giovedì, maggio 06, 2010

The Shoddyssey part I

Well, I miss M like crazy, and his advice is ringing in my ears: "Expect things to go wrong here, and you'll be fine." As I leave there is one final herculean task involving lots of Belgians that has the capacity to go wrong, and that is getting the cat and I authorization to leave to the country of my choice. And yes, it is going wrong.

1. I need a health check for the permanent visa, part of which involves a chest X-ray. The hospital lost mine. Okay, it's something that could have happened anywhere, but the intense fucking stupidity of the follow-up is what reminds me that I'm in Francophone Belgium and not in your run-of-the-mill sort of place. My examining doctor, to whom the results must be sent, is only available by phone from 13h to 13h30. The woman at the X-ray clinic who is responsible for the deliveries to the doctors only works in the morning. And yet somehow I'm being asked by these morons - me, the only person in the situation whose fault this definitely is not - to work out why the X-ray is lost, when the doctor insists it didn't arrive, and the clinic woman insists she sent it to him.

Fuck. Morons. Fucking Franco-Belgian morons.

Luckily time isn't exactly of the essence, due to the Canadian federal police's cack-handed inadequacy in terms of providing criminal background checks (normal countries can do it in a week; the Mounties take FOUR FUCKING MONTHS; they may always get their man but they have to wait until age slows the fucker down apparently). But I am annoyed. I'm annoyed as all hell. It's not just the prospect of a second exposure to an admittedly low level of radiation, it's not just the prospect of arguing with a bunch of brain-damaged hospital Neanderthals about how I will not pay for a repeat in my daily-worsening French (when I told my brain we were moving to Australia, it just started jettisoning my entire vocabulary, as if being lighter will get us out of this stupid, dirty surrealist shithole faster); it's an utter frustration with Franco-Belgian retardation.

Now I know retardation is not a Franco-Belgian monopoly. It's just the way they're retarded that I can't stand. It's in the way they can fuck up, fuck up royally, exposing the person they're fucking up to a world of expense and bother - so far, so averagely retarded - AND THEN strive like a fucking Bosnian fighting the Roman Empire to blame the person they've fucked over, when there is no stretch of the imagination besides a frighteningly 1984-ish doublethink by which the person who they've fucked over has anything to do with the mechanics of how they were fucked over. It is fucking unbearable. It puts me in the mood for face-punching, car-keying, and crotch-kicking, and I'm a fucking Quaker. It makes me quite adore the British for their mania for apologizing for everything, which used to annoy me.

By-the-by, in my experience, this brand of retardation is a Wallonian trait - not a Flemish trait - good enough reason besides all the others for the Flems to want to seperate, in my opinion. God knows I want to fucking seperate from it post-haste.

2. Somebody in my vet's family died and he won't be able to take the rabies blood test for another couple of weeks. The problem there is that I've cut things too close to the wire, since I was expecting to give her to a friend in Canada. She needs her blood test five months before her departure, and I desperately want the freedom to leave here at the end of September, and I desperately want her to spend the minimum time possible in quarantine on the other end of things. That's just something going wrong, of course. It's not Belgium. My vet's from the south of France and sadly people in families die. But it's adding to my stress level.

I've found a shipping company that can send her there, though, and they seem to know what they're doing and they're Flemish. So things are working out. Slowly. Churningly. Annoyingly.


Anyways, it's time for me to go try to get a tourist visa for China and be exposed to a whole new nationality of bureaucracy.

lunedì, maggio 03, 2010

The cat

Is coming with us to Australia. Nobody wants her. Fine. I do.

Thanks for all the sweet fuck all, world.

domenica, maggio 02, 2010

Screwed and screwed and screwed

After that trip to Istanbul last year I wrote about feeling some moral discomfort about getting naked and then getting a deliciously decadent rubdown from another woman, but committed to going to a hammam in case it was just the stale atmosphere of bourgeois decadence and entitlement at the five star where I was staying that was killing my buzz. It turns out it was. I've been going to Le Riad in the immigrant district next to the Gare de Nord regularly for a few months and I'll keep going at least once a month until I leave. It is ace, and nothing, NOTHING like the thing in Istanbul. Communal (kids get in free and were running around all over the place, having waterfights in the rubdown room), loud (when I was there Saturday a wedding party came in and ululated, which I'd never heard in the flesh before), friendly (helpful attendants running around telling me what to do, since my hammam etiquette isn't down yet, and slapping everybody's asses) and unintimidating.

Anyways. I was there on a busy Ladies' Saturday (most days of the week, women only get half the hours, with men the other half) and the steam room and rubdown slabs were over-capacity, so I was waiting in the nice warm, sunny lounging space upstairs, wrapped in a sarong, sipping a complimentary mint tea and reading Colin Tudge's charming The Secret Life of Birds, when a lady came in to start threading eyebrows. Mine were badly overgrown so when she started loudly complaining of a cancellation, I stuck my hand up to be trimmed. I'd never been threaded before, never even seen it until I started going to the hammam and seeing these women seemingly only having threads ran across their face and emerging hairless, so I was curious.

Which brings me to the point of this post, such as it is. The lady reduced my viciously rambunctious eyebrows to a state of civilization in two minutes. It didn't hurt nearly as much as waxing or plucking and the skin wasn't irritated. It cost six euros. I had no idea who she'd done it, so I came home and read this and watched this. I got a length of darning thread, practiced for ten minutes, and then did my upper lip, which I usually bleach, but in my paranoiac hippiedom I'm sick of smearing myself with chemicals so I've been looking for an alternative that doesn't involve accepting my manly side. It worked; it hurt a bit, but not much, and even with my unpractised hands it only took a few minutes to do the lot.

Now look. This is nice, but at the same time it is absolute BULLSHIT. Let me write it once again: I used a length of darning thread. I used about 50 centimetres of a 20 metre spool of darning thread that cost less than 2 euros to take care of the hair on my face that millions of women shit themselves over, spending a great deal of time and money on; that many women in my family (of whom I'm one of the less sasquatchy members and I'm still quite sasquatchy) have decided they would handle with electrolysis due to the time, mess, expense and trouble involved in waxing. I'm not saying I was ripped off by the lady at the hammam, absolutely not; despite how easy the incredibly beautiful girl in the instructional video above makes it look, I'm more than happy to have somebody else do precision work like eyebrow plucking for me (versus upper lip when you just want it ALL off, though I did give myself an amusing half-hour walking around the house with a Hitler moustache) and I would happily pay her more than six euros, even though her overhead costs for the work she did on me probably ran about 5 centimes. But I AM saying this shit makes me absolutely sick.

Women get screwed, man. They get screwed and screwed. When you can use 5 centimes worth of darning thread to get a result that's better than what you get with with something exponentially more expensive, like waxing or one of these fucking montrosities, that's all I can conclude: we are screwed and screwed and screwed. Not just screwed by notions of beauty involving hairlessness, which is such a common theme across so many cultures that I don't see any real point to objecting to it any more, but really, unforgivably screwed in terms of how bastards try to get our money off us for stupid shit that not only do we not need, but is worse for us than the exponentially cheaper alternatives. On a slightly smaller scale, it's like the flannelette rag towels versus the disposable ones all over again. Just so - fucking - ARGH. Fuck. I really don't think men have the experience to appreciate how structurally screwed women are, on things like this, these little day-to-day things - I mean, I don't blame men, because a lot of this screwing is being carried out by other women; I would just like to communicate to men how structurally screwed we are so they can understand where we're coming from. I love being a woman but my beloved history teacher who blew his brains out a few years back was right: in economic terms women in overdeveloped countries are the aborigines of the modern age, being exploited by cynical profiteers and trading our wealth for shit.