The S C A M

(***Attention: this could be my blondest and defo most clueless post to date.)

So these last few months I have been cooking up a plan. Like I always do.

Several weeks ago I had put up a message on Facebook stating I was looking for a fever cabin to pursue a new adventure.

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The main goal of it all was to move out of Antwerp, take my job with me, and live somewhere I could write and live at the same time. It could be Belgium, but then I started considering the bigger picture.

There were a few things that worked in my advantage:

  • My roommate gave up the lease of his apartment and went to live with his lover which meant I had to move out anyway
  • The roaming costs abroad suddenly got cancelled which means you can make phone calls to and from Europe without a financial hangover. (Well… it depends how much of course)
  • I started up my own business which basically means I can take my writing all over the world…

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The borders had been lifted and I suddenly remembered me being in Canada talking to my good friend Audrey. We had just celebrated Christmas and the New Year was a couple of days shy. I told her I wanted to live in Berlin for a couple of months.

You: “Berlin? Why Berlin?”

Me: “Dunno. Just to be there and have a change of scenery…”

You: “Why not Barcelona or Bali…or…Barcelona?”

Me: “Because I’m a non conformist, an anti establishment hippie who needs distraction and action PREFERABLY from like-minded people and ESPECIALLY from men with neck and nuckle tattoos.”

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Yes…Help me.

So: After Canada I went back to Antwerp from where I pursued a career as an independent writer and I started making serious plans to set up base in Berlin.

I went for a short visit in June.

You probably remember the TRAVELING THREESOME POSTS from Berlin, don’t cha?

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So much fun ❤

And in July I took the BIG STEP and started looking for a room to move into.

You: “WoW it’s like you moved there in a blink of an eye!”

Me: “Not so fast…”

The universe decided to test me. BIG TIME.

Reality Check

I came in contact with someone who was subletting a room in Berlin.

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We sent e-mails back and forth and I decided the time was right. I took the room, payed a deposit

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but ended up… ROYAL F U C K E D.

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The room turned out to be a scam.

It didn’t exist. Merely in my imagination and in the perfectly portrayed fairytale the so-called owner painted for me.

I lost a lot of money.

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You:  “How much?????”

Enough to pay for this giant Darth Vader head which costs…. Well if you can read the 4 digit number on the price tag you surely don’t have to visit an eye doctor …

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You:

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It was a setback. A massive one.

I couldn’t believe that ME, the so-called investigative journalist, could fall for a scam like that?

How blonde and clueless could one be??

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You: “So how did you found out it was a scam, Evvy?”

The name with which she…or he… operated is in fact an existing name and it belongs to a girl. A girl who got scammed whilst looking for a room in Munich. She had given her passport information and that’s when her identity was abused to scam other people. Including me.

Now, if you see me somewhere on the internet subletting rooms in Barcelona, Delhi or New York don’t pay me any deposit and report me to you nearest police station. Thank you.

I went through a terrible low after the scam. I lost so much money. Money I worked hard for as a fresh starter-upper. Money I won’t ever see again.

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After a few weeks time, my bank confirmed me that the account where I sent the money to was emptied and closed down. The lead had turn cold. The police couldn’t do anything either. They had to drop the case.

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I was reconsidering my entire plan. But I wanted to go to Berlin so darn bad… It had been my New Year’s resolution. And I needed to find a new place to live anyway. Either in Belgium or somewhere else.

I decided to give it one more go. I wouldn’t let my dream be crushed by one bad person.

I decided to put up a message on a housing website stating I got scammed and I was wanting to give things a second chance.

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I got quite some response to my -let’s be honest: very sad- message. People were sending me photos of their refrigerator. Telling me I was welcome to stay for dinner. Also a lot of Indian guys responded to me, telling me they would be happy to comfort me *wink wink*.

But then I got a private message from a lady. A single mother of two. Who would start looking for a new room mate in a couple of weeks but decided to let me know I would be slightly in the advantage of becoming her new roomie.

Every cloud has a silver lining. That’s fo sho. And regarding that scammer: I sincerely hope KARMA is a ball busting bitch!

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama

The plan was still on. And I prepared for my big evacuation.

I made things official in the bar. They knew my final bar tending days were coming and I slowly but surely started planning and moving my stuff out of the apartment.

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= > SHIPPING OUT

My last weeks in Antwerp were my best. I shared a goodbye beer with my favorite customer, went to the Pride with my two favorite men, went for a bike ride with dad and had a vegan pizza with mom!

 

 

I had a great time saying goodbye to my friends but I needed to move on. I had decided. So I persisted.

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I am now happy to tell you I am currently living in a wonderful very much existing room in the center of Berlin.

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My lovely street in P Berg! ❤

I am meeting lots of new people, discovering new places and things every day. And I am doing a lot of writing here.

For those of you who are in need of some juicy copywriting and/or storytelling or who want to help me earn my money back, I am open for business and happy to be of service right here in my Berlin office! CONSIDER THIS AS A GOOD CAUSE HELPING THE POOR! => www.eveliendelgouffe.com !

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One of my many writing spots ❤

Thank you for reading and stay tuned!

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XO

 

Pretty darn lovable

You: “Hi Ev, you still around? Helllooooo? (echo – echo – echo)”

Me: “Yup. Rrrright here.”

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You: “What’s up?”

Me: “That depends. The old me would have said: ‘Yo dude, everything great. Work is gooood. Life is goooood. Errythang’s gooood.’ But lately I cannot lie to save my life. When people come up to me and ask me what’s up, they get TMI.”

You: “Transmitted Mind Illness???”

Me: “Err.. no, ‘Too Much Information’…”

I don’t know how it happened, or when, but lately I’ve been giving people the hard truth and nothing but the truth. It’s like word vomit, I cannot help it. Once I get started I can’t stop puking all the toxins out.

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been experiencing rather extreme ups and extreme lows. And yes. It’s got everything to do with ….

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ROMANCE. 

I’ve been feeling down, bitter, … down, did I mention bitter? Also hurt. Ahm… (what else do I feel…) Hungry. Naah I’m always hungry…. ANYWAY: I don’t feel too good.

And usually when I don’t feel too good. I turn to a dear friend. A psychologist, who has helped me through many tough moments, who has stood by me on all my travels, I am talking about: MY BLOG ❤

You: “Then why-hy has it been so long since we’ve heard from you Ev? Why didn’t you turn to us sooner?”

Me: “Aha! I had a new blog post ready but I had to postpone it because it kind of involves a ‘go’ from the bank. So you can expect this one very soon I hope.”

Anyway. All this waiting kind of got in the way of necessary sharing sessions and that’s why I reach out to you today.

Okay, so romance.

I kind of got romantically involved with someone. As in ‘past tense’. It’s over now. Finito. Schluss.

The way it came to an end, however, was rather painful.

Usually when I’m devastated about someone, I feel weak and sad. But now… well…

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Let me just start from the beginning…

I’ve known this guy for almost a year now. And it wasn’t until the beginning of this year -when I returned from Canada- I started to notice him differently. Actually he had been on my mind in Canada too, which was kind of weird cuz I never really noticed him like that before. When I first met him I thought he was…well…

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But that’s the thing with girls: we’re capable of changing our minds. If we don’t like a dress at first sight, we will find a way to make it work. Pair it up with some nice bracelets, some cute sandals, … If a guy sees a shirt he doesn’t like, he will never bother to see the potential.

I knew he fancied me, so all of a sudden we fancied each other AND I thought I had the cat in the bag but the moment I reached out -guess what?- he lost his interest.

You: “Whuuuuut?”

Me: “Suddenly he was all emotionally unavailable and not ready to be in a relationship and yadda yadda yadda.” #commitmentissues #bigbaby

Now, for a Libra I’m pretty stubborn. Unfortunately I don’t take no for an answer. And that’s where I went wrong. I sort of made myself believe I could be with this guy without being emotionally involved… Basically we became FWB.

You: “Friendly Whale Brothers?”

Me: “No you idio… FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS!”

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Me: “I know, it was the worst idea ever. I am waaaaay to emotionally wired to do something like this but you never know until you try right?….Am I right…?…?”

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Soooo to make a long story short: we had fun, the sex was ah-mazing, then I got ‘relationship muscle memory’, he spasmed out and I zoned out after he gave me quite a big uppercut when saying he will never love me and I will never have to expect a love declaration from him.

And that was that.

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We both messed up. And ever since … I’m left with an emotional hangover.

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And that’s how I decided to reach out to you today and share my story. But most imporantly:

SPELL SOME SHIT OUT FOR THE NEXT ONE IN LINE

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I’m going to put some things out there for the next guy who crosses my path or even thinks about sweeping me off my feet. This is not a manual. It’s a MAN-UP-ALL.

Why you probably can’t handle me but why you definitely should try: 

– I’m a handful
Also literally. I have curves. I am a woman and I expect to be treated that way. With respect. I’m not a shallow girl you can boss around or control. If we’re going to be in a relationship, we will treat each other as equals. I’m not the boss of you, you’re not the boss of me. (Unless it’s part of some sexual fantasy)

– I’m probably less crazy than you think
Guys tell each other horror stories about girls they date who turn out to be complete mental cases. Occasionally I hear about those too. And I can assure you: I am nowhere near that type of girl. Yes I have traumas and I carry emotional baggage and yes I can get a little goofy at times, but I’m not CRAAY-ZAAY.

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– Who said I want to get married and have yo babies?
You all have this evil friend who makes you nervous by saying all the wrong things, like: “Watch out with her, she’s pushing 30 she probably wants kids soon and wants to get married. Run while you still can!”
=> Dump that friend, he’s a douche.
=> I’m nowhere near ready to have kids. And I’m too cheap to get married. Let’s just take the money and invest it in a teepee in Portugal!

I am socially capable of getting along with your friends, parents and pets (I will not raise your kids tho)
Guys who have kids from previous relationships = > sorry, see previous bullet point

– I am funny and witty and smart
(But can be boring, tired and insecure too)

– I am not here to CHANGE you…
Fo fuck sake, why do guys always think girls want to change them? Or the way they live their lives? The only thing we ask is to integrate us in your current life. And relax, you don’t have to introduce us to your parents and family right away. Also don’t feel the need you got to be someone completely different. Or think you have to turn your schedule around and can’t hang out with your friends anymore. Just continue your life, let us live ours, but give us a call every two days => There is no Siamese twinship. I have a life and priorities too you know!

– …But do keep in mind I can change my mind too
After a short period of being in a relationship, I could lose interest in you. Relationships aren’t an exact science. Girls usually are quicker to start a relationship because they are willing to take the jump and try. Guys fear a relationship means ‘staying together until they die’. #WRONG! What’s wrong with taking it day by day? I’m not here to chain you. (Again: unless it’s part of some sexual fantasy).

– Get bent 
If you’re taking it up the butt. I’m taking it up the butt.

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In other words: once we’re in a relationship you will have the sole proprietorship and thus advantage of unlimited sex with me! * What a lucky SOB (son of a bitch) you would be!
(* After a dry period of 9 months or after marriage, that is. I’m catholic. And a virgin. That’s right, I reclaimed my virginity and I got the certificate to prove it)

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– Man up and take a chance on love, it could be the one thing you’re missing the most
For this final one I am going to quote a 73 year old customer from the bar who has been married for 47 years:

“You don’t have to look for the complete package with one person. A good marriage combined with good friends is all you need to live happily ever after.”

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Any questions or objections? You know where I live.

XO

PS: WHOOF I FEEL MUCHO BETTER ALREADY! THANKS FOR THE FREE PSYCH SESSION!

My ride. My fight. My life

In my last blog post I dropped the bomb on you by coming out of the closet with my resignation.

(Flashback)

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I’ve been getting some mixed reactions on that decision, but that’s okay. I still stand behind my choice. I haven’t been happier really. I have found the perfect balance between Work, Well-being and Writing. Something a lot of my colleagues are struggling with nowadays. I recognize that struggle and am happy I found my own way of balancing it out rationally.

Because, let’s be honest, I’m not going to make a decision like that and not have some kind of plan or idea of what’s next.

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But first things first.

At the end of 2016 I came up with a little challenge for myself.

I just got back from months of traveling and I wanted to sink my teeth in a new adventure. With the money I saved up from working at the bar I bought my first ever race bike and I decided to participate in amateur road races.

I have been hanging around in cycling environments since 2014. And riding a bike myself, has always triggered me since then.

With the help of Golazo, Energy lab and all the good advice I could collect from friend-cyclists, cycling journos and family members I kicked off.

Once I started training I realized there would be a long way ahead for me to actually participate in amateur competitions.

So I decided to participate in bigger road races first. Since they’re more focused on the experience and endurance. And less on rankings.

My training started in November, a little later than planned since I was still struggling with moving out of my apartment and stabilizing here in Antwerp after being on the road for so long.

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My first indoor mileage.

Then in December, I got the chance to go to Canada for three weeks and my schedule got postponed again.

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Neglecting my diet.

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Smoking the Christmas tree…

I was back in the saddle by January 10th. Combining trainings with working at the car show in Brussels for 10 days straight. It was a grueling attack on my limbs,

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but I had to get started since I was supposed to ride a big cycling event and I had less than 3 months to get ready.

There were times I panicked. Hyperventilated. There were times I lost faith. But at least three times a week, I was on my bike. Before shifts I rode 1 – 2 hours. And on Sundays I did long runs from 3 – 5 hours.

The big problem was, since I had never rode a racing bike before, I was scared to go outside in winter. I was scared to fall and get injured. So most of the time I was training indoors. On rollers…

Even though you build up a decent condition and muscle strength, it doesn’t help you to get balance and core stability on the road.

I knew I had to go outside asap. But I was fucking terrified of my clip-less pedals.

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I use a three-bolt clip-in system aka “the deathheads”.

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These things could proper kill you.

Apparently everyone is a little scared of them at first. It involves a little bit of a learning curve.

Of course I realized that a little too late….

Without testing them thoroughly, I immediately went for a first ride on a sunny afternoon.

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Clipped-in selfie taking. This is living on the edge!

I was riding for about 20 minutes when I had to make a stop at a busy crossroad. With the traffic lights being on red, I had made an excellent stop. I had put my left foot down, with my right foot still clipped in. As I was standing there for five minutes, waiting to lift off again, I realized there would be no way of crossing this busy road without pressing the pedestrian button. This button, however, was on the other side of the pillar. So I slowly maneuvered my way to it. While I was doing this, I started to lose my balance, tried to counter this by using my right foot, forgetting I was still clipped in and BAM!

There I was horizontally at the side of the road with my bike still attached to my feet while cars were racing by. I got back up and got away with some light bruising. I figured it was best to have that inevitable fall out of the way in order to improve myself on the road.

I continued my ride and didn’t fall after.

I figured I was ready for the next step.

I still regret the day I thought this….

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So blonde & clueless…

Next Sunday, I called up my parents to go explore some bits of the road race I was about to attend in a couple of weeks. I hand picked out some of the heaviest climbs. Since I figured I had to know them in order to ride them. We went to the ‘Muur’ or ‘Wall’ of Geraardsbergen. A steep street paved with cobblestones, climbed every year by cyclists during the Tour of Flanders.

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The Muur is about 1K long. I started off great. I was cycling up and up and up. With every turn the road got steeper and steeper. At one point it felt as if all the power was flowing out of my legs. And they just turned into stone. I panicked, because I realized I was stuck to my bike and getting out of clip-less pedals on a steep climb would be total suicide. At least for a beginner like me.

I got out with one shoe but my weight fell on the other side, wanting to find support on my right foot but that one was still clipped in.

I smacked onto the cobbles like a bag of Belgian potatoes. The horizontal cyclist, I am.

I got back up again and fell over again! Getting back in the saddle on a steep climb with clip-less pedals is total suicide number 2. At least for a beginner like me…

I was starting to think this training ride was a bad idea.

A+ for guts. D- for cleverness.

But I didn’t come here to just quit. So I rode back. To the bottom of the Wall. And tried again. On my way down I fell again. Trust me, falling over and over again really weighs on your mental state of being. I was feeling pissed off and I was starting to feel really scared and insecure of my riding skills. Also: I was trashing my bike like crazy. My steering wheel was already crooked.

As I tried again I climbed and climbed and climbed and at the point where I fell over before, I anticipated and tried to get out of my pedals faster. I figured that would be a good exercise. But same thing happened. The fall was even more spectacular this time. I didn’t even feel like getting back on my bike again. I was so displeased, I walked my way down on my stupid clown shoes and called it a day.

My parents were there waiting for me and were worried about me participating after what they had just witnessed. Since this day was a measure for nothing, we figured we might get something out of it while enjoying some traditional ‘mattentaarten‘.

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A sweet pastry, made with matten paste or cheese curd. Something Geraardsbergen is very famous for. Something that could compensate this total waste of energy.

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The disappointment is real.

On my way back home I felt like shit.

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What was I thinking? You can’t tame a mustang just like that.

Did Jake just randomly jump on his Ikran and fly away? Don’t think so.

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I have to make the bond (starting 00:30sec) if I want to live and tell my grandkids.

First I need to gain confidence on my bike, being outdoors. Only then I can try on the climbs clipped-in. Starting with the little hills. Then the big monuments.

I need to fucking learn how to walk before I can run.

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Then it dawned on me. One year ago I was riding bikes in Australia and China. On the left side of the road with kangaroos crossing, through busy Chinese streets with no traffic rules whatsoever. Was I scared then? No way. Why? Because I was wearing sneakers.

If this is the only thing weighing me down for this challenge, then why should I risk hurting myself, my bike or other people participating? If I’m not confident on my bike, because of those clip-ins then this race would be total mayhem for me and everyone involved. I couldn’t take that chance. I much rather have my full confidence and lose all the pulling advantage clip-less pedals offer. My strength is in my legs and mind anyway.

After feeling bad for a day or two, I regained confidence. I had no other choice. I had decided to ride an other road race the week before my big challenge. I figured it would be a good final rehearsal. The ride would be 90 K. But the furthest milage outside (the hundreds and hundreds of kilometers on my rollers not included) was 25 K!

So the day before the race I went to Linkeroever to warm up.

And did a 50 K ride in a little over 2 hours.

Turned out it was a good preparation because the next day I managed to complete the 90 K in Gent-Wevelgem. The final 40 K I had to face tough wind which really pulled down my average speed. But another participant warned me in advance and advised me to spread my strength.

Type Gerrit from Bavikhove .

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“Make sure to save your strength. The final 40 K there’s heavy wind.”

Roger that! My team mates from Cyclokorsakov were already putting the muscle in the mustard from minute one. But after 17 minutes I detached from my group and rode solo for the rest of the race. Also facing the wind solo. My neck and shoulders were cramping up so bad from battling Mother Nature. The final 10 K were killing me. I was hoping to find a fat arse to tug myself behind. But Gerrit was nowhere to be seen.

One minute out of wind can make a world of difference for your recovery.

That and many other things I learned from that first official ride.

  • Don’t grab your drinking bottle during descents, for example.
  • Nor on cobble stones.
  • Also don’t bite your tongue on cobbles or you’ll bite it right off.
  • Always warn if there’s a car coming. And make flight attendant gestures with your hands to make other points across.
  • Make sure you drink enough to avoid muscle cramps. I made sure I had a sip every 15 minutes. I had one water bottle with me and one bottle filled with some hydrate mix to provide me with the necessary salts and minerals during my workout.

At provision there’s also a chance to refill your water bottle. And at Gent-Wevelgem there were big tanks with green stuff to keep you energized too. It looked as if the Ghostbusters had put Slimer in different containers. It smelled like the eighties too.

After 4 hours and 30 minutes in the saddle I reached the finish and it felt as if the weight of the world fell of my shoulders. I was extremely pleased with my result and felt ready for my big challenge the week after.

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I knew I would have to dose my efforts in the week to come, though. Especially since I had to work and stand on my legs all day.

On Wednesday I went for a nice and easy 30 K ride.

And on Friday I did a quick recovery ride of only 45 minutes.

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On my rollers. For old time’s sake…

I was almost ready for my big adventure. Almost. I just needed to loosen up the muscles and fill my energy tank with some healthy greens.

Luckily there was a fresh juice shop right at the end of the street where the massage place is.

=> Antwerp Thai Massage, Museumstraat 8, 2000 Antwerp
=> Fruxino, Museumstraat 1, 2000 Antwerp 

I had one more day at the bar …

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And then it was off to bed! I had set my alarm clock at 5 am. I wanted to be at the start at 7 and it is advisory to eat at least 2 hours before commencing a training or a race. 5 minutes before the start I like to eat an energy bar to keep me energized until the first provision. Usually two hours in.

I had 1 cup of coffee an two shots of espresso to give me that extra energy boost. The good thing about coffee is that it makes you hyper. The bad thing is that it makes you have to pee faster. And with bib shorts, that’s not an easy thing to do. For evident reasons…

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APRIL 1st, D DAY 

I felt like a clueless soldier rowing a boat to Normandy, signing up for a suicide job.

Due to some delay on the way, some administration and a pee break at the start, I left at 8 instead of 7am. It was raining, a little bit cold, and the sky was 50 shades of grey.

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The first 30 K were psychological warfare. My goal was still a long way ahead of me and I wasn’t feeling confident I would make it. I wasn’t impressed with my legs, I was losing precious time on the climbs and the cobbles, and I realized I would be in the saddle for at least 6-8 hours. I was trying to pep talk myself into it but I missed the clue on why I was doing this.

#clueless.

At 30 K we had our first provision and there I made the click.

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At provision you can find all kinds of food displayed for you. It’s easy to overindulge. I am still experiencing which foods benefit me and which don’t, but I find gingerbread to be easy digestible and quite enjoyable too. So at the first provision I had a slice of gingerbread and a cereal bar and a sip of orange energy drink.

At 77 K we had another provision right before the Koppenberg. There, I figured I would be in need of plenty of fast sugars so I ate a slice of gingerbread, a sugar waffle and a slice of banana. I also stretched for 2 minutes since I was experiencing some mild strain in my lower back.

The sugar sure did it’s job (not on the Koppenberg, since there were too many people and everybody had to walk up) but in my fifth hour I conquered 3 climbs in a row. I was impressed. It felt as if I had pressed a hidden power button.

During my final provision at 100 K I had a light meal consisting of 1 banana and 1 orange.

I was carrying a Powerbar which would come in handy in my final hour.

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I can’t stress the importance to stay hydrated enough. You lose a lot of water during an intense workout and your muscles need this to recover. I tried to drink a sip of water with some added minerals each 15-20 minutes. As a result I stayed surprisingly fresh. Even after six hours I still wasn’t tired of riding.

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Especially since I saw some riders at the side of the road bending over, rubbing their legs, pointing at their bikes, being too stiff to pick them up. I also saw a lot of riders being carried away by ambulances with broken bones. Also on the climbs riders fell over due to their clip-less pedals.

I knew the 141 K was in reach. The finish line was pulling me in like a lasso. The last 10 K, right after the impossible Paterberg, I was racing to the finish line at 30 K/hour. I felt so energized, I just had to give my all and ride myself empty until the very end.

I was living in my head the entire time. I was seeing flashbacks of my life. Of this past year. How, EXACTLY one year ago, I was riding a bike in Beijing.

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And how, today, I was riding my own race bike during Flanders’ most beautiful road race. Over paved cobble stones where Gilbert, Van Avermaet, Boonen and Sagan would suffer (and even fall) the next day.

I was amazed about how my life keeps taking unexpected, but exciting turns. And how much it energizes me.

I couldn’t be happier with where I am today.

From the chain smoking journo I used to be. To the independent world explorer I became. And the Sporty Spice I am now. What a rollercoaster ride it has been.

And it felt great I was doing all this on my NIKES.

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These sneakers have led me over mountain tops in Australia, through rough roads in Tasmania and through intense Kung Fu training in China. The CHI is in these shoes. And that April 1st, the CHI was with me. Shifu Gao, my Kung Fu friends (Celine, Audrey and many more), Tasmanian Cannibal Helmut, Sammy and all my other Tooperang farm friends, Goedele and Nairn, my gorgeous girl Steph … all of them were there to encourage me and push me over that finish line.

I was pleased with the symbolism. It made the circle complete. It almost brought me to tears.

All because of a pair of iconic sneakers.

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First never follows. I like doing things my way. Make my own rules. Blonde/Clueless-style. I’m stubborn like cobbles.

Mac Miller

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I know there’s a lot of undiscovered potential inside of me. Inside all of us.

And I am going to explore this to the (Air) max.

On and off the bike. Who knows what other things I am capable of. It feels rewarding to discover myself in new ways. And I couldn’t be more proud of where I am today.

Once I reached the finish I was so pleased with my rodeo, I just wanted to fall into my parents’ arms and hug them. Too bad they were nowhere to be seen. I found them 45 minutes later napping in the car 5 K from the finish… emoji

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They made it up to me by taking me out for dinner immediately. I needed to refuel and it’s best to do this somewhere between 1 and 120 minutes after your workout.

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Taking this to bed.

The next day I enjoyed washing my bike and watching the Tour of Flanders for pros.

I was happy to see Gilbert win. And to have Greg as his runner-up. I also think Niki is kinda cool too. I love to hear him talk.

The Tour of Flanders had a fairy tale ending in many ways.

I’m going to enjoy the moment for the days to come, and keep on training and riding. Next goal is to get better, faster and stronger on the bike.

Time to master that clip-less pedal learning curve. Helmets and seatbelts on everybody.

Can I clip it?

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Yes I can!

Peace out

XO

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The beast of competition

HI-DE-HOO!

You: “Well Ev, you’re cheery. I thought you would be having the ol’ travel blues since you got back from Canada. Plus: looking at where you were last year, you probably will be full of nostalgia.”

That is correct You-san. Facebook does punch me in the face with anniversaries of precious moments I lived last year. January 29th it was one year ago I was standing on The Bluff overviewing one of the most amazing views of my life. Yesterday it was the anniversary of the first time I drove on the left.

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And I will be confronted with many more precious memories in the weeks to come. But blue? …

I kinda like the color blue.

It also happened to be the color of the car I represented at the Car Expo in Brussels a couple of weeks ago.

As you may know, I returned from Canada on January 9th and the next day I was already attending training sessions to become a car sales(wo)man for MINI.

I applied for the job months ago and around September I found out I was hired. The company even had so much confidence in me they put me responsible for their newest model. The European premiere of the new and improved MINI COUNTRYMAN.

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I could totally see myself driving this ‘Island Blue’ baby on the left side of the road.

It kinda gave me some cold sweats knowing I would be in charge of one of the most sought after models of the event, but I was honored they confided in me.

Hell, I wouldn’t if I were them!

But there I was. Friday the 13th of January. All dressed up to sell my car to the audience for the next ten days.

Our team would work long days. Getting up early in the morning, walking and talking for at least 9 hours straight, driving home, eating and going to bed at a reasonable hour to repeat everything the next morning.

It’s like living in a bubble with very little to no time at all to do anything else.

Actually….

It’s kind of like participating in a big cycling race!

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You get together every morning for team briefing. By that time you’re already fully dressed and equipped for another day on the super hero front. You will kick ass. You will not shark around. You will get the job done. And by the end of the day there’s the sweet release of food and sleep.

Plus: there is a classification. Every day there is a team winner. Someone who did the upmost. Someone who deserves the 24 hour title of ‘Sales(wo)man of the day’. Presents are handed out. Stats are being showed.

And every time we would be reminded of one thing: to aim higher each day.

It was the first time I was engaging in something this competitive. And I was feeling something inside of me I had never thought I possessed: the beast of competition.

Even though the newspaper business was and is a very competitive business too, I never really played my cards that way. I just did my thing in the hopes it would all turn out well. Sure I was happy whenever I would have a scoop someone else didn’t have, but I easily could have lived without that adrenalin rush. It was just a nice little extra on top of the rest of the work.

But now, the tables had turned. I was eager to do a great job. To kick ass and to make me, MINI and the agency  who got me this job, proud.

Battle mode on √

The setting was great. I was in charge of the most adventurous car. I found its identity to be more than meets the eye. Still a MINI, but also spacious, well thought out of the box. I identified with this car. I figured if I would throw in a little wit, a little charm, I could sell this puppy like sweet cherry pie.

But my car was a Diesel. So I started off a little slow too. I was assured I would attain my top speed in no time and from then on be unstoppable. On my third day I was doing so great, I was convinced I would become ‘Saleswoman of the day’.

The next morning I was all ready to receive my prize. I was cheery and confident and ready for another day of ass kicking.

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“I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky”

Team leader: “Okay team, let’s look at some statistics from yesterday’s leads. As you can see, you are doing a magnificent job! We are attaining our goals and even going the extra mile. Sales team, I am extremely proud of how you’re doing. And yesterday one person in particular did a great job and deserves to be sales person of the day. That person is…”

Me: “This is it, this is my moment of glory.”

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Team Leader: “Mike!”

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I didn’t understand. Mike told me he had a bad day yesterday. And here he is, being elected to Salesman of the day…

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I was feeling so low. I knew I shouldn’t let this get to me. I’m doing a great job. If the rest won’t acknowledge that, I will just have to keep doing what I’m doing until they do.

After a brief zen meditation in the toilet…

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I decided to continue the work I was doing. Soon as the visitors arrived, I was back in the game. Dispensing all the valuable information people wanted from me in Dutch, English and French. Interacting with children and showing them some cool features.

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And then there it was. The thing that melted all my sorrows away. The cutest little baby in a pink baby carriage.

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Me: “Oh my! Aren’t you the cutest little baby in the world!” I reached out my hand to pet it on the little head, when it suddenly turned around and changed into an absolute…

chihuahua

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MONSTER!

The little bitch (it’s a dog, I’m allowed to use that word) bit me right in the index finger and kept holding it between her little, but very sharp, teeth for a good 10 seconds.

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I screamed. When the dog finally let go she was barking and making a scene as if I had just molested her. I didn’t know what to do or say, and was keeping my hand behind my back, rubbing my thumb over my index finger to find out if it was bleeding or not. I didn’t want to look at it since I already fainted once from a bleeding finger and I didn’t want it to happen again. I had a goal to attain! And Sales(wo)men of the day don’t faint!

Owner: “No, no, no you can’t do that! Not while she’s in her carriage.”

Me: “Well good God woman! You could at least have a sign or some warning attached to her stroller!”

Maybe this was the sign. Maybe, this little calamity, was my warning to not get too caught up in the act. And the chihuahuas muzzle was just a metaphor.

All day I was out of my element because of that dog.

Eventually I generated some leads but I wasn’t at my best. The next morning I wasn’t elected. But that was no surprise.

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I decided to lick my wounds and just focus on the job. After all, helping people find the car of their requirements was already pretty rewarding too. And that night we would order pizza for the entire team. So I had something to look forward to.

Our outfits were sent to the dry cleaners and everybody was just wearing jeans and sneakers to the occasion. I was wearing the black bear I scored in Canada. Read: the faux fur I bought at Value Village.

Team leader: “Woah Evelien, thats a pretty big coat.”

Me: “Yep, I’m a pimp in real life.”

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Bitches call me Gator

I took a slice of pepperoni pizza and considered talking to our team leader. After all, two days had passed since my little bathroom tantrum and I still hadn’t made it to Saleswoman of the day. Almost everyone of our team had already been elected. But I was staying neglected.

Me: “Say…. Team leader. Does the fact that I haven’t been ‘Saleswoman of the day’ yet, a sign that I’m behind in the classification?”

Team leader: “Not at all. You’re doing a really good job. We always try to make everybody Salesperson of the day at least once. The fact that it takes a long time with you is because we think you don’t need that reassurance as much as some other people on the team. We kinda presumed you were pretty confident about what you did.”

Me: “Yeah, totally…”

I wanted to disappear behind a pizza box. I had been such a fool. Getting carried away by my emotions.

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I should have known by now to never doubt my work and what I’m capable of.

The day after, this trooper got named Saleswoman of the Day. I got a beautiful pen and an applause from my team mates. By then we were already a strong team and that was the biggest reward to me. To be part of that. And to help each other get over the finish line in one piece.

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You: “Talking of cycling, how is your so-called cycling career going?”

Me: “I thought you’d never ask!”

I am glad to announce I will be participating in quite a challenging race in less than 10 weeks to come. I have been training really hard and hope to be ready just in time.

Everybody around me has been really encouraging.

At a recent family outing -where I wasn’t present- my mother was telling her kin about my participation.

Kin: “Err..the chance she will make it till the finish line is pretty…”

My mother: “Small?”

Kin: “Non existent.”

It was only days later I found out about their little conversation.

Well let me tell you all a little something about Evelien Delgouffe:

SHE DOESN’T QUIT. 

End of story.

I am a MINI Saleswoman of the Day (Yes, you get to wear the title for the rest of your years, it’s kind of like being Miss Universe). I may appear small on the outside. But I am surprisingly powerful on the inside.

Plus! I have the advantage of a hidden engine.

You: “A hidden engine in your bike frame?!”

Me: My mind.

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I have grazed skin on my ass. And my lady parts feels like punched lasagna. Don’t tell me I won’t make it until you suffer from one of these discomforts yourself.

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“Wouldn’t you be better off putting more energy in a career than shitting away precious energy for some cycling interlude?” Someone recently asked me.

My answer:

I need this.

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This is a way to re-energize me for my professional life.

Don’t forget I was near burnout by the end of 2015.

I wanna return healthy and fit.

I have been healthy and fit for some months now. From the moment I left for Australia it felt like the weight of the world fell off my shoulders. I was driving in Australia hoping one day I would be like those amateur cyclists I saw riding on the side of the road. In the hot summer sun. Free. One with the outdoors. Fit.

One year later I am training.

My bike makes me feel good about myself. Gives me the energy I need. Makes me strong. Healthy and young. Bikes keep people young, people!

But most importantly: my bike reminds me I have no limits.

I will never take “No you can’t” for an answer.

I am a believer.

It’s my default preset.

Like the ‘Mini’ who kept believing he could be a ‘Maxi’.

That’s what gets me through all my challenges. Whether it is writing stories, going on far away adventures or selling freedom on four wheels.

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The day after the Car Expo ended, it was officially Blue Monday. Last year I left for Australia on Blue Monday. I wanted to leave on the most depressing day of the year. This year Blue Monday was -just like my Countryman- an Island Blue Monday. Filled with good vibes and memories. The 1390 liters of maximum trunk space. And that suited me just fine…

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Always remember to live in the now. And appreciate what you’re doing now. Even if it’s planning a holiday, prepping yourself for a night out with friends, making your first home made lasagna (sorry if I ruined this for you). It’s precious memory making. SO LIVE NOW. You probably will never get these moments back.

Also: don’t be afraid to be competitive or fight for what’s important to you. Even if it’s unlikely you’ll succeed. You will never know for sure, until you try. People will always try to knock you down. Unfortunately, it’s their default preset. When they do. Just remember to:


1) Not give a fuck

2) Get back up again.

XO

Road trippin’

That final morning in Gatineau, Canada.

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Celine’s husband: “Okay the car is purring like a kitten craving your love. Time for you guys to go on your road trip together.”

Me: “Err…I don’t see the truck…?”

Celine: “We’re not taking the truck. We’re taking my car.”

Me: “Your car?”

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Me: “WE ARE TAKING THE MUSTANG CONVERTIBLE ON OUR ROAD TRIP???”

Celine: “Well, don’t get too excited. One ice patch and we’ll be flying. The car weighs practically nothing.”

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(…)

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Me: “Well we all got to go one day…”

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It might as well be behind this beaut of a wheel! Start the engine sister sledge!

(Enter narrator’s voice)

And that’s how the two girls commenced their road trip in an inappropriate vehicle. Just like Harry and Lloyd in Dumb & Dumber. 

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You: “Wait a second. Do you guys have like a mission or something?”

Me: “A mission?”

You: “Yeah, Harry and Lloyd took the car to Aspen to return that Samsonite briefcase to Mary. What’s your quest?”

Me: “Ok ahm…. Let me see… (whispering to Celine)…Uhu….Uhu…Oh yeah that’s great!”

“Ok, our mission is…

To find our Canadian Brad Pitt!”

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“Howdy”

We’re mixing up a little ‘Dumb and Dumber’ with a little ‘Thelma and Louise’. To give the story that extra crunch.

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(So much crunch…)

So off we go to our first destination on the itinerary:

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QUEBEC CITY!

A little history on Quebec City:

  • It is approximately 400 years old;
  • The city’s famous landmarks include the Château Frontenac, a hotel which dominates the skyline, and La Citadelle, an intact fortress that forms the centerpiece of the ramparts surrounding the old city;
  • Quebec has played a special role in French history; the modern province occupies much of the land where French settlers founded the colony of Canada (New France) in the 17th and 18th centuries.
  • The population is predominantly French-speaking and Roman Catholic, with a large Anglophone minority, augmented in recent years by immigrants from Asia;
  • It is NOT the capital of Canada;
  • They serve Russian president as a national dish =>
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aka ‘Poutine’ (pronounced as pooh-teen) made with thick beef gravy on French fried potatoes with fresh cheese curds. Instant cardiac arrest guaranteed.

The convertible offered just enough space to fit our luggage and a bag with food and drinks in the backseat. Since we had such a long drive ahead of us. We figured we might be up for some snacking.

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(Only 15 minutes on the road)

Celine: “Can I have some hot tea please, the thermos is under your seat.”

Me: “Quite certainly, young padawan.”

Celine: “Ok whatever that is, stop doing that.”

Me: “It’s Yoda. You know those personal development tapes you listen to? He’s all about mental growth and inner strength too. You’d love him.”

Celine: “Just pour me my tea, already.”

Me: “Well it’s kinda hard with you going 80 miles an hour.”

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Celine: “Watch the seats. Watch the seats!”

Me: “Alright, alright, I got it.”

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We continued down the super highway of glistening awesomeness. We slid through the icy landscapes like a knife through creamy butter. Like two smooth criminals heading towards heavenly freedom.

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Sometimes a little too smooth, when the car would start sliding from left to right.

Celine: “Okay I gotta stop for gas. There’s a Tim Horton’s, we’ll drive through for coffee.”

Me: “Jolly, a Tim Horton’s! A large French Vanilla coffee, please.”

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This drive is a beaut! And I am enjoying every single minute of it. Every single minute of the 270 minutes total.

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Celine: “I’m hungry, can you get out the leftover roast and the mustard? The knife should be in my purse somewhere.”

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In case you missed it, me taking place in the passenger’s seat of Celine’s car automatically degraded me to her co-pilot, personal assistant, snack assembler and in-flight entertainment.

It didn’t take long or we started bickering over every little thing.

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Celine: “Okay, let’s just stop at this truck stop for a minute. I need to use the wash room.”

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Me: “Yeah, I could go for a quick pee too.”

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“And maybe another French Vanilla.”

Celine: “You’re really liking that French Vanilla hey?”

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Celine: “Every time we pass a Tim Horton’s you get all excited.”

Me: “Well it’s about the most excitement I’ll have this weekend. I have a cold sore on my lip and I’m on my period. This joy ride is out of business!”
(There’s a small chance I might have used a slightly more vulgar vocabulary)

Celine: “Gee, you kiss your mother with that mouth?”

Me: “It’s probably where I got the cold sore from in the first place.”

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Celine: “You’re grose”

A couple of hours and treats later …

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… we finally arrive in QUEBEC CITY! Celine had booked us an Airbnb for the night, about 20 minutes away from the old town. We stayed with Sylvain, a middle-aged divorced guy who lived with his cat Fallah.

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There was a little Quebec kitty in Quebec city.

I called her Miss Glitterbox since I had accidentally spilt a bunch of glitter on her fur.

Sylvain has two spare bedrooms he rents out almost daily to complete strangers. There was a guy from Halifax in one room. And me and Celine shared a bed in the other. But we didn’t feel like staying in all evening.

That night Celine and I hit the old town. We decided to walk around a little bit and maybe stop for a hot coco. We decided not to have alcohol and clean our bodies from all the holiday overindulging. Well, that was a short lived resolution. First stop we made, I ordered an Italian coffee and Celine had herself a bucket of red wine.

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French Vanilla with a twist.

I was still feeling telepathic since my strange moment at the supermarket the day before our road trip. I was sitting in the backseat of the big pick up truck while Celine’s husband hopped into the store to get milk. While we were waiting I had this sudden slip of the tongue and spoke the words: “My god, I want cookies!”

Two minutes later, Thomas returned to the car and threw a bag of Gingerbread Boys on the backseat right in my lap.

Thomas: “Look you guys, I got some free cookies from the lady at the counter.”

I was so amazed by my Jedi powers, I decided to try them out on Celine tonight. While I was sitting in front of her, enjoying my Italian coffee, I wondered if my mind could set her on fire.

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Eventhough I thought it, it didn’t happen. Maybe because I didn’t really want her to burst into flames. I was just curious if I could force my mind that way…

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We finished our drinks, decided to leave the bar and walk a bit further. But the wind was so cold it felt as if Mother Nature was pricking needles into my face.

Me: “Gee, I don’t think I can walk much further. I can’t feel my face!”

Celine: “Ok let’s just go in here.”

We entered a huge echoing hallway with christmas trees lining up all the way to the back of the corridor. I knew this place. It was the chateau Frontenac! I remembered it from my Wikipedia search! It was one of the landmarks!

The place was majestic. This is where the rich and famous hang out alright!

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I felt kind of out of place wearing my Kung Fu sweatpants and custom made Blonde/Clueless long sleeve.

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Celine: “Where do you wanna sit?”

Me: “Let’s sit by the bar. Put out the vibe.”

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It was all fun and games until we looked at the menu

Me: “Wow these prices are through the roof. The cheapest thing on here is actually a glass of champagne. A little bit of the bubbly it is.”

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Unfamiliar voice: “What accent is that you’re speaking?”

I turned over and saw a dude and another dude installing themselves on the seats next to us.

Me: “It’s english. Du’uh.” (These dumbass quebecians and their poor anglo knowledge (*see history on Quebec City ↑ ))

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I thought it was the lamest pick up line I had ever heard. If these bozos think they can sit with us, they got the wrong idea.

Celine in the background: “Hahahahaha”

Err… that was clearly not including Celine. She was getting along nicely with the two gents.

Me hissing: “Don’t invite them, they could be vampires.”

Celine: “Oh shut up, it’s a good thing they still want to sit with us. Your purse is scaring people away!”

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My little Dracula coffin I bought in Toronto (<3) did get some mixed reviews…

I didn’t think of them to be all that interesting. But the other one was quite cute. After an hour of talking to them and a couple of glasses later, the barman was closing up.

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Me: “Well it was lovely meeting you. Bye bye now.”

The dudes: “Hey you girls feel like continuing this party at our place? We live just a 10 minute walk away from here.”

Me: “Oh, I don’t think..”

Celine: “Ok!”

Me: “Wait, what? I’m not going home with these two. I barely know them and I don’t really like them that much. Why do you wanna go with them? Are you in heat or something??”

(…)

Wait a hot minute!  Maybe I didn’t really set Celine on fire physically. But maybe I had lit some other fire. Some kind of desire inside of her!

Son of a bee sting, I unleashed the beast!

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Me: “Okay guys my friend is actually a little tired, she just doesn’t realize it yet. We’re going back to our Airbnb. See ya.”

The dudes: “Are you sure?”

Me:

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Celine: “Well if we don’t go home with them we can still go have drinks with them.”

Me: lloyd-napkin

Before I knew it we were in a taxi on our way to ‘Cuisine’. A funky little bar in downtown Quebec where we could dance to new wave music, play video games and apparently order some shots of Black Russian.

I was very cautious. I didn’t want to end up in a real life ‘Taken’ sequel. What if they were serial killers?

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Or rapists?

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Me to Celine: “What are we doing here? It’s not like either one of these dudes is our Brad Pitt. Heck, we weren’t even supposed to drink alcohol tonight.”

Celine: “Oh just stop being all paranoid and just enjoy the moment.”

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I gave it another go but after an hour I got all bored and decided to play video games on the little Super Nintendo in the corner. There I was. The little geek in the corner on a Thursday night. When I was GAME OVER I decided it was time to pull Celine out of there right in time before she could take her sweater off and go loose in her tank top. Gee, what have I done to this woman! I’m never using my Jedi mind tricks again.

We said the dudes goodbye and walked away into the freezing cold. Not really knowing where we were going. It took ages to find a taxi to drive us back. When we finally did, Celine got out at a night shop on the corner of our street to get food. She bagged two bags of Cheetos with onion dip. I was glad she cheated on her diet, rather than on her husband.

The next morning I felt awful. My stomach was all queazy from all the drinks and those two guys had left a bad after taste.

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I decided to have a hot shower and freshen up for the final part of our drive: MONTREAL!

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Saying goodbye to Miss Glitterbox. That’s Sylvain in the back.

And we were back on the road. And back to our old habits.

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Celine: “Could you prepare us some lunch, please? I’m hungry.”

Me: “Sure thing, young Padawan!”

I grabbed some tuna and avocado and made some excellent hors d’oeuvres on the whim!

Me: “Too bad this drive doesn’t last as long as the one we did yesterday. I quite enjoy this road trip.”

Little did I know I had wrongly used my Jedi powers again…

(One hour later)

Me: “Gee, I expected Montreal to be a lot less rockier than this.”

rockymountains

Celine: “Yeah me too…. Get the map and find out where we at.”

Me: “Err… I think we’re on our way to Alaska.”

Celine: “Fudge! There’s a road sign that says ‘Saguenay’. We’re going all the way north.”

Wow, my connection with the Universe had become crystal clear these past few days! (see previous post: ‘A Jelly Dilemma’) First the cookies. Then the fire. Now the extended road trip.

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Me: “I’m sorry, I wished for the drive to last longer! And now we doubled the length! This is all my fault!”

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Celine: “Well…

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… at least we had a nice view.”

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That’s what I like about Celine. She’s such a positive little life force.

It took us about 4 hours to get to Montreal. Instead of the estimated 2.

Through rough roads and steep hills.

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But once we were there. It was all worth it.

were-there

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When we arrived at our Airbnb, we forgot all the trouble we had been through. It was the coziest place on earth smacked right into the middle of the Gay Village (the actual name of this area). It felt like coming home. Especially since there was a hammock in the living room! How comfy can you be??

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Quite comfy!

That night we kept it cool. We went for a nice Chinese soup and I made some more business cards to hand out to random Gay Village people.

After dinner we met up with our Kung Fu friend Audrey again who was staying at her parents’ place in Montreal.

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Say ‘Qi’!

We went for  a good night hike all the way up Mont Royal to see the crucifix.

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Montreal by night

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The Mont Royal Cross matches my purse!

By the way, some more history on Montreal:

  1. It is NOT the capital of Canada.
  2. Go look up the rest on the internet.

All together it was a wonderful night. Me and Celine didn’t get into any trouble. Instead we went to bed by midnight. And dreamt about Brad Pitt handing out blow jobs.

… With his hair dryer.

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We had a little over one more day to find our guy. So we didn’t waste any more time the next day. We went looking all over town. We walked all the way down Avenue Cathérine and made our first stop at the Dollar Store. Celine needed some food and I needed some bindis to wear on our final night out.

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We couldn’t help but notice there were a lot of sex shops on this street. Since Celine was still not fully recovered from me setting her on fire …

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we entered a bunch of XXX shops to have an innocent look around. Celine eventually bought herself a ‘finger puppet’. And I got myself some fishnet long sleeves. I figured it would be a great look with a little tank top underneath! Plus: from a business point of view it was a good move. I left some of my business cards with the lady behind the counter and she absolutely LOVED the name of this blog. She said she would check it out fo shizzle.

While we continued our way down town, we got a little hungry from all the sex shop hopping and went looking for some grub. After our tasty bowl from last night, we kinda both craved some more soup.

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And that’s how we ended up at another Asian place.

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fortunecookie

I’m just in it for the fortune cookies

For dessert we went for some nice hot street tire.

You: “?”

It’s hot maple syrup on a fresh deck of snow. You place a popsicle stick at the end of one side and start curling it up to the other side. That’s how you eat tire!

The taste is super sweet. As maple syrup tends to be.

We heated ourselves by a little fire and head out. To a more nicer part of town.

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Stranger’s voice: “Wow that is a nice coat, young lady.”

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Lady: “No that’s a Shearling and it is very, véry nice. ”

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Me: “Oh thank you.”

Celine and I had just entered a fur boutique when we got interrupted by the lady who happened to be one of the owners.

Lady: “I gotta call somebody to come look at this, wait right here.”

Soon entered a guy. A very very hot guy. To come look at me and my coat.

Lady: “Isn’t this the nicest Shearling ever?”

The guy nodded and kept his eyes on my coat.

Me: “Well, this is a little awkward. I didn’t know it was this special. I bought it for 50 euros at a second hand store in Belgium.”

The two both started laughing.

Me: “Oh, is that too much?”

Lady: “No dear, these coats usually go for way more.”

Very very hot guy: “You could get up to 1600 Canadian dollars for this coat.”

Great Odin’s raven! I’m rich!

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Trying on some other coats that were almost as nice as my Shearling.

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All the hot fur action aside, it was already in the afternoon and we still hadn’t find our Brad Pitt. I was getting a little bit worried. So we put our two brain halfs together over dinner.

We figured he might perform in one of the strip bars around the corner as a male entertainer. When you have a body like that, you got to make some kind of living out of it…

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“Or maybe he works as a plumber? A stripper plumber!”

To a live nude bar it is!

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We got all ready for our big and final night out.

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But ended up going to a live music bar instead.

Half way through our walk through town, we changed our minds and decided to not support the local sex slave industry.

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We had some wine. Some nice live blues music. And some poutine with duck on the side! No male entertainers. But it was the best last night in Montreal I could ever wish for.

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Bar à Jojo ❤

We were in bed by midnight so we could wake up early the next day and enjoy a nice Sunday together. Also our last day together.

Over breakfast, we got the word that Value Village, a big second hand store, was doing a big sale.

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“50 per cent off??? That’s almost getting stuff for free!”

Since we had to check out of the apartment anyway, we got dressed as fast as we could and rushed out of there in no time.

Well… I did have to go to the bathroom first to get my excitement out…

And last night’s dinner.

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I don’t know if it was the poutine or the poo-theen but I poo-clogged the toilet big time.

Good advice: go easy on the toilet paper if you’re ever in Canada. They don’t have toilets like ours and it’s not enjoyable having to unclog the toilet when the owner is sleeping in the room next door, overhearing everything you do.

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“Sorry buddy”

With that out of my system. And in the poor guy’s sewer system. We stuffed the convertible like a Christmas turkey and drove it all the way to Value Village a 15 minute drive away.

Me: “Look at these joggers jogging on these icy curbs. They’re c…”

Celine: “-razy?”

Me: “Well I was gonna go with courageous. Let’s just call them COU-RAZY!”

“Hé Celine, look at how fast I’m racing to Value Village!”

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When we finally arrived we nose dove between the racks of clothes, grabbing everything we had our eye one, trying everything on for size, and dressing up for fun. I eventually found two coats, one sweater and some other things I can’t remember, for less than 30 euros total.

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This kid Billy even bought a parakeet for only 15 bucks!

But there was no way I could fit all this into my teeny-tiny backpack. If I wanted to buy all this stuff, I had to buy another suitcase to take on board with me.

The moment I thought it -and put it out there for the universe to hear- there it was….

As if it was sitting there waiting for me.

A beautiful beige brown carry-on suitcase for only 7 Canadian Dollars. I flipped it open and it was in perfectly good shape. The interior was all golden brown retro and as good as new. When I flipped it over to look at the specifications, there it was…..

SAMSONITE.

No way!

This can’t be! It was about the briefcase all along!

(Enter narrator’s voice)

And that’s how the girl brought the Samsonite suitcase back to the airport. Filled with valuable bargains. And priceless memories. 

samsonite

maryairport

Thank you Celine. For everything.

XO

The END

Smoking the mistletoe

After our Christmas celebrations, Celine and I got ready for a three day layover in Toronto. It would just be the two of us, Thelma & Louise-ing.

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I was super stoked. Toronto is supposed to be an awesome city with a very multi-cultural community and a lot of artistic neighborhoods. Just get a load of Kensington, a very bright neighborhood. You got China Town, India Town, Greek Town, The Village, University campuses, you name it! PLUS: It’s Jim Carrey’s birth town and the backdrop of ‘Scott Pilgrim vs The World’.

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Look that’s Toronto in the back right there ❤

And Rihanna filmed her ‘Work’ video clip on the corner of Gerrard Street.

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AWESOME!

Wherever I was going I felt I was walking in a movie decor. The little houses with the little porches, the drug stores, the coffee and book shops on the corners, the big street car, … It all felt really American. And very non European. Just the way I like it.

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The three days would be simple: just enjoy our time in the city, walk around and meet up with some friends of Celine. One of her friends even ended taking us up all the way to Niagara Falls.

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All this water => filling up my bladder

But before I could see the falls I had to go through a haunted mansion. There were three levels of scariness.

  1. Vanilla scary shit
  2. Super scary shit
  3. Hardcore scary shit

I didn’t know what I was signing up for. It was Celine’s friend Ryan who bought the tickets and pushed me to get in.

Literally.

It was pitch dark and there were things moving and invisible zombies and demons yelling and whispering. I couldn’t help but walk through the maze of terror with my hands over my ears hoping for it to be over as soon as possible. I could only come up with one thing to save my life:

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But I wasn’t impressed with myself at all. What a ridiculous vampire slayer I would be.

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Anyway, for the next part of this story it’s probably good to know we arrived in Toronto on the second day of Christmas. We got to borrow Celine’s dad’s bachelor pad and on the same night we were supposed to meet up with her friend Mel who lives in an apartment uptown. She invited us over for tea and crumpets.

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All ready to hit the town!

We took the subway and the street car and a firm 30 minutes later we arrived at the apartment building. As we entered Mel’s unit it was almost as if we stepped into an oven.

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The fumes alone would get us baked.

It had seemed Mel was having her good friend Mary Jane over.

And I’m not talking about a person.

You: “A robot?”

Me: “Herbs.”

Mel: “Come on in, make yourself right at home. Care for a glass of red? I got you guys some chips, dips and sweet popcorn.”

I sat down on her couch and almost knocked over the ashtray with doobie butts.

The place reeked so much, I had a little trouble breathing regularly.

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I’m not opposed to weed or anything. I actually like being in the presence of potheads. Seeing people get high relaxes me too. And occasionally I would take a hit or two if somebody offered. Just never that much. One time I got really sick off some freaky weed and puked my guts out for 5 hours straight. I made the fatal error of getting shit faced first and high after. Not my most elegant outing in 2016.

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But I figured I would be up for some Christmas tree burning right about now.

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And whilst we’re at it smoke all of the other christmas decorations.

After all we were the second day of Christmas. And being the diligent student I am, I didn’t finish my wine but went straight for the pot.

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Me to Celine: “Let’s get Chinese eyes dude!”

I puffed the magic dragon back in China. It was the bees knees! I was curious how the stuff would taste here. And if it would taste anything like maple syrup.

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This stoner circle was the bong! It felt like such a natural thing to do. Weed is far more accepted here in Canada than it is in Europe. They’re even legalizing it in 2017. What a lovely timing to be here.

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After 30 minutes I was starting to feel a little to a lotta light headed. The room started dancing. And I had to interrupt our conversation for an important communication service:

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I don’t remember what we were talking about but I remember not participating in the conversation. I just watched Celine’s mouth opening and closing and stared at it while the wallpaper was raining down the wall.

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I think I picked up on a talk about how time doesn’t exist and how you can control your future with your mind. All this happened while carnival videos from Trinidad were playing in the background.

Mel: “Evelien, what is your take on this subject?”

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Me:

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Mel: You’re really liking that popcorn, hey? Here, why don’t you finish the rest of the production line.

On our way home I fell asleep 15 times on the tram. And we were only on there for about 7 minutes.

I was so sleepy, I just wanted to go home and cosy up to Lucy.

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“TAKE LSD?”

No kiss the dog Lucy. Our home girl.

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So baked.

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Gimme some of that sweet sweet sugar.

The next day we kept it cool and walked around the city. I had the lucid idea of going to the dollar store and buying me some DIY stuff to make business cards.

The plan was to leave them all over town in coffee shops, thrift stores and the metro station. Ya know, spam the hood. Get the word out.

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Fab people casually loving BGftBC at Reflections Vintage store

Enter narrator’s voice: 

And that’s how the girl from Belgium made a splashin’ entrance in the throbbing town of Toronto. Ready for whatever adventure’s next on her itinerary: Ottawa, Quebec and Montréal.

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(I’m on a moose)

=> Read all about my New Year’s resolutions next time on the blog. And my hot date with Celine’s dad ^^

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Peace out
Smoke mouth

XO

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…

dryturkey

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, …

socialinteractiongrinch

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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jerk

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.

game-of-life

“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