. Do I have the links, you'd ask? Nah, this witch FORGOT about writing those down. I tried to re-google it, but when has that ever worked? I know, I know. Anyways, now the thought is in my head, to use fresh fruits. That will be fun, because I thought of berries, so I'll sure will seek for strawberries, maybe some physallis and cherries. I think I may get a small cherry-pie or a strawberry cheesecake for tonight's ritual's cake. No information on particular drinks, BUT a kriek might be a good idea, wouldn't you agree? Ah, don't you love being Pagan? I sure do! :-D

In another site I found but can't reference because I forgot to save it, I read that Litha was a great time to reinforce your Path and reflect upon it. Also it's a great time to renew your bond with your gods. Aha! Great, I thought, because I was already thinking about researching more about Mercury!

Regarding my gods, I have gone through many sites and checked information (and saved other for later, though I don't exactly remember where I saved it?) as part of my exercise to get to know better the different faces and sides of the Divine. You may know this already, but I connect particularly with three gods: Minerva, Mercury and Neptune. Normally, in the Wiccan tradition, people tend to have a God and a Goddess. I am not wiccan, but I relay heavily on their guidance to go around walking my path. Think of it this way: I do my thing, but when in doubt I check with Wicca for ideas. Not to mention that, honestly, most of the available bibliography out there is Wiccan, so yes, this lovely religion is a fantastic support for all of us. Anyway, in my heart I have felt a connection with these three for a while, so I relate to them as my mean or leading or patron gods. However, how much I know about them? Not much.

Curiously, with Minerva and Neptune I also tend to relate to their greek counterparts (Athena and Poseidon), but not with Mercury. Also, with Minerva and Neptune, I'm clear about their symbols regarding animal figures I can use to represent them in my altar settings or generally in my home, but I've no such representation of Mercury, which is what spurred this quest. In this sense I have not found (so far) any clear indication of Mercury favoring a particular animal, such as Minerva has the owl and Neptune has the dolphins, but I have been reading more and more about him and find it curious how my life path has followed so closely on his realm. Exchange, language, commerce, Mercury is fascinating!

So, on this sabbath, I will take a moment to meditate and share some thoughts about the gods and with a special mention of Mercury, one of my patrons.

How will you spend your sabbath?

May 18, 2018

Filofax Size

Browing through Philofaxy's posts through my Blogger Reading list (I totally love that feature), I've found a post about the benefits of an A4 sized filofax. Lets all take a second to imagine that. Yeah, that ain't not going to happen to me. 

My Filofax Journey

My first filofax: a Personal size Sketch in Chocolate
property of Stormberry.
In previous posts - if you dig long enough - you might get to the process I went through to pick the right filofax for me. After years of using regular planners (one book per year) and getting tired of copying each year the back of it (addresses and such), I decided that I had to move into a filofax, a planner system that I have loved and longed for years and years before I had one, even before I knew of the brand!

Before my current filofax I had two filofaxes, both of them from the more budget oriented lines and both in Personal size (I'm referencing here posts of Philofaxy that can help you picture sizes or understand specifications)

The first filofax I had was the most beautiful one I ever had. It was a Sketch, which one elasticized penloop, and a handy back pocket in the outside of the back flap. The color was also rich and amazing. Sadly, however, the clasp of it broke at the root quite fast, which meant that after one year I had to replace it. FilofaxUSA, from where I bought it, couldn't replace it to me (unless I went with a burgundy planner, not my beloved Chocolate), so yes, I had to file away this one and go for a new binder.

My first layout
property of Stormberry
One thing worth noting was that when I've got this planner, I had bought a Day-per-Page insert that I ended up not using because I had not enough space to put it in AND add all the sections I wanted to include. After using an A5 planner book with Day-per-Page (or PPD, Page per Day) setting, moving into a smaller size with a Week-on-two-Pages layout was hard.

It took time but I've got used to it, so when it came the time to replace the binder, I had found my way around the Personal size, and so my second binder - an Identity, purchased from filofax.com, the UK site - I choose it again on that size.

Identity
property of Stormberry
This second one was functional, cushy and nice. I loved that it had two elasticized penloop, but if I must be honest, it wasn't as pretty in my eyes as my Sketch. It was sturdy, though, and it took a lot of tear and wear, and lasted me for around three years, and held up quite well.

It was in this planner that I started doing my first inserts and settled more into what I really want and need from a planner. I also realized that there were things I really disliked, like the need to CUT paper to size, or buy expensive filofax blank paper to print my inserts on it, and PRAY the printer wouldn't eat the pages, because they took time and costed more than what I was comfortable wasting. But lived with it and learned to go around it... including adding pages for keeping data and origami-ing it into a fitting size.

All was good with Identity until it started showing serious signs of wear. It would have not bothered me so much except that the cardboard that fills the binder started showing and the cover's plastic covering peeled off showing the white stuff under it. Yep, it's made of some sort of vinyl.

So I went again on a quest for a new planner. I started flirting with the idea of getting a Malden, because I decided I wanted something more durable, but that aged well and took nicely to signs od wear, and what better to that than leather? I'm not an excesively careful user, and I don't really like the pristine look of some things. So, I wanted leather. I'm still wasn't entirely sold on Malden, until I visited a friend in Germany and she showed me her (many) Maldens. I pondered it, caressed it, thought about it, and when I was on the verge of going for a Personal Malden, she asked me:

"Why don't you go for an A5?"

A5 Malden. Layout: Bullet Journal
property of Stormberry
The idea was preposterous because it was so big! But then, as I handled it, it seemed perfect. So after some lenghty thought, I went for the A5 Ochre filofax Malden. When I received it, the first thing I though was:

"Fuck, this is BIGGER than I thought!"

I had to adjust, but I was quickly in love with the space it gave me. Also, the absolute flexibility of having it easier with the paper as I only have to fold A4 pages in half, but even if I go with a half Letter sized page I can make do. Maybe filofax doesn't have many inserts for it, but other brands cater a wide arrange of it. Also, who needs inserts when you can easily repurpose reused pages, stationery and so on? At work and at school, I found it much easier to fold leaflets in half and keep them there, clip them to the page of day when I would need them and so on. Much, much easier than with a Personal sized planner.

Current Observations of Size

This year - after about two years in my Malden - I decided forgo the inserts and instead cut in half a bunch of leftover grid pages of the kind I use to study, and go #bulletjournaling. This year I haven't spent a dime on inserts and I'm happy like a clam. :-D

However, an A5 has a disadvantage: it's heavy. Not only I had to rethink my bags and purses because many no longer fit my planner, but the weight of it is significant. Yesterday I went to German classes and I bag was very heavy. When I travel, my backpack - which normally include my planner, my laptop, liquids, cosmetic bag, my Kindle (I try and make sure to finish my paper books before a trip, but if I must travel with a paper book, that goes into my hand luggage), and a tin box with phone cables, earbuds and a power bank, and an external memory. Last time I weighed this, it was 9 Kg.

On daily basis I don't carry my laptop, but I do carry paper books and other knickknacks, so my bag normally weights around 7 Kg. It has always been heavy, but with my big filofax, it is now really heavy. So, when I consider the comfort I already get from this size, and the weight it puts on my shoulders, I really don't see the point of a larger size. If you think you need a planner that large, you may also have to carry a whole range of other things, and that means it will add even more weight than the A5.

I can imagine the A4 a size suitable more for a project binder or a work binder, where you keep spreads, notes and such, but not like an organizer. As a teacher, or a professor, it could work wonderfully to keep in class lists, plans and grades, carry graded papers and exams, along with notes for the class and such, but for a planner it is - in my view - somewhat excesive.

Then again, for a binder, it is quite expensive. Do you need it really?

:: as I composed this post, I listened to: Radio Köln.:: 

May 15, 2018

Days for Reading (Aimless Rambling)

In the recent months I've been pretty much on a movie-spree, watching quite a lot of movies in rapid sucession. That's cool, because I like going to movies and I like movies. But then I have stopped, or more to the point, I have BEEN stopped. Do you want to know why? Because the movie theatres around me have decided to cater on hypes and limited seriously the number of movies they put out for people to watch. For instance, in my home town there is a mall with a movie theatre that has five halls. Do you know how many movies are they projecting? Three: Avengers (already seen it), a national movie (already seen it) and one about apostole Paul (there is no power on the heavens, earth or hell that can make me see it). Prior to that it was the first two movies AND a kiddie movie. Prior to that it was only the first TWO movies.

Other movie theatres around have more movies: Avengers, the national movie, and an assortment of kiddie and/or religious movies. So I keep branching out, I look for other movie theatres and I find war-action movies, comedy-action movies, comedies... Really? I know it's not October, so there wouldn't be an overabundance of horror movies, but is it April-May the sucky-movie-month?

So yes, that upsets me, but thankfully I've solutions at hand: my friends the loyal Books. ^_^ The thing with movies is that either you have at home a large DVD, Blueray collection, or millions of movie files on your computer (or Netflix and such) or you will depend of whaever the movie theatres in your location are willing to show. On the other hand, with books you can accumulate many, or even just get into your local library (if you read in there, you won't even have to pay, often times), and have a wonderful story at your fingertips that can keep you entertained for more than 90 minutes (usually).

And so yes, as movies dry up, I turn to my books and I fill my head with their words and their stories. :-) Currently, the book I'm reading is Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier's "Panama Papers", the book these journalists wrote about how they've got all those documents from Mossack Fonseca, the company that facilitated worldwide to many enterprises and individuals to create offshore companies that helped them funnel funds for different reasons. This book is AMAZING!

Now, I must tell you this: book shopping sprees can be, and often are life savers. Few of you might know (though I suspect none of you know), that I am part of the booktube community. I've a really tiny channel (in Spanish), and I like it like that. I like the feeling that I'm an unknown little booktuber that only a few people have discovered, and are maybe seen in secret. :-P Anyway, for a while now I've been consuming copious amounts of booktube videos, because

1. They are entertaining
2. They give me good ideas about what other books are out there that I may want to read

Most booktubers are young and avid YA (young adult) readers, which I am not, so also, a reason for me to do the chanel was to put of more content of other types of books. Yes, most of the booktubers read other books that are not YA, though those tend to be new books or hyped books or - you know - the books you usually find at big bookstores. And there is nothing wrong with that, but that often leaves other obscure books out there to be discovered. Lets put it this way (though it's not accurate), most booktubers are glossy bookstore booktubers, and I've been feeling the need of used-bookstore booktubers. At least this is my perspective.

So, yes, the thing is - I'm taking such a long, circumventing road here - that I have been binging on booktube for a while, and I've notice the murmurs of all sorts of topics and dramas, one of those was "Book Consumism". The hype at one point was whether booktube promotes consumism. Honestly, I've been tempted to put out a video explaining the different natures of goods in economy, and how books are like music, and it is possible not to have a "point of satisfaction" with it, thus people can consume infinite amounts of it... but that's not the point.

So, I was wondering if there was really such a thing as too many books or excessive book purchase, or mindless book purchase. Now, each to their own, but this is what I think: 

1. There is people who like to collect. Some people like a particular book very much and buy it in different editions because they like to look at it. They don't buy it for the story - though they may like the story - but for its collection-value, which may or may not be represented in terms of money. It is not "silly consumism", because in this case the book takes on a different function, the same way people collect stamps, sports cards, or any other thing that can be collected.

2. Books are a mean for entertainment, and while some books can be read several times and keep the same entertaining value, or some people can read the same book several times and still be entertained, that is not always the case. In these later cases, people who wish to entertain themselves reading, need to keep consuming more and more books, different each time. Putting a stop to it would be as silly as saying to someone "You have watched 10 movies so far in your lifetime. You don't need to watch any more movies".

In the cases where people desire to keep reading different books, they can choose to buy the books or borrow them, for instance, from a library. When people choose to buy them, often times people get into a bookstore and find several books they like. If they have the means to buy them, why shouldn't they? I have more books unread that I have read, and I always make sure to keep them that way, for as long as my resources and the bookstores around me allow me to. Why? Not only because I like to have a variety of choices to choose from when I have finished a book (I never really know, after finishing a book, what kind of story would I need or want to read), but also because it has happened to me quite often that I walk into a bookstore seeking new books (meaning: with the intention of spending money on books) and have come out empty handed. Just as I noted before, what would be the point of suffering from the same harrowing emotion that one goes through with movies (at least here) but with books? Why not use the times when there are plenty of good, interesting books (according to your own taste, after all, you are the one reading them) and gather many to be able to survive good-book-drout? 

Depending on how often you enter a bookstore, and the kind of bookstore you have around, but usually big chain bookstores operate based on market logic, meaning that they will fill their limited book-space with those books that are more likely to be sold. As result, when a certain book has a hype, bookstores tend to stuff their shelves with that type of book and as many similar books as possible, so that the readers brought in by the hype my find the book they wanted or leave with a similar one, and for those who already had a hyped book, to keep offering similar ones. This means that if you are not interested in that type of book or topic, you may have less to choose from.

The good thing about books is that they don't have a caducity date. They won't rot, they won't make you sick if you read them after certain date, so you can stock up on them and read them when you have the time or the desire.

My personal library is one filled with book that are now hard to get, obscure tomes that I would have forgotten, have I not found them when I did, and which yet are amazing. When I finish a book I don't need to go to a bookstore, but simply browse through my bookshelves for one of my many hidden treasures. And it makes me happy. My library keeps me entertained and assures me many, many years of entertainment ahead, saving me from the risk of running out of good stories be it for the lack of printing of good books or from a possible time when I can afford buying more books.

Perhaps book-consumism could be if you bought books just because they were hype, even though you had no intention to read them, nor were you interested in collecting books, but purchase them only for the desire to spend money. But if you buy books - be in few or many - because you want to collect them or read them (and you are interested in the book, or believe that you could be interested in it ), then that's not consumism, that's acquiring a good to satisfy a present or future need, and that is what regular consumer behavior is about. Trust me, I learned about this. I even have a degree on the science that studies this. :-D

Apr 20, 2018

Integrity

:: THIS POST WAS WRITTEN IN APRIL 20th AND i BLOCKED IT OUT. SINCE I THINK THE CASE COULD BE OF USE FOR PEOPLE OUT THERE, I'M RELEASING IT AGAIN::

Something awful happened today. Well, maybe "awful" isn't the right way to describe it, because it's more a matter of "deep disappointment", but the way I feel it in my heart is as "awful". As usual, names are not the actual names, because even if I am mad as Hell, I'll try to protect people in my life. However, I will be giving some details that might make it very easy to identify people, but those are important. So, if you know who am I talking about, don't go sending them hate. Instead send them love, because clearly they need it.

So, the thing is that I was talking to his friend of mine who lives in Hungary. Let's call him... Tivadár (Hungarians assign a name or more name for each day of the year, so I'm using today's name). We were aimlessly talking about a whole arrange of things, until at one point I made a comment that had a political undertone. We have different political views, and in the past I have made similar comments, but it was nothing major. Now, to put you in the picture, I am more of a central-leftish, or a "liberal", in today's terms. He is a "conservative" though mostly a "nationalist". So, I made this comment - kind of on the line of hinting on the oppressive stance of the current Hungarian government over press freedom - when he launched into relating to me a story that an alleged acquintance of his, who is not politically motivated (notice the framing to give validity to the story), about a series of awful, alleged things that happen in Germany due to the refugees they've received. The story he shared was quite extreme, to the point of falling into unrealistic levels, pandering unadulterated hate-speech against refugees, and particularly these refugees. I will not repeat the story because it was hateful in extreme and I do not feel comfortable forwarding unverified stories, particularly some like these.

I could hardly let him finish his story because of the abhorrent things he was saying and how he was saying them. I must admit I went very, very mad. And yet Tivadár went on, speaking ill of the German government, claiming the story wasn't heard of at all (well, isn't that convenient) because they were covering the story, hushing the media, and yet did nothing to stop the situation.

Source: Wikipedia
I was livid and fuming. I want you to understand something: Tivadár's story was hate-speech in that it was told with the aim of explaining why refugees should not be allowed to enter the country. It was aimed to paint refugees as malevolent people, criminals, unredeemable human beings that have no place in western countries. It was also aimed to slur on Germany for receiving them. At this point, it's important to tell you that Tivadár is a preacher. Sunday after Sunday, he climbs the pulpit of his church and preaches to people about God's Love. When I threw on his face the intrinsical hypocrisy of this, he got offended and said that it was a low blow to bring his profession into the discussion. Is it?

For me this is a question of integrity. My life may have many areas and I may take part in many different activities, and some of them might be or seem contradictory. Something I can think of, for instance, is people that like BDSM literature, art or movies, but don't like it in their sexlife. Or being vegan and working at an Argentinian restaurant that serves loads of meat. Jokes often offer also small escapes for things that may or may not be contradictory with other parts of life. However, there are things that need to have coherence, things that answer to the same driving principal. Elements that are shaped by our values. I do find it wrong if an accountant takes active part of fraud, or condon it in any shape or form. I find it wrong if a lawyer seeks to break the law. For me, these are acts of hypocrisy, these show a gaping lack of integrity.

In the case of priests and preachers, well, they have chosen a path that intertwines the personal conduct and the professional, the speeches at work with the personal opinion so deeply, that their requirement of integrity is higher. Or is it that you love your fellows only when on the pulpit, and God loves everybody when in church, but once you step down you rather have millions of poeple die in wars, small children die while escaping, because "they are not like us", and you don't want to help them?

This is unacceptable to me.

Apr 12, 2018

Vacational Plans

Source: Stormberry
Yesterday we had a holiday here, so my friend Lau and I went to a beach resort, a Double Tree. The story behind this is that some weeks ago I saw some really awesome pictures of Lau at a beach hotel, and I wanted to know where it was. Lau told me that she went there with some friends from the office, because one of the girls had a membership. Well, that sounded interesting, so I asked how can I become a member, and so the friend referred me to the program.

That was several weeks ago. I thought I was going to be called at once, but then they took forever to call me. When they finally did (maybe some two months after I was referred), it was by a phone call, and the representative offered me a Day Pass for any day... in the close future, which I had to decide on at that exact moment. This was last week. Out of the blue, I decided to go on the 11th, because it's a holiday.

Through the call they made me some questions, like if I had a certain type of credit card - apparently, the program can only be offered to people with that specific type of card - and it was stressed that I had to have that card on me when I go for the Day Pass. I would not be able to apply for it if I didn't have the card. The other odd thing was that they asked me about my marital status and whether I had children, and then, on and on this husband+children thing kept coming up, like the representative couldn't get behind the idea that I would choose not to have either. So, since I am single, they made told me that I could bing "someone" with me, and I noticed a slightly clipped tone in that "someone", like: "well, I guess you have no kids and no husband because you are a lesbian. That makes me feel uncomfortable, but you can bring your lady-friend with you, if you like". It was odd.

I then received a formal invitation via e-mail, in which I was invited with "my child". I called and asked to clarify, and asked whether it was ok for me to bring someone along, but that I have no children no husband. "Yes, sure..." and again the clipped, strange tone of voice about the potential romantic connection me and "Mystery Companion" could have.

Part of the deal was to agree to a 60 minute tour around the premises. Yeah, sure, why not? I knew they were going to try and sell me the membership, and I was originally going with the idea of signing in.

I will start by nothing that I had certain expectations about the Double Tree Resort. The place was nice, really, but certain aspects of it were a bit more on the cheap side or the "family value" side.

We were received with a bottle of water, offered beverages, and then started "The Program". We were brought to a waiting place with the look that many catalogue stores have for their agents. Bright colored furniture and glass tables so that the super-crowded place looks more spacious. High ceilings paired with jewel colored divisions to keep the visitor from noticing that there is actually no ceiling and that the light fixtures hang from unsightly cables. Then some general info was taken from me, and again, my relationship with Lau was asked. Really, you want to sell ME stuff, why in the fucking hell do you need to know what my relationship is to the person accompanying me? Unless you intend to use that person to pressure me into the purchase. I know, prospects with knowledge of marketing can be really annoying.

The first representative we talked to, was there to talk to us about the benefits and to take us around. She also made some questions about our preferences and so on (our, because the idea that I might be alone and enjoy the membership alone must be incomprehensible), and some cursory data on how much on average do we spend on holiday. The program was offering seven nights a year at that given hotel, which had to be spent in a whole week or "broken" into two portions, once taking saturday to wednesday, and then thursday to saturday, or any such combination, but not, like broken into two or three weekends. And no less than three nights. And she mentioned something quite obscure about some yearly increasing of 4%, which I understood it was the membership, and that I had to give in advance three potential weeks a year when I would like to take the week I requested. If I wanted to use the benefit in another hotel in the country, I had to pay "only" $176 or so for the "move", and if I wanted to use it in a hotel in another country, that would cost me "only" $350 or so.

Different room options were shown to me, and I had to decide which I would prefer. I had to pick one and if in the future I wanted or needed a different room, I would have to pay for the difference.

Then we went around the place, which was nice, though the big pools didn't convince me, and I found the gym too small and poorly equiped. We were then shown one room, that honestly looked more like a cabin than a hotel room. It had a kitchenet and a regular fridge. And the hallways were dark. Hell, it reminded me of the hotel room where I stayed with the girls in München, and that wasn't even München!

When we returned to the chatting place, where a second seller would take over to talk prices (prices disclosed at the end: sure sign of bad), I had already formed a cap amount in my head: being an All Inclusive hotel, if they had room service and mini-bar, I was willing to go for a $500 membership a year for a room with capability for four people. And I was being generous there. Then came the Price Guy, and things went out of the window. As it happens, they sold 15 year plans, with a cost of +$12 000. Oh, butu I was in the luck, because they could offer me a 12 year plan for only +$10 000. I only had to pay up front $2800 and the rest in monthly payments for a year or in two years.

Yeah, ain't no gonna happen. Price Guy went on wild on the numbers, making all sorts of warped calculations about how it was only $908 per year (in other words, $908,00 for seven nights in a concrete cabin, without the meals or the All Inclusive plan), which was as cheap as $48 per night (what kind of maths are you using son? Didn't you read your notes? Lau and I are economists: we know numbers and money. If the cost per year is $908, the cost per each of the allowed seven nights is $129,71), which was only $10,80 per night per person. And he went on and on about how it was impossible to find a room for $10 a night, unless it was a hostel "and I know you will never go to a hostel". What was making him believe that I would go penny-counting and charging my guests for their stay? Price per person, per night is a nasty way of selling a room. And for a client that "doesn't stay at hostels" such a parsimonious calculations are futile in the gentler of cases, and insulting in the worse. Not to mention that in the end, what will be paid is that up front amount, those montly payments, and all the extras so carefully kept from the eye of the client, such as the actual meal plans and other comissions and fees... and whatever that fee might be that was mentioned in the passing, and which increases 4% per year. No, I have not lost that from sight.

When I told him that I don't like commitment and I definitively don't like the idea of the up front payment, he went a bit pety, commenting how much I would pay for my other vacations in fifteen years, so this was not that much.

"Yeah," I said "but I'll pay those vacations as they come, from the same account and the same salary from which I would pay this. Those I can decide when and were to take them, and those are more prioritary to me than this, which would be just for whenever I feel like it - a weekend getaway - so it makes no sense to me to make such a commitment on this place."

Price Guy actually tried to use Lau against me, how I could sell Lau or my other friends those days, and so on, and when I insisted in my refusal, he went nasty.

"Is it because of the money?"
"It's because of the commitment," I told him.

He tried to find me a suitable plan, but all had the same component: the up front payment. Really, didn't he get it? I don't want to up front pay anything.

In the end they worked on us for over two hours (not the 60 minutes) and got nowhere with us. Frustration was evident on them, with the first representative didn't even bothering in saying goodbye when parting. 

So here is what I think:

1. These Vacational Plans might be designed with families in mind. Maybe it could work for a family that likes to go on regular, yearly vacations with the kids to the exact same places, and have this routine settled. For them one big expenditure now to ensure the future vacations for until the kids are off to college might make sense. Some familes do like this type of solution because then they can manage their family lives in a more orderly fashion, and reduce their budget issues, logistic plannings for the foreseeable future. If a family has the means, a plan like this can ensure a place kids can look forward to go on their summer vacations, and parents get the assurance of staying on a well known place, where kids won't get lost.

From families I know, I have seen these sort of dynamics going on: Christmas vacations spent with these grandparents, mid year vacations spent with the other grandparents, a week or two at some usual family friendly resort they know well. And this goes on and on and on for years. They might yearly meet with the same other families, kids may form vacation-friends or summer-friends, and all is good.

For single people who like freedom and have the means to pay for their vacations (and for such a plan they NEED to have means), it makes no sense. If you are like me, probably the previous description of family vacations sounds like the surest and shortest way for insanity. I would go crazy in such a restricted scheme, and I am the one that ALWAYS goes to the same places for vacations. The difference for me is that I choose when I go to those places, and I have the freedom to choose not to go there. Yes, I always seek to go to Paris, and I always stay at the same hotel, and visit the same street, but I'm not committed to it. If in my next trip I decide to fligh through... Frankfurt and spend a night there, I can. I will not lose my money for the trip I didn't take that time to Paris. Even though I highly doubt it that I would willingly give up Paris, this option is open. Paris does not hold me by a contract. I have not committed myself to visiting Paris yearly for an given amount of days, prepaid, and if I don't use them, I lose them.

When evaluating this options, one must really consider one's real needs and expectations.

2. Something the representatives didn't have in mind, is that I have experience in some higher end hotels, most recently with the mind blowing Hard Rock Hotel Megapolis (Panama City). However, I have had the chance to stay also at five star hotels and in the past years I prefer to stay at four star hotels of big hotel chains, such as Barceló and Accor. I know the average range of prices for those hotels and the quality I can expect from them. In my experience, the price ultimately offered for the hotel rooms a that Double Tree - which is the budget branch of the Hilton Hotels - is way to high for what you get. I can easily name three hotels in that same area (more or less close) with lower prices that either offer the same experience, similar to a bit lower experience, or a much better experience and with a far better ocean view and beach.

Now, why is this important? Because sometimes representatives try to make you believe that you are being offered a real treat, a deal you can't afford to lose. If they are doing their best to sweeten the deal by purposefully withholding information on the price at the begining and making sure to fill your eyes with stars before, it is not a deal.

It took them two months to contact me, two moths during which I assumed they had let loose Cambridge Analytics, and they had read all my tripAdvisor reviews and seen all my pictures from all of my vacations. They didn't, which is why they tried to sell me a three star option, with some building parts worthy of a two star hotel, at higher end five star hotel prices. When you expect me to sleep in a two bed room and cook my own food in the kitchenet that's located IN the room, for around $130 a night, and precisely $908 per year for seven consecutive nights, you don't know the client you are dealing with.

3. One thing to notice when being recruited for plans like this, is who is really making the plan. As I was paying attention to their speech, I noticed that - though they were not up front with it - I was not dealing with the Hilton Hotel Chain itself, but with a Vacational Club Agency called Interval International. At no point during the promotion was I made aware of this, or about what would happen with my plan if this one hotel for which I was supposed to make the plan would cease to exist for whatever reason: the company terminates their contract with Interval International, or the hotel is closed or sold to another company with which Interval International has no contract, or if the hotel changes its category and no longer offers the same facilities.

4. Watch out about the maths. If you are not very versed in the hotel booking thing, you might not notice that oftentimes the price of the room is quite fixed. The difference between what you pay for a room for one and a room for two isn't directly proportional to the number of people occupying the room. In most of my searches, I have found that most hotels charge the exact same amount per night whether you book the room for one or two people. Clearly, with larger numbers the prices will raise because the size of the room and the expectation of use of amenities, plus the number of equipment goes up, but in general, the number of people would not impact the price of the room so dramatically. So is the price per night. A large end bill can be sold like a bargain when you dilute the amount into these tiny component, but in the end, even if you have a tiny price per person per night, you will have to pay the room for the number of days you stayed in it.

This sort of maths might come into account when you are traveling with friends, on a budget and everybody is pinching in. It might not be the case when you are traveling alone or with family, specially with kids, and it is much more dubious when you are planning your vacations for the next fifteen years. You can't be sure you will always have the full occupancy, or that everybody will pinch in. So, whenever someone goes on breaking the amount into such "perspectives", think about the actual amount you will have to end up belting out at the given moment. Price per night per person isn't the price you will end up paying. The amount you would pay in total for the next fifteen years isn't the amount you will end up paying. You will pay the up front downpayment. You will pretty much assume a loan-like payment plan for vacations with given conditions. There will be a monthly or yearly deduction of your account whether you are taking vacations or not, that you will have to count with.

Don't let warped maths get in the way of your wallet. Don't let them drag you into that. Let them talk but don't pay attention to their calculations: keep in mind the numbers you know about what you are supposed to pay.

It is alright to take a vacational plan, and it's fine if the Double Tree has what you want and what you need, and if the price is ok for you: that's fine, but before you sign for it,  make sure you know well what it is you are signing for. My final recommendation is to always stay clear from deals in which they are not willing to give you the price at once, those where the representative or seller tries from the begining to empathize with you (those friendly comments where they try to show you two have something in common and repeatedly try to reinforce it), and particularly those where they do not want to give you time to think: if they try to push you to spend now, say yes now, it's not a good deal. Think always that there is a reason why they don't want you to think it over. If it were such a good deal, then the more you think of it the more you would like it, right?

Feb 22, 2018

Feeling So In Love


Today I'm in a particular state of mind. Maybe it has been something that has been forming in me since my last trip to Hungary, when my relationship to one of my friends became deeper in some emotional levels I don't fully understand yet. I went through some hard break outs - I came out of the broomcloset to a family member, which was something I had not planned to do - and that had left me sensible. I took some risks I would have not considered before, like getting a tattoo done - the word "witch" on my wrist, nontheless, and related to this I also found incredible support from other friends of mine. My Best Friend, my Angel, my Deep and Sweet Love had also gone mellow on me, so amazing and embracing and understanding, and we shared so much this time, my love for him swelled and warmed and wrapped the whole Universe. I came so close to him again, that it may have rendered me vulnerable to the softness of life and emotions.

Then there was this other dear friend of mine, next to whom I found my Spirit spreading wings and opening up. I found myself in a strange willingness to trust, to give in and unshackle myself from my eternal defensive stance. I laid down my weapons and let myself to be soft, giving, yielding. No longer a warrior or a a member of a royal court constantly cunning and plotting to stay alive in a world of politics and treason.

I came back from this trip sensible, prone to mellow emotions, and so I have found myself more often than not slipping into melancholic emotions brought upon by the sweet sadness of remembrance. A perfect state of mind for poetry to spring from my pen, where my pen prone to such, though shall we know that my few pieces of poetry are related to love and death and thus, dedicated to Henrik.

I have found myself yearning for these memories, feeding my ears and soul with movies and music that nourish this longing, and thus I have been delving into the hopeless romanticism of "Kimi No Nawa" and its soundtrack. This topic of love remaining secret, unexplainable, unattainable, a love that pierces through barriers impossible to grasp for others, and yet there, fighting with teeth and nails to remain alive in the only temple where it can find some safe haven , has struck hard in me. Loves that are eternally locked inside me, that must go unspoken, that will live eternal in my memory.

I'm thinking about getting a second tattoo, this one featuring two ravens: Hugin and Munin, who are Odin's ravens. There is a poem related to them, which goes like this:

Hugin and Munin fly each day
over the spacious earth.
I fear for Hugin, that he come not back,
yet more anxious I am for Munin.
(source: Wikipedia)

Hugin represents the Thought and Munin the Memory. As my thought has wandered and my memory has revisited these sweet memories of mine - my loved and affairs, our sweet shared moments and the departures that had inevitable come after - I have found myself hugging tighted to Munin. Then, for things don't just happen, I tumbled upon some old unsent e-mails addressed to an old adventure of mine that has had a much larger effect on me and my life that he will ever imagine, or I'll ever confess to him. Re-reading our letters (and astonished at the impressive level of French I had then) brought me to tears. Right then I wanted to run to my friend and hide in his embrace. Regardless of the "dabbling" we have engaged in - off and on - I needed a friend that would hold me tight and lend me strenght while I weathered the storm of my emotions and memories, while I held hard into Munin's wings and muttered long spoken phrases, and tasted again the aged petals of those dusty memories of mine. I had allowed myself to be breakable and I have shattered so sweetly into shards of old memories of love. Through the distance and his words, my friend lent me support, and I folded into myself, as I have in so many other times, licking my wounds, drinking my own blood and finding sweet joy in my old wounds. Oh dear, I am human, I am soft and vulnerable, and I will bear any pain so that I can keep forever in my memory the moments I have shared with them.

As Odin fears, so do I, the day that Munin no longer comes back to me.

Jan 8, 2018

Starting the New Year

This year has started with a lot of different things of a lot of different natures. For once, for the first time in a long, long time, I actually passed out drinking for New Years. At a friend's place. Friend who is a priest and lives in a church. It was a strange case, because I did black out, but from the amount of drinks I had before I passed out, there is no way in hell I would normally pass out. To put it in another light, I passed out from an amount that would normally not even get me tipsy. Why? Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. As result of this unfortunate event, I spend a couple of days feeling sick and weak. One whole day of really fucked up hangover, and then a couple more of days feeling like food and I might not be best friends at the moment.

Quite soon after, though, I had a trip to Germany - specifically to Essen - to visit my friend Tina. It's always so good to see Tina :-)

Also, for a little while now, I've been thinking about getting a tattoo. You see, I had this "witch" tattoo done last year with henna, and it felt so right, so me, that I had to have it done permanently. I wasn't sure where I wanted to have the tattoo done - as in which tattoo parlor - and to be honest, I don't really know any reputable ones close to where I live. So I asked Tina - since she has some ink work - and she helped me get an appointment to a place in Essen. That in itself was also quite chaotic, as the original place in Düssedorf wasn't replying to our request for a speedy appointment, and then another one in Essen - Art Faktor - was also at odds.

Property of Stormberry
Before flying to Essen, I had spoked to my dear friend Jules, who turns out also was going to get his first tattoo done (on January 5th), and told me to talk to his tattoo artist, and maybe get an appointment by the end of January, since they are also quite booked. The day I flew to Essen, Tina got my appointment for the next day (January 5th), and so all was set in motion. We went to the tattoo parlor - Lebenslänglich - where I met my artist, Charly. I was nervous, a little bit, but Charly was really nice and insisted that I should have the tattoo only if I really wanted it. I did wanted it, but I was somewhat worried about the price - which was much higher than what I would have had to pay in Budapest - and then it also worried me that the original size I wanted wasn't really doable because it was too small. Another tattoo or another placement was out of the question for me: I wanted that tattoo, in that place. Charly then did some size tries, and we've got the perfect size that would still be covered by my fitbit.

Property of Stormberry
We actually went to the tattoo parlor the day I arrived because we were asked to leave some deposit, which in my case amounted to half the price of my tattoo. This was a good thing, because then I've got to meet Charly previously and was made feel comfortable.

The next day I was excited and nervous. Would it hurt? Would it hurt too much? Would it be good? Would I develop some strange reaction? It did hurt, but it wasn't anything bad at all. Some parts hurt more than others, some were barely registered as a sort of "spicy pressure" and that was was. I actually bled some, which wasn't really supposed to happen - and Charly asked me if, in spite of the instructions given to me, I had some alcohol or coffee. I had none. Some of the parts I found quite funny was that the ink seemed to splater at some points. Turns out, that was because I was bleeding. First I wasn't concerned at all: I have a lot of blood, so a few drops don't bother me, except that Charly said that the problem with bleeding could be that I bled out the ink, so the work could be ruined. Awesome. There I started to worry just a bit.

Property of Stormberry
My tattoo is still fresh, and it's still getting a scab, so we still have to wait, but I hope it will set nicely.

The tattoo in itself isn't an original design, but it is the one I wanted on my wrist. I choose also the position so that it can be easily hidden with a piece of accessory I'm already very acostumed to use. I'm not a Millenial, thus I do am used to wearing watches. As it is, I actually have to wear them not only because I am used to checking time on my wrist, but also because I have a suntan band on it, and the straps have always changed a bit the shape of it.

Now, I like that I feel there are secrets behind this marker of my generation, that we are more than the last Watch-Wearers, but that out generation, our world, our culture goes deeper than the surface of our skins.