Feb 222012
 

During the past years I’ve been to many different places. As work trips usually mean work during the days in areas that are good for industry but not for tourists, I usually barely have the opportunity to do extensive sightseeing. Also, after a while I got tired historic church – birth place of <insert famous person> – unique architecture – outstanding park tourist program. Most galleries and museums are closed in after work hours. So there is not much excitement left. I find it far more interesting meeting different cultures and their kitchens. Local specialties at good restaurants I cannot resist. I discovered some quite unique foods, here is the list of my favorites:

  • Tromsø, Norway Lutefisk it is an aged, jelly like dried fish that got soaked in a liquid for a long while. I was told it was especially served in winter just before christmas. I had it with sweet brown cheese, mustard, fried bacon, potatoes and a local ale (Mack beers).
  • Lisboa, Portugal Bacalhau salted, preserved cod served in a vegetable soup.
  • Milano, Italy Mozarella Bufalata very creamy, mild bufalo mozarella.
  • Selengor, Malaysia Durian a very smelly, creamy, sweet, tasty and unique fruit. It’s
    a pity that it is not growing in Europe and usually out of season when
    we are in Hong Kong. Very tasty.
  • Singapore Hainanese Chicken a rice dish where the rice is soaked in a rich chicken broth with cooked and marinated chicken – a dish full of flavors
  • Yuen Long, Hong Kong Water Checstnut Cake cooked by the grandmother-in-law.
  • Sonoma, CA, USA Carneros Cuvée perfect sparkeling wine.
  • Dresden, Germany Chocolate Balls these were a surprise dish in our wedding, a rarely known recipe by Frank Ollhof (Petit Frank)

There are also a couple of restaurants experiences that were outstanding: Like a small restaurant in a small town owned by a soon to be retired Michelin star cook, or a surprisingly good delicatessen store in Nottingham that served outstanding breakfast, an Asian restaurant in Milano successfully creating an Asian-Italian fusion kitchen with e.g. Tartufo Dim Sum.

The flip site of work travel is that most of the time I eat 3 times a day in some sort of restaurant and I barely know what they put in the food, how it is prepared or how fresh it is. What I enjoy most after all is self prepared and home-cooked food with husband.

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Feb 212012
 

I flew in to Florence, Italy a few days ago. Coming from Dublin I needed to change planes in Frankfurt airport. I had 2 really nice and talkative seat neighbors. The lady who accompanied me from Dublin to Frankfurt was on her way to Beijing, the young man sitting next to me in the plane from Frankfurt to Florence just came from Beijing. This was certainly an unusual coincidence.

Both weren’t used to long haul flights and did some mistakes, such as planning on taking sleeping pills and not resetting the body clock appropriately. I have done a couple of long distance flights during the past 3 years – for work and private purposes. I usually aim for getting jetlagged on the plane, to be able to enjoy my holiday or do my work without being horribly tired.

What I do in general

  • if I have to interchange, I make sure that consider the flight times and the landing time at my destination time zone. E.g. if I land in the morning, my second flight should provide me a full night worth of sleep. When I go to Asia, I usually fly via Frankfurt, the next 9-10 hours flight allows me to sleep and adjust to time. I generally aim for having one long flight. In Europe go for Frankfurt, Heathrow, or if I have to Amsterdam they usually fly to any destination. I avoid CDG as I heard only bad things about it. 
  • As soon as I enter the plane I set my watch and perception to target timezone of my next destination. This reduces confusion at airport and also allows body clock and to adjust. 
  • I ignore day/night mode in the airplane. I stuck to my target timezone, adjust meals accordingly, sleep accordingly. I don’t do dinner just because the airline scheduled one after take off. If it is 3PM at my destination, I have a coffee, that’s it.
  • I make sure I have enough (healthy) snacks with me to do my meals yourself. Bananas, nuts and bread are usually good. Most plane food isn’t very healthy nor tasty anyway. I always take lots of water with me. Most airport have drinking fountains, I usually refill my bottle there.
  • I make sure that I have enough time for interchanges, less than 1h means
    usually stress, due to delays, long distances between gates, security
    controls etc and other passengers time might be significantly
    reduced.I usually feel comfortable if I have about 90 minutes time between landing and departure.
  • I don’t look for price only. I look for convenience of the trip, too: I avoid
    long overlays, also I do as little flight segments as possible. Every interchange
    will add ca 2h to the schedule, it will increase the risk of missing a flight and – depending on visa requirements – it might add additional hassle.
  • If I arrive in the morning, I go to my hotel, check in, have a strict 20 minutes power nap, setup a wake up call and alarms, have a shower
    and than I am all day on the road. I only do simple tasks such as working around, eat according to the new time zone, look at random spots, shops, parks – basically
    strolling around. I usually aim to be back later than 7pm. Also, always, I take lots of water with me.

Don’t's

  • Never ever think of ‘at home it would be now 3AM’. Where ever you are that’s the ‘correct’ time. Behave accordingly.
  • Don’t get drunk on planes, it makes you sleepy. But being hangover and jetlagged doesn’t really work once you crossed your 30th birthday.
  • Don’t take sleeping pills or other anti-jetlag packs. It’s most likely scam. It doesn’t help your body clock at all.
  • Don’t plan on interchanging in US. Immigration departments can be lots of hassle, you need to collect your luggage, go through customs and security before you can go to your onwards flight. It cost times and if you are ‘lucky’ you might meet second immigration officers or spend some additional time at customs. US airlines are usually overbooked, if you are delayed you might not be able to get on your flight or on the next one. Being 2 days delayed when you want to get home or need to go to a meeting don’t suit anybody.

If you are flying economy class:

  • If you plan on sleeping book window seats. You don’t want to get bothered by somebody kicking you or asking you to move. If you need to be awake, go for an aisle seat.
  • Exercise and walk around. Stretch. Nothing is worse than arriving at destination with pain caused by not moving at all.
  • If you fly as couple go for a row and book aisle and window seat, if it is off season the plane is most likely not full, and middle seats are the least desired ones. If somebody sits there he’ll be happy to change to either windows or aisle. 

The only jetlags I seem to get are those when I get back home, because then I am usually treated by husband, have less duties and can sleep for days.

Urban myths

  • jetlags are urban myths. Call it however you want, if you don’t sleep according to your body clock and requirements, you feel broke for a while. The younger and the more disciplined you are the easier it is.
  • the direction influences the intensity of the jetlag. Having worked 8h ahead and behind GMT did not make a difference to me. Also, coming back wasn’t easier or harder depending on the flight time.
  • the longer the distance the harder the jetlag. I feel it far more difficult to adjust 2h to east (2h earlier) than going 5 or more hours ahead.

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Jun 242011
 

This year’s BRN was the reason why I booked tickets for a trip to Dresden in June together with my fiance. We arrived at Thursday afternoon and left Sunday afternoon after almost excactly 72h. It was a great long weekend stuffed with things even though we haven’t planned anything particular before. 

Day 1

My parents picked us up and took us to my uncles garden for having coffee and cake. So first stop was with fiance at a German bakery. Arrived at my uncle’s garden fiance got introduced to a few more of my family as well as the concept of German allotment associations. It was a great time, I haven’t seen my uncle in ages, so it was good fun to have a chat. After that we went to a restaurant in a pasta manufactury in Riesa. After that we wanted to go to a micro brewery which unfortunately had closed that day. We eventually got to my parents place and spent the evening there.

Day 2

We had to get up early as we needed to get to Dresden because I arranged a hair dresser appointment with the best hairdresser alive. To not bore fiance out of his mind I sent him togehter with my father to the Panometer in Dresden – a 360° experience of Dresden as of 1756. Once we all were finished we got to the historic city centre and had lunch at the Coselpalais close to the famous rebuilt church Frauenkirche. From there we did drive along the river to see the bridge in construction in Elbe valley which caused Dresden being deleted from the world heritage list in 2009. We finished our visit with my parents at Louisenhof with a panoramic view over Dresden’s skyline on a beautiful summer day sitting on a terrace. The evening we spent on a friends place having a BBQ with his family – his wife and 2 daughters. This was quite fun, it’s amazing to see how fast children grow up and develop their personalities. 

Day 3

After breakfast we left and got to Dresden city center to a place called Max for a light lunch and mainly to meet two friends of mine and chat for a while. I was surprised about fiance not complaining drinking a capuccino with 4 girls ;) From there we got to another friend’s place who recently moved. I love his new apartment and it was good to see him again. With him we got to the Neustadt part of the town to attend the BRN a pretty unique street festival. We strolled around all evening, tried random food and drinks, listened to random bands on one of the many stages – especially to mention The Blumenkinders as their singer is my friend’s buddy; they also were pretty good entertainers. 

Day 4

 

Last day started with a surprise for my friend. As he slept much longer than we did, mutual friends decided to stop by his place to say hello. They have a daughter which can already walk, last time we saw her she was a few months old baby and before that she was still in production. Time flies! We left at noon to meet one of my dearest, oldest friends to have lunch at the Schillergarten and a good chat. Due to unforseen circumstances we spent much less time with him than planned and wished :( Next time…

And that was it. 3 days in Dresden without planning and especially without any planned sighseeing turned out to be for fiance lots of new impression like the street festival, several local dishes at restaurants, a few panoramic Dresden views and lots of fun with good people. I am always happy when I return from Dresden as I had perfect days with well-entertained fiance, met people who matter to me and who I miss. But then, back home I get my blues about all the people and things I miss in my daily life here in Dublin. 

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Apr 302011
 

 

No, <name>, I don’t believe that. - Nein, <name>, das glaube ich nicht.
No, <name>, it doesn’t work like that. - Nein, <name>, das funktioniert so nicht. 
No, <name>, you should think about this again. - Nein, <name>, darueber solltest Du noch mal nachdenken.
No, <name>, I doubt that. - Nein, <name>, das bezweifele ich. 
No, <name>, do you think I am stupid? – Nein, <name>, haeltst Du mich fuer bloed?

This small list got assembled on demand for my husband to be in preparation for one of his up-coming work meetings. Contributions are welcome :)

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Apr 072011
 

Who would have guessed that getting married is so much bureaucratic hassle? Our situation might not be the easiest one, as we both have a different nationalities; one from EU and some sort of non-EU-ish. BNO nationality is pretty much a mess, as I learned. Probably it would be a bit easier if we both lived in Germany or in Hong Kong. But we don’t.

When we started looking up for getting married we knew that we have some sort of complicated situation. Organizing a wedding in 3 countries with family on 3 continents is rather challenging, especially if you can’t fly in everyone from everywhere and when the major attendees such as parents and grand parents are not able to do long distance flights anymore. So there was only one logic decision we could do: running away and declare the wedding as secret and announcing big parties instead.

I read a bit about getting married in Germany, asked per mail somebody about our special situation and got as answer that I would need a lawyer to sort this out. So Germany is not an option.

Then we looked and got tempted by Tuvalu. It looks awesome is very remote and certainly unique. Unfortunately flying there and back is a hassle we do not want to have in our one week and a bit time we have. So this option got cancelled too.

Next idea was Iceland. Sounded pretty neat, getting there having honeymoon and wedding in one go and discovering a beautiful isle. We kinda liked the idea, but then I talked to a travel agency who told me that we would need to stay most of the time in Reykjavik as we would be required to wait for documents. For that we needed a international birth certificate and a certificate of impediment which states that we both are able to get married. As Jim failed finding an authority who could issue this document we had a closer look to wedding conditions in Ireland. Apparently you need to get an appointment with the marriage office, announce your wedding in a newspaper, wait for a couple of months and then it’s ok to get married. Sounds great, but since 3 weeks we are calling the registration office to get an appointment and we had no luck so far. We both get set on the call back list but never heard anything back. Today I spoke with the operator who told me that the earliest date now is September.

Frustrated about that we revisited the Iceland idea and called up the German and British embassy to learn more about the damned certificate we need. Now, apparently the German embassy doesn’t issue them so I needed to call up my last place where I had been registered in Germany. I got told that I need to pick up this certificate in person and I need a registration document from the place where I am living, unfortunately there is no obligation for registration in Ireland. So I do need to make another call on Monday with another person to learn if and how I could get this certificate w/o being in Germany. I also called the British embassy which hung up in the first place, and later forwarded me to a mailbox. Another task for Monday morning.

Frustrated about all that I checked out places where you can get married with just the birth certificate and no other requirements, apparently there are a few:

  • Denmark which requires birth certificates and a 2 weeks stay there.
  • The Caribbean which requires per island different things
  • Las Vegas which does not seem to require anything

I am quite sure there more places like that out there. Next thing will be to learn which other places are there, and which of them issue marriage certificate which are legally accepted in Germany, Hong Kong and Ireland.

The entire year was meant to be the year of our wedding, getting married in summer and then doing parties in Ireland in August, in Germany in November and in Hong Kong in December. As we fail on even knowing if our marriage happens this year at all I cannot organize any party at all which does not allow to book time, travels, places, notify guests etc.

That all is very frustrating. I do not want to be future Mrs Tang. I want to get married. Without bureaucracy.

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