Monday, May 28, 2007

The Strange Meanderings Of The Mind While Doing Housework

It´s another one of those catholic holidays here, and the first blissfully rainy day. Time to do all this tidbit stuff I´ve been happily and successfully trying to avoid.

One of those tidbit tasks was to flat iron a bunch of t-shirts. I don´t normally do this. In fact, a flat iron was one the household appliances it has been our utmost pleasure not to possess for the past couple of years. But, since we have started to sort out our lives, which among other things means getting all the stuff we have been dragging along with us, without actually needing it, on eBay, and since crumpled t-shirts make for lousy photo motives, which in turn makes it harder to get them sold, we got ourselves a travel flat iron. And today finally was the day to try it out.

Prior to ironing, I had to dust the table on which I was going to get those t-shirts unwrinkled. The table was undusted in about 20 seconds. After that, I decided that while I was at it, I might as well wipe over the window frames with the cloth. Hadn´t done that for a while, so after I´d started, I noticed that the window frame needed some more in-depth treatment. So I decided to go for it and got the proper agent for cleaning windows and window frames. The window, as I´d noticed in the process, was also in desperate need for some cleaning, as it looked as if it was about to go blind. I don´t even remember when I´d cleaned it for the last time (that is, not how many months ago, but how many years ago - call me a slob, if you want!).

Anyway, after the first window was done, I decided I´d do the second one in the main room as well. Our windows are wonderfully large, which makes for light-flooded rooms. On the other hand, it takes a while to clean them, especially when a lot of dust and rain has been going down on them from the outside, not to mention the amounts of nicotine on the inside (I´ll spare you the gory details here!).

The first window I´d treated faces the balcony, so no need for high anxiety there. I´d be falling down half a meter (or about two feet) at the max. However, that second window is always a bit of a challenge, since we live in the fourth floor, and that one goes out to the street, leaving only a thin line, or, in this case, a mosquito net between life and death, should I lose my balance and decide to lose it to the wrong side, which I never do, but, you know, it could just happen.

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When your number´s up, it´s up, as it says in Final Destination (the wrong movie to watch prior to engaging in a dangerous task like taking a shower, or cleaning a window facing an abyss, or using a flat iron). As you can see from the fact that I survived to compose this blog entry, I managed to not trip and fall, and actually, the window cleaning turned out to be a pretty satisfying task. Much as I loathe this cleaning and clearing up work, when I finally force myself to get the essentials done, I find that they make for quick rewards - you actually see what you´ve been doing instantly.

After which, of course, I was left with this heap of t-shirts and a travel flat iron with which I had to familiarize myself with first by reading through the instructions, just to make sure I knew which button was which, and I´d fill the water into the correct spot, and would not electrocute myself, or set the house on fire. Or any of those precious t-shirts.

That turned out to be a minor challenge as well, and after a while, I found myself happily ironing away, letting my thoughts wander. Housework, as rarely as I do it, is great for this kind of getting lost in thought. My thoughts tend to take entirely different turns from when I am running. Running is great for getting entire books written (in my head, anyway), and for getting ready for the challenges of the day. Steam ...

But this dream of steam had my thoughts wander off, first towards Gianna Nannini, and how much I love Italy. This set off an entirely different set of thoughts, taking me back some 20 years to when I was travelling to Vancouver. I was staying at the youth hostel for a couple of days and had just bumped into a Canadian again whom I´d met some weeks earlier on at another youth hostel in Calgary, and with whom I´d spent some time hiking in the Canadian Rockies.

We´d had a couple of one night stands (nothing more, and that was entirely fine), but I was sort of second choice to an Australian girl (who was far mor "girlish" than I´ve ever been), and I didn´t particularly like that. Anyway, so one evening in Vancouver, after bumping into me, he´d found that Australian girl as well, and he explained to me why and how he had to absolutely go and see her now, because she was leaving, and I was going to be around for a couple of more days, and so on.

Of course, there was absolutely no reason why I should have been jealous. After all, all we´d had was some fun together, and it was clear that, after I´d be leaving Vancouver at the latest, we would never ever see each other again. But I just hated to feel like a substitute, like an Ersatz woman. So I got really, really cross. And after getting really, really cross, I got really, really drunk. All by myself (ain´t that sad? Oh, c´mon, I´m throwing a round of hankies - or kleenexes - here for all of you! SNIFF!)

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When I´d stumbled back to the youth hostel, there were a bunch of French Canadians from Québec, sitting and smoking on the doorsteps. I joined them and we started talking, and I finally ended up hugging each and every one of them, drunkenly declaring, "Oh, j´aime les Québécois!" Which was very true. I´d been travelling Eastern Canada some weeks before I made it out west, and before that, I´d spent two terms at Ottawa University studying, and I´d met quite a few Québécois; my school French, of course, failed me miserably at first (eh, the accent is something you have to get used to, and anyway, my French is lousy, at best).

So. When I´d sobered up the next day, I discovered that life was going on, and it was great! Apart from the fact that I´d done something really embarrassing and stupid the night before. In my completely drunken state, I´d been calling the parents of a friend from Ottawa U who was living not far from Vancouver, and whom I was going to meet and go hiking with later.

I had been audibly drunk, and it had been in the middle of the night. His parents were Mennonites, and strict teetotalers, and I´d probably rang them out of bed. My friend wasn´t there at that point. He was on a hiking trip but, his mother assured me, he´d be calling me as soon as he´d get back, which was going to be a day or two later.

I really cursed myself (what had I been thinking? Nottin´!) and vowed, once more, to never touch alcohol ever again. Nevertheless, the day was great. There was a folk festival right outside the lawn of the youth hostel. There was no admission fee, the music was great, and so was the atmosphere. It was kind of a Canadian version of Woodstock (not that I´ve actually been to the latter - I´m not quite that old!): Orderly and well-behaved, but still fun.

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This was the first time I actually saw North American women with hairy legs! Wow! The really hippie-kind, granny glasses, long, flowing dresses, barefeet! (And, of course, lots of non-tobacco smoke stuff filling the air.) I was amazed, having started to shave myself as part of my Canadian socialization. Actually, at one point I´d simply been sick and tired of being spotted as a German miles off just because of that fur on my legs, which was the real reason why I´d started shaving.

By the way, so as to avoid any possible misunderstandings, and to clear up with a still widely held prejudice: Nowadays, there aren´t too many women in Germany who don´t shave (not only legs, but also armpits), and if you do come across them, they´re likely to be elderly and/or country women.

My friend actually called me back the next day at the youth hostel. He told me he wasn´t going to go into any depths about my nightly phonecall to his parents. Neither did his parents. They offered me a warm welcome and a stay at their place full of hospitality, even though they probably found me a bit spooky. We had a couple of really great days hiking in Manley Park, and in the hills around Vancouver, before I headed back to Eastern Canada.

Isn´t it amazing what strange meanderings of thought a little bit of housework can evoke?

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But now it´s time I got back to work and ready myself for this coming week.

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