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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.

One Hundred Fifty Three.

I got a phone call  from the University of Glasgow yesterday afternoon. They call me once or twice a year to check in, and sometimes to ask for donations, which I try to give when I can. The girl I spoke to yesterday was incredibly sweet, and we had a great chat about my master’s degree, and about Glasgow in general.

“How did you like living in Glasgow?” She asked.

“I loved every second,” I replied with zero hesitation, “I still miss it every single day.”

And it’s 100% true, but it also got me thinking about the very first time I visited Glasgow, and how different my opinion was back then.

Glasgow.
Glasgow.

My very first trip to the UK and Ireland was back in 2006. You may remember this trip from stories like the time I almost starved to death* in Limerick, the day I learned that I have a spiritual connection to peacocks, or the day I STOLE FROM A CHURCH. (That one goes in all caps because I still feel weird about it.)

Anyway, when it came to Scotland, I was most focused on two places: Edinburgh and Loch Ness (obviously).

Edinburgh.
Edinburgh.

To be entirely honest, I’m not sure why I wasn’t so keen on Glasgow. I think it was mostly from the guidebooks that said it’s a much more working-class town, and that it was known for more crime, etc. It’s weird, though, because I’ve been a Scottish literature devotee since I was a teen, and a lot of the books I love most are set in Glasgow and/or written by Glaswegians.**

I was a stupid 19-year-old. I don’t remember what I was thinking. Let’s skip me trying to come up with a nice explanation…

I spent a big chunk of time in Edinburgh – about 8-10 days, if I’m not mistaken. It’s a beautiful city, with lovely architecture and a huge tourism industry. I could have kept myself busy forever exploring all of the closes and wynds and just wandering around. But I thought I had better go to Glasgow for at least a quick visit, just to see it. So I devoted a day to it and I hopped on a bus.

You know how when a city is brand new and you have no idea where you’re going, it looks entirely different to you? And then you get used to it and everything changes? When I think of Glasgow now, I can picture the entire layout of the city, complete with the various neighbourhoods I lived in/frequented, and some of the surrounding areas. When I think of Glasgow now, I think of it as home.

When I think of Glasgow in 2006, though, it doesn’t even match up with the real Glasgow. I remember how things seemed to looked back then, and I can’t even place them within the city. I remember certain streets and touristic spots I stopped at, and they don’t even look the same in my 2006 memory as in real life. Does that make sense? It’s weird, I know.

All you really need to know is that my first trip to Glasgow was doomed. I got off the bus and couldn’t find my way to George Square (which makes me laugh now, because I was just down the fucking street from it). When I finally got onto my hop-on-hop-off bus tour, I thought Glasgow looked kind of “dingy,” and then at my first stop, I made the mistake of getting something to eat. I think I was at a restaurant attached to St. Mungo’s or something, and I ordered a plain baked potato – one of the only things that seemed to be vegan. Only the “plain” baked potato must have still had butter on it…

I spent the remainder of my day in Glasgow sick. I managed to get back onto the bus, but had to run from the bus to the Museum of Transport (then located across from the Kelvingrove) so that I could go be sick in the public bathrooms.

Glamorous.

And that’s basically what I remember.

That and being so glad to get back to the safety of my B&B in Edinburgh. And trying not to think about Glasgow again, lest I feel a pang of potato-induced nausea.

And then years later, I would move there and fall in love.

And then I would learn that first impressions of a city are not always accurate.

(So maybe I should give my lukewarm opinion of Geneva another chance some day.***)

xA

*I was nowhere near actual starvation, but it sure did suck.

**Those Glaswegians (and Scots in general) know how to write.

***I mean no offense, Geneva! It’s not you, it’s definitely me.

One Hundred Thirty Seven.

You know, I really should go back to Geneva one day, because I feel like I just had weird luck while I was there. First I got really lost and found myself almost completely unable to communicate with anyone.

Then I feel like I almost got kidnapped by a giant chess player.

A what?

Yeah, that’s totally the reaction I wanted.

Okay, so I was wandering around Geneva during my visit, taking photos and getting a feel for the city, when I came across this cool park:

Neat! Photo Copyright Andrea Beça.
Neat! Photo Copyright Andrea Beça.

It was near the main theatre/opera house, and when I saw it, it reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, so I hurried to see what was going on.

It was totally enchanting. And don’t even get me started on the gorgeous colours. I got lost in the moment and started taking tons of photos.

“Hey – adkjdhaskgdajhdwjugfeyvfbbkajbakxzzhUKGEVASHGhbkbqwudbakjda.”

That was French, spoken too quickly for me to catch any of it. But I could glean from tone and hand gestures that the Giant Chess Player speaking to me was curious as to why I was taking photos. I tried to mime to him that I was just photographing the game pieces, and not their faces or anything.

Because come on, it was so cool. Photo Copyright Andrea Beça.
Because come on, it was so cool. Photo Copyright Andrea Beça.

“Uh, no, it’s – the game – je ne parle pas Français – pardon…er – ” I started to walk away.

“No, no!” shouted the Giant Chess Player, “You can – eh – watch? The game? You watch, that’s fine.”

“Okay, thanks.”

And then I felt obligated to stay and watch the whole thing. Now, as I’ve said before, I can understand quite a bit of French (when it’s being spoken at a reasonable pace), so while I stood there, I listened to the Giant Chess Player’s friends egg him on about a girl watching his game. They started calling me ‘Oiseau’ because of the bird tattoo on my neck, and then there was some word play I didn’t catch, but it sounded saucy. It made me a little nervous.

When the game ended, I smiled and waved and started to leave the park.

“Hey – wait! Wait!” The Giant Chess Player was after me again.

I stopped to look at him. His friends laughed and made comments. I felt nervous again. The Giant Chess Player straightened his tweed blazer and reached out to touch my arm.

“Eh – I would like to take you for a walk maybe? Around the park – if you like?”

(My internal thoughts: STRANGER DANGER!)

“Oh, I have to get going – my friend is waiting for me!”

(For the record, my “friend” was my BFF Margaret – and at the time, she was in Morocco with her boyfriend, Tim.)

“Please, come – we will – eh – walk? Together? I would very much like to – er – spend time with you?”

“That’s very nice of you, but I can’t. I’m sorry! My friend, she’s waiting. I have to go now.”

“Can I take your number? I would very much like to take you out – er – later? Maybe this evening?”

The Giant Chess Player was getting pushy. But he was very kind.

I assessed the situation.

I was in Geneva – a city I wasn’t having much luck in – and I was by myself. I considered the logistics of telling Margaret that I was going on a date and making her call me later to check in. I considered telling her to call the police if she didn’t hear back from me by a set time tonight.

Then I realized I was thinking about what my friend would have to do if I were kidnapped and/or murdered in a foreign country and I thought, “Hmm, better not.”

What followed was an extremely long conversation, in which I tried to convince the Giant Chess Player that my phone didn’t work in Geneva, so I had no number to give him, and that I really had to go because my friend was waiting for me, and we were leaving Geneva the following day for our next trip. He asked where I was headed, and when I told him (WHY DID I TELL HIM?!) he suggested we meet up in Portugal in a couple weeks. He said he could come find me, and maybe meet my family.

That’s weird, right? I don’t think it’s just me. I think that’s weird.

The Giant Chess Player was getting very pushy, and I was getting very uncomfortable. I finally got him to leave me alone by accepting his phone number and promising – PROMISING – to call him that night.

When I left, he followed me down the street for a while. Then someone he knew called his name and he reluctantly took off in the other direction down the street.

I never called.

That was the day I learned that maybe my paranoia is the reason I don’t tend to meet many people while I’m travelling, but with my track record, it’s best to trust my instincts.

xA

P.S. Maybe the Giant Chess Player was a really nice guy, but he wanted to meet my family after knowing me for less than an hour. That’s way too much for me.

One Hundred Thirty One.

I try to never make assumptions when I’m travelling to new places. I like to do a lot of research so that I know what I’m getting into, but I don’t want to colour my experience by thinking I know what a place will be like.

But sometimes you just do and you get it wrong.

After I finished my master’s degree in Glasgow, I took advantage of my proximity to, well, to a lot of places, and I did as much travelling as I could afford. My BFF Mags, her boyfriend Tim and I went to Paris together, and then we split up and did some travel on our own before meeting up again in Lisbon, where I spent a good chunk of time with family.

When we split up, I went to Amsterdam and Geneva by myself.

Geneva, as I’m sure you know, is the home of the United Nations:

Cool! Photo Copyright Andrea Beça.
Cool! Photo Copyright Andrea Beça.

From what I read, a lot of people speak English in Geneva.

At least I think I read that. But maybe I just assumed.

Because from my experience, almost no one speaks English in Geneva.

I was basically lost from the time my plane landed. Having done enough solo travel, I found my way to the bus that supposedly went into town, but with absolutely no knowledge of the city or its layout, I had no idea when to get off the bus.

I tried to ask the bus driver. He just shook his head at me and pointed for me to sit down again.

Here’s the thing: I’m Canadian. I have a pretty extensive French vocabulary just from living in Canada ad absorbing words here and there, but I only took French in school until halfway through grade four when I switched schools, because my new school didn’t offer a second language at the time. I speak Portuguese and Spanish, and a little bit of Italian, so I understand a lot of French, but I can’t speak much back. And unfortunately, I definitely don’t know how to form questions in French. I know “ou est” means “where is” and that’s about that.

So I sat on the bus and wondered what the heck I was gonna do.

After a long, long time, I started to wonder if somehow we had driven all the way through Geneva and I was going to relive my wonderful (see: frustrating as hell) bus misadventure in Glasgow. So I panicked and I got off the bus.

Another assumption I made about Geneva is that because it’s in Switzerland, which is insanely expensive, it would be beautiful and impeccable and clean like Sweden, which is also insanely expensive.

Don’t get me wrong, Geneva has a lot of gorgeous areas within the city, like this one:

Adorable! Photo Copyright Andrea Beça.
Adorable! Photo Copyright Andrea Beça.

But it’s also an old European city, so it has a lot of areas that have that old, gritty European feel. Which I totally dig, but when I’m lost and worried, old and gritty also makes me nervous.

My nerves were calmed by the fact that Geneva’s crime rate is like, 0%. (No, really.)

I wandered around, looking for someone to ask for directions. No one I encountered spoke even a word of English, and my poor French was getting me nowhere.

(In all fairness, if someone said, “Ou est….this!” and pointed to a random address on a piece of paper, I would feel inclined to ignore them, too. I probably wouldn’t, but I’d want to.)

Finally, I met a lady who said “non” to English, but in French asked me if I spoke any other languages. “Italiano?” She asked, perhaps seeing something in my features that looked Mediterranean.

“YES!” I shouted back in English. (Oops.)

On that trip, I got more assistance in Italian and Portuguese (thank goodness for Brazilians, who seem to be all over the world!) than I did in English or French.

Lessons learned:

(A) Never assume the UN = English speakers.

(B) I really should work on my French skills.

(C) Geneva is COLD in October. Like, COLD COLD.*

xA

*Random, but important!

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