Eastern (actually Central, oops) Eurotrip 2018, Part IV: Budapest, Berlin, & Home

Bonjour,

 

Back home. Sitting at my shitty, found-on-the-sidewalk desk while laundry is in the machine. Just got back from the grocery store, and I’ve also backed up, updated, and cleaned my computer today. Transferred my travel photos to it, and to my external hard drive again. Bought a bunch of veggies and yogurt and chicken and whole-wheat bread. Planning to get healthy again – in terms of eating and activity. I put in a tonne of work at the gym and at volleyball, but it’s not really apparent. I wore a Speedo to the thermal baths in Budapest, and I look like a whale. No definition or muscle tone – and that was after 1.5 weeks of not eating as much (particularly late at night) and walking around all day! Wtf! I’m hella discouraged.

So I’ll eat healthier / less and will sign up for a gym again. I cancelled Anytime Fitness before my trip because I wouldn’t be using it while abroad. Had to argue with them so it would happen instantaneously, instead of being charged for another month, since they apparently need that much notice. What? Why? But I succeeded, so yay me.

Was hoping that three weeks off from the gym completely – and much longer in terms of working the upper body – would help my shoulders and upper back heal. But that hasn’t happened, for some MF reason. They are still sore and feel disordered. I don’t know what the cause is, or how to fix it, and I don’t get benefits for another two months – so I should probably lay off the gym until then. But I’m unhappy with my body right now, and want to work to improve it, so I’m not sure what to do. As per usual / for a typical Libra, I’m being indecisive. Any advice?

 

Anyway, I made it back safely last night! It was a long day of traveling, and I caught a cold towards the end of my trip, so yesterday was pretty dreadful. Had a headache the entire time and my nose was running like a faucet – and blowing it so often made it all dry and irritated. Not fun.

However, I survived, and re-experiencing my own shower and bed last night felt amazing. I also had some nachos and drank a peach cider while watching The Challenge Vendettas with my new roommate, Paul. It was nice! And I know that’s antithetical to trying to get back in shape, but whatever, I never said I was a role model.

Woke up at 8 after sleeping a good nine hours, even if the hostel I stayed in was bullsh, and this guy snoring sounded like a friggen foghorn. Got some brie and jamón and baguette from Lidl, made myself a nice sandwich, then grabbed my bag and set out to the airport. Grabbed a large cappuccino on the way, with all my remaining money – and only realized after ordering that the place didn’t have a legit espresso machine, but one of those that is more like a vending machine. Ugh! For my last nice coffee in Europe! Oh well, it was delicious. Then I rode the U-Bahn and S-Bahn to the Flughafen, and getting through security was rough. All these people were cutting the line because they arrived with ~20 minutes to spare. Legit, it was 11:10, and people were asking if they could get in front of me, because their flight was at 11:20. Like, yes!!! Goooooo!!! And next time, get here much earlier, idiot.

I flew WOWair back, and again, it was not punctual. I don’t know what I should’ve expected when my flights were so cheap, but shoot, where’s the professionalism? Boarding was supposed to begin at 11:40, and they didn’t even announce the gate until 11:45 – which turned out to be in a whole different terminal. And then boarding didn’t actually start until after noon, and we didn’t take off until 30 minutes after we were supposed to. So dumb.

Somehow, we still got to Reykjavik on time, and I had three hours to kill there. I found a table with a plug and strong WiFi, so it didn’t really bother me at all. Would’ve loved a nice latte, but just a coffee was more than $6 Canadian in the local currency, which I didn’t have – and I didn’t want Tangerine to charge me lots of fees, so I just toughed it out, sipping on cold Icelandic water from the tap.

Then on the second flight, I moved to an available window seat (woo!) and managed to snooze for the first three hours. Not bad at all, and with how sick I was, I needed the sleep! Then I watched Survivor Thailand for the remainder of the flight, and finished the season while waiting for my Greyhound in Montreal. I don’t think it was an abysmal season at all, though. Not sure why it has that reputation. Looking forward to seeing Shii Ann again!

I also finished my book yesterday, the second of the trip. This one was, as you might recall, What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty. I definitely enjoyed it – as I do with all her books – but Big Little Lies is still my favourite. Then I began reading Little Fires Everywhere, just ‘cause I had so much time to wait. Wanted to write this blog post, but with how my head was feeling – I couldn’t have tolerated starting at a bright, white LCD screen for that long. So today I’m accomplishing it instead!

Then on the bus ride home, I listened to another episode of the Brain Candy Podcast and IMed with some friends and also dozed for a while. And around 10:45pm, I walked in my front door – which was 4:45am in Berlin, the time zone I was acclimated to, when I had been on the go since 9:30am (or 8:15, if you count me going to buy breakfast). Exhausting. But bitch, I did it!

K, gotta go hang my clothes up now, and I’m also going to check out the Jack Purcell Community Centre weight room, to gauge how busy it is when I will typically be going there (right after work).

 

Well, the weight room at Jack Purcell is not what I remembered it being – no leg press machine and only one squat rack – and apparently the pool is small too. So looks like I won’t be registering there. I guess that leaves GoodLife, since I’ll have a good rate due to being a public servant… But everybody works out there. Ugh. We’ll see.

Got home, hung my clothes up, and got hungry – so I made six salads and a pizza. Watched the latest episode of RPDR (Cracker and Aquaria and Monét <3) and now it’s 7:50pm. It’s Loic’s birthday party tonight, and he already told me to show up at 8:30, not 8, since I’m always late anyway…. And I daresay he might be right D: Going to cut my hair, trim my beard, shower, and get ready now. Might even put on some makeup, we’ll see. And I’ll finish this – writing about BUDAPEST – later on. Tomorrow. I’ve been productive enough today 😛

 

..

 

Okay, it’s two days later. I think I jet lag has affected me. I woke up yesterday at 7am, went to the bathroom, and had lots of trouble falling back to sleep. Last night, I was watching Shortbus with Rock, Simon, Colum, Adam, Moe, and two new people – and it was 11pm and I was just exhausted. Got up today at 8:30am even though it’s a Sunday, and I’m generally just feeling out of whack. Got those post-travel blues as well. Yes, it’s good to be sleeping in my own bed and seeing friends again, but I’m not happy to be back. It’s below zero right now (windchill of -8°C) with freezing rain. The sun hasn’t been out since I’ve returned, and tomorrow I have to return to the office. Ugh.

At least things are going well with the new roommate, Paul. He’s gonna play Dominion with me and Freddy tonight, so I look forward to that. And last night was pleasant too, although the movie was weird. And I was happy to see Richard, Loic, Brandon and Co. on Friday night as well. But I was in a weird headspace and didn’t have a fantastic time. People kept asking if I was okay, and I’m not really sure why it was so apparent I wasn’t enjoying myself to the fullest. It was probably a combination of the jet lag, not being thrilled about being back in Ottawa, and how Eric & Freddy didn’t come, and Rich & Lo were busy hosting, and there were two guests there who aren’t my biggest fan… Just not a good mélange. Hopefully I shake this funk soon!

 

So, Budapest. Went on that walking tour, and our tour guide was named Norbert – yes, like the dragon from Harry Potter. It started in a square where the Spring Festival was being held and proceeded to the banks of the Danube, which separates the two sections of the city: Buda and Pest. Norbert told us about Hungarian history – its part in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, being occupied by Nazi and then Soviet forces, etc. Lots of turmoil throughout its years, and it was fascinating to learn.

Hungary is very flat, so any rise in elevation they call a mountain. That’s why the other riverbank (Buda) has two “mountains” – one with a castle (which was never used as a castle, but rather a palace for Queen Maria Theresa from Vienna) and one with the Statue of Liberty, or as it’s nicknamed in the city, the “Giant Bottle Opener.” Pest is more like a pancake or pizza – just flat.

We walk through Elisabeth Square, which is named after Sissi, of Vienna, not Elisabeth, of England. It has the Budapest Eye, just like the giant Ferris wheels in London and Orlando. I particularly liked this square – lots of grass (both real and faux) to sit on, with some small fountains and a pool you can dip your feet in and food kiosks. Underneath this pool is a bar called Aquarium – and apparently the water gives it really cool atmosphere. The way/stairs down to the bar has lots of seating too, and almost every time I passed it, there was live music coming from it. The weather was truly amazing the entire time I was in Budapest – sunny and above twenty degrees – and Sissi Square was always filled with people enjoying the warmth, the music, and the general summery feeling. I loved it.

Norbert tells us that after taking damage in one of the World Wars (it suffered in both), Budapest had the opportunity to rebuild. They made the main roads fan out like a horseshoe/rainbow around the Inner City, ending on the river, and they constructed a large boulevard from Sissi Square to Heroes’ Square to evoke Champs Elysées. They were very inspired by Paris, so a lot of the architecture is Art Nouveau and Renaissance – and if these buildings were knocked down during armed conflict, they were rebuilt in the original style. So it looks more like Vienna and less like Berlin 😛

We also saw the main church in the city, St. Stephen’s. It is not a cathedral, though, it is a basilica. Apparently there are differences in style / size / something that dictate its official title, which in this case, is basilica. Before it was constructed, a much smaller church sat on the site – and when the Danube flooded really badly one time, people found refuge in it, as it was on a small hill. After the water levels receded is when they decided to erect this magnificent edifice. It is gorgeous. I never went inside – we didn’t go on the tour and I didn’t have time otherwise – which is fine, since blah blah blah, I’ve seen so many GD churches. What I am sad I didn’t get to do, though, is ascend to by the building’s dome. It gives phenomenal views of the city, and I’m disappointed I never made it. Unsurprisingly, it closed relatively early, and that’s why I couldn’t do it. My consolation is that other parts I was to – the two “mountains” in Buda – gave me great panoramas of the Pest side. So that’s fine.

Then we crossed the Chain Bridge – the first of its kind, I believe, but definitely the first permanent bridge between Buda and Pest (the previous ones were all wooden, and washed away when the Danube swelled too high) – to the other side. Then climbed “Castle Mountain,” witnessed the beautiful views from the top, walked past the government office buildings, and learned more about history of the country. My first day in Budapest was also the day of the national elections – so that was pretty interesting to hear about from a local.

We ended our tour by another important church, St Matthias’ – with an impressive colourful tiled roof, like the main cathedral in Vienna. It also has the “Fisherman’s Bastion” structure near it – a white marble wall with seven towers, representing the seven tribes that came together to incorporate the city. Yeah, it’s called bastion, but it was never used in any military conflict. And across the river is the gorgeous and intricately designed Parliament! Lots of amazing sights to be seen in Budapest.

 

After the walking tour, I meander to a restaurant that Norbert recommended, in the Jewish Quarter – which is the place to go out for food or drinks in the city. This eatery was Blue Rose and is supposed to be affordable, authentic Hungarian cuisine. I order a three-course meal because it was reasonably priced and had various things I wanted to try – and I was famished. The starter was goulash soup served with soft white bread. My entire trip, I heard so much about goulash, so I finally ordered it… And it’s just a beef stew. Nothing special at all. Whomp.

The main was grilled pork with fried potatoes/wedges and a salad of pickle, cabbage, and tomato. It was all fine, nothing extraordinary. I asked for mayo for my taters… And they served me tartar sauce. Not the same at all, so I sent it back with a “no thank you.” Felt like a jerk doing so, but if I’m not going to eat it, I don’t want them charging me for it. Dessert, however, was delicious. Yellow sponge cake with pudding and whipped cream and chocolate drizzle. Decadent and scrumptious. Yum!

Then I wander back to the riverbank to watch the sunset – and the city, illuminated during dusk, was simply breathtaking. I crossed one of the bridges to see the Pest side as well, and wow, it was picture-perfect! Especially Buda Castle and the Chain Bridge, with the darkening sky and yellow streetlamps along the river. That’s where the default photo is taken from.

Finally, back to the hostel, where I worked more on the last blog post, and then out to Coxx Bar, just to check it out. I end up talking with an Argentine, a Hungarian, and this older Irish couple, the last of which was particularly entertaining. I asked them for pointers for what to do the next day, and we had a great time conversing with each other.

(I am tiring of this entry… So I’m gonna speed up now)

 

Full Day 2 of Budapest

Wake up, get ready, pack up, and move my stuff to the new hostel, GoodMo House, just down the block. Checkout from Mandala was at 12, so I took my time sleeping in and getting up. I intended to have breakfast at GoodMo, but 8:30 rolled around and I was not feeling it. So I dozed.

Stowed my bag in luggage storage and then headed directly to a café recommended on TripAdvisor, 9BAR. Got a flat white and a little egg basket pastry. Yummy. Tried to get a langos (a local treat) from the place Norbert suggested (Retro Langos), but they didn’t take euros. I had to find somewhere that would take the currency and give me back Hungarian forints in change – but I didn’t want the exchange rate to be horrible. The California Coffee Company would have only changed it at 260 forints, which is garbage. Good ol’ Starbucks is what I used in the end, since they changed it at 295 (~300 is the actual exchange rate), had an affordable caprese baguette, and I could use their WiFi and bathroom. When you’re traveling around Europe, free public bathrooms are few and far between – so you need to be strategic about where you go. I also had to brush my teeth 😛 It was a great stop, alright?

Then I wander down the Budapest Champs Elysées – called Andrassy Ut (or Andrassy Street) – listening to the Brain Candy Podcast about Tonya Harding and how women should stop being polite. Heroes Square is large and beautiful, with cool gates, awesome surrounding architecture, and the entrance to a large city park – which also boasts some sightly ponds and another castle(-like structure). Great for photos. Importantly, this park is also the location of the most popular thermal baths of the city, Széchenyi. But I didn’t have any local currency, so I didn’t go that day.

I keep walking around the city, up to and around Margit Island, then to the Buda side, got a better look at Parliament, then back across Chain Bridge into the Inner City – where I finally got my langos. They’re kinda like a Beavertail: fried dough covered in various toppings. I got mine with sour cream, shredded cheese, red onion, and smoked Hungarian sausage. It was delicious, omigod.

Then I lie on the grass in Sissi Square – how I love it so much – reading my Kindle and enjoying the setting sun and live music. Perfect. Then to Szimpla to meet Adam and Emma, my English buddies from Vienna! Szimpla was the original ruins bar in Budapest, established in 2001, and was voted the third best bar in the world by TripAdvisor in a relatively recent poll. I didn’t know this second fact until after I experienced it – but I can understand why. It’s just such a unique experience there. Very hip and popular. Reminded me of Eva B, the thrift store in Montreal. Kitschy cool, a bit chaotic, not polished or orderly, but with its own unapologetic style. I loved it – and it’s not even like there was a queue to get in, or cover charge, or pricey drinks! What more do you want in a bar? They sometimes have live music, and film screenings, and other cool, hip stuff. Y’all really need to check it out if you find yourself in Budapest – you won’t be disappointed.

Adam, Emma, & I had a fab time at Szimpla and then at Karavan (food trucks in an empty lot right by the bar), just talking the night away, about tattoos and life and Drag Race (and I’m not going to RuPaulogize about it). The hours flew by! I loved it! ❤ So glad I got to meet them in Vienna, because they really made Budapest even more amazing.

 

Budapest, Day 3

I did not sleep well at GoodMo. Alex, the Canadian I had met who recommended the hostel, neglected to inform me that the mattresses were thin AF. Literally, it hurt laying on my side, because my hip bones felt the frame. Not cool. And these silly German girls come into the room at 2am and flip the friggen overhead light on! When we are in a room with 10 beds! How inconsiderate is that! Annoying. I had gone to bed after 1am, not really super early, and then it seemed every single person that came in the room had to ruffle through their stuff extensively to get what they needed. Lights on, lots of noise, suitcases zipping and unzipping – and I couldn’t get to sleep. And then, when the German girls finally go to sleep… The one snores like a friggen semi truck! So loud! And was sleeping in the bunk right over mine! It was not amazing. I should really put more care into choosing my hostels, on my next trip. I can afford a couple more dollars a night if it means actually being able to sleep well. UGH.

Anyway. I get up, have the hostel breakfast – disappointing – and then get a cappuccino as I’m walking right to the Terror House. Lonely Planet mentioned it on their guide, it discussed the history of the city, and even its name suggests horror. So I had to go. It’s a museum all about the various atrocities committed in the city, by the Soviets, the Nazis, the police force (like the Gestapo), etc. And it’s housed in the same building as the headquarters of this brutal police force, that was responsible for torturing and imprisoning people and using barbaric interrogation techniques, that sometimes even resulted in death! Scary!

It was a depressing, frightening museum, definitely – learning about the horrors of all these regimes and what the city and people of Budapest have suffered (and, indeed, committed) in the past century. Scary, sad stuff. But necessary to be aware of. I recommend this museum, and it was only about €10.

After I exited, I obviously wasn’t in the best mood. But as I was walking through the city, I enjoyed the warmth and the plants in bloom (since it sure as well ain’t like that here in Ottawa), and I bought a carbonara pastry from a bakery that was delectable. I was heading to the thermal baths, which were two metro stops away from where I was. The workers at the first hostel told me the people who check the tickets wear bright green vests and only really work at night – so I thought I’d be in the clear. Get on the train, ride one stop, and all is fine. After the doors shut again, I’m just standing and listening to my iPod – and the older woman in front of me turns around, puts on an armband, and asks to see my ticket. F*CK.

So I tell her I don’t have one, she gets her fellow goonie (another older woman), and we step off at the next stop. I contemplate just running, since I’m in Nikes and clearly faster than them and already outside the train… But why dig myself into a bigger hole? I broke the rules and I need to deal with the consequences. If I paid right then, the fine is 8000 HUF – or 16,000 if I pay within a month. I didn’t really think about this, but how would they have enforced this fine, if I chose the latter? I was leaving the country the next day, and the continent the following day – so are they really going to hound for what amounts to a bit more than €25? I don’t think so.

However, I didn’t consider this, so I just gave her literally all the money from my wallet, which (thankfully) was 8000 exactly. UGH SO ANNOYING, I ONLY RODE IT FOR TWO STOPS. But it’s my own damn fault. I should’ve just walked, since it was only ten minutes on foot and it’s not even like it was raining. I’m an idiot, but whatever, oh well, lesson learned.

So because I had to cough up this money, I had to go to another ATM to get cash for the rest of my stay – and had to pay more fees to do so. Irksome.

However, my mood perked up soon after that, because I entered the famous thermal baths, and oh wow, they were heavenly. The water felt amazing, the architecture was sublime, the clouds cleared up, and it was fun to people-watch. I relaxed in the outdoor pool, read my book on a lounge chair in the sun, explored the inner pools and saunas, and rinse and repeat. I forgot to bring a towel, so I had to let the sun dry me. The whole afternoon was massively enjoyable. I loved it – spent 3.5 hours there, not talking to anyone.

But it was approaching evening on my last day in Hungary, and I still had lots of things I wanted to do. I ran out of time to go up to St. Stephen’s dome, but I did manage to climb up to the Liberty Statue and the nearby Citadel. This was once again during sunset, and the views of the city, all lit up, were once again breathtaking. They were so nice that a couple was doing a wedding shoot while I was up there! Awesome!

Then, back to Szimpla (to use their WiFi and make plans), grab an absolutely delicious green Thai curry baguette panini from Bors, and meet up with Emma and Adam at their hostel. She wanted to stay in and cook dinner for herself, so Adam & I go back to Karavan. He’s vegan, so it’s difficult finding good food while he’s traveling. And I already had my phenomenal sandwich, and that was on the way back to my hostel, so what do I care? We sit and chat at the picnic tables there into the night. I had intended to get to bed early, but again, I lost track of time and that didn’t happen. Oh well. Not like I was getting supreme sleep at GoodMo anyway 😛

He had gotten a tattoo that day, and it looked great. Even the Irish couple told me that Budapest is a good place to get tattoos, since it’s so arty and affordable – and I really got that itch. However, I ran out of time and local money, and didn’t feel like using the ATM again… So I might get it here in Ottawa. I plan on “audentes Fortuna iuvat” on the inside of my right bicep. The translation of that Aeneid quote is something I’ve written several times on here, and something I like to believe in – so why not, right? Might as well get ink number eight, as it’s been a full year since my last body modification.

 

Budapest, Day 4

Get up early, another night without quality sleep, and I feel a cold coming on. Not fun, but I guess I wasn’t really taking care of myself. No big deal either, since I was at the tail end of my trip.

Make it to the Budapest airport and through security, and I spend the rest of my Hungarian currency on a chicken-parmesan baguette, a large cappuccino, and a chocolate-orange cookie at a café in the terminal. Sit down and watch the new episode of Survivor. But then I get nervous I’ll miss my flight, so I stop it before Tribal Council and walk to my gate. Good thing I did, because boarding had commenced and it took a while to get to the plane. I flew Ryanair, so of course I had to walk on the tarmac to the plane itself. And actually finding where I had to be was much more difficult than it had any business being. The gate was in this huge, like, warehouse/hangar, and I saw nobody else as I was rushing over there. Confusing and nerve-wracking. But I made it! 😀 And had an uneventful flight to Berlin.

 

Berlin, Take 2

My malaise progressed to a full-blown cold, so I was tired and not feeling great in Berlin. I had plans to do lots but didn’t manage it all. I check into my hostel, which is disgusting (there is literal graffiti on stall doors in the bathroom, and trash and dirty clothes in the shower room, ugh), but whatever, I’m just there for a night.

I go to Flamingo Fresh Food for some lunch, which is this fabulous place near Fredrichstrasse Station. Got a large cappuccino and a shrimp-avocado sandwich. So yummy. I take my time after I finish, just relaxing in the café, using their WiFi and reading my book. I really wasn’t feeling good, so what’s the rush?

Get back on the U-Bahn to go to Charlottenburg Palace, and then I realize – forget this, I don’t have the energy. So I ride back to the Check In Hostel and take a much-needed nap. Felt much better after those blissful Zs, and then I head again to Charlottenburg, listening to more Brain Candy Podcast. It was a lovely evening in Berlin, really pleasant weather. The palace itself reminds of me the Schoenbrunn in Vienna – yellow and decadent with fancy French gardens behind it. On a smaller scale, though.

I was far away from the city centre and without WiFi then, so I did not know how to navigate to my next stop or which restaurant I should go to for dinner. I ride back the way I came. Probably not the most direct route, but it worked out. I return to Flamingo to use their WiFi, but the place is closed and they apparently turned off their router too. Scheisse. So I’m wandering the streets near the station and spy this one restaurant. I go in, notice that almost all the tables are full, see a TripAdvisor sticker, and check out the menu. Looks like authentic cuisine with reasonable prices, and I’m so tired, so why not?

Sit down, order schnitzel with mushrooms in a cream sauce and potatoes, fried with onion and bacon – and unfortunately I don’t have money for beer. The meal is fantastic, though. Really hit the spot, and I just happened upon this place! It was serendipitous.

Finally, I head to Monsterkabinett, over by Museum Island, and have some trouble locating it. It’s down this alley and around the corner, in a very Halloween-y sector. It definitely appealed to me – awesome murals and interesting décor and coloured, dim lights and everything. Had to wait a full hour for the show to start, so I sit at a bar and use their WiFi but can’t afford to buy anything. It was worth the wait, though, because it was another absolutely unique and bizarre experience. The guy who led us through the dungeon is the artist that helped create the moving, animatronic, dancing and music-making, steampunk, welded-iron, fantasy, Beetlejuice-like, Tim-Burton-looking, creepy sculptures. There was a large spider that scuttled along the floor, “Four Eyes,” a mirror chamber, one that danced to heavy techno (so Berlin!), and a doll whose head exploded. It was so cool, right up my alley, pun intended. It was by this artist group called Dead Chickens, which has existed since the 1980s. Really cool, transgressive, odd stuff. A great way to spend my last night in the city.

I had planned to go lab.oratory (but it was closed) and to Tom’s Bar (but it doesn’t get popular until midnight) and to Topographie of Terror, but I was so exhausted by this cold – so, next time. I returned to my hostel, charged up my laptop and phone, then PTFO’d at 11:30.

Managed to sleep a solid nine hours (the bed was more comfortable than GoodMo) despite another person snoring at full damn volume, sounding like a MF foghorn, beside me. I don’t get it – if you snore that loud, then WHY ARE YOU STAYING IN A HOSTEL WITH SO MANY BEDS?! It’s super inconsiderate. And this dude was old, too! Get yourself to a private hotel room, dude! We don’t want to hear you, at all! UGH.

And then to Lidl, then the U-Bahn, then the S-Bahn, then the flughafen.

 

 

And that’s that! My most recent trip! And now I’m at 33 countries visited (although some of those were more thorough than others), and looking forward to the next ones! Just need to figure out when I can get time off work now.

All told, these two weeks abroad cost me…

  • $420 for the plane
  • 500 euro withdrawn at the start of my trip
  • 8000 + 12,000 Hungarian forints withdrawn on my last day in Budapest
  • 60 euro from the ATM for the last day in Berlin
  • 2 nights in Sophie’s Hostel in Prague, since they charged my credit card, for some reason
  • Bus tickets between these cities, amounting to less than 100 euro altogether

So maybe that’s $1,200? Likely less than $100 Canadian per day, for a Eurotrip. Pretty damn good, huh?

 

K, that’s it, folks. Hope you’ve enjoyed following along on this adventure with me! 😀 ‘Til next time,

 

– Jefe

 

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Eastern Eurotrip 2018, Part III: Vienna & Bratislava

Hallo,

 

Like clockwork – I’m on a bus to my next destination, which is Budapest. Also my last new city on this trip. I was in Vienna this morning, spent a couple hours in Bratislava, and now I’m in Hungary for four night and three days. Then flying Ryanair back to Berlin, crossing more things off my to-do list there, then back to Montreal on Thursday morning! I toyed with the idea of staying a night there, but I’m not feeling it. However, if you’re reading this and live in MTL and want to see me, then let’s go for coffee or lunch or something! I arrive at 12:30pm. @Ndaku, @Mikey&Sarah, @Chris&Matt&Tyler, etc.

I very nearly missed this bus and that was not fun. I literally boarded and did not even get settled in my seat before we pulled away from the platform. I hustled on over, and thank goodness I did. It wouldn’t’ve been a big deal if I did miss it – another couple hours in Slovakia and many Flix buses going to Budapest. But I didn’t, so yay!

I intended to see more of Vienna this morning before heading out of town, but packing and getting ready took longer than expected. I also had breakfast at the hostel (one of the cheapest options that was still delicious, since a regular latte goes for around €3.50), so I got wrapped up chatting to travellers. I stayed at the Ruthensteiner Hostel, and it was phenomenal. I met a bunch of great people and enjoyed hanging out with them. It seemed to be much more social than other places I’ve stayed, but still not a “party hostel” so much – it was more musical/community-based. I recommend!

I picked the Mandala Hostel in Budapest, which had a rating of 8.6 on Booking.com and is centrally located and super cheap. I guess that’s just Hungary in general, but it’s only costing me €32 for four nights :O When the Vienna one was €66 for only three :O So I’m hoping it’s still amazing. I’ll know soon enough!

 

So, Bratislava. Where my pal Matus “Ma-douche” is from. I had heard from him and various others that you only need to spend an afternoon there, so that’s exactly what I did. I arrived at 1:30 and just barely caught this bus at 5:10. And I still was able to see most of everything, although I could’ve always gone inside the castle / museums / churches / etc. Don’t feel like I missed much by not doing so, though. It’s a cute town, and I’m glad I was able to check it out.

There’s quite the disparity between Old Town and the other side of the Danube, though. The historical part has typical architecture you’d expect in a major European town – Gothic, Renaissance, Art Nouveau, other styles I don’t know (maybe Rococo or Baroque?). Nice churches, narrow winding roads, all that good stuff. But then across the river – flat, featureless, concrete apartment blocks. Worse than Leacock. Oh, the vestiges of Communism there… But, it was interesting to see, at the very least.

Bratislava has a futuristic bridge with a restaurant on top of it, styled like a UFO, offering panorama views. Sounds cool, but I read it’s pricey, and I didn’t have that much time, so I snapped a photo and moved on. It was a nice Town Square, a cathedral with a crown on top of its spire – 300kg of real gold – and another noteworthy church, in all different shades of blue. There’s a castle on top of a hill that was reconstructed in the past 60-70 years, so it’s not as impressive as other ones in the region. It is square and white and not all that interesting, but at least it was free to walk around the grounds, and by virtue of its altitude, it had good views of the city.

And beyond that – not much else! So I strolled around, saw that a marathon was happening at the same time (pretty cool), took some pictures, and that kind of thing. There was this exquisitely painted large Eastern egg in one of the squares and the famous (for some reason, I don’t know which) Man at Work statue. Got a stranger to photograph me with that, and I actually love the result. It’s a bit flamboyant, but hey, that’s me.

I also stopped in the tourist information centre, a second-hand shop and a restaurant. Got this cool jacket for only €4 and a yummy meal of hot garlic soup (yes, my breath stinks) and a delicious local dish of potato dumplings mixed with sour cream, sheep’s cheese, and bacon – recommended by the infostop. Mmmm! It was so damn good, definitely hit the spot. Don’t know the name, but it’s typical Slovak cuisine, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding it.

And importantly, service was fast. That’s the reason I couldn’t go to my first two choices of eatery – Slovak Pub and another one from TripAdvisor – and thank goodness for that, because I had no time to kill. I was trying to figure out the lockers at the bus station for my bag when I first arrived, and that took a frustrating while. But maybe it was “meant to be” that way or something, because I would NOT have had time to collect my belongings if I did find an available locker. But then again, if I wasn’t weighed down with all my stuff, then I could have run. So maybe it equals itself out 😉

 

And now for Vienna. I got to the hostel pretty late, finished up my blog post, wanted to join this group playing Kings, didn’t, went out and grabbed a doner kebab, the guy at the stand called me Spiderman for some reason (I think I’d be Captain America, if anything – the blond and the nationality and all that), then ate it in my top bunk while watching the finale of The Challenge Vendettas. It showed the Prague TV Tower, which I had just seen that day, so that was a really cool experience. I realized I never sought out where they were staying when I was in Prague, but oh well, it probably would not have been that cool. Just a hotel façade. And the episode itself was eh, especially for the finale of the season. That final challenge was bullsh. Poor Nicole Z 😥

I wake up too late the next day for the hostel breakfast, so I get some recommendations for what to do and set out explorin’. I find a bakery and am trying to ask the woman what’s in this product, when she puts it in a bag for me. So I just buy it, don’t want to make a big deal out of it! It was borek, this flaky pastry filled with savoury fillings. The one I had was ground beef, which was still tasty – but I would’ve preferred a spinach and cheese version, like I saw at Naschmarkt later :/

I head for Gota, a nearby café that apparently just received an award for world’s best barista, or something. I find it, and it’s a cute place… But then I see the prices and walk right out. Wander into an Illy coffee shop next, and the air is thick with cigarette smoke and the prices are the same, so I keep on going. Eventually I pass one of those kiosks on the corner, which also has cappuccini for €3.50… So I figure out that’s the going rate 😛 Damn. That’s like $5 Canadian for a one-shot espresso drink.

The frugal in me kicks in and I decide to just wait ‘til I get back to the hostel to get some caffeine. I wander to the Schönnbrun Palace, the summer residence of the Habsburg family, the design of which was inspired by Versailles. It has extensive French gardens, a mammoth marble fountain of Neptune, yellow walls, countless windows, beautiful courtyards, an Egyptian obelisk, and even the Gloriette on top – a smaller building with the same design elements, up on a hill overlooking the Palace itself and the exquisite landscaping. The city zoo is also on the grounds, which is renowned as the oldest zoo in the world, since the 1700s.

Apparently, it’s even more gorgeous inside, but I didn’t enter. The day was cloudy and chilly, the neighbourhood between my hostel and the Schönnbrun were not photogenic at all, and I developed a headache on the walk. Maybe because I hadn’t had a coffee, maybe from not sleeping that well, who knows? But I was a bit cantankerous. Undeniably, the palace is jaw-droppingly beautiful, but I don’t think I appreciated it for what it was. Plus, I’m sure it looks ten times better in the summer / when it’s sunny, because the landscaped gardens were not in bloom at all. Rather, there was just a bunch of gnarled, leafless trunks and branches – not much greenery in sight. That probably contributed to how underwhelmed I was.

Anyhow, after that, I meander back to the hostel, drink two coffees (they just had one of those machines that makes the latte for you), and read over the map I was given. After resting for a bit, my mood significantly improves, and I set out once again in to the city. I put on an episode of the Brain Candy Podcast (discussing The Challenge!), walk along a main shopping street (Mariahilfer strasse, or something), and I’m smiling. The architecture improved, there were more people about, and things were just looking up, compared to the morning.

As it was Thursday, Drag Race night, I made a point to seek out the gay bars, inquiring if any of them would screen the show. Found several, but most were closed – and the two that weren’t had never heard of it. What!! And you call yourselves gay bars?? Frustrating. So I figured I’d just watch it on my computer some time, and I kept walking. Wandered down the Naschmarkt, witnessed a car accident, walked by the two huge museums (Fine Arts and Natural History) and Museumsquartier, saw the huge Maria Theresa statue, then strolled back down Mariahilfer to my hostel’s neighbourhood. Went straight to the restaurant they recommended me, Quell, as I was famished and wanted to get back to Ruthensteiner for happy hour. The resto seemed pretty traditional, with dark wood paneling and what looked like old world décor. I walk into the smoking section and am immediately turned off – but fortunately they had a non-smoking section too. I forgot how much I loathe cigarette smoke, and it is everywhere here. Ugh.

Anyway, the receptionist suggested a dish that he described as meatloaf. I don’t love meatloaf at all, but he felt strongly about it – so I asked the server about it. The restaurant offered it, but it wasn’t on the menu. Oooohhh, #travelhacks! The prices weren’t spectacular for schnitzel or goulash, so I decided to go for this one. And omigoodness, it was amazing. It was two large patties of pork and beef, breaded and maybe fried, served on top of a mountain of mashed potatoes, with deep-fried onions covering everything, and gravy. So delicious, so filling, and delightful in every way. And while I ate, I read this little book I had borrowed from reception, a pocket guide to Vienna. I learn about the history and the culture and what the city is known for – opera, classical music, fashion, coffee houses, and chocolate cake (Sachertorte). No wonder it wasn’t the cheapest!

And then I return to the hostel for the rest of the night. Relax and decompress, and sip on the free apple cinnamon tea while sitting in the garden and enjoying the sun that finally came out. They’re cooking a free vegan dinner for everyone at the hostel, and while I wasn’t the least bit hungry – it’d be a nice way to meet people. I listen as they’re preparing the meal and eventually ask if I can help.

Glad I decided to participate, because I met a great group of people, that I spend the rest of the night with! Adam & Emma, from England. Teal January (her actual first and middle names) from Sydney, Bryan from Colorado, Patrick from Virginia. The food is alright, but the company was superb.

This segues into us moving to the bar area and taking advantage of the happy hour. I get another lager and watch as a Swedish couple (Anton and Maddick) play chess, and then as Patrick and Bryan play chess. Eventually, another Brian joins us (from California), and Sean (from England), and Natalie (Australian but studying in Spain), and Hassan from Romania. We play Kings like we’re in high school and have a great time. It was nice to actually hang out with and get to know some people.

It’s actually something I’m missing right now, in my Budapest hostel. Yes, this place was very highly rated and is super cheap… But it is not my style. There’s no real common area, and it’s not really a hostel building, but rather a converted apartment. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still comfortable and interesting, and I slept alright. But it is a bit hippy-dippy/airy-fairy. I guess I should’ve guessed, with the name (Mandala), but I didn’t expect this. I’ve looked up other hostels and am strongly considering changing, even though I’ve paid. I mean, they have pets here, and no breakfast facilities, and the three people in my room are currently sitting inside / not doing anything. The one, an old guy, has just been lying on his bed with his tablet every time I’ve seen him, if he wasn’t sleeping. The older woman was asleep when I arrived, and all I’ve seen her do is be on Facebook on the shared computer. And finally, the last guy is Irish, has dreads, and “drank too much last night so he might just go for a walk today.” Ugh. Where are the young people who want to get out and experience the city and have fun?! What the eff!

Anyway, we’ll see. It’s already past checkout time anyway, so maybe I’ll just spend half my stay here and then find somewhere else for the last two nights. I have a slight allergy to pet hair, so that would be an understandable excuse. Dunno. I met another Canadian last night, and he recommends the GoodMo hostel. Just looked it up, and it seems to have a great common area / vibe to it. And it’s close by, so it’s also centrally located. Ugh. I don’t know how to approach this… Whatever. I’m gonna go ask.

K, just did, she’s very understanding. But I’d still need to pay for tonight, so I’ll sleep here one more night and then move tomorrow. Just booked the GoodMo. Okay, now I have something to look forward to again! Yay!

 

So, continuing Vienna. Had a great night with those folks. I wanted to go out to a bar or something, but people just wanted to hang out at the hostel bar. I wouldn’t gain anything from pressuring them, so I just went with the flow – and really enjoyed myself! And probably saved a good amount of money too, ha. There was even some entertainment involved as well, in that Brian (the Californian) did magic/card tricks for us… And had us call him Warlock. Hilarious stuff.

Next day, I go down for the hostel breakfast and run into Adam, Emma, and Bryan (the Colorado one) again. Drink three coffees, have the good Austrian bread with cheese and cold cuts, and some yogurt with banana and granola. I get caught up with talking with everybody, so I wasn’t able to make the walking tour I had reserved the night before. Not a problem at all – I enjoyed myself – and I decided I’d just go to the afternoon one, hoping it wouldn’t be an issue or filled up.

Vienna is pretty big and I didn’t want to exhaust myself walking everywhere – and since it was my last day, I wanted to see as much as possible – so I bought a 24-hour pass on the metro. I go and see the city fair and big Ferris wheel – underwhelming – and I check out Vienna’s version of the Gaudi house, designed by Hundertwasser – pretty awesome. I take the tram along the ring road, walk through the Burggarten Park, and am looking for a place for a snack and/or coffee – but then run out of time and have to rush to get to the meeting point for the walking tour, right by the Albertina.

Which also happened this morning, in Budapest. I didn’t set aside sufficient time to orienteer myself in the city, and I couldn’t find the rendezvous location by 10:30am :/ Disappointing, but I just got a sandwich and sat in the sun in the middle of the Spring Market, reading my new book (What Alice Forgot) instead. It is gorgeous weather today, 22°C and sunny, so I really can’t complain that much. I’ll just go to the afternoon tour… Which starts in a half hour. So I’m gonna head out now. TTFN!

 

Back, happy but exhausted.

Where was I? The Vienna Good Tours walking tour, with our guide, Iva, from Prague. We started at the Albertina, with a view overlooking the Sacher hotel (which was constructed with the funds made from the famous chocolate cake, invented by a baker’s apprentice in Vienna) and the City Opera House. The mayor/leader of the city hated the architecture of the latter so much that the architect killed himself 😦 He said it looked like a train station, and while it does kind of resemble Grand Central Station… It’s still grandiose and sightly. Poor guy 😦

Then we went through the Burggarten again, which is beside the Habsburg Palace, the main residence of the Habsburg family, the rulers of the Austrian Empire for many years, with an astonishing two thousand and six hundred rooms. Wtf! Who needs that much space!

We saw a statue dedicated to Mozart, which represents his unofficial grave. He was actually buried in a mass grave in a city, since so many people were dying at that time (cholera, Black Plague, etc) and wood was expensive, so not everybody got coffins. But this beautiful statue and little lawn with flowers in the shape of a treble clef are where people can come to pay their respects. It’s beautiful.

We saw other parts of the Palace too, including the balcony on which Hitler gave his Anschluss speech – so we learned some history as well. Saw the current Parliament, got a peep of the City Hall and City Theatre and Spanish Riding School, where the train horses to compete in “horse ballet.” We then go to see Stephansdom, or St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and a small chapel where Mozart used to play music – complete with wooden cobblestones for better acoustics. Iva recommended a specific schnitzelhaus to us, we saw the building where Mozart had an apartment, and we meander through the Jewish Quarter as well, also known as the “Bermuda Triangle” – since tourists get drunk in the bars and then get lost in all the winding small streets in the region.

Then that was that! And I was famished at the end of it, since I didn’t have the time to grab anything to eat before the tour began. I knew where I wanted to go for dinner too, since I had looked it up and saved it on my Google Maps when I had WiFi. But then I accidentally closed the app, didn’t have any service, and had no idea where to go 😦

So, sadly, I made my way back to the hostel for WiFi and to charge my phone. Drank some apple cinnamon tea again, talked with Emma, and eventually went to Mafiosi Pizzeria for dinner, instead of Tunnel, like I wanted. Mafiosi was only ten minutes away on foot, and I heard their pizzas were HUGE and all cost €5 or less. How can you beat that?

Well, you can, because the entire restaurant was smoky and the menu only had German, so I ended up ordering the wrong thing. The pizza was enormous, admittedly, and only cost a fiver – but mine only had meat sauce and cheese on it. I wanted some mushroom, pepperoni, ham, or something, but I picked the wrong on. Even though the server suggested it. Oh well! “They can’t all be diamonds.” It was a tonne of dough for not a lot of a dough, and their house-made beer was delicious.

Then went back to the city to stroll around more. Saw Sigmund Freud Square, some churches, and Town Hall and the City Theatre up close. There was this huge festival happening outside Rathaus (Town Hall), from the Styrian region of Austria. There were so many people there, all drinking wine out of glasses, bottles everywhere, everyone just enjoying the balmy night and each other’s company. It was remarkable. I also see a tiny bit of the Belvedere Park – this impressive fountain and gate – but since it’s nighttime, I can’t see the beautiful palace that is apparently there.

Didn’t have time though, because I had found a local bar that was screening RuPaul, and I didn’t want to be late to that! So I hurry to Felixx Bar, grab a beer, and find a seat for the show. There was absolutely no rush, though – because the episode did not start for another seventy minutes. Guh! They had the second ep cued up, not the third, so they had to deal with that technical difficulty. And the host(ess), Jacques Patriarques, loved to talk and make jokes that weren’t really that funny. And everybody was smoking cigarettes, and we were in an enclosed space, so I smelt rank by the end of it.

Finally, the episode started, and the sound is too loud and the video isn’t great. I put headphones in to temper the noise and try my best to enjoy the show. But it’s so damn smoky, and they stop for 25 minutes in the middle of the show, and Emma & Adam didn’t show up like I hoped they would – so it wasn’t wonderful. Still glad I got to experience it, instead of watching it alone at my hostel, but still. Not ideal. And they didn’t even screen Untucked! What!

But instead, we got to see two local queens “Lip Sync for Your Alcohol.” The one performed to Kate Bush’s cover of “Wuthering Heights” – a bit strange, but still compelling – and the second to Gaga’s “Scheisse” – which was amazing. She knew all the words (it helps that they are in German and English, and we were in Austria), and her dancing was ON. POINT. Her name was “Rage” and that was evident in her moves. It was fantastic to watch, wow.

And to finish off the night, I head back to the hostel, hang out with Brian “Warlock” and Sean a bit, then pack my stuff up, shower off all the smoke stench, and get into bed. I intended to be up early the next day to see more of Vienna before leaving – notably a farmers’ market and the Belvedere Palace – but I was up later than I wanted, took my time with breakfast (again hanging out with Bryan and Adam), and didn’t want to risk missing my bus by including these things, since neither were really directly on the way to the station.

 

So that’s that! Vienna wasn’t my favourite city, I didn’t absolutely adore it, but thank goodness for the hostel. If I weren’t staying there, I don’t know if I would have enjoyed myself half as much. It was a goddess-send. And Wien ended up being much better than it seemed that first morning!

 

Now, it’s 9:30 pm, I’m back in the hostel and tired and smelly – but I’m gonna post this and then go check out a ruins bar. I invited Adam & Emma, who are now here in Budapest, but they aren’t up for going out tonight. So hopefully I’ll see them tomorrow night!

 

Ciao for now, folks.

 

– Jefe

Eastern Eurotrip 2018, Part II: Prague & the Rest of Berlin

Ahoj,

 

Like promised, now I’m on a bus from Prague to Vienna. Another 4.5 hours, but fortunately, this one is much emptier! So I have no seatmate. But also, no WiFi or plugs, and it left an hour late and the platform changed several times and it was generally a mess 😦 Oh well, on doit mettre de l’eau dans le vin. I don’t particularly mind, that much. It’s a gorgeous day, sunny and above 20°C, so I just sat in the late afternoon sun and read from my Kindle. The current book is The Arrangement, about an extramarital agreement, and I am highly enjoying it! I’m about 65% of the way through, and after this, I’ll start What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty – who might be my favourite author right now. Wish Ellen Hopkins would put out a new book or two.

My time in Prague has been amazing, the past two days. I had no trouble finding my hostel, called Sophie’s Hostel, which is actually very nice. The bathroom was private, all in concrete, and had a legit waterfall shower! It was luxurious. I’m quite sure it was converted from some higher-end apartments into the inn. I stayed in a room with 10 beds and got there too late to have my choice of where to sleep, so that wasn’t ideal. I was on the top bunk, the bed wasn’t that comfortable, I was chilly, and I had several snorers in my room. Not cute. But I suppose I always have some trouble falling asleep the first time in a strange place. Last night was better, even with the snorers. So I shouldn’t complain too much. The deskpeople were very helpful; the common area was swanky and inviting; and they even had a happy hour! A half-litre of Czech beer for only 24Kc/€1! They only had dark beer when I stopped in after walking all around – not my favourite – but let me tell you, it was DELICIOUS! Hit the spot.

I thought about staying a third night there, but Prague is not the biggest city. It’s gorgeous, undoubtedly, but I have the sense – from talking to various people and reading online – that there is more to do/see in both Vienna and Budapest. Plus, if I’m in a hostel for longer than two nights, I can meet people to hang out with! I hope I like Vienna as much as Prague, but I guess there’s always other cities to visit if I’m bored. From a quick glance at the map, Zagreb is not too far from Vienna, and the same for Timisoara from Budapest. Maybe I’ll swing a sixth city and country into my trip, who knows? Then I’d be at 35 in the past 20 years 😉

We’ll see. I don’t think I want to spend an extra five hours in a bus (and then five back) just to addend another nation. Five countries in 13 days is ambitious enough. Plus, I could just chill out and take things at a slower pace, instead of walking around from 9am to 8pm, with only stopping for an hour-long lunch. Budapest has those thermal baths, which could fill up half a day and sound very relaxing. But still, it’s nice to have lunches. I’ve never heard of Timisoara (in Romania), but I believe Zagreb is nice! Even if it’s not Split or Dubrovnik.

My first night in Prague, I didn’t do much besides play on my phone, chat with the receptionist, and take a great shower. But I made up for that the following day, which was very productive. I got up at 9:15, walked to Costa Coffee, found out they don’t take euros, walked to another café, grabbed a latte and caprese baguette, then rendezvoused with others from my hostel for a free walking tour!

The guide was named Vaclav (like the famous Mr. Havel), and he was fantastic. Spent about five hours with him, walking all over the Old Town and the Jewish Quarter and having lunch with him. I got what he recommended (which mirrored Marketa’s suggestions too) – beef in sauce, served with cranberry and dumplings. It was fine, nothing spectacular, but the dumplings were noteworthy in that they were not dumplings at all! Vaclav had explained to us how there is no English word for the food, so they use “dumpling” because it is most similar to the consistency of them. But it was strange, definitely. Like slices of steamed dense bread. Not awesome, but still worth trying. Wish I could’ve had the ones made with potato as well, but alas, maybe next time.

When I was in Berlin, I of course asked various locals and those working the hostel desk for suggestions as to what to eat. And I found it so funny that not one person recommended German food. Sasha explained to me that the Berlin food scene is about take-away / food trucks / that kind of thing. Most people do not go to sit-down restaurants for German cuisine. It’s possible to do that – and get weinerschnitzel or sauerkraut or wurst or kartoffelsalat – but what the young people do is more international food, eaten on the sidewalk. So that is what I did. I had pizza al taglio, doner kebap, brie sandwiches from bakeries, food from fairs, banh mi, currywurst, a burger, etc. I made a point to check out the cheap food places recommended in various online articles as well. The only thing I didn’t like was the currywurst, ironically the only real Berliner/German dish I had (since doner has Middle Eastern influences). I went to Curry 36, a very popular place near my hostel, and they gave me two sausages, chopped up and covered with curry powder, with fries and ketchup and mayo. Except it was only a splash of the good stuff and a sea of ketchup, which I do not like. It was fatty and sweet and too much food for my appetite. Not to my liking. But it was only €5.20, so at least it was a bargain!

I continued this trend in Prague, even if it does has a more traditional culinary scene. But I only had two days, the sun was shining, and I didn’t want to be indoors. I enjoyed more stuff from boulangeries, more doner kebaps, more pizza, a mac and cheese version of the ubiquitous “chimney cakes” (not chocolate, as I don’t have a sweet tooth), some delicious gnocci with sausage while walking around Prague’s castle, and the aforementioned beef with dumplings. And iced coffee, lattes, and Czech beer, including a banana beer from a local microbrewery down the street from Sophie’s. Yummy, all of it.

And beyond that, I just wandered around the city, up and down hills, marveling at all of the gorgeous buildings and vistas. Legitimately, the city is beautiful. So many exquisite examples of different architectural styles, which escaped World War II relatively unscathed. This is the main reason Berlin is not that photogenic (but rather gritty and real) but Prague is – the latter was not damaged during the Great War. Another reason to hate WW2, since it destroyed so many beautiful buildings. Such a shame.

 

K, just took a lil snooze, ate my treats from the bakery, and watched an episode of Survivor Thailand. Have a second on now, at 1.5x speed, as I write this. The Challenge Vendettas had its final(e) last night. I already know who won – it was spoiled for me months ago, ugh, hate it, I need to be more careful with S32 – but I still don’t know how the other seven place. I’m saving it to enjoy it tonight, at the hostel, when I’m more comfortable. Maybe with a drink in hand, too! ;P

So I took this great walking tour through Prague and learned all about its history. Wenceslas Square is named after Good King Wenceslas, who was an important Christian/hero of the city that was killed by his own brother and almost immediately sainted after his death. The Powder Tower is one of the old medieval gates to the city, since there used to be a big wall around the center. It’s called that because it used to hold gunpowder, before it was restored to its original glory as part of the “Royal Way,” a stretch with many of the important historical sites. That includes Charles Bridge, of course, and several notable churches and statues.

Charles Bridge is named after Charles IV, the one responsible for funding the construction of many of Prague’s best buildings. It was believed Judgment Day was coming, so they rushed to erect all these impressive churches so God(dess) would like kindly upon them. Or something like that. I’m not religious at all, so this all seems silly to me – But whatever, people believe we they want, and that’s fine. At least it helped create the gorgeous cityscape that Prague is!

There’s a famous theatre that Mozart premiered several of his operas at; there’s a friggen castle¸ the largest ancient castle in the world – it’s like a whole town inside it! There’s this enormous cathedral in it too, but I was 20 minutes too late to see inside. Disappointing, but it’s okay – I’ve seen plenty of churches in my life, traveling through Italy / Spain / Portugal / etc. Prague has monasteries that brew their own beer, a TV tower with black baby sculptures crawling up it, the Astronomical Clock (with moving statues that actually tell a cool story: Death coming to collect its victims, but others convince him to give one more hour, so the show repeats when the next hour strikes), and other attractions. Lots of cool things to check out! Unfortunately, the baby sculptures were gone for restoration, the National Museum (on top of Wenceslas Square) is closed, and the Astronomical Clock was covered by scaffolding – so we just saw a projection of it. I’d say I picked a bad time to visit the city, but I don’t care. I loved my time there, and even if it were open, I probably would not have visited the museum anyway. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Two stories about the Jewish Quarter. Some Christian leader blamed the Jews for crucifying Jesus, so he decided that the Jewish people were only allowed in a certain small (one square kilometer) area of the city. Because they had finite space, they didn’t have room to bury their dead. So they decided to just build up – they covered the existing graves with soil and started burying people on top of them, rinse and repeat. Because of this, the graveyard in the Jewish Quarter is over a storey tall. Pretty interesting.

And one more. In the “Old-New Synagogue” there, the legend is they created a man out of clay and breathed life into him, to do simple tasks for them. But then he turned against his creators, so they tricked him by leading him up to the second level and removing the stairs. Legend says he is still up there, sleeping, and nobody has been up there since. I doubt nobody has gone up to clean in centuries, but who knows? They called this clay man Golem, and the legend inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein and also (likely), the Pokémon of the same name. Good stuff 😛

 

Beyond wandering around and soaking in the sun, I also managed to do some thrift shopping – got a Hogwarts shirt for 99Kc and a black structured swimsuit / pair of shorts for 35Kc. Both stores had the same price for everything in it. Kinda wish I would’ve found the cheaper one first, but oh well, I like the Harry Potter shirt! Even if it an XS and might make me look like I have a pooch. It’s either that, my posture, or all the nachos I eat – who knows? Oh, and the swimsuit still has tags on it! Yay!

And significantly, I also hung out with a friend! Johnnie, who I met when I was in DC researching my Master’s thesis, was also in Prague! So I met up with him and his travel buddies, at a new gay bar whose bartender they had met through Scruff or Grindr. A Canadian meeting up with Americans, linking up with an Irishman, at a bar run by a French-Canadian, a Frenchman, and a Moroccan. Gotta love that queer community! So we had a drink, caught up, got some free shots, and were gonna have a great night out… But then two of their party snapped at each other, the partner of one of them sided with his boyf, and it was just drawma, mawma. One literally said, “Bye Felicia” during this argument, and I couldn’t stop myself from laughing. It was entertaining, but it made my night end prematurely 😦 Oh well, I was stinky and exhausted anyway. I grabbed a doner and watched the new episode of Survivor 36 back at the hostel, charged my computer (which is dying now, ugh), and booked this bus and the hostel I’m heading to tonight. Necessary things.

 

So that’s Prague! Now, back to Berlin.

After eating that potato pizza, I wandered towards the gay area of Berlin, where the Fetish Weekend events were happening. I stopped in a leather-making shop to get oriented / see what was up. One of the workers, a super nice guy, gave me the official program and some helpful recommendations – even asking the others in the store where I should go. What I didn’t expect is that the dress codes at the events would be so strict. I’m backpacking for two weeks and only brought four shirts, seven pairs of underwear, half a towel, etc. No room in my bag for leather pants or shoulder harnesses :/ So I felt underprepared.

And no, it’s not lost on me that wandering into a strange store, filled with men donned in leather, in a country where I don’t speak the language – it takes a lot of courage. I’m glad I’m able to do it. But something about traveling makes me braver. Maybe it’s because I have to be, since I’m all alone in foreign countries, only able to rely on myself. But maybe it’s because, I have nothing to lose. If I meet somebody at the hostel and we’re having a drink, then there’s no reason I should be monitoring or tailoring my behaviour or personality. I should just be my full self, because I’ll likely never see them again, so if they don’t like me, or my snarkiness, or my nail polish – who cares? I sure don’t.

Anyway, just got to the Vienna bus station. Will continue later.

 

Made it to Hostel Ruthensteiner by taking the subway! Except I only had 50 and 100 euro notes, which the ticket machines don’t take… So I was riding dirty. I was on tenterhooks the entire journey 😛 But made it here without incident. It’s a very cute hostel, very musical. Some lady is playing the piano, their WiFi password is “vivamusica,” you can borrow instruments for free, etc. Pretty cute. I got some free apple cinnamon tea, bought some lager at the bar, and am gonna finish this up. There’s a group playing King’s Cup in the common room – might go try to join them after this. The two people in my room were both just playing on their phones, so they might not be the most exciting people. The good news is that there’s only four beds in the room, so fewer chances of someone’s snoring keeping me up! Woooh!

 

That first night in Berlin, I popped in some other stores (notably Boxer Berlin), got a beer at Zsa Zsa Burger (since it looked poppin’) and read the Eastern Weekend booklet, found several of the important locations for the events, and then decided to go into this bar, teeming with Leathermen. I was just in my regular street clothes – which isn’t exactly protocol for a theme night at a leather bar – so I just stripped off my sweater and shirt and walked in there like I owned the place, bare chest, leather jacket, leather ballcap, and that’s it. Fortunately, nobody gave me trouble. People were actually friendly! Various people bought me some drinks, people were complimentary, and it was a good experience! The place was packed with people fully decked out in leather or rubber gear. Like, that would never happen in Ottawa! Maybe not even Montreal! It was definitely a novel experience, and I loved it.

The next night, I went to Mutschmanns, which was a similar bar event – except a bit turned up. It was bigger, there were more people, and I had a better time. Even ran into someone I knew, Phillip! And then the next night, I went to watch Mr. Leather Berlin – which was also phenomenal – but afterward, I was a bit clubbed out. So I just hung out with Marketa & Zachariah at the hostel instead.

But let’s talk about Mr. Leather Berlin. Had to wait 25 minutes out in the cold to get in, and everyone was smoking indoors (so it smelled disgusting), and 90% of it was in German – but I still had a great time. There were four contestants, and they had to answer one question, do a little charades show, and then do their performance. The winner was not decided based on judges, but rather based on an audience vote. So I got to cast my own ballot.

I voted for Jens, and not only because he was the youngest and cutest. I was feeling him when they were first introduced, but what really sold me was his performance! It started with this really intense church / organ music playing, as two figures were standing with black robes and hoods, holding candles, as a third person lay shirtless on the stage. The music got more intense, they stepped forward and raised the candles up, and you just expected them to pour the wax all over the third guy.

But instead, RuPaul’s voice came on, saying, “Gentlemen, start your engines, and may the best woman, win!” They take off the robes and start dancing choreography to various songs – like Toxic, Born This Way, etc. Jens puts a black and blue leather mask over his mouth, continues dancing, and then RuPaul comes on again – “This is a lip sync. What part of that don’t you understand? Take that thing off your face.” And they continue dancing. The songs were mashed up very well, and the choreo was surprisingly good! At another point, they ripped these leather pride flags out of their shirts, and rose petals flew down all around them – just like Sasha Velour!

It was so much fun, and unexpected, and amazing all around. No doubt did he deserve my vote! And it turns out, other people felt the same way, because he WON! I was so happy about it. After all the acclaim and applause, I managed to find him and speak to him in person. I told him how I had run for Mr. Leather Ottawa, and I was also the youngest and the most “fem” one (although neither of us were really super femme), and I couldn’t quite clinch the win. So I’m ecstatic he did, because we are changing the face of leather, bringing it into the new generation. He’s a great guy. We talked the next day on Instagram.

Other things I did in Berlin:

  • went to the Berghain building (legendary, next-level night club in a power station in the middle of nowhere) but didn’t go in
  • checked out the East Side Gallery (murals on the Berlin Wall, free)
  • walked through the Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe (very solemn and somber, but interesting) – and saw the monument specifically for homosexuals, too (it’s also a big concrete block, but with a window to the inside, showing men kissing men and women kissing women)
  • saw the Brandenburg Gate, Alexanderplatz, Reichstag, TV Tower, Checkpoint Charlie, Potsdamer Platz,
  • climbed the Victory Column, in Tiergarten, for the viewz
  • patronized the Pergamon Museum – which has really awesome exhibits. The Ishtar Gate of Babylon and the Market Gate of Miletus were hugely impressive, and the Islamic Art wing was very interesting as well!

Etc. It was a great 3.5-4 days, and I can’t wait to go back next Wednesday! I want to check out Monsterkabinett and have some schnitzel and maybe even try to get in Berghain/laboratory!

 

So, that’s it for now. Loving my trip so far! And it’s already 11:11 (make a wish!) and I’m pretty beat. Might save The Challenge for tomorrow… But more likely will ask the receptionists for recommendations for where to get food, go out and grab something, then come back and watch the show. Dunno. It’s loud in this common room, but I guess with headphones, it’d be okay.

In any case – ‘til next time! ❤

 

– Jefe

Eastern Eurotrip 2018, Part I: Before the Trip, CONTRACT EXTENSION, & Berlin

Guten abend!

 

I’m on a bus from Berlin to Prague, about an hour outside of Dresden currently. Just booked it last night like an idiot, so it wasn’t as cheap as it could have been. But for 25€ for a four-hour, international journey, it ain’t bad. Especially since this coach has WiFi, plugs, AND a bathroom! Wooh! Living the life of luxury.

I almost got two seats to myself, too, if these two girls didn’t SPRINT for the door when the bus started pulling away. And, wouldn’t you know it, one of the only remaining seats was beside me. So I’m glad they made it, since how much would it suck to miss your bus? But some space would have been nice. Oh well. At least she didn’t huff when I had to go use the “little boys’ room.” Side note, does anybody else hate it when people say that? It makes me so uncomfortable. Can’t you just say men’s room? Why talk about children at all? So unnecessary and off-putting. So, let me revise what I said – when I had to pee. See, isn’t that better?

So! I’m on my (current) Eurotrip! Heading to my second city. I arrived on Friday at noon and spent 3.5-4 days in Berlin. It’s a huge city, apparently, and it was Leather Weekend as well, so I didn’t want to hurry out of there. Haven’t totally decided, but I think I’ll spend two days and two nights in Prague, three in Vienna, an afternoon / lunch in Bratislava, and three in Budapest. That’s all I really have time to do, since I’m riding Ryanair Budapest-Berlin the morning of April 11th, and then the following morning, it’s back to the Schönefeld Flugehagen to fly back to Montreal! (Might spend a night there as well, haven’t figured out where I’d sleep yet – but my sense is I’d rather just hurry back to O-Town to watch RPDR with the boys and sleep in my own bed / be able to wear clean clothes the next day)

Marketa, a girl from my room at the Berlin hostel, happens to be Czech and highly disapproves of me only staying in the capital for two days. Yeah, I’m sure it’s a gorgeous city to walk around, and I’m very excited about that… But from my research, it seems much smaller than Berlin/Vienna/Budapest and without as much to do. I’m not saying I’ll be in a rush to get out of there, but I want to give myself enough time to experience / enjoy the other cities on my tour, too. We’ll see! Though I’m quite settled on my decision. I want to book my way Prague-Vienna tonight, and my hostel, so I get better prices on them. So, if I absolutely adore Prague and should spend more than 2 days there – I can always return. Nbd.

 

So, let’s talk about before the trip. I was so nervous leading up to it, as per usual. So many things I had to figure out and ways they could have gone wrong. I was worried about missing my flight, forgetting something, getting hurt, screwing up, regretting things, etc. Typical pre-travel anxiety. But once I found a rideshare Ottawa-Montreal that left Thursday afternoon and agreed to drop me at the airport directly, I could breathe easier. And once I “preliminarily packed” my bag – just threw stuff in to see if it would all fit – and found out it was in the size constraints for WOWair, then my nerves eased. Had no idea how much it weighed, and it was almost guaranteed to be more than 10kg (the limit for a “personal item,” since WOWair charges extra even for a carry-on bag). I had cancelled my gym membership (I’m a free bitch, baby), so I couldn’t even use the scale there. I just hoped for the best and kept my fingers crossed that they wouldn’t weigh it. But even if they did, whatever, what’s $55 extra in order to bring clothes I need, and my laptop, so I can keep up with The Challenge / RPDR and write these blog posts? Drop in a bucket. Fortunately, they didn’t bother to check my backpack – and, ironically, I still forgot to bring enough shirts. Whoops.

My last week at work was actually great. Yes, it was a shorter week, since Good Friday is a holiday, and true, my supervisor wasn’t there for MTW – but those are not the reasons. Once I had the rideshare and bag figured out, I could finally get excited for the trip. So that was driving me, and in addition, I was actually busy all week. Vinita being out of town was part of that, but I also had to wrap up all my projects before my two-week absence / original end of my contract. I had meetings / phone calls about how the Diversity and Inclusion Lens relates to Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) and the Equity Lens, proposed by the response to M-103, a motion against racism and religious discrimination (including Islamophobia). I went to focus testing for the new questions in the Public Service Employees’ Survey – since I had written one of them, moi-même. It’s to ask the sexual orientation of respondents, if you don’t recall. As I expected, most of the focus test participants wondered why they were asking and thought it might be invasive / none of their business / potentially offensive. But once a blurb explained why we are collecting the data – to gauge whether LGBTQ2+ people have significantly different perceptions of and experiences in the public service – then they were okay with it. Funny, how they wonder why it’s the government’s business, when the majority of them were probably straight anyway, and open about it / assumed to be hetero. Oh, if only it were that simple.

But in seriousness, it was a great experience, witnessing this focus group and the participants’ reactions. Others observers in the room with me explained that it was a marked difference in terms of a positive reception to a sexual orientation question, compared to just four years ago! Times are a-changin’, most definitely. While it might seem that the process is gratingly slow at times, the reality is that LGBTQ+ rights and recognition are improving at a lightning-fast pace. It’s an exciting time to be alive, and I am so fortunate and grateful I’m involved in government during this era, helping to advance this movement. Legit, too! It is probable that my words, and the question I wrote, will go in a survey to all public servants, this year and every year in the future! That’s shocking! I’m very proud of it. Gratified.

I was involved with document creation and redesigning a “deck” (PowerPoint presentation) during the week as well, and helping with the monthly “Wind-Down” (our sector’s wellbeing / social event for all of the larger sub-department, which had a “Fair” as a theme – it was a great success!), and updating the Crosswalk Checklist table, ensuring everything was available to my teammates when I’m in Europe, and getting my paperwork in order.

Oh, didn’t I say? MY TERM CONTRACT AT TBS WAS EXTENDED BY A YEAR!! :O Meaning I have another twelve months of steady, fulfilling work on a very “hot file” in a central agency! At a pay grade I’m still surprised I qualified for! Gurl, I’m living. It was great news, and I’m ecstatic it was made official before my departure! Now I don’t have a “break in service,” so I’ll get benefits soon enough as well. Good thing, since my upper back is still bothering me. I should do some more stretches, or something. Or change the position I sleep in. Because I’ve worked on improving my posture, pulling my shoulders back, and I stopped lifting – but no healing as of yet. It’s frustrating. But I’m optimistic, nonetheless.

Now that I signed the papers for this extension, I don’t have to worry about how I’ll spend my days or make rent or where I’ll apply for jobs, oh, at all. It’s a huge relief. Of course, I worked hard for this, it is deserved and makes sense – but still, you never know with these things. That’s why I booked this trip in the first place, since there was no guarantee I’d have work after March 31st, and I didn’t want to miss another opportunity to travel.

I thought that, if something did come through, they’d just start me again after I return from Europe. But nope! Apparently they like / want to keep me so much that they approved this time off, even though I don’t have nearly enough vacation accrued! :O What! Isn’t that nuts?

Maybe they’ll have me work some extra hours to make up the time, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they didn’t even bother. I put in my hours, work hard, get everything done and pull my weight and ask if I can help anybody further – so what else can they ask for? I’ve literally accomplished everything they’ve tasked me with. Maybe they need to give me more responsibilities, but it’s not like I’m out there slackin’.

Another piece to the puzzle is how, in mid-March, I only had two weeks left on my Term and no promise for the future. Vinita and Louise and others had told me they want to keep me, but desire is not always sufficient to keep somebody on. Money talks, and while the budget did specify literal millions of dollars for a Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (and Wellness), that doesn’t mean it’s ours yet. They have to apply for this money and, of course, it’s not guaranteed.

So my colleague was telling me about another item in the budget – millions of dollars for a Centre for Gender, Diversity, and Inclusion, housed over at Statistics Canada. He encouraged me to send my CV along to the Director there, Marc LaChance, with whom I had already spoken, by “chance,” about questions to measure sexual and gender minority status. (I swear that pun was unintentional.) A dear friend, Elena, is also involved with this file at STATCAN, so I reached out to her as well – and she forwarded my CV to others with the Centre.

Both Marc and Elena’s colleagues (Amanda and Sylvie) got back to me, the same day, requesting an “informal meeting” (which is GovernmentSpeak for a casual job interview) before my trip. I arranged it with Amanda and Sylvie for a week prior to departure, but Marc couldn’t make it. He said he’d like to meet me otherwise, before I take off – but it didn’t happen. Maybe upon my return.

Amanda & Sylvie made the meeting on a Thursday at 9, so naturally, I had to get approval from Vinita on the matter. I had no idea how to approach it, since “I don’t know how government / business works” and I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. But V had told me a week or two earlier, during my Performance Management Agreement evaluation / discussion, that she would encourage me to move on and move up from my current position. It’s important to be dynamic and try new things and not stay in one place and stagnate. So I was nervous how she would react but didn’t really expect it to be a problem. And it wasn’t; she approved it; but when I told her the reason for the meeting, she narrowed her eyes at me. I think it was mostly joking, but maybe with a grain of seriousness/worry.

I didn’t email these people my CV because I want to leave TBS or move on to a new team, at all. There was just no givens for a continued contract and I had to look out for myself. A friend / close colleague encouraged me to do this, and I’d have been stupid not to.

Anyway, I went to the meeting, and it was fantastic. Amanda & I really hit it off and seemed to be cut from the same cloth. We shared stories and made each other laugh. Sylvie wasn’t quite so similar to me, and she even mentioned how, in her opinion, sexual orientation (and asking about it) is inappropriate for the workplace. I had to explain to her, calmly, why that isn’t the case – and Elena told me later that Amanda was very impressed with my educating her. Pat myself on the back for that one 😉

It was a great interview, the hour just flew by, and I am very glad I took it. Wasn’t really banking on anything coming out of it directly – and they told me they weren’t able to offer any positions immediately – but it was still a nice opportunity to network, meet some kindred spirits, and learn what initiatives are going on at STATCAN about gender (minorities). Yeah!

And then the day after, I got the official email about my TBS contract being extended. And Vinita told me not to worry about taking time off or rushing back to the office on Friday the 13th, because we’d figure it out. I’m not positive the two are related, and I was not attending a job interview as a bargaining chip for my current contract – but maybe that’s how it all worked out. And that’s okay. Everyone is happy in the end. And who know what might become of this new group at STATCAN? Possibilities for the future, but I really like my team and am totally content with my job. Don’t want to leave, at all. I’m settled and believe in the work we do. So yay!

 

So that’s that. Also before my trip, Mr. Paul Craig finally moved in! So now I have a roommate again! And we bonded further while watching The Challenge together on Wednesday night! Woohoo! I’m happy about that.

Volleyball has been going well, too. We have managed to stay in Tier 7 three weeks running! Hopefully my team can manage the same for the next two weeks, without me. I have nothing but faith in them! 🙂 Not like I’m the best player on the team anyway. Good luck, Serving Realness! Knock ‘em dead.

Oh, and I attended the Volleyball Banquet the weekend before I left, and had a great time there. Wore my new leather pants (got ‘em on sale at Zara!) to the event, and ended up going to Lookout after… And boy, they do not breathe! It was quite the sweaty night. A lotta fun though!

 

And now, for my trip! Left work and the Fair wind-down event early on Thursday, dropped my stuff at home, took a quick shower, then hurried to LCBO for my rideshare. Right off the bat, the driver says that I’ll have to pay $40 to get dropped off at the airport, not $30 like we originally agreed upon. Okay, cool, I’m not gonna get upset over $10 – though it is annoying. He assures me we are leaving right then, since I was really nervous there’d be lots of traffic, being the day before the Eastern weekend. But we still waited for another 10 minutes, as people leisurely strolled up to fill every seat of the minivan. Turns out it was one of those professional rideshare situations, not just someone driving somewhere and wanting to split the gas. Irksome.

But I plug in some Sam Smith, doze off for a bit, wake up, listen to the Brain Candy podcast, chat with one of the passengers, and still manage to get to the airport 2 hours later! I was actually shocked about it.

Good thing I was timely, too, since the line for security was the longest I have ever seen it. More stuff to worry about, but I get through, and the line for Tim Horton’s took a while too, but still, I got my food and got to my gate in time. Turns out there was no need to rush or fret at all, though. The departure screen reported no delay, but boarding started 45 minutes late, took friggen forever (no idea why!), and didn’t finish until an hour after we were supposed to take off. Very annoying, and unprofessional. But you get what you pay for, I suppose, and my flights were cheap.

I switch my place to another row with an empty seat in the middle, we fly through the night, and I doze with my hood covering my face. WOWair is discount, so it wasn’t comfortable by any means – but still, I did manage some sleep and Survivor. (I started season 5, Thailand, which is apparently one of the worst seasons…. Great)

Get to Reykjavik at like 2am Ottawa time. I only had an hour layover, and since we were an hour late taking off… I had next to no time to make my connection. Of course, @WOWair (I was unimpressed). Fortunately, they gave me a fast pass, so security / checking my passport didn’t take long at all, and I boarded my plane to Berlin with no time to spare. At least, on the bright side, I didn’t have to kill any time at an airport in the middle of the night with no local currency? Yeah, something like that.

 

We just passed Dresden. The bus driver keeps braking hard / taking these fast turns, so I’m a bit motion sick writing this. Sigh. Maybe I’ll take a break and eat my lil baguette sandwich, but I want to finish this / write about the good stuff. It’s weird, because simultaneously I feel I have all this time during my trip, but also not enough time to do everything I want to. I have another nine full days left, and five more cities to visit (since I’m returning to Berlin)… But still, it seems like I need to rush to fit it all in! It’s quite strange. Also because I want to relax and take things at an easy pace. I mean, I am on vacation, after all.

So, since I only have 2 days in Prague, maybe I should hammer this out now so I can have more time to experience the city. But, for now, I’m gonna close the laptop lid for a bit.

 

K, back! I remembered I still had a can of wine – from when I bought some at Lidl to sip on while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race in my bunk bed alone at the hostel, resting and getting ready for Saturday night – so I drank that too. Then promptly fell asleep. Not sure why I was so exhausted, but as I usually do when I’m traveling, I am on the go for most of the day, every day, walking around and generally not being sedentary. Plus, last night I was up until after 3am but aimed to be out of the hostel by 10, so I didn’t sleep sufficiently.

We’re about 20 minutes outside of Prague now. This is quite the bus ride – 4.5 hours. And I fear getting to Vienna will be a similar duration, but then the Bratislava and Budapest are closer. Hopefully I’m right about that.

Since I’m so beat, I might just find my hostel (Google Maps says it’ll take 30+ minutes to walk there, and it’s going to be after 10pm), shower, and go to bed. People have recommended I go to the Charles Bridge as early as possible, to get there before the rest of the crowds – so I might do that. Getting up at 6am seems ambitious / scary, but if I’m going to do it, tomorrow should be the day.

Since it’s Easter Monday, I don’t expect anything hugely exciting will be happening tonight in Prague, so might as well rest up. And then turn up tomorrow night! 😛

 

So, Germany. I land, withdraw money from the Deutsche Bank machine with no fees – thanks, Global ATM Partner Alliance! – then get on the S-Bahn to downtown. Berlin has two types of trains, the S-Bahn (which goes into the suburbs) and the U-Bahn (which goes underground), and quite a huge network. Ottawa should take notes.

I find my hostel without issue, the Three Little Pigs Hostel, which is in a converted convent. It has an enormous common / dining area with sky-high ceilings and chandeliers. It’s pretty nice, and the beds were comfortable, and it was one of the most affordable options! I do recommend. The only downside is they don’t have a kitchen. Plus, I shared a room with this really strange older guy, who only speaks German (but still tried communicating with me even when it was clear we had no hope to understand each other) and didn’t seem to do anything but hang around the hostel and had a bottle of coke beside his bed and brought a teddy bear with him… And also snored and slept at weirdly early times. It wasn’t ideal.

Fortunately, I made friends with 3 other people in the room. The aforementioned Marketa, the Bangladeshi Zachariah, and the Peruvian Diego. I hung out with the first two in particular, since Diego left prematurely. They’re all great! I really enjoyed spending time with and getting to know them! That’s the reason I was up until after 3am last night, since I got wrapped up in talking to them and lost track of time. It was awesome! I’m gonna miss them at this next hostel :/

I arrived too early for check-in, so I locked my bag up and went wandering, in search of food. Headed towards this nearby Mexican place that a website recommended, only to find it closed when I arrived 😦 So I picked a café instead, and enjoyed an iced coffee and lil grilled sandwich while sitting in the sun. It was lovely! Then I strolled around more, checked out Checkpoint Charlie (it’s underwhelming, but because it’s such recent history – that’s pretty cool), and returned to the hostel. Got my room, met Marketa, chatted with her, took a shower, and then took a nap. That red eye wasn’t great, even if I did manage to sleep much of both flights.

Woke up an hour later, and it was a struggle to drag myself out of bed. Jetlag Jefferson. But I didn’t fly all the way to Europe to doze in a bunk bed, so I got my ass up, asked the guy working at the desk (Sasha, who was friendly, cool, and super helpful my entire stay) where to go for food, and set out to explore Berlin once again.

Walked to Other Nature, a queer-oriented safer sex shop, only to find that closed as well. Damn Easter Weekend hours. Found the doner kebap place that apparently originated the sandwich, but the line was ridiculous. And Sasha said it’s not really worth it. So I got some delicious pizza al taglio instead (one spinach slice, one potato slice) and kept on wandering.

Okay, I made it to Prague, walked through the downtown, found the hostel, and chatted with the deskman. He told me there was a kebab place 1 minute away, so I didn’t even grab my jacket or put on my sneakers, but walked there in a t-shirt and flip flops. And did NOT find it. Just felt like a fool wandering around Prague at midnight when it’s only 10 degrees out. Whoops.

So I’m hungry but am just gonna go to bed and eat in the morning. Gotta slim down somehow, right? 😉

 

And I’ll write another post when I’m on my way to Vienna! So I’ll finish up Berlin then.

 

Ciao for now folks, or “tchüss.”

Love,

 

– Jefe

UPCOMING TRIP TO EASTERN EUROPE, Success/Slaying at Werk, Peppermint, New Roomie, Survivor, & Mother’s Visit <3

Oh hey.

 

As Ryan Barlow quipped, “Yeah, it’s been a minute, how are you?” But I didn’t realize just exactly HOW long it’s been – more than two months! Oh my gaw! (Like my 1.5-year-old cousin Olivia adorably said over the holidays when she realized the Christmas tree lights weren’t on)

 

Ah well. That’s how it goes. I’ll ketchup now.

 

As you could deduce or assume, life is busy. Sometimes too busy these days – I worry I’m spreading myself too thin, burning the candle at both ends. Working full-time, hosting trivia, Board Member of the Lambda Scholarship Foundation Canada, competitive volleyball every Wednesday, heavy gym routine, cooking/cleaning/laundry, and seeing friends as often as I can. While keeping up with the parents, watching lots of TV, looking for a roommate, and trying to keep a healthy sleep schedule.

I like being busy, no doubt – but I’ve had more sick days than normal. I’m a pretty hale person that didn’t miss a day of work in 2-3 years at one point, but not so much anymore. Part of that is that we moved to Workplace 2.0, so there is less space with more people… So presumably germs will spread faster. Maybe that’s the reason our ADM (Assistant Deputy Minister) Carl gave us all hand sanitizer as a petit cadeau…

I was sent home early two days in a row when I was feeling ill (had to be convinced, though) – so I could nip it in the bud AND so others wouldn’t catch anything. And then I worked from home the next day, so that was a better solution and I felt less guilty. Same as last week, actually. I had a fab Sunday, was very productive (repotted my plants, did laundry, had a Lambda conference call, cooked, washed dishes), and went to sleep on time and feeling great.

But then I woke up at 4:30, body aching, feeling hot, head pounding, and unable to get back to sleep. Tossed and turned and woke up every hour until 7:30, at which point I knew I could not go to work. I emailed Vinita, told her I had a migraine, popped some ibuprofen, and went back to sleep for another four hours. Got up and was still in agony. Front of my head was pulsing, especially when I changed levels – so standing up or bending down – which was so bad that I needed to stop, close/cover my eyes, and wait for the pain to abate. It was horrible.

This continued all day. I made the stupid decision to go through with hosting trivia, even though Jason Hamer was totally willing to replace me. It was not fun. In addition to the head pain, I was also overheated, and then later became freezing. I legit felt I was going to vomit as I was reading a question, but fortunately I managed to keep it down.

Took an hour-long bath when I got home to help with the chills and muscle aches, and that still didn’t help. Went to bed right afterward, around 10/10:30, hoping a full night of sleep would curtail. But… Nope.

Couldn’t work Tuesday either (all those fluorescent lights, the noise, the commotion around me, staring at a screen all day… not to mention how I couldn’t really think hard at all). I wasn’t sure if it was a migraine or a flu, or both – but didn’t want to go to the clinic because I was in so much pain. Maybe that’s backward, but the whole rigmarole of getting there and explaining the situation would have been too arduous. A dear friend (Ernie <3) dropped off some Tylenol 3s with codeine, so I hoped they would help. They didn’t really, so I went to the drugstore in search of Excedrin Migraine. Asked the pharmacist for her advice, and she recommended a combination of ibuprofen + Gravol + an apple (due to an enzyme), so I did exactly that. Maybe it worked, since the pain finally started to ebb around dinnertime. Meaning I had an excruciating headache for more than 36 hours… Not cute.

I didn’t want to miss more work / felt guilty I hadn’t been there in two days / worry they’ll think I’m faking it or that I’m not dedicated to my job… So I went to the office the next day and took the pills combo from the previous day. You know how Gravol is supposed to make you sleepy? Well, yeah. But I didn’t feel drowsy for some reason, but rather dizzy and out of sorts. Left at 1 (my usual lunch time), took my tablet with me, and went to the clinic. Got a prescription and a referral for a new neurologist, since the more I think about it, the more concerned I am. I haven’t had a migraine in two years, and the last ones were in connection to my encephalitic episodes/seizures. Additionally, no other migraine I’ve had has lasted longer than a day. This was the worst one – so I’m wondering what that means for my mental health.

It BETTER not mean anything, because two years after I was supposed to originally, I’M GOING TO EASTERN EUROPE! I found real cheap tickets to Berlin for right after my current contract ends – I’m talking $420 round-trip, taxes in – so I bought it. No way do I want to just sit around for 2 weeks while I’m waiting for another term / contract to come in. I’d much rather be exploring new places and meeting new people. I’m so excited, and I’m going to start planning what I’ll be doing soon. I haven’t even booked my first hostel yet, so I need to get on that, stat. Today, maybe when I’m finished with this write-up.

I’m doing Berlin-Prague-Vienna-Bratislava-Budapest between March 30th and April 12th. I take off from Montreal the night of the 29th, have a layover in Reykjavik, and arrive the afternoon of Good Friday. Already purchased the flight Budapest-Berlin as well (don’t want to be wasting time bussing, and Ryanair’s ticket cost me $20, nothing), to catch my return to North America. I’m so excited. I had almost this exact trip booked two years ago – to meet up with Enbal in Vienna and to visit Copehagen, Malmo, Brussels, Bruges, and Amsterdam too – but instead of going to all these new cities, I went to the Neurology Ward at the hospital 😦 So, fingers crossed REAL tight, toca madera, that everything is fine and the trip goes without a hitch.

Anyway, my scrip was for triptans, what I had when I left the Glasgow hospital, but in the process of moving 5 times since then, I’ve misplaced them. Turns out they cost me $90 for six damn pills – for the generic ­– and they didn’t even work 😦 I had a headache for Wednesday night and Thursday too, but grâce à Déesse it wasn’t as bad as Monday & Tuesday.

I worked from home on Thursday and actually was super productive, finished up all that was on my plate. Even was a on a teleconference to discuss a future question in the Public Service Employees’ Survey to measure the proportion of trans/ Two-Spirit/ non-binary/ genderqueer employees, and received an email that night, inviting me to be the Co-Chair on LGBTQ2+ issues for the TBS Employment Equity & Diversity Advisory Committee. Amazing, and exciting.

Then I worked au bureau Friday and had a fab day. It was sunny, I got stuff done, and Vinita and I met to discuss my PMA evaluation. Aka performance management agreement, so she told me how I was assessed vis-à-vis the objectives she and I had come up with together. I succeeded at all of them, and even “succeeded plus” on one – about contributing to education on LGBTQ2+ topics here at Treasury Board. Vinita said I have “excellent writing and organization skills” and that my “knowledge and expertise… have been invaluable in achieving the positive outcomes related to the work of the D+I team.” She also mentioned I have a “positive attitude and can-do approach,” I’ve demonstrated “excellent inter-personal skills,” and my “work ethic and integrity are exemplary.”

Wow! What a fantastic way to end the week! Especially since I was so preoccupied with what people thought of me not being in the office on Monday or Tuesday. A big relief, and huge compliments coming from somebody I highly respect. And these comments will go on my permanent record here in the public service, to be read by anybody who might hire me in the future. So I am definitely proud of that.

In terms of work, it’s been going great. I wasn’t looking forward to the move to Workplace 2.0, but it’s not as bad as I expected. I get to see my coworkers more, and it’s more social. As an extrovert, that helps. And my desk can become a standing one, since it’s raise- and lower-able. But those are the pluses. The negatives are – less privacy, more noise, more commotion around me (they even vacuum during business hours, wtf?), more surveillance / people looking over my shoulder to see what I’m working on. Even with screens that are supposed to prevent this, my back is to many people and an aisle. Ugh. But oh well.

I’ve been much busier since the move. Maybe that’s because our workload has increased, or maybe it’s because I’m more in the middle of things, and people ask me to help out because of that visibility/presence. Probably both, but I like it. Makes the day go faster and it gives me the opportunity to learn and develop my skills more. I assist with lots of documents, formatting, editing, quality-checking, creating graphics, sizing tables, curating recommendations, making decks (PowerPoints), sending stuff to translation, etc. Lots of fun things going on. I don’t mind it.

Most excitingly – the budget just came out two weeks ago, which included literal millions of dollars for a Centre on Diversity, Inclusion, and Wellness. Like, I worked on the proposal for that! So gratifying to see my work recognized like that! The money isn’t “ours” yet (we need to do a TB Sub, or Treasury Board submission), but with that line in the budget… My continuing / getting another contract is all but a guarantee! I’m geeked about it. I’ll finish up this term (last day is March 29th), hop on a plane, get back on a Thursday – and maybe start back at work that Monday! That’d be ideal. Fingers crossed, of course, and nothing is promised – but I have a positive hunch about it.

Also, I received an Instant Award in January, for the work done on the Final Report of the Joint Union/Management Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion. They specifically mentioned my meticulous attention to detail, in version control / translating / converting the Report to HTML. It was a lot of work, but Kevin James, Stratton Campbell, and I dun it!

That was a fantastic feeling as well, to get that recognition – because at the time, I was worrying/ wondering if I was pulling my weight on the team, after we launched the Final Report. But apparently I have been! 🙂 I’ve also been involved with the Wellness Committee, the Employment Equity Annual Report, the Diversity and Inclusion strategy, future questions in the Public Service Employees’ Survey (PSES), etc.

On that last point, the question I created (with some input from other important people) to measure sexual orientation has officially been proposed to be included in this year’s PSES. I also wrote a briefing note to discuss all the thought process and decisions that went into this one simple question. And just today, I wrote a briefing on the teleconference last Thursday, about an expanded/additional question to measure transgender and non-binary gender identity.

I’m doing legitimately important and momentous work, and the fact that it is going ahead into a pan-governmental survey is HUGE. I’m a lucky man, and the stars aligned for me to be where I am. Of course, I did work hard for this and am an asset, but it’s undeniable that luck / circumstance played a large role. “They call me Lamborghini ‘cause I know just what I’m worth.”

 

Other things going on: fitness. While I do feel better since taking a month off in December / over the holidays and my hips are back to normal, other problems persist. Specifically my anterior deltoids and upper right back. My massage therapist Nico worked on the shoulders and helped a lot. He said it’s possible I had tendonitis in them and told me to ice them – so that’s what I’ve been doing after volleyball. Nico also thinks I have a separated vertebrae in my mid-back, which is the reason for all this referred pain in the upper right part. It’s been so bad that even reaching out and flipping up a light switch was damn painful.

He referred me to a chiropractor, Dr. Peter Wise, so I went and had a consultation with him. He isn’t sold on the separated vertebrae but believes my ribs are just bothered for some reason – and thus all the muscles and joints around them have seized up to protect them. Definitely could be. He did some adjustments on me – man, those cracks and pops felt good – as well as acupuncture in my right shoulder/upper back. My first time getting it done, so that’s exciting.

Had a follow-up appointment with him later that week, but then I find out that I don’t actually have benefits, like I thought I did 😥 So Nico & Peter were both out of pocket, and if it’s just bothered ribs / shoulders… Then I might as well just take it easy and let them heal up themselves. Peter suggested I do some exercises at the gym that have been pulling my arms back, so I’m doing that – with light weights, of course. And beyond that, I’m not really doing anything upper-body at the gym.

These issues have been chronic since November, if not since last May (when I hurt my right shoulder during that two-week CrossFit trial), and they are not getting better. Maybe volleyball is a culprit too, but continuing at the gym is not “working out,” if you excuse the pun. I called last week to cancel my membership at Anytime Fitness (since I’ll be gone for 2 weeks soon enough anyway, and I want to switch to the Jack Purcell Community Centre weight room – which is literally half the price), but found out it had gone through the day prior. Urgh, annoying. So I’ll cancel it before the 21st.

And in the meantime, I’m just doing lower body and abs. Back squats (205# for 6-8 reps for 3 sets), leg press (430# for 10 reps for 3 sets), and ab rollouts (15-20 reps for 3 sets). Still feeling that good burn, and I’ve managed to get the thick thighs I’ve always wanted!! *heart eyes* (Although that also means I’m a 32 or 33 waist these days, not 29 anymore)

Oh, and I finally did yoga again, last week. And with the warm weather approaching (sometime soon, eventually) – I’ll start biking everywhere again.

Hopefully that’s enough to keep me fit, especially since the volleyball season ends soon. My team has managed to do better recently – so now we are in Tier 7! And managed to stay there for 2 weeks, then back down to 8 when we were short a player, and another 2 consecutive weeks these days! Wouhou! I love it. We have all improved, and that makes me smile. Specifically, I’ve been really working on my spikes and overhand serves.

Unfortunately, I’ll be in Europe during at least one week of the play-offs, and I know I’m going to miss playing (in both connotations of “miss”) – so there’s a strong likelihood I’ll play beach volleyball this summer too. Or maybe queer softball. Or queer rugby. Or 2 of those 3. We’ll see.

 

Oh! I can’t forget to mention how Mommy Dearest was up here for a visit! She drove all the way from Nova Scotia in one day, alone, and stayed at my place. Then we drove up to Cobden, Ontario – about an hour outside the city – to stay in a timeshare. She described it to me as five-star and luxury, so I was excited… But it was massively underwhelming. No gym, pool, hot tub, nothing. I only stayed there one night, and she spent all week skiing at a nearby hill, so it worked out after all.

We went to IKEA too, as she pressured me to get an actual TV stand instead of the hodgepodge furniture that were holding up my 55” TV. And we explored Renfrew ON as well – walked around, thrift shopped, had dinner at this Tex-Mex place. Watched a movie back at the timeshare (What We Do in the Shadows) with the fireplace on and some white wine in hand. Then she drove me back the next day, we had a tour of my cousin Adrian’s gym and dinner with him – and then a repeat visit with him the next weekend, when she returned and stayed with me again. We played some Dominion as well and watched another horror flick the following weekend – Happy Death Day – with goat cheese, crackers, and tea.

It was some lovely quality time spent together, and I enjoyed myself much. However, Mumsie does not know how to entertain herself, so I had to keep her occupied. I didn’t realize how accustomed I had gotten to free / down / alone time until the Monday after her first visit. I was spent. Maybe I’m not as extroverted as I once thought…

Still though. Love you so much, Moms! ❤ :-*

 

Also! I finally got a roommate! After showing many people the apartment and ruminating on who I should choose, I settled on Paul Craig. He’s 27, has a dry, wry humour that makes me laugh a lot, and also works at TBS. More in digital / web operations, though. He’s from Mississauga, went to school at Western in London ON, and lived in London UK for a while – actually just moving here in mid-January. He says like deck builders, so I’m excited to teach him Dominion. And we just get along well, in general! I’m excited about it – but given my kryptonite of high expectations, perhaps I should temper my hopes of it. As long as he cleans, pays rent, and communicates well, it should be fine. We signed the papers together on Friday and he picked up his keys, so it’s all systems go now! He’s ordering a bed now and will probably move in this coming weekend. Wouhou!

 

I’ve really started leaning into my reality TV competition shows these days. Celebrity Big Brother was a wild ride (love Omarosa, poor Ross), Big Brother Canada 6 started last week, RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars 3 finishes this week (#TeamShangela but I wish DeLa did things differently), Season 10 of RPDR starts the following (Aquaria, Cracker, & Monet ❤ ), The Challenge: Vendettas is lit, and Season 32 (Final Reckoning) starts filming next week. And Landon MF Lueck was confirmed today! That’s bananas, but in a much-better-than-Johnny-17-seasons-and-2-spin-offs way.

But most significantly is Survivor. I watched Millennials vs Gen X (S33) and loved it, then went on to Caramoan to gear up for Game Changers (S34), since I already saw HvHvH (S35). I had this whole trajectory planned out to watch all these seasons to get to know the players on GC before starting it… And it turns out Caramoan is one of the least liked / popular seasons of all time…. As is Game Changers. AND then the winner of GC was spoiled for me in a trivia question I had to read, and I found out who won Caramoan through a careless Google search. So, lol. Whomp whomp.

Instead, I decided to just go back to the origin and watch all the Survivor seasons chronologically. Yeah, that’s a huge amount of time invested, but whatever – I enjoy it, I’m busy and productive enough in every other facet of my life, and I want to watch the game evolve. Plus, at its start, Survivor was a social experiment, à la Lord of the Flies, and I love both that book and sociology in general.

And this way, inchallah, other seasons won’t be spoiled for me! Although, admittedly, I know who wins S1 Borneo, S7 Pearl Islands, and S20 Heroes and Villains already. And the current season, the thirty-sixth, Ghost Island, features all these idols and advantages that were (in)famously (mis)played in previous seasons. So as I’m watching it (because of my competitive pool with Team TBD, trivia regulars and friends of mine), it’s spoiling all these iconic moments that happened in previous seasons. Damn.

But whatever, it’s NBD. It’s not life or death. And maybe I’ll forget these things as I journey through ~30 seasons of the game. I found Borneo dragged (the boring Pagong-ing and no hidden immunity idols), so now I’m watching S2 / Australian Outback at 1.3x speed. It helps.

I also watched S3 / Africa way back when it was airing, so I know the winner of that too. Might skip it or not, haven’t decided yet.

 

As for everything else, I suppose it’s all social plans and lovely friends. Unless I’m forgetting something important, but who knows?

  • I had a potluck with Julia Conzon and her friends last night, and that was fab. Great food, and we played Hanabi too. Was fun.
  • Went to Lookout with Richard, Loic, and Brandon on Saturday and had a wonderful time. Phenomenal drag shows! Such a great time, and the same when I went bowling with them, and to Molly’s birthday party together. Good peeps ❤
  • Friday, hung out at Tim’s with Chris, Cameron, and David. Literally walked to Queers & Beers, but the music was damn loud and I feared getting a headache again L
  • Thursday, RPDR AS3 with Simon / Rock / Rock / Dustin / Greg / Robert / Tony / Eric / Hris.
  • I have lots of game nights with Freddy, Ricky, and Loic. Nick, other Nick, Jason, and Eric too.
  • Pandemic Legacy Season 2 with the Lads (Colum, Dean, Luke) when we can manage it.
  • Hang out with Bryan, George, and Charmaine often too. Went to her birthday last weekend – Korean karaoke.
  • Also went to Sasha’s birthday / housewarming party.
  • Adam’s birthday party and Dan’s and Patrick’s house party all on the same night.
  • Won first place in RuPaul’s Drag Race trivia, on a team with Eric+Hris.
  • Catlin stayed with me on a Sunday night for an interview Monday morning, so we went to dinner and watched a horror flick (The Babysitter, amazing).
  • Went to the rugby games night fundraiser and to indoor practice that weekend – my first time playing rugby!

 

Oh yeah – and I went and saw Peppermint live! She had a free show at the University of Ottawa, so I got to see her sing live, lip sync, dance, and even host a Q&A section. She talked about the murder of Black trans women and how she didn’t have any heroes growing up, and how difficult that was. She’s from Hersey PA (she and I talked about it in front of everybody – she’s somehow heard of Quakertown, even). It was amazing experience, lovely night all around, and she really is a wonderful person. Great dancer and singer too, funny and a natural entertainer, and well-spoken and stands up for what she believes in. It’s awesome.

 

So, that’s all for now, folks. Off to play more Breath of the Wild – my latest obsession (seriously it’s so good) – then to pick up trivia sheets with Jason Hamer, then gym, then trivia, then home for more Zelda and/or Survivor.

 

Stay classy kids,

 

– Jefe

Holidaze & The Male Gaze, Plus Some NYE Introspection & the Roomie Moving Out

Shalom!

 

Happy New Year to you all. It is January 3rd, and fortunately, it seems the polar vortex here in Ottawa finished – or maybe I should say, the cold has “snapped.” When I dragged myself out of bed at 8am yesterday and trudged to the office, my metéo app said it felt like -35°C with the windchill. That’s getting close to the crossover point! Nuts! But today, it’s a downright balmy neg eight, or -15° with the wind. Wouhou! Spring is here!

Obvi not. The worst is yet to come, but I’ll take these temps over Siberian cold any day.

Work was supa dull yesterday. I went around to say hello to my coworkers, and none of my supervisors were here! The only person from my team was Sarah, the part-time (master’s) student. I even visited the manager of the other team (Employment Equity) to ask if I could help them out with anything… And there was nothing. So, in addition to being the first day back on the job, there was hardly anything going on. It was a very slow day – which was also made worse by the fact I didn’t take a lunch. I just got back to Ottawa late on Monday night (my flight was delayed), so I didn’t have time to grocery shop. Plus, my roommate has moved out most of his stuff, including the microwave and pots – so I wasn’t able to cook anything I had or heat it up, even if I did. So I just ate oatmeal I had on my desk – two bowls of it. It was a struggle of a day. Fortunately, today was better, as both Vinita (my direct supervisor) and Jeff (a new colleague who I’m very friendly with) are back! Yay.

And yesterday wasn’t horrible, no way. I left at 3:30 because I didn’t take a lunch and immediately went shopping. I was going to rectify my home situation and buy some food so January wasn’t more hellish than I had to be. I hoofed over to Giant Tiger, snatched up a cutting board and 3 pots and 1 pan for ~$30 together (love a good bargain), and then headed to the mall. And picked up… My new 55” 4K/Ultra-HD Fluid TV!

It was my “Birthmas” present, which is what my family has taken to doing for the past 5 years – a larger gift for your birthday/Christmas instead of a bunch of smaller ones. Since I watch so much TV these days (I’m really going all in on reality shows, whatever, #noregrets), I don’t want to deal with a set that malfunctions 50% of the time I turn it on, is relatively small, and has tinny audio. So there was this 55” one on sale on Boxing Day, for $580 off retail price. Insanity! So I snagged it for about a third of its price, brand new, with warranty. Why not treat yo’self, right? Thanks to Bryan Q for the suggestion!

So I get to The Source, give them my name (they curiously didn’t ask for proof of my identity, but whatever…), and go in the back to get it. The guy drags the TV out, and omigoodness, it is enormous. Much bigger than I expected, and a bit intimidating. I was already carrying groceries and friggen pots and pans, so I had to think how I was gonna get this thang home. Fortunately, it wasn’t that heavy, and I had planned to call an Uber anyway.

The only thing is that when my cab arrives… The TV only barely fits! Was too wide to go in the backseat (the doors wouldn’t shut), so the driver put the seats down and we went to put it in the trunk. But then the trunk wouldn’t close, so we had to angle it up on the headrests of the front seats. Even then, it was tight. It wasn’t like it was a SmartCar, either. But we made it work somehow, and now it is beautifully set up at home! Was gonna set it on the toy chest Mum and Dad delivered to me, but it’s too small. So instead, two dining chairs are holding it up. Looks good, but coupling that with my roommate moving out means I need to find some other seating arrangements for my game nights!

Anyway, I love it. Made a spinach salad and thin crust pizza, watched Floribama Shore, then went over to Colum’s for our next attempt at Pandemic Legacy Season 2! We tried the Prologue in December and were one turn away from winning, but got unlucky with drawing the infection cards. But last night, we dove right into the first month, with our four characters: Prince Sass, Raja Jaguara, Jizzlyn, and Tink “Tinky” the Tank. Karma Sutra didn’t make the cut this time. And we won! And discovered some of North America! And had a great time doing it. Love those three lads ❤

And then tonight, I’m watching the season premiere of The Challenge: Vendettas! The 31st damn season (with 3 spin-offs as well), and I am HYPE… Even if the one winner (male or female, not one of each) has already been spoiled for me. I’ll make some delicious nachos (#fitspo) and also watch the penultimate episode of The Challenge: Champs vs Stars. Which has honestly been pretty egregious, but whatever. Tomorrow is yoga and games night with a gaggle o’ gays, Friday possibly other board games with Jason/Chris/Squirtle, and we’ll see what the weekend brings. I’m picking up a microwave from Katie M tonight (Bunz-ing it for a bottle of wine), which means all the things my roomie took with him that I need are now replaced! Yay! And I might buy some marble-looking contact paper, to finally cover those damn countertops.

So that’s this week! Let’s talk about the past couple.

I somehow got ill before leaving for the holidays, so I left work early on the Friday before, and overslept on Tuesday and still didn’t feel good at work, so I left early then – and then woke up at 4am on Wednesday morning and felt completely dreadful. In order to get to NS, I had to rideshare to MTL and deal with luggage and the cold and everything – so I knew I wouldn’t be able to manage if I didn’t get better. I texted the only colleague who would’ve been in that day (Christine) to remind me when my one meeting was, since I didn’t want to miss that and would’ve come in for it, since I live so close. It was with the Executive Director of my sector and another Senior Director, so I definitely wanted to follow through on that. She told me it was cancelled, though, so I kept right on sleeping. (turns out they cancelled it on my behalf – yikes. but it’s not biggie)

Fortunately, all the rest and tea I had helped me feel better, so braving the -25°C temps and traveling on Thursday wasn’t totally execrable. I started listening to the S-Town podcast on the rideshare, got to hang out with Torch and Justin at the Armada Lounge, picked up my custom bowtie and a leather harness and pair of short shorts there, then met Ndaku for coffee, carrots, hummus, and catching up at Anticafé before heading to the airport. Security was no problem, I was enjoying my podcast, and once we got in the air, I took full advantage of the free food and drinks. Glass of white wine and a tallboy of pilsner while I watched the finale of Survivor 35. And let me tell you, I was living for it.

Landed, found Mum, and chatted her ear off on the ride home. About the male gaze, Mr Leather Ottawa, work, volleyball, friends, etc. Much like I write about on here, actually. Also talked with Dad upon arrival to Boutiliers Point, then eventually hunkered down with crackers, cheese, and bologna to finish the Survivor finale. And yes, you best believe that Devon was robbed. I put all my points for the fantasy league/competitive pool on him, thinking he’d be Devon Darkhorse… And then he gets out on a stupid twist? Just like how Shea Coulée got third or fourth because of the twist in the finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 9? Annoying. But I still enjoyed the show.

My time back at home was pleasant, if a little dull and slightly stressful. I got lots of sleep, finished Dan Brown’s Origin, played a tonne of Smash Bros (Project M, Melee, and for the Wii U, and schooled Roz most of the time), some board games (predominately Dominion, but also Alhambra, Catan, & Carcassonne – and I wiped the floor with my family members in Dominion, beating them by double for two different games), and ate a bunch. Seriously, my looser pants fit a bit better last night. I was much less active in Nova Scotia (no volleyball, yoga, walking around besides one 2-hour hike, or gym besides one session), and had access to a lot better food. Fancy cheeses, plentiful wine, sweets, and the like. I want to get back into my super active lifestyle here in Ottawa, but I’m still healing up my deltoids, and the gym is crazy crowded soon after the New Year. I postponed my membership until around the 11th, so I’ll just return then. I went once with Dustini over the holidays, and enjoyed myself / got a great workout (was sore everywhere afterward). I’m going to really prioritize form this time, including clenching my abs during squats and deads. And making sure no leg is taking more weight during squats, and taking care to keep my arms even during bench. So, we’ll see how it goes.

 

Anyhow, it is now Thursday, I just posted #tbt photos I snapped while looking through my high school yearbook back in the Bay, and I’m going to yoga tonight for the first time in maybe six weeks. Looking forward to it.

The Challenge: Vendettas was litticus, as expected. My nachos, however, were not. I think it was the avocado that tasted off, even if it was ripe. All the calories for nothing, but whatever. The show was great (but the episode for Champs vs Stars was not), and it looked wonderful on my new TV 😀

I also picked up a microwave yesterday (thanks Katie!), and a shoe rack, and unpacked and changed my sheets and cleaned my room and rearranged some furniture. Haven’t seen my roomie in days and had no social plans last night, so after the shows, I was a bit bored. But that (and how messy my place was) bred productivity, so it was a good day after all. I even got some reading in! The book (Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty) is fab so far.

 

K, back to the holidays. Got to see lots of family and family friends (and to a lesser extent, friends) as well. Went to Shirley’s annual party and nommed on all the gourmet food there. Had the extended family out for Christmas lunch (a day late because a storm postponed it), and saw them on New Year’s Day for a goodbye dinner as well. Visited my new cousin, who is growing up quick (she’s already two and a half!) and is super chatty. The best part is when I asked her, “Olivia, can you turn the lights on the tree on?” and she gasped and said, “Oh my gahh!” So damn funny. She loves Peppa Pig now, but my uncle is so tired of it after watching it for two days straight. It was on while we were there, and omg, I can understand why – the stuff is mindless and needs to be played at 2x speed. Unbearable.

Went shopping now and then, and got this great pair of black leather boots from Sears. It’s closing down, so everything is 50% off. Even still, they cost $80 – but that’s not a bad price at all for a good pair, especially for the climate I live in. I didn’t pick ‘em up the first time I saw them and regretted it. There was only one pair left, so I was worried they would get snatched up. But when I went back to the mall, lo and behold – they were still there! So I had Mum and Dad get it for me as a belated Christmas gift 🙂 And now I feel like a legit leather man! Awesome!

(I should’ve just directly asked them for what I wanted in the first place, which would’ve been Dominion: Nocturne, the TV, and/or Breath of the Wild. Minus the television, I feel like they could’ve easily figured it out. I’m a bit salty – completely unnecessarily and undeservedly so – but I was given a fidget spinner, a grip strength builder, a USB lamp, and a bunch of chocolate and licorice. I don’t like sweets and have no need for the other things. Dad started his Christmas shopping literally on the 22nd. I put a lot of thought into my gifts for them. Anyhow. I digress, and shouldn’t be complaining at all. I’m not a greedy person and don’t want much of anything – and simply spend my own money on things I desire – but it’s a bit disappointing nonetheless, the imbalance of it. Sorry.)

 

Met Fiona for a catch-up with the best coffee I’ve had in a long time – an iced Americano at Lion & Bright (in the North End). Went to an actual mass led by Cate, who is my oldest friend and continues to amaze me. For her to get me to (want to) come to church, you best believe she’s a great person. Then she, Mum, and I went out for a delicious waterside lunch at Boondock’s (in Eastern Passage). It was a great afternoon. Also got coffee with Dustin, in addition to the gym and New Year’s Eve – which we celebrated at the Bus Stop Theatre Co-op, on Gottingen. It was a super hip party, so much so that “cover” was bringing a plant – that you could take home afterward. A bit strange, but I loved it regardless. I wore some leather, as did Dustin, Simon, and their friend Mark. Some people were in drag, others in elaborate makeup and costumes, and others still in… Normal clothes. C’mon! Dress up a little! NYE only comes once a year!

There was an open bar, but because of some vehicular trouble with my parents’ cars, I had to be back in the Bay after the revelry, so I only had two and a toast of champagne at midnight. They were fancy libations, though – one with rose-infused vodka, another with vanilla-infused whiskey, and the third with lavender and pepper simple syrup. I had the first two, since the last was a gin+tonic, a cocktail I can not get behind. The music was great – melodic dubstep for the most part. Cool lighting, a unique setting, different places to sit and talk. And fun, interesting people! I had a wonderful time, so thank you, Dustin + Simon! If it weren’t for you, I’d be home for the big night, probably watching more Big Brother! D:

Hm, what else? Lots of fun bonding time with my sibling, Roz, and the two ‘rents as well, of course. Some arguments and impatience, but going home for the holidays is famously stressful, is it not? Truthfully, I didn’t really think so until this year. And maybe the difference is that I now have a “home” to return to, here in Ottawa. It’s the polar opposite of last year (if you enjoy the pun), when I had only spent a month in O-Town before going home for the holidays. But these days, I have great routines and lovely friends and a comfortable apartment. I was excited to come back – but at the same time (typical ambivalent Libra me), I was sad to leave NS. I hadn’t been back in a full year and only saw Roz through Skype. Mum and Dad came to visit me, luckily, but still. I miss them when I’m gone. Hopefully this year, I can make it back during the warm months – so I can enjoy the province to a higher degree (another pun). And Mum might be working in Hawaii come this winter, so maybe we’ll all meet there for the holidays! That’d be awesome 🙂

The four of us went to a marvelous dinner at A Mano in Bishop’s Landing. Had neighbourhood friends over for hors d’oeurves and some games. Mum, Dad, and I went to see Jumanji together, which was shockingly great. I loved it. And beyond that… Not much else. It was a quiet week and a half, but maybe that’s what I needed. I used the blood pressure checker while Mum and I were waiting at the pharmacy, since the results of my two previous tests put me in the “high” range, despite my fitness/health level and weight (which scared me). But the most recent one came out as below normal blood pressure, for both systolic and diastolic! Wouhou! I’m thinking sleeping more and being away from the stress of the roommate (and the job, probably, though it doesn’t really drain me that much) helped with that. It was a relieving development, in a big way.

 

It is now 12:45am on Friday night. I just got back home and out of the shower. Was at Chris Parr’s for a games night, and Jason drove me to and from, mercifully. It feels like -35 out again, and I am not feeling it. But it wasn’t enough to keep me inside on a Friday night. Chris, Jason, Matt Wurtle/Squirtle, and I played a game called Agra. Seemed super intense and confusing when Chris was teaching us, and I was honestly overwhelmed. Had no idea what I was doing the first half of the game, didn’t understand the scoring until the last couple turns, but still – I managed to snatch second place, and only four points behind Jason! :O I was pretty surprised as well. And a bit miffed at myself because I definitely could have won, if I only made a couple better moves or sought to understand it slightly earlier. OH WELL.

Yesterday I played some games as well – with Richard, Freddy, and Eric. The first was Funemployed, which was a laugh and a half – seriously, I have some hilarious friends – and then we played some Dominion Dark Ages. Eric left after the first round (which he won, good for him!), so the three of us had to finish two bottles of wine between us. And let me tell you – it was a great time. We had amazing conversations about bisexuality, past lives, star charts, tarot cards, and how Richard & I apparently matched on Tinder way back in the spring. I was having so much fun that I didn’t even notice the hours passing – and before I knew it, 1 am had come and gone! :O What! But it was worth it, even if today was a bit of a struggle. But seriously, they are fabulous guys, and I’m so glad I know them. Much love ❤

 

And the last thing I’ll say is related to that. Over the holidays, I searched for the star chart I had done way back when, at a Psychic Fair at the Halifax Forum, during some summer spent in Nova Scotia while I was in middle school. I managed to find it after some effort, and I’m so happy I did. Let me reiterate that this document – my “Karmic Insight Report” – was written upwards of ten years ago, so I was shocked at how accurate it was for stuff going on these days. Spooky.

It explained how one struggle I’ll face throughout my life is being a know-it-all and coming across as condescending. Hit the nail right on the head for some of the issues I have, especially when I’m interacting with people from my hometowns (and not most of the friends I have here).

And another issue is how I will often get caught up in and worry too much about what other people think about me. Which is the problem I’ve been having / ruminating over and introspecting about for the past couple months. I’ve written on here about how I haven’t had as much success here in Ottawa socially, as I experienced in Montreal and Glasgow – and how I feel a lack of a ride-or-die or super strong/deep relationships. That’s gotten much better relatively recently, which I’m extremely happy and grateful about. But that doesn’t mean everything is rainbows and gaiety.

A close friend of mine has told me how people find me dismissive, that I don’t give others enough chances. I contend that I don’t owe anybody anything, and if somebody wrongs or disrespects me, or says something offensive – then I don’t have to forgive them. Of course, I’ll be civil and polite if I see them again, but I’m not going to go out of my way to try to befriend this person, who did something I didn’t like. I don’t make snap judgments or jump to conclusions, but yeah, if somebody isn’t working for me – well, I meet so many people here otherwise, and I don’t need that negativity or frustration in my life.

This is even more the case when it comes to Grindr etc. If someone says, “how are you?” or “hot pic,” I’ll respond with “fine thanks” or “thank you.” I don’t believe in ignoring them and I want to be polite – but I don’t believe I need to invest all this emotional energy in having full-on conversations with all these people, especially given how busy I often am. And if that makes me dismissive, well, then… That’s fine. These men don’t have any ownership or entitlement over me. (This is part of the male gaze I was discussing earlier, when talking with Mum on the way home from the airport)

 

But regardless of that, I do want to know what people are saying / thinking about me, because I’m not in the business of hurting people’s feelings. If I’m making people react a certain, undesirable way, then yes, I want to be made aware. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll change myself or act the way they want me to, but it does mean I’ll take it into consideration, mull it over, self-reflect, and decide what the best course of action is.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Trying to be a bit more patient, kinder, and more forgiving. I already somewhat think I give people too many chances, but whatever – I’m a tough b!tch and can take a couple more people walking all over me / taking advantage. It’ll at least keep my conscience clear. Oh, and I’m gonna try to cut down on the bossiness and fieriness as well. Just be more laid-back.

And of course – the perennial problem – my humour is not always understood or seen as joking, since it is sarcastic and dry and hyperbolic and ridiculous and deadpan. So I’m going to be careful to only really use that humour around people who know me well enough to realize I’m not being serious, that I’m only teasing and being jocular and trying to get their goat. But for those that are new(er) friends or acquaintances, I’ll reduce the sassy comments and/or be very obvious that I’m kidding around. We’ll see how they go.

Don’t call them resolutions – just changes I want to try for myself.

 

So that’s that, and I’m done. Also – the roommate moved essentially the rest of his stuff out of the apartment today. His room is completely empty, and there’s just a couple things remaining in the dining room. It’s a tad weird, but I’m actually excited about it. And of course, he and the random guy who was helping him carry it all out (a mover?) were stomping around the apartment in their snowboots – getting the floor all wet and dirty, with salt stains everywhere. I’m not happy about it. Can’t wait to sweep and mop and clean the whole place after he leaves.

 

But anyway. I’m trying to be kinder, right? And, honestly, I do wish the best for him. We just weren’t a good match to cohabitate. So, hopefully I have a better experience with the next one.

 

Sur cette note (and because it’s nearly 2am) – good night! ❤

 

– Jefe

Holidaze Prognosticatin’, Roommate Woes, Meeting Scott Brison, Vball, & Pallin’ Around

Hey y’all,

 

So it’s exactly a week before Christmas and I am definitely getting into the holiday mood. I leave Ottawa on Thursday morning, rideshare to Montreal, do some shopping at Armada Lounge, pick up my customized bowtie from The Bow Tie Code, see some dear people (Torch, Ndaku, Chris E), probably get a banh mi from Vua and hang out at the Anticafé, then kill some time in the airport before flying to dear ol’ Hali.

With how busy my life here in Ottawa is, I fully expect that the holidaze in NS are going to be dull. Yes, I’m looking forward to spending time with Mum, Dad, Roz, Cate, Dustin, Brendan, Brigid, and the extended family… But I’ll be missing my trivia hosting gig, volleyball, and all the friends I’ve come to cherish here. It’s funny, because this time last year, I knew almost nobody and was looking forward to going home in a big way. I had also just been there a month prior, so it was more of a comfort zone.

But now, I have my own life and home here in O-Town. My coworker asked me today if I was celebrating New Year’s here or there, and it got me thinking. Why didn’t I book my flight back a day early, to carouse in Ottawa and then have Monday to relax before returning to work on Tuesday? I’m a fool. Luckily, Dustin just invited me to some plans for NYE in Halifax, and we’ll be wearing some leather – so I’m excited about that. I plan on rocking the bowtie (made of a grey + black handkerchief) and maybe some gear I buy at Armada on Thursday! Yay!

Don’t get me wrong, though – Nova Scotia won’t be dreadful. You know that Mum likes a full social calendar as well, so naturally, she’s already made lots of plans for over the next couple weeks. It’s not like I’m psyched to go bowling with church folk I don’t know… But it’s better than sitting at home. Plus, I get to hang out with Roz, play some Melee, and probably get my butt kicked. I’m looking forward to lots of game nights with my dear parents (maybe with some new additions, who knows?), and catching up with neighbourhood friends – both my age and as old as Mum & Dad. Plus, it’s always fun/ny to see my aunts, uncles, and cousins again, just because they’re so different from my immediate family. Add on my wearing nail polish, and probably Roz too (and their new name), and it’s going to be good for some awkwardness and laughs.

Also – lots of time to sleep in and watch Big Brother 18 (which I just started, since the next season of The Challenge has Victor and Natalie on it, and the upcoming US Ex on the Beach has Paulie, and Da’Vonne is back, and Vanessa’s sister) and read (I’m about 60% through Dan Brown’s new book, Origin, currently) and even journal about all the social issues I want to ruminate on. That is, people thinking I’m dismissive or my having a “bad reputation” or my wry, sarcastic, and admittedly snarky humour being misunderstood/mistaken as serious. Lots of stuff to think about, and the long days cooped up in St. Margaret’s Bay will allow for beaucoup d’introspection.

Wish I could say I could use the faux Bowflex and dumbbells in the basement too… But I don’t know if that will be possible. My anterior deltoids and right thigh/hip flexor/adductor/etc still hurt, even though I haven’t worked them in quite a while now – approaching a month. What’s more, my right glute is often very sore as well, and I’ve had shin splints / calf pain too. I attribute this to walking/trudging/slipping through the damn snow / slush on the sidewalks. My lil legs aren’t accustomed to it yet. It’s especially bad on Mondays, as I can no longer bike to the Glebe to get my trivia sheets – so I hoof it from Centretown to Ps & Qs and back. It takes about an hour, and the cold was intense last week. It’s relatively mild today, but it was snowing earlier. Uggghhh. It has to happen, though. I do love hosting trivia – for all my regulars I get to see each week (those on teams TBD, Never Gonna Get a Husband, Stepdads, Oh Nooooo!, Inadmissibles, Alicia’s Not Here, and Respectable Finishers, among others). I definitely don’t want to give it up, but all those frigid Mondays in the New Year are not going to be enjoyable. And if I didn’t host on Mondays, that would also mean I could go to drop-in volleyball, so… It’s tempting.

As for my bodily aches ‘n’ pains – I have an appointment tomorrow evening with a sports therapist, who was highly recommended from some guy on Scruff. So needless to say, I have high expectations 😛 But really, I can’t wait for it, and am putting lots of eggs in that basket. And despite how frugal I am, I’m going ahead with the consultation and paying out of pocket. My benefits don’t kick in for another two months, but I think this is important enough not to worry about <$100. Plus, I’m often wondering how I should spend all this money I’m earning at the office… I asked my dad, and he encouraged me to start investing. But then I’d (likely) have more money, and still no idea where to spend it. I guess travel. But I’m also looking into getting a nicer/bigger TV with better audio, and Breath of the Wild. Nothing crazy, but with what I receive for an hour of my time, and with how often I use my TV – it makes 100% sense to treat myself.

I was actually discussing this with a friend, after waxing whiney about my roommate situation, and he just asked… “So why don’t you put this money toward living alone”? And it’s a super simple solution, but still not one I’m going to pursue. I was looking at one bedroom apartments originally, in preparation of moving out of the Sweetland summer sublet, but nothing I saw really wowed me. Plus, I’m a very social guy, and I do prefer living with somebody else, on the whole. Of course, this is contingent on the person I’m cohabitating with, and their personality… Unfortunately, my current roommate is not ideal. We don’t hang out, or really talk that much. I don’t want to spend time with him, or really be home when he is. I can’t really explain why, but for whatever reason, I’m irritable around him. It’s such a shame, because I had high hopes for moving in with him. Of course, that’s my kryptonite – but it’s not like I went into this blind. We met for coffee way back when, and I laid out exactly what I was looking for and why it might be frustrating to live with me. You know, how I like to listen to loud music and am almost always shirtless at home and how I sometimes leave dishes in the sink. I guess how I often have friends over, as well? I explained how I’m not pristine by any means, but I still like living in a clean place.

And I feel like he didn’t reciprocate that same gesture, because there were numerous things I had no idea about before the decision was made. It still irks me. And we did look at apartments together, and I had fun doing it… But then we moved in, and for some reason, all that optimism was for naught. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not horrible – and I am positive there are things about me he doesn’t like (although all the issues he’s raised to me, I’ve addressed, like not watching TV after 10:30/11 in the living room) – but it’s not ideal. For a person I’m sharing so much time and space with, I want somebody who I like and want to get to know and talk to and hang out/party with. Like Laura, Tam, or Christina, for instance. And of course, someone who contributes to the apartment and helps with the upkeep and actually follows through on the cleaning rota he agreed to…

Sorry if this is too bitchy, but I am so frustrated with it all. He got rid of all the drinking glasses left by the previous tenants, so I had to replace them. He (accidentally) threw out the dustpan, so I bought a new one. He ripped off the countertop covers and said he would replace them, but it’s been more than three months, and it’s still painted wood, sticky from the adhesive. I mopped last Sunday, and then he & his dad were walking around the apartment in their snow boots, leaving wet spots and white/grey marks – that, of course, I’ll have to clean.

I was looking forward to the holidays for a reprieve from all the stress my living situation creates. Hell, even when I cohabitated with people I loved, I was ready for a break during Christmas. I was hoping I’d come back in the New Year refreshed and more patient, ready to let sh!t stop bothering me and just enjoy my apartment more… But also knowing, in the back of my mind, that I couldn’t do this long-term. Who knows, though? Things change.

But now I don’t have to worry about it: he told me last weekend (through a damn text message, of all things) that he’s moving out. Before March 1st, he said – which gives me plenty of time to find a new roommate. Thank deity it’s my name on the lease, because I do not want to move again (would be the fourth time in a bit more than a year). And it’s a good thing he pulled the trigger, because I was already harbouring all this guilt about needing to do it in the future. I do feel bad that he has to do this, but I can rest assured / absolved that I strove to make it a more harmonious situation. I respected his wishes for “quiet hours,” washed dishes more often, and made efforts to be cordial and friendly every time I saw him. I bit my tongue when things annoyed me and chose instead to just wait to see if things were resolved. I tried not to be too bossy or inflexible, and took strides to ensure my language and texts were polite and patient and palatable. But I guess I wasn’t successful 😦

In any case – yes, finding someone new to take the room is something else added to my plate, and it could be much, much worse – but I’m still optimistic about it. I will vet this new future roommate more thoroughly, and hopefully hang out and have fun and laugh before agreeing to move in together. And at the very least, if it’s somebody who is friendly and reasonable and actually communicates and cleans – but we aren’t really friends per se – then that’s great, and would be an upgrade.

The downside is that things at home are even more awkward than they were before, and since he’s already checked out of the situation, I am sure he’s not going to lift a finger to tidy anything. So it’s up to me to scrub the counters (not to mention, find a solution to cover them) and mop the floors of the marks he left and clean the fridge and take down the recycling, that we both add to. Annoying. But whatever, it’s only for a couple more weeks. (Though I don’t know when he’s moving out specifically, or to where, and what he’s taking versus what he’s leaving behind – because, of course, we don’t talk / he doesn’t communicate)

 

Okay! That’s enough salt for one day! I have high blood pressure as it is! (And no, that’s not a joke, but rather a disconcerting recent realization of mine. So I’ve switched to green tea instead of iced coffee in the afternoons, and hopefully the resolution to my roommate woes will decrease my stress and thus my BP…)

Let’s talk about work. Last Monday, December 11th, was the official Launch Event for the Final Report of the Joint Union/Management Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion in the Public Service! It was difficult to find a date for this occasion, as the higher-ups in Treasury Board have such demanding schedules… But we managed! And it coincided with the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (on Dec 10th) – so that worked out nicely.

The week and a half leading up to the Launch were extraordinarily busy, as you might imagine. Tying up all the loose ends and getting approval for all these minute details and changes. Working closely with the editors and HTML folks to make sure the web version of the Final Report is immaculate and says exactly what we want it to, in both English and French. We also had to ensure full accessibility and compatibility for a range of devices (phones, computers, tablets, screen readers, etc), especially with the graphics, tables, and various images. It took a lot of work, omg. Very meticulous work – travail fastidieux, as Jean-Paul taught me. I am glad it’s all done, because my eyes were crossing from reading the same sections of text again and again…

It was pretty stressful, with all the moving parts. I stayed late on numerous days and had lots going on. I liked it, though – I prefer being busy, because the days go so fast! And I feel industrious and accomplished and like I’m pulling my weight. So it was a bit stressful, sure, but I liked it. (In contrast to work for the past week, which has been much less demanding, as our pièce de résistance is now finito and out in the world! But all the holiday parties make up for that!)

The Launch Event was a great time, too. I got to see the Task Force members again, which is always nice. I chatted with Carl, Jennifer, and others – the Assistant Deputy Minister and Executive Director of my sectors, respectively. Most excitingly, though: I met Scott Brison! The President/Minister of the Treasury Board! A VIP! And we actually got to have a short conversation. I mentioned that I’m from Nova Scotia (like he is), so we talked about that – and I wanted to slip in that I’m queer too, but I didn’t get the chance/feel comfortable doing so. Oh well, next time. Hopefully, I made enough of an impression that he remembers me, so we can pick up the conversation where we left off. You gotta werk that network, you know what I mean?

So that was fabulous. And it even came with free lunch! And there was too much, so I got to take an entire enormous salad home with me! What a way to start a Monday. And if you’re curious to read the 100+ page document, you can do so here. My fingerprint is all over it – especially in all the LGBTQ2+ mentions, the D+I Lens chapter and Annex, and the conclusion. Very proud of the work we’ve turned out. It’s truly momentous and stupendous, what we managed to accomplish in just over a year, between management and the bargaining agents. So go read it now – because it will be in effect for the next decade and more! Wouhou!

 

So that’s phenomenal.

And, what else is going on? Volleyball is done for the (calendar) year, unfortunately. Instead of matches, we have our holiday party this Wednesday. Should be a good time. As you likely know, I’m a very competitive person, which definitely translates to the court. My team is almost all beginners, and as a result we are in the lowest tier. But regardless of that, I still want to win, bad. So when we’re not doing well – especially if I’m the one who’s messing up – I get heated. Comes with yelling and groans and general loudness/ferocity. But that’s not always welcomed, and I don’t want to hurt the feelings of my teammates. So the past two weeks, I haven’t been yelling “Switch!” or “Rotate!” or “Over!” so loudly. Instead, I just call them at a more reasonable volume… And it’s definitely helped me stay calmer, keep my lid on. And in the process – I realized that I enjoy myself more! And feel less guilty! (But also, don’t perform to my optimal level) It’s something I want to figure out, but I’d much rather be a more even-keeled and kinder member of my team, than some hothead a-hole who plays slightly better. So, yay! Progress.

Been seeing friends a lot, too. I recently met / got to know some fab people, namely Freddy, Nick (who I call “Jason”), Loic, and Richard – so I’ve been hanging out with them. Met them through the lovely Eric Witty, at his birthday party – which I also did my first escape room at! – and the lot of us have had several game nights recently. Lots of fun, and I’m happy they’re in my life. Especially when we have the Sideshow (puppeteer) activity in Cranium, and all the teams have to do it… Amazing.

Went to Tim Jolly’s birthday party this past Saturday – there was karaoke! amazing! and Werewolves! but I was the first hanged by the village, so that was less amazing. Went to a party with Bryan Quin on Friday, with members of the Pride Board. They had an improv show and a pool table, so I def enjoyed myself. I saw David M & Derek C for coffee, and had a French/English language exchange date with JP. Lots of other board games, mostly Dominion. Evan’s holiday party, with hors d’oeuvres and pleasant conversation. Catlin & her boyfriend were in town, so we went to Fiazza (delicious thin-crust pizza) and then watched Annabelle: Creation at mine. Hanging with Luke & Co. at his place. We’re starting Pandemic Legacy Season 2 tomorrow (Luke + Dean + Colum + me), and I’m geeked about it. Etc etc. My social life is very full, and I am fulfilled by it. (But I also find, disconcertingly, that when I’m alone at home, I get so bored. I need a new hobby. Any suggestions? I’ve been reading a lot more, but that doesn’t thrill me. Maybe I just need a new video game. Might start Wind Waker HD soon – or maybe I’ll get Breath of the Wild for Xmas. We’ll see.)

 

And that might wrap it up! And it’s perfect timing, as I need to get to gettin’ to the Glebe now.

 

See you folks around ❤

 

– Jefe