Name: Christine, aka "Reikalein"
Posts by Reikalein:
- read three and a half books.
- I have collated a lot of data for my Grandad’s book.
- I have made four pairs of earrings (I am a secret jewellery-making enthusiast hoping to open a small side business one day).
- Been either running, to yoga or skiing every single day. I am going bouldering this evening, incidentally.
- I get to the bus stop three minutes early, what do I do? Pull out the iPhone.
- Someone is late meeting me (this is, admittedly, perhaps going beyond the realms of believable fiction as I have the terrible habit of running late – something I am consciously working on improving), what do I do? Pull out the iPhone.
- I am intently reading a book but something in the back of my mind is telling me it’s facebook checking time…and out comes the bloody stupid iPhone.
Behold the difference between the “bio” egg I bought at coop and the egg I got from the farmers’ market. Guess which one was cheaper…
Too flustered to post these days, but for nice reasons, not just due to being busy! Using “busy” as the default excuse is a pet peeve of mine, which means I myself should stop using it!
An update of my health and running status is hardly going to be the epitome of an exciting read for most people, but I want to chronicle this moment for my own personal satisfaction.
I woke up this morning to find a white blob protruding from my tonsil. I groaned, cursed the 10km “runch” from yesterday (lunch time run, it’s a thing now, I’m telling you) and prodded my glands. No swelling and no pain. Being in front of the mirror at the time meant I had the chance to register the look of surprise on my face. After letting relief rush over me for a moment, I immediately had to know what the hell the white thing perched on my tonsil was.
Of course, I simply had to arrange an appointment with Dr. Google within a few milliseconds of my discovery. So while I brushed my teeth I dexterously keyed the words “white stuff on tonsil but no pain” into my iPhone.
Tonsil stone. That’s what it was. Relief and disgust makes for an odd combination of emotions to have to register before leaving the house to go to work at 07:30. I left with the stone lodged right where I spotted it and tried not to think about it.
After an hour or so of successfully resisting the urge to buy a miniature pneumatic drill, I went to the bathroom and coughed vigorously. Few things make you feel more nuts than when you force yourself to cough in front of the mirror, bizarrely maintaining eye contact with your poor suffering self throughout. It worked though. So this happy Jappy is free of glandular fever doom and tonsil stones, for the day, at least.
I’m longing for the day I can wake up without having to peer down my throat to check the status of my health. It’s approaching though, of that I’m pretty sure. Since December I haven’t had to take pain killers for my throat. That’s almost four months. I don’t want to jinx it, but not rejoicing the fact might push the virus to punish me for my ingratitude. So, I’m taking this opportunity to thank my immune system for pulling it’s finger out. Now please continue with what you’re doing.
I’m a little apprehensive about writing why this progress has come about, because it involves potentially having to allude to the existence of “witch doctors”… but since it has turned my life around, I want to share my story on the internet in case it ends up helping anyone else whose life was shot to pieces by bouts of recurring glandular fever. I mentioned Gina Burton’s services a little while ago and only went over the dietary recommendations she provided. This is because skepticism was pretty rife even in my hippy-tendency-filled brain. Gina had recommended I take some African herbal supplements, provided by a lady in New Zealand. The lady herself, had discovered them through a witch doctor in South Africa – she used to work for a large pharma company and set up her own business when she discovered the only way to cure her bust up knee was by rubbing African potato tuber on it. Must have been a moment of immense disillusionment for her.
Once I finally let go of the voices telling me I was going to die upon ingesting an alien substance purchased over the internet, I gave it a go. After all, I could just as easily have a hidden allergy to pharmaceutical products and collapse upon taking something I’ve never had before anyway.
Just over 3 months in and my body is almost completely renewed. I have energy again, the brain fog is lifting, I can run without crippling my throat and energy levels and even when my throat rebels a little, it’s so mild I can practically ignore it. I cannot express, neither in words nor in the form of any other communication mode, just how liberated I feel.
I decided to celebrate by signing up to the Aletsch half marathon at the end of June. Typically, I had forgotten just how unfit a year off from regular running has made me. Hill intervals on the Uetliberg during my runch was self-flagellation at its peak. I also lacked the foresight to check the profile of the race beforehand. The last kilometer is an ascent of 300m. Kill me now. At least we’re running through UNESCO heritage alpine territory.
In the meantime, I am continuing the quest to touch my toes with the help of regular yoga classes. The hips have never felt so abused, but I suppose it’s best to loosen them up now, as opposed to waiting for a baby to come along one day and get its head stuck in my rigid hip bones on its way out.
Bouldering is also back on the agenda, although, the frustration there runs even deeper, possibly, than with the running. Having gained a little weight from the lack of activity, I have more than just the lack of muscle to blame. Despite all the obstacles though, I am so glad to be able to engage in sports again. After all, it’s practically the whole reason I moved to this country. It’s time to make up for lost time.
Since I wrote my my last post about leaving Facebook, I have been infinitely more productive on many different levels.
Since that post I have:
And what have I fallen behind on? Writing back to people.
Perhaps all I needed was to know that I would be depriving myself of a very convenient communication tool if I didn’t get my procrastination under control. For the timebeing, it seems to have worked. I have spent far less time on the internet and have been getting on with real life things instead. It’s a wonderful feeling.
I am hoping to find that this isn’t a phase, but the beginning of a new approach to managing my time. A lasting one.
I never thought sugar and I could coexist without me abusing it, but I think it’s safe to say my addiction is behind me. Perhaps I can do this with Facebook (and the internet in general).
My initial plan is to only reply to messages I receive on Facebook on the weekends (unless urgent). This will stop me from reaching out for my laptop as soon as I get home. Let’s see how this goes. If I fall back to my old ways of surfing the evenings away on the internet, Facebook’s second chance will not be yielding a third.
image taken from here.
I used to live in London. I tell people that, but in reality I was only there as a “resident” for three months before ending up in Zürich. Now I keep telling myself that London is where my heart lives. My body is happy in Zürich where I can easily access the mountains, where I can run along the lake, multiple rivers or up huge hills, but my heart is still beating for the hustle and bustle of London. I still yearn for the random encounters, the joy brought about by an unexpected ray of sun, the ability to nibble your way around the world’s many cuisines and, let’s face it, the shopping.
Zürich is not a shopping city. Some may say it’s reserved for those to whom the gold bars under Paradeplatz belong, but I would simply say it’s pretty insipid no matter how many Swiss Franc bills you have stashed under your pillow. The combination of the prices and the limited choice means that every time I go to London to visit friends I end up trying to coerce someone to spend half a day shopping with me. I just did that very thing last Friday, well, the persuading someone to shop with me part was unsuccessful seeing as it was during the day, but the successful outcome of the shopping itself was reflected in the discrepancy in weight of my suitcase on the in and out bound journeys.
This reminded me that I quite often get asked for recommendations when it comes to London. What to see, what to do, where to eat, which shops to prioritize. So I thought I would present my ideal day in London. It’s not entirely realistic because the public transport and the crowds of people on the street would inevitably slow you down a bit, but if I had London to myself for the day and could usher everyone back into the city at sundown, this is how it would look:
Ideally, I’d be staying in a hotel near a park. I once stayed in the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green and found it to be quite the delight. It was thanks to a bargain on lastminute.com that I managed to stay in such a lush place. On this particular fantasy morning, I would be opening my eyes while nestled in the covers at this hotel. I would then nip out for a run in Victoria Park, a stone’s throw away from Bethnal Green. In fact, where I used to “live”.
Freshly showered, I’d now be ready to set out to find some breakfast. Even if the hotel provided breakfast, I would head to Broadway Market because on my fantasy day it’s a Saturday, which means the market is on. Who can resist the idea of munching on a hog roast sandwich, sipping on a Vietnamese coffee and all the while browsing all the beautiful handmade goods on offer. I would have to take a short break, so after the shopping I’d swing by the Broadway bookshop, scoop up something delicious to read and plonk myself down in L’eau à la bouche for a cup of tea and a power read.
On days like these I usually stuff myself to the brim and can therefore go without lunch. Fully fuelled up and ready to spend some money, I would walk over to Brick Lane and have a wander around the wonderfully quirky boutiques. Not everything is to my taste there, but the gems I have found have shone on for years.
Although it’s become a bit of a cliché, I’d at this point head to Oxford Circus and wander into Uniqlo for my basic tees and tights and what have you. Perhaps it’s because I’m half Japanese and, as a result, a wee bit biased, but I find Uniqlo is definitely the best place for basics. Once the sensible shopping is out of the way, I would veer towards Carnaby Street to buy yet another pair of Onitsukas or some yoga wear or something equally nice but unnecessary. Of course, while in this neck of the woods a gander at the goods in Liberty is unavoidable. I just hope to come out with a positive bank balance…being a guilty spender, this is usually no problem for me.
Time for a coffee. Bar Italia, of course. Soho welcomes all tired London explorers and sends them packed full of energy again. The shops in the area and leading towards Covent Garden are worthy of a whole day’s touring, but alas, I have to squeeze everything into my ideal day.
Time for a last minute bargain to assuage any guilt I feel for over splurging throughout the day. TK Maxx came to London a few years ago and landed itself on Charing Cross Road. The assumption that Londoners didn’t need to buy Prada, Seven for all mankind and those other wallet bashing brands for a fraction of the price was a pretty misguided one, if you ask me. Since this is a fantasy day, I’m going to say that I found myself a pair of arse enhancing jeans that didn’t even need shortening.
Not having lunch has its consequences. I need to eat now. Again, this is my ideal day, so all my shopping has been taken off my hands by my boyfriend, who dashed back to the hotel to leave it all in our room while I head to a cocktail bar for a quick aperitif. A Mr Hyde’s No. 3 goes down a treat at Purl. 12 quid for a cocktail is standard when you come from Zürich…but to be cost conscious, I would opt for a pub for dinner afterwards. When in Rome.
The boyfriend would meet me at a pub my friends introduced me to recently. It’s called the Duke of Wellington and is rather hidden but not far from Marylebone, giving me a chance to walk off the effects of the cocktail. Last time I was there I had a burger with peanut butter in it and beetroot coleslaw with poppy seeds (or something like that). Divine.
Since this is my fantasy day and I have limitless energy, feeling a bit squiffy by this point, I would drag myself back to East London and grab a night cap on Hoxton Square at Happiness Forgets. Quiet and cosy, just what I need now that I’ve crept past that age where the music clubs in this area were where my high-heeled feet would lead me.
So, if this sounds like a fantastic day out in London to any of you, let me know if you want a travel buddy! I will pounce on any excuse to hop on a plane to London. Helping a stranger do their shopping in London? Standard.
*Just so you know, this blog post is in no way sponsored by the companies to which I link. It is an entry to a competition organised by Visit Britain Shop. The topic appealed to me, so I entered. The content is genuine.
If you’re just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television’s electric plug-wire, wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far.
I don’t have a TV, so I should be all set to start writing my Grandad’s memoir. I should be able to sit down evening after evening and churn out thousands of words uninterrupted because the menace to concentration that is the TV does not exist in my environment.
Mr. King is not of my generation. He did not have to put pen to paper and create childhood altering characters like, “It” with the internet nagging him to take part in its shenanigans every two minutes. Otherwise his quote would be about Facebook, not something as innocuous as a television.
These days we’re used to witnessing people suddenly and openly declaring that they are leaving Facebook and I’m sure many people who do leave, like me, are seeking a respite from the background noise, hoping that it will provide the ultimate no-excuse environment in which they can fixate their interests on something supposedly worthwhile, something that contributes to the deepening of those crevices on the brain. That is by far my main motive.
Hang on a sec, before we go any further let me correct one thing – it’s facebook, not Facebook. It’s not a deity.
Now that we have that sorted, I’ll show you what my dependency looks like:
I’m approaching an age at which self-reflection seems to have become as routine as tooth-brushing. Every day I face a new dilemma about who I am, what I should do, where I should go, what I can do to make myself a better person bla bla bla… One positive outcome of having entered this phase of my life is that I have established something central to determining my behaviour in general – I have an addictive personality. My relationship with sugar was my first encounter with this truth and now facebook and the internet in general are surfacing as joint-second place on my list of biggest vices. Eliminating the influence of the internet from my life would mean my blog would go down the toilet, so that’s not something I’m about to force myself to do, but facebook can take the cut. My personal profile, that is.
I’ve managed to stay in touch with the friends that really matter to me despite moving to various countries throughout my life – Zuckerberg’s (kidnapped) brain child didn’t appear on the scene until I was seventeen. So if I hadn’t been hankering after it before it existed, I shouldn’t miss it if I stop using it, in theory. I’ve just this moment realised that for a staggering eight years, I have been able to scroll through facebook and gorge on the occasionally uplifting, seldom awe-inducing and frequently trivial things my friends (and acquaintances I have added out of politeness) are sharing with their social media sphere. That’s almost a third of my lifetime thus far. Jesus.
Other than it demanding our attention all the bloody time, it also gives way to people being lazy in face-to-face encounters. Facebook ends up providing conversation material, like who of your mutual friends got married, has tattooed their three year old’s ears, eaten an icecream in their bath tub recently, etc. Just because it’s gossip about a friend that you came across on the internet, and not about a celebrity, it doesn’t make it any less pointless or vapid for it to be the sole source of chin-wag material over a coffee with a friend. It’s also sad to think that facebook takes the mystery out of reunions and the like – I am immensely looking forward to seeing some of my friends from High School in May, and if it hadn’t been for facebook I would be in the dark about one of my friends’ marriage and the subsequent arrival of her adorable baby girl. Although it’s thanks to facebook I’m able to initiate a gathering, there is a bitter sweet feeling surrounding the idea that it could have all been a wonderfully pleasant surprise.
Enough is enough. I’m leaving. I don’t have this quality that everyone else had bestowed upon them at birth, I was created unequal – where my willpower should lay there is a void. I have no choice but to be an all or nothing person and facebook falls deservingly into the “nothing” pile.
Who uses ghee, or clarified butter as it’s referred to by health nuts, to cook with instead of butter?
I wouldn’t be surprised if not many people knew what it was, or if they thought it was just an ingredient that had no purpose other than within an Indian person’s kitchen. I hadn’t thought of using it myself until recently – I had dismissed it because for some reason I had it in my head that it was some sort of bee-made flower extract (My scepticism stems from having experienced indelibly ingrained real-life nightmares involving propolis, argulably the nastiest tasting edible substance on the planet).
It turns out it’s basically butter without its milk solids or liquid, so, in other words, it’s just the fat component of butter. It still tastes buttery, but is much milder.
If it doesn’t even taste as good as butter, why use it?
It’s all in the smoking point. Butter starts to burn at 325-375 °F or 163-190 °C, whereas ghee stays intact up to 485 °F or 252 °C. So for sautéing it’s much better to use than olive oil or butter, which is what I was using up until now.
So what’s wrong with using olive oil for sautéing veggies?
Well, when the oil starts to smoke, it releases free radicals, which, if you’ve heard of the word antioxidant, you know are not welcomed by your body. Ghee won’t attack your cells unless your stove manages to reach heats of over 252 °C.
So where do I get it, you ask?
In most Indian food shops, health food shops and I imagine posh grocery shops. Here in Zurich I’ve only found it in the health food shop. It’s extortionate though, for 16 CHF you get a very measly amount in a pot almost as small as the little jam jars you get at hotels.
So I make it myself. Here’s how:
1. Buy some unsalted butter (I don’t want to sound like a hippy here, but organic is best). I used two blocks of 350g. The amount depends on the size of the receptacle you have prepared.
2. Place the butter in a frying pan and let it melt on a medium-low heat. Once it’s melted, keep it simmering gently on a low heat. It’ll start to make a crackling sound. This is the liquid escaping the butter, so I am told. Keep stirring the liquid butter until the crackling comes to a stop and the white milk solids are separated from the gold yellow liquid. It takes around 15 minutes, so put on some good music to help pass the time.
This is admittedly the world’s most boring youtube debut (do I get an obscure award for this?), but the point of the video is to show you just how much it crackles. Wait for the climax at around 00:15.
3. Strain the liquid. I used a muslin cloth. I had to strain it twice to make sure it was really milk solid free. Your ghee is now ready. It will solidify at colder temperatures, but that’s not a problem. It will keep at room temperature for months, but you can can keep it in the fridge if you’re paranoid. If you use if everytime you fry something, it will run out before it can go rancid, I assure you.
Enjoy cooking without your kitchen smelling like bonfire central and enjoy eating without all the free radicals drop-kicking your dear little cells!
Cute butter image from here
I wish I had been capable of following my own advice, but I have never been virtuous enough for that. The sugar ban is perhaps the only area in which I’ve thrived in this respect, but even then I have wobbles from time to time, albeit small ones, especially as of the 1st of January.
It’s been a month since the sugar ban, which, incidentally, is about the same amount of time I gave myself to really knuckle down and start revising for the exam. I would say it was probably more or less the perfect amount of time. Give yourself too long and the adrenaline peak is too far off for you to properly rev your engines, give yourself any less and the adrenaline is almost deafeningly close, inhibiting any chances you had of actually concentrating.
I say this in relation to all levels of language exams. Realistically speaking, you’re going to have spent a chunk of time actually getting to grips with the language, that is, you’re not going to start learning a significant amount of new stuff within a few weeks prior to the exam. The foundations of the actual language level you want to prove you have with a certificate should already be in place before you set your sights on the challenge. Meaning that, effectively, the last few weeks is when you learn how to pass the exam, as opposed to learning the language. Thinking this way will help make the process feel at least a smidgen less daunting. I wish I had approached the beast this way from the beginning. Instead I smacked my head against the wall to drown out the voice that kept wailing, “you can’t learn German to perfection in four weeks, you are so screwed”!
Don’t do what I did. Mr. Mcgregor’s approach is at least skull and skull-content friendly.
Remember, you’re not a native speaker so you’re never going to be expected to speak or write like one. Reflect on all the mistakes fluent English speakers make and how, in your head, those people are still categorised as being “fluent”. These people have most likely passed the Cambridge exam or could if they wanted to, but even so, they probably still drop a small mistake into every business e-mail they have to write. Despite this, they are still perfectly well understood. My saying this isn’t meant to make you feel cocky, it’s meant to be reassuring. One of the problems I have is that I keep thinking I have to sound flawless in order for people to think I can speak German. It doesn’t work that way with English so why set yourself impossible to attain standards?
The answer is simple: just don’t.
Once your brain has accepted that you’re not attempting to get your name into the Guinness Book of Records as the most fluent sounding non-native German speaker, your heart rate should be close to normal levels again. Take this newly acquired sense of calm and use it to concentrate on trudging through past exam after past exam. Polish up the grammatical errors your teacher suggests you focus on and let the rest remain a mystery. You won’t be able to expand your vocabulary enough to limit all sense of doubt on the day, so don’t make this your priority. Focus on what you do know and try to manipulate those into usage on the day.
I remember studying for my final Italian language exam at Uni – the tension was similar back then. I had reached such a state of delirium that I had resorted to listening to Caparezza non-stop (strange, politically charged Italian rap). The lyrics were cemented in my mind. What happened on the day? One of the essay questions was about the political background of Italian modern music. Jack pot.
The moral of the story is, you never know what will come up on the exam, so just go about your daily business, expose yourself to the relevant culture in the way that is most natural to you and you’re bound to find a use for it somewhere along the way.
Let’s see how well this retrospective advice works when I potentially have to sit a retake. I will find out in March, so keep your fingers crossed for me until then.
Sometimes it’s best not to overthink things, to let things take shape without the influence of your meddling self interests.
These days all that I seem to be able to think over and over again is, “what now?”. I’ve landed myself the job I wanted, I’ve sat the Goethe Zertifikat exam (who knows if I’ve passed or not…) and I’m not quite in a place where my virus will let me start training for another marathon again (though I think I’ll be there soon).
Although I sound somewhat aimless now, I have my next long term project ahead of me already: working on my Grandad’s memoir. It’s something I’m going to be knuckling down on as soon as my Grandad has his iPad – I need to be able to communicate with him from Switzerland on a regular basis and his ancient laptop is a bit of a hindrance. I was envisioning this being a bit like the scenes portrayed in the graphic novel, Maus, but being abroad makes that an impossibility, the iPad will have to do.
The thing is, although I have this immensely fulfilling project ahead of me, I’m still apprehensive of what’s going to come after that. I am addicted to having something productive yet daunting looming ahead of me. There are upsides to this obsession, but for the most part it leaves me feeling dissatisfied with the present and constantly longing for what the future is supposed to deliver.
What bothers me most about this is that I don’t think I was always like this. I’ve always been one to dip my finger in every pie I set eyes on and pile way too much of said pie on my measly saucer-sized plate, but not because I had great expectations for the future, more because I felt like nothing was stopping me at the time so I had no reason not to.
I have proof that I didn’t think about my future too intently until 2007-ish, and even then it was just a cursory attempt at delaying the inevitable decision I was going to have to make in 2009. I chose to read English and Italian at University not because I harboured aspirations to become a translator, an interpreter or an academic. I made my decision based solely on what I knew I would enjoy and what I felt would complete me as a human being, as opposed to as a potential employee of a multinational monster.
Admittedly, this left me shaking in my boots when my final year of Uni came and went and my prospects of being employed by a bank (I had done two internships in banking, hence the glimpse of clarity in 2007) went down the toilet with the rest of the world’s economic prospects. When I was offered a job in online marketing at a language school company headquartered in Zurich, I thought, “why not?”
When I realized the job would actually take me to Zurich I hesitated, but reaching the second “why not?” didn’t take long. A sunny day and a glimpse of the Zürisee was all I needed to feel London would survive without me.
Basically, I didn’t let over-thinking get in my way. I went with the flow. Obviously, not in the typical hippy-like way “going with the flow” tends to bring to mind, but I was letting go nonetheless.
Either I’ve just recovered from long-term schizophrenia and that happy-go-lucky part of me was actually the product of a mental illness, or I’ve somehow abandoned the part of my psyche I happen to treasure most (especially now that it’s gone).
How does one win back spontaneity, free spiritedness and naivety if they all seem to have been spent frivolously on past insignificances? Do we pool up a reserve? Do I have to wait until my supply is replenished? I guess the irony is that I just have to let go and see what happens.
gif from here.
“I’m sorry, we have run out of the veal you were looking forward to ordering all day.”
“I’m sorry, we’re fully booked.”
“I’m sorry, I’m a waitress, I don’t offer a juggling entertainment service.”
“I’m sorry, we don’t offer tap water.”
“I’m sorry, you said tap water? I think you meant Züriwasser, am I right?”
These are the five most disappoinging things a waitress or restaurant manager can say to me within five mintues of me entering their establishment. They are in order of what I find most tolerable to least.
For anyone not living in Zürich, the word “Züriwasser” probably doesn’t sound as scandalous as say, “UBS”, but this innocuous little word is what has put me off dozens of restaurants.
In many cities you’ll come across a cheap arse restaurant owner who will insist you order mineral water because they don’t have tap water. I’ve held myself back thus far, but I’ve been so close to blurting out, “in that case your cutlery must be filthy, I’m leaving.” It’s not often though, that an initiative is born out of the need for already over-priced food outlets to charge people money for tap water. Today I paid 2.50 CHF for a glass of tap water. The same water I had in my SIGG bottle in my handbag. The city’s official site even states that the water costs less than 0.2 Rappen per litre…
Frankly, it pisses me off to no end. I would be so embarrassed as a waitress to have to ask people to pay for tap water. I used to work in a pub in the UK that would bottle tap water and cool it the fridge and insist on giving customers their perfectly good tap water for free instead of the bottle water they had just ordered. Now that’s good service. That makes you feel proud of the restaurant you’re working for.
I was, incidentally, with my friend Jo when I was assaulted with the bill for tap water at lunch today. At the risk of sounding cheap, I voiced my irritation and even said the poor waitress would lose her tip because of this. Apparently she’d just had a similar conversation with another friend about the exact same tap water = no more tip thing. So I can confirm I’m not the only one who feels sympathy for the waiting staff.
Waiters and waitresses of Zürich, stand up and unite. Fight against extortionate tap water charges in your places of employment and win back your tips!
So, apparently there is a short film in English from yonks ago that the German speaking countries watch on New Year’s Eve. It’s broadcast every year without fail. One of those inexplicable human traditions for which no apparent explanation exists, we all have them, Japan certainly has a few that are best not shared with the rest of the world lest they strengthen the stereotype that we’re weird.
A bit like Mr. Bean, some of it is rather repetetive and predictable, but just like with Mr. Bean, you find yourself chuckling anyway. Is it because it’s in black and white and you somehow think that it’s forgivable to have produced such slapstick comedy before colour was introduced? Whatever the psychological reasons behind it, I found myself giggling along with the others who had seen it almost every year of their lives. Perhaps the generous servings of gin before hand played a part in that.