Monday, September 25, 2017

Quality


My new job is not that new anymore and I have answered the question "How do you like it there?" about two dozens times by now. It recently made me reflect on why I have actually liked all of my workplaces so far - not always the tasks I was required to carry out, mind you, but the people I worked with, even if they happen to be a VERY diverse crowd. I realised that I might have a - possibly rare - quality that I had never realised I possessed: adaptability. It now makes sense that I was always one of rather few people who got along with their hosts/exchange partners during language trips at school. Even if people are very different from me and I don't always understand what they are doing, I can grow to like (working with) them.
I know that "flexibility" might be the sexier, more popular term for this concept, but it has become a bit stale and overused for my taste, to the point where it is used for too many things. Now please excuse me while I will add "highly adaptable" to the intro blurb of my cv.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Environmentally Unfriendly

My name is M. and I am a carbon footprint monster and a hypocrite. There, I've said it. Why? Well, I am very inconsistent in my interpretation of environmental friendliness, or whatever you want to call it. Ever since my teenage years when separating waste became a thing, I have been doing so meticulously. Not only at home, but also at work, in hotel rooms, you name it. I also try to avoid buying fruit out of season or from faraway places, even if I have a real craving for it. I distinctly remember the taste of what must have been the juiciest tartest apple EVER only to discover that it was imported from New Zealand (!) and not allowing myself to ever repurchase it again. Well, unless I am in a supermarket in NZ. This applies to most foods I buy and I also try not to let any of it go to waste once I have bought it. Since I can't give up my (expensive) Starbucks habit, I at least avoid drinking it out of disposable cups whenever I can, bringing my own eco-friendly bamboo tumbler instead. The list could go on and on.
Then again, I eradicate all my environmental holiness by flying more than the average person. This past weekend I flew to Munich (less than 450 km from Vienna) instead of taking the train. I did look into trains, but they were not cheap either, which was not surprising as it was the first Oktoberfest weekend and flights and hotel rooms were not exactly a bargain either. The thing is, I love everything about flying and don't mind killing time at airports in the least, as long as it's not 5 a.m. in the morning and the airport offers more diversion than those of Almaty and Minsk that are close contenders for "most boring airport in the Northern Hemisphere". Also, I have licked blood ever since I qualified for Frequent Traveller in the Star Alliance programme for the first time and am very eager not to lose my status, which is much harder now that I don't travel for business any more. Why so eager, you wonder? Well, I really appreciate the privileges that come with it - lounge access, business check in and fast lane security checks, as well as an extra piece of checked-in luggage, which is a shopaholic's dream - and don't stop to think about the impact this has on the environment at all. So. I am a horrible carbon-footprint-leaver (who is already looking forward to the next weekend break by plane in less than a month).

Monday, September 11, 2017

Delayed Sparks of Joy

The other Sunday, Chiquita proudly told me about her latest KonMari purge (she's very good at these and declutters her wardrobe frequently). Ironically, I was wearing a belt I bought when I was 17 (!) that day. Does anyone remember when El Charro was da hottest shit, btw?
Now, I have read my Marie Kondo or at least bought it, like the next person (I've had the book in the picture...yes and this is THE belt... for a year or so as I fell in love with the pretty cover of this edition, but so far have only read half of it as I did not find it that earth-shattering) and do believe that you should declutter and purge your home regularly. I am, however, much stricter in other areas of my life that I am with clothes and accessories. My pet hate is hoarding of printed matter and I throw out or give away magazines immediately after I have read them, only very rarely keeping single issues. With clothes, I either give them to my Mum, friends or charity as soon as I realise that I probably won't wear them ever again, or keep them in a bunch in the back of my closet in order to dispose of them on the next long-distance journey in order to create shopping space in my suitcase on the return flight. 
I do give things of particularly good quality or sentimental value a second chance, though, even if they may not "spark (a lot of) joy" the moment when I consider saying goodbye to them. That belt had been sitting around unworn for more than a decade when I suddenly felt like wearing it again, remembering when and where I was when I bought it, immediately. That Sunday, I actually paired my striped top with a red trench coat style jacket that I bought at a GAP outlet in Alexandria, VA 13 years ago. It was a magic girly trip when B2 and I visited B1. All our lives have changed a lot since then and new houses, jobs, men and a total of 5 children (none of these mine, haha) have happened in the meantime. Whenever I wear that jacket that has not been getting a lot of airtime ever since I bought my Burberry Brit short trench coat I think about that carefree trip, experiencing my first ever American halloween and all the fun we had. So, yes to decluttering, but as my Mum - the undisputed Queen of Upcycling- always says: "If you have got the storage space, don't throw out clothes too soon - they might come back in fashion or you get an idea to style them into something else. Amen to that!

Monday, September 04, 2017

Not Wasting All of It

If you are following me on Instagram (if not, you totally should...), my handle there is @wastingmytalent. In fact, I have had a GMail account with that name for ever and it once caused a funny situation. It was the e-mail address I used for a demo account associated with my previous job when I trained agencies in CEE and CIS. I would walk attendees of said trainings through the online interface of the tool I was teaching them how to use and int the top right corner,  you would be able to see said e-mail address. After one of the first trainings - I believe it was in Sofia - somebody approached me in the breaks. "I have a question. It's kind of personal..." Me, expecting him to ask me if I could land him a job at my company of some such: "Sure, shoot!" "Are you unhappy in your job?" Me. "?!?" "Well, I saw that e-mail address of yours..." I assured him that I was neither disgruntled, nor depressed and made a point of addressing this deliberately in all future trainings ;-)
Why am I telling you about this - well, recently, I seemed to have regained some of my creative mojo that I had sorely missed. It was not that I did not have any ideas, far from it, it was more that I never "got around to it". I still know that that one big project of mine, THE BOOK, has been shamefully neglected for months, but I don't even feel ashamed as I am currently itching to do more manual projects, like sewing or beading. Completely fine with that and happy with the results so far. I have so many ideas and wish weekends lasted 3 days at least...which is not a recent desire, however.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Is that the Time?

Last weekend, I watched a few documentaries on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's fatal accident. Am I the only one who remembers that event as if it was yesterday? That day, I was at my parents' place, house-sitting, while they were on vacation. I had just passed my final exams at university and was enjoying my last idle summer, so to speak. Chiquita, still in her teens, was keeping me company that week and I distinctly remember chopping up apples for apple stew (orders from my Mum to not let all the apples in the garden go to waste and also use those bruised ones who had fallen from the trees) while watching the endless TV coverage, half fascinated, half bewildered by the growing mass hysteria.
Likewise, I distinctly remember 09/11 (incidentally the birthday of Chiquita's sister). I was at Coma HQ and our new deputy department head had recently arrived. Everyone was glued to TVs apart from the deputy head and her successor who were engrossed in handover meetings all day. Earlier this year, I visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York with the Empress. The first part of the exhibition focuses on physical objects, such as remains of the staircase that led survivors to street level and to be honest (and also included the mural pictured above), I was not that moved at all, while some American visitors broke out in tears. The second part of the exhibition was an entirely different story - it basically narrated that day from "innocent" newspaper headlines that fateful morning to pictures of the aftermath that everyone will have seen so many times in different types of media - people covered in dust, exhausted firefighters sitting on the floor. What I, personally, found most haunting were videos of desperate people jumping to their death from the 100something floor and voice messages of people trapped in the tower (or calling from one of the highjacked planes).
On Saturday, I was at the hairdresser, where I read a recent issue of German Spiegel magazine. Its cover story was on terrorism and the analogy between today's terrorist attacks carried out by IS followers versus German RAF terror of the 1970s and 1980s. The article featured a photo of one of those black and white "Wanted" posters that I remember seeing in corridors of any official building when I was a child. Those serious looking faces of young adults, most men wearing a moustache, always bewildered me and the blanket explanation I got from grown-ups did not really help me understand what this was about.
All this seems a lifetime ago now and I am counting the days until there will be nostalgic events, held in venues decorated with phone booths and bulky landline phones...

Monday, August 21, 2017

Copy/Paste

Some people like to spend their vacation at home. Others like to go abroad, but favour the same place, year after year. Yet another group of people likes to discover something new every year. Then there are those who like to combine all 3 elements...which would be yours truly. My ideal summer looks as follows: one week spent in Klagenfurt, enjoying my parents' company and my beloved Wörther See, and another in Nice, my summer home away from home. The "discovery" holidays can happen at another time of the year, as far as I am concerned, but I don't mind them taking place in summer either, if my schedule allows. Klagenfurt and Nice are musts, though. Due to the fact that I recently switched jobs, I spent a few days in KLU already in May and June, rather than around the August 15 public holiday as I usually do. Nice, where I still will be when this post goes live,  had to be reduced to a long weekend, also, but I'm not complaining. Skipping it for good, though, would have been out of the question for me. I have not counted, but this must be my 10th visit to this city, and the one summer when La Mademoiselle and I did not go, we both missed it. It has become a fixture of my summers and the gang has grown in the past years, when we managed to infect others with the Nice bug as well. It's not that we do extraordinary things there (basically it's a mix of beach, shopping, excursions to other highlights along the Cote d'Azur, the order of these decided spontaneously and sometimes individually), but it feels great to feel like locals, to go grocery shopping at "our" supermarket, to put our beach towels at the same spot every year, to stop for drinks at the café with the same grumpy old waiter, to buy sachets of dried lavender to take home, just like we did the year before. Comfortingly familiar and yet never boring.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Water Baby

Austria is known for its beautiful lakes and mountains (and indeed many more beautiful things). While I do love those mountains and am a passionate skier, I hardly ever go hiking. When I do, I always think that I should do this more often and when I see photos taken by my hiking or mountaineering friends, I am always very impressed. This does not mean that it would ever occur to me to choose mountain over lake on a hot summer day. Mountains, for me, are just a beautiful backdrop that I would not want to miss, but lakes, they are to be used actively. A hot summer day spent in a place where there is a body of water, is a day wasted in my book. Whenever I have the opportunity to visit my parents, I will always make sure to take a swim in my beloved Wörthersee, THE most beautiful and most"swimmable" lake in my very biased opinion. Its turquoise water has a hypnotic power over me and I am very grateful to have grown up in this scenic part of Austria. On the first day of June, I bought a 3-months card for Vienna's public outdoor pools (which includes one pool at the Old Danube, close to my new place of work) and I am proud to report that I have already got more of my money's worth out of that card (which retailed at EUR 60.50) by having used it 20 times so far. Even if it is just a quick dip in a lake, river, or chlorinated pool - I am true water baby and summer=swimming for me.
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