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Three Hundred Sixty Six.

I know what you’re thinking.

Nope. I still don’t have any answers. And I still don’t feel like a grown up. Maybe slightly closer, but I still don’t even want to have to take care of a houseplant.

SIDENOTE: Somehow I manage to keep my dogs alive and happy. I don’t know how that works. Life Math is weird.

…Maybe I’m just not a green thumb.

Anyway.

My BFF Jo texted me yesterday and said, “It’s your last day as a 26 year old.”

At first I kind of panicked. Holy shitballs. 26. It’s over. I feel like it just started. I know it sounds like a super cliche, but in some ways, it really was like the blink of an eye.

I started this blog a year ago as a challenge to myself as a writer. Early in 2012, I kind of lost faith in myself. I hit a major rough patch and thought wow, maybe I’m actually a terrible writer. Maybe I have no idea what I’m doing. Maybe I don’t want to ever write again. Of course, I eventually came around and realized that writing is the thing I love the most. And in the same vein, I knew that if I wanted to be a writer, I’d have to write.

But I was kind of scared.

So I promised myself I would write something every day.

I wasn’t really expecting that forcing myself to write a blog post every day – a story that somehow led to me learning a life lesson, no matter how small – would help me be happy. I saw it as much more of an exercise than anything else. And an opportunity to maybe be funny. But I have to say, writing this blog has given me a completely different outlook on my entire life. It’s helped me understand how my past has made me who I am. It’s helped me work through a lot of difficult times and put a positive spin on things I would have never otherwise laughed at. It’s helped me approach life in a much more open, accepting way.

Like, happen to me, life: I’m ready to learn from you.

That was a disaster. Oh well, next time will be better!

I can’t believe that just happened. I am mortified. Also, that was hilarious. I can’t wait to tell people.

I did it! Someone pat me on the fucking back!

I hate everything right now. Surely someone will understand.

I am hurting. I need to know it’s going to be okay.

This is weird. Does everyone feel this way?

Did that just happen? SRSLY?!

At the same time, I had come to a bit of a crossroads with myself. I had hit a self-love low. I was feeling depressed, defeated, discouraged, you name it. I decided enough was enough: it was time to make the active decision to be happy.

I also discovered that Jayne Mansfield had stretchmarks. And my world was turned upside down. In a good way.

To quote myself (is that totally pretentious? I’m trying to recap, shut up.):

Jayne Mansfield, the American actress, singer, Playboy playmate, and all around drop-dead gorgeous bombshell, was flawed in a way that has been the root of much of my self-consciousness for all of my teenage and adult life.

So…all of that got me here.

SIDENOTE: It’s really hard writing the last post of a 365-day blog.

It’s going to be difficult to let this blog go. I know I’m going to wake up tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that and my first thought is going to be, “What can I write about today?” or, “Oh shit! I still have to blog today!”

But I’m looking forward to channelling my creative energy into a number of other projects that I’ve already either started or am about to. So I guess what I’m saying is I’m not going anywhere. Maybe there will be another blog. Maybe not. But I promise there will be something.

I was trying to think of a fun way to commemorate the end of this blog.

Here’s what I came up with.

Jayne Mansfield had stretchmarks.

jayne

And so do I.

Image2

xA

P.S. It’s hilariously ironic that in the majority of the pin-up photos I took, my stretchmarks aren’t that visible. Because they’re everywhere.

But I guess there’s a life lesson in that, isn’t there?

I’m probably the only one who really notices them.

Image7_2

P.P.S. Things I meant to write but forgot: Happy Birthday to me! Also, here’s to 27! I’m crazy excited for it!

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Three Hundred Sixty Five.

I know this is a 365-day blog, but this is technically the penultimate post, because it’s a birthday to birthday thing. And tomorrow’s my birthday!

600px-US_27.svg

SIDENOTE: Have you bought me a birthday present yet? We can’t be friends if you didn’t because all I care about is material possessions.

Anyway, I thought what better way to spend the second-last day of my crazy year-long blog than looking back on some of its best moments?

SIDENOTE: Maybe that should say best/”best”…

Think of this, if you will, as a flashback episode of your favourite TV sitcom. With the help of a couple friends, I’ve compiled some categories I think you’ll enjoy.

Without further ado…

Top 5 Stupid Kid Moments

photo(1)

Oh boy. Where to even start with this one?! Well, okay…

1. Pressing buttons was (OKAY, STILL IS) a thing I loved doing. See examples A and B.

2. Of course, there was the time I electrocuted myself

3. The day I put scissors through my finger

4. Setting fire to things is never a good idea.

5. Neither is writing a hate letter to your childhood friend.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

I have to give honourable mention to the day I learned that “bastard” is a bad word. Oh, and also to the combination of shaving off my eyebrows and getting hair extensions.

And guess what?! It’s your lucky day. I found a photo of teenage Andrea with hair extensions and no eyebrows. And apparently I have no shame because I’m gonna post it on the Internet.

Extensions

Boy oh boy oh boy.

Moving on!

Top 5 Most Awkward Moments

If you haven’t deduced by now, I am the QUEEN OF AWKWARD. This is quite the random assortment, but I feel it encompasses who I am pretty well…

1. The day a goat ate my t-shirt. (Enough said.) (Stupid goats.) (Seriously, why would she do that to me?!) (Ugh.) (I fucking loved that t-shirt.) (SOB.)

2. The day I learned about orgasms in sex ed. (Is anyone else craving cake?!)

3. Barrel-chested. That is all.

4. The day the National Poet of Scotland called me stupid. Which I really should add to my resume.

5. My elementary school “boobies” moment.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

There are so, so many, but I feel like my Pilates FAIL and my Zumba BARF moments were pretty grand.

Top 5 “SRSLY?!” Moments

You know those moments. The ones that make you go, “what the fucking?!”

1. People and my tattoos. Why are people so weird about my tattoos?

2. That time a guy threw a book at my face. No big deal.

3. NO I DON’T WANT TO TAN.

4. Nothing says “what the fuck?” like getting pepper sprayed!

5. Also charming: when people tell you how to pronounce your own name

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

I have to give myself a shout out for fucking up my neck by making fun of someone on a Zumba DVD. Because who the fuck does that? This girl, right here.

But the greatest honourable mention in this category goes to Glasgow, Scotland, where I experienced so many WTF things, including…

Finding a tooth in an ATM.

Finding a used tampon on a bus.

And buses in general.

Among so many others. I fucking love you, Glasgow. I really do.

Top 5 Workplace Blunders

It’s a wonder I still have my job. It really is. It’s also a wonder I still have any self-confidence after all of the stupid humbling things that have happened to me at work…

1. My friends still bring up the day I parked on the sidewalk.

2. Also charming: locking yourself in a stairwell on your first day of work.

3. Or, you know, getting caught dancing in the bathroom.

4. Similarly, walking in on your coworkers in the bathroom.

5. Or traumatizing them with your hair colour.

BONUS PHOTO:

Getting caught taking a selfie at work.

Work selfie

At least I know my office mate loves me and doesn’t judge me.

Top 5 Relationship/Sex Fails

Look. I’d prefer we don’t dwell on how much I suck at relationships, okay? OKAY?!

1. I have been known to throw myself at guys I like.

2. I’ve learned the hard way that spin the bottle will only break your heart.

3. So will going after guys who don’t care that you exist. (But you can keep trying to shout “LOVE ME! LOOOOOVE MEEEE!” at them. Trust me. Guys SUPER love that.)

4. I’m good at ending up in awkward sex situations.

5. And awkward kissing situations, sometimes.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS AND A BONUS PHOTO:

Okay, well, first of all, heartbreak, right?

I think I also screwed it up with this guy, because he was clearly paying me a compliment.

Let’s not forget all of my failed marriages. Sigh.

And the time a MONSTER RASH ruined my potential Scottish boyfriend.

And hey, since I’ve already shown you how great I looked with hair extensions as an eyebrowless wonder, here’s a photo of me in the midst of the MONSTER RASH attack. This was after I managed to get my eyes open, because they were swollen shut.

Photo 130

Good lord…

Top 5 Accomplishments

I didn’t screw up everything, though. I’ve done some stuff. Yeah. I do things! I TCB every once in a while!

1. I’ve gotten over a lot of fear to become a Zumba instructor.

2. Then I stuck with it for a year and changed my life.

3. I grew back my eyebrows, guys. I fucking did it!

4. I got over some serious “I can’t!” bullshit and also tried wall climbing.

5. Oh, hey, I also learned how to embrace myself sometimes. I think that’s pretty huge.

HONOURABLE MENTION:

I BLOGGED EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR 365 FUCKING DAYS.

A year, guys. A YEAR.

I’m excited to celebrate my birthday with you all tomorrow.

xA

P.S. I know what you’re thinking. There totally should have been some sort of crazy travel category. But I just couldn’t narrow that shit down. So you’ll just have to re-read my entire blog to enjoy.

Two Hundred Sixty Seven.

Here’s my train of thought…

Speaking of getting lost in Belgium

+

You know how they say people in Paris are really rude?

Okay.

I’m here to tell you that all of the mean people “they” say live in Paris actually live in Charleroi.

(Sorry, Charleroi. Maybe you tried. Maybe this was an isolated incident. But it happened, so…)

Charleroi is a city in Belgium, fairly close to Brussels. One reason you might go there is that it is home to a small airport that hosts all of the cheap airlines.

Really, that’s the first warning sign. The airports that host all the cheap airlines are never awesome. Because it never pays to be broke. Or something. Was that deep? It’s the best I’ve got right now.

Anyway, that’s where we were heading after our trip to Belgium for New Year’s. We had to get up ridiculously early for our flight, because the train ride to get there was quite lengthy. But we were on top of it. We gave ourselves plenty of time. No problem.

SIDENOTE: Do I ever say “no problem” on this blog and not immediately discuss a problem? I’m so predictable. I’ll try to mix it up for my last 98 posts…

But it was a very cold winter in Belgium that year, so about halfway through our train journey, our train just stopped. I thought maybe we were changing tracks or waiting for a different train to pass us or something, so I didn’t panic. But after 15 minutes or so had gone by, my mom and I started to wonder. Eventually we were notified that the tracks were frozen.

Brilliant.

After over 30 minutes stopped on the tracks, we had no longer left ourselves enough time to get to the airport when we needed to. You see, the other joy of cheap airlines is they put all sorts of insane deadlines and rules on you. Like you have to check your bag like, two hours before your flight or you can’t check it at all. What the hell is that, right?

By the time we got to the airport, I believe we had something like 45 minutes until our flight was meant to take off. It’s not bad in the real, normal world, but at Charleroi, we were way late.

SIDENOTE: I’ve chosen to skip over how horribly rude everyone at the train station in Charleroi was to us. Because I’m still mad about it and don’t want to get worked up. Also, I’m writing this at work, and that’s not cool.

We hurried up to our check-in desk to see if they would still take our bags and let us on the flight.

“What do you want?” The lady at the desk was super nice.

“Our flight is at _____ and we got stuck on the train. Can we still check our bags? Is there any way?”

She looked at us for a few seconds.

And then she started laughing in our face.

And then she called over a co-worker, and – in French – told him “these idiots think they’re getting on flight ____!”

And then they both laughed at us.

“No, you’re way too late to get on that flight.” She scoffed.

“But it doesn’t take off for 45 minutes.”

“That’s too bad – you missed the time. You’ll need to come back in two or three days when the next flight to Glasgow takes place.”

SIDENOTE: Another joy of cheap-o airlines – very infrequent flights.

………

“Are you being serious? Our flight is still here. We haven’t missed it.”

“You’re too late!” She laughed.

Look, I could delve into my feelings about this, but sometimes I worry that I swear too much. So I’m going to leave it there.

We had to get the train back into Brussels and book a flight home with a different airline.

We eventually got home.

I will never forget the lesson I learned, though, because that shit is permanent: The bitches are at Charleroi airport.

xA

P.S. Lovely people from Charleroi, I apologize to you on behalf of your horrendous airport staff (and the horrendous people at your train station, too). Because I’m an overly nice Canadian.

Two Hundred Sixty Four.

I’ve noticed that in Toronto, like in many big cities, a lot of things are open late. The night before last, my brother, sister-in-law, and I just swung over to a grocery store quite late at night to buy limes.

It reminded me of the day a late-night fruit shop saved my life.

SIDENOTE: Okay, “saved my life” is a bit over the top, but once you read this, you’ll see what I mean. It could be more accurate than you think.

In 2009, I was living in Glasgow, and since I had just gotten there in September, I wasn’t financially prepared to fly all the way back to western Canada when Christmas and New Year’s came around. My family made a compromise, and it was decided that my mom would come visit me over the Christmas break. We spent a lovely, quiet Christmas in Glasgow, and then for New Year’s, I took my mom to a place she’d been wanting to see her whole life: Belgium.

Belgium was incredible. We had a fantastic time, and we were lucky enough to get to experience ringing in the New Year in the streets of Brussels, watching the fireworks from less than 100 feet away.

It felt like the entire city was there with us: thousands of people all gathered and celebrating.

And then we all had to get home. It was a bit of pandemonium trying to get onto the metro to our bed and breakfast, but we managed it, squishing into the metro car with way too many people.

But when we got off, we must have taken the wrong exit from the metro station.

20130707-111548.jpg
The streets of Brussels aren’t the easiest to navigate, mostly because none of then run in a straight line. They all bend around corners, twisting and turning into other streets. Sometimes, even just finding an intersection can be tricky.

We thought we knew where we were going, so we marched our way through the streets with great confidence. But then when we turned the corner expecting to find out bed and breakfast, it wasn’t there.

“I thought it was on this street.”

“Me too.”

“Okay, maybe let’s go one more block?”

We went one more block, then two, and in the process, we looped around and found ourselves back where we started. (Damn you, bendy streets.)

“What the hell?”

“How did that happen?”

“Okay, it’s definitely this way. Let’s go.”

15 minutes later, at the exact same spot.

“What is going on?”

“I want to get home. I’m exhausted.”

“We’ll get there,” my mom assured me, “It’s this way.”

Our pacing slowed. Maybe 20 minutes later, we were at the same spot. This time both of us were starting to freak out. We were tired and dehydrated, both of us had to pee, and our feet were starting to protest from all of the walking we had done that day.

Also, I was scared we would never find our bed and breakfast, so I started to get mad to compensate.

“I’m not doing this anymore. Where the fuck are we?! We need to get back NOW.”

SIDENOTE: Keep in mind that at this point, we had already rung in the New Year. It was well past 1am, closing in on 2am…

SPOILER ALERT: We were on the right street, but we were on the wrong side of the main road our street ran across. Mega Blerg.

We decided that we had to change routes. It was getting later and scarier, and we had walked by the same random dudes on the streets enough times for them to get that we were completely lost. I’m pretty sure I had cried at least once out of sheer frustration. Probably more like three or four times.

Instead of taking the same street, we chose not to turn right and walked straight.

And there it was.

A light.

Something just ahead of us was open.

Was it a mirage?

Fuck it, just get there!

A fruit shop.

At 1-something in the morning?

Who cares?!

We stumbled in like two stupid tourists who got off a tour bus too early and wandered around a desert for three days with no water or something. My mom turned on her French skills and asked for directions.

Hilariously, the couple who owned the fruit shop didn’t have much idea where the address we were trying to get to was, but they did suggest we cross over to the other side of the main road.

Less than 10 minutes later, we were home.

That was the day I learned a late-night shop can save your life.

And we didn’t even buy anything from them. What jerks.

xA

Two Hundred Two.

I’m not one for crowds.

On occasion, I’ll put up with crowds, like when my mom and I spent New Year’s Eve in Brussels and we stood, packed like sardines, watching the fireworks super close up, or when I did a 5K walk for breast cancer research with thousands of other people. But for the most part, I do what I can to avoid crowds. If I have to go to a mall (ugh!), I’ll go when I know it’s going to be quiet. If I go to a concert, I’d prefer to sit (I had my fill of mosh pits as a teen). And so on. Crowds make me feel claustrophobic and angry; I either start to hate everyone around me, or I start to panic. Or both.

But on November 5, 2009, I experienced a crowd like no other.

It was Guy Fawkes Day and I was in Glasgow. A few of my classmates and I met up and made the trek down to Glasgow Green for the fireworks and festivities.

The Glasgow Green area and the People's Palace.
The Glasgow Green area and the People’s Palace.

As we were walking over, it was busy, yes, but not overwhelmingly so. There were small groups of friends ahead of us and behind us. Nothing crazy.

The same goes for when the fireworks were actually happening. The Green was crowded, but there were lots of pockets of open space. My friends and I watched the fireworks, played with the sparklers we had brought along, and took lots of photos without anyone being in our way. It was a lot of fun to be a part of such a large celebration.

Then it ended and we had to walk back. That was when it got overwhelming.

Honestly, it felt like every person in Glasgow was walking along with us. We were squished between people, basically being herded along by the momentum. All of the streets were so full of people that you couldn’t see the asphalt, and there were cars stopped everywhere, encircled by the crowds. They honked, to no avail, of course. Every once in a while, you would hear or see a firecracker go off, or a couple people would run by, pushing through the hordes. There was yelling, singing, drunken arguing, and the occasional scream.

And there I was, caught in the middle, wondering how long it would be until I had some breathing room. Feeling like I was stuck in some sort of apocalyptic disaster. Worrying about pickpockets. And fire crackers. And getting run over by an angry, stuck vehicle with a driver who could, at any moment, decide enough is enough.

At that point, I learned something about myself.

Something very, very important.

If zombies ever happen, I would be more comfortable in a 28 Days Later situation:

28-days-later-original

than in a World War Z type situation:

World+War+Z+2

(Filmed in Glasgow, BTW.)

I’m a loner. I’ll wander by myself until I find a small, hopefully sane, group of people to restart the world with. Better than getting trampled by crazy panicking people.

Wait.

Unless the whole zombie apocalypse thing happens like Shaun of the Dead. Then I’ll take that.

And yourself?

xA

P.S. A zombie apocalypse would also be one of only a few reasons I could see myself choosing to spend a significant amount of time in a mall. Hmm.

One Hundred Thirty Two.

I want to tell you about the day my life became an episode of Friends.

My mom came to visit me for Christmas 2009 when I was living in Scotland, and since she had had a teenage dream of living in Antwerp, we decided to do something extra fun and spend New Year’s Eve in Belgium.

But first…

In the week or so leading up to my mom’s arrival, my kitchen fire alarm started to beep. It would usually happen when I was making dinner or making toast, so I would blame the extra steam/smoke in the kitchen and fan the alarm until it stopped.

Now, you have to know that fanning my alarm was a task in itself, because my beautiful flat had high ceilings – between 10-13 feet, I would say. So I would get a tea towel, stand on my tip toes, and flail around hoping for the best.

The beeping would usually stop and I would go on with my day.

But sometimes it would randomly beep at night when I wasn’t even near my kitchen. Sometimes it would beep once. Sometimes it would beep once every few minutes for an hour. I tried my best to ignore it, and it was so sporadic that it wasn’t really an issue – just an annoyance.

Also, I’m a bit of a freak about ladders – as in I don’t like to climb them unless I absolutely have to, so I decided there was no stopping the beeping for the time being.

Shortly after my mom arrived in Glasgow, we were awoken by the intermittent beeping. It was one of those is-that-sound-in-my-dream-or-in-real-life situations until it got annoying enough that I got up and realized it was my stupid kitchen fire alarm.

Being the truly awesome daughter that I am, I made my tiny mom climb the ladder my landlords had left in my closet to remove the battery from the alarm.

(She was cool with it; I didn’t like, force her up there.)

Wonderful. No more beeping.

Fast forward about a week. My mom and I had a lovely Christmas together, including a week or so of puppysitting my canine BFF, Audrey. It was somewhere around December 27, and we were preparing for our flight to Belgium. The flight was leaving EARLY, and we were departing from a regional airport outside of Glasgow, so we had to get up even earlier to allow for commuting time, etc., etc.

Right after we went to bed, we were awoken by a persistent beeping.

“What the fuck?” I said, crawling out of bed wearing a perma-scowl.

(I like to think I’m not grumpy about sleep until something wakes me up when I really want to be asleep. Then I can’t deny that I am a grumpy mf’er if you wake me up in the middle of the night for a stupid reason.)

It was the fire alarm in my living room this time.

I fanned it. It didn’t stop.

So, once again with the awesome daughter thing, I got my mom onto the ladder to examine the situation. She couldn’t figure out how to remove this one from the ceiling, so she jiggled it around a bit. The beeping stopped.

At this point, we had maybe three hours left to sleep before we had to get up to rush to the airport.

You know how when you have to be up stupid early, you think you’ll function at a normal human pace, but then when the time comes you’re all groggy and slow and complain-y, so things take a million times longer until you realize you should have actually given yourself like, an hour extra?

That’s what happened the next morning at 4:30am when we got up to get ready for our flight to Belgium.

And just as we were finishing our prep, THE FIRE ALARM STARTED BEEPING AGAIN.

My mom ran up the ladder, trying to jiggle it around some more. It stopped.

We started gathering our bags by my front door and the beeping started again.

“What is this, some kind of cruel joke?!” I exclaimed to the sky, sleep-deprived and rage-y.

I started to have visions (see: nightmare thoughts) of my stupid fire alarm going off while I was in Belgium and my neighbours like, calling the police or something, and then breaking into my flat to make the sound disturbance stop, and then of me coming home to Glasgow to find that all my shit had been stolen, or I had been fined an obscene amount of money or something.

“We have to make it stop.”

My mom did what any normal person would do in the situation: she yanked at the fire alarm until it ripped off the ceiling. Pieces broke off it. I didn’t care. We had to be at the airport. I threw the stupid fire alarm onto the kitchen counter and we took off.

That way, the only thing I had to be worried about while we were gone was my flat burning down and no one knowing. (Hilariously, something similar would happen to me just a few months down the road.)

Lessons learned:

(A) Life is often just like TV.

(B) Never ignore a persistent beeping.

(C) Shit always goes wrong when you don’t have time to deal with it.

xA

P.S. My mom and I almost missed our flight because we were in such an insane rush to get to the airport, and then we got a little bit held up at airport security. Why, you ask? Well, my mom set off the metal detectors, and while she was getting a pat down, the security officer found something stuck in the collar of her sweater.

A tiny metal coil, from the fire alarm she had ripped off my ceiling and broken less than an hour earlier.

“What is this?”

“What is tha–oh, that’s a funny story…”

Thank goodness we didn’t get arrested before we got to Belgium.

Beautiful canals in Bruges. Photo Copyright Andrea Beça.
Beautiful canals in Bruges. Photo Copyright Andrea Beça.

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