Archive for December, 2009

Yes, I’m one of ‘those’ girls …

Posted in Movies on December 23, 2009 by poojaland

… and am a HUGE “Sex and the City” fan! Sure, last year’s movie definitely had some slow/expendable parts, but even after seeing it in the theater, I’ve since watched it at least 10 times on DVD. A friend gave me the DVD for my birthday last year, and I ended up buying the Blu-ray version just last week.

Anyway, “Sex and the City 2” will be coming out next year. Don’t know much about the plot lines, but you can bet I’ll be seeing it soon after its release! The first trailer (just a teaser) came out yesterday:

Video: ‘Sex and the City 2’ Trailer

Can’t WAIT!

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Avoiding a pick-up … at 8 a.m.!

Posted in Uncategorized on December 15, 2009 by poojaland

I walked up to my bus stop one morning last week. I was about the eighth person in line. A few people ahead of me was this Indian dude talking on a cell phone. He looked to be about my age, was shortish, and wearing a really strange/funky hat with crazy red, white and blue fringe on top. He looked my way a couple times, but I made sure to avoid his gaze. A couple minutes later, the bus pulled up. He got on, then a few people later, I followed. As I started walking down the aisle to the back half of the bus, in my peripheral vision, I saw him standing in an empty two-seat row. He looked at me and said, “You want to sit here?” pointing to the window seat. I pretended I hadn’t heard him as I stepped into another row on the other side of the aisle a couple rows in front of him (my stop is the first on the route, so there were plenty of open seats). Then I pretended I’d just realized someone had said something to me, so I turned to look at him. He was still standing, and said “You can sit here,” and I just kind of shrugged and said “Ohh…that’s OK” as I turned around and sat down.

I must admit I was a little shocked that the guy was so bold at 8 in the morning! Sure, maybe he just geniunely wanted to meet someone new, or someone else Indian, but that 30-minute ride to work every morning is my time to read, listen to music or just tune out the world in general. So unless you’re really, really cute, I’m likely not interested!

The entire bus ride after that, I was all paranoid that the guy was going to get off at my bus stop, and then try to talk to me on my way to my office. Thankfully, he either didn’t get off at my stop, or else just didn’t try to approach me. And then the next morning as I walked to my bus stop, I was all worried that he’d show up after me, and then rather than offer me a seat, he’d just come sit next to me (which I guess he could’ve done anyway that first day, but there were a lot of people still piling onto the bus at that point). I was relieved when he didn’t show. Though I’ve been taking the same bus at the same time nearly every day since June, I’m pretty sure I’d never seen that particular guy before (much less any Indian guy, really!).

Some readers will think I’m being a bit cold with my attitude/avoidance, but it’s more my fear of having to give someone the brush-off/heave-ho/rejection down the road. In my (perhaps overly optimistic) mind, I feel like I’ll know when a guy is someone I’d be interested in talking to or getting to know better. At the very least, I’d like to think he’d be a bit more smooth — and subtle — in negotiating our first contact!

Trip reflections — the good and the bad

Posted in travel on December 8, 2009 by poojaland

The good:

The XE currency-converter application for iPhone really came in handy. I downloaded it before I left Seattle, and made sure to add my preferred currencies (for this trip, the Euro and Icelandic Kronur [didn’t know then that I’d also be in the Czech Republic]). The app caches the latest exchange rate of your favorite currencies every time you go offline, so though my phone was in “Airplane Mode” (and thus not sending/receiving any kind of signals) my whole trip, I could still open that app to check the prices of things in U.S. Dollars. Since I hadn’t made the Czech Koruny a favorite currency, before we headed to the country, I went to XE.com and ran the converter to find out that 100 CZK is about $5.80, so I just did the math whenever I had a price in CZK in front of me (yes, we chose three countries to visit that are on three different currencies!).

I borrowed my friend/boss’ wee netbook to take on the trip. I think it weighs a couple pounds, and is about the size of a personal planner thingie. The computer was super helpful, and the only reason I was able to blog consistently at least every night. My cousin U, whom we stayed with for a week in the Netherlands, took her laptop with her to work (and didn’t have a desktop), so that way we could still get online in her absence. Both the hostels we stayed in had (free!) WiFi, so we then didn’t have to compete with other boarders for the shared computer, or deal with worrying about what sorts of exotic bugs we might pick up by using said shared computer …

Wool socks rock! I have a few pairs of wool hiking socks, and they were my favorite pair to wear, especially since it was cold most places we went, and we did a lot of walking. The wool socks were warm, and because they were of the hiking variety, gave my feet a lot of support and cushioning.

Shoes were key. I think I spent most of my time in my Keen tennies. Thankfully, anticipating the cold in Iceland (but not yet knowing A and I would do the glacier hike), I also had on hand my new Merrell boots, which are insulated and rated to -25F. I must admit that even with those shoes and wool snowboarding socks on, my toes started getting cold a couple hours into our glacier walk. But overall, I was mostly semi-comfortable. I had taken my Converse lace-up boots, but my feet would start hurting towards the end of the day; they don’t have good arch support, and we were doing a TON of walking. So next time, I’ll either take low-tops (for casual/evening wear) and/or get some insoles to put in them.

Organized tours, though sniffed at by most people my age and younger, can be an awesome thing. It’s so nice to hand over the reins to someone else, and then be led around the city. Plus, the guides give you all kinds of cool background info on what you’re seeing. We also liked meeting some new people from other countries. Being that we were in Prague for only two full days (and an evening and morning on either side of those days), the tour helped us see the city’s best highlights. And then, on our second day in the city, we had a bit of familiarity with the sights’ layouts, and could go back and spend more time at our favorite places.

I highly recommend http://www.picnik.com for on-the-go photo editing, when you don’t have a photo editor on your computer. Yes, it’s a bit time-consuming, but they have all the tools you need — crop, resize, sharpen, adjust exposure/brightness/colors. I used it to prep all the photos I ended up posting on this blog. Thanks for pointing me to the site, Noah!

The bad:

A and I had good intentions when we left Seattle — we packed a bunch of fruit/nut bars, fruit leathers, applesauce containers and easy mac ‘n cheese, intending to save money by eating those as snacks/meals whenever possible. However, once we got to one city or another, the draw to eat locally — though not necessarily local — was too strong. So we ended up bringing a lot of that stuff back!

We tried to rely on the maps supplied in our Lonely Planet/Time Out guidebooks, but those weren’t always comprehensive/detailed enough to prevent us from getting lost at least once a day. As we didn’t know we’d be in Prague before we left Seattle, we didn’t have a guide book for it, and instead bought a city map at a convenience store as soon as we got into town. That map was so helpful, and made it very easy for us to navigate the city. Yes, it was a pain to have to unfold/refold the full-size map, but again, it helped us get around town more efficiently than we had anywhere else.

I didn’t know in advance that money-exchange counters don’t exchange coins — though they’re happy enough to hand them out to you in the local currency! So I came home with pocketfuls of change in Euros, Czech Koruny and Icelandic Kronur. We were happily able to get rid of some of the Euros on the Icelandair flight from Reykjavik to Seattle, though, as you can buy menu items in USD, Euros or with a credit card. We spent 6 Euros (about $9) on a sparse fruit salad and some nacho Doritos. Hey, at least the coins didn’t go to waste … the universe only knows how little USD those Euros will have next time (if ever) we’re in a country that uses them!

I need to do a little test and weigh my suitcase when it’s empty. I honestly didn’t over pack (too much), but my bag when I first packed it was 60 pounds!! I was able to get it down to Icelandair’s limit of 50 lbs, but I was scratching my head over why it’d been so heavy in the first place. In the end, it didn’t seem like the Icelandair check-in folks paid too much attention to our bags’ weights anyway, but I’m sure my arms appreciated those 10 extra pounds being gone.

Next time, I need to pack much lighter. A and I each had a 50-lb rolling suitcase, and then we had a third checked bag, which was a smaller suitcase that pretty much only held our sleeping bags. Then for A’s carry-on, she had a duffel bag, and I had my purse (which was a bit on the bigger side, but small enough to stow under the airplane seat in front of me) and a rolling carry-on (with my neck pillow, extra books, travel games and computer). On the way home, we also ended up checking in a day-pack, as both our suitcases were over the limit. All these bags made getting around on public transportation (trains and buses) a bit sweat-inducing and stressful. But, bear in mind that traveling in winter time inevitably means packing bulkier and heavier clothing, plus shoes for rain/cold/snow.

Overall, I’m happy with how everything on our trip went in general, considering that I hadn’t really traveled anywhere in seven years. I didn’t forget to pack anything major, we did successfully get our bags lugged around everywhere, we enjoyed the sights in all the cities we went to, and the hostels I ended up booking for us turned out to be really good (yes, even the 10-bed place in Reykjavik!). Certainly, it’ll be much easier to plan and then go on my next travel adventure!