actuality.log


All entries tagged 'travel'

Friday, November the 12th, 2010

I did not take very many pictures in England when I was there earlier in the year because I wasn’t in the frame of mind to do so. What I did instead was to take a few portraits of people that mattered to me during my stay. Here are three such portraits; released now because I felt the journal could do with a splash of colour.

Woman in England

Woman in England

Woman in England

Tuesday, June the 1st, 2010
Saturday, May the 1st, 2010
Tuesday, August the 18th, 2009
Saturday, December the 13th, 2008

Just peeking out, it’s hard to miss the characteristically cheery vocal intonation and the sudden dearth of distinctive facial features—I must be back in Scandinavia!

It appears I’ve returned home in one piece (accidentally leaving my 3 mW phone on during the flight didn’t mess with the plane’s navigation system or cause it to crash!) after weathering a week in Paris. I chose to go with the verb “weathered” because the entire experience—while admittedly exciting—was remarkably draining. Intellectually, I had much to do there which kept me occupied for a large chunk of my time. I spent the rest gallivanting between the usual tourist spots and tagging along with friendly locals to some of the more intimate nooks hidden-away in the city. Apart from a couple of exquisite pieces at the museums, it was getting to experience these little gems—the tiny, crowded pubs heavy on the attitude and the atmosphere-rich cafés that were the highlight of my trip.

All in all, I have to admit that good times were had. It’s just, since there’s still so much to see and experience, I’m going to have to plan multiple trips back if I ever intend on scratching beneath the surface. Some months just for soaking in the plethora of art, another couple for relishing the various shows, even more for sampling the variety of local fare, … I clearly enjoy places rich in history, culture and character (even if the locals aren’t the friendliest when you first get to meet them).

I better start saving if I ever intend on pulling this off. And I also have to start spacing things out a little better. This past week, each of my days began 7ish in the morn and proceeded until 3–4 the subsequent morn. I’m barely able to stay up as I write this; I really need to get some sleep.

Boy am I fucking old.

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Sunday, December the 7th, 2008

I could’ve sworn I had some money in Euro lying around the house. I seem to remember exchanging a lot more currency than I ended up needing during my last trip to Germany, but perhaps I’m just misremembering things. Either that, or I’ve lost a bunch of bank notes during the move to my new apartment. Anyway, it’s not like they don’t have ATMs in Paris, which is where I’m spending this week. I reckon it’s going to be interesting—my mom sent me a long list of her favourite places there which she insists I not miss—but more on that later as events warrant it. We now have bigger fish to fry.

As I run around my home tossing things into my trusty campers’ backpack a few hours before my flight, my mind keeps returning to the events of last night. There she was, pressed up to me whispering in my ear even though the obnoxiously loud music in the club had long since given way to much softer and more relaxed background fare. Her slinky cocktail dress which exquisitely accentuated her delicate form did little to sheath the warmth of her body. I remember being transfixed by the way her tongue-piercing glistened under the subdued lights as her mouth moved, and struggling to string coherent sentences together as I drowned in her intoxicating perfume; but her frequent giggles and pouty smiles seemed to suggest I was doing something right.

It took much of the night, but I was finally beginning to feel relaxed and not completely out of my element. Without the blaring music and the smoke, my system wasn’t on constant sensory overload (at least, not the kind that bothered me!) and the setting quickly became a lot more intimate. It stayed that way for a long while—until it eventually evaporated; an inevitability I was bracing myself for the entire time.

I amn’t going to discuss details, but I believe I do need to take up some form of dance lessons. Not for improving the gracefulness of my movements, but to prevent me from getting petrified and retreating into a shell (not to mention arguing to defend my pitiful chickenhood) when being pushed to.

As I sit here amidst this scattering of paper I rummaged through to look for my Euros for the trip, I can’t help but glance at their contents. Much of them are unfinished journal entries over the years, many of which are desperate pleas and pointless grousing, a sizable chunk serving to highlight the complete history of my sexual failures. I seem to be doing the same things over and over expecting dramatic changes in my life. But the events of last evening, this stack of memories strewn about, everything, points to how absurd a notion that is. If I want my situation to change, I need to change too.

First stop, manning up and signing up for dance lessons. For a while now I ain’t had nothin’ twixt my nethers weren’t run on batteries.

Sunday, September the 7th, 2008

I spent all of last week in Germany—my maiden trip out exploring Europe since I first moved here. I am pleased to report that my EU visa works, and I was freely able to country hop. About three-quarters of my time was spent in a teeny-tiny town called Oberwolfach (at the MFO, a fairly renowned mathematics institute) and the last two nights were with a good friend of mine from grad school.

All in all, I had a wonderful time.

After flying into Germany, I got to experience first-hand their ultra-efficient train system, which allowed me to systematically (and quickly, like 250+ km/h quickly!) get from Frankfurt to the teeny town without needing any hand-holding. I got to try out some of my broken German from language courses so long a go. I was also lucky to see their countryside and experience small town charm at its finest.

The institute was a remarkably serene place; purposefully built in the middle of nowhere to avoid being bombed during the Second World War. I got to meet a lot of interesting people in my field as well as my former boss. The food was authentic, rich and varied. The discussion just varied. Having no TVs or Internet access (or even locks!), the spartan (but fully functional) rooms at the institute encouraged people to be out interacting. The meeting itself was informal and free form—exemplified by one session running late into the night causing a ruckus from the sleepy crowd.

While my work obligations were to keep me at the MFO until yesterday, I skipped out a little earlier to head out to Stuttgart to be with a friend—who too had decided on a post-doc in Europe after finishing her stint at the uni. It was a blast being with her again, and we were able to explore the town, sampling some of the finer things it had to offer—courtesy of a (very elaborate and crowded) wine festival!

Now, after a surprisingly exhausting week of arguing with older Italian gentlemen about select terms in obscure equations, figuring out the German transport system, extremely fun and eventful evenings running late into their subsequent morns, I am finally flying back home. Relaxed and rejuvenated, with a definite plan forward and some neat research ideas to pursue.

Monday, June the 23rd, 2008
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I’m nearly done packing my bags. They’re heavy and uncouth, snickering at me knowing how much bother they’re going to cause me in my journey.

But I’ll show them, I hope.

(I’ve retrogressed in the past 6 years, haven’t I?)

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Sunday, June the 15th, 2008

Condensing your life’s possessions down to two small suitcases is quite a daunting task, but that’s a task I have in front of me. In just over a week (Monday the 23rd), I’ll be leaving this country (for good?) hoping to pursue a more gratifying life in Europe. My journey first takes me to Oslo (which I’ve just realised is one of the most expensive places in the world to live in, eek!), and how soon I’ll move onto greener pastures, be it Cambridge or anywhere else is anyone’s guess.

Organisationally though, even leaving aside the painfully-selective packing, there is much left to do; like actually winding down life here. Just a short while ago, I sat down and made my first semi-serious list of some major things that need to be done, though I honestly don’t know where to begin. I’m beginning to get really really nervous about all of this, and it’s tending to have a paralytic effect on me.

All of this seemed cool and exciting when I was first looking into Europe in earnest. It felt novel, I felt almost original, for deviating quite strongly from the path well worn. Now I just don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into, and the anxiety is taking its toll.

Wednesday, June the 4th, 2008

It’s been a while. I’m uncertain as to whether I can even do this any more, but there is news to share: I just nervously booked my tickets to Oslo!

I intend on leaving here on the 23rd of June, and arriving there the afternoon of the 24th. I haven’t applied for a visa yet (plan on doing so shortly) but I received word from the consulate that I’ve already jumped through all the major hoops, and there is little reason to worry about it being denied.

I’ve been busy sorting out a few things over these past busy (silent) days, and I now have travel insurance, a temporary apartment for when I get there, a fancy new computer for when I begin work, … .

But I am yet to sort out other major things, like cleanly winding up the show in this country. I think I’m stalling because I am still uncertain whether this is the right move for my life, but when am I ever?

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Wednesday, May the 7th, 2008

It’s strange how things worked out, but almost as if it were planned, my extremely annoying and painful sore throat and cold cleared completely for the few days of my recent trip to L.A. But sadly for you, I promptly reverted to my unwell self on returning home, resulting in such a delayed update.

(Kinda like the temporary parting of the seas to allow divine beings to cross. Except, there weren’t any divine beings involved here, nor were there any seas to cross.)

I’m so glad (and quite proud, actually) that I decided to go through with my trip. The entire experience was a blast and threw me so much out of my element, it was exactly what I yearned to feel. While things were rather hectic, and with my inexperience frequently coming to fore, taxing, and sometimes even terrifying (I don’t recall ever being yelled at like this since I was in third grade), I got to hang out with a bunch of people whose lives are completely different from my own, opening my eyes to perspectives so very different from mine; which is exactly why I took the trip.

The entire “training” over these few days revolved around hammering home a couple of crucial ideas:

  1. Ensure you have a clear concept in mind before rushing to set up a shot.
  2. You’re responsible for everything in your shot’s frame, so be very aware of what’s in it, and why.

These instructions seem pretty basic, but with the whole environment frequently deteriorating to something of a chaotic scene from a high-pressure creative-competition-based reality show (Top Chef, Project Runway), they were easy to forget. From the oafs nearly starting fires and nearly breaking furniture, to the big wigs and drama queens needing everything to go precisely “the one true way” or you surely got what was coming, to the 30-few year old women huddled on the floor crying after being lambasted for deviating from “the one true way,” the whole place was a circus. An entertaining, magical circus where you actually caught a glimpse of the pressures involved in being a professional photographer—and picked up lessons on handling it.

Wednesday, April the 23rd, 2008

I’ve lived in various parts of the world and travelled to numerous others. Ever since just coming here to study, I’ve been to over a third of the states in this union. But never have I been nervous about an actual trip. Even when I’ve hopped onto planes to give talks to hostile audiences hundreds strong, I’ve never been fazed—I just let my oversize ego help me plough right through.

But this time, it was different.

I was petrified before I left home, wanting instead to just curl up in my room. I kept asking myself how I’d managed to get myself into this mess as I was heading to the airport. I was so nervous, I actually managed to screw up my check-in process at the automated counter (three times!). All the while, even now as I sit in this plane, I’m just looking for a chance to retreat and head home.

What if I suck? What if I don’t learn anything? What if I crash and burn as I stammer repeatedly in front of a model-type? What if everyone else at the studio is super-professional, and I’m laughed off has a hack?

So many doubts; I just hope I’m strong enough to follow this through.

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Wednesday, March the 26th, 2008

I just did something exciting that I have to share. But before I get to it, I’d like to set the scene.

These past few days have been tremendously productive for me, marked by events such as the completion of my taxes (for the first time ever before April 15!). It was in this energetic frame of mind that I embarked on the mountain of paperwork due toward my European expedition, only to find out shortly thereafter that the entire ordeal is going to take a couple of months.

My rational side was almost expecting me to be disheartened by this news, but my actual response was quite the opposite. Suddenly, two months seemed just ripe to bring to fruition all the things I’ve always wanted to see and do in this country—but just haven’t gotten around to. Besides, given that my entire life savings is worth about € 6 (and falling!), it only makes sense that I spend it all here.

One of these things I’ve always wanted to do was to work with an experienced photographer. I would love to be more confident and comfortable around people, especially when I am trying to capture a moment or emotion on my camera, and somehow I feel that observing a professional at work and seeing how they interact with their subjects will benefit me profoundly.

With this in mind, I spent a few hours trawling through the Internet looking for opportunities in April, and after quite some thought, I narrowed my options down to a few. Unfortunately, the workshop on the top of my list was booked-full months prior, but I did something I usually wouldn’t have—I sent an e-mail to the photographer asking him to inform me if there was a happenstance cancellation and an opening cropped up.

Moments later, I got a reply telling me there just had been, and I’d been lucky enough to e-mail him before this information reached his web site. Before I was in though, I had to send him a few photographs of mine for evaluation. I hastily prepped a few of my current favourites and mailed it across, and now that I’ve been approved (and I’ve parted with a lot of money), I’m heading out to his studio in L.A. for a few days in April to learn about and work on portraiture.

In spite of the fact that L.A. is a pretty fucked-up city, I am excited by this turn of events.

Now, onto planning other things on my life’s to-do list.

Saturday, March the 22nd, 2008

It seems that these past few months have satiated my yearning for wallowing in my own misery and indulging in my self-defeat, and I am now finally ready to move on with my life.

As I sit here writing this, I’m awaiting a contract from a European research laboratory; one which I’m supposed to peruse and, if I approve, sign. After going back and forth on this for weeks, I’ve finally decided to revert to my original decision of exploring opportunities in Europe. The resolution of this matter fills me with an immediate calm, replacing much of the angst that arrested me before.

Let me outline the plan for you since you must be curious. (You’re here, aren’t you?)

I’m going to be employed by a Norwegian research group situated in Oslo. I’m also going to be working with a professor in Cambridge. This will involve some shuttling between Norway and England, and I’m now working on some paperwork (for the necessary work permits and visas and such) to get the ball rolling. Independent of this, I’ve got a conference to attend in Venice in June–July, so at the very least, I ought to have lived in/visited three European countries between now and early next year!

Have I made the “right decision?” I sure as hell don’t know. But I do know that the big breakthrough in my turbulent decision-making process came with the following simple realisation: This is just a job. It pays very well and if I enjoy myself, great! If things don’t work out the way I would like them to, I can surely move onto other things later.

Nothing is set in stone.

Wednesday, July the 26th, 2006

During a recent flight, I came across, arguably, the hottest mom ever; and I really mean that superlatively so. She was barely in her 20s, had a gorgeous face, soft-flowing hair, was super slim with a teeny waist and yet oh-so curvy. She had the tiniest shirt on and the tightest jeans riding down to her mid-thighs, cutely exposing her purple-string bikini.

But, I really wasn’t paying attention.

I, was generally cooing, peek-a-booing and gurgling throughout the journey, as I was having fun with my new single-serving friend. She was gleefully cuddling up in my arms and bouncing away excitedly on my lap; and her serenely-happy, somewhat-tired glow later indicated that she was as pleased with this bonding as I was. Now, it was time for her sippy-cup filled with orange juice.

You must realise, of course, that I am speaking of the woman’s most adorable little few-year-old girl. You know, the kinds with a smile that can melt a glacier or three? Yes, one of those kids.

As I was getting off, this other woman—also arguably (superlatively) cute—approaches me all-excitedly (and gurgley!) and tells me that she’d observed me playing with “my little one,” and found us adorable together. She then animatedly began to talk to me, using words implying that she was thoroughly impressed, somewhat amused and quite entertained.

I am unsure who was sadder as I was informing her that she wasn’t my little one.

Sigh.


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