BY Maria

07/01 Direct Link
I thought I could escape the emotional turmoil of organizing a wedding. After all, it will be small and simple, nobody is paying but us, everybody is happy and excited. But now there are issues. Expectations. Decisions to be made. Feelings to be hurt. Meet rock. Meet hard place. Meet me. I am always surprised how badly things like this affect me. After three days of feeling sad, I decided to loose myself in some urgent planning details. Now I am exhausted but happy again. The issues are still unresolved, though. And next week is my birthday. Let's not forget.
07/02 Direct Link
Usually I am not like this. I don't mind filing taxes or filling out financial forms. It is Max who hates doing that. But tonight I was freaking out over this statement I had to prepare to justify how I had spent my stipend money. It was overdue already, and I had to scramble for insurance premiums, amount of taxes paid, and the like. Or so I thought, until I finally found the original letter. All I had to do was send in proof that I had lived here for the full year. Nice. Very nice. Can I scream now?
07/03 Direct Link
As if I hadn't had enough fun with finances yesterday. Today, we completed the overview of all our possessions and debts, to be included in our prenups. Which was an interesting exercise, because most of Max' information is back at home, and required an extensive search by his parents. Luckily, I could get most of what I needed through the internet. The figures were, in all, not bad. Now that it's done, it can be printed and signed, and then we can go to the Embassy to sign our prenups. Getting married in another country is definitely an interesting experience!
07/04 Direct Link
Radio commercial. Please make up your own Swedish accent. Say pah-tee-o, instead of paddy-o.

'In winter, people say "It is too cold! I don't like the cold!". In summer, they say "It is too muggy! I don't like the muggy heat!". That's why IKEA has their summer sale. Now, people are saying: "I don't like the muggy heat! But I do like sitting on my patio with new stuff I bought on sale at IKEA!'

So now I am stuck with the phrase 'Ikea summer sale' in my head. Especially in this muggy heat. I could use a nice pah-tee-o.
07/05 Direct Link
You can get used to almost anything. Having to buy your alcohol in special stores feels almost normal now, especially with the beer store around the corner. Wine is another matter, though. We have to go out of way to get it (200 meters that is), and never do I feel the lack of it more than whilst cooking. A dash of white or red to spruce up otherwise bland dishes. A glass or two to accompany a nice meal, and one more to finish off the bottle. I think a little trip is in order. LCBO here I come!
07/06 Direct Link
Turning one. Turning two. Turning three. Turning four. Turning five. Jump for joy. Turning six. Learn to read. Turning seven. Turning eight. Turning nine. Turning ten! Turning eleven. Turning twelve. Turning thirteen. Turning fourteen. Turning fifteen. In France. Turning sixteen. Turning seventeen. Turning eighteen. Can vote now. Turning nineteen. Had sex. Turning twenty. Turning twenty-one. I could drink already. Turning twenty-two. Turning twenty-three. Turning twenty-four. In Canada. Turning twenty-five. Back home. Turning twenty-six. My mother had me when she was this old. Turning twenty-seven. Turning twenty-eight. Turning twenty-nine. Turning thirty. Eek. Turning thirty-one. Eek! In Canada again.Turning thirty-two! At midnight.
07/07 Direct Link
Birthdays work different here. You do not organize your own festivities, others do that for you. They buy you cake, take you out for drinks, take you out for dinner. Where applicable. It's all very nice of course, easier on your wallet and certainly easier on your stress-level. It does, however, take part of the excitement away. Planning your own party makes the days before your birthday already a bit special. I had not realized that I did actually miss that feeling until I was at the baker's yesterday, choosing and buying my own cake to share with friends today.
07/08 Direct Link
One of my colleagues put a message on the board yesterday. 'Hartelijk gefeliciteerd Maria!' it said, and mightily confused people. Some of them got the idea and came to me to ask how it was pronounced. Some gave it a try of their own, or changed it into the closest they knew: 'Herzlichen Gewurztraminer!'. And some had no idea, and so totally missed out on the fact that it was my birthday. They apologized profusely the next day. Oh, and the words were slightly misspelled, because the source of this wisdom only had one Dutch grandfather to go by. Funny.
07/09 Direct Link
More wedding stuff! We went to the Dutch Embassy to sign our prenuptial agreement, and, most importantly, to get our signatures legalized. Due to undoubtedly very useful bureacratic rules, it took us close to two hours. It did not help that I had forgotten they don't take credit cards, and thus had to get out to get cash. We saw some interesting people applying for various things. After we got our papers back with the signature of the vice-consul, we went straight to the post office to send them home by registered mail. One step closer to getting legally hitched!
07/10 Direct Link
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage? It has certainly been on my mind a lot lately, what with one colleague due in September and another probably pregnant as well - but not telling yet. I am alternately deeply attracted and absolutely frightened by the idea. Max wants to have kids, but not necessarily right now (wonder if that will ever change). There is, of course, this small issue of steady employment and a stable future to keep in mind. We have no idea where we will be going one year from now.
07/11 Direct Link
This colleague of mine... I'm not supposed to know anything, and maybe I'm totally mistaken, but I do think she is pregnant. I glanced over a printout of an e-mail (not meant for my eyes, for sure), she's been having a lot of whispered conversations with the girl who's due in two months, and at the party today, she didn't drink or smoke - which she normally would have. I think it would be wonderful for her, and I'm also very interested in how she would arrange things. For me, it would be much the same, so I am curious.
07/12 Direct Link
More baby-talk. Last week, I forgot the pill twice, and we had sex at time when we shouldn't have. Despite the very small odds, I found myself secretly hoping that all the planning could fall by the wayside. But no. Probably it's for the best, for I still believe it is better to make it happen rather than let it happen... And for now, there is too much emotional turmoil anyway, with the wedding and family coming over. So I've decided not to push the issue, to wait a few months before considering it again. No need to complicate things...
07/13 Direct Link
So now we can focus on some more short-term planning. Where are we going on our honeymoon? Max wants to go to the Grand Canyon and some more of those hot, dry desert parks. I don't mind at all, roadtrips always work well for us, but I also find myself craving ocean. And there's so little of that in Arizona... Now we are torn between being sensible and being crazy. Being crazy is much more our style, and after all, this is our honeymoon... So who knows where we might end up. For now, our heads are reeling with possibilities.
07/14 Direct Link
I don't think I ever paid this much money for something, and most certainly not online. Then again, I didn't pay, Max did, and even after our wedding we won't have joint accounts, so it really is his money that is paying for our flight tickets. But I get to go too! We're flying to Los Angeles, rent a car, make an 8 day road trip to see 'all' the Parks, and then fly from L.A.. via Maui to Big Island, Hawaii. The best of both worlds, it is called. Also known as have your cake and eat it, too.
07/15 Direct Link
To see 'all' the Parks in eight days is perhaps a bit ambitious. So we need to make a plan. And a schedule. Max keeps reassuring me that such a schedule is only a directive, nothing will set in stone. But seeing how little time we have for all we (he) want to do is freaking me out. So my role is to cut back on things to do and see, to give us (me) some breathing space. All in all, we are both quite happy with the result. We must be sure to include 'to compromise' in our vows!
07/16 Direct Link
We start out in Los Angeles, arriving late afternoon and sleeping in a hotel. Next day, we'll rent a car and head out to Sequioa National Park, where we'll camp. The day after we'll explore this park and then drive towards Death Valley, which is our destination for exploration the following day.Then, we plan to see the sun rise in Death Valley and drive out to the Grand Canyon. A full day for exploring this park, and then on to the Mojave Desert. The last day is for Joshua Tree, and driving back to L.A. How's that for a roadtrip?
07/17 Direct Link
In Hawaii, I want to swim in the ocean, rent snorkel gear and look at the tropical fish underwater, while getting the back of my legs sunburnt. I want to see sea turtles and manta rays. I want to lie in a hammock and drink from a coconut. I want to walk around in my swimwear and a hat, and not mind the heat. I want to see steamvents, and lava flowing into the ocean at night, red sparks and all. I want to drink Kona coffee and Kava. Did I already mention I want to swim in the ocean?
07/18 Direct Link
I went shopping today, sort of an extended birthday bash. I got money from my future parents-in-law to spend, and I especially wanted new walking sandals. Of course, the first thing I bought was a new bikini - a first in itself, since I usually wear a bathing suit. After that, I must have tried on every single sandal in the whole Eaton Centre. Twice. And then some more. And although I was looking forward to buying North Face or Columbia, I finally settled for sandals made in Italy. They are very comfortable, and I didn't get any blisters. Yeah!
07/19 Direct Link
Of course all the family coming over for our wedding has to sleep somewhere. Luckily, 'all the family' adds up to only seven people, but still. With our one bedroom appartment and a wedding going on, we decided we want to keep our house to ourselves. This means looking at hotels and Bed and Breakfasts. Parents being how they are, they are not making any demands, but they would like a private bathroom, ensuite actually, and preferably a room on the ground floor. And of course they don't need a kitchen, but then again, it would be handy, wouldn't it?
07/20 Direct Link
With all the amenities our parents would like to have while they're here, they don't want to pay too much. So the search for the ideal place is on. Early on, I hit the jackpot for Max' parents and aunt. A beautiful 2-storey, 2-bedroom house, exclusive use, five minutes away from us, for only 150 dollars per day.You would be very hard pressed to find anything nice in downtown Toronto for 75 dollars per room, so it is an excellent deal. After having seen the place, I still don't believe there isn't a catch somewhere, but I haven't found one.
07/21 Direct Link
Now, of course, I feel pressure to find something as nice for my parents. Which isn't fair, and they tell me so. My father helps by searching the Internet for Bed and Breakfasts, and together we come up with two options: one is a nice room with lots of privacy, but a 20 minute walk from our place. The other is around the corner from us, but less nice and with a very talkative owner - not my parents' cup of tea. I book both, after having made sure I'm allowed to cancel either of them if I need to.
07/22 Direct Link
My parents go for a walk, to see how far 20 minutes walking is. Not too bad, it turns out. After I tell them there is a bus they can take as well, they decide to take the nicer room that's a bit further away. As I hoped they would. It might be a bit awkward when they have to go all the way back at night, but the place is better suited for them. So now they are all set. Oh wait, I would really like to hear back from place number two, and see them return my deposit.
07/23 Direct Link
Then there's my brother-in-law. He's pretty decisive in what he doesn't want. I find this out after throwing all sorts of relatively cheap Bed and Breakfast rooms at him. It turns out he really wants the privacy of a hotel. Well... if you ever thought booking a flight through the internet is confusing, wait until you check out hotels. Different countries, different sites. Different sites, different quotes. Come back the next day, different quote yet again. Not that it ever gets any cheaper, of course. Finally he decides. Then waits four days before booking it. Luckily, he gets the deal.
07/24 Direct Link
My sister-in-law was the first one to get a place to stay, since she will sleep at our landlord's place. They have a big house with an extra bedroom and additional place to sleep on the third floor. We've slept at their place while our parents stayed in our house, and my dad has stayed with them as well. They are very accommodating. It's a double blessing to have your landlords as your friends, and have them live ten houses down the road. And we are using more than just their spare bedroom. We are getting married in their backyard!
07/25 Direct Link
There is one drawback to my landlord's place, though. This year, they got two cats, in additional to the quiet puss they already had. These new cats are not quiet. They're Maine Coon cats, big, talkative, and very sweet. Problem is, they wanted the male to grow as big as possible, which meant they wanted to postpone having him neutered. As long as possible. Which basically is until he starts spraying. Unfortunately, you never now when exactly he will start spraying, and once you find out, he'll have done it in more places than you think possible. Javex, Javex, Javex...
07/26 Direct Link
It may not seem fair that I had to do all the searching for hotels and such, for Max' family as well as mine. In Max defence, I can say he was working on average 14 hours a day for the last two weeks. I only saw him late at night and when he left in the morning. He is working as an 'extra' for film and TV, and his latest assignment was in a sub-par Disney movie filmed in an ice-rink. Besides enlisting 500 extra's, the producer beefed up the audience with about 300 dummies. No pictures allowed, unfortunately.
07/27 Direct Link
Toronto is a popular location for the taping of movies and TV-shows. It looks like any American city, but you pay in Canadian dollars here, which makes it about forty percent cheaper for companies south of the border. So they come in droves. Every other day you walk into a street filled with trailers, cables spilling from their open doors, people walking in and out of buildings carrying all sorts of equipment and looking very busy. I always wondered what it would be like inside. Now I get daily reports from Max. It's not glamorous. It's not pretty. It's hot.
07/28 Direct Link
Fimsets with no airconditioning, an audience that is encouraged to smoke, tons of big lamps for optimal lighting, and 28 degrees outside. No decent chairs, so you have to sit on concrete all day. During your break, long lines for food that is better left unidentified. Start at six in the morning, finish at ten or eleven at night. People get fired for joking about touching the dummies. But... you make a hundred bucks a day, and get to know new people, new words and new cardgames in addition. And don't forget the horrific experiences you can brag about afterwards...
07/29 Direct Link
As an extra, you are usually just a face in the crowd. But you can try to make yourself stand out. Waving a big Portuguese flag in an ice rink that's supposed to be in Philadelphia, because Portugal won a Euro 2004 soccer match. That will get you noticed. And cut from the scene. Then there are those who will always position themselves in front of the camera. Until they are sent away because they become too recognizable. Those that play with their palmtop in a movie that's set in the 1930's. And those that just won't wake up anymore.
07/30 Direct Link
You are expected to bring your own wardrobe for these movies. Usually it's a suit with shirt and tie, and one 'casual' wardrobe. But one suit won't do. Some sets specifically ask for a black suit and white shirt. Sometimes you need a black shirt - to play a priest. Other times, absolutely no black, so you'll want to have a grey suit as well. In the heart of summer, you need a thick winter coat. A long raincoat, creme or beige. A brightly colored scarf, but no red. It's a comforting thought that Goodwill is right around the corner.
07/31 Direct Link
Today we were supposed to go to Montreal to help a friend move. She had rented a van for a one-way trip Toronto-Montreal. Her only mistake was that she had rented with U-Haul. That one mistake did her in. U-Haul promises they'll have a van for you. Not where it will be, but there will be a van. Not so. After a long day of calling U-Haul and being promised a multitude of vans, not so. Their latest promise: to have a van for her by 8 p.m. At 8 p.m. she called U-Haul once again. Voice mail. They're closed.