Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Don't Lose Your Nerve 

After reading a brief article extolling the practice of reducing stress and increasing productivity by scheduling some quiet time, it occurred to me that I might benefit from some scheduled quiet time. I’m one of the millions of sad people who tend to eat their take-out lunch at their desks. Usually I click through a few videos or simply keep working. Lately, since the time change (end of daylight savings? Beginning of daylight savings?) I’ve found myself caught off guard by looking at my watch to find I’ve been in the office until the ugly hour of 7-7:30PM. Doing what? Endlessly chipping away at the rock that Sisyphus is pushing, presumably. Why? The excessive tricky daylight cunningly convinced me it wasn’t that late, but still… what’s the point? The sadness of my realization cannot be fathomed. I’m still here, no longer being paid, filling up the bucket of unearned labour for my employer because I do not have anywhere else to be.
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Thursday, March 09, 2017

Keep Breathing 

Enter Bangalore's stream of unconscious traffic.

Upon arriving home from India after an epic 30 hour trip, I took a little nap. What felt like only a few hours later, I found myself standing in a new office space, unpacking a crate, looking for a power bar. That’s when someone asked me, "What was your impression of Bangalore?"

I meant it when I said Bangalore was like the 16th century smashing up against the 21st century. Imagine for a moment, London in the late 1500s. It’s good place to start because Tudor England around Shakespeare’s time has been pretty well represented in a lot of plays, movies and novels. We can kind of picture it in our minds. You can imagine London as a teeming city of around maybe 500,000 souls crammed into congested blocks of low rise buildings. Think of it, people lived or had shops on the bridges back then. Most people are dirt poor (picture really horrible teeth). There’s no sanitation so everyone throws swill buckets into open gutters. Beasts of burden and livestock are everywhere, and so is their waste. Homes or more accurately, hovels are heated by open fires, everything is cooked or boiled over wood or charcoal fires so the air is ripe with smoke, sewage and probably the rank odour of the nearby river and every one of the Queen’s subjects. Yet a wealthy aristocracy moves throughout the city. They've created a bubble of carriages, fine clothing, and perfumes to isolate themselves from the clatter and chaos of everyone else.
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Monday, February 27, 2017

Before All Hell Breaks Loose 

Carnivale - Panjim, Goa
The chaos of Carnival is only a memory to me now.

In a few hours I will embark on one of the most arduous journeys of my life. The fact that approximately 30 hours of transport in taxis, planes, and trains can be referred to as “the most arduous journey of my life” tells you just what an incredibly overindulgent and mollycoddled life I’ve led thus far. I would never be called a refugee, escapee or even a “boat person” (with apologies to those referred to as such). In the past, as a student, I took a hockey bag full of all my belongings (how quaintly Canadian) and hitched a ride with friends by car from Ottawa to Toronto, flew economy (as I still do) from Toronto to Halifax, took an unusually long train ride from Halifax to North Sydney, where I then took a cab ride to the ferry terminal, took the overnighter boat to Port aux Basques, then a bus to Deer Lake and days later, I took an $80 flight from Deer Lake to St. John’s. The longest uninterrupted section of that trip took 24 hours. I recall the sensation that my clothing felt starched and stiff and fused to my skin.

This trip to India has already surpassed that; traveling from Toronto to Bangalore was about 30 hours yet the six hour layover in Frankfurt included a shower, a full buffet breakfast and a two hour nap in an over-stuffed leather recliner. That Germanic break came with vitamin-E infused moisturizer, lattes and little cakes which made the entire trip much more tolerable. That will not happen this time. Additionally I’m leaving from Goa to Bangalore (in +30 C heat) before I even begin. Taxis and hanging-around-abandoned-terminal-time will add some eight hours before the wheels on my flight to Toronto even begin to roll. I expect the entirety of the trip to be about 28 hours, non-stop, if everything goes as planned.
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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pack and Get Dressed 

I like to think of myself as a citizen of the world. Not as well travelled as I’d like to be, but certainly open to it. Clearly I am wrong. I am a withering petal on a dying plant. I can be sheepish and susceptible to suggestions when overwhelmed or hugely skeptical, obstinate and cynical if pressured to make a decision. Every time I see an article titled “How to Have a Better Flight”, I eagerly hope to find a new insight or some helpful “travel hack”. Instead I read it and think, “Well, that was obvious.” A recent New York Times article offered, “Be polite to flight staff.” Well, I’m not going to anger the fop who controls all the food and doors in a flying metal pod am I? I want to know how to sleep on an overnight flight or better yet, how to avoid an overnight flight. I have learned however why sometimes I feel immediately hungover when I drink alcohol aboard an aircraft (apparently, a loss of pressure in the cabin can make you susceptible to a mild altitude sickness and alcohol might worsen that). On this trip to India, I discovered some airports have day passes to lounges with showers, buffets and, more importantly, comfy chairs or loungers. After an overnight flight to Frankfurt with a six hour layover before continuing to India, I took full advantage of a Luftansa Lounge. Once I found the lounge, I immediately showered, shaved, took my meds and brushed my teeth. I then had a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, coffee, fruit salad and a croissant. I had to try at least 3 seats before I found a quiet, darker corner where I dozed off for a couple of hours of sleep. Given that I didn’t sleep a wink on the flight, and knew I wouldn’t sleep on the next leg, it turned out to be the only sleep I got over 30 hours of travel. I won’t have this luxury on the way back and will go from one 8 hour flight to the next.
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Monday, February 20, 2017

Today We Escape 

Frankfurt Airport
Frankfurt Airport around 6:00 AM local time.

I had been in India less than 5 hours when I vomited. I hadn’t even eaten anything which was probably the problem. You see I left my house in Toronto around 2:30 PM Saturday. By 6:00 AM Sunday the next day I was in the Frankfurt airport. Six hours later I was on a flight to Bangalore and by 6:00 AM Monday morning I had gone through customs, currency exchange and an hour long cab ride to finally be able to lower my head on a pillow for the first time in about 35 hours. That’s when I started to shiver and things began to spin. Fortunately, I think that was the briefest affects of having taken an anti-malaria pill on an empty stomach and it quickly subsided. I awoke about 9 hours later.

In the last 90 days of 2016 I spent 32 nights in a different bed. That’s over 1/3 of that time or 1 day out of 2.85 days were spent away from home. While it was mostly on someone else’s dime, it was also someone else’s time. It’s strange to have it seem a burden to go from New York to Paris, but it was. The trick with business travel is to figure out a way to use it in your favour which is what I’m trying to do on this trip to India.

Last Autumn’s Total Travel Numbers = 48,429 Km
33 days
4 Countries
7 Cities
61 hrs of flight time
25 hrs of movies and TV
10 lbs of extra weight

Now on to India you can add another 26,000 Km, 48 hours of travel time, and 9 more nights in another bed to the tally. I’m here for work. Exactly about 16 hours of meetings. So yes, it took me longer to get here than I have to be here. But I’m going to take the second half of the week and take in the beach and the heat and some swimming and some beach (did I say beach?) and some of the culture of Goa which is about an hour’s flight west of Bangalore. My first impressions of Bangalore? Well, it seems like a place where the 17th century rubs up against the 22nd Century with a lot of friction in between. In front of gleaming towers, is a woman over an open fire, no stove, just a fire, cooking something? The highway occasionally became a dirt road or at least the lane that a bus decided was a lane was just dirt. And here I am, in a very Western style hotel with all the amenities, which is situated in a business park of low rise modern buildings but looking out my window I can see several rising plumes of smoke, a ramshackle building where sarong-wearing young men come and go for unknown purpose and oddly an employee of the hotel seemed to be carrying some kind of smoking canister, apparently dusting the bushes surrounding the building. As I write this I can hear a group of dogs barking themselves hoarse.

It’s already been an adventure, but there’s work to be done before lying in the sun and days before I’m spending a night in my own bed.

Toronto to Oslo: 5932 x 2 = 11864 Km
Toronto to Canmore: 3530 x 2 = 7060 Km
Toronto to Winchester, UK = 5655 Km
Winchester, UK, to Paris, France = 550 Km
Paris, France to Toronto = 6000 Km
Toronto to NYC 555 x 2 = 1110
Toronto to Paris, France = 6000 Km x 2 = 12000 Km
Toronto to St. John’s and back = 4200 Km