Christmas that came late

Finally back from the land of Santa Claus! Again. Visited Finland in September last year and then, it was already chilly despite that it was supposed to be autumn, or so I thought. Well, by some twist of fate I was to return again, and while I was lamenting to some extent that I don’t think I’ll be seeing snow in 2013, well well, you never know. So never say never.

It was a Sunday morning when I arrived in Helsinki, taking a flight from Singapore on Saturday night and flying a long way to Paris. I was honestly quite apprehensive about the transit stop because it had a window of 1.5 hours. Seems like a long time, but actually it’s pretty short, considering that you can never factor enough time for possible flight delays on the inbound, and then foreign airports are sometimes quite confusing, to say the least. Besides, I had one transit experience at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle, and it wasn’t a good one because I missed my flight then due to the extremely tedious process of getting from one terminal to the other, clearing passport control and security checkpoints. It was just a nightmare. Thank God everything went fairly smoothly and I landed rather on time, and by some rushing and running about at 7am in the morning in terminals that don’t feel like they had any heating on, I managed to reach the designated gate in about 50 minutes.

It was an Air France flight that I took to Paris, which I never had a great impression of. You see, I am quite the fan of SQ, even if its standards may have slid much over the years, but Asian carriers generally pamper their customers more than the European or American ones. Surprisingly, the AF flight that took me to CDG was ok, maybe because the aircraft was an A380, which should be relatively new, and perhaps because I was sick (again), I did manage a little sleep. The inflight entertainment was quite limited, in my opinion at least, or I just was not interested in what they had. Food was ok, and during the long haul flight they actually don’t have much water service. I found out that they had, albeit infrequently, and there was a cart filled with some drinks outside the toilets that we could help ourselves to. Ok, self service I suppose? I was routed through Amsterdam on my return flight on KLM, which was pretty similar to AF but the plane was older, a 777-300ER (I think) but luckily they do have VOD, which however did not have too many films I wanted to watch. Overall, I think I only caught 2 or 3 shows on the whole trip.

So then I got to Helsinki, and my hotel, just before noon, then decided to head out to the city for a short walk about since I didn’t want to start sleeping the day away. It was gloomy, and honestly, quite depressing. It was really cold, like what I had always been told by my colleagues about the Scandinavian winters. By about an hour of being outside, despite wearing gloves (which probably didn’t work) when I was not trying to take pictures, my fingers were already numb, and afterward indoors they swelled so much that it was so painful. ūüė¶

Even the sea was frozen. Or from what I could see, it seemed like it was frozen. 20130120-222935.jpgIt was just a short one week trip this time, and then on Wednesday evening it started snowing, and it didn’t stop until Thursday. This was taken on Thursday morning when I was having breakfast. I typically wake up really early when I am in Europe due to the time difference, or maybe I just prefer to have a slow leisurely breakfast when the place still isn’t too busy.

20130120-223021.jpgFeels very Christmas-like? Wished I was here really around Christmas time, although there probably wouldn’t have been any activity, and I was told it was even colder then. I can’t imagine.

It was sub-zero everyday of the week that I was there in Helsinki, but usually single digit minus, or sometimes in the nights or early mornings while I am still in the hotel, perhaps -10 to -15. But one morning when I woke…

20130120-223046.jpgHonestly? There seemed to be some cold snap that went through Europe that day, because from the news channels, the weather forecasts for all the nearby European cities showed a large drop in temperatures continent-wide. Strangely, this happened last year too, in February when I was in Italy. It was cold, but because I stayed in most of the time, it was still bearable, although in the office, the heating didn’t work that well so mostly I will still have my thick sweater and scarf on as much as I can. I don’t know how my colleagues could just wear normal clothes like we do. Perhaps they have really great thermal wear beneath or they are just used to it.

Oh but the scenery in the Nordic countries is really amazing. The colours in the sky were so pretty when the sun finally made its appearance towards the end of the week, but of course the iPhone camera is quite hopeless there. It’s a pity I could only visit Helsinki and not the other Nordic countries/cities. But I guess it would have been better to be there for holidays rather than work.

20130120-223105.jpgSeriously, I need to think about putting a stop to the business trips someday. Maybe at least not in this same line and not in such conditions. I just pray for the right door(s) to be opened soon, this year.

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the fattening diaries

The last time I visited Helsinki for a business trip, which was just a few months ago in September, 1.5 weeks were enough to make me put on weight. I think the lack of exercise that happens to me when I am on these work trips, just sitting my fat behind on a chair the whole day, plugging my system with lots of milk-laden coffee, and of course, these…20130118-073914.jpg

Karl Fazer is a Finnish product, I think. These were introduced to us by our nice Finnish colleagues who plied us with the varied forms of them. We had the blue ones that are original, the pink Geisha ones which contain hazelnut and then there’s the one with the green/silver foil wrapper which come with mint filling on the inside. There are some other variants of course, which I discovered at the supermarket, like caramel, yogurt cream type, etc., and they are all equally good. It doesn’t seem odd then that it is so easy to gain weight here.

This time, it also does not help that I am not doing anything other than sitting and eating. Of course my brain is working but I think it doesn’t burn as many calories as I am stuffing into myself. Chocolates being one thing, and bread being the other. Sometimes I think I was probably made to live in such cultures, where they have such amazingly-tasty bread that is great even on their own.¬†I eat bread on a daily basis here for every meal, so you see that is another culprit. But then again, it is too cold for me to bear. The Nordic countries are probably one of the colder places that I have ever visited so far, today in Helsinki the temperature is -20. Degrees Celsius! I think I would still prefer to be somewhere I feel a little more comfortable in, like Japan. I love Japan, and I need to think of a plan that can bring me there, for a longer period of time… but each time I draw a blank, because perhaps I am still not ready or unwilling to let go of what I currently hold in my hands, if there is anything at all.

Well but right now, I am looking forward to getting back to yoga when I go home; I am so ill-disciplined so I don’t practise on my own outside of the studio-setting. I know I should and I probably could but I don’t. I choose to spend my time in the hotel room surfing the net and doing… nothing. Haha. Although… having to think of adjusting to the temperature back home, which is like a difference of between 30-40 degrees, that’s no joke!

Happy Friday everyone! Hope you all have a great weekend ahead, where I will spend mine in the air.

let it snow…

So, it really snowed! Don’t know when it really began, because I was stuck in back-to-back meetings where I didn’t have the chance to peep out of the windows at all but at some point I saw that snow was falling outside. It was Tuesday afternoon probably, and it just went on and on until Wednesday. Cars parked outside were all covered with snow and the entire landscape was just a blanket of white. Luckily, it wasn’t that heavy all the time to result in unpassable roads.

The snowfall I experienced this time was slightly different from last February in Milan. That was much lighter, because the heaviest time it fell then was while I was asleep. This time, it just kept on coming down, but when it fell on me it just felt icy cold. Nevertheless, it really gave me a very Christmassy feel, even though yes Christmas is last year, three weeks ago. It helps of course, that there are quite many of those pine tree-like trees around, covered with snow, and I still see some Christmas decorations hung in the apartments that I passed. And since this is supposedly the home of Santa Claus with his reindeers, it isn’t too hard to delude myself into thinking Christmas is still here! Unfortunately, reality isn’t so.

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I have been to places during summer when days are extremely long, and also to places during winter when days are shorter, but this is probably the first time I have been to such a place at such a time, where it doesn’t start to get light around until past 8am in the morning and in the evenings, it gets dark before 5pm. Even though I am here for a short time, I can already feel that the days are starting to grow longer because each morning, daylight is coming sooner, though I have yet to really see the sun at all. It doesn’t feel so dark anyway because the whole ground is covered with snow and it reflects whatever light there is. I was told that during winter, days can be as short as from 10am to 2pm… I really can’t imagine living like that, living in sub-zero temperatures for months on end. Since I got here on Sunday till now, the temperature hasn’t gone above zero. Needless to say, I have stayed indoors as much as I can; the only day I was out for a longer period of time was on Sunday, for a short couple of hours, and even then I thought my fingers were going to freeze and break, and that my face as well was going to crack from the brittle cold. Temperatures are forecasted to go down drastically over the next couple of days due to some cold drift that is going to hit a large part of Europe; let’s hope that the weather doesn’t get bad, because I need it to be clear (no snow then please!) for me to fly home!

helsinki vantaa airport

No, this post isn’t really about the main airport of Helsinki in Finland. I just thought of using it as the post title for today, that’s all. But in my defense, I do have one picture of the departure hall of the airport when I was flying out from there one night, one cold, rainy night.

When I got to the airport just before 9pm, I was wondering if the airport was even opened because it was deserted and appeared devoid of any activity. It was after looking around briefly that I spotted one open check-in counter to deposit my luggage, then prospected around again to look for where I could scan my handheld stuff. It was that empty. With the airport staff working at that time, including one open convenience kiosk and one cafe, I presume that there must have been less than 20 persons around in the whole outside area of the airport.

Anyway, the inside wasn’t any much better. There are plenty of shops inside, but they were almost all closed by the time I was inside. I had a short dinner/night snack at one lonely little cafeteria, before proceeding to the passport control, after which there were slightly more shops that stayed open for the benefit of¬†passengers on the¬†international flights but it was still sad. I guess a lot of airports in the West are like that, because I don’t recall ever feeling this way in Asian airports. Or maybe it was just the timing, if I had been at the, say Siem Reap International Airport at odd timings, there could also jolly well be just a handful persons around.

Ok, enough of Helsinki Vantaa. Let’s move on already.

I had a wonderful weekend, I think it kind of depleted me of every single ounce of energy I could ever have in me! Weekend started with drinks that began at Kandahar Street all the way to Sentosa! It wasn’t the volume of alcohol but the distance covered. We were looking for a place that was recommended by a friend’s friend but then ended up feeling the place to be too ‘hippy’ for us. So we trooped along Haji Lane, Arab Street, before finally going to WitBier at Kandahar Street. It isn’t a bad place to chill at, a tiny little pub chock full of whom I guess are regulars, and they serve a really wide variety of European (mostly Belgium I think) beer, with a small selection of bar food, but if you are into fries and luncheon meat fries (called Porky Fries), here’s where you might want to check out!

Was a little miffed though because we were served by a new waitress who was on her first day, and she wasn’t able to be very helpful in answering the questions we had, and then she got our orders wrong. We ordered a bucket of 5 bottles and she served us two pints (in glasses) and said yes when we asked her to confirm that was what we ordered. It even went as far as us asking if the bottled beer were poured into the mugs and she still said yes. We should already have picked up on that and asked another waitress but we didn’t and it was when a second waitress asked if we wanted another round that we realised the mistake.

After that we went to SkyLoft, which I talked about in the previous post.

Then Saturday! The day I had been waiting for for a really long while… Big Bang Alive Concert in Singapore! I was out during the day, so by the time I went to queue to get into the standing pen area, just before 6pm I think, I was already exhausted. Consider the weather and us having to queue more than 3/4 way around the second level of the SIS, before we were slowly being led down the steps and finally into the arena. It wasn’t a long wait though, as the concert started just 15 minutes after its supposed start time. For 2 and a half hours from there, I never stopped screaming and jumping, and of course gawking at the boys. It sounds really cougarish, but I don’t really care, because that was just how great they were and they were so close, in such proximity with us that we were just about two arm lengths’ away. I wished of course I could then have limbs like Mr. Fantastic and reach out to grab them! More on the concert later.

Sunday was another concert day. This has been two hectic weekends for me, a far cry from the languid days I was having while on the business trip in Finland; of course work wasn’t slow but the pace there generally seems so much more relaxed. Attenedd Keane’s concert at the Max Pavilion at Expo, and recalled that the last time I watched a concert in that area was Lee Hom’s Evolution concert, way back in… I don’t even remember anymore! The sound system was crap but the concert was fabulous, even if this time I was so far from the stage and there were a number of songs I was unfamiliar with. Besides, I spent about half the time sitting down, and another half standing because they were performing my favourite songs, or because¬†my view¬†was blocked by the person in front.

Two very different concerts on two different days but I totally enjoyed myself on both occasions, I love the sound of Keane, like how I like some UK acts, like Suede and Coldplay. They have this quality in their songs that just distinguishes them from American bands somehow, maybe it is the way they sing i.e. the accent? I don’t really know but all in all, they were great that night and I silently berated myself for not taking the effort to ‘revise’ the songs before I attended the concert. I would have enjoyed it even more if I could sing along with them all the time!

just passing time

I don’t have any photos to share in this post, because primarily I have been lazy or forgetful about connecting my phone to the laptop and transferring the pictures out of it. And I’m blogging from the laptop now since it really is much easier to type with a proper keyboard, and a nice wide screen instead of the tiny one of the phone, regardless if phones these days already have much larger screens than before.

It is 7:04 pm. My laptop clock read 00:04. I don’t usually adjust the time on my computer when I travel because I want to still be aware of conditions, e.g. time, back home. Lie. I just can’t be bothered to, and it helps to work my brain a little that way in thinking about the time difference and so on and so forth. But it does nothing for jet lag because I was told, if you keep thinking about the time difference you will never get over the jet lag. Maybe that’s why.

Sitting in the hotel lobby watching the seconds tick by. Flight is scheduled to depart at 2355 and I only paid for my room till 6pm. It doesn’t make sense to pay another 50% for a few more hours, so it seems I am still rather cost-conscious even if not forced by circumstances i.e. company budget.

These couple of days, it has been raining in Helsinki, or Espoo/Lepavaara, the area where I am actually staying at for the period of this trip and also the area where the office is located. Thankfully we have beautiful weather over the weekend where the sun was out pretty much the whole time, and yet the temperatures remained below 20. I think of what my friends on Twitter/Facebook are complaining about the Singapore weather and humidity that I already am not looking forward to the sweating that will again become something I loathe. But yes, I am looking forward to going back to the familiarity of Singapore and spending some time doing things that I want to do.

It is 20th Sept in Singapore but here it’s still 19th. Happy Birthday dear friend!

I always like to think back on the days/months past and take stock of things in my life. Maybe that is a job idiosyncrasy, I don’t know. Or it could just be a facade of my OCD perhaps. From January until now, more than mid way through September, I have been to some places, revisiting cities, travelling to cities I have never been to, places I never thought I would go to, and some have been good while others have been not so good. I don’t really know what’s in store next, but the last quarter of the calendar year definitely will still involve some travelling. I don’t know if I will ever get used to the idea of not travelling, like if I were to not do this anymore will I be able to be comfortable and contented with some vacations during the year, the rest of it spent in sunny and humid Singapore? I don’t have the answer. But it does get tiring. Sometimes it gets really bad. But I try to make the best of some of these moments, it is easy to find something small to rejoice at but these don’t usually last that long.

Bouts of randomness. Waiting and idly ruminating all sorts of thoughts. It somehow feels like Christmas. Because it is so cold here in the lobby and it’s drizzling outside. Plus the jazzy blues music they have here in the hotel is giving me these vibes. But it’s Finland, who am I kidding, if it were Christmas it would be freezing and outside instead of rain it will be lots of snow falling.

straddling the divide of light and dark

 

Hei! Or “Hi!” in Finnish. That’s about one of the few Finnish words that I have picked up, sadly, after being in Helsinki for a little more than a week.

Took this picture on the first day that I got here and when I made a short trip to the city centre to get some much-needed sunlight to combat the jet lag. Truth is, I never really get over jet lag I think, and I don’t know how to deal with it. Maybe I just let it become a part of me, constantly jet-lagged.

But while looking through the few pictures I took, I thought I liked this pretty much for some reason.

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Let’s let go of what never belonged to us, and let words not take on the meanings they do not. I had a dream before, about me taking a bus with a friend somewhere. At some point, I think we reached our destination, and I alighted but my friend stayed on the bus, which I only noticed when the doors closed and I was on my own. I ran after the bus and shouted but my cries were all but ignored by my friend, who went away with the bus.

Frequently at some points of our lives, we slide into pits of darkness because of things that don’t go smoothly. Our lives were never meant to be smooth-sailing all the time anyway, and supposedly having such challenges help to make us stronger when we emerge from these setbacks, but at that point we always wished that we did not have to go through them at all. I got some texts and messages from concerned friends and I really appreciated that some of you whom I seldom keep in touch with actually bother to respond. Maybe that doesn’t help solve anything but at least it warms my heart that people actually care amidst all the various laments that I have had all this time.