Monday, July 27, 2009

It's oh so quiet, shhhhh, shhhhh...

Ooh, a pretty new picture for my blog header. Seems to celebrate the country where I rest my head at night, no? Well, I'm still heresick, but I was also getting tired of my poppy picture. I don't know how long this flag and clouds will hang around, but who knows, maybe something less gloomy than a dirty street-poppy and candy wrapper will bring me a little brightness in life? One could hope, right?

News: it is tolerated in the food industry for a jour d'essaye to be unpaid, though technically this is not 'supposed to' happen anymore. The "jour" should in fact only last about 4 hours at most. It still feels odd though, considering they have a 'period d'essaye' here, similar to our probationary period in Ontario where your employer can let you go quite easily if they feel it's not working during the first 3 months of employment.

In other news: mussels are officially blacklisted, probably forever. I had them again for dinner the other night, and very quickly felt ill. Different brand, different cook, different frites and sauces accompanying them. Almost the same reaction.

Boyfriend is in Luxembourg until Wednesday night, working on the installation of a few of the projects he's been toiling away at for the past 6 months. It's a huge manufacturer that his company has been updating all the automated processes for. He'll be there a lot over the next 3 weeks with a night or two at home here and there. I have a foggy recollection of him sweetly kissing me goodbye this morning at 5am when he had to leave, talking to me a little, and asking me if I was feeling better (the mussels). Of course, I miss him, and it's weird not having him around, so today it's me trying to switch modes to get into another gear and at least take advantage of the alone time to take care of some antisocial activities (studying and extra job-hunting stuff, among others.)

Part of me is worried about this time apart falling so close to a time where it seems we've been making a bit of headway with talking about our relationship and trying to improve our methods of dealing with ourselves and each other. The difficulty is certainly not one of love between us, but of communication, and that takes practice at developing better habits without slipping back into bad ones. I worry that three weeks with each of us on our own, functioning more in 'solo mode' at a time like this might not be terribly great for that.

But... sitting at my keyboard and procrastinating in my sluggish, shellfish-poisoned state isn't really going to help, so I'm off to trryyyy and make a little progress now.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Waffle dude gave me a "jour d'essaye" on Wednesday. I got up at 4am to go and work my butt off for him, and then after it all, he said he'll maybe call me in September. And I received 0 dollars, for making a zillion fruit-filled waffles. How is that legal? Boyfriend says he thinks it's not, but I have no idea other than to feel like I just got had, and spent 6.50 Euros on the transit to go and get had. WTF. Not to mention it was like, 45 degrees in there without any ventilation, and *ridiculously* BAD health and safety stuff overall. Oh yeah...and for the whole day I got one 5 minute break. We're still trying to figure out what to do, if anything about this.

Today I had an interview with "Point Chaud", which is a big cafe/boulangerie/pâtisserie/sandwicherie chain here. Boyfriend said he has more confidence that they would pay for a jour d'essaye since they are a big company, but at this point I have to say that when the guy I did the interview with told me he'd like to schedule me for a jour d'essaye next week in their factory... my stomach turned. But, since I don't really know how things work here I smiled and said ok. And felt like an easily exploited foreign person who was possibly setting themselves up to get screwed over again. Fortunately this interview was brought my way by an agence interim, so I'm off to call her after this to find out about this whole "is it legal not to pay for a jour d'essaye?" question.

It was on the bus home from this interview where I began to think that though I don't feel particularly homesick, I really feel heresick. I'm really tired of taking all the ridiculous crap administrative and otherwise that goes on here. I'm tired of the fact that here, even to work in a factory, supposedly you need to have been educated on working in a factory. Yes... the Belgian education system streams the dumb kids into a group called "professional", which means they are learning in highschool how to sell clothes, or how to be a cashier or someone working the line in a factory. I really feel like I just don't fit in this society, like there is no place for me in it, like I don't have the resources to carve myself out a place that would fit me, and like I'm not sure I agree enough with the way it functions to want to. And to top it off, my main motivation for being here is in a fragile state. I feel my mind telling my heart to try to go to sleep. And it's right. Dealing with all of this would perhaps be easier if I could just be hard, and clinical in my way of seeing the situation I'm in. But I am here, most of all, because of my heart.

So, us. We went to Bristol and caught the Banksy show which to me, was underwhelming. (Bristol however is a very neat city that I'll be back to I think at some point.) Our relationship is still very tenuous, but we are trying to talk through our problems and work at it. It's obvious that we love each other, but it's also obvious we are under way too much stress and that we are both suffering from our worries a little too much to be able to be as careful with each other as we probably need to be. I have to say that with this situation I can't help but think that we both feel in our own ways a little more each day like I may not find a way to function in this society, or even to survive, at least not in time, and then what? It's a pressure we don't need right now, and I would just really like for someone to take a chance on me, job-wise. At least then I'd feel like I'd have that chance, to continue to live here and try to make it work with someone I think is an amazing person. I would feel like it might give us the breathing room we need to sort things out under a little less pressure. I'm not even getting my hopes up much anymore with the job-stuff though, I'm just trying to push as much as I can each day.   If I can't find a way, I'll be packing, and I don't think we could survive another spell apart.  It is too difficult to not know when you will see the person you love next.

So here I am, still staring down through the cellophane at that big scary hole, while my mind rolls up it's sleeves a little bit further and tries singing lullabyes to my heart. "Go to sleep and don't look too closely at this part. It's not for delicate things like you, my fragile heart."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One surprise after another

So, we just about broke up last night. I have never felt more sick or sad. I didn't see it coming at all, though I know we have our problems I suppose I've always figured that patience, and the desire to improve would see us to where we needed to get to, even if we are slow learners at the whole 'being better communicators' thing. But, making what feels like the same mistakes over and over again gets really tiring, and it stings a bit more each time, and seems to reenforce the doubt that we are capable of learning to be better communicators with eachother. It's true though, that each time we run into this similar looking wall, I wonder what we haven't learned and why we don't seem to be able to learn it, or at least not nearly fast enough. It seems that while I feel I am running out of steam here, that it's possible my relationship is too. I have never felt so... like I might just be f-ing my life up, entirely.

After a rather gut-wrenching evening (I felt like I was dying inside and hardly slept,) it seems we are both still not wanting to let go of each other just yet, because we love each other, though we both agree we can't really take any more of how we've been making these mistakes of assuming things about each other, not listening well enough to each other, being defensive. It has to change, because if it goes down like this one more time, I think we're both just toast. The scary thing is that we've known it has to get better, and what would make this time any different? Do we see it more clearly the closer we get to it; the undoing? Today I feel like someone standing on a thin sheet of cellophane, stretched over a big scary hole. :(

In other news, I missed the postman today, but he left a slip in my mailbox saying there will be something waiting for me at the Post Office tomorrow. Since I hardly ever receive mail here, and have never received something that couldn't just be dropped into the mail-slot, I'm quite curious.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

All Yo-yo'ed out.

This place. It kills me. Just as the situation with jobs seems like there *might* be a glimmer of hope, the situation with Boyfriend is seeming all implodey. It feels like there is never any stable ground to stand on, and today despite some good (even pretty great) news, I feel I'm reeling a bit.

I spoke to a lady at one of the language schools in Liege today. We have another meeting on Thursday, where she'll explain to me how they do things there, and then she's going to give me a few courses to try me out as an English teacher. So at least that's a bit of money, I think. I don't think it's legal to try someone out without paying them for at least the work they did while you were trying them out. Of course, I'm not sure what this means really since I'll be an 'independent' (most language teachers are) and I'm not even really sure if I'm technically allowed to be an independent here, (there are all these weird ways Belgians have to classify themselves officially in their job market so they can be taxed accordingly, or something.) At any rate, it seems most of the classes this school offers are one-on-one, and it's very important of course that the client enjoy their class, sooo... um, hopefully I'm edutaining.

Additionally I don't know how that will work if waffle guy wants to give me a job either, since he's about 2 hours away by transit, which means I'll be busy from 5am to about 6 or 7 pm if I'm working full-time for him. Not my idea of great, but it would help my wallet not to look so pathetic, and I really kind of have to take what's offered to me right now if I don't want to starve, or go home and be all sad and poor or something. How not to piss off English lady since she'd be offering me less hours, but probably better pay, while waffling with waffle guy long enough to not be so darn poor? And it's all theoretical anyways, because I still don't, in fact, have any job. I'm tired and this kind of thinking makes me feel dizzy.

And Boyfriend... I have no idea what to say other than that we seem to keep 'not getting' each other lately, which makes me very sad, on top of the sad I was already feeling about how I'm doing (or not doing) here, overall. If I were standing further back, I'm sure I'd find it amusing how similar some situations are, in reverse to how they were in Canada when he was there. I didn't get a lot of what he was dealing with there, and all I knew was that it made him sad and even if it didn't have to do with me a lot of the time, I only seemed to be clumsy and make things worse when I tried to help. Of course, the desire to help the person you love, it's there because you care, but it seems in situations like these... there isn't much you can really do except be a cheerleader. We aren't learning this lesson fast enough, about how to be a team, and it worries us both.

Waffling along.

I'm supposed go to see waffle-guy at 8am on Friday morning for an interview. It's in Verviers which means I get on a bus here at 5:18am and try to find my way to a place I'm entirely unfamiliar with. If it works out, then I guess I'm making waffles for awhile to replenish my financial stocks, but really I can't see that being a great thing... working full time and spending 2 hours each way on transit, meaning I'm home for all of 2 hours during the day before bedtime to do it all again. It's not really what I want; to have most of my life consumed by waffles and bleary-eyed-bus-trips.  If I have to, then I will.

But I'm still looking.


Look at me go.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Where the hell did I put those rose-tinted glasses anyways?

So, I suppose it's safe to say that the whole job-hunting thing here makes me anxious a bit, and stressed definitely. I have never been without a job for more than two days since I began my working life, and often I've held more than one job at the same time.

I had to send off a letter today to a temp agency here who had a posting through the government-job-administration-thing (The Forem) just to say that I was already registered with them, and that I'm interested in and qualified for this particular job I'd seen on offer. Boyfriend was home for lunch and I asked him to look over the French, and when he wanted to change something I suppose I wanted to know why a little too anxiously for him. According to him, I freaked out. According to me, I think that the voice of what I was trying to say in my note was being changed a little more than I'd hoped by my boyfriend taking over my keyboard. So something along the lines of me asking why a particular part needed to be changed happened, and then "Because your french is bad" was the response.

Boyfriend has noticed that it seems that parts of what people say stand out to me and stick in my memory. Words not carefully chosen definitely do have a more profound impact on me, like the verbal equivalent of someone slapping you in the face. This is why I've tried to develop a habit of choosing my words carefully, so as not to do this to others, and this ("your french is bad") would sadly be one of those things that has made a bit of a dent in my psyche. Either I'm being some poor suck of a little girl who is hurt by what is probably very much the truth, or that just wasn't a very fair or motivating thing to say. Or maybe both are true. I just know that I feel kind of deflated. This place and all the stuff in it just seems to like to kick me in the gut when I'm already in a vulnerable state. The more it happens, the more I wonder "what am I really doing here?"

In other news, we ate moules et frites last night. And then I woke up feeling horrible a few hours later and threw up. It may have been the mussels, or perhaps that combined with the fact that I already wasn't feeling stellar. I must say that this particular dish has to be the worst one to throw up, at least that I've ever experienced. I've tried over the past few years, to give mussels a second chance at being on that list of stuff I'll eat, but after last night I think they just got blacklisted for good.

And now it's time to go and call a guy about a job making waffles. He called me this morning while I was dying in bed, and left me a message (thankfully) saying he was interested to set up a rendez-vous after seeing my CV. So now I'm off to dazzle him with my amaaaaazing language skills.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Another little toe-hold.

I have a bank card here, and now I just have to go to ING to pick it up. :)  And then it will be another day of postulating my ass all over the place so I can hopefully make some money to put in my account!

Why ING?  Well, I banked with them in Canada, and after never having had a single problem in 10 years with them there, I'm hoping it'll be the case here too.  In Canada at least, they are how banks should be; no fees, better interest rates, and good customer service.  I'm hoping that banking with them here will be just as painless.  I guess we'll see!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How long can you hold your breath for?

Submitted my CV and cover letter to the people I would like most to work for in Belgium today. Hopefully I'll at least hear something, even if it's "hahahaaa, silly CANADIAN!"

Am almost done registering with all the interim agencies in Liège (14 so far,) after hitting up the Boulevard de la Sauvenière again on Monday. I think there are 3 or 4 more, and I'll try to get 'em tomorrow. The crap bit of it all is that in Belgium, students jobs are subsidized by the government. This means that it's a significant bargain for the employer to hire a student when they can, and right now... well, there are zillions of students wanting jobs. All the guys I've spoken with in the agencies have told me that I have two disadvantages on my side and one advantage. Disadvantages = I'm only here for a year, and I'm up against the students right now, which makes me a significantly less appealing investment for an employer to make. Advantage = I have patisserie and chocolate skills and experience, and there are not enough people to fill the need. Basically I've been told that if I can wait until September... maybe I'll find something then. What fun. Because, yeah, employers are going to feel so much better about hiring me if I can only hang around for 6 months.

As for the rest, I'm feeling very tired. A bit like a hamster with blisters who's trying to keep walking on what seems like a treadmill that goes nowhere.

I'm keeping my distance a bit from people for the moment, as dealing with their drama (and their beer,) is really very draining. I just don't have the energy to humour them listen intently and try to decipher what they are saying to me, and just trying to keep my momentum and motivation is challenging some days when life requires so much frikkin' pushing, all the time. So, I'm saving my energy for that..survival mode I guess.

Incidentally, I'm down to my last 100 Euro of the funds I set aside for trying to do this thing... If I manage to finish that off, I suppose that would be the time I should be looking at getting a plane ticket and heading home with a big imaginary red letter "L" blinking on my forehead and a "FAIL" stamp in my passport. :(

Thursday, July 2, 2009

3 months...

This morning I heard back from ING. I have a bank account! Yes! Of course I don't know my account number yet since I'll have to go into the branch and sign my contract and such, and I won't have a bank-card probably for another 2 weeks, but yay! It only took 3 months to have the basic things necessary to feel like a REAL PERSON who could possibly FUNCTION in society! (Note: it took us about 24 hours to get a social insurance number and bank account sorted out for Boyfriend in Canada.  I think we handled all that stuff on his 3rd day in the country.)

This week I've made my attack on the Boulevard de Sauvenière, which is where all the HR agencies and interim agencies are in Liège. Very convenient that they are pretty much all in one place, since you just walk down the street, and pop into the ones that are open along the way. I've registered myself with 9 of them so far, and there are still more to hit up! It's been very good practice for my French, and I have to say that each day I've felt more confident speaking about myself and what I'm able to do. Today there was a glimmer of hope as well that despite the incredibly dead job-market right now (result of the financial crisis,) I may POSSIBLY (possibly) end up in an interview for a choco-job. So say a little prayer to whatever forces you believe in that I get this chance, ok? Because THAT would be awesomeness on top of of a layer of HELLS YES, surrounded in goodness. Of course, for me to have any job would certainly be good, so you know... you could tell the forces you believe in that, too.

To finish my day of hunting in the 30 degree heat, (who knew Belgium had heat waves?) I ended up in FNAC hoping to find something interesting in their culinary section. To my surprise they had the Cordon Bleu Petit Larousse du Chocolat, and the Petit Larousse des desserts! Neither of these books is actually petite, (around 400 and 1000 pages respectively,) and I had been hoping to check out the chocolate one for awhile. In fact, it was as though since the last time I'd stopped into FNAC they had stocked up on the kind of resources I'd been hoping to find, and so I ended up spending a good amount of time there deciding between good books! I'm very happy with what I walked out with though, and to put the cherry on top of my finds, it turned out the remaining balance on my FNAC gift-card (birthday present from Boyfriend) covered all but one Euro of my purchases. Heureuse!

And now... I have to go drink water because my brain has just stalled in a somewhat dehydrated raisin-like state. I really am not joking about the heat wave.