The art of procrastination, and an introduction

Cat hiding face behind paw

I started this travel blog quite a long time ago. Just over two years ago in fact, as this recent post illustrates. Throughout that whole time, I’ve had a silent partner who has been helping me out, providing handy feedback, checking my grammar, researching destinations and carting bits of camera kit around.

And other than the odd mention, she’s never really had a voice of her own on the blog. Not that I haven’t offered, of course. In fact, I’ve had a long standing open invitation to Vera to hop on in and post something. But, as you’ll see in the post below, if there’s one thing Vera is better at than anything else, it’s procrastination. Why do today what you can do next year? (Anyone who has ever e-mailed me will notice that it’s a trait we share). Anyway. Enough about me. Here’s Vera’s first ever post. Hopefully the first of many!

Hi there, it's me, Vera, Loz's better half. (I’m starting to think this was a bad idea.) He suggested ages ago that I should write a post for Finding the Universe which I thought was a very cool idea, but then something totally unforeseen happened: I procrastinated actually doing it. This has never ever happened before. It’s completely unlike me! But I heard some wise words once about how to deal with procrastinating. Are you ready? You have to find something else to procrastinate which is, at that moment, more important than the task you procrastinated before. It’s also the base for the phenomenon why you find yourself thoroughly cleaning your flat when you should be studying for an exam, for example. You get the idea.  

So what is the more important thing to procrastinate for me right now? Without further tantalizing: it is calling up my French Health Insurance because I received a letter from them telling me that they cancelled my membership, which clearly must be a misunderstanding, and I just need to call them to resolve it. 

Quite a simple task. Now wait. Call them. In French. Hm.

It's not that I don't speak any French. In fact, school-wise my French-career was a rising star, culminating in an official piece of paper being handed to me at my graduation authorizing me to study at French universities without having to take the language test before-hand. That's pretty good, isn't it?


Except that I never felt that schools prepare you very well for life-outside-or-after-school. So having an 'A' in a French Exam does not necessarily mean that you will be able to understand a single word when having a conversation with a regular French person in a French-speaking country. No, sir! They often tend to speak bloody fast. Or not that clearly. Crazy stuff, I know. And definitely a different experience from my 'Madames' who taught me back in the day.

'Real' French people still sound very French and sexy and all, mind you. I just don't understand half of what they are saying (but a lot of them carry baguettes around, and it is weirdly comforting).

Add to that the fact that the type of conversation I’m going to have is a phone call instead of a one-on-one, which means I'm even being deprived of all my little helpers like smiling and flailing my arms. And on top of that it's not about making a reservation at a restaurant (mmmh... French food...), but about insurance-related talk to someone who is probably already annoyed (because they often tend to be underpaid, over-worked and unfulfilled with what they do) and just longing to speak to someone who struggles with the language –so yeah, procrastination does make sense at this point: let’s write a blog-post instead!

I mean, I love languages. I want to speak them all! I deeply envy all the people who seem to effortlessly switch between three, five or even more languages. Language is the ticket into a culture's heart, isn't it? There's just something about the sound, the flow, the reflection of a people's personality that comes with it (since I'm German, it feels a bit ironic to waffle about it like that, but oh well).

So I'm all excited about the cultural side of a language, a country, people, life, but actually less than impressed with the bureaucratic side. The latter tends to annoy me. A lot. 

Weird street art France

Which is an excellent reason to love travelling because all that very important bureaucratic hula-hula can be miraculously down-sized, it turns out. As a backpacker, you can get a bank-account within a few hours in New Zealand or Australia (and get rid of it even quicker). You can get a car, get insurance, all in one day. It's all relatively simple and practical. And it’s the start of your time-out from civilisation as you know it, with all its' massive amount of paperwork, sticky processing and unpleasant surprises and people founding little clubs where they complain about the ridiculous complexity, complications and demands of the bureaucratic machine, evolved to something that no one can explain anymore.

Because that machine is a rumbling little monster, and as soon as you're settling somewhere (anywhere), it starts nibbling on you; but it's okay, you just have to get everything set up, and then you're fine. Unless you are Vera in France, and the setting up takes more than 8 months, and then you get kicked out of your Health Insurance you didn't even get a card for yet, for reasons that are mystifying, mainly because you dread calling up.

I did write them an email, by the way, as a cunning attempt to avoid 'THE CALL', and I got an automatic confirmation that it arrived safely on the other side, and then nothing happened anymore. I could also write a letter, but I have written letters before, and I never got a reply. I think it is safe to say that they are living in some kind of worm-hole where everything you send gets sucked into oblivion. But there's a light at the end of the tunnel (or in front of the worm-hole): you CAN call! Yay.

This post has turned out rather different from what I thought I would write. I shall hold "The magic of the intentional powers of procrastination" responsible for that, which I just made up, but they don't know that, so it's all good. I feel a bit better now, and I sincerely hope you do, too, because you might have needed to read this in order to procrastinate something fairly important yourself, and so I congratulate you on your accomplishment, and say: "Well done, my fellow friend, well done!".

And that was Vera’s first post. She was last seen staring wilfully at the phone. Let her know what you think in the comments below!

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