bougie

That’s Africa – have you heard of it?

Dance class. We rotate partners every 2nd/3rd 8 counts, as we practice the class’s steps, bc kizomba is a social dance, which means being social with everybody, not selectively. It’s great, bc it allows me to meet all kinds of people, and if a dude flubs up his steps spectacularly – or worse, if I do – NEXT!

As I was waiting for Teacher to start the music, I stood in an ADD haze next to my partner GT, short for Google Translate – same guy as in this story: he remains my go-to guy for immediate translations of kizomba songs during practice. As is wont to happen in an ADD moment, I locked in on a random detail: the pendant of GT’s necklace. It was a small gold pendant of Africa. I’ve seen the same style necklace in painted wood, in larger proportions, but never this delicate version.

The wooden pendant I am used to:

A similar version of the delicate pendant worn by GT – except this image is not to scale. GT’s pendant is less than 1 inch long:

As I peered closer, nose almost glued to his chest (totally acceptable behaviour with an almost-stranger in the middle of a dance floor, obvi), trying to make out the words engraved on his pendant, GT sighed patiently, and explained,

Yeah, ummm, so that’s Africa. You might have heard of it?

Boy, what?! Yes. Yes, I have heard of one of 7 continents of the planet, and can spot it on a map. Fun fact, there are countries that can be found in that continent too! Yes, really! I can name most of them, too! I KNOW! How crazy is that?! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING, BOY?! I was trying to read the engraving on your necklace. Sheesh!

Oh, well, ummm, you see, ummm, you are blond… and white.

How many times has a white girl stared at his necklace, unaware of the existence of that prominent landmass?

2-3 times. Per year. Yes, Canadians too. Not just Americans.

Hard to be offended when dude has been traumatized by pervasive ignorance. Still, forevermore, when I greet GT, I always ask “Hey! Africa! Have you heard of it?”

P.S. GT admitted to me last week that even with a magnifying glass, he cannot read the engraving on his own pendant. That makes me smirk.

P.P.S. In case y’all are imagining a redneck Ă  la Kid Rock, no. GT is from Angola. That’s in Africa – you might have heard of it?

 

This is how I handle stress

 

 

That is all. Except I happen to avoid suffocation approximately 5-15 times a day. #scurvy

All while listening to La Traviata as loud as possible. Because what are my struggles when compared to true love, social ostracism, tuberculosis, and terrible communication skills?

Lyrics of that excerpt:

Farewell, happy dreams of the past,
The rosiness in my cheeks has already gone pale;
The love of Alfredo I will miss,
Comfort, support my tired soul
Ah, the misguided desire to smile;
God pardon and accept me,
All is finished.

The joys, the sorrows soon will end,
The tomb confines all mortals!
Do not cry or place flowers at my grave,
Do not place a cross with my name to cover these bones!
Ah, the misguided desire to smile;
God pardon and accept me,
All is finished.

If that doesn’t give one perspective, what can?! “All is finished”… yup. Sounds ’bout right to me. If you want an even bigger punch to the gut, watch this. Woman is reunited with her lover, all is forgiven, they pledge to live happily ever after, and then after two 3 minute arias, she keels over and dies. #bleak #nowthatssomeheavydutyadulting

#nomorebangingbod #definitelynotaskinnybitch #pleasantlyplump #ineedavacationandabottleofwine #lovemyjobiswear #notadramaqueennoway

The best part of travelling is coming home

Regardless of the purpose of the trip or the duration of the flight, roughly one hour before landing, I begin to feel a bubble of happiness and excitement at the prospect of coming home that is greater than the excitement at the start of a trip, before the plane takes off. No matter whether I had a wonderful trip, like when I went to Beirut, or this time in France. I like my city, my country, my things, my peeps and my gym.

[Off topic, because I have ADD and writing the word “gym” made me think of this.

You guys. 10 days of French cuisine, and no exercise. I am plump. So satisfied and content, but without any doubt, I am definitely plump. I’m not too worried: losing weight will be easy when transitioning back to Mtl food – nothing will tempt me, so portion control will be easy. In North America, we don’t do bread. Not like the French do. I refuse to eat our bread ever again. Also? I won’t be drinking 3-6 glasses of wine per day, every day. I think my plumpness will settle itself pretty quickly. In the meantime, I feel like a camel, having stored up on the sensation of enjoying food long enough to last till my next trip. (You might suggest that I take up cooking, but let’s be realistic. That will NEVER happen.)]

I walked through places of beauty. Saw sites of incredible historical relevance. Museums with exhibits I can only dream of, coming from Montreal, displaying a breadth and depth of works of art that our museums cannot achieve. Watched what Parisiens consider to be a run-of-the-mill operatic performance, with singers that our Montreal Opera Symphonique de MontrĂ©al couldn’t afford to invite here to perform. It was incredible.

But I still was homesick.

What did I do on my first afternoon home? Hang out at one of the free neighbourhood pools, soaking up the sun, watching my friend’s pre-schooler flop about with her wee friends in the kiddie pool. And I was just as happy, if not happier, as when I was walking about France with the ghosts of kings past.

#notsobougieafterall

#itsthesimplethings


Still, let me share some pics from this trip (all of them taken with a simple iphone 6, using the filters available and editing options within).

View of Paris’s north shore, from the roof-top terrasse of the MusĂ©e d’Orsay. That green space = Jardins de Tuileries, and behind it on the hilltop is the Basilique de SacrĂ©-Coeur

La Cathédrale de Notre-Dame is located on a wee island in the Seine called Ile de la Cité. When the weather is beautiful, Parisiens go down to the water and picnic on the ledge. What a view. City living at its best.

Reims. Located in Champagne country-side. Went for a tour of the Taittinger champagne house, and their caves where they store their champagne. Built on 4th century Roman caves and the foundations of a famous 13th century Abbey, that was destroyed during the French Revolution.

Strasbourg. Fairy tale scenery.

More Strasbourg fairy tale scenery. All of these pics are taken in their downtown core. Because #urbanplanningwin

No filter, because none needed. This area of Strasbourg is a Unesco World Heritage site, called la Petite France. Funny story, it was initially built in the 15th century to house soldiers returning from wars with syphilis. Most beautiful quarantine possible.

Not a vintage pic. I took it while on a boat tour. Strasbourg = a living anachronism.

This is where my work convention was hosted: a medieval French village in the countryside – the Domaine de Rebetz. NBD.

 

Time for a little humble-bragging

My plane leaves in 7 hours… Other than my opera ticket, and the train tickets to get from each of the 4 towns I’ll be visiting, I’ve got nothing planned. And that feels GREAT. I don’t have any travel-books or tour guides. I am planning on winging it.

There is so much freedom in travelling alone, especially when I can speak the language of the country I am visiting. I like waking up in the morning, and seeing where my feet take me. Sure, I have googled Strasbourg and Reims a few times, so I have a vague idea of some of the things I’d like to do (a few cathedrals, 1-2 champagne cellars) but otherwise, nope, I don’t want to plan anything else. I want to talk to the waiters at the cafĂ©s, and hear their opinions (95% of which I will disregard); sit on a plaza, people watching, and strike up a conversation with a random person; get lost as I walk about town, discovering fabulous and not-so-fabulous views around every corner and stop and ask for directions.

I haven’t packed a single article of work-out gear. 10 days without stepping inside a gym. I have my walking shoes, and I intend on walking 4-6 hours a day. That is good enough for me. No stress about making it to boxing on time. No regimented schedules, other than the 3 day conference – but even that: it is all outside of my control, I just need to wake up in the morning, and my day will be planned fo me. All I need to do is show up. 10 days of eating whatever I want. 10 days of good food. I packed my stretchy pants.

The weather forecast for the portion of this trip that is personal is rainy and cold. Of course. So I’ve packed sweaters, jackets, an umbrella…

But get this.

10 days. I managed to pack everything into 2 carry-on bags, one of which is my work laptop bag. No checked luggage for this girl!

Yeah.

I know. It’s impressive. I was going to humble-brag, but really, I think that feat deserves a full-on brag. Vanilla the Great. I packed 3 pairs of shoes… as well as all of the items mentioned above. Imma have the freedom to galivant between the 4 towns without being weighed down by unwieldly suitcases. AND I will look good doing it.

That is why I am awesome. I can act and look like a princess, and I can cut corners and be practical too.

#humblebragfail

#boastingcomesnaturally

#baskintheawesomenessofmypackingskills

#IamSOexcitedforthistrip

 

A little ballet with your Mozart?

I have trouble accepting that more than one person can have the same name. Infantile, I know. I’m always shocked too, when it turns out that people with the same name have wildly differing personalities. I suppose this is the result of me being an only child with an unusual name – how many Vanillas do you know? That’s what I thought.

Similarly, when I hear a piece of music used in a dance/ballet, I always think of that choreography as being THE choreography. The only one. The original.

Therefore, when I first heard the 2nd movement of Mozart’s 23rd piano concerto in this modern ballet, I forever associated it to this choreography.

Vanilla moment: I first saw that piece in my late teens, and my mother had to explain to me what “Petite Mort” stands for (orgasm). I was confused, both by the slang (“Petite Mort” translates literally to “Little Death”) and how the choreography embodied that meaning. Having rewatched it several times, I understand better, but it doesn’t move me. It did, however, introduce me to the choreographer Jiri Kylian’s work. And some of his work is pretty fantabulous. Check this short video out:

Who says ballet can’t be amusing too?!

ANYHOW, recently, I discovered that the 2nd movement of Mozart’s 23rd piano concerto had been used in another ballet, by a different choreographer (Angelin Preljocaj). Funnily enough, this choreography also deals with sex, but in a much more accessible way. And it deals with romance. Would you just look at the kiss from 5:23 to 6:09?

If that doesn’t sell you on the power of ballet to express emotions that can’t be verbalized, nothing will. We’ve all dreamed of being kissed like that, where the room spins, and your body helicopters off this earth. Some of us have been kissed like that. Lucky peeps.

I can’t even imagine what my next discovery for the 2nd movement of Mozart’s 23rd piano concerto will bring.

As Featured on News Cult: How to Throw Shade

As it is my mission to become less vanilla and more urban/clatchet (classy ratchet), this post, written by the masterful Only Bad Chi, is very relevant.

#brilliant

only bad chi

Throwing shade seems to be the thing right now, right? Like, it’s trending or whatever. So I thought I’d give some tips on how to do it. Because I’m nothing if not relevant.

My understanding is that throwing shade is basically insulting someone, but in a really passive aggressive way. Which is our craft. See, you were already doing it and you didn’t even know! So the key is to make the person you’re throwing shade on (at?) not know you’re doing it, until it’s too late. #bobandweave #stealthasasnake

Like, if you’re trapped in a conversation with someone you hate/has done you wrong, like any given coworker/receptionist/police officer/customer service phone rep in the history of coworkers/receptionists/police officers/customer service phone reps, say something such as:

♩”I can totally see you being in a Sears catalogue. I think there’s something to be said for being basic.”

♩”Nice haircut! How on earth were you able to get an


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On race and racism – Vanilla’s perspective

Perhaps because #OscarsSoWhite;

Perhaps because it is Black History Month;

Perhaps because Beyoncé turned black, and Kendrick Lamar owned the Grammys;

Perhaps because of the relentless stream of hatred spewing from our neighbor below’s Republican presidential candidates directed at anyone who isn’t a middle-class WASP;

My social media has been awash in all kind’s of posts related to racism, and specifically racism against blacks, or as Americans call them, African-Americans.


Perhaps because when Jimmy Kimmel shared this skit, I sent it to my friends, and most of my white friends sheepishly admitted they didn’t have any black friends;

Perhaps because one of my friends once told me that it wasn’t her fault she was unaware of racial issues in MontrĂ©al since she didn’t hang out with black people, the way I do – she didn’t belong to a boxing gym;

Perhaps because at the accounting firm I worked at for 5 years, which employed close to 2,000 people, I only ever saw 3 black people;

Perhaps because in my graduate accounting program at a university renown for its ethnic diversity, out of a class of 160 students, 4 were black;

Perhaps because in my first year of mechanical engineering at one of Canada’s best universities, in a class of 125 students, 2 were black;

Many of my white friends have told me that racism isn’t an issue here in Canada (*), or at least, “it isn’t as bad as the States”.


Perhaps because my friends assumed my parents would have a problem when my first serious boyfriend was half black;

Perhaps because my ex-boyfriend grew up living in Alberta, where he and his brothers were the only black kids in high-school. One day after school, on his walk home, my ex was ambushed by the “cool” kids in his grade, who held him down, and sucker-punched him in the nose and broke it, because they didn’t like his “punk-ass black attitude”;

Perhaps because my ex’s mother (white, anglo-saxon Canadian) confided in me her doubts about successfully raising mixed children in a white environment;

Perhaps because I remember the day when my ex and his roomie walked into the appartment, and his roomie, a Canadian Persian, was shaking with pent up outrage, while my ex looked blank. Walking in downtown MontrĂ©al, my ex’s roomie had been blatantly smoking a joint, while my ex walked beside him with his bike. My ex wore long dreadlocks; his roomie was clean shaven. The cops pulled up beside them, and searched my ex for pot, even after the roomie, outraged by the obvious racial profiling, yelled at them that he had all the pot on him. The cops ignored the roomie, and told my ex not to have so much attitude.

Perhaps because one time a (black) bouncer was rude to me. My ex started to speak up, and the bouncer looked at him with scorn, “what, you think you black? with your white girl, and your nice jeans? Shut the fuck up.”

One friend told me she didn’t understand why black people had to make everything about race. Sometimes, it could just be a case of bad manners, you know?


Perhaps because of 3 of my ex’s cousins moved to MontrĂ©al from Jamaica, in their early teens, and were taken in by their white cousin – a lovely man, who’d grown up in Barbados, and understood the culture shock of moving to Canada. Quebec’s education system forced them into a french high-school with remedial french lessons, and held them back academically due to their difficulties learning the language. Bored, they started acting out, fell in with a bad crowd made up of other disenfranchised non-white (mainly black) teenagers, and got into serious trouble. Their guardian pleaded with the principal and guidance counsellors to allow the boys to join the regular academic stream and the school athletic teams, so that the boys would be exposed to a wider variety of youth, with less behavioural problems and more ambition. The school replied that due to their poor french skills and bad attitude, it would be inappropriate to reward the boys with those privileges.

Perhaps because one of the boys got recruited by a gang in MontrĂ©al, and eventually got shot and killed. Perhaps because the cops shrugged and never bothered investigating. “What do you expect? He should have known better.”

Perhaps because at the boy’s funeral, I showed up in a charcoal suit. I was outraged when close to 50 young black kids showed up wearing hoodies printed with the boy’s face. How dare they show such lack of respect in their attire? I sat next to one of those kids, who cried so hard his body was shaking. He didn’t own a hankerchief, so he’d brought a facecloth, which he soaked through and through. When I tentatively gave him a hug, and patted his back soothingly, he hung on for dear life. I wondered how many of these kids would make it to 18.

Perhaps because a few month’s later, the eldest boy got arrested and sent to juvie, for shoplifting $10 worth of cheese from the local grocery store. The youngest boy started running away from home. Perhaps because I never found out what happened to them.

My friends tell me White Privilege is “not a thing” here in QuĂ©bec.


I don’t have any answers. I don’t understand why racism is so easy, and why specifically racism against blacks is such a polarizing issue, even here in Canada. I do however know that to deny the problem because it is subtle; to relativise it into meaninglessness; to blame the victims for being oversensitive is not the solution. To listen, even when the arguments are awkwardly phrased; to acknowledge the hurt and rage coming from the people with the courage to speak up; to keep an open mind as to the causes and the solutions; to be kind – THAT is part of the solution.

I leave you with this article: The Cost

#BlackLivesMatter

 

(*) One of my readers pointed out that Blacks make up only 2% of Canada’s population, and the stats I gave about my workplace and schooling are consistent with that %. True. However, in MontrĂ©al, Blacks make up 9.1% of the city’s population. In which case… my point that blacks are significantly under-represented in Professional settings/university degrees still stands. (stats taken fron the 2011 Canadian census).