Archive for the 'travel' Category

Visited 21 countries (9.33%)

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008
Visited countries: 21 (9.33%)

Visited countries: 21 (9.33%)

I added Czech Republic to the list of countries I visited. That was last Summer. Updating the map of visited countries is a pretext really, as I meant to blog about travels, after chatting with an old friend of mine.

He realized he didn’t know me as well as he thought when I told him I wasn’t actually seeking to travel. I consider myself extremely fortunate that my work took me to many incredible places. And I’m very grateful to the friends and lovers who engineered my personal travels.

I like to be somewhere else. It is all that is around travelling that is stressful. Getting used to the idea of it first, which takes some time. It is like a quiet struggle between the curious me and the stay-at-home me. This struggle may last until the very last moment. The curious me knows it is going to be wonderful and how this should be a motivation. The other me knows it will be tiring, expensive. The other me knows the amount of work that will await upon returning.

Then there is packing. An additional burden that would not happen if I were to stay home. I pack lightly, quickly and most of the time efficiently. I have learnt that after years of travelling for W3C. Of course, unpacking is equally burdensome. It means laundry.

Also, there is the stress of the journey, be that flying or driving or else (we took a ferry recently for our holiday in Corsica and Sardinia). Flying is the worst. Not that I’m afraid to be on a plane. It’s rather that I hate airport so-called security. What a gigantic waste of time and what a monumental buffoonery. I am exaggerating for emphasis.

At least, none of my anxiety was ever turned towards dreading any danger, or fearing I wouldn’t like the place. I have enjoyed all of my travels so far.

So at last, there is being somewhere else. Enjoying different settings, foods, climate, a different culture, sometimes a different language. Taking photos. Thinking how incredibly lucky I am to be there. Enjoying the compagny. Taking a break from the everyday life. Feeling how tangibly time passes faster.


Monday, September 25th, 2006

Today I learnt that the well-known default alert tone when you receive a message on a Nokia phone, da da da daaah daaah da da da, is Morse code for “SMS”.

Also, my hotel in Prague has the best implementation of the “Do Not Disturb” sign I’ve seen. The sign has one completely green side with the word “YES” in huge letters and one completely red side with the word “NO”. Simple and clear, even for those people who don’t understand the words (unless they are either red-green colour blind or don’t understand traffic lights).

Airport *security*?

Friday, September 15th, 2006

I missed my flight tonight. Now I’m writing this entry from the plane, which is a sure sign that things went well in the end. The flight was delayed. I was thankful for that. I have run all day, I was hardly ready to go at the scheduled time. I could have made it, it’s just that seeing the flight had a 25 minute delay, I left 25 minutes later than I intended.

Now the thing is that hold luggage should be checked in at the initially scheduled time. So the guy could not send my luggage in time. He asked if I had scissors or knives. Yes, I have a pair of scissors. I also had two smallish suitcases and a bag full of toiletries. The guy at the AF desk was almost willing to send me on the plane with all of my luggage. I said I couldn’t afford to lose them and would rather wait hours to be on a later flight than risk losing them to leave on time.

So he managed to book me on the next flight. It turned out I had to run because it was boarding pretty soon. He checked in my two suitcases and sent me with my bag full of toiletries and a pair of scissors. Sharp and pointy scissors. I thought the x-ray guys would stop me, look at me reproachfully, search for the scissors and take them from me.

Not at all. I also smuggled my entire collection of cigarette lighters and two matchbooks. That was for a Nice – Paris Orly flight. I don’t expect to smuggle these on the London Heathrow – Boston flight.

Update: I *did* smuggle them on the London – Boston flight too.

dulliciously smug

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

schol·ar n.

  1. A learned person.
  2. A specialist in a given branch of knowledge: a classical scholar.
  3. One who attends school or studies with a teacher; a student.
  4. A student who holds or has held a particular scholarship.

I’ll be that. Yeah-huh! Isn’t it awesome?!

One day I’ll start a sentence with “oh, when i was at MIT as a visiting scholar…”

I’m *so* thrilled! Not really by the fact that MIT will host me as a “Visiting Scholar”, but by the wonderful opportunity! I’ll be closer to Amy (yay!), I’ll change venue, do new stuff (although workwise I’ll do exactly the same things), freeze in the Massachussets winter, have truck food for lunch, I’ll have as many Starbucks Coffee caramel macchiato as I want (and I’ll want a *lot*), etcetera, etcetera :)

Visited 19 countries (8%)

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

map of countries, the one I visited coloured in red

2 more! so I updated my own map: + Estonia, + Finland.

19 countries visited, 8%.

Last time I wrote about travel, back in July, I had no idea I’d have the opportunity to spend a week in Estonia and Finland.

And just a week ago another opportunity arose! So I’ll travel to Boston in a few days now and I’ll stay there for 3 months. Lucky me for being able to work from anywhere.

I’m sooper psyched!

Things I saw today (Safety Dance)

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

For Krissy, here’s Safety Dance (Max++ for finding it):

She and I enjoyed this song loudly and with enthusiastic, if seated, dancing when we heard it on the radio during a drive from Canada. I decided that the song really deserves more “Whoo!” sounds while singing along, and we both remembered that robot-dance is awesome.

There are other stories to be told from that trip but I’ll leave them for another time maybe (or let Kris tell her version of them, whatever comes first).

visited 17 countries (7%)

Sunday, July 16th, 2006

map of countries, the one I visited coloured in red

Since my post about visited countries last April and since I travelled during my June vacation, I decided to update my own map.

17 countries visited, 7%.

In the fore-seeable future (the end of 2007), there is no perspective of increase of those numbers. Unless I take a vacation someplace new, of course. My next travels will bring me again to California, Japan, and perhaps Canada and Massachussets.
I found out also that I visited 8 states (15%) in the USA (I didn’t include the airport in Salt Lake City and Chicago). It’s peculiar how the very south-west and very north-east are red and how the rest is so white.

Blocks of time, Sunday evening

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

2247 CEST: “Ooh, I forgot to call my mum…” I look out the window and it’s still bright out. Something clicks and I remember to not trust the outside light. I’ll call her in the morrow.
2337 CEST: Diner is out of the way, it’s geek o’clock.
0030 CEST: Headed pubwards. It’s still not dark.
0055 CEST: We’re asked in Norwegian to hurry up with our drinks; they’re closing.
0057 CEST: My glass is not empty. If the bartender had not put ice cubes, the otherwise very tasty cider wouldn’t be so cold.
0100 CEST: We’re out of Colletts Cafe’, lingering in the company and smoking. I gaze upon the three or four stars that I can see in the not-dark-at-all middle of the night.
0112 CEST: It seems it’s getting brighter above us.
0121 CEST: We’re back. Still not dark.
0205 CEST: I sure seems to get brighter outside. No point waiting for a dark night. -> Zzz

Blocks of time, Saturday Morning

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

Saturday morning. (goto:0936 CEST for the action bit, goto:1116 CEST for the bit about music, goto:1616 CEST to reach the end ;))

0700 CEST: The alarm clock blares. I slap it quiet. I’ve had a mere five-hour sleep. That’s not enough by my standards.
0709 CEST: The alarm clock reminds me I have to get up. I slap it quiet. It *so* deserves it.
0719 CEST: The alarm clock reminds me I really must get up. I slap it quiet and I get up.
0720 CEST: The backup on precious has finished during the night. That was expected but given the four-hour troubles last night w/ backing up, one can never be sure.
0725 CEST: Must. Have. Coffee. While I was at it, I ate breakfast.
0755 CEST: Must. Take. Shower.
0810 CEST: Unpack some clothes, replace with others, fewer.
0820 CEST: Must. Have. Coffee.
0830 CEST: Chill out in front of Precious.
0850 CEST: Put Precious to sleep and get going. My backpack weighs 6.5 kg (Precious inclusive). I’m leaving for nine days.
0907 CEST: I’m in the car, a little behind schedule; I’m 7 minute late.
0917 CEST: I’ve passed the villages and am now on the speedway.
0925 CEST: I’m now on the motorway. Sped as fast as 160 km/h.
0932 CEST: Take the airport exit. If people had not hogged the left lane at frustratingly low speed, I would have been there much quicker.
0934 CEST: Kiss my Dad goodbye.
0935 CEST: Check flight info on screen: NCE-OSL, check-in zone B. Delayed 11:05. Oh good, I’ll have time for shopping and a coffee.
0936 CEST: The desks in zone B are deserted. People are packing themselves *outside*. Somebody has left their luggage unattended. The security people made the travellers clear zones A, B and C (for good measure), secured a perimeter and brought in the “démineur” ;) He asks whether an announcement has been made. None has been made. Meanwhile people have packed tightly as close as to the perimeter lines as physically possible. The démineur decides the perimeter is not big enough. Security people motion travellers to go further away. What a dense crowd. They’re real slow. Also they’re really close to me. Too *close*. I apologise to two old ladies and pass them to make a quick exit. Outside. Air. Space. I’ll notice when people pour back into the Terminal.
1005 CEST: I’m in line for checking in a tent and a backpack. The line is surprisingly short. In front of me are two guys travelling together. One of them wishes to bring his 12 kilo suitcase onboard. He’s told that the weight limit is 8 kilos. So he opens it. It’s almost empty. I see very little clothes and 5 bottles of wine. The guy takes three bottles out, places them on the floor, closes his suitcase again and places it back on the belt. 9 kilos or so. The Sterling attendant asks him whether he’s carrying bottles. He lies “no”. The attendant yields and nods that he may bring his suitcase with him. Both guys leave, suitcases in one hand, bottles in the other. My turn.
1013 CEST: I’m done, headed through security w/ my purse and Precious.
1016 CEST: Security is out of the way. Must. Have. Coffee. Doh! the cafe’ is closed! Am I cursed or what?
1018 CEST: Oh well, may as well sit in the smoking tank.
1032 CEST: Boarding time.
1044 CEST: I’m on board.
1056 CEST: Boarding is finished.
1100 CEST: Security announcement. Ah, must put Precious to sleep for take-off. ttyl.
1116 CEST: The “fasten you seatbelt” sign has been switched off. I read an article about Sigur Ròs in the Sterling inflight Magazine. It made me think of Amy who made me discover them last January. I find their music really enjoyable and beautiful. The band started in Iceland in 1994 on the same day the singer’s sister, Sigurròs, was born. Sigur Ròs means “victory rose”. They sing in Icelandic and sometimes in Hopelandic, a language which is their own creation. Their music has a way of finding its way into the soul of the listeners rather than appealing to their intellectual and rational conception. (last sentence copied from the interview I just read, naturally). The singer, Jönsi, says “it is nice and inspiring when the audience shows that they like our music, but as long as they are moved by it, then we don’t care whether they faint, fall asleep or react negatively.” The article starts with: “Time stands still when you listen to Sigur Ròs. At least it feels that way. you automatically get a desire to close your eyes and disappear into their sound universe which can be both beautiful, raw, sad, funny, dignified, vulnerable, robust, light, dark, quiet and thundering, but never indiferent and always very fervent”. +1! From the same article, I see they’re playing at the Oslo Spektrum on Tuesday (June 27). I *so* wish I could go. But we’re doing OSL-DUB-OSL on 26-29jun. We’ll see a different singer ;), Wendy Rule, not Icelandic, she’s Australian. Her music too find its way to the soul of the listeners, imo.
1141 CEST: I’m done rambling on music. Peeking outside the window, I see clouds below us. Clouds everywhere. They’re white and fluffy. The pilot tells us we’re soon going to fly over Germany.
1200 CEST: Boy are the babies and infants unhappy today. And loud. There’s a particularly obnoxious kid behind me who kicks in my seat every now and then. Zen… /me fishes out earbuds and listens to Sigur Ròs.
1206 CEST: Sigur Ròs’ music is indeed calming.
1209 CEST: I’m bored!
1225 CEST: More clouds. Those are grey and look almost liquid. Still bored.
1312 CEST: &lt:sigh />… Bored. And hungry. We’ll begin our descent in 15 minutes at the latest. Can’t wait till we *have* descended ;)
1320 CEST: Yay, we’re beginning our descent. 17 degrees Celsius at our destination and partly clouded.
1341 CEST: We’ve landed.
1345 CEST: We’ve taxied to gate 36.
1616 CEST: Found network! (in the meantime, I waited an eternity for the luggage to appear on the belt, took a train a bus and took my shoes off).


Grazie Signore Poggi

Monday, June 19th, 2006

Italy, Bologna, Hotel Holiday near via dell’Indipendenza. It’s well after midnight. I’m at the window. I light a cigarette and as I place the lighter back in the pack, both escape my clumsy hands –dumb me!– and fall noisily in the corner of the inner courtyard, a few stories below.

This is a roof, really. And it seems there are only windows around it; only one is lit. Alerted by the noise, somebody downstairs looks out their window; I see an arm pushing a shutter wide open.

I have more cigarettes in my backpack. But no spare lighter. I’d prefer to act now. I hope the people in the room downstairs will open their door when I knock. It’s almost 1 am.

“Buona sera, ” I announce when a man opens the door enough to show his face and let the TV sound flow out of the room. “Sono nella camera al terzo piano e le mie sigarette sono cadutte dalla finestra.”

I’m in the room on the third floor and I dropped my cigarettes through the window. He raises his eyebrows and remains quiet.

“E possibile che vado fuori dalla vostra finestra?” I ask while my hand is pointing at myself first and then in the general direction of beyond those walls.

Is it possible for me to go outside through your window? The man remains silent as he nods.

“Grazie!” I thank him as he opens the door to let me in. As I pass him I notice he’s wearing boxer shorts and that’s it.

The room is smaller than mine. There is a woman on the bed. I smile apologetically at her. She looks very perplexed as I cross the room. Below the waist she’s wearing panties, and above, she’s wearing… an open book…

I dash to the window that is already open, sit on the window sill, pivot outside, walk a few steps, pick up my pack of cigarettes and soon I pivot again inside the room. I make sure they see the cigarettes as I re-enter their room.

Not much has changed in the minute it took me. The man is now on the bed, lying next to the woman who hasn’t moved at all. The door is closed.

“Grazie milla, e scusa.” Thanks a lot, and sorry.

One last embarassed smile and I’m out of here.

As I was reliving the event in my own room, I thought of Mister Poggi. He was my Italian teacher at school some fifteen years ago. And I imagined writing him a letter to describe how his lessons had just been useful to me.