Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Monday, January 28, 2013

Finally gave into fad for shoes

After a long time resisting the fad for five-finger shoes, I finally gave in and bought these (yes in pink!) - http://www.rei.com/product/835034/vibram-fivefingers-kso-multisport-shoes-womens-2011-overstock
Lets see if there any truth in all the "awesomeness" of these shoes or chappal or whatever they are.

Also spend the weekend doing touristy things - eating at interesting places, all recommended by locals -
Shana Thai
Sakoon Indian
Banana Leaf Malasian
Madras cafe
(2 more to come before the weekend is over)

But I earned it all by going for a 6 mile run on Stevens Creek trail and then hike up Mission Peak ~6miles RT, 2000ft elevation gain.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fastest zip through US immigration

Today I was very pleasantly surprised by US immigration, a totally rare event. I was asked just one question - which I answer wrong anyway. What type of visa you have - I said H1 though I have a B1 :), old habits. Then just right hand fingerprint and photo, and you are done! In general it felt like line was moving quite fast, perhaps they are learning from Europe! Of course Switzerland still holds the record for efficiency, out of plane and on the train in under 20 minutes!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Me, snow and love

I love snow, I am scared of it, I still love it. Any day I getup and see the rooftops covered with snow, it makes for a great day. This year winter in Zurich did not disappoint, we had feet of snow in December before I left, and there is still some on ground now, and this is just middle of winter. It feels so awesome to be covered in overcoat, gloves, scarf, hat and winter shoes and go out walking in snow with temp under 0C as if its just another day. I am still not so comfortable walking on snow, but its perfect here where elfs always come in the morning and anytime after snow to clear the walkways. Looking forward to doing some snowshoeing this year, and maybe finally take out crampons to try something.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

In US again

So back in US, just visiting, and have a different prospective now. 2 years in Europe and now I can almost see why Europeans keep complaining about US. Still love the office and people, but its outside that I am starting to see differences. People's habit of waste has not changed, and I always disliked it, and dislike it even more now that I can see its not a rich country thing. Like Europeans, they can also learn to reduce waste.
But its other things, like yesterday just sitting in office shuttle and looking outside, everything felt bland. Its like houses had no character, one dabba after other, such a far cry from flower covered houses in Switzerland where each house has its own design. Of course we live in a apartment building there also, but still its somehow made in such a way that it appears pleasing. The colours are so completely missing from landscape here.
Then comes the food. I had always complained about food here, but now it just feels even more bland. No vegetables have any taste, everything feels so heavy, full of idk what, but definitely not taste and nutrition. Its so hard to make healthy choices here, can't just each fresh veggies. People say keeping away from wheat is hard in Europe. I say the opposite. Its much harder here because nothing else really taste like anything. I made the mistake of taking what they call cottage cheese at breakfast the other day, and it literally tasted like cardboard! No wonder I never liked cheese here. I did not know what cheese was! The only cheese they can do is string cheese, yum!
Still a trip to US office is always very refreshing, make you believe in life and friendliness again. People are so nice and chatty :). Starting from shuttle bus driver who wished me good weekend, to car rental pickup driver who told me to drive safe and have fun. The girl at car rental this morning, told and asked my whole life history because we were both in Redmond at some point. She was so nice and friendly, that it made my day, something that can happen only in US.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Zurich Ironman

Yesterday for the first time I was part of Ironman. No, not at participant, but as a volunteer. I volunteered to be course marshals. The task - simple, make sure only racers are on track and open the blocks safely to let spectators cross. But Ironman is not just about the run or the bike or the swim, its about endurance, its where racers make personal history. I started around 3:00pm at the marathon course. The beginning was great, there were the strong Ironman veterans navigating the course strong. The course was a 4-10km rounds. There were some racers who were exhausted from second round and I wished they make it, and it was great watching them pass by again still going strong. Then came the rain, like a real storm. The day was literally replay of Zurich Marathon day, rain and shine and rain and storm.

I knew that Ironman is not a race like marathon, its all about finishing, especially the run is a run or a walk or a crawl, probably time to shut down the brain and just keep moving to finish line. I was close to water / food station. I could see some runner's face light up at sight of hot soup, fruits, water. Some hung out, browsed the selection, ate, some just grabbed a handful of something and carried on. Then there were others for who each round was painful. You could see the exhaustion in their whole body. We tried our best to cheer them, tell them they are doing great. By 8:00pm when racers had already been on track for 13hrs., we started seeing the really exhausted ones, those who were in true sense testing their limits. Some runners just had to sit down for a min and we would tell them last round, you can make it! There was one guy who had 2 rounds to go, completely exhausted, thinking that its over. He asked someone - I still have 2 rounds to go, I am not going to make it, am I! It was most likely that he will not make it, but you don't say that, and of course miracles do happen, second wind is true. So I wish he made it, though I don't remember seeing him at the station again. 

There were no more spectators at this time, so we slowly joined in the water/food station. It was run by a group from a Fraungymnastic club. We slowly made our way in and became incharge of a waterbooth. They were all wondering and asking each other who these people are :) Finally someone got the courage and asked us - who are you! It was kind of funny. So we told them we are freewilangers and we were at the pedestrian crossing, but now its all empty so we came to help. Most of them did not know English, so it was great time to practice German. 

By 9:00pm, the final stragglers were pouring in at the station. They still had 2hrs to run / walk the last 10km. We were all cheering each runner, telling them its the last one. By 9:45, all runners had passed our station and were in their final round. So we packed up and went over to finish line. I was hoping to see lot of those who we were cheering in last hour. There was a Malaysian man, somewhat older. I saw him at first round, and second, and then around 9:00pm at the third round. He still had ~10km to go and was barely walking. It was awesome to watch him finish just in time! One guy proposed to his girlfriend at the finish line! That was some drama. In the end it was a lot of fun. The analogy I give, for me Ironman is like Everest. It would be awesome to do it, but I know I can't. Marathon is like Basecamp. So the event at least inspired me to not give up on running and do another marathon next year.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Trip back from US

This time I flew out of SF, that was first mistake. Then I left some water in a bottle going through security. Darn! How dare I leave pure H2O in my bag! have I not heard of that new technology by which its possible to create bomb out of water? Or maybe I will threaten to drown someone in that water! So yeah, they caught me with 1 gulp of water left in my water bottle. And well, it was treated like a bomb! The (obviously does not know how to use his brains) person at security put on his gloves, ran bunch of tests on it, then took the bottle out, ran my bag through security again.

me: I planned to drink it, I forgot can we empty it now? It just water.
But even I knew its lost cause.
him: Its against the rules mam'.
me: I was planning to drink it, its just water can I drink it now.
He was looking at me thinking maybe he should arrest me. But he probably was in good (!!) mood. So did nothing.
me again: Can I have my bag back? Are you going to take the bottle away?
him: I can't do that. Its against the rules.
(well, so what is in the rules can you read that out or you have lost the ability to read also)
me: I said I am going to need my bag back, it has my passport (duh!). Can I drink the water, its very little.
So he shakes the bottle and says its more than little. I said, its ok, I can drink it right here. No mam' that is not allowed. I am getting frustrated now.
Then he finally says, you have to take everything and go out, throw the water and go through security again.
I look at the line, and time, and say are you kidding me. Ok, you can close your mouth, I did not say that, I know that's one way ticket to jail in US.
me: Its a long line, and this is just water.
him: No mam' rules are rules, there is nothing I can do. You can show your boarding pass and come back to front of like.
Well, you can use your brains maybe. So I get ready to take my bag and go out. He won't hand me my bag.
I am like, can I leave all this here since it has already gone through security?
him: No mam' you have to take everything.
me: So, then can I have my bag back (duh!).
him: No, I have to escort you.
Awesome! So I collect my other stuff in hand, he takes my bag and bottle and escorts me 2 ft out the security gate. I stand right outside there, drink the water in front of him and get back in line 2 steps away. It was just all so foolish. These people really need to at some point start using their brains. Its when you stop using brains and just go by rules that its easier to fool you. I always thought US school system at least encourages full development, including the creative side. But then they must be taking all the lower IQ people in airport security.
So I go through security again, swearing that I am never flying out of SF or into US. And then I think of all the wonderful and friendly people I met, and the price seem almost worth. 

Entering Switzerland is completely different. Immigration takes literally 10 min. Though in front of me there was a American family on vacation. The poor souls so traumatized by their American experience looked quite scared at immigration. The immigration person asked them how long is their stay. The woman mumbled 2 weeks, and the man immediately corrected her loudly - 11 days, we are here for only 11 days. Immigration person also looked up, probably waiting for him to tell - 4 hrs 3 min. He smiled and said its ok. And me too thinking poor souls, they can relax now.
While in US you are greeted with warnings - don't use your cell phone, don't open your bag, just keep walking straight, don't look anyone in the eye, head down! In Switzerland you are greeted with cowbells and heidi :)

A trip to US

A trip to US is always very interesting for me. It starts with being excited to visit Seattle again. This time also I decided to stop by Seattle on my way in. Landing in Seattle still feels like returning home. Its all so familiar, the lake, bridges, 405 and the bus. Even the immigration staff feels friendly (of course only relative to US immigration elsewhere). This time at immigration I was giving all the wrong answers -
where are you going?
me: To Redmond
here it says california?
me: Right, to Redmond for the weekend and then CA
Why are you here?
me: (I am sorry I will never commit the crime of coming to US again!) well, we have headoffice in CA and we are here to have meetings with the team.
We? Who else is with you?
me: (oh, my imaginary friend, because I must be crazy to choose to go thru this questioning) Oh! did I say we, I meant I, I am travelling alone.
hmm, I thought you said we.
me: No, I am alone.
(wait for him to take me aside for more questioning, but that does not happen, thankfully I am in Seattle and not NY or SF)
Alright since you have committed the crime of entering US, get fingerprinted and then you can go.

Phew! that went well, which is true everytime you are not arrested.
Then the airlines left my bag in Paris. There was not enough time. I said there were 2hrs, I got myself from plane 1 to plane 2, going through US security. Come to think of it there was no US security this time. So the agent says, "oh well, u know the europeans they don't care about anything. If its time to take their 3 hr lunch, they will take it". I guess I do no Europeans and I happen to think they take their work seriously. But anyway, no big deal except that its really cold and I don't have a jacket. The bag will arrive next day on same flight. The agent leave me with advice to not fly through Paris or London - they are the worst. ok, I knew that actually. My favourite is Amsterdam.

Anyway, so that is how I found myself outside the airport, without luggage, but free. Sadly all this experience is also all so familiar! After spending the weekend in Seattle, I was out to CA. Domestic travel is the same, still a bit pleasant at Seattle airport. After spending a week in US, I always feel like everyone loves me, I have so many friends, the world is so friendly and wonderful. Its just so easy to fit right in US work or outside. But ironically, I also never adjusted to general lifestyle - extremely wasteful from excessive cooling everywhere to refusing to dry clothes in sun, germophobia, take 20 paper napkins at every change etc. It always hurt me to see people just not caring at all about the environment and living like everything is infinitely available, and well, to them it is. Anyway, on to good things. So I ended my trip feeling great, world is all friendly again, till..... I tried to get out of US.