Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sylwester who???

One year ago, I was driving around Warsaw each day and trying to adjust. I'd only been here for a month. I was learning the roads and how to get around without getting myself killed on the streets. I couldn't remember any street names unless they were five letters long or less.

Tamka? Yes.

Jerozolimskie? No.

Solec? Yes.

Marszałkowska? Mickiewicza? No.

While trying to keep my eyes on the road, avoiding mad Polish drivers who routinely changed lanes a full two inches ahead of my front bumper and panicking about Polish drivers bearing down from the rear at 120 kph, I was distracted by the bazillions of billboards dotted all over the city.

Sylwester this, Sylwester that. Sylwester 2008!!

I pondered and wondered, and finally decided that, for New Year's Eve, there was going to be a Times Square type of midnight celebration somewhere, with (perhaps?) the famous Polish rock band, Sylwester, as the main draw. It mystified me, how this band could be playing in so many venues at once, since they were advertised up, down and all around town... but hey, Poles are so enterprising. Perhaps they'd worked something out via satellite transmission.

Imagine my surprise when I learned, weeks later, that Sylwester is the name-day saint for New Year's Eve. So any Sylwester event is a New Year's Eve event.

Duh! Chalk one up for stupiditude.

On the other hand, stupid is as stupid does. You'd think, after centuries of invasions and gunfire and ordnance explosions that the Poles would be sick and tired of the sound of igniting gunpowder. BUT YOU WOULD BE WRONG! Because from dawn yesterday, New Year's Eve morning, it was a constant barrage of noise. Firecrackers going off, screamers spinning up into the sky, cherry bombs exploding around the corner. From 9am. It sounded like a frackin' war zone for about 20 hours straight.

I mentioned this to a Polish guy at a New Year's Eve party last night, and he giggled hysterically and said, "Aha! But this is different! Is only one day of the year, not 365!" Ha ha, of course! Now I get it. I guess. Last year I lay awake in bed until about 2am, thinking that I was so happy not to be listening to gunfire (Jo'burg 2005). So I will acknowledge the Polish wisdom shared here -- "Yes, things could be worse. Far worse! So we're celebrating that things are only just as bad as they are!"

And how the Poles do celebrate. We went to a private party filled with champagne and fireworks and karaoke singing peeps -- mostly French and some Poles. As Mr. D said on the way home, "Thank God! Now I can tick that box: French karaoke singing. And the great thing is, I've met my lifetime quota in a single evening!" And then he said, "Hey, did you tell 'em about your blog??" and cackled wickedly. No and no. We never bite the hand that feeds us pours us lovely champagne.

I will say, nothing beats the sight of a passel of drunk-ish French bankers singing Abba's Money, Money, Money.

Yes, it's a rich man's world.

Happy New Year 2009, everyone!

Tomorrow, the winds of change will blow in (thanks to NaBloPoMo's theme, Change, for January). Thirty-one posts in thirty-one days, because of course expateek didn't learn her lesson after the torture fun of November's NaBloPoMo challenge.

And, because expateek has not yet shared her New Year's resolutions with anyone (mainly because they're not written down yet), she will endeavor to share her resolutions with you, beginning tomorrow, and illustrating her essays with photos of The Seven Deadly Socks of Sin. With grateful thanks to Marks & Spencer's men's department.

Ta ta for now.


Play therapy, septième édition

Oh, Dr. Owl! I had such a dreadful day yesterday.

Sit down. Sit down, expateek! Please. Calm yourself. Whatever is wrong?

Oh, Dr. Owl, everything was so strange yesterday. I felt so queer!

Go on...

Well, first of all, I was outside yesterday afternoon, and I saw the most beautiful woodpecker crashing about in the back of the garden. It was brilliant -- black and white, with scarlet feathers at its neck and tail. It seemed so strange.

Strange? And why is that, expateek?

Well, our neighbors have just returned from wherever it is that famous Polish movie directors go when they're filming on location, and they've filled up their bird-feeder, so there are jillions of birds of all kinds flitting around. It's all rather disconcerting. I'd been used to having no one around.

No one? Birds aren't people, you know, expateek.

I know, I know, Dr. Owl. Perhaps these therapy sessions have made me feel a bit inter-species-ally confused. Is that a word, Dr. Owl? Inter-species-ally?

I'm afraid not, expateek, but please, carry on.

Okay, well, I felt a bit desolate yesterday. Moving again. All the uncertainty. All the anger about moving countries every four-and-a-half minutes...

expateek, you're exaggerating again....

You're right. Every couple of years then. And then all the angst about le French boss of the bad news. And Satan's minions Human Resources.... So I was out on the balcony, sneaking a cigarette deep in thought, and then there was a massive, I mean massive flock of birds flying far overhead. It must have been five minutes of blackbirds streaming across the sky at sunset. Screeching, cawing, whatever the heck blackbirds do. It was unnerving. Beautiful, but unnerving.

Oh dear, expateek. You are feeling poorly. We birds do migrate, you know. It's totally normal.

Oh, I suppose. *sigh*

expateek, I think we should carry on with today's play therapy. Perhaps in this vulnerable mood, you'll be able to play more freely. More productively. We may be moving into a new phase. Would you like to begin?

Hmmmm. I guess so.


Ok, then...

Le French boss of the bad news is very happy.
He has traveled to California,
where he will be an on-set assistant
for the remake of Hitchcock's The Birds!

Good God, expateek! Are you sure you want to continue with this line of play therapy?

I know what I'm doing, Dr. Owl.

Le French boss of the bad news is
one of the animal handlers for the movie.
After all, he saw Pet Detective with Jim Carrey,
so he knows what's what.

Release the birds, collect the birds.

Feed the birds,
cover the birdcages with chamois drop-cloths at the end of each day's shooting.

Easy. C'est facile!
Especially for someone of his formidable intelligence.
Because after all, he is the most intelligent person in the whole world!
And of course, he is French!
What could possibly go wrong?

So he is caring for the birds. Many species of birds, in fact, because as you remember from the original movie, all sorts of birds mass together and combine forces to attack the townspeople of Bodega Bay. In fact, interpretation of the film is ambiguous, and people disagree as to whether this is a parable about Man v. Nature, or whether it is more of a Greek tragedy with Oedipal nuances. The most appealing theory is that the birds are a concrete reminder that life is ultimately precarious, arbitrary and absurd and quite possibly meaningless. The function of the birds is to remind us that control is an illusion and people who try to maintain that illusion are the ones hardest hit by the unpredictabilities of life.

So you're saying you have some control issues, expateek?

Without a doubt.
Anyway, le boss feeds the birds, he collects the birds.
He releases the birds.
He tells the birds charming little French fairy tales on the lunch break,
because he is so clever and so entertaining.
The birds gather round to hear his sweet tales.

But what is this?

He is trying to gather them back in the cages for the night.

They come closer and closer, and suddenly, hélas!

He has somehow tripped and is on the floor.

The birds swarm over him.

Hey!!! HEY! CUT!!!

Get that one out of here! No Holy Dove! C'mon, man, what were you thinking? Hey Joey, the Holy Dove is on the wrong set. Take him to Set Number Four. They're doing that flick with Mel Gibson about the Holy Land over there. Sheesh.

Okay, Roll It.... and ACTION!

The birds are pecking and pecking!

Stop! Please! Mon Dieu!

But please, I am your friend!

The beating and flapping of wings is so loud!

Louder than the beating of his own heart!

He is bleeding!

His eyes! His eyes!

He can no longer see. He cannot go on. His breath is shallow, shallower.

He gives a last sigh, and voilà. He is gone.

... And we've used up today's allotment of exclamation points.

That's all I got, Dr. Owl, whaddya think?

My God! Dr. Owl! Is that... blood on your beak?

What? What? What are you talking about???

It's countertransference, Dr. Owl! I don't know much about psychiatric theory, but I've read about this on Wikipedia. Dr. Owl!

No, no! NO, expateek! What could you possibly be thinking? Blood! My word! Your imagination has clearly overtaken your senses. I think we'd best finish up now. Perhaps Eugenia Yvette can find you a cold washcloth for your forehead. I think you're delirious. Gah! These hysterical women. All in a little snit about uprooting their households and moving their stuff. Please. The male South African weaver-bird rebuilds his nest over and over again in the space of just a few months. Get a grip, girlfriend! You don't know what suffering is!

Dr. Owl, I just... I don't know... I'm sorry!

That's enough, expateek. I'll see you tomorrow.

Oh Dr. Owl! I didn't mean it! I.. I ...

Goodbye, expateek! This session is over!

... God, that was a close one. I totally need a wee tot of Scotch!
It'll go down well after that delicious breast of clown.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Play therapy, sixième fois

Well, expateek, I'm so impressed you know your cardinal numbers
up to at least six in French.

Excuse me, Dr. Owl, but don't you mean ordinal numbers?
You know, numbers indicating the order that things are in? The sixth?

Of course, expateek! Cardinal. Ordinal.
You are a smart bird!

Please, Dr. Owl, it's too early in the morning for ornithological puns.
My breakfast is still settling.

Apparently someone got out of the wrong side of the nest today.

Oh for God's sake, Dr. Owl.
Who's the patient here?

You are! You are, expateek.
You must forgive me.
Sometimes my imagination just takes flight.

Jeebus, Martha, and Jehosephat.
I think I picked the wrong therapist.

No, no, no, expateek!
I promise. I'm done.
Let's pick up where we left off last time.
What's on your migratory map for today?

Dr. Owllllll....! I'm going to leave....

No. Seriously.
Please begin.
I'm all ears.
Did you know, by the way, that the ears of owls are placed asymmetrically
so they can more effectively triangulate using audial clues,
and thus more easily locate their prey in pitch darkness?
Ah, but I digress. Speak, my dear.

Fine, Dr. Owl! Today, we're off to Australia then! The Great Barrier Reef!

Le French boss of the bad news is so thrilled,
because he has always wanted to do some undersea exploring.
He is flying over 24 hours
to get to ze land down under, where ze women glow and ze men plunder.
Oh, The Eighties. Best songs ever!

But yes, le boss is going to go out on the ocean,
and then see everything under the sea,
just like his hero,
the famous Jacques Cousteau,
the best underwater explorer of all time.
Who, naturellement, was French.
Of course.

First, he must get into the submersible shark cage,

which will be locked shut,

and then he will be lowered into the sea.

So beautiful!

A familiar looking fish.

And these! Schools of lionfish.

Aren't they so beautiful? Poisonous but lovely.

As the cage settles on the ocean floor,
some animals come to meet this new guest from La France.

Starfish! Squid! Octopus!
Schools of brightly coloured fishes.

Perhaps they have all come to get some management tips
from le French boss of the bad news?
Ah, but he is not sharing these valuable tips.
Because, of course, these fish are not French!
Too bad for them.
It is sad, even these lovely creatures
can never be as wonderful as real French fish.
But never mind.
We must not dwell on the unlucky-ness of others.

Because here is the underwater predator
we have been waiting for!
Ze shark!

See how he comes sniffing about the edges of the shark cage.

But, oh no! What is this?

Some fool has left the cage latch unlocked!

The shark, with his sharp teeth and powerful jaws,
is lifting the top off the cage!

He is working his way into the cage!

Oh Mon Dieu! O non! It is not possible!

To come so far, halfway around the world,
only to be eaten by a shark!

Such a pity.
The crew on the boat try to help,
but there is nothing to be done.

Ah well. At least, no mess.
Sharks clean up so well after they eat.


Interesting, expateek. I notice, regarding the detail of the unlocked cage, that this could have been an accident, or perhaps it could have been done on purpose. Do you have any insights?



I mean, No, thank you, Dr. Owl.

That's better, expateek. Do you have anything else to add?

Why, thank you for asking, Dr. Owl! Yes, as a matter of fact, I do! I've once again added an informative moral for the upliftment (is that a word?) of our audience.

No, expateek, upliftment is not a word. But go on.

Okay, here goes!

If you want something done right...

Do it yourself.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Play therapy, cinquième fois

Good God, expateek. You're here again?

I thought I told Yvette to keep you the hell away from me
to book you in for later in the afternoon.
Oh well. You're here now.
I suppose we might as well get started.
What have you got for us today?

Well, Dr. Owl, I've been thinking. I'm feeling quite a bit better after all this play therapy. I think it may be having a positive effect. I'm much happier on a day-to-day, even moment-to-moment basis. I think perhaps I've worked out most of my latent patently obvious hostilities toward French executives, corporate politics, and the global financial crisis. I even feel a little more gracious about Satan's minions Human Resources staff. I think it's all coming together now.

In fact, Owl, I decided that since we're being relocated against our wishes so happily to America, that I'd get in the spirit of the thing and do some play work centered around an American theme.

Well, expateek. This is good news. Please, do tell. I'm all ears.

Ok, well...

Le French boss of the bad news is being rewarded for his cost-cutting and heads-a-rolling personnel policies with a fantastic Alaskan holiday! He's never been to America before, and certainly never to Alaska, home of zat sweet fox, Sarah Palin. Wowza. He is so aroused excited inspired by her sexy body provocative hairstyle and librarian's glasses brilliant mind. Phwoar. What a babe.

Perhaps he could even pick up some communication tips from this Ice-Princess of the North. After all, her speeches were so articulate. The interview with Katie Couric! Almost the same as his own brilliant memos out of Paris! A few confusions here and there, but for the most part, totally comprehensible if you already know what the message is meant to be.
Or if you have a very able interpreter at your side.

But sadly, sadly, he will not be able to visit the gorgeous hockey-mom of Wasilla, because The Company has arranged something even better for his entertainment. As if that's even possible, but whatever. He's not complaining, not about an all-expenses paid trip to North America.

It is a just reward for all the stress he's been through lately. It's not easy, you know, to reorganise a complex bureaucracy, to cut heads and to try to undermine the morale of all the non-French employees at the same time. Of course, those poor miserable sods, they cannot help this, that they are not French, and able to benefit from France's ridiculously self-protective labor laws culture and sophistication.

But again, tant pis. C'est la vie, as we love to say in la France.
Not all people on the planet can count themselves as members of such a superior race.

So yes, he will go fishing for the delicious salmon
that are so prevalent in the cold, clear streams of Alaska.

He will catch many big fish, take wonderful photographs,
and all his French executive buddies will be so so envious of his good fortune.

Please carry on, expateek.

Ummm, well. The French boss of the bad news takes a flight from Paris to Chicago, where he connects and flies to Anchorage, Alaska. A local Alaska Air flight brings him to the small outpost of Bethel. From here he flies on to Aniak, and he then hops into a small seaplane that takes him to his destination, a distant lake far out in the beautiful Alaskan wilderness.

Far from home, far from those kvetching underlings who are never satisfied with their miserable little lives. Here, he can forget about all those hundreds of Power Point presentations that he has requested to be ready for the 5th of January. Someone (or many "someone"s) will be working over the Christmas holidays, but it will not be him! He can put all this out of his mind, and relax.

Ahhhh. He gets out his fishing pole and settles in on the snowy bank. Smell that fresh air! The scent of pine! So invigorating after all the dog poo in Paris! Although some wild animals would be a nice change from those poxy little pooches in France. Yip yip yip. It's enough to drive one to absinthe, yes?

Look! He can see the salmon swimming in the clear water!

Quelle miracle! If he were to die on this very day, he could now die happy, after seeing such wondrous wild life. Of course, he will not die today, because he has those PowerPoint slides to look at after the holidays, but no matter! Today is a day to experience Nature.

Hah, yes. Fishing is wonderful, but it can sometimes be a bit boring.
Especially when you are the smartest human being on the planet,
with a brain so intelligent that no one can fully comprehend its brilliance.
Ah well.

Mmmm. So relaxing.

That's funny. I hear something.

What could it be?

A slight crunch of snow, a soft footfall in the powder?

No. Of course not! Imagination! Such a powerful thing, no?

Ha ha, is that you sneaking up behind me, Fishing Guide?
These Alaskans! Such pranksters!
I won't even be startled when...


Argggghhhhhhh!!! Aaaaiiiieeeeeeee!

Non! Please! S'il vous plait!
Mon Dieu, bears have such bad breath!



Oh for heaven's sake, expateek, you've done it again. Didn't we talk about homicidal fantasties? Didn't you say you were going to try to make an effort to work through your problems in a slightly different way today?

But Dr. Owl, I have made an adjustment. I have created a moral for the story. Don't you want to hear it?

Hmmm. I suppose. Go ahead, expateek.

Okay, well, here goes.

If you give a bear a fish, he eats for a day.

If you teach a bear to fish,

he eats for a lifetime.

Right, Dr. Owl?

Somehow, expateek, that seems slightly inappropriate and not particularly relevant. A bit of a reach, really. However, our time is up for today, so I guess we'll have to leave it there. I'll see you tomorrow at 11am.