Saturday, December 20, 2008


I changed the layout. How do you like it?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow ...

We had another snowstorm last night and now we have A LOT of snow. A lot of kids got "snow free" today and didn't have to go to school. As a kid I always dreamed of getting a day off for too much snow. It's the greatest thing - you don't have to go to school and you get to play in the snow. What more can one ask for. Now I think - poor parents - how do people deal with that if they have to go to work and their kids get off school unexpectedly? 

I still love the snow. But then I don't have to go to work yet. I am sure if I'd have to drive or go to work with snow drenched shoes, I wouldn't like the snow as much.

I thought I'd post some pictures of the neighborhood, including some pictures of the nice Christmas decorations some people have put up.

Cars buried in snow

unfortunately not all sidewalks are as clean as this one

If you think that's over the top you haven't been to America

a red wreath on a red back round - a bit diabolic but pretty

I have seen bigger icicles

That's an alleyway - that's where you put your trash and that's where peoples garages are.

Things I like - Trader Joe's

What is Trader Joe's? 
It's my local grocery store. 

Living in Holland I often missed the pretty, Austrian grocery stores. I especially missed the products, the good cold cut meats, the sweets, the cakes, the bread, ...

But I never really missed the concept of the supermarket, the people who worked there, the service.

Trader Joe's is the first grocery store that makes me feel "at home".

When I first went there I was confused, even taken aback by the staff of Trader Joe's. They are not like your every day grocery store staff - you know - depressed, kind of in a daze, just wanting the day to end, ...
They almost look like they are having fun working there. They talk to everybody and they enjoy talking to everybody. I have seen people making friends and exchanging phone numbers at Trader Joe's. 
My first time at Trader Joe's I thought "Why are they talking to me? Why are they asking me all those questions?" But I have come to enjoy it because the people seem genuine. 

Also - it's an all organic store. They have stuff like organic Cheetos (which sounds like an oxymoron). And I don't know how they do it but they are cheaper than all of the other grocery stores in the area (that includes the non-organic stores).

Everyday they make a tasty little dish that you can taste in the store and easily recreate at home. 

There are definitely fancier supermarkets - like Whole Foods which have fancier and sometimes tastier food but nothing makes you feel as cozy and at home as Trader Joe's does.

And no, they don't pay me. But they can if they want to.

"I love" and "I don't love"

Enough of me complaining about how I am trying to find myself and all that stuff. You guys are reading this blog to find out how I like the US and Chicago.

So I decided to have two new sections:
I love
I don't love

I don't want to use "I hate" instead of "I don't love". First of all because "hate" is a very strong word which I generally don't like to use and second because there isn't really anything (yet) that I hate. There is stuff I don't like so much but well - there is stuff I don't like so much everywhere.

Living in Holland for 7 years, I always disliked the kind of expats who had nothing good to say about the Netherlands. I said it before - if you hate it - leave it. 

I don't want to end up sounding like a whiney, unthankful foreigner - so for everything I don't like I will write about something I like.

Also - everything I write will be an observation. I haven't lived here long enough to say that all of my observations are accurate. It's going to be how I see things - that doesn't mean they really are exactly like I see them. 

I am a very protective and opinionated person so if somebody bitches about Austria or the Netherlands or my friends or anything that means anything to me I get very defensive. Since I am like that myself and I know that a lot of people are like that I will try my best not to offend people with my "I don't like" section. As I said before - these are daily observations. I am open to discussion, I in fact often change my mind about topics if somebody respectfully explains their point of view to me. I consider myself a reasonable person.

Most of all I want to point out that me not liking some things about America does not mean I don't like living here or that I want to leave. It does not mean I am homesick beyond means and am so sad that I am going to start doing stuff to myself. I just like to observe situations and since that is something people are interested to read about I will write about it.

I hope you like it!

(There sometimes will still be touchy, whiney posts about myself)
(but less)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What's my age again?

I was born in 1981. Some of you readers will say - jeez - that's young! Others will say, wow, I didn't know she was that old already.

Age means nothing to me. It's a difficult thing to explain. I am not sure I will be able to but I'll give it a try.

When I moved to Holland the group of friends I made (who is still my core group of friends or how the young kids would call it - my "homies") were all a few years older than me. Most of them were three or four years older then me. I was the baby. I was (according to them) so innocent, so sweet, I was the little angel. I was however not taken seriously at all. You could say my first year in Holland was solely used to make myself look and feel more mature and less innocent. And believe me, I worked hard on that one.

It took me a few years. I don't know if nature simply took it's turn and I just grew up. You know, like people do when they get older or if it was the rough life I was living, moving every few months, having not really enough money to live on, going out all the time ...
Anyway, I guess I grew up or at least I was accepted as a grown up in our group.

A few years later I met E. E is 9 years older than me. People who don't know that but who know us are always surprised about that - I guess because E looks like in his mid-twenties - or like a teenager if he shaves. So when I first met his friends in Holland (a lot of them even older than E) it was difficult. There were rocket scientists and security network specialists and engineers and they were interested in things I had no idea about. I had never spoken to a rocket scientist before and I was intimidated. It took lots of nights out, lots of Jaegermeister and an Icelandic drink called "Black Death" to  break the ice and bring us together. The more I got to know them, the more I realized that we weren't really that different. We all were foreigners in Holland, we all wanted to have fun. That's a good common ground to build friendship on.

Now, years later, I can talk to anybody. I don't have issues with age, I don't see a problem with having older friends. One of my friends just became a grandma. Who cares. It really doesn't matter.


Now I am starting to feel old. 

One reason for that is the fact that people in the US are getting married and having children much earlier than in Holland (and I guess Austria but mostly Holland). It's quite normal here that people get married at let's say 23 years old. 
E and I were engaged for 1 1/2 years - one of the reasons being that I did NOT want to be married at 24 or 25. It might sound silly but I just couldn't imagine being that young and being a wife. Don't get me wrong, I very much enjoy it now but any younger would have just been wrong (for me).

And then there is another issue. 

My whole life I planned to do a masters degree but I left to go to Holland when I was one month shy of 20 years old. I always had the intention to go back and finish my studies but I never did. I sometimes feel like I am stuck in a time zone were I am still 20 years old, ready to go to University to get my masters. I have strange moments, like once when I sat on the train with a bunch of 20 year old students and I felt like I was one of them (that happened about 6 month ago).
When I meet people who are younger than me who have their freakin' doctors degree I feel like that can't possibly be possible. There are lawyers, doctors, professors, archeologists, ... out there who are younger than me.

What did I do with myself in those last 7 years?

I guess living. That's what I did. I lived the life. I had fun. I grew up. I learned.

I don't know if I still need a masters degree but I know once I finish my correspondence classes in Photography I will take classes at a university. Not to get a degree but to keep my brain alive. To learn new things. To stay focused.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My five month plan

I got the idea from Marie who posted this entry on her blog. She is talking about her five year plan.

I gotta tell ya, I am pretty confused as to what to do with my life right now, so I can't tell you what I am going to do in five years, just what I am planning for the next five months. I always had lots of plans but just as many excuses as to why I am not pursuing them. (By the way H - I asked for the book you recommended for Christmas, if I don't get it, I will buy it myself.)

First I lived in Austria.  I didn't like it there and it's tough to get into the (to me) interesting fields of the entertainment industry or Arts. Austria is based on something we call "Freundlwirtschaft" - The economy of friendship also called "Vitamin B" (Beziehungen) which basically means if you have friends or family who can get you in, you get in. 
I first noticed that after I got my degree in Marketing when I was still living in Austria. I applied to about 25 Marketing agencies for an internship and I got invited to one interview. I didn't get the job.
Another marketing agency sent me a list of questions to answer. One questions was "One of your clients likes to chew on coca leaves. Since they contain cocaine they are illegal in Austria, how do you make sure he gets them anyway?". Another question was "Your client needs a curl of hair from the American president for an auction. How do you get it?". 
I thought I was very clever in answering those questions but didn't even get invited to an interview.
A girl who went to the same school I went to, two years younger than me, obviously had not done her degree yet,  had parents whose friends were friends with somebody at Saatchi&Saatchi (a famous advertising agency). She got a job there without interviewing or even preparing an application. And I saw a lot of those friendship deals happen around me.
My mother's friends were people who sold herb pillows and homemade candles at flea markets, so I knew I would run into some troubles pursuing a career in Vienna relying on the Vitamin B. To be fair, that was only one of the reasons why I left Austria.

Then, in Holland, I of course had the problem of the language. At that point I was not really interested in a career in advertising anymore. I got really into Photography and I took a few classes. I thought, that's something I am pretty good at and it's something I am passionate about. Maybe this could be my path. I met a lot of people working in the field. It was an exciting time where I got to hang out in the "scene" and get inspired by other creative people. However, I soon noticed that if you come to Amsterdam as a foreigner and you are not already an established Artist, you don't stand a chance to make it. I met quite a few trained photographers who were working in call centers because the Dutch only wanted to work with the Dutch. Unless of course - you were famous already. But getting an internship with a Dutch photographer - impossible. 

Anyway, I did take up classes with the New York Institute of Photography last year. It's a correspondence course that teaches you everything you need to know to become a Photographer. You also have to do assignments and and technical knowledge tests.

Back to the original topic - so I am here in Chicago now and a world is opening up to me. I have no excuse to not follow my dreams anymore and to be honest it is a bit freaky and quite a bit overwhelming.

I have thought long and hard about it and have come to the conclusion that I need to use the next 5 months to make up my mind what I want to do with my life. And to do this I have to do the following things:

a) Get busy with my Photography studies - I need to get back into it, get the passion back

b) Find a job - I know I said I am afraid I end up in some kind of job I don't like but I really need to have a steady job. You need a reason to get up in the morning. So I decided to look for an administrative part-time job. Something where I don't have to answer the phone, or at least very rarely and nothing that includes the term "customer-service" unless it's very minimal and has nothing to do with complaint handling. Given the economic situation here right now, I know it won't be an easy task. More than half a million Americans lost their jobs in 2008 and I don't know why I would be better for a job than any of them. So I might not find a job immediately ...

c) Get back to the gym. I am most focused when I work out. I feel strong and confident when I am physically strong. I want to lift weights again and run on a treadmill until I feel dizzy. I found a gym not too far which sounds perfect, I will join beginning January and try to walk as much as I can until then.

So that's my plan for the next 5 month. 

Monday, December 8, 2008

Baby it's cold outside

It's really cold now. Like, Chicago cold. I am not even getting the "Oh that's nothing" from the locals anymore, it's that cold. I only go outside wearing long, silk underwear, jeans, boots, two pairs of socks of which one must be winter socks (woolen) and two to three layers on top. Plus of course, scarf, gloves and hat. One time I didn't wear my hat, I swear my ears felt like ice cubes when I got home. It hurt my fingers to touch them. It's that cold.
It's even cold inside. Our cat spends most of her time either wrapped in our duvet or on the heating. Here she is in our bed:

Luckily our lovely, yet environmentally aware neighbors helped us with the "cold inside" issue (we have central heating which is in their apartment).

But to be honest, I don't mind it so much. We have a lot of snow and I really missed the snow during my years in the Netherlands. I missed the snow and I missed Christmas. For those who don't know - the Dutch don't celebrate Christmas that much, they celebrate "Sinterklaas" on December 5th (by the way - Happy belated Sinterklaas to all my friends in Holland!).

America is very good at putting you in a Christmas spirit. I can imagine that the "Christmas buh humbug" people of the world will find it annoying. But I am not one of them. I love it. I love Christmas decorations, I love Christmas music (except "Last Christmas" by Wham, which is the only Christmas song that they play to death in the Netherlands), I love Christmas trees and TV programs on how to decorate and make Christmas cookies. I love egg nog. I even love Christmas shopping (I did pretty much all of my Christmas shopping online this year, no crowds but you still have the shopping satisfaction). Right now I am listening to the Christmas song radio channel. 

I have to say when we lived in Delft it at least had the advantage of being really pretty. They would hang up some clear lights around Christmas time and it looked somewhat christmasy since Delft is just so damn cute.
But the weather - well - ask me in a few years but so far I'd take 4 or 5 month of cold and snow  but sunshine (Chicago) over 7 month of non-stop rain and humidity (the Netherlands).

Two days ago we got our tree. It's the first Christmas tree I had since I left Austria and I am very excited. Unfortunately I pulled a muscle in my back yesterday when we went to get some ornaments from the store (we bought a dresser too and I pulled the muscle by trying to lift it). It's pretty painful and since I don't have health insurance yet (I get it in January) I just have to sit it out. It's been getting better though. 
Anyway, pain or not - I had this beautiful tree in front of me, so I had to decorate it. I popped two Aleve and took my time but ended up with a nice tree I think:

In the back round you can see our yellow walls.

And some close up pictures:

We also have some other decorations in the room but I will take pictures of that some other time when everything is finished.

Hope you guys are excited about the upcoming holidays!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Snow in the city

It's been a while. A thick layer of snow is covering Chicago. It's pretty.

As you know or may not know it was Thanksgiving last week. E and I were at my in-laws in Ohio almost all of last week. And that's my excuse why I haven't blogged. 

To be quite honest with you - it's not a very good excuse because my in-laws do in fact have internet but oh well.

The good news is that it was a productive week for me. Not only did I experience my first real American Thanksgiving (in America because I have celebrated with American friends in Holland before) but I also made my own Christmas decorations, bonded with my new nephew, did some driving and got a haircut.

But let's start with the first one: The Thanksgiving dinner
My mother in law spent literally the whole day cooking. She made cheesy broccoli, stuffing, gravy, rice, baked sweet potato with marshmallows, of course Turkey, cranberry sauce (which strangely to me comes in slices), salad and brownies as a dessert (I now know where E has gotten his brownie making talents from). My mother in law makes incredibly rich food all the time. They are originally from the South and southerners love their butter. Every time I eat at my in-laws I go into a coma after the meal. In America the Thanksgiving dinner is supposed to 
be the fattiest, most filling, most indulgent meal of the year - so you can imagine how I felt after a Thanksgiving dinner prepared by my mother in law. I couldn't sleep all night, my stomach hurt so much. And I hadn't even eaten that much, knowing that I would regret it.
It was very tasty though.  See the photo and please be aware that the turkey is already cut up but this wasn't even half of the meat.

Christmas decorations are expensive here! So I decided to make some of my own. We are planning to have a tree this year, so I will need a lot of decoration. My plan was to buy cheap stuff and spray paint it silver and/or glittery. In Chicago they do not sell spray cans because they worry that it might be used for gang wars (I hate when they have all those glittery Christmas grafitti). So when we were in Ohio I went and got some spray paint. I also bought a bag of pine cones and some stars made of carton (to spray silver). Since I wasn't sure if I could bring the cans on the plane, I did it all right there. I might have ruined one of my mother in laws little tables though. Sorry about that. 
I don't have a picture of that yet but I will post some pictures before Christmas when we have all the decorations up.

My new nephew is really cute. He was born 12 days ago - 2 weeks early but he already weighed 5 1/2 kilos when he was born (they actually induced labor because he was so big). I wonder if he still thinks he is in the tummy because he spends pretty much all of the time rolled up in fetus position, asleep. Nothing can wake him up when he is asleep. Maybe the day he was actually supposed to be born he will magically wake up and be a lively baby. Anyway, he is still a very cute boy and I am glad that the "I am still living with my parents" t-shirt I gave his parents as a present fits him.
Unfortunately due to his enormousness my sister in law had to have a c-section and has not fully recovered from that yet. She is going to be OK but obviously she is exhausted and in pain and will be for a while.

I am not sure how many of my friends know that I have a drivers license. I took my driving exam (and passed) a few month before I moved to Holland, so I didn't practice a whole lot in the last 7 years. And I had always been terribly afraid of the streets. I know at some point I will have to drive here though. Once we have children in a few years I am sure we will have to get a car. I actually have to re-take my driving exam here after six month because America does not accept the Austrian license. So I went out with E to drive around Akron and the neighboring towns and I did pretty well. First of all of course all the cars here are automatic which makes it much easier. I never really liked driving a manual and changing gears. Also with age I lost the fear, I got much more confident and much more alert. I used to have real issues concentrating on the road and I feel that I am way more focused today than I had been. So we went driving three times. I went on the highway, I drove at night, I even drove at night on the highway ... and I think once I practice parking in the city I will be ready to take my drivers license here. I am planning on doing it in February, so I can get some more experience around Christmas and then in Chicago after that.
Being able to drive felt like a real achievement.

As I said above - I also got a new haircut. I have this hairdresser in Ohio which cuts both my sister in laws and my mother in laws hair. It costs 12 dollars to get a cut and 22 dollars to get a cut and style. And I think that woman - who works at a hairdressing chain called Famous hair - is one of the best hair dressers who ever gave me a haircut. So originally I just wanted a trim. I looked like a shaggy hippie and some of my hair needed to go. But then, sitting there and waiting for my hair dresser to be done, I decided I wanted a new haircut too. It's not crazy different. I pretty much got the same haircut I used to have my first few years in Holland. It's shorter in the front and layered all around. My hair definitely looks healthier but I actually have to style it with products and a big brush and blow dry it and stuff which I don't like to do. It also makes me look a bit younger. I have noticed that people treat me a bit different in stores. I am probably imagining a lot of it but I had a funny thing happen to me yesterday.

I was at the grocery store and the girl at the check out had a heated conversation with the bag packing boy. She can't have been much older than 17 and the bag packing boy was about her age. 
Bag packing boy: So when you go out, you hang out with your guy friends?
Check out girl: NO WAY! Boys are dirty! I don't trust them, when I go out, I go out with my girlfriends only!
Bag packing boy: Why you don't trust boys?
Check out girl: Well, you can't trust them, they all have dirty minds and will totally abuse a situation when you are like drunk and stuff! All girls think that! Girls don't go out partying with their guy friends! 
Bag packing boy: I don't know ...
Check out girl: TOTALLY! Boys are nasty! Right? (looking at me) When you go party, you go out with your girls, right? Because boys are nasty! 
Me: Uhm, yeah (hiding my wedding ring because I feel flattered she thinks I am still a young party girl who is afraid to be molested by her guy friends)
Check out girl to bag boy: See!

So here is a pic
ture of my new haircut plus my nephew.

I actually tried to blog live from Starbucks today. I was completely unlucky the first time. I went and even got a large coffee, so I would have an excuse to sit there for a while and do my blogging and stuff (since I have this beautiful iBook I should also use it as such and take it outside sometimes) but by the time I got my coffee the place had completely filled up and I could not get a seat. So I walked into a different neighborhood and there was a completely empty Starbucks. By that time my feet hurt from walking a lot and I decided to go there and have a cup of tea. Once there I wanted to log into their wireless but it didn't let me. Anybody knows how to use wireless at Starbucks? I know they have free wireless but how do I use it? Or is it p
ossible that not all Starbucks have wireless?

If you have any idea, please let me know!

I did use the time there doing some picture editing though.

And after that I went to a thrift store (cheap second hand store). They had tons of worn out, expensive brand shoes. There was a pair of Manolos for 7 dollars but you could see it had been worn quite a bit. There were many pairs of Ferragamos but they were from the 70s and looked like old ladies shoes. And they also were quite worn out. I asked myself is it better to buy used shoes that once were really expensive or cheap shoes that are new? So far I have been going for the cheap new shoes. But nevertheless I had never seen a pair of Manolos for 7 dollars ...
What would you do?

Monday, November 24, 2008

How the media controls our life or why grown ups still believe in fairy tales

I am a self-proclaimed media junkie.

It all started when I was 3 or 4 years old and very sick. I wasn't allowed to leave the house for about a year. I started watching TV 24/7 (well, from 9am-11pm - back then in Austria there was no TV between 11pm and 9am) which eventually led to my mother selling our TV set. Well that and our financial situation at the time. Being a single mom is not easy. 

After my mother had sold the TV I started listening to the radio day and night and going through my mother's magazines even though I only learned to read a year or two later.

I bought my first magazine at 7 years old - it was Minnie Mouse magazine (which has since sadly been discontinued). By age 10 I was up to reading 8 magazines a month.

I had become addicted. I had become a media junkie. Craving entertainment on a daily basis. 
I can easily go a day or a week without TV or without radio or without magazines or newspapers or internet but all of them at once - that's a problem.

I do however realize that there is a lot of junk in the media. The media is telling us women to have big boobs and small bums and that nobody will ever love us if we don't know how to walk in 5 inch stiletto heels and give BJs to random dudes in dirty club toilets (thank you for that British Cosmo, I am glad I said goodbye to you a long time ago). The media wants men to have a full head of hair and hairless backs, they want men to believe that only the macho, the asshole will get the girl, that it's ok to put women down because deep down - that's what we want, right? (not right, just to clarify that)

But that's stuff we eventually grow out off. At some point (most) boys and girls realize that it's ok to be yourself and that there probably is somebody who will love you just the way you are.

Is that the point were we can start enjoying the media without feeling the need to conform to the image of what the media portrays as perfect?

No because once we are done with having a poor self image we move on to the next stage of our lives - relationships.

I once read a very interesting article about the topic. It was all about how growing up with fairy tales (and romantic movies - which are pretty much also based on fairy tales) influences our relationships. If you look at the basic setup of a fairy tale/romantic movie it's almost always the same: Prince and princess want to fall in love. Something happens that keeps them from falling in love. The two can only happily be together once these issues are solved. 
This leads to people believing that it is impossible to just fall in love and be happy. There must be an obstacle otherwise it cannot be the real deal. If there is no obstacle you either must create one or dump the other person because he or she is not the "one". I have seen this happen with people and I think most people have. That's why some women are drawn to "bad boys" and some men to nutty girls who treat them like crap (because maybe they can change them ...).

So let's assume you managed that part and you actually are in a serious relationship -there is the next obstacle - the portrayal of relationships in todays television:
It all started with "Married with children". A married couple that absolutely loathes each other. That show was on for 11 seasons! Since then we have had countless others - not as extreme as this one but the topic is the same - wife and husband shouldn't like each other too much. 
As much as I disliked "Married with children" at least Peggy and Al were equally unlikable. These days the couples in these shows are made of a funnyish, unattractive, dumb, uneducated, "kind of macho but more on the soft side" slob of a guy and a sweet, pretty, smart, superhousewife with a bit of quirkiness to her (so she doesn't appear too perfect).
Anyway - the content of these shows is always the same, be it "King of Queens" or "Still Standing" or "According to Jim". The husband feels like he can't do as much as he would like to - because he is married. And obviously being in a relationship is like being caged up. So he does something stupid which makes his wife angry and they bitch at each other. The wife will spend every episode looking like a nag and the husband spends every episode looking like a (supposedly lovable) idiot.
And you know what - people start thinking that's the way a relationship is like. They might not do it consciously but they think it's normal - maybe even fun - to bicker all day long. 
The problem with that is that if you do it long enough as a joke it eventually will become reality. And after jokingly bickering about everything for a while - how do you know when you are actually really having a fight? And ... well ... it's just not nice to not be nice to each other if you love each other. Call me a romantic sob but I do believe what I am saying here.

There is an easy thing to do about this - it's not watching these shows. Luckily there are shows who embrace liking each other - my favorite being "How I met your mother". I used to like "Dharma and Greg" for the same reason.

So with all that being said - enjoy the entertainment industry. That's what it's made for but don't let it get to you.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cultural differences

After walking around the neighborhood a lot I noticed one thing - there is a large Hispanic community. All of the supermarkets have an Hispanic section, in stores like Sears you often hear the speaker announcements in Spanish, a lot of signs and most manuals are in English and Spanish, ...

I like cultural diversity, so as long as they still explain stuff in English (so I understand it too) I don't mind this at all. I actually find it quite interesting.

I knew that the South of the US had a large hispanic community. My friend lives in Florida and was afraid she wouldn't be able to find a new job because she doesn't speak Spanish. When I helped her look for a job I saw that indeed - most places in Florida want you to speak Spanish as well as English. 

The media has long recognized the market - from what I saw we have at least 10 Hispanic channels and the main magazines like People magazine have Spanish versions. But I saw one thing that I did not expect: Christmas movies.

Every year there is a major romantic Christmas movie coming out. You have seen the "Whitie" versions - The Family Stone, The Holiday, Love Actually ...

This year the major Whitie Christmas movie is "Four Christmases" with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn and it is heavily advertised everywhere. Those romantic Christmas movies usually have one or more of the following components: one of the partners is not accepted into the family of the other, one of the family members is very sick and will either miraculously recover or die, there is some other major family tragedy, in the end everybody is happy because the Christmas spirit - even though it makes everybody fight in the beginning - will eventually make everybody love each other.

Well, right now they are heavily advertising three different christmas movies:
Four Christmases for the Caucasian/white community
This Christmas for the African American community (with Chris Brown! It's actually last year's Christmas movie but I guess now it's out on DVD)
Nothing like the Holidays for the Hispanic community

"Nothing like the Holidays" actually plays in Chicago and has Planet Terror's and Ugly Betty's Freddy Rodriguez (who grew up in the Lincoln Park area in Chicago - not far from where we are living now!) in it. 
From these movies "Nothing like the Holidays" sounds most interesting, so maybe I can convince E to watch it with me or if not, maybe his mom will go see it with me. (One advice - if you intend to watch the movie - don't watch the trailer. It's seems to be pretty much the whole movie in two minutes ...)

Change of subject - so I took a sewing class on Monday. It was fantastic. We were a small group of four girls and one teacher. I brought my own sewing machine and bought the fabric and materials in their shop. The other people were pretty interesting - there was a stylist for some minor Miami detective show who I would like to call "the name dropper" because she kept on making comments like "You know the show Shear Genius? The girl who won the last one is my hair dresser!", the "Military wife/mom" who just moved here from Hawaii and the "Interior Designer who had just changed her career from being a software sales lady to being an Interior designer. Those people were just normal people like me but had followed their dreams and became who they wanted to be. That gave me a big confidence boost.

Sewing wise I was by far the least experienced. I was surprised because the class was called 
"Sewing 101" and was supposed to be for beginners. I hadn't used a sewing machine for about 15 years. I had only just unpacked my sewing machine 10 minutes  before I left for the class to see if it works (by doing that I accidently dropped it on my foot - three days later I still have a blue toe that hurts if I wear tight shoes).

Anyway - the teacher spent the first 2 hours explaining the sewing machine to us and then we spent the next two hours making a pillow with a zipper! Since my previous job was to assess whether something was good workmanship or not I do know that what I did was definitely not great workmanship. The seams of my zipper were very wavy but hey - it's my first pillow case! I am pretty happy with it and will attempt to make another one these days.

That class only lasted this one evening but they have quite a few other classes. So I am sure I will be back there. I am interested in the "Make your own tote bag" class and the "Easy upholstery" class.

Last night I re-discovered one of the silliest, most useless, stupid but also funny videos and I just have to share it with you:
(I don't know how to embed this video so you will just have to go on the link)

(I'll post a picture of my pillow case once I make the second one)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday monday

Today it has been exactly a week that E started his new job. 
When he first started I thought it would be good for the two of us. After having spent the last 6 weeks almost constantly together - you know what they say - absence makes the heart grow stronger (even though I have to say we are actually very good together - it takes a lot to make us annoyed at each other).
Well, it wasn't quite like I imagined. I had some real problems getting myself organized and getting anything done. One reason could be that I have just been incredibly tired. I feel like I could sleep all day and have no motivation to do anything. And then of course - I still miss my friends very much. I often find myself in a funky shop or a nice cafe wishing I could have one of my people here to explore together or at least talk about it on the phone or at work afterwards.
I think it isn't a secret that I wasn't very fond of my job but I find myself missing it. Not the tasks so much but the order of things, the accomplishment, getting stuff done. 

But before we left Holland I set myself a few tasks. One is to finish my Photography studies, two is to figure out what I actually want to do job wise and three to do everything I can to pursue it. 
And to do that I need to focus, I need to take the time that it needs but I also need to force myself to get stuff done. I think taking any old office job that comes my way would be a step in the wrong direction because I know I will be stuck there. A lot has to happen for me to leave an employer.

Steps that I have taken to get myself focused:
*I bought some Iron pills - as I think my tiredness might be the result of a lack of iron in my blood
*I am going for long walks exploring the neighborhood - strangely this really uplifts my mood even when the weather is not nice
*Really follow my to do-list
*Apply at the social security office for a social security card

Alright, now I have to get going. And tonight I have my sewing class!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Super-late halloween post

So, before I start my "twelve day late" Halloween post, I'll tell you about my day today.

My day today was pretty frustrating. Well, actually, the day wasn't as much frustrating as I was just plain frustrated. I woke up frustrated. 

This was because of several reasons:

1) I miss our stuff. We shipped a lot of things we got for our wedding. That stuff is pretty essential, like our nice china, our good tea-pot, my favorite table lamp, ... anyway - we won't just go and buy stuff that we know we have because then we'll have it double. And if there is one thing I learned from cleaning up my life when we left Holland it's to not accumulate clutter. 

We still haven't received our 50 boxes of stuff because it got stuck in customs. They x-rayed it and it turned out they found something "suspicious". Luckily it's through customs now (we just heard yesterday) and we got away with 140 Euros for their "work". I've heard it can cost up to 2000 Euros so I am totally fine with 140 Euros. Now I hope they didn't break too much because we are not insured for damaged caused by customs. Our stuff is supposed to arrive next week.

2) My social security number. The American consulate was supposed to request a social security number for me. I was supposed to receive it within three weeks upon my arrival in the United States. Well, it's been three weeks today and I do not have a social security number which makes my life quite a bit harder. Not only am I not allowed to work (which is luckily not such  a problem since E started a fantastic new job on Monday - awesome husband!) but I also can't have health insurance (I would be insured along with E with his new job) and I have very limited access to open an account (I do have an account but it's all running via E.). And I am sure there are lot's of other "perks" to my not having a social security number. Anyway, I called the social security administration office today and after about 45 minutes of which I spent 40 minutes speaking to an automated voice (try telling an automated voice who asks you for your social security number that you DON'T HAVE ONE YET. After she asked about 10 times I yelled "I ain't got one b*tch! That's why I'm calling!" to which the robot voice answered "Ok, let's leave this step for now") it turns out that they can't find me in the system. Which means, I have to go to my nearest social security office and fill in forms and wait for another few weeks. I tried to go there today but that's another frustrating story which I don't want to talk about anymore.

3) I have been having a lot of nightmares which I think are due to an unsettled stomach. I have been eating more processed food here than I have in Holland. 
Anyway, I have about 4 different nightmares a night and then I also have about one babydream a night. Yes, I dream I am having a baby. And no, we are not planning to have a baby for a while, nor do we think it could have accidently happened. It's just that we are living in pram central. There are babies EVERYWHERE. The people who don't have a baby are pregnant. I can't go to the grocery store without hearing at least two crying babies. And on top of that - I am going to be an aunt soon which brings me to frustration point number 

4) my sister in law is highly pregnant but the baby is not coming out! So almost two weeks ago we went to visit my in-laws in Ohio and my sister-in-law is 8 1/2 month pregnant and she actually had some contractions just when we were leaving. A week BEFORE THAT the baby (in the belly) already weighed  8 pounds so imagine how much bigger, now, almost three weeks later, it must be. She isn't happy and we are just waiting for the good news that we will be aunt and uncle. I am really looking forward to having a little nephew who I can spoil. I wanna become his favorite aunt. Or maybe the cool, European aunt. Or maybe the second mom-aunt. I guess it will all come naturally. As long as he likes me.
So that might be contributing to my baby dreams too ...

And my last frustration point:
5) I get lost ALL the time. I always first go the wrong direction before I go the right direction. I can NEVER trust my instincts. But I bought a map today so hopefully that will solve the issue.

Alright - HALLOWEEN.

Quick recap:
We had tons of kids coming to our front door asking for candy. Our lovely neighbors took it upon them to hand out the candy. There was lot's of decoration on all the houses. It was pretty. I carved a pumpkin.

Unsurprisingly looking at the grown-up costumes - all the girls were slutty versions of whatever you can be and some of the guys actually had some funky costumes.
We went to a party in a bar where dress up was requested. There were lot's of slutty cops, slutty ... actually I don't remember. Just a lot of girls wearing not much and not being very memorable. Oh, I do remember that there were about 5 million girls dressed as "kitties".
The idea of girls going all out and dressing as slutty as they possibly can is not new to me. In Austria it's all the same. Only that with us it's not Halloween (even though Halloween is getting more and more popular as well) but Fasching - more commonly known as Carnival in February. Fasching is BIG in Austria. When I was still studying my whole class went to a "Gschnas" which is a carnival party/ball room dance thingy. All the girls in my class were dressed as prostitutes. It was not an arranged group thing. They just couldn't come up with anything else. I was the only non-prostitute from my class that night. I was a 70s discoqueen with shiny Farah Fawcett hair, sparkly makeup and clothes. I don't think I was any less attractive than the hookers.
See, I don't mind girls wanting to let it all hang out and be totally slutty and having no self-respect for one night. I just expect them to be a bit more creative than that. The guys came up with some really awesome costumes. Our friends were Hall & Oates, that was awesome. Some guy came dressed as Legoman. Guys don't care if they look ugly or ridiculous because it's about fun. It's about showing that you are interesting and creative and "kitty" doesn't shout that to me. I mean - for god's sake - there was a guy dressed up as a turd - yes - literally a piece of shit - and he pulled that night! I saw him go home with a slutty fairy.
Ok, I have to say two things in defense of the American culture - we did spend Halloween at somewhat of a pick-up bar so that might have influenced the choice of clothing for some of 
those girls and I did actually see a few cute outfits that night. My favorite outfits:
*40s soldier with two beautiful 40s style women
*Sexy banana girl (who was dressed in a giant banana)
*Sexy Palin (there were a lot of them out that night, I guess it's
 enough to copy her)
*Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah in Kill Bill)

All in all my Halloween party experience was not much different from my old Fasching experiences in Austria. And I expected way more bloody costumes, like instead of Sexy Bee - Sexy Dead Bee or Zombie Fairy. 
Alright - next year I'll be sexy, zombie toaster.

Photo: E as Captain Hammer, I was Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

How's life?

It's cooled down quite a bit here in Chicago. We have about 5 C and it's grey out. I even saw a few snowflakes. We actually had snowstorms not far from Chicago. 

Last week I got the first letter from my mom. My mother loves to write letters and I receive up to 3 letters a week sometimes but usually about one every two weeks.
In her letter she asked me lot's of questions about how it is to live in America. My mother has never been to the US before and I think she is having a difficult time imagining it.
One question she asked was: "Are people in shops and restaurants bitchy and do you have to be dressed up when you run errands?"
Obviously she has never been to the US.
People who know me better have heard me talk about people going to restaurants in their pajamas in America. I have to say it's much better in Chicago, especially since we live in a nicer neighborhood. I have actually seen people wear high heels to breakfast places (which is something I would never do). However - if you do run your errands dressed in sweat pants people will not be rude to you. 

I am not a very "chatty" person, so I definitely had to get used to the fact that everybody wants to talk to you. I now know half of the staff at Trader Joes (my local grocery store) better than I have ever known any of the sales assistants at my local C1000 in Delft - which I frequented for 3 1/2 years. I am slowly getting used to it and in a way I find it nice because I don't know many people here and it gives the neighborhood a villagy feel which you wouldn't expect from such a big city. We have gotten to know the girl from our local hardware store a bit since we have been buying our paint for the five rooms we already painted there. We now know that she is married, has a son, just moved into her new apartment and that she wants to paint her living room but that she is going to get her husband to do it. We also found out that she has an identical twin when we visited the hardware stores "sister" store and her twin was working there.

I especially like the gay couple running an antiques store just around the corner from us. We bought 6 pieces of furniture from them in one go. They are the kind of guys who are really just doing it because they like doing it and who feel kind of embarrassed to take your money even though you are already paying less than you'd be paying in other stores. The store is called Praha if you ever find yourself in the neighborhood (and for some reason you are not with me because I would probably take you there anyway) - I can strongly recommend it.

Another question I am being asked a lot is "So are you having a hard time adjusting? Do you miss Europe a lot?". Ok, actually that's two questions. 
I am really trying to not think too much about it. I never understood my expat friends who are constantly talking about how nice it is where they are from and how horrible it is where they are now. Unless you are a political refugee I see no reason why you wouldn't just move back to were you are from if you like it so much better there. I did not like living in Holland anymore so we moved. Ok, we moved about two years after I had enough of Holland but matter of fact is that we moved. I knew one girl who started every - and I am not exaggerating here - EVERY sentence with "In Italy ....", everybody just started calling her "In ITALY".
I am not going to lie - of course I have bouts of homesickness. I am not really missing Holland or Austria (yet). I like Chicago, I like where I live, I love the neighborhood and the people but I do miss my friends. Most of the time I am doing fine and I often feel really good but then the feeling creeps up, a little bit of sadness, mixed with emptiness inside. I miss sitting next to a really good friend and the friend just spontaneously gives me a hug or puts their hand on my back. I miss knowing that somebody is waiting all week to see me and I miss looking forward all week to seeing one of my people , looking forward so much that I don't even mind going to work even though I hate it but I know at the end of the day I will get too see my friend (or not minding to go to work because there is somebody there I really like - as a friend of course). I miss the content and satisfied feeling I have after spending an evening with Mi, chatting about world politics or religion or TV shows or whatever really or Mo making me feel like I am back at home at my moms place by giving me Almdudler and making me Schnitzl and just totally getting my viennese humor or the long car rides with LA to our badminton club ... 

I am sure I am going to make good friends here but you know, it takes a while. Making a good friend is like building your own home. You have to invest a lot of work in it, it will take a while but when you are at the point were the foundation is built it's the most rewarding feeling ever.

But to sum it up - I AM having a good time, I am enjoying myself. But I still hope all you guys from Holland and Austria (and where ever you are right now Charly) will come to visit me soon, so you can see our colorful apartment!

Talking about meeting people - I signed up for a 101 sewing class. Since I got a sewing machine as a present for our wedding I want to learn how to use it. It's just one evening but it will be good to learn something new. I am on my way to become the perfect 50s housewife. I still have to work on the whole tidiness freak part though. Give me time!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes we can!

Today is a beautiful day in Chicago. Not just because  the weather has been sunny and about 22 C for the past week but also because history was made right here last night. 

I was lucky enough to be right there yesterday in Grant Park (thank you J. and M. who got us in as their dates on their tickets!) when the first African-American president was elected. I was right there when he gave his speech - with about 250 000 other people who all wanted Barack Obama to be the 44th president of the United States of America. To change America. To change the world.

Today is a new day. A new beginning. Today Americans can take off the Canadian flags from their backpacks and announce to the world "Yes, I am American and I am proud!".

Only a few people who know me today know this but I was once a big fan of America. As a kid and as a teenager my dream was to move to New York, maybe study Journalism or History or both. I had an American flag up in my room. My best friend was Muslim (still is) and my enthusiasm for America even converted parts of her even if Arabs do have a strong dislike of America (not without reason I have to say) and her family was not different.

I followed the American elections closely from the first time Clinton was elected, closer than I followed Austrian politics.
However in my late teens I became interested in British music, British culture and back then I really wanted to move to London. Bush was elected just before I graduated and it sealed the deal for me - I was not going to move to the US, this was not a culture I could identify with. I was going to stay in Europe. My mom was happy with my decision, especially when 9/11 happened exactly one week after I had left Austria to pursue my dreams elsewhere.
You know the story from then on - I met E., I fell in love with him, with his family, with his friends, with his country. And yesterday for the first time, I proudly wore a pin of the American Flag on my jacket, along with an Obama pin. 
My American friends who have never lived in Europe - you can only imagine how much this will change things - the view that the world has of America. I am looking forward to a world where E. and I can meet new people in Europe without being questioned about Bush and why Americans think they are better than rest of the world. I believe Obama will be able to change this misperception that the world has, thinking that all Americans are uneducated hillbillies. 
I know he will. 

The event itself was very moving. Obamas speech was wonderful. Watch it here:
See if you can find me in the masses.
Find the transcript here:

I have to say that I also really liked the first half of McCains speech. I don't know if you followed the event but it is a tradition for the one who lost the election to first call the one who won and then hold a speech congratulating the new elected president. McCains speech was very well written and reasonable. The first half was excellent. The second half was pretty boring for Obama voters but I guess had to be done for the disappointed crowd standing before him in Phoenix, Arizona.

The only thing I did not like about the event was the fact that they had a bishop hold a prayer for Obama before he came on. I guess America is very religious and people expect that but then there are many different religions and many people who do not believe in god so I think making a religious statement was unnecessary. 

Here is my favorite part of Obama's speech which was also the beginning of the speech:

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

Thank you America for going out there and standing in line for hours and hours. Thank you for making a difference and for giving our kids a future!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My first road trip

Today I am posting live from Akron/Ohio where E went to vote today (people were allowed to cast an early vote). As I mentioned before Illinois is already a done deal for Obama so E luckily got to vote in Ohio where he is originally from. As you probably know Ohio is a swing state and a vote can make a difference here. My mother in law had prepared and handed out a list to all the family members on which it stated who to vote for where (you don't just vote for the president, also for district attorney and all kinds of other stuff). For your info - the whole family voted for Obama (at least that's what they told each other but I have no reason to believe otherwise).

But voting was not the only reason we came down to Ohio. We actually drove here in a cargo van as we are here to pick up all the wedding presents which had been sent to E's parents as we didn't have an address back then. E also has some old furniture which we will bring back. It's not much but the more money we can save, the better. We even convinced E's mom to give us one of her old bookshelves.
To get here we went on a 6,5 hour roadtrip through Indiana and Ohio. Indiana is as flat as Holland and the parts I saw were not very exciting but then after 7 years in pancake country I don't get very excited over flat land. I had never seen Ohio in the fall and must admit I am amazed at how pretty Akron looks right now. One could almost think she was in Maine with those vivid shades of the changing leaves.

It took E and his family two hours to vote. The lines were really long. Apparently two hours is not even that long, in some places it can take even longer. Since I don't have the right to vote, I spent these two hours at the mall, looking for cheap furniture.

One thing I noticed in the US is the desperation with which sales people try and sell you stuff. I guess they work on provision much more than people in Europe do. I found some furniture at JC Penney's that I liked but when asking the sales guy if they had the goods on stock (since we are going back to Chicago tomorrow, we can't wait for two weeks in Ohio for something to be delivered), he said no. I asked him if he thought that they had the same goods on their website he said probably not and anyway - it would cost way more to have it delivered from their website and it won't even be assembled (I actually like to assemble furniture)! He then gave us his card (which I have noticed every furniture sales man/woman does). After I got back from the mall I checked the prices on the internet and the special offer today is actually free delivery for orders over 69 $ and of course they had the furniture we were looking for.

But even worse than furniture sales people are those little sales stands in the middle of the mall. They are not even shops, they are more like little tents and they sell stuff like little, ugly figurines or make up brands no one has ever heard of. They used to sell Proactive solution (anti-pimple stuff) on those stands but the stuff has gotten so popular that they now sell it in vending machines. They don't need sales people. P Diddy and Jennifer Lopez endorsing it made sales people unnecessary. That's what I call good marketing.

Anyway - getting back to the pushy sales people in the malls. I found out that the only way to not get sucked into their spiel is being plain rude. I first got approached by a tall, smily blonde "Hello! ..." she said, blocking my way to Macy's. I returned her hello with a sharp "I am not interested". I felt both bold and guilty for being so rude at the same time. The second one approached me right when I came out of Old Navy: "Hi! May I just aks you one question?" my answer to that was a short "No.". Now - I know these ladies are just doing their job, that's why I don't like to be rude to them but I have been a victim before. I was talked into buying a 30 $ no-name hand creme set which I was not interested in at all. She just wouldn't let me go. It was almost traumatic. And it started like this
Sales girl: "Hi, can I ask you for one minute of your time?"
A : "I am sorry but I really don't have time right now ..."
and the rest is a blur. I don't know how I ended up buying something I really didn't want. The only thing I do remember is the fact that she originally wanted to sell it to me for 50 $ and that she tried to make me feel like I talked her down 20 bucks which I know I didn't. I might be weak but I am not stupid.

So the one thing I did learn from living in Holland for 7 years is how to be rude enough so people will definitely not want to approach you anymore. However it did not teach me how to not feel bad about being rude to people. But I guess that just comes with practice.

By the way - a Halloween post is coming up once I am back in Chicago. I want to download some pictures from my camera but don't have my card reader here.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Political debate

One thing that is on anybody's mind at the moment is the election next week.
Obama is the senator of Illinois and Chicago is definitely almost unitedly pro-Obama. You see Obama posters and signs in a lot of windows in the neighborhood we are living in.

I think a lot of people (including me) are glad when this whole thing is over. It is getting kind of boring. It seems like when you ask people why they vote for one or the other you always get the same answer - Republicans vote for McCain because he is apparently so much more experienced. Democrats vote for Obama because he wants "Change".

Now personally I am all for Obama. I think he is a great guy and I think he would do great things but I am getting annoyed by the fact that his whole campaign is built around the word "Change". It's not the first time in history that people wanted change and it's not the first time in history people used this powerful word to be of political interest. One example that comes to mind (and I am not trying to draw any similarities to Obamas political plan here!!!!) is the late Austrian right-wing politician Joerg Haider. Obviously Obama and Haider have completely different political interests and I shouldn't even be mentioning them in the same sentence - I only want to make clear that barely saying somebody wants "Change" for a country is not really saying that much.

However McCain supposedly being so much more experienced does not make me more interested in him either. For me he ruined it when he made Palin his candidate for vice president. I am all for women in politics but this woman is a disgrace. She stands for everything I don't want in the government of the country I live in and the country I'll probably eventually will be bringing up my future children.

The fact that people can't come up with anything but "Change" and "Experience" when asked why they will vote for whoever they are going to vote for at this election makes me nervous. It shows that people are not really informed and can easily be influenced.

And I can tell you one thing - I have never seen an election that played with such dirty tricks (and I am from Austria and have seen some nasty stuff - let me tell you that - one sentence "Daham statt Islam" - the German speakers will understand what I am talking about - was just one of a few disgusting, racist election slogans for an Austrian right-wing party).
Today I was watching the morning show (I am still jetlegged and spend my early mornings watching the local news) when the adds came on. I saw four "anti"-somebody spots in a row. All of them were for different politicians. All of them were pretty harsh and went something like that:

"Ms Smith from the Democrat party is not who she says she is. She has been known to kick puppies and on at least one occasion she dropped a newborn child. She also likes taxes very much and wants to raise them as high as possible so all the poor people in Chicago will have to starve. In fact - that's her plan - make all the poor people in Chicago starve so rich people (LIKE HER) will profit and be happy. Do NOT vote for Ms Smith! This is a message brought to you and paid for by the Republican party."

Well, it might not go exactly like that but you get the picture. There are more "anti"-spots on TV than actual election spots. I had never seen an "anti"-spot before.

And then there are the "smears". Smears are attempts of defamation of the candidates of the presidential election. Mostly it's rumors put into the world by fanatic followers of one of the two parties taking part in the election. Often those rumors will be indirectly supported by the party who the rumor doesn't concern. For example - there is this rumor that Obama is an Islamic terrorist. Of course McCain cannot say that Obama is an Islamic terrorist because it is not true but he knows that there are people who are going to believe it (there are more people than you think who believe that) and so he just puts some wood into the fire to keep the rumor going. He would mention the rumor and not oppose it for example.

Recently these smears - especially against the Democrat party - have become so bad that even the Republicans stood up and publicly spoke out against them. Some criminals started to generate automatic recorded messages, faking McCains, Giulianis and Palins voices to send out completely made up messages. Machines will randomly call house phones which will then say those messages over the phone. I listened to one on a website and it said the following:
"This is Rudy Giuliani for the Republican party. This message is to warn you of Senator Obama. If he becomes president he will change the law for sex offenders. Obama wants sex offenders to go free without a trial. He does not want sex offenders to be charged for offense. Do not vote for Obama unless you want sex offenders to go free! This message has been approved and paid for by the Republican party." This is pretty much how it went even though they probably made it sound more "political newscasty".
Now - the problem with these prank calls is that there will be a lot of people who will believe them and that's what scares me.
McCain himself apparently lost an election before because there was a smear about him going around. He has an adopted child from Bangladesh. The rumor said that this child was in fact his own child and that he took it away from her black mother as to avoid a scandal. This rumor went around via email a few years ago and is said to have lost him the election.

We will see how it will all play out.
There is a big event coming up in Chicago on Election day. Obama is going to be in Grant Park to hold an Election Night (hopefully) celebration. It will be huge. E and I were thinking about going but giving the weather conditions here at the moment I don't know if I want to be standing outside for too long. The wind has been pretty bad and as I said - it has occasionally snowed a little bit. Also - there will be A. LOT. of people. I kind of want to be there for this special occasion but then I just think I would rather be in a cosy, warm bar with a beer in my hand ...
Wherever I end up - if Obama wins - the city will celebrate. That's for sure.

So long from Obama central.


Monday, October 27, 2008

The beginnings

As promised - here is my blog to keep you updated on my life and let you take part in my life virtually.

I have been in Chicago for almost a week now. When I arrived it was a sunny 15 C. Today it snowed. I bought a coat and a fleece jacket to wear under the coat. I have been told layers are the way to go.
I remember when I arrived in Holland 7 years ago. It rained without stopping for 2 weeks. And the weather didn't change much in the following 7 years.

So - what have we done so far? We got ourselves bank accounts. That was much easier than in Holland. People were really friendly and didn't give us any hassle. The only thing I couldn't get was a credit card because I don't have a social security number yet. I have to apply for a social security number soon as I will not be able to work before I have one.
Two days ago we got ourselves some phones. That was kind of a bummer for me. I guess there is a bigger market for cell phones in Europe than in the US. We chose the second crappiest phone they had (we had take a two year contract to get it for free) to get the "family" plan in which you get two phones and two numbers. Anyway we are paying as much as I was paying for my contract in Holland  but the phone is quite a downgrade. It is definitely a downgrade to my Sony cell phone I got 1,5 years ago and which was already then kind of old for Dutch standards but I think it might even be a downgrade on the Samsung I had before the Sony. So yeah, it's a crappy phone but it's not like I ever do anything with it other than make calls. And I hope that doesn't sound whiny but I don't really have anybody but E to call me anyway at the moment. So the phone is not really an issue.

We moved into an unfurnished apartment which is partly a great opportunity because you get to chose exactly what you want for your house but partly also not much fun because the only furniture we bought so far was our bed (which will be delivered next week) and a little vanity table and we are already running low on money. All the things one needs! 
We are borrowing some basic things from our neighbors who are also good friends of ours. We started with a table and two chairs, a TV, a futon and some kitchen stuff, just enough for two people. It's strange to realize that you don't have a kitchen knife or that you want to make guacamole but you don't actually have a bowl to put it in. It's been so long that I had to buy that kind of stuff. I really miss Hema. They have amazingly cute and tasteful furniture and household items here in Chicago but they are expensive. I could always find something cute and cheap at Hema. 

To make the place a bit homier we bought a candle and put it in the fireplace (which is closed up so you cannot actually make a fire in it). It smells like pumpkin and it really helps to make you feel welcome.
We also painted our first room. We are planning to paint all of the big rooms. We started with the bedroom which is blue now. It looks great if you ignore the fact that it is a bit wonky at the corner were we left it white. It was our first room though. We hadn't really painted much before so even though it is much less than perfect we are happy with it. And once our friends come home from work (they are experienced painters) they might be able to explain to us how to fix this.

We also really like the street we are living in. It's a typical American street with pretty houses and back yards and sometimes front yards and trees that are just changing colors and surprisingly already since last week - a lot of Halloween decoration. We also have a pumpkin which we will try to empty and carve one of these days.

The only one in our little family who is not so happy about the move is the cat. She has been really confused and scared. I think she does not understand the time change and I wonder if she realizes how far away from her old home she is now. I have moved many times with her and she was always ok after a few days but she just kind of seems depressed. Maybe homesick? E thinks she doesn't like that the place is so empty so maybe once our furniture and our boxes with stuff arrive she will feel better. I really hope so.

Anyway, there isn't really much interesting stuff to tell right now as I just haven't been doing much except trying to get my life in order and shop for cheap furniture. I'll keep you updated anyway.

Baba (thats Austrian for Bye Bye)