Mrs. Grinch

* It’s that time, Christmas time is here
Everybody knows there’s not a better time of year
Hear that sleigh, Santa’s on his way
Hip, Hip Hooray, for Christmas Vacation*

Writing Saturday morning December 24th, 2016.
I wake up in a children’s bed in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Celine had let me borrow her niece’s bed for my first Canadian night. I rub the dream crusts out of my eyes, scratch the poor ol’ gulliver and take a look outside the window.

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Behold a wonderful white deck of fresh snow. The white Christmas I was dreaming of.

Tonight’s my very first American Christmas and I feel super charged. Rumor has it we’re celebrating in Mono Mill, a town a little over an hour away. We’re expected at the Christmas dinner table of Stephanie’s (Celine’s sister) in-laws. And since the place is so far away we’re taking our sleeping gear with us to spend the night all together. And spend another Christmas day filled with food and candies the day after!

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(I love my candies)

So at about 4 pm, after spending the entire afternoon in our onesies watching ‘The Polar Express’ we start to get ready to take the drive up to the North Pole. Err, I mean Mono Mill.

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All aboard!

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Counting: Celine, Celine’s three sons, Celine’s husband, Celine’s dad, Celine’s sister, her husband, her two kids and Kevin, ahm, I mean me 🙂

Just before we got out of the house and into the car I had a chance to Skype my parents and wish my family back in Belgium a Merry Christmas. They were already rounding up their Christmas celebrations. Having dessert. Unwrapping presents. Topped with some annual good old drama.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family but every year for Christmas there’s always a little bit of tension going on. I guess that’s what happens when you have a bunch of different minds and characters crammed into one space together. I was looking forward to a drama-free Christmas and checked with Celine in advance if her family usually has a lot of dramas this time of year.

Celine: “No, we don’t. But this year is a little different since we’re invited over to spend Christmas with my sister’s in-laws. There will be some neighbors and other people I’ve never met before.”

Me: “I see…”

Either way, I was feeling pretty good about it. And I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that Canadian turkey! Gobble gobble!

Too bad it exploded the day before…

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Just kidding.

A firm hour and a pair of numb butt cheeks later, we arrive at Casa Christmas! The place is beautiful. And huge! We’re sleeping over with 15 people and there will be a total of 20 something people coming over to have dinner. Inside the house is decorated with wooden floors, a big American kitchen, christmas lights and a stunning tree. I feel at home right away! Especially since Leona and Carl, who were hosting, were such nice and welcoming people.

Leona and Carl: “Say, you’re not Chinese.”

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Me: “Ahm…no I’m not…”

Leona and Carl: “Well we thought you would have been since we heard Celine had met you in China. How funny we just assumed, right!”

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Me: “Hilarious :-)”

Carl: “So where are you from then?”

Me: “I live in Belgium.”

Carl: “Belgium hey? Well sit down I’ll get you some Canadian brew.”

Waw, what a lovely home. I was just about to print out some adoption papers to slip under these people’s noses later tonight when all of a sudden the door bell rings.

Leona: “Oh hi-de-ho neighbors come on in!”

It was a woman of around 60 with her two daughters and her husband coming through the front door. They looked like a lovely family. No drama hazard here!

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*Hip hip hooray for Christmas vacation*

I hopped over to go meet them and shake their hand when I suddenly came across a fifth person entering with the bunch.

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Grandmother Margaret.

Better known as ‘Marg’. A 5 foot 8 dame that has been walking this planet for 81 years straight. Unlike her daughter Debbie she doesn’t live next door but in an apartment in Toronto. She just tagged along for the occasion.

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Marg and her daughter Debbie checking out the hors d’oeuvres.

Her fingers were incredibly long and lean, I noticed, when she came over to shake everybody’s hand.

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When she arrived over to where I was seated -minding my own business, quietly enjoying my Canadian brew- she hunched over to me, sniffed up my perfume, looked me straight in the eye and asked:

“And who might you be dear?”

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Me: “Err, my name is Evelien. I’m Celine’s adopted Chinese daughter…*grin grin*”

Marg: “A smarty mouth hey?”

Me: “No, ma’am. I’m just visiting from Belgium. I come in peace.”

She didn’t bother to go into the conversation any deeper and continued her stroll around the house.

Marg: “Thank you for having me Leona, …

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Leona: “Oh no problem dear. What can I get you to drink?”

Marg: “You know my drink. Rye with ginger ale and water.”

Leona: “Coming right up!”

I was amazed by this woman. She was turning 82 next week but she was walking around the house as if she was the Queen B. She had this super intense aura over her and -by the looks of it- enjoyed male attention very much. Except for that of her son in law. You could tell she hated his guts. When he accidentally knocked over a cup of coffee, her eyes shot laser beams.

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Apparently he had always let her walk all over him and never managed to get rid of her bullying since. He was whipped.

Marg: “So have they got houses like this where you come from, Evelien?”

I was a little offended by her asking me a question like that. As if I came from some hillbilly country where we live in containers. But I guess she was just looking for a fresh and spineless fiddle to fiddle. I wouldn’t let her tickle my nerves that easy. She likes to provoke people and make them feel uncomfortable in her presence. I looked through her game straight away. Heck, I invented that game.

Me: “Yeah we have houses. We build houses like crazy.”

Marg: “So what brings you to Canada for Christmas, you don’t have a family?”

Me: “Well, I’m not an orphan. My family’s at home celebrating Christmas right now. It’s ok, they understand I have places to see, people to meet. We did our Christmas dinner a week earlier.”

Marg: “So you travel a lot hey?

Me: “Yes ma’am.”

Marg: “So what do you do? In life? What do you do?”

Me: “Well …. (I decided not to give her the long story about me taking a gap year and all. I just send her off with the short summary)”

Marg: “Oh you write for the paper? Do you have any kids? A man in your life? So you have nothing hey?”

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Marg sure was testing the waters there.

Me: “Nope, I’m a free bird”, I replied with a straight face.

Marg: “Hahaha, free bird hey? Good for you. I’m gonna go smoke a cigarette. Anyone who feels like joining me, I’ll be in the barn.”

I don’t know what it was that got me all worked up but I felt a tantrum coming up and I was aiming for the snack bowl.

I have nothing? That’s not true. I have a lot. It’s just not a house. Or a husband. A pension fund. A hospitalization insurance or a presently well defined job for that matter.

Next time when I meet people and they ask me what I do, imma be straight up and say:

“I’m a 28 year old kid in the middle of an existential crisis walking around with monopoly money bluffing her way through town hoping she will make it at the end of the ride. I’m freaking Peter Pan and all I want for Christmas is for Tinkerbell to light my path and to hang out with the Lost Boys.”

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Bangarang there’s room for at least one girl!

Marg: “So is this free life working for you?”

Me: “Sure…” (liar, liar pants on fire!!)

Marg: “Do you want a husband and kids?”

Me: “I don’t know… Maybe one day.” (stupid Grinch, give me my Christmas back!)

Marg: “How old are you if you don’t mind me asking?”

Me: “28” (Going on 92) 

Marg: “Oh, you’re a baby! The best is yet to come.”

Me: “Yeah right. Not to be rude or anything Mrs. Grinch -err- Margaret, but I feel the best has already been had. I’ve had the settled life, the career life, I was a question at the annual quiz of my birth town in 2015, … Honestly I feel I had all the cards dealt to me once and I royal flushed them all down the toilet. It’s all downhill from here.”

Celine: “Stop it! If you think that, then that’s what you’re gonna get!”

Marg: “Just ask yourself a basic question: what do you want?”

Me: “In life?”

Marg: “Yeah, in life, what else?”

Me: “… I don’t know. I don’t know what I want… Do I even have to have a destination in mind? If you live in the now isn’t that the worst thing you could do?”

Celine: “Well you have to let the universe know what you want in order to get it.”

Me:

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(Getting my chinese rude on)

“Is the universe really concerned about me getting what I want? Why would it give a rat’s ass? Do you really think the universe wants us to have a nice Christmas Eve together? Earn a lot of money? Build a lot of houses? Do you really think the universe cares?”

Marg: “Were you traumatized as a kid or something?”

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Me: “No, I just question my entire existence a lot. It doesn’t make sense to me why we’re here. It doesn’t make sense to me that we are born into this world that destroys oneself with war and terrorism, it doesn’t make sense to me that we are born into this system that expects us to clean up other people’s shit all day just so we can have a comfortable old age. It doesn’t.”

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Marg: “Your life is just beginning. Believe me. Take it from someone who has lived a long one: live in the now. Enjoy your life now. Before you know it you’ll be walking in the mall looking at your reflection in the mirror wondering who that old woman is. Life has its ups and downs. You will have bad breaks and disappointments, but don’t give up on life. Live it. There are wonderful things coming. Things you will want to work and live hard for. So live.”

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Bangarang! When did Mrs. Grinch turn into Wendy Darling?

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The Grinch was right. Or maybe it was the bottle of rye inside her blood that was right. I definitely want to live and work hard for the things I love. Traveling the world to discover all there is to know about life. Picking up stones and discovering what lies under them. Looking into mirrors and understanding everything there is to be seen in them. And one day I would love to love again. Deeply. Profoundly.

My wandering thoughts were interrupted with a deep grunt of discontent =>

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Marg: “Well it’s already past my bedtime. Son in law! Haul the truck we’re leaving.”

As she was waggling towards the cloakroom to get her coat, I ran in behind her.

Me: “Marg, wait!”

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“…Do you have like an email address or something?”

Marg: “Me…? What, you want to send me an email?”

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Me: “Well I would very much like for us to stay in touch. I didn’t think it straight from the beginning but… I think you kinda rock.”

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Marg: “Well *cough* I, ahm, I ….”

I think I had just made the Grinch blush.

… Before she turned into her old sassy self again.

Marg: “Well I can’t email on Tuesdays….

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… But I would love to stay in touch.”

She scribbled her email address on a napkin and handed it over to me with eyes as soft as velvet.

Marg: “You are a truly gorgeous girl and you will have your ball. Just never give up on that.”

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(Enter narrator’s voice:)

It was the night the Grinch stole Christmas.

And returned it the same day. 

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*Merry (belated) Christmas to every single one of you*

XO

Read all about me arriving in Toronto, visiting Niagara Falls and smoking the christmas tree next time on the blog. Gobble gobble!

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Jingle bells, the game of life smells

I did it again.

Just like your world-class villain,

I fled the country.

I wasn’t planning on jumping on a plane. I was thinking about going to the forest just a two hour drive away and rent a cottage there to do some reminiscing.

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Well, I am in a foresty area. Just not a two hour drive away but more like 3.743 miles away.

I’m currently in the land of the maple tree, the birth town of Justin Bieber and Jim Carrey, a place wear I can wear jeans on jeans and watch lumber jacks in checkered shirts all day. I’m talking ‘aboet‘:

CAN-A-DA!

… CANA-DA! …

… CA-NA-DA!

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You guys all know I took a 2016 gap year to travel and widen my horizons. Well, my break year is almost coming to an end now. Starting February 2017 I have to get back to work in some form or way. And since I have not yet got the faintest idea of what I want to do with my life, I felt I should go looking for answers once again.

Australia, China an Japan provided me with a lot of insights but I was still not clear on a couple of things. So I decided to go west this time. And visit that other part of this globe in order to make the circle round and my world trip complete. Just in time for the new year. And just in time for US citizens to flee from Trump’s presidency and shit all over the canadian heritage.

It isn’t only a good thing for me. My room mate is happy to have me out of the house for a couple of weeks. The people at the café don’t have to drink crappy cappuccinos any more and you get to read about another exciting adventure. Everybody gains!

You: “I think I can speak for all of us when I say we are glad we don’t have to read any more fake interviews with yourself.”

Me: “You’re absolutely right. It must be hard to cope with the fact I actually get interviewed and you don’t.”

Anyway. After a little more than three months of being back in Belgium, I really needed to get away again. I felt like the walls were coming at me. I felt the stress of the deadline strangling me. And worse: I was starting to lose my Kung Fu zen.

Ok, catch the joke:

I was borderline burnout when I left for Australia at the beginning of this year, right? Well, compared to where I am now, I was a freaking optimist back then! The girl that strongly believed everything happens for a reason, who believes in destiny and destination, who romanticizes everything and everyone, has suffered one too many letdowns on her quest. On top of that: her days of working as a bar maid injected her with a shot of realism and she started to throw all her beliefs overboard. Everything she fought and travelled for. She was tired of fighting against the prejudice of others. Just about ready to surrender to safe mediocrity, just so everybody would stop giving her a hard time about how to live her life.

I couldn’t let that happen. I needed to get the faith back.

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Damn right Georgie ❤

So Friday the 23rd I jumped on the plane to Toronto, Lester B. Pearson International Airport. To fly right into the arms of Celine. My Canadian room mate I met in the Kung Fu school in China and with whom I spent one of my best times with this year. She is my spirit animal and thought me not to hope, but trust. Trust in yourself. Trust in the universe. Trust in a happy end. She is incredibly centered and always has a way of dealing with life graciously.

She picked me up at the airport and stayed at her sister’s place in Guelph, Ontario to spend the day before Christmas with them. It felt great to be smothered and welcomed by such a warm family. It was as if I was being cradled like a baby. Being fed candy canes and chocolate.

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Celine’s sister: “So Celine tells me you’re a writer.”

Me: “Yeah, I’ve been working as a newspaper reporter for over half a decade. I started as a showbizz journo attending all these events and red carpets. Then I got promoted. Then I got promoted again. And again and again and that’s when I decided to quit my job for a year.”

By the look of her face, it seemed as if I had just thrown an amazing turkey sandwich with a moist maker in the trash.

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I know it’s impossible for a lot of people to understand. Heck, I don’t understand myself most of the time either. All I know is: the balance was off, the formula didn’t work and now I’m looking for the right balance in order to live a happy and fulfilling life molded to my terms and needs.

And that comes with a lot of trial and error. And with a lot of doubt. I am constantly in doubt. I’m constantly doubting what I want. Even after a year of unplugging and reconnecting with myself.

I don’t know why it’s so hard for me but I feel I want way too much out of this life. I have too much attention for everything going on around me and question everything that goes on around me. I’m on life’s ass with a magnifying glass. I just wish I could shut up my brain for five seconds and just chose a life and stick with it. Be happy with a job I’m good at. Get rid of all this worrying and just find a balance. I know my previous life wasn’t bad. But it’s just not me any more. I opened too many doors to return to the exact same way it was.

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My poor aching gulliver

The kids were making gingerbread houses in the kitchen. I joined them but soon realized my building units were a little off. I refused looking at the guidelines since I was too lazy to lift the box and started making something out of it. I went for a flat roof and with the two redundant panels I made little christmas trees for the yard and the roof. I had my own little unique cottage. My own Dr. Suess dream house.

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See? You don’t always have to follow instructions. Dare to break the rules.

Gingerbread therapy was doing great for me. I was happy my stubbornness started to get back to me. But then somebody opened the door to all hell. Somebody took out the board game that would unleash mayhem on everybody!

You:

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Me: “No, The Game of Life.”

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It’s a people’s guideline to living a life without a spark of imagination. A wheel of fortune which tricks kid’s minds and teaches them all the wrong values. In all the wrong orders. Only five steps into the game it already orders you to grow up, choose between a degree or a career, get a house, get some children, cough up money for a loan, work work work work work and at the end of the game you get to decide whether you want to retire on A. Countryside acres or B. Millionaire mansion.

There is only a gazillion things wrong with this board game. For starters you cannot deny to get married or to have kids. If the game says so, you have to put two little ones and a hubby in that little plastic car with you. A blue pawn if it’s a boy. A pink one if it’s a girl.

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Forget all that gender neutral stuff. Or unmarried moms. Or free spirited people not wanting to have a full time job, an overly expensive car and all that jazz. If you don’t meet those standards then you’re dead meat. Don’t even think of having a comfortable old day either, punk.

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“Stay on the safe side of life kids, otherwise you’ll end up in the gutter!”

What bothers me the most is that kids get brought up with these overly strict and outdated christian values. It’s basically learning you how to not think for yourself and just follow a blueprint everybody else is already following and chances are likely you will stay in the game. Don’t take risks!

… It’s a totally different board game…

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And it will only get you into trouble.

Before you know it you’re stuck in a household losing every single bit of control – “I can’t buy no beach house in California, I gots mouths to feed!”-  just because you chose to be dictated a certain way.

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If you don’t want the textbook/blueprint life, don’t be afraid to use your imagination. Stay true to what you want to do with your life. Your own balance. Some will say your life elixir tastes too sweet. Or too sour. But tastes differ. And everybody should sweep in front of their own door first!

Me: “I’m getting bored of this life.”

I was just about to throw my money over to the bank when my eyes watered up to the rims of my glasses. The kitchen and living room started to fill up with smoke and spices.

Celine’s sister: “Kids, the turkey’s ready!”

Me: “Gobble gobble, let me see!”

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Isn’t she a beaut?

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Celine’s dad flipping the bird. How rude.

(Enter narrator’s voice:)

“It was a first Christmas miracle to a girl who wasn’t familiar with this way of celebrating Christmas. And the first of many to come…”

Read all about my magically mirrory Christmas Eve celebration next! Where an angel in Grinch clothing lighted my path!

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To be continued in a day or two.
I gots mouths to feed y’know.

XO

Making headlines

You guys! Something wonderful has happened! Something that will change the future of Backpackersguidefortheblondeandtheclueless forever. Your favorite blog is breaking borders, is conquering ground, is changing the rules, is mixing guacamole with syrup, is …

You: “Yeah, yeah we get it. Something big has happened. Spill the beans already.”

Me: “You are not going to believe this: The one and only DAILY PLANET has reached out to me to do an interview on me and the blog!”

→ Millions of readers getting to know BGftBC? – Hell yeah!

→ Getting interviewed by Clark Kent?? – Fuck yeah!

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I didn’t hesitate one billionth of a second when they asked me!

… Unfortunately Kent couldn’t do the interview… The article is part of The Daily Planet’s Fashion Issue so I got to sit down with Lois Lane instead.

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We had a little chat and a photo shoot at Korsakov. I’m super happy with the result. Although I would have liked some more pictures to make the article breathe, … And some creative questioning wouldn’t have hurt, but that Lois Lane is a tough cookie to negotiate with. Anyway. Here’s the result, hope you like it!

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You: “Hum. Exoticism?”

Me: “Shut up and continue reading.”

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You: “Aww Evvy, aren’t you the sweetest Cheerleader Goth.”

Me:  annoyedemoji

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** The End **

Me: “So… What do you think??”

You: “Honestly?”

Me: “Yes.”

You: “I think you should go back to interviewing people other than yourself. Now THAT would be a great look for you!”

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To be continued.