Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Goldfish Chronicles

Someone once asked me why I named my blog Ziva’s Inferno. I told them it was because The Goldfish Chronicles was already taken. Truth be told, I spent years and years thinking about what to name my blog. Years.

I thought about naming my blog Steve, but someone pointed out to me that my car is already called Steve, as well as my external hard drive… And so are various other miscellaneous objects in my home, except for my stuffed Snoopy which is called Snoopy and my huge stuffed tiger which is called Tiger. I won’t go into how it all started, but needless to say, naming everything Steve can make for very confusing conversations.

On the phone with guy from the car shop:

Guy: Dave’s Car Repair.
Z: Oh I’m so glad you answered; I’m having problems with Steve.
Guy: Umm.. Okay?
Z: He’s making these funny noises.
Guy: Ummm….
Z: When I step on it he makes this high pitched squealing noise and it’s driving me insane.
Guy: Ummmmm…
Z: You think you could fix it? My dad said it’s probably the pipes, but I’m not sure. Every time I take him for a ride it’s getting worse.
Guy: Umm.. Look lady, are you sure you called the right number?

And that’s why this blog isn’t called Steve. And I now realize that this isn’t at all the story of why I named my blog Ziva’s Inferno, but rather the story of why I didn’t name my blog Steve. But I guess that’s as good a story as any.

So, why isn’t your blog called Steve? *

Monday, February 21, 2011

Soybeans And Pyramids For Everyone!

Our house guests endured several brutal days of late nights, early mornings, big meals and intense partying. And I guess they did a few hours of karate, too. Gunther and Sarah turned out to be wonderful people. Completely insane to travel all the way to Finland to get their asses kicked in karate, but otherwise extremely agreeable. Nice, even.

Now, as a bit of a homage to Gunther who lives in England, and Sarah who’s dating someone who lives in England, I’m going to share with you the story of my language course to England.

The year was 2000 and I was 15 years old. It was a time when Iceland was nice and quiet, planes flew in and out of Europe all the time, and my friend Minna and I, realizing that this wasn’t going to be the case forever, decide we wanted to take advantage of the situation while it lasted. That’s when we decided to go on a language course to England. Our parents were of course going to pay for the party and we were going to have the best summer ever. Our parents, who were still happily unaware of this, surprisingly didn’t jump for joy when we told them about our plans. I thought I was pretty grown up at the age of 15, but apparently my parents didn’t agree. After much pleading and begging and even some nagging, both my parents and Minna’s parents finally agreed to fork up the money.

We had decided on a language course and riding camp combined, because back then I could actually ride a horse without having a heart attack and falling off. We chose Isle of Wight, a beautiful little island south of England proper as our destination. My 15th birthday came, and a beautiful summer morning in June, Minna and I stepped on a plane with 12 other young Finns who were ready for adventure.

Isle of Wight

Our first stop was Paris. The one in France. We shopped, went to Disneyland, climbed the Eiffel Tower, visited Notre Dame and rode the metro. I think the logic behind taking us to Paris first was to make us as tired as humanly possible so we wouldn’t get into trouble during the language course part of the trip. It was a good plan, but they completely underestimated the energy of teenagers. After a rather embarrassing incident with a little too much singing in a metro, our trip continued by bus from Paris to Calais – a journey that took about a million hours if I remember correctly. In Calais we found ourselves on the first ferry to Dover, and after a surprisingly short ride, the white cliffs of Dover came into view in the mist of the dawning day. From Dover it was a long ride to Portsmouth, from where yet another ferry took us to the Isle of Wight.

Isle of Wight is warmer than the rest of England, and there were even some palm trees lining the streets. I don’t know what it’s like now, but ten years ago it was a peaceful island with a few small towns. In one of the bigger towns, Ryde, our host mommy came to collect us. Rowena was a 40-something American woman who had lived on Isle of Wight for 10 years. She had two daughters, no husband and a cute middle unit in a rowhouse.

Rowena was also crazy, but more about the crazy later. Back to when we got to England. Rowena came to pick up me and Minna in her tiny European car. Minna got into the backseat and I got into the passenger seat. Except there was a steering wheel on the passenger side, so I got out again and got into the other passenger seat. Who would have thought getting into a car could be so difficult?

If you look closely, you'll notice something that's horribly wrong with this picture.

In fact, Minna and I soon realized that nothing was easy in England. Whenever I crossed a street, I tried to remember that instead of looking left-right-left like normal people do, I’d have to look right-left-right, like insane British people do. By the end of our one-month stay, I’d had several close calls when I thought I looked right, but had in fact looked to my other right. I think that one month in England might have been the cause for all my left-right confusion in later years. And at one point a lady who almost ran me over stopped her car, got out, called me a stupid cow and drove off again. British people are polite like that.

Now, about the crazy I was talking about earlier. Rowena was completely certifiably batshit crazy. She seemed normal at first, aside from the driving on the wrong side of the road thing, of course. But then she opened her mouth to talk and all that came out was gibberish about how evil meat is and how the soybean is the food of the gods and how the healing power of the pyramid helps her save money on razorblade costs.

Yes, she was a vegetarian freak who believed in the power of the pyramid. If you, dear reader, happen to be a vegetarian freak and believe in the power of the pyramid, I am horribly sorry but you should probably stop reading now. Also, you’re an idiot. My entire 15-year old life I had only eaten things that had once had a name. Often I even mixed my protein to make sure several animals had died for my dinner. For that entire summer I had to live on nothing but soybean sausage, soybean pizza, soybean hamburger and soybean everything else you could possibly think of. I have never hated food as much as I did that summer. A year later Muschu got to go on a language course to Bournemouth and her host family cooked only French fries and meat the entire time. Life can be so unfair.

When I wasn’t gagging from the smell of soybean, I was busy avoiding the pyramids. Big and small pyramids adorned the entire house. They were made in copper piping and had magical healing powers. Food would stay fresh forever if kept inside a pyramid. Used razorblades would magically become sharp again if kept in a pyramid. All fresh bread was kept in a pyramid. All fresh fruit was kept in a pyramid. Razors in another pyramid and dirty underwear in yet another one. Rowena even took us into her bedroom where her bed stood inside a giant copper pyramid. She had given birth to her kids inside that pyramid. Then she made us hold a mobile phone to our stomach and proved that it was sucking the life out of us. At that point Minna and I excused ourselves and went to get our crucifixes.

 The pyramids looked a lot like this, only more menacing.

What no one had told us was that a language course, even during the summer holiday, will contain school work. While English turned out to be a pretty useful language to know, I can’t say I enjoyed the 4 hours we spent in school every day. What I did enjoy was the hours spent riding horses afterwards. I jumped fences, trotted round and round in circles, and galloped across fields that went on for miles. I’ve never experienced freedom quite like that, the wind in my face, the horse working furiously to run faster and faster. I’ve been on plenty of airplanes, but that’s the closest I’ve ever come to flying. It was magical.

During our stay we also did some underage drinking, took a tour of the island and danced all night long. Sadly, all good things have to come to an end. After a short detour in London for some shopping and a visit at Madame Tussaud’s, we were back in Finland and the entire trip seemed more like a dream than a memory. But one day I’ll go back to the Isle of Wight, and this time I’m eating meat. *

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I'm Guessing Twigs and Bark Won't Do

About a month ago M came home from a super secret meeting with his karate friends and announced that he’s promised to let a couple of karate masters from Europe stay with us during a karate camp thingy here in Turku this weekend. Obviously I had nothing cooler planned than playing hostess for a couple karate masters, so I was nothing but happy. Therefore, as of tomorrow a female karate master and a male karate master will be sleeping in our living room. I really hope they're not overly friendly with each other; if anyone is to be walking in on anyone else making out, it should be them walking in on M and I.

Apparently the guy is Austrian and called Gunther and the girl is Belgian and called Sarah. I have no clue if those are their real names or not. Back to Gunther. Holy shit, even without the umlaut that's a manly name. When M told me I immediately had a vision of Arnold Schwarzenegger doing katas in my living room dressed in nothing but the pants part of his Gi, with sweat beading on his bare tanned chest, moving with the liquid grace of a large feline. M, most likely noticing the look of pure unadulterated bliss on my face, of course had to burst my bubble.

M: He doesn’t look like Arnold at all. He has dark hair and wears funny t-shirts.

Z: Really? I thought it was illegal for Austrians to be un-Aryan. But he’s still built as a tank and speaks English with a German accent, right?

M: Uhh, no. He studied at Oxford and speaks English with an Oxford accent. And I wouldn’t say he’s built like the Terminator either. But he wears funny t-shirts.

Z: Is he at least the horribly unqualified Governor of an American state?

M: No. But don’t forget the funny t-shirts!

Z: *muttering* They're gonna have to be pretty damn funny if he doesn't even sound like the Terminator.

M: He has one that says "Slavery. Gets shit done." with a picture of the pyramids on it.

Z: Okay, he can stay.

So now that we've established that the karate masters are staying over the weekend, does anyone know what Austrian and Belgian people eat? I'm going to have to make them at least breakfast and lunch, and I have no clue where to start. Subjective opinions and wild guesses will do fine. *

Monday, February 7, 2011

This is actually more like $ .75

Super Bowl, huh? I know every other blog will soon be full of Super Bowl commentary, so in order to keep my readership at a steady 3 readers, I’ll put in my two cents too. Yeah, Super Bowl... Interesting stuff. I heard the Green Bay Packers won. That’s great. They’ve always been my favorite baseball team. No? Basketball? Oh well, I definitely know they played the Chicago Blackhawks. And they have those funny goose hats.

...and that’s really all I have to say about that. *

Friday, February 4, 2011

And You Know What's Funny? I Hate Disqus.

Last night at about 9:45 pm, M and I looked at each other in surprise, and I asked M, ”is that thunder I hear?”

Normally thunder wouldn’t be such a foreign concept so that I would look and sound surprised to hear thunder, but last night, like the past 60 or so nights, winter had us in her cold grasp. And as it so happens, thunder and winter don’t match. So when I heard what I thought was thunder, I was indeed very surprised.

M didn’t have time to answer my question, because suddenly we heard what can only be described as an explosion, and our entire 7-story apartment building shook and vibrated for a second.

“We’re going to die!” I thought.

“Huh.” Thought M.

“The building is going to collapse and I’ll never get to have kids and fish and a huge wedding that sucks all the life and money out of us!” I thought.

“That was weird.” Thought M.

“Holy shit, oh my god, oh my god!!” I thought.

“Very weird indeed.” Thought M.

“What the fuck was that??” I asked M.

“I have no idea.” Answered M.

“It sounded like an explosion!” I said.

“Or as if someone dropped something heavy.” Offered M.

“And created thunder and shook the entire building??” I countered.

“Perhaps it was very heavy?” Pondered M.

“Idiot.” I lovingly exclaimed.

Then, not three hours later, at 12:30 am, we once again heard a great big bang and felt the entire building shake and vibrate.

“We’re going to die!” I thought.

“Huh.” Thought M.

“The building is going to collapse and I’ll never get to have kids and fish and a huge wedding that sucks all the life and money out of us!” I thought.

“That was weird.” Thought M.

“Holy shit, oh my god, oh my god!!” I thought.

“Very weird indeed.” Thought M.

“What the fuck was that??” I asked M, “AGAIN!!”

“I have no idea.” Answered M.

“That’s not normal.” I wisely deducted.

“No.” Agreed M.

“I’m calling the cops.” I stated.

“That might be wise.” Surmised M.

And so I did. Two fine policemen came over and found our story very strange indeed. Almost puzzling, you could say. However, seeing no evidence of any sorts of explosions, they left again, but promised to be on the lookout for any and all unauthorized explosions in and around our apartment building.

Back in the apartment I tried to tell myself that apartment buildings don’t come crashing down just because they’ve shook around a little. I failed miserably. Why, oh why, do I have to have such solid arguments? I tried telling myself that there wasn’t a crazy person roaming around, trying to take down the building. Instead, I tried telling myself that there had been an earthquake. In the most seismically uneventful region of the world. I did a fairly good job of convincing myself it had been an earthquake, right up until the moment I checked all seismic watch sites I could possibly find, only to see that there hadn’t been an earthquake in Turku in 700 years.

At 2 am M finally decided nothing more was going to happen and went to bed. I also went to bed. And got up again an hour later to check that the rest of the neighborhood was still in one piece. It was. But I simply couldn’t sleep. By 5 am my heart rate had finally come down to triple digits again, and I entertained the notion of a couple hours of sleep, but at that precise moment a third explosion occurred. It wasn’t as big, but I could definitely feel it. I would definitely not be getting any sleep, since I clearly was the only thing holding this building together.

And that, my dear friends, is the story of how Disqus has suddenly appeared as the new commenting tool on this here blog. It’s incredible the things you have time to do when you don’t sleep. *