Well, it’s been a quiet few months, hasn’t it? OK, I know, Brexit happened, Trump tried to seize power like a spoiled brat having a tantrum, and this damn virus is still screwing with all our lives. But on my end it has been rather quiet. I mean, just to give you an idea, I’ve been back in Switzerland for 3 months and I haven’t once gone (or even needed to go, to be fair) to a chocolate shop!
In any case, just because it’s been quiet doesn’t mean nothing has happened. I greeted you last time with news about my big change of plans. This time I’ll describe how things have started to look up in a few ways.
The Last Few Months
Of course, this damn virus is still around and stirring up our emotions while letting us simmer in our homes. And even though Switzerland isn’t in full curfew-enforcing, door-welding lockdown, it’s still had to take a number of measures. The country’s healthcare system has plenty of capacity to handle the cases we have, and more still. But of course that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to flatten the curve, especially with more contagious and virulent strains popping up here and there. All non-essential shops and all restaurants that don’t do takeout have been closed since immediately after Christmas. The authorities are starting to plan a partial reopening in the next few weeks, but they’re still working out the details.
As for how this has affected me, much like the first lockdown it hasn’t changed much in my everyday life. I’m pretty happy just staying home, and I find ways to entertain myself. I’ve been doing some graphic stuff, including 3D graphics, I got a drawing tablet and was even able to experiment with 3D printing, and I joined various online meetups to write or to practice my German. I also dug out my world money collection for the first time in years to finally finish cataloging it. And I started going into audio and video editing too, as you’ll soon see.
In any case, I’ve been living with my parents and they’re pushing 60. So even if I’d had more opportunities to go out I’d have kept those to a minimum. Because though they’re not quite yet at the age where they’re considered most at risk and first or second in line for a vaccine, I can’t take it for granted that they’d handle Covid well if they caught it, and so I prefer to avoid taking risks.
And of course, as I mentioned in passing above, I’ve also had to spend a fair bit of energy looking for a new job. That hasn’t been easy, plagued as I am with chronic procrastination issues. My sister has been instrumental in helping me stay organized and move ahead. And I’m glad to report I’ve finally succeeded in this.
Anyone who knows me knows I don’t do job searching well. I’m a bit of a perfectionist in many ways, and this is one of them. I’m always so nervous at the idea of writing a cover letter that I struggle to figure out what to say. Add to that the massive period of self-doubt I’ve been in for the past year or so, and you get a guy who not only is too scared to write a letter, he also downplays his own skills and achievements in his own mind to the point of struggling to sell them and being unable to write them down assertively enough.
But aside from my sister’s help in organizing myself in my search and pushing ahead with it, I’ve found a couple of things that have helped me regain a bit of self-confidence. And both of them are Linkedin features. The first one is their EasyApply function, whereby you don’t need to provide a whole cover letter – my usual Achilles heel – just a resume. This feature allowed me to engage in what one of my classmates called the “Blitzkrieg” approach back when we were both looking for internships: send as many applications to as many companies as possible in as short a time as possible.
With EasyApply, that was easy. In no time flat I was able to go from a dozen applications in a year to the same number in only an hour. Granted, these were probably less likely to succeed and the feature was probably only activated to serve as a first pre-screening of the candidates. But still, they were applications, and just as valid as any other for the unemployment office. So that was already a morale booster, realizing I had the ability to push ahead so easily and quickly.
But the other big morale booster is the fact that if you submit an application through that feature, Linkedin tells you when the company checks out your application and when they download your resume. That may not sound like much, but it proves that something is happening, and what’s more, that you interest them enough for that. When I saw this, it really helped me feel better about my skills and my worth on the market. Indeed, it showed me that my profile, hectic as it is, is still interesting to companies.
And actually, it’s one of those applications that has born fruit today. I went through what must be one of the fastest hiring processes in history in this sector (IT support). Granted, it started slowly and though I’d seen that my application had been seen, I wasn’t particularly expecting a response. But on Thursday two weeks ago, I got a call – in Italian – in reply to my application, asking if I was still interested in the position. The next day I had a first interview with HR. The following Monday – yes, the process may have been 40% faster if there hadn’t been a week-end in the way – I had the second interview, and last Tuesday they made me an offer. Not the highest one, but they’re enthusiastic and really interested. More on the job later.
In the meantime, I’ve still been joining online writing meetups, and these have given me the opportunity to write another few stories. In fact, my two latest publications here – “White Lies, Black Lies” and “Ghosts to Bodies” – came from those meetups. Some of you may have also seen that I now uploaded a new page to the site where I list my works in progress, and a post talking about my dear friend and Portuguese little sister Filipa and her own blog and poetry work.
I’ve also, little by little, been translating this site to French. That’s not done yet, but in a couple of months you’ll be able to enjoy this content in two languages – and maybe practice too while you’re at it, as per the language learning advice I share here. So stay tuned for that!
I’m still planning to get back to my worldbuilding guide, and I’ve been giving more thought to “Crazy by Necessity”, the next short story collection I plan to release. The rest is still on the backburner, I’ve been trying to choose my priorities in order to get moving more reliably. But of course, in the light of the new job, I’ll first need to settle into there before I can see how to organize myself around it.
Also, some of you may have seen that I’ve decided to leverage what I’ve repeatedly been told is “a voice for radio” (which I consider to at least be better than to have a face for radio) and record myself reading some of my stories. This is, of course, part of a bigger project to get The Edge of Reason recorded for release as an audiobook, but it’s also to allow you to experience my stories in a different way. And maybe attract more readers.
So last week I started a YouTube channel, called Tumbleweed like this Website. On it I put my vocal rendering of the story “Ghosts to Bodies”. And so far, though I have very few views for the time being, the feedback I’ve gotten on it has been great.
Obviously the main concern when recording audio is reducing background noise as much as humanly possible. And in our current society there are only very few places where you can really eliminate any sound whatsoever right at the source. I don’t have a professional studio installed anywhere, but I do have something that’s pretty good.
See, in Switzerland all buildings built during the Cold War and even all the way up until 2010 were required by law to contain nuclear bomb shelters, and any resident of a house older than that law was guaranteed a place in the municipal shelter. Yeah. Switzerland doesn’t screw around with defense. They rig their bridges, they hide secret bases all through the mountains, they have mandatory military service, and until a decade ago they had bomb shelters for everyone.
I made this digression to explain how it is that my parents’ building has one such shelter, two floors below ground level, accessible through a massive and insanely heavy (seriously, it takes several seconds just to open and close it – and its hinges are perfectly oiled to boot!) 20-centimeter-thick lead door. The shelter itself has since its construction been reconfigured into individual cellars for each of the apartments, but it’s still functional. It has air filtering vents to the outside, fold-down platforms inside to serve as bunk beds, and probably months’ worth of survival rations packed away in one corner of one of the cellars.
And of course it has great conditions for sound recording. Once the door is closed, I can’t even hear anything from the stairwell. At most the freezer in our bit of the cellar turns on its compressor once in a while, but all I need to do is wait a few minutes for it to stop.
So that’s where I set up shop to record my reading on an old MacBook with no fan – to avoid even that noise. Then I bring the track back upstairs, throw it into Audacity to clean it up, combine it with stock photos (some tweaked, all credited) and Blender animations in Kdenlive, then export and upload it.
I’ve already recorded myself reading “Geoffrey & Me”, so stay tuned for that one! Or… wait. I still need to practice this. Subscribe to my channel and ring the bell to be notified of the next videos! And of course, any likes, comments and shares of “Ghosts to Bodies” will be greatly appreciated.
New Job, New Adventures
Anyway, that’s been the last three months. Now to the future. I’ve been looking for work throughout the German-speaking world, the better to practice, and though they contacted me in Italian, the people hiring me need me, my Italian, my English and my German in one of the three original cantons of Switzerland. So in order to start in this job I’ll soon be moving from the west of Switzerland, a bit north of Geneva, to the center/east of the country, about the same distance south of Zürich. Yes, the German they speak in this country is very different, but I believe I can get used to it.
The job itself will be IT support, at first just for those clients who already bought the company’s solutions, but in time they want to expand their activities to offer helpdesk services as its own product, going far beyond their existing clients. My experience from back in Lisbon working in a similar position should be helpful there. One of the perks of this job is that a home is provided for me for the first 6 months, so that makes moving easier. Plus the location is just breathtakingly beautiful, and within reach of Zürich airport, significantly bigger and farther-reaching than Geneva’s.
I’m not worried about this move. Those of you who know me know that it’s far from my first time at this particular rodeo (for more, check out this post). It won’t even be the first time I move to a place whose language I don’t yet speak with the fluency I’d need. But I’ll manage. I’m planning to take actual German lessons while there, so as to improve faster, and in any case I’ll need my German every day in the streets and possibly at work too.
All in all, though it’s been in some ways the nadir of the past year, I’ve been regaining confidence, mostly with this job, and this apparently shows. I’m feeling more relaxed and optimistic thanks to these new opportunities. And I fully intend to keep writing and posting my stories here and on YouTube, and publishing more books. So again, stay tuned!!!