Archive for the 'abroad' Category

Cowbells

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

Outside the plexiglass window, Heidi flickers past, waving at me. There must be a hundred of them, side by side, identical smiling faces making a wave with her hand. A cowbell clangs and a cow is mooing. Somehow, it sounds like she is laughing. I turn my eyes back inside the subway train as we arrive into Zürich airport’s main terminal. I’m wondering whether anyone has ever actually worn the supposedly traditional dress that Heidi is wearing. Are there even any Heidis in the mountains? Am I mixing nationalities here?

Switzerland was very good to me. It was outright magical in the mountains, with 1.5 meters (5 feet) of fresh, powdery snow, the temperature barely below freezing, the air completely still, the sun baking. Absolutely no sound could be heard, save for the occasional thump of snow falling from a tree, relieved to be free from the weight. I do hope to get back here.

Avalanche training

Treeline shadows

Perspective, meet paper

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m thinking about books I’ve read before – books I don’t normally recall during a normal day, good books, books I’ve read years and years ago, some as far back as fifteen years back. For example: Do androids dream of electric sheep by Dick and Gibson’s Neuromancer - well, Gibson generally, really. There’s a feeling that maybe I should revisit them. Some of it has to be just age and a general understanding of the world, a feeling that perhaps I’d understand the novels differently now, which I’m sure I would. After all, I was a teenager back then.

But the fact that this feeling has just now hit me, and across the board, not just with a given book, is what’s given me pause. I’m thinking it’s because of the traveling. I’ve visited countries I haven’t known before, alone, and met a lot of new people. I have widened my world view considerably, albeit in a corporate context and small doses. It’s hard to admit that I’ve been so tightly in my own confines that this little amount of travel would’ve opened me up, broadened my perspective, but it really feels like it. I really didn’t expect any new experience to open my existing heritage to this kind of re-interpretation, but what do you know.

Drunk on Piccadilly

Friday, September 21st, 2007

Across from me sits a woman in late thirties, sleeping. She’s in a junior position at a company. She’s resting her head against a stranger. The stranger is taking it like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Being a commute sleeper myself, I think it is.

On the right, a man wearing a turban is carrying a bike inside the underground car. The walls are so close. When we stop in the tunnel, I can feel the air getting thicker. On the left, a red-faced man in his forties, wearing a suit and tie comes in, sits down and pulls out a Warhammer 40’000 novel.

An advertisement on the wall says that I spend three years of my life in commute. Right now, I think it’s time I couldn’t spend better. This morning I noticed how wrinkled my eyes had gotten since the last time I really looked at them.

The woman gets out and I see myself in the plexiglass reflection, smiling. I can’t help but smile, all the fifty minutes from Holborn to Heathrow. I’m feeling the love of a night out with my dear friends. My music goes from Justin to Ken Ishii, culminating in fragile electro as I wake up to get out of the underground.

Reflection on reflection it hits me. I can’t help but smile.

Abroad

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

20/21 09: London

I meant to post the impressions of my first real business trip during the actual trip, but at hotel internet rates, I suddenly found myself with another batch of unposted travel notes. But here goes, I’m putting them all up in one go.

27/28 08: Alone in Holland

It’s a little past midnight. I am alone in my hotel room, facing the Atlantic. It’s much darker than back home north. The full moon is painting the waves with white light through spotty clouds. The large industrial zone’s massive gas torches light the night to the side, and inbetween are hundreds of leisure boats. A lighthouse’s torch shines in my eyes every few seconds. I should have brought a camera.

I’ve known the colleagues I’m with for a little over a week and it hits me: I’ve never been this alone, this out of my element. I tried to alleviate the circumstances by hitting the internet, but I’m not going to pay 8€ for 60 minutes of broadband. I wanted to call my wife, but she should be fast asleep by now. So instead I wrote this on the Windows Notepad; at least I can feel a future connection to my blog.

I am an individual and I can take care of myself, but I am not used to being alone. It’s a new feeling to me. It’s surprising, really – I guess I actually thought that on a basic level, I’d already experienced most of what life has to offer for me, like it would be all repetition from now on (not to say that’s a bad thing in itself) – but perhaps luckily, it does’t go that way.

Sure I could go more hardcore still, traveling really alone to a place really out of my cultural sphere, but as things stand, this is an interesting place to be.

28/29 08: Adaptation

Twenty-four hours later, I’m again alone in my hotel room, but now I’m savoring the “me” -time. I just got off the phone after twenty-plus minutes with my wife, and after a day of intense interaction with foreign colleagues, it’s great to be alone. It’s been a heavy day of training and tomorrow will be harder still, and with less sleep, to boot. But the networking has been totally worth the Visa bill and the loss of sleep. It’s somewhat revelatory to realize that the people behind our Europe headquarters’ email addresses are just that; people, exactly like the people in my office. Sure, our brand is big enough to attract some superstar talent, too, but most of us are just people, struggling with exactly the same problems that I am. I have especially enjoyed the interaction with our Swedish and Japanese colleagues; Swedish because they’re our Nordic neighbors and Japanese partly because they’re our global headquarters and partly because I haven’t known any Japanese people before.

My back is a pain, though.

20/21 09: Battle metal in London

From air, England looked exactly liked I imagined it would, a curious, sketchy take away from the Amsterdam surroundings I looked at an hour earlier. I got the fly-by of London and didn’t feel any real need to see the sights – though I’m sure they could be impressive from the ground level. Everything looked so unassuming.

Through the male sex’s fascination with football, our dinner plans were cancelled. I was so tired that I didn’t really complain, three hours of sleep plus perhaps another ninety minutes on air not quite enough to deal with the day’s toll. Then I spotted a local friend’s status message on Facebook, stating her intent to see Turisas the same night, and withing ten minutes I had bought a ticket and arranged a date with friends.

I was a little intimidated with the London public transportation and I welcomed my friends easing me in from the Heathrow tube station. We had dinner and beers, I met this interesting magazine editor, and we saw the heroic viking metal show. I had never heard a chord of Turisas, but it was so easy to get in on it. It was really a world apart from my daytime activities, taking in corporate plans, it’s a little hard to orientate myself for tomorrow’s training.

Once again, you see how huge an impact local guides have. I got the London experience within six hours. After my priceless friends saw me into the correct train, I made my way back to the Crowne Plaza, daring to take a local bus and saving myself around 16 GBP in the process.

I am positivey surprised by London. The people are immediate and aware; I got more feedback and interaction (and ketchup) with strangers today than in a week of living in Helsinki. I’ve heard Londoners being called cold, but I just don’t see where that’s coming from. Everybody’s very happy to help me and generally people tend to take you into account. Which generally just doesn’t happen in Helsinki.

Traveling on the job is not easy or fun, but right now I feel like I can value the insight it’s giving me. Of course, without my UK friends I would be typing a very different story tonight.