Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lessons Learned in the Nordic Region

I’ve learned three things on this trip. 1) Airports make me write I was ready to give up on my blog and then I found inspiration in the interesting characters one finds in an airport. As I am an efficient traveler, I often find myself checking in online but unable to judge the wait through security, more often then not, I have time at the airport to observe my surroundings, browse the shops, get some work done, etc. Right now I’m on a delay in Helsinki. First of all, I think it should be noted that flight attendants actually scooter themselves around the airport on non-motorized 3 wheel scooters – picture a large wheel in the front and two smaller wheels in the back, each about ¼ the size of the front wheel. These scooters are royal blue with a black metal bike basket in front and bike handle bars. It looks quite funny to see the women in their skirt suits zipping around on these things. Prime example. Carrying on before I get side tracked again… 2) You can take the girl away from the summer but can’t take summer away from the girl. We all know I love flip flops. Equally true is that the further north one travels, the colder the weather. Wearing flip flops to and around Helsinki earned me many second glances. However, since it was warmer in Germany these past two days than it was all of August, I’ve decided to keep my summer footwear out and jackets away as long as possible. Equally not having a coat got me a few reactions but don’t worry, I brought a sweater and it was really not that cold in Helsinki yesterday either. I woke up and checked out of my hotel this morning to find a day of 17 degrees C at 8:00am so it can’t be that bad. 3) German is useful outside of Germany I’ve never been to Helsinki before so I decided to wander around a bit. As it was late, I was advised the only shop that would still be open was Stockmann’s – the Finnish answer to Harrod’s. My local informer told me to just walk straight and I would find it. I knew I was close as I saw bags carrying the store’s name pass me by but Stockmann’s was nowhere in sight. I decided to stop and ask the next person I saw with the bag. She was an older woman with her husband and looked quite approachable. Since English is the third language for the vast majority of people in Finland (it is needed for communication with the rest of the world as so few people speak Finnish or Swedish – the country’s two compulsory languages.) I did not hesitate to ask my question in my native tongue. My question was answered with a blank stare when I realized the English was not working and I cannot even attempt Finnish or Swedish. Discouraged, I was ready to say sorry and move on when the woman said Deutsch. Ah, I can ask for and follow directions in Deutsch, this is great and I don’t even have to feel like a tourist to a local. I ask my question twice in German and get a blank stare. I know my phrasing (“Wo ist…) is correct but I begin to second guess myself in that split second of no response before her husband jumps in and restates the store’s name. Apparently I was not pronouncing Stockmann’s with enough stress on the ck for her to understand my question. In the end, it took only a minute and I got great directions from her husband that pretty much said continue straight and it’s around the next corner in German. Either way I got my directions in German and followed them to the store, which is quite encouraging to me.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I'm Back

It appears Finnair is one of the few airlines still serving food on a short haul flight. I’m unbelievably thirsty as I haven’t drank anything except a bit of shower water while brushing my teeth and that was ages ago. I watch the drink cart as I receive my sandwich package. To be honest, I was hoping they would only serve a snack, maybe those little pretzels or the always pleasant “trail mix” type. Anyway, back to getting that drink, it looks like they have Lime Juice. Maybe it’s a local specialty, maybe it is lemonade, either way, it sounds refreshing. “Is that lime juice?’” I ask the flight attendant. It’s grapefruit juice. I take it anyway, it was refreshing. Now, let’s have a look at this sandwich. Without opening the blue and white plastic bag, I can see cheese peeking out from a multigrain roll and undoubtedly there’s a thick layer of butter on the roll. Too my disappointment, I was correct about the butter and in addition, there’s some type of unidentified meat on my sandwich accompanied by a shriveled piece of lettuce. I feel compelled to make this sandwich edible and consume it. My first instinct, a roll with butter sounds good, I’ll just discretely remove the meat, cheese and lettuce and quickly reassemble my now empty sandwich. That did not work at all. The cheese took all the butter so I put it back but I didn’t like it so I removed it again, first using it as a knife to spread the butter back onto the bread. Could that meat be roast beet? No I don’t think so. Well I had two open faced butter sandwiched. Airline lunches are always the same, so predictably bad but yet, I feel obligated to at least try to eat the sandwich once it is placed in front of me. Ultimately, the sandwich is always so boring. I should mention the passengers on this plane look anything but boring. In fact the woman sitting next to me is a bit odd. Either it is her first ever flight or she is overly excited about nothing. She took several photographs at the airport with a (gasp!) film camera, I thought my mother was the only person left using one of those aside from serious photographers. Red, in honor of her terrible dye job, only peeled her face off the window to ask for a vegetarian sandwich. Apparently she forgot she was a vegetarian at check-in because she didn’t order one and was thus denied. Apparently she is also not a strict vegetarian as she simply removed the meat and ate the whole sandwich. Even with her neck to toe black outfit and terribly bright red hair, she is one of the more tame looking passengers on this flight. I’m really not sure what to expect in Helsinki but on this plane alone you will find a man who looks like a woman and is wearing Cons, gold jeans, a white blouse complete with ruffles around the cuffs, several necklaces ranging from a sequin scarf to plastic beads to silver charms, eye make up and a white hat Britney Spears couldn’t even pull off back when she was dating Justin. His hair is bleached out and just below shoulder length. His traveling companion also has long hair, brown and frizzy but his outfit is much more demure consisting of a black leather jacket and black shirt and pants. As I watched passengers board, I was seaded in row 4 and rows 10 – 21 were asked to board first, this was not the only oddity. Next came a gang of chubby German gangsters, complete with their blonde locks, baggy jeans and oversized hoodies, 4 boys and a girl wearing a similar outfit with a much smaller, formfitting hoodie and accessorized with a rhinestone belt clearly proclaiming her name, sadly I forgot her name but yesterday I saw an identical belt on a woman named Pia. They were actually denied boarding but for no reason other than they were not sitting in rows 10 – 21. Next up a group of Spanish speaking woman with identical carry on bags. I know they speak Spanish because I was stuck behind their confused babble in the line to check my bags and the 5 of them could not seem to agree on where they needed to be. Directly behind this group was a much calmer, sedated by comparison, group of Japanese tourists. They were middle aged, traveling together in a group of about 8 and they all looked like tourists. There’s just something about Japanese tourists that makes them stand out in a crowd and the older ones love Europe. I will say the twenty somethings are much more fashionable and would stand out for different reasons but you tend to find this crowd at outlets and in America in greater numbers than Europe. Moving on, just when I thought we were done with freaks, 3 guys walk up and I really have no words for their outfits. I will describe the one who was the most eclectic and you will just have to use you imagination on his companions. Picture, 6 feet 2 inches, long hair, black and white all over printed shirt, leather cropped vest with tassels over this, tight black pants, grey and black printed suspenders hanging down which were clearly meant to be worn like this as are on inside out. To top it all off, he is carrying in his arms what appears to be a long red pleather trench coat. You’ll just have to imagine how his friends were dressed. Either there’s some sort of music festival going on in Helsinki or it just attracts the characters. I realize I was ready to put this blog to bed, not because it was time but because I was momentarily uninspired. Welcome back blog! In celebration of the return of my, briefly, halted blog, I will entertain renaming. I’m leaning to Adventures in Liederhosen Land but have not yet committeed so please send along any suggestions!

Friday, September 21, 2007


I fear that I've lost interest in blogging. It's been almost a year and almost 120 posts and while they used to come on an almost daily basis it seems I'm now down to bi-monthly. I'm not sure if this is a signal of my attention span or ever busier life. Maybe I'll ger recharged soon as there are potential huge life changes about to take place in my life. For now I will leave this alone and I will be back at either the next moment of inspiration or on my one year mark (October 11/15). I guess I could be persuaded with topic suggestions. I've started wathing the show Gossip Girl so who knows maybe I'll come back as an anoymous blogger. But do not fear, this blog has not yet been put to bed. Speaking of wich, I was up way too long past midnight last night and should be getting off to a mid morning nap soon. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Welcome to FedEx, err.. my apartment

I work from home and so does Patrick on most days. I get it, we're here during the day when packages are delivered. Our friends downstairs were expecting a package and going away for the week so they left a note for the postman to leave the package with us. He did, they got it when they returned. Somehow this has opened the flood gates for the postman to come directly to us when anyone in the building is not home. It has now extended beyond the post to all delivery men. Today we got two packages. I actually answered the door for the second one expecting it to be the owner of the first one here to claim his book (the package is from Amazon, I can only assume). This delivery man was here once before and he is one of those people you could accurately describe as "a hoot!". He talks a mile a minute and resembles my Pop-Pop in looks. Today, he was intrigued by my last name and asked me something so fast all I could do was smile and say I have no don't find many Fitzgeralds in germany. The funny thing about all of these packages is that my next door neighbors are actually both home during the day as she is a house wife and he is unemployeed, they have 2 kids and 2 dogs and are not my favorite people. Quite frankly, we are the better choice to ensure your packages stays clean and safe while it awaits your return. The upside to being the local post office is that we get to check in with the neighbors when they stop by for their packages and they often find it necessary to tell us what is in them. Some of the things we've recieved for our neighbors include a canvas (about 16x20), an overnight bag sent without a box, a large box from Tchibo that could have held a small child and several standard looking book/CD type packages. If only I could recieve my own packages from my online shopping, which reminds me, mom's getting my Lilly dress today! At least i can still track clothing shipped from US websites.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Life and Brussels

If you're ever on a game show, please do not wear pants under a dress. I'm in my hotel room in Brussels, so glad I traveled in the day before the meeting as I think I got a cold from being cold yesterday. I learned that this was a myth and you could not get a cold from being cold and my legs were cold, how do you get sick from having cold leggs?!?! and why did summer skip me this year? All of this irrelevant really because I need to do a life update and I want to try to classify Brussels as a European City in its own right. Let's start with the initial purpose of this update, it's been way too long. I've had a vacation, a proposal and a birthday all in the same weekend and if that was not enought to overwhelm me, I've startred traveling for work again. In case the news hasen't traveled yet, I'm engaded. I'm actually thinking an engagement deserves its own post and one of those written in the third person so check back soon this may happen tomorrow in the airport. So I'm in Brussels until tomorrow evening then I have a train ride and eventually I'll make it home, I'm in the office Wednesday and Thursday and then my parents come on Friday. I'm getting incredibly excited for their visit. In fact, I frequently forget how hectic my week with them will be and what needs to be done in preparation for their visit. On top of it all, I need to complete my budget for work before going on vacation! Either way, I'm so excited!!! I'm also so excited for my summer dresses. I think because I haven't really had opprutunity to wear my sun dresses, I feel like it's coming and haven't yet realized winter is what's coming! Brussels is an interesting city. There are clear influences of Paris, like the language. Many of the shops are the same as in Germany and the people are a mix from various places in Europe. Belgium waffles sent the streets and are sold at sketchy looking stands by sketchier vendors about every 50 meters. I never thought of Brussels as anything more than the home of the EU/EC. This in itself made it interesting to me. However, this is my second trip here and I'm realizing Brussels also has culture and is an emerging market in the world of fashion. Brussels is also the second city in which I've found Jennyfer. I'm intrigued and glad to know I'll be back here one more time this year. Well, I'm off to wander Brussels in search of a restaurant and some budget planning.