Saturday, May 31, 2008

Coming home...

5/30 8 PM EDT

Its now 9 AM (5/31) local time in Korea. I got here this morning at 6 AM on the red-eye from Singapore. I hardly slept. I'm exhausted and just trying to stay awake at the moment. I'm sitting at Incheon Airport waiting to find out if I managed to get a standby seat on the 10 AM flight to Atlanta. If not, I'll be here — Korea, not the airport I hope — until 6 PM tonight. I'm hoping like crazy that I'm not here all day, it will make an already long trip that much longer. I should know in 20 minutes whether or not luck is working in my favor today. If not, I can't complain. I accepted the 12 hour layover here originally because it was the least expensive business class fare I could get ($6000 round trip), fitting within my budget for this engagement. Now I'm thinking about what a fool I was. Ooops. Lesson learned. I should have spent the night in Singapore instead.

(A cute, but strange, Japanese girl just sat next to me to practice her English. We exchange pleasantries and she asks me where I am from, so I tell her the US. Then she tells me she is some kind of student, something unintelligible, followed by "peace student". I flashed her a peace sign and asked her if that's what she means and she says yes. She then shows me something god oriented and starts explaining... I shooed her away. She didn't get the concept of atheism, but I didn't try that hard to explain. Perhaps now that I am alone again the deaf gentleman will come back and pester me for money for the third time...)

In the airport there is paid WiFi. But you have to have a Windows machine since the online purchasing requires an ActiveX control that won't run without Internet Explorer. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to run with Internet Explorer all that well either! I did find an open AP and I have been using it off and on to check email and call Steph to let her know of my progress. Obviously, its how I managed to write this, as well. For a world class airport, one ranked best in the world along with Singapore's Changi, this is pretty pathetic. Come to think of it, I had the same issue last night at Changi, but I wasn't sitting there for innumerable hours, bored to tears. *sigh*

Off to check and see if I got on the flight...

5/30 9 PM EDT

W00t! I got on the flight. Its Korean Air, which has less comfy business class seats the the Delta flight I took to Shanghai, but it gets me home at 10 AM today (i.e. I leave here at 10 AM 5/31 local time, arrive in ATL at around 10 AM 5/31 local time) instead of 7 PM on Saturday. 14 hours of flying, no puking. At least one can hope. ;-)

5/31 6:21 AM

En route to Atlanta right now, we're just coming off of the Pacific ocean near the British Columbia/Washington border. Almost home.

Earlier in the flight I watched the season finale of Desperate Housewives, an episode of Everest: Beyond The Limit, ate a bowl of bibimbap and passed out (chemically enhanced by Ambien, but no alcohol and no puking). 5 hours of relaxing sleep later, we just had "breakfast", some kind of beef soup, noodles, rice and Korean pickles. They make pretty decent food on Korean Air, I'd fly them again. Now I am watching The Bucket List and staring at the monitor watching the plane creep ever so slowly across North America. I'll be seeing my Maya Papaya in a few hours! I think she's been a bit of a pain in the butt to Steph lately, their drive to and from Florida was apparently less than stellar. Maybe she just needs some daddy time. I certainly need some of that myself.

The past few weeks have been really hard. Everyone told me that I would stop traveling after Maya arrived. I didn't, and I don't wish I had. But when it rains, it pours, and the travel has been crazy lately. Since Maya's birth I have done trips to NJ, TX, central GA, and Singapore. In the next few weeks I will be in Boston, NYC, Baltimore and Chicago. And that's just before the end of June! So I clearly have not stopped traveling, but the trips are different now. I'm traveling too much, and feeling guilty that I am missing Maya as she "grows up". I know that she has a long way to grow, but she changes every time I see her. When I call or come home after I a trip I find out that she is making new noises, smiling more, etc. Will I miss her first time crawling? First word? On the other hand, I work from home when I am not on the road. So I get to spend more time with Maya during those weeks than most of the dads I know who don't travel, but spend their lives at work.

I don't want to miss these one time events in Maya's life, but this is my job. I love the job, and the opportunities it provides and my wife and daughter. Can one be put above the other? My job allows us the very nice and comfortable life that we live, both in material things like houses, and experiences like traveling around the world (vacation, not work), putting money away for Maya to attend the school of her choice someday and (hopefully) early retirement for Steph and I. We have no needs that go unfulfilled and want for nothing. (Well, I'd love a convertible, but I hardly drive any miles these days, so its a total waste of money.)

Are the tradeoffs worthwhile? Will I some day look back and wish I had made a different choice? I just don't know. I do know I am greatly looking forward to giving her a big kiss when I see her soon. I'm not quite looking forward to cleaning a poopy diaper, but I have to take the good with the bad and relieve Steph of her duties (doodies?) with Maya.

1:10 PM 5/31

I am finally in the house with Steph, Maya and the dogs. It is good to be home!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Bye, bye Singapore

I'm sitting in th executive lounge of my hotel in Singapore, looking out over SunTec City and the city beyond while I wait for my flight. This has been an interesting trip, no doubt, but I'm happy to be headed home. Will I be back? Probably. Will I eat my way through the city again? Absolutely. Will I be a bit more touristy? Sure, why not! I might even check out the Night Safari if I get the chance. Unfortunately, too much work and too little time left little time for me to explore the city after last weekend.

Things to do next time I am back:
  • Check out more hawker centers for lunch and or dinner. Visit Lau Pa Sat on the weekend for satay again.
  • Eat more chili crab. And white pepper crab. And any other crab I can get my grubby hands on.
  • Go back to Muthu's Curry for dinner. I had lunch at the outlet in SunTec City Mall today and it was amazingly good. And super spicy, in a good way.
  • Find some chicken rice. I know its the local specialty and I was supposed to eat it during my stay. Somehow I screwed that up.
  • Eat more laksa.
  • Drink more Guinness Foreign Extra Stout while avoiding the local craptacular brewpubs. (Oh, Brewerkz was OK, but The Pump Room was total shit.)
  • Shop less. I don't want to visit another damn mall anytime soon.
  • Take more pictures. I failed on this count.
  • Drink a Singapore Sling. Yes, I managed to not have any whilst staying here.
Clearly, I have a lot to do next time around. Amazingly they all seem to focus on food. Hmmm, is eating the national pastime?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Last night in Singapore

My time here is coming to an end. It has been fun, but I've been gone a long time (7 days) and won't make it home until Saturday night around 8 PM. I'm totally missing Maya and Steph right now.

I felt like my jet lag got better through the week, but tonight I'm just absolutely spent. Its 7 PM and the gin and tonic I had in the lounge has totally knocked me out. I was hoping to go out for one last nice Singaporean meal tonight, but I fear I am probably going to stick close to the hotel due to the incoming storms and my sleepiness. Teaching all week definitely takes its toll...

Last night I met a local for dinner. While I forget where we went for dinner, we ate an amazingly large amount and variety of Chinese food. Celeste would probably correct me and tell me it was Cantonese or Haianese or something else, but at the moment I forget what it is exactly. No matter, it was all good stuff that I would never find at home. Admittedly, I felt like a bit odd eating with Celeste since there are some significant cultural differences between how we eat. For instance, in Singapore people eat with a fork and spoon, using the fork to push food on to the spoon. No knife. I was totally klutzy trying this. I am sure I was even less graceful with my chopsticks, making a fool of myself. Do I pick the bowl of rice/soup up toward my mouth when eating or is that rude? I'm such a clueless American. But I'm learning!

However, it was a good time overall. I learned a bit of Singaporean culture and world view while sharing some American culture with her. I learned about SPGs (Sarong Party Girls), the fact that women (men?) can't rent an apartment until they are 35 or married, and the concept of a 3 room or 4 room (apartment with 3 or 4 rooms + kitchen) and the fact that Singapore is a "fine" country (in other words, you get fined for anything and everything possible). This is a bit of an odd country. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore...

Its time for dinner, then I need to pack my bags. I'm leaving after class tomorrow on a 10:50 PM flight to Seoul. I'll spend Saturday in Seoul before heading home to Atlanta to see my beautiful wife and daughter. And those crazy dogs, too...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I spoke to soon...

Jet lag sucks.

I thought I was doing OK, but around 7 PM last night I was completely zonked. I grabbed some dinner, called Steph around 9 PM and then, magically, I was awake again. I finally went to bed around 11 PM. I woke up at 1 AM and tossed and turned with some really freaky dreams until 3 AM. And then I was up for the rest of the morning. Tonight I'm going back to the Ambien, I need my beauty rest.

After a full morning of running around Little India I'm spent. Its time for a nap.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Flickr Photos

Of course my photos from Singapore will be making their way to Flickr...

I'm (Somewhat) Famous!

I almost forgot to mention this!

As I was flying into Singapore, I flipped through a copy of Atlanta Sports & Fitness Magazine. I ran across this article and thought the pictures looked familiar.

Of course they look familiar, I took them! Too bad I didn't get credit, but these were all taken by me during the 2007 Hike For Discovery season. (The hard copy has a few more images, but John Donaghy, who is shown in the picture coming up the switchbacks on the approach to Half Dome, spent a lot of "quality" time with me that day. You know what I'm talking about, John.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Saturday in Singapore

So its my first full day here in Singapore. Some initial thoughts:

The city is clean. Really clean. The only foul smells anywhere are from some of the stalls selling raw fish or other dried fish products that have that have a funky, fish out in the open on a hot as balls day smell to them.

It is hot. Damn hot. I walked around from ~8 AM until 11:30 AM and I am just dripping with sweat. Hot and humid, two great tastes that go great together. Bugis and the Arab district (Arab St, Hajj Lane) were the destinations of the morning. Mostly aimless wandering and some photos now and again as I orient myself. I did some shopping on Arab St. and found a nice present for Steph and some potential batik fabrics which we could hang in our entry way. Gotta check with the boss first and see if she approves before buying them.

Eating here is quite fun. First I ran into a fruit stand with some cut open dragon fruit, something I had never tried. So I bought a piece, it reminded me of a firm, purple kiwi, but not as tart. The hawker also convinced me to try some jackfruit, it was nothing special. I walked around the hawker food stalls in Bugis and sat down with some seafood laksa (seafood coconut milk soup, yum! I'm sure this was much better than what was featured on Top Chef last week), a Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and then a cool glass of soya milk to soothe my burning tongue. That laksa was seriously spicy but so very good. And cheap! All in I spent about US $6.

No signs of jet lag yet. I slept about 6 hours last night (1 AM - 7 AM, thanks Ambien!). Since the middle of the day is the hottest, I'm going to chill at the hotel for a bit before exploring a bit more tonight, possibly in Little India. I'll be poking around Wikitravel further to see if there is anything else that I need to see on my 2 days off here before work begin

Howdy from Singapore

Some random notes from today's 24 hours of travel...

5/22/08 2:21 PM EDT

Here I am on Delta from Atlanta to Shanghai in Seat 1A as I travel the first leg of my trip to Singapore. We’re just northwest of Wabamun, Alberta and headed on a northwesterly course toward the Canadian Rockies. I’m well fed — yes, the airline food was surprisingly good in Business Elite, though not the Chik-fil-A chicken biscuit I wanted — tired of working and ready to catch some sleep to stave off the inevitable jet lag. A glass of bourbon and Ambien were both consumed 90 minutes ago. The cabin lights are down, ear plugs shoved into my ears to block out the cabin noise and my eye shade pulled over my eyes.

I’m wide awake. My well intentioned plan to force myself to sleep on Singaporean time (exactly 12 hours ahead of Atlanta) to stave off some of the inevitable jet lag is not working. Sure, I’m yawning a bit and I think I did nap for 15 or 20 minutes but real sleep is escaping me right now. With 9+ hours to go until we land in Shanghai, this is going to be one long flight if this keeps up. Perhaps after a little more work and a movie or two things will change. However, with an estimated arrival in Shanghai at 1:50 PM Friday (1:50 AM EDT) and a two hour layover before my next leg to Singapore, things are not looking so hot right now.

5/22 4:58 PM EDT

I've been sneezing my head off for 90 minutes. So glad I dumped my normal cache of cold meds based on horror stories about heading into Singapore. Still no sleep, but I did finish the report that was hanging over my head. We're over Alaska now, due north of Anchorage. 8.5 hours of flying time to go. Yes, it seems like it should be less, but for some reason the landing time keeps changing.

Ambien, take 2: Double bourbon on the rocks and 10 mg of Ambien. With any luck this will knock me out for the remainder of this leg. Until that sets in, I'm going to watch some bad TV...

5/23 2:59 AM EDT

About an hour outside of Shanghai at the moment. For the past hour or so I have been feeling pretty crappy, swinging between hot and cold. I was brought food which I couldn't manage to eat. As my stomach began giving me a hint that something was not right I walked to the front lavatory. Full. Turned around to go to the back lavatory. Full.

Turned around again and I puked in the middle of the aisle in business class. All over the floor, my shirt, everything. The good news: The mess I made is significantly far back in business class where I don't have to smell it until we get off this plane. But I think the flight attendant who came upon me in my puking glory is not so happy. Glad I had a change of clothes in my carry-on luggage.

I can't wait to get off this flight for a bit so I can stretch out and put some simple food in my belly.

5/23 7 AM (EDT)

After a layover in Shanghai, where I ate some good noodles and dumplings in soup along with some green tea to soothe my stomach, I'm on the way to Singapore. While in Shanghai I learned that I forgot to enable international roaming on my cell phone. Oops. I tried to call AT&T via Skype, but it was too early in the morning for that to have worked. Of course Steph and Maya will be awake and awaiting my call when I arrive in Singapore, they will have to wait until I reach the hotel.

Sitting on the plane I have my Singaporean immigration card in front of me. In BIG RED LETTERS it reads "WARNING DEATH FOR DRUG TRAFFICKERS UNDER SINGAPORE LAW". They take their laws seriously, too. Of course, I have had a stuffy nose for hours and would love to have some Dayquil about now, but I dumped it all on my desk at home lest I be considered trafficking in Dayquil.

This flight is nice, quiet and very clean. The flight attendants are all beautiful Chinese women who are unfailingly polite, even when their English is a bit shaky. I passed out when we took off, catching about 2 hours of much needed sleep. When I woke I was immediately asked if I wanted dinner. Sure, why not? So dinner is brought to me — mostly not worth eating, IMHO — and she asked if I'd like a beer.

Would I like a beer? Uh, lady, HELL YES! Before I get the chance to find out what kind of beer she might offer me she is gone. In a flash she's back and has poured something out of a silver can with a mix of Chinese and English. Its yellow. Its fizzy. Its BUD ICE! Was she being stereotypical and giving the nice, sleepy eyed American gentleman what he would drink at home? I took a sip. Yuck. <snark>I love beers with no flavor to speak of other than cooked corn. </snark> So I ask her if she has anything else. Tsingtao and Lan Cang River (LCR) Beer. Who am I to pass up on the chance to try yet another disappointingly bad beer? I was right, it was no better than the icy silver bullet that came before it. I'll stick to water for now.

I am completely over sitting my ass in a plane and staring at the map of where we have been and where we are going. At least this time its in both English and Chinese, ensuring that I learn the symbols set of our soon to be overlords. We're off the east coast of Vietnam at the moment (all I can think of is Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam as Adrian Kronauer singing "Follow the Ho Chi Minh Trail!" as if he were a munchkin from Oz. Or, seeing Da Nang on the map. In the movie he fakes the weather report from Da Nang. "How hot is it?" "It's so damn hot I saw one of those little men in the orange robes burst into flames! It's that hot, you know what I'm talkin' 'bout?"). In 2 more hours we should be landing in Singapore.

The next question is one of jet lag. I'm surprisingly awake. I have slept, perhaps 6 or 8 hours in the past 20 hours since I left Atlanta. But when I actually go to put my head on the pillow tonight, what's going to happen? Anyone's guess at this moment. Though I think I may avoid the Ambien and bourbon routine, that didn't seem to work out so well on the last flight and may have been the reason I blew chunks.

5/23 11:22 AM EDT

I'm in my hotel. I have no need for sleep. But I do need food. Jet lag is going to suck.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Catching Up

Lot's of little things to catch up on here...

On 5/2 Maya turned a month old. On 5/3 we had a baby naming at our house, both celebrating her birth, her identity and our 5 year anniversary! Happy anniversary, Schmu!

On 5/5 we celebrated Cinco de Mayo. Not. It was, however, Java's 12th birthday which we celebrated — a day late, mind you — with our twice annual "dogs eating ice cream at Bruster's" day. Ice cream was enjoyed by all, except Maya who got her's second hand.

We had Moms on Call come out this week to help us with some of the baby care basics that nobody ever teaches you. Most importantly, however, is that they teach you how to help your baby sleep longer in the night so we can get more sleep. They promise you'll be able to get your baby to sleep from 9:30 PM until 2:30 AM (or later), have a feeding and then sleep until 6:30 (or later) using their techniques. I thought it might be BS, but indeed, it works! Maya is being a total angel and letting mom get some much needed sleep.

Living in Atlanta, we not only have the book to refer to, we also had one of the authors come to teach us her methods along with 6 months follow up support via email. The hands on time was fabulous, we both learned a lot and felt our time and money was very, very well spent. However, I did have one minor issue:

When we were speaking about nighttime rituals, Jennifer asked us about our faith. I politely told her we don't subscribe to one. I figured that would be the end of it. However, she pressed on, wanting to know in what faith were we brought up. We responded that we were brought up Jewish. She then went on to tell us how we should talk to Maya as we get her ready for bed, telling her how someday she'll go to temple, recite prayers, etc. I can appreciate that her nighttime rituals include reading bible stories to her kids (Steph tells me this is mention in their book). However, I am an atheist, I don't believe in god, the bible or any other religious texts. Why can't we talk about the dogs, our family, things that are important to us?

As I am always reminded when consulting, there are three topics never to be broached with clients: religion, politics and money. Again, this is a minor quibble (less than 2 minutes out of 2.5 hours we spent together) and I'd hire her again in an instant, perhaps after explaining to her that my beliefs are as strong and important to me as hers are to her. Reading their website now, I see that they are both quite religious. Perhaps if I had known this before our meeting I would have been more direct with her regarding how we desire to raise Maya with respect to religion when the question was raised.

I ran 4.5 miles yesterday in about 45 minutes. My longest solid run yet, albeit pretty slow. I was using my heart rate monitor, trying to maintain a relatively steady heart rate in the 75 - 85% range. I'm going for a run again tomorrow, today was on off day, and I'll try to break 5 miles. Working toward the magical 6.2 for the Peachtree in less than 2 months time.

Finally, today Maya went on her first hike to Kennesaw Mountain. She didn't do much hiking, just a lot of sleeping as Steph, Lucy and I did all the hard work. I'm looking forward to her being older and able to sit up on her own. By that point I should have a baby backpack to put her in for longer adventures...