sunnuntai 20. helmikuuta 2011

The most annoying airplane passengers Top 10

10. The illiterates.
These people obviously either don't know how to read or think rules don't apply to them. They start sorting out the liquids and the tweezers and getting their laptops out at the X-ray machine only when the security guy tells them to. Read the plaque, fool!

9. The deafs.
Also a classic passenger type, usually presenting themselves on the plane. You know the situation, the stewardess makes the announcement after the seatbelt sign goes off: "Please remain in your seats with the seatbelt fastened." Immediately after that you hear the clicks of people opening their seatbelts. This species also spends most of the flight loitering in the aisle. These are also the people who are still talking on their cell phones during takeoff and need to use the bathroom only during heavy turbulence or meal serving. If you hear an announcement with instructions, these guys usually act the opposite.

8. Families
Sorry moms and dads, everyone understands you, but nobody likes to have your screaming kid on their flight. Not even other moms and dads. It's a loud, unnerving sound. You can't expect people to like it. Families also tend to scatter their stuff all over the place. Bags, diapers, blankets, toys. And if they're not scattered by the parents, the older kid will take care of it and throw someone in the head with them. And yeah, I know, some day it can be my screaming kid.

7. The Tax Free enthusiasts.
These people buy souvenirs for EVERYone. They have booze, chocolates (of which they eat some on the way home), candy, perfumes (which they also wear in excess) and other little things that "you just can't buy at home". They will also get some additional items from the tax free cart later during the flight. If they sit in the aisle seat and you by the window, you will surely be the last one exiting the plane after they get all their stuff together. 

6. The leaners.
Passengers next to you aren't the only ones who can be a nuisance. I mean, just try and enjoy your meal when the front seat is in your lap. When leaners return to their reclined seats they crash into it so hard your drink spills everywhere. The leaner is usually also deaf because they won't put the seat in the upright position even during landing.

5. The "We're all gonna die!" guy.
I'm dead scared of spiders so I do sympathize with people who are afraid of flying. But if you fly anyway, please remember to take your meds. Nothing is more unnerving on a plane than a person who fidgets constantly, chews his nails, goes on an on about the mechanical features of the plane or jumps at every noise the aircraft makes. I've actually heard "We're going down" uttered on a plane once. We didn't. It was the landing gear. (After 9/11 this type has also gotten a new subspecies: the paranoid "That guy has to be a terrorist" guy.)

4. The one with a bladder problem who never takes the aisle seat.
Rest assured, the ones with the most active bodily functions always take the window seat. You will get a good stretching exercise getting up and down every time this person has to use the bathroom. These creatures usually appear on very long flights.

3. The farters.
This is pretty much everyone. Don't try and tell me you haven't done it, it's physically impossible on a plane. Being in the air makes you... well, get air. This was confirmed to me by a stewardess. On long flights when they keep the pantry curtain closed for a while and then open it again the crew smells three things: food, feet and farts.

2. The drunks.
These guys are an excellent reason to avoid both Finnish vacation charter flights and cheap airlines everywhere. Especially when the drinks are free it seems these people feel an obligation to guzzle down the whole cart. And even when the drinks are not free the drunks have usually taken their opportunity at the airport. In Helsinki-Vantaa airport you can see the charter passengers taking their first beers at the bar at 6 am. Then they just bring the party onboard. Or even better, the fight. Not to mention their wonderful signature smell that oozes from them every time they turn to you to tell a reeeeaally funny joke.

1. The clappers.
You don't clap when your dentist cures your cavities, you don't applaude your hairdresser when they cut your hair and you don't clap when the guy at the cash register gives you the correct change, so why the f**k do you clap when a plane lands?? It's 2011, most of the planes have landed safely for decades. These days the most understandable cause for applause at an airport is either a) when you get bumped up to business class or b) when your baggage arrives after two or more connecting flights (or at the Charles de Gaulle airport). And it would even make more sense to clap to the dentist, because THE PILOTS CAN'T HEAR YOU!

lauantai 19. helmikuuta 2011

International grocery shopping

Not many things are as bizarre as doing your daily shopping in a different country. Everything sort of  looks the same but isn't. For instance when I was living in New York a couple of years ago I found 100% fat-free cheese. Seriously. Did not get what was up with that. They sold it in a block that looked like soap, at least from a Finnish perspective. Here in Germany what caught my eye was the wide selection of organic foods and the fact that pretty much all milk products are lactose-free. My roommate says it's because everyone here thinks it's good for them even if they're not lactose intolerant.

I went shopping for groceries yesterday because I'm cooking for my roommates today. I'm doing the Finnish makaronilaatikko or hackfleischnudelauflauf in German. I bought macaroni which I thought to be the regular kind, but later when I opened the bag I noticed they were twisted. It's not a big deal, just funny how even the basic stuff have a literal twist to them. I also bought a small piece of dark chocolate which turned out to be the Diät kind, yuch, and a bottle of Jägermeister for a party we were going to.

So I obviously had kind of a funny combination of items when I got to the cash register: macaroni, diet chocolate and Jägermeister.

The party was crazy and my makaronilaatikko turned out a bit, well, original. I didn't put enough liquid in so it was crispier than usual and I even Skyped my mom to find out if there's anything you could do to salvage it. Even before she picked up the phone she knew I was calling about the cooking: "What, you screwed up?" It turned out okay, though.

Like with stores I've also gotten to know the way public swimming pools work around the world. After I get to try out one in London I'll tell you more about those experiences. Tomorrow I'm flying from Cologne to the British Isles for the first time in about 15 years. And why that city is sort of important to my existence, I'll tell you on my next blog post.

Auf wiedersehen, Cologne! Es war geil!

sunnuntai 13. helmikuuta 2011

Try this!

One of the best things about traveling around the world is definitely the food. For instance you can actually find real spicy food, unlike the toned-down versions of restaurants in Finland. I had an unforgettable chili experience in Hong Kong where the noodle portion was flavoured with chili that made my lips and tongue completely numb. It was great! Also felt kind of like  after a dentist appointment.

Everyone around you always has a good suggestion on where to eat and what to try so it would basically be possible to spend the whole year just eating. But of course indulging in local delicacies is something you have to practice with caution if you don’t want to balloon up along the way. For my birthday, though, I decided to indulge myself a little because I really don’t think that on my death bed I’d think to myself, wow, it sure was a good thing I didn’t eat that piece of cake on my 28th birthday!

I went to a famous cake shop called Demel and first I thought I’d have the classic Sachertorte, because that’s what you just have to do in Vienna, but then I thought it’s not really my favorite – dry chocholate – so I got me a slice of some excellent Estherhásytorte. And yes indeed a glass of Moët to go with it! When the waiter repeated ”Moët & Chandon?” all that trying to interact in German thing took a weird twist when out of the blue I replied ”Oui!” Where that came from all of a sudden, I have no clue.

Estherhásytorte & Moët. Happy birthday to me!
What also made the day was that my friend Timo – yeah the same one I met up with in Berlin – came to town, this time with his girlfriend Eva. So we all went out for dinner and drinks. Pretty easygoing stuff, since all of us were leaving the city the next morning.

Eva, Timo & I having a Viennese blast. Especially Timo.
I’m writing this on the train from Vienna to Frankfurt and a nun just sat next to me on the other side of the aisle. I’m changing trains in Frankfurt and heading for Cologne. I’ll spend a week there, too, which I noticed in Vienna was way too short of a stay in a new place. From now on, longer stays! Which means less flying and train-riding around. Sounds good to me.

torstai 10. helmikuuta 2011

No kangaroos in Austria

Firstly, my apologies if the blog updates aren't that frequent. I have a lot of writing to do here in Vienna so there's not much free time. Start paying me and I promise to devote some more time to blogging.

Anyway, I met some wonderful people here on Tuesday. I spent most of the day with a local baker who's bakery is located about 120 km from Vienna. It employs three people and everything they do is organic and made by hand (you can read more about this in an upcoming issue of Finnair's Blue Wings magazine). Later in the evening I also met a couple who own a vineyard and produce organic wines. I'm really in awe of people's ability to make products that people enjoy. I respect those kinds of skills immensely because I don't have them. Even in crafts class in fourth grade all the other girls made mittens. I managed to knit a woollen bracelet. One piece.

Earlier I promised to post some photos of the people I've met during my one month on the road. Like the "Shoes, bags, Rolex" guy. I took the photo on my last day in HK, just in case he'd get the wrong idea of me wanting to take his picture. And he was quite the poser, as you can see.

"Shoes, bags, Rolex" guy.
Shopping for New Year's fruit. Orange colour brings good fortune.

My first ever dragonfruit shopping.

And from random salespeople to the ones who really made an impact. One of the most memorable moments of the trip so far was the New Year's Eve dinner with my friend Margot and her family. Her uncle was the chef, the 81-year-old grandfather made goose with his own special recipe and cousins from Australia came to visit. The grandfather lives in Toronto, Canada and knows just a few words of English. But he said them all to me: "take care", "you too", and his English name "Jack. J-A-C-K. Jack."
The Kwan family & New Year's Eve dinner.
This Wednesday I spent most of the day writing my next articles and I have to admit I'm feeling a bit of a writer's block now. I sort of wrote this as a training piece for my work ahead. Hope to get my thoughts together - and even on paper, which would be a plus. Those are the only kinds of thoughts I get paid for.
Oh yeah and yesterday when I was leaving the café where I'd been writing I yanked my MacBook's power chord off the wall - and the whole damn socket came out too! So I had a power chord in my hand that had a plastic socket and about 30 cm of electrical chord coming out of the wall hanging from it! The customers around me were just staring, nobody even smiled. I was hysterical. I tried hard not to laugh out loud when I stuffed the electrical chord back inside the hole in the wall and shoved the socket back in it's place.

Now I'm heading out in sunny Vienna and I'll try and find a place I won't be able to demolish.

sunnuntai 6. helmikuuta 2011

There is no such thing as the "in case of emergency" scenario

Everybody knows those safety instruction demonstrations, videos and cards planes have and you should pay attention to in the beginning of a flight. The scenario presented especially in the video is pretty priceless, because it's something that would never happen in a real case of an emergency. Have you ever heard of a plane crash where a smiling mother calmly places the oxygen mask first on her own face and then on the face of her child? Where people are jumping out of the emergency exits in an orderly fashion on to the inflatable slides? Unfortunately that just doesn't seem to happen.

It's 7:20 am and I've been sitting for two hours in a café at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan, waiting for my connecting flight to Vienna, which leaves in 3 hours. I haven't really slept on the plane and that's probably why I'm laughing at this idea more than I normally would, but just imagine a realistic safety instruction video. Animated people panicking, screaming, inflating their life vests too soon and stuff flying around the cabin. What a nice way to start your vacation flight to wherever.

Right now I'm feeling so light-headed and sleep-deprived I think I have to use the rest of my laptop battery to check out how to get to my hotel in Vienna so I won't zombie my way into a wrong bus or a cab ride way over my budget. I'm not really even sure what day it is, although my friends' status updates on Facebook seem to indicate Monday. Try to survive it - I will too, with a little help of some good Arabic coffee.

keskiviikko 2. helmikuuta 2011

Rest is not an option, I thought. And was wrong.

I went on a daytrip to Macau on Monday, even though I was feeling kind of fluish in the morning. When you're both traveling and working as a freelancer it's practically impossible to turn off the "got to see and got to do"-gear. It turned out I was a bit too optimistic about my symptoms but I'll get to that in a bit.

Macau is another Special Administrative Region of China and is known to most as the Las Vegas of Southeast Asia. And I do not wonder why. After the one-hour ferry ride from Hong Kong pretty much all I saw were casinos lined up, one after another. One of the casinos, Sands, hosts Asia's only Playboy Club, and I figured there's one institution that must be especially thrilled about the Year of the Rabbit. Anyway, the whole city felt surreal. Even more so because my head felt like it was about to explode.

In a state like this you should never visit a new place because all your experiences will be tainted by that literally sickening feeling. Still I have to say that, especially after all my nice experiences in Hong Kong, Macau did not impress me. Bad - even rude - service at restaurants, horrible pedestrian walkways and guidance and high prices. So Macau is probably a great place if you love to gamble and have like, you know, money, but for a feverish freelancer or other similarly poor bastards I wouldn't recommend it as a first holiday destination. (I did win some money at the poker table though so if you're a risk-taking poor bastard, this might be your deal after all..)

Macao Lotus Blossom.
So I came back to Hong Kong with a good ol' flaming temperature and got myself almost quarantined at the ferry terminal. They've got scanners there to recognize people with flu symptoms and when I passed by I ended up behind the white curtains to get my temperature checked. When the masked nurses realized how hot I was - mostly on the inside unfortunately - they told me to go and see a doctor. And I got out of the terminal faster than ever! When people see you come out from behind a curtain that says "Avian flu", they really give you way.

Mine thankfully did not appear to be the avian kind - nor the swine thingy for that matter. At least the three different meds I was prescribed seem to have kicked in. No shortage on (prescription) drugs here, then. Or tea, for that matter. So I've been feeling much better since Monday. And tonight I got to eat something other than antibiotics when I got to celebrate Chinese New Year's Eve with Margot's family! A big dotse to the Kwans for having me over for a traditional Chinese festive dinner. The food was delicious and the experience something very special I'll remember for the rest of my life.

Happy Year of the Rabbit!