My Plan

July 29, 2011

There is a wonderful Sex and the City episode where Miranda craves some cake.  She buys a supermarket cake mix and bakes a rich, moist, chocolate slab.  She cuts a small slice, closes her eyes and savors the taste sensation from every bite.  She licks her sticky fingers and then wraps the left over cake in tin foil and puts it in the fridge.

A few minutes later, she pads back into the kitchen, opens the fridge and cuts herself a sliver.  Not a slice, just a sliver for another quick taste.  She rewraps her cake and puts it back in the fridge.

The fridge opens and closes repeatedly during the course of the evening as she cuts herself more and more slivers.  At one point, she peers at the remains of her cake and it dawns on her that she has munched through half the slab.  She scrunches the tin foil in disgust and chucks the rest of it in the bin.  That’s the end of that, we think.

Later, she tiptoes back into the kitchen, reaches inside the bin, unwraps the tin foil and scrapes some icing on to her finger.

A little while passes and then she strides into the kitchen.  She grabs the dishwashing liquid, squirts it into the bin and soaks her cake.  She breathes a sigh of relief for finally she has broken her cake’s powerful, magnetic pull.

I love this scene because my self-control is like Miranda’s.  It’s a house of cards and it regularly collapses.  I have also, on the odd occasion, retrieved a discarded chocolate or biscuit from the bin.

My fragile self-discipline is a problem in a place like Switzerland.  This country has opened up a culinary Pandora’s Box and the breads, pastries, wines, cheeses, hams, tarts, meat, sauces and fruits are irresistible.  I buy everything that is new and different.  I don’t eat in moderation and I can’t keep food and make it last.  I am bored and unemployed so eating is the highlight of my day.

I must draw a line in the sand and my constant munching should stop.  From now on, I want to exercise more and eat less.  I am outlining my plan below, for accountability purposes:

Plan of Action

a.  Reduce food quantities

Something has happened to my body since we moved to Switzerland.  I haven’t put on more than 2-3 kgs but my shape has definitely changed.  I feel my tight, toned muscles are melting like candle wax and drifting into places they are not supposed to, like my bum.

I’ve developed a bum like a bushman.  No disrespect to bushmen but they have distinct round backsides and mine is also similar to two protruding ostrich eggs.

It is difficult to find diet food in Switzerland and my quest to locate fat free Brie cheese, ‘light’ pain au chocolats and low calorie butter was fruitless.  Alastair and I eat every meal as if we are stuffing a week’s worth of clothing into a child-sized suitcase.  The key to eliminating my bushman bum is to reduce our meal sizes.  Alastair and I will no longer eat every meal as if it is our last.  From now on, we will eat for two.

b.  Avoid temptation

I must eliminate temptation from my house.  In May, the Coop Supermarket had a chocolate sale and offered slabs in bulk at bargain basement prices.  I never refuse a good deal (especially in an eye-wateringly expensive place like Switzerland) so I bought a bulk pack of over 20 slabs.  I carried them into the house in my arms, rather than just my hands.

I kept them in a drawer in the kitchen and planned they would last until Christmas 2011.  I am surprised the drawer didn’t fall off its hinges, what with the constant opening and closing to get a little piece of chocolate here and a little piece of chocolate there. The 20 slabs tempted and tortured me for over 2 months.  We have one left and it’s only July.

c.  Exercise more … without Al

Exercise is a sensitive topic in the Surycz household.

I often plead with Alastair to chum me on a run/walk.  He’s not interested.  Getting him to join me is like dragging a dead horse through sand.  This weekend, Alastair sprawled himself on the couch and said I must run on my own as he hates jogging and prefers his own exercise – golf and hockey.  ‘But Al,’ I argued, ‘you haven’t played golf in over 12 months and your last hockey game was 5 months ago, before we left London.’

Alastair works hard so, during the weekend, he prefers to chill and lay low.  I don’t mind wallowing like a hippo but I don’t want to look like one too.  I wish we were on the same page exercise-wise because we could motivate each other.  It didn’t further my cause when, the last two times we ran together, Alastair itched uncontrollably and it became so unbearable that he left me and sprinted topless all the way home.

I think women expect a lot from men.  We want our husbands to be every thing to us and meet all our needs.  We assume our husband will be our lover, best friend, psychotherapist, provider, mentor, teacher and financial advisor all rolled into one.  I must accept that, although Alastair fulfils many roles in my life, he will never ever be my personal trainer.

What James Dean didn’t say …

I have a James Dean quote on my wall.  It says, ‘Dream as if you’ll live forever.  Live as if you’ll die today.’  I must remind myself it says ‘live’ (and not EAT) as if you’ll die today.


Boot Camp

July 12, 2011

My blogging has slowed down because I have a day job.  Well, kind of – it’s a pseudo job.  It has many elements of a day job but lacks the best part, which is a salary in the bank account at the end of the month.

Every day, I commute into and out of Geneva city centre at rush hour.  For the first time in four months, I bolt up at 6am when my alarm blares like a foghorn.  The days used to lie before me as a blank canvas and the only thing that distinguished a Saturday from a Wednesday was that Alastair was home.  Nowadays I look forward to Fridays because I only have two days in the week to chill instead of the full seven.  I am using my brain and it no longer feels like something that’s been left at the back of the fridge for too long.  My life has changed because I’ve signed up for an intensive 6-week French course at the University of Geneva.  I’m on a French boot camp.

I travel into Geneva on public transport and I share the train with faceless office workers who all seem to have very important jobs.  Most people skim through meeting agendas and business proposals on the way to work.  I read novels.  When we arrive at the station, I am swept into the tide of power-dressed commuters who goosestep towards their offices. Geneva is the briefcase capital of the world.  I put my homemade lunch in a satchel that bounces on my back as I amble towards the university in my flipflops.

I’ve decided I don’t like Geneva.  It is sterile and too corporate.  Geneva city centre caters for two groups – rich, bored expat housewives who shop at places like Prada and high-flying executives who work at big international companies such as Procter & Gamble. I have no hope of ever landing a high-paying, sexy job and I can’t afford to stock my summer wardrobe at Armani.  So, I don’t fit in in Geneva.

In hindsight, I should have taken my French lessons at the university in Lausanne.  I like Lausanne.  It is more laid back and bohemian.  I know I am not a loser, but Geneva makes me feel like one.  There are many high-tech, posh offices and I often walk past floor to ceiling glass buildings.  Through the windows, I see workers pounding at their keyboards while they gaze into their screens with focus and purpose.  I keep telling myself they are probably just on Facebook.  I want to press my hands and nose against the glass and then knock on the window and mouthe, ‘Can you hire me?  Can I join you?’

I love my course.  I find French endlessly difficult but it is comforting that other people feel the same way.  There are 10 people in my class and everyone comes from a different country.  We rarely chat because our French is poor and so we have no common communication medium.  I smile a lot and use the universal thumbs up, thumbs down technique with some raised eyebrows or a bit of winking.  I struggle to understand a French person speaking French with a French accent so conversing with a Japanese person speaking broken French in a Japanese accent is impossible.

Grammar is my favourite part of the course because it’s fun and I enjoy the brain tease.  Grammar drills remind me of a complicated crossword puzzle or Sudoku.

My speaking is still horrific and I work myself into a flap as I fumble for words and search for vocabulary in the deep, dark recesses of my brain.  I can’t speak French without waving my hands as if I am drying my nail polish in a rush.  My teacher said that one day I will poke someone’s eye out.

Sometimes I progress and, at other times, I regress.  These days, when I listen to talk radio, I can finally follow the gist of the conversation.  But then, the other day, my teacher handed out a page containing a list of French sentences.  I skimmed through them and sank into my chair in a fit of despondency.  I thought, ‘For &#^% sake, will this language ever kick in?  I can’t understand a single one of these sentences!’  The teacher then announced that the words had been jumbled about and the task was to put them in the correct order.  ‘Oh golly’, I whispered to myself, ‘I couldn’t even recognize these words were in the wrong order.’  My lessons involve two steps forward, one step back.

The best way to learn French quickly is to speak it at home.  Alastair only understands the French words ‘bonjour’, ‘merci, ‘au revoir’ and ‘Je voudrais un croissant’.  He hates it when I use him as a sounding board.  If he asks me where something is in the house or what the time is, I sometimes reply in French for practice.  He says this is condescending and makes him feel really really stupid.  It is a dilemma because it makes me feel really really clever.

My French boot camp is not only teaching me French, but some life lessons too.  My new “day job” has shown me that a job gives but it also takes away.  It provides money (and stimulation, if you’re lucky) but it removes time.  My 6 week pseudo job has chewed up my flexibility and I realize how much I enjoyed all the free time I had.  My days as a blank canvas were a special, priceless gift and I didn’t appreciate them enough.

So, as of this moment, I’m drawing a line in the sand.  No more complaining about my joblessness.  I am blessed beyond my wildest expectations and I spend too much time whining about my job situation like I’m a disappointed emperor.

I bet many of the glass offices I see in the mornings are just glorified prisons.  I wonder if those workers notice me as I flipflop past their windows.  Maybe they stop pounding their keyboards and rush to the window, squeeze their nose and hands against it and mouthe, ‘Get me out of here.  Take me with you ….’