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


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Wake from Your Sleep 


Saturday, in the parlance of our time, I got woke. That is, I became aware. I had a very full schedule so I needed to be prepared. My first priority was breakfast. This may not have done my cholesterol any favours but my customary two poached eggs with ham, cheese and toast was necessary fuel for the day ahead. I would be joining three different consecutive events. At 11 AM, I’d be doing Cycle Toronto’s “Coldest Day of the Year” Ride through the downtown to promote winter cycling, then at 12:30 PM there was the National Day of Action Protest (basically a protest against Donald Trump and Steve Bannon…) at the US Consulate, and lastly at 2 PM, an Introduction to Winter Bike Maintenance presented by Bike Sauce at a local library. The last one was primarily a show of support as I’m pretty accustomed to biking in the winter and know at least the basics of maintenance but both this library branch and the volunteers at the non-profit DIY bike shop, Bike Sauce have been good partners in our bike advocacy work.
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Thursday, February 02, 2017

Seen in… January 

The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long but that didn't apply to these two Bright Lights

2016 was a bit rubbish. To avoid thinking about it, I thought it best to retreat into a world of fantasy and science fiction. Unfortunately, as Asimov knew, the best science fiction is about today not tomorrow and as we know from the golden era of musicals, the escapism of fantasy is glorious but fleeting. Now as I’m writing this, I’m watching Hypernormalisation, a documentary for the BBC by Adam Curtis and it’s hard to know what’s real and what isn’t which is the point of the film. The film relates how at some point the citizens of the Soviet Union became so disillusioned by the deception and lies of their government that they stopped believing in anything but they played along with the lies anyway. Living in the artifice of society created by the government became normal, “The fakery was so real, it was hyper-normal.” The film traces a line between 1970s Syria and New York City, the rise of Donald Trump and the obfuscation of Russian media manipulation. So yeah, there’s no hiding the awfulness of our times but here are the stories where I hoped to hide.
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