Tuesday, May 25, 2004

For the First Time

I can still remember my last night in South Africa. In the evening my closest friends came to have dinner at my house. My parents prepared my favourite foods and I can still hear the talk and laughter between everyone that was there. We celebrated the moments we had together and tried to forget that it would be the last time we were together for a long time to come. I distinctly remember looking at a clear sky filled with stars that promised to follow me wherever I go… and the sound of Eagle Eye Cherry singing “Save Tonight”. That night, I hid my head under my pink duvet, held onto my pillows and cried until I had no more tears to fall… I wasn’t scared of facing what was ahead of me, I was crying for what I was to be leaving behind.

Since the day I arrived in Madeira, I’ve been living under someone else’s roof. I’ve followed someone else’s rules and dreamt of the day where I could once again call a place “home”.

Candles, soft music and a nice, hot bubble bath. Those were the plans for my first night at my new apartment. I was to sink into bliss and thank God that I was finally home! So many nights I’d laid awake dreaming of this moment, it could be nothing short than perfect…

“Honey I’m home!”

I knew no one but the walls awaited me but I liked the sound so those were the first words I said as I stepped into my new “home”. I put on the CD that I’d been given that afternoon and changed into more casual clothes. It occurred to me that I still wanted to take my long hot bath, but the boxes that surrounded me scheduled the idea for another day. I started supper and began organising my things one by one. It seems like we clean our souls when we clean out our junk and I felt much lighter when I stared at two bags of trash. If only other things in life were that easy to get rid of!

My mood was at a peak as I ironed my uniform with my new iron on my new ironing board. Okay… so in a couple of weeks the novelty will wear off and I’ll once again consider ironing the worst of household chores. But in the meantime, I was enjoying trying out all the new things. The novelty in everything I did was both exhilarating and annoying… mostly because I hate reading instruction manuals!

It was when supper was ready that my spirits began to sink. Not ever being taught to make supper for just one person, there was plenty leftover. Of course this is an advantage for someone who would be taking lunch to work the next day, however, it was the lonely plate that made my soul start shrinking. I sat at my table for the first time; I ate my very first meal and listened with my heart to the music that was playing in the background. Deciding not to allow my spirits sink any further, I headed for the bathroom convinced that a hot shower would cure my mood.

I took off my clothes and stared at my reflection in the mirror. The face was familiar but I couldn’t make out its expression. It could’ve been fear or perhaps insecurity that I saw in the eyes but the aura somehow radiated more maturity and serenity than it usually did. A chill ran down my spine and I wasn’t sure if it was because of the bathroom that was colder than I was used to, or it had been from standing still for too long. I stepped into my bathtub for the first time and took my first shower.

All these things I did were for the first time in my new apartment. But instead of feeling at “home”, I’ve never felt so out of place. The thought made me feel smaller and smaller. Walking out the bathroom, my eyes searched the room for my cell phone. I desperately fought the desire to phone someone to talk me out my misery. Pride saved me from temptation but I knew that it would not save me from the tears that threatened to fall.

Needing something familiar to cling to, I opened my box of photographs and began to travel down memory lane. And so they fell… one by one, one after another the tears rolled down my face. I reminded myself that I was human and allowed myself to feel hurt, frustrated, scared, angry and a million and one other negative emotions that I’d been suppressing. I missed my dad; I wish that at the end of the corridor I’d find him sitting at his computer with a glass of whiskey in his hand ready to talk back my confidence. I wished that I could be back in my old room under my pink duvet and having nothing but school exams to worry about. Some say we spend nine months trying to get out into the world and the rest of our lives trying to go back in… laying in a foetal position on what would be my bed for the next few weeks, I wished that someone would tuck me in and kiss me goodnight.

Like most first times in life… my first night at my new apartment wasn’t what I expected it to be. I know that it will take some getting used to… I guess it just takes time to make any place into a home.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Fate gives and Destiny takes away…

I’ve walked past that display many times. There have been many opportunities to walk in but I simply walked past. It seems that fate was waiting for the right moment to allow us to meet… and then one day, for no particular reason, when my spirits were neither high nor low, I took the opportunity to meet you.

I fell in love with you the minute I met you. There was something in your eyes that made my heart melt. I wasn’t sure at first if you were the ideal one, you were certainly not the kind that I usually attracted to. However, all it took was a little time with you to realise that if I were going to be sharing my heart, it would be without a doubt with you.

An unlikely friendship developed between the two of us. Knowing that you would not have a place in my new lifestyle, my good sense told me to stay away from you. Yet three days was the longest I could stay away before rushing into see you again. The look in your eyes told me you were happy to see me, it kept me thinking of you when we were apart. Even though I tried to avoid it, there was no denying the bond that was developing.

You became the most special secret in my life, I knew what we had wouldn’t last but I held on to it as long as I could. Those that knew our secret either advised me to forget you or to commit to a more permanent relationship. Not having the courage to make either decision, I let things be hoping that with some miracle our fate would somehow fall into place.

One day I wanted to be with you and you were no longer there. My life offered more valuable things to occupy my mind with but they lost their worth with the lack of your presence. Most of the time, I manage to convince myself that my decisions related to you are the right ones. On quieter times, I find myself wishing that I had the courage to overlook my reasons and find someway for the two of us to work. Perhaps I’m too proud… or too afraid, but the decision I made was the best I could come up with.

The puppy at the store was sold to someone else. It’s not that I couldn’t afford him, it’s that I wasn’t sure I could maintain him. Although money was tight, with a little sacrifice I know I could make it work. However, I was sure of the love that I could offer him, but I was certain he’d end up hating me after neglect I was surely to give in return. It isn’t fair that he would spend hours alone by himself while I work. I know that there would be times when I arrived home and didn’t feel like playing catch or teach him tricks. I know how to potty train him, but were would I find the time and patience? The precious moments we spent together at the pet store were wonderful, but I knew that living together would require so much more dedication from me. I’m just not ready…

In future, I will definitely want to adopt a dog and the right one will without a doubt be there for the occasion. However, I know that this particular one will stay in my heart for a long while still. There wasn’t really anything specially different about him that I could point out, I suppose it was just the way he bit my finger, wagged his tail when he saw me or smiled as if he understood everything I spoke.

In the same way there are people that come into our lives that we never forget. They might not stay long or say much but they leave ever lasting tracks in your memory lane. When remembering these people, we often wish that the reasons that took them away had never happened, that time could turned back and that we could rewrite our history. Knowing that this is not possible, all we can really do is appreciate the special people in our lives knowing that at any time they can go away.

PS. I know you’re still reading. I miss you.
When shit talks and bullshit walks… SMILE!

Every now and then, when walking into a restaurant or a coffee shop you’ll find some girl crying and some idiot with a guilty face apologising. Little girls will whisper “Shame, I wonder what happened?” Older girls will look and say, “He looks really sorry, I hope she forgives him”. And women will loudly comment “Dump the bastard, he doesn’t deserve your forgiveness!”

If you sit across a scene such as the above, you’re most likely to make up a Mexican soap opera that can have any of the following cheesy lines:
“I’m so sorry honey, it was stronger than I am”
“You know you’re the only woman for me”
“I was too drunk to resist”
“I was thinking of you the whole time I was with her”
“I’ll just die if you don’t forgive me”
At this stage his best friend comes into the picture and his lines could be something like:
“He’s really sorry, he spent the whole night talking about you”
“We made him do it, he didn’t want to kiss her in the first place”
“I’ve never seen him care about another girl like he cares about you, you have to forgive him”

All right! I’ll admit that for all we know, she could’ve been crying about her cat that got run over! But that wouldn’t have made the soap opera that interesting now would it? And although this may seem like I’m once again having fun poking at the opposite sex, the real objective of this entry is to bring to light into something that both sexes are responsible for… bullshit (Guy are just better at it than girls).

Perhaps it’s a strong word for what the dictionary calls MANipulation, my boss likes to call it “cheap talk” but I’ve heard it often enough to call it bullshit.

Bullshit is when you are told what you want to hear but with no real feeling behind in. When your little brother falls and cries his heart out, making you believe that he dislocated his knee… he could be bullshitting you. How do you know? Give him a lollipop and watch how quickly he shuts up (PS. If he keeps crying, take him to the hospital!)

The problem with bullshit is that you mistaken it for the truth when you first hear it. A certain number of disappointments later, you smarted up and fine-tune your bullshit-o-meter so that you can recognise it better when someone dishes it out to you. There is no two ways about it. You either smarten up or sit with the shit.

Some bullshitters are easy to recognise. Like the beggars that come asking you for change but are wearing a €300 pair of Nike sneakers. Or the boss that suddenly begins to praise your work when he needs you to give the company some extra hours. After a while, you realise that even your parents are guilty each time that they begin the fight with “I’ll disinherit you…”

At one or another stage of our lives, we all resort to bullshit. Perhaps you were guilty of feigning exhaustion when your mother asked you to do dishes, or you invented a mysterious muscle ache to get your brother to give you a massage. Only your conscience can judge you and your intentions. Just beware not to resort to bullshit too often, or run the risk of making it a part of your identity.

How to deal with a bullshitter? That I leave to your personal criteria. You might want to face him with his manipulation, call him a liar and threaten to expose. Staying away is also an option; some people even set limits to how much bullshit they’re willing to take. Personally, I prefer not to dish out what I don’t like to be given me but I realise that I can’t always avoid. After a while, you learn not to get upset or loose sleep or saliva over it. So if you see me smiling and I don’t answer to whatever you just said, I suggest you change your tactics.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Growing Pains…

“I’m never going to turn 18! I want to turn 18! I NEED to turn 18!” and then WHAM. I turned 18 and it didn’t feel anything different to when I was 17! (Okay I confess, it removed the stress caused by bouncers asking me for ID when going out to clubs). I started driving lessons, I became a legal voter and I signed my own paperwork at the bank. I was just enjoying 18 when suddenly 19 came around, before I knew it I was 20 and just yesterday someone told me I was 22!

Who put Father’s Time’s clock in fast-forward?! Somebody stop the clock!

This morning I jumped out of bed thinking that once again I was going to be late for school, it was only 20 seconds later with the toothbrush in my mouth that I realised that I was a taxpayer for almost four years already. I didn’t know whether to sigh with relief that the studying cramming days were over or to groan that I had another day of work ahead of me. Some days, I’d give anything to be back in Mr Carlitz´s maths class… yeah I’d be bored but at least I’d be doing something more constructive, like writing in my diary or passing notes to my friends. When finally consoled by the fact that at least now I wear a more flattering uniform than I wore at school… I choked on my toothbrush. I looked closer to the mirror as it became clearer to my vision. I saw it… I couldn’t believe it! With my naked eyes I discovered the most horrid thing a woman can discover since eyebrow plucking… a white hair!

A white hair on a 22-year-old head is a crime of nature!

Analyzing the criminal from every angle, I came to the conclusion that it simply did not look good on my head! Told not to pull it, as more will grow out, my comb spent an extra fifteen minutes trying to hide it under all the other young and healthy Loreal washed members. Tears threatened to fall as I realised that I would turn grey at an early age and I pictured my near future as no longer being mistaken for a 16-year-old child and rather a 61-year-old granny! Was I being punished for something horrible I’d done? Perhaps I’d been hexed into growing old quickly! Mother Nature was having her fun at my expense!

People that smoke are prone to cancer. Perhaps the white hair that recently decided to sprout on my head is a direct consequence of my actions. My parents used to tell me that I caused the white hairs on their heads when I behaved badly; I conclude from this that stress is a direct cause! No one warned me when I bought the apartment that along with a forty year loan I’d have pay the additional price of a few white hairs. After considering all the stress inflicting factors of my life, it occurred to me that I could sue a few people for this natural disaster! I’m not sure how much I’d win from the case but I’d make sure that a lifetime’s supply of hair dye was in the damage debt! Making a list of who to sue was easy; deciding who inflicted more stress so that I could name my white hair after him/her was the hard part. But after much deliberation, I decided that my boss was the person that recently had most rattled my coconut and was most likely to condemn me to a loony bin. So I sadly took another look in the mirror and named my new bleached friend George!

In a desperate attempt to make me feel better, one of my colleagues suggested that George was a symbol of my advanced maturity. Yeah right sister! If that were true, a lot of people I know would reach 90 with thick black hair! Besides, if that were the price to pay for being mentally mature, surely I’d find more than just one of the offending hairs on my head!

It dawned on me the reasons to why hair dye was such a moneymaking product and once again I was reduced to tears that at my tender age I’d have to begin worrying about such things. Imagining myself bent over a bath tub with gloves and submitting myself to colour torture, I promised myself that no matter how bad it gets I’d dye my hair white before I’d ever have to dye out the white… that way, I know I’d have a “modern” look and I wouldn’t have to worry about dye stains in my bathroom. It’s not that bad! I’d look like Storm in the X-Men! We’ll just ignore the fact that she was a mutant.

Realising that worrying would only make the situation worse I marched to the bathroom to have a one on one talk with George! Unless he wanted to get pulled out, he was to stay under the darker pigmented hairs and bring no relatives with him! I forbade him to appear in the presence of cute guys or to rub off on any of his fellow companions. And after spelling out these rules, I walked out the bathroom feeling much better about the whole thing.

I’m not fooling myself, I know that age and time will plot against me and give George the strength to raise mutiny and a whole nation of followers removing the colour from the blanket on my shoulders. However, my soul and spirit is the one thing Mother Nature can’t get a hold of and as long as I can keep those eternally young, the physical change won’t change who I am.

… But just to be safe, I’ll be investing just a little more on my hair products this month!

Wednesday, May 05, 2004


On the 28th of July 2003 I started on a vital personal Mission. The objective was simple; to find myself a home of my very own. After visiting 19 different apartments, I ended up choosing the first one that I’d seen and on the 12th of August 2003 I signed the promise contract and left a deposit for the apartment that was to be mine. On the 5th of April 2004, on my 22nd birthday, I finally received the keys to my very first apartment.

So what’s it like?

This question has been swung at me with a frequency of at least once a day. I find it difficult to answer, as the journey has barely begun and this life’s project is still far from completion. What I can do, is describe the experience thus far:

Signing the paperwork is the easy part. Although your hand feels heavy and your signature strange to your eye… after observing your name on important documents, you’re left with mixed feelings. On one side you feel a huge weight of responsibility loaded on your shoulders, you realise that you are there forth responsible for the monthly down payments of the apartment for the next forty years of your life. On the other side, you’re left with immense relief as you realise that from now on, everything that happens between those walls are under your control and regulation.

The ink on those documents has barely dried when the havoc begins…

Bank managers, real state dealers and salespeople for some reason, live under the impression that you know their work as well as they do. They forget to inform you of those tiny details that normally come right out your pocket. The minority of these details shouldn’t be values worth arguing about but after you add all the euros you’ve spent here and there, you realise that it entails a considerable amount not initially calculated into your budget. For those of you who plan to begin on such an adventure, I advise you to read all the contracts, double check the paperwork and most importantly ask questions… don’t stop asking question until you feel that you know exactly what’s going one… even if it means the person explaining goes red from repeating himself.

Setting aside the dreadful paperwork, after receiving the keys to my new home, drawing up a list of necessities was of the utmost importance. You’ll be shocked when you realise how much a house needs to become home worthy! Buy a pack of multivitamins and comfortable shoes… if you’re going to be looking for price bargains, be prepared to wear down the soles of your shoes… not to mention invest precious time! It took me months and going in and out of approximately 15 different appliance stores before I found… “the one”… the fridge and the washing machine that is destined to spend a good decade or so in my life! (Once again I ended buying in the first store I’d gone into but I’d like to add that at least I didn’t feel guilty that I hadn’t looked over all of my options.)

Looking at the appliances in the shop is one thing… getting them into your apartment is another! Imagine two construction workers and three delivery boys trying to keep a hysterical little girl in uniform from crying. This is the scenario you can expect when the carpenter decides to fit in a cupboard before the plumber finishes his job. The lack of a tap in a strategic spot means that you cannot connect your new Candy washing machine. The delivery boys offered to open a nice big, uneven hole in your never before used cupboards whilst the two construction workers argue vehemently that it’s not their responsibility and that thee new owner (that’s me) would have to do the plumbing job herself. The good news is that the female threat of waterworks makes these tough guys soften to a point where all I had to give up was a lunch hour to get the job done. Of course I found it amusing that it took four cute construction workers to drill a teeny tiny little hole. But hey! The view of the denim covered, cute rear ends, was the only perk of the sod story.

Have you ever imagined yourself entering the supermarket with an empty trolley and walking out with it fully loaded? Although I was a qualified supermarket shopper, I don’t believe that my trips to the Pick ´n Pay or Pingo Doce could ever prepare me for the experience of shopping for my apartment for the very first time. I chose the colour of my broom, mop and bucket. I got to smell all the fabric softeners before choosing the one I liked best. No longer did I buy the brands that my grandmother or aunts favoured… three cheers for freedom of choice! When I arrived in Madeira I tried explaining to the locals that frustration for an immigrant is walking into a supermarket and not knowing the brand of toothpaste to buy… I smiled as I happily put an Aquafresh tube into my trolley. Even though you feel like choking after looking at the final amount on the cash register, you find yourself going home happy that you’d just bought your houses new “cosmetics”.

Cleaning a new apartment is a backbreaking task. I thanked my lucky stars that I bought a one bed roomed apartment and swore that the only way I’d move out of there was if the next place was a mansion… and that my significant other took care of half the responsibility (calculating of course that I’ll only move into a mansion if I acquire a bigger family or win the lottery… PS. Winning the lottery is not in my astral map therefore this goes out as a warning for Mr. Future Prince Charming who wants a family!) Dust accumulates EVERYWHERE! The walls and floors might look clean but give them the cotton bud test and you’ll find that before your eyes is a film of dirt plastered on the walls.

Wash, wipe, scrub, dust and vacuum… a one bed roomed apartment seems pretty big once you realise it takes half the day to clean and organize a kitchen! He, who runs for pleasure, does not tire. And once you’re done and you’re sitting in the middle of the clean room that will hold your future laughs and tears, you’re left with a huge sense of accomplishment! The feeling is so big that you often wonder if you’re dreaming and pray that if you are, that you don’t wake up! I realise that months from now, the weekend cleaning ritual might become a drag. But for now, I love cleaning in my old t-shirt, with the music loudly in the background and singing to the end of my broomstick!

I can’t help grinning at the surprise on the face of the hardware store’s salesperson when I tell him all the equipment I’ll need. It’s probably not often that a short girl dressed in a pink sweater and denim pants asks you for tools with precise requirements. The man explained himself in easy terms in slow motion, probably thinking that a woman wouldn’t understand everything he was saying. I humoured him by nodding my head and thanked goodness that I’d learnt a thing or two about tools and D.I.Y from dads garage. The only time that frustration made me wish that I’d been born a man is after I’d put in a screw as tight as I could, my uncle came and give it another two full turns. Helplessness is what a woman feels when she can’t put together the cupboard she bought and when she depends on the man to drill the holes necessary to place the curtain rails. I will however add, that I changed all the locks and appliance plugs myself! Try getting a Barbie doll to do that!

When I met my neighbours for the first time, I was asked if my mother was at home. It wasn’t the first time that I was mistaken for sixteen year old but I was amused at the expression on their faces when I explained that I was neither newly wed nor planning to move in with anybody. Sometimes when I look at my face in the mirror, the reflection I see is filled with insecurities; luckily in the same face I can find courage and determination. I believe that the most valuable things you can have in life are those you’ve fought for and this is the knowledge that drives me.

No man is an island; I don’t know what I would’ve done without my family and friend’s help and support. However you’d be surprised at the things that you’re capable of doing on your own… an old sheet and a little bit of pulling power is all you need to get three heavy couches from one room to another without scratching the floor. It might seem like a small achievement but it was enough to take my spirits to cloud nine. How do I feel? Exhausted but happy. This is the kind of work is that makes life worth living. I look forward on taking my first shower, eating my first home cooked meal and sleeping my first night at my apartment. I plan to savour every new experience. To some people all this strain is the stress attributed to buying a new house, to me, all of this is the work required to turn an apartment into a home.