Saturday, October 31, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Friends of my family, the K's, inspired me to go to a chiropractor for (painless) help with my knee... However it seems the only way to fix a knee is to do lots of inner leg exercises and then have a chiropractor do a deep tissue/sports massage on the muscle. Btw - deep tissue/sports massage means ripping the quad muscles apart so that they can re-align. Imagine the joy of getting your muscles ripped apart every week for 15 min. Pain galore! Apparantely, the best fix is to dig the elbow into the part of the leg that is the most tense and ask the patient to flex their muscle. If that doesn't rip apart the muscle, then rolling your arm over the leg with max. pressure also rips apart the muscle (this sounds fun, huh?).
My chiropractor does a great job otherwise. However, my leg is sooo sore and I have 3 more weeks of it. Does this get better?
I highly recommend saying "no" to deep tissue massages.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Background: The castle was built in medieval time (1377) as a fortress to defend the Transylvanian valley from the Ottoman Empire. It was built in the traditional Transylvanian style, which is much simplier than the well-known medieval architecture of W. Europe. In later years, the parts of the royal family spent summers there. Vlad Tepes (i.e. Vlad the Impaler or Dracula) never actually lived in the castle.
1. (3rd place option) Change the marketing to manage (lower) expectations of tourists. State that the castle has little tie-in to Dracula. Dracula's castle website is very misleading.
Any other ideas?
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Halloween is just now gaining popularity in Germany (most Germans celebrate Karnival instead). However, I'm guaranteed some trick 'r treaters as I live in a town which houses a US military base. Also, there is a huge Halloween party at Frankenstein's castle (1-hour from my apt). Tickets sell-out months in advance. I plan to go. Now I just need to find a costume...
Monday, October 12, 2009
In 2007 during my 2nd month in here, I got sick. Doctor 1 diagnosed me with bronchitis, but could only give me 3 days worth (6 x 250mg) of amoxicillin. As a person who was born in the 1980's in the US when doctor's prescribed antibiotics for everything and caused immunity to them, this does nothing for me. However Doctor 1, by law, was not able to give me more meds. So I got better for a couple days, then got worse. Onto Doctor 2 - a specialist (the 1st doctor, a generalist, was not allowed to prescribe me more meds). Doctor 2 gave me the same meds. So again I got better then worse. I went back to Doctor 1, pleaded with him, and walked away with 5 days of meds... enough to get me back to the US where I could be treated. All in all, I was sick with bronchitis for 1 month and I'm sure that "treatment plan" upped my immunity to amoxicillin.
I definitely don't promote handing out medicine for every problem. But I also don't promote this "one size fits all" philosophy when applied to medicine. It is dangerous and can cause more harm than good from which comes my dread of going to the doctor here. The most frustrating thing is knowing a state-of-the-art US military hospital is less than 0.5 km from my apt. However, I'm not allowed to go there since I don't have access to the base.
Now I have a new doctor team (husband & wife). They take into consideration the advice of my US doctor, who knows my medical history, when treating me. I really appreciate this. Especially last week when I got sick. The new doctor understood how to treat me. All doctor's should follow suit.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
These stairs should be absolutely no problem to walk up/down with the stilettos (I'm allowed to say this as I wear stilettos everyday to work). The metal grates occupy only the stairwell area of the garage. A practiced stiletto wearer would only walk on their toes when going up/down stairs so the stiletto part should not hit the floor, much less get caught in the grate. Plus, the holes are really small.
Below is the (rough) translation of her email exchange with IT.
IT Ticket Subject: Steel banister in parking building is dangerous
Description: This morning I almost had an accident again in our parking building in front of the MPS building due to the dangerous steel banister. For all people who wear high heels it is not possible to pass the banister due to the grates. Could you please cover these grates?
Reply from IT:
The metal grate flooring on the garage stairs are there to prevent ice from forming on the stairs in the winter. I suggest that you wear a 2nd pair of flat shoes to work and use these to walk up/down the garage stairs. If you still would like to request that the metal grate flooring be changed, please contact the building maintenance team.
Reply from lady:
In my opinion, the metal grates are not necessary for safety. Why can’t you install other flooring, as seen on ramps AB&C? The option of wearing a 2nd pair of flat shoes to work is unacceptable. In addition, all the parking places on the lower floor are taken by 7:45. So women are compelled to park on the upper floors. Perhaps you could create a certain number of parking places designated solely for women on the lower floor?
Reply from IT:
Ramps AB&C are closed in the winter as they become icy and are unsafe. Your idea of parking places for women was rejected by security.
Reply from lady:
I find this solution unacceptable and plan to notify the worker’s union. Hopefully they will take care of this situation.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Oktoberfest was the first time that I ever saw a line for the men's toilet, but not for the women's. This was very impressive!
Do you think this phenomenon happened because there are more women's toilets (nice work to the organizers!) or because men's lederhosen takes a while to undo or something else?
After attending 3 Oktoberfests where I wished that I was wearing a dirndl, I finally got one! (see pic above). I received excellent advice in selecting one... I especially love the blue & pink colors.
Really nice dirndls can cost between 700-1,000EUR*. Cheaper ones can be found at C&A or at Halloween stores in the US (although these aren't the real ones). There are strict "Bavarian drindl wearing" laws, which stipulate that dirndls can only be worn during Oktoberfest or on a religious holiday. No Halloween wearing is allowed. :( Although, I'm all for dress-up with them around the apartment!
*Lederhosen are even more expensive since they're made of soft leather and have gorgeous designs sewn into them. Apparantely ledershosen are even more complicated to put on. And "washing" them is done by brushing them with a brush (no water). The guys look very cute wearing them!
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
We flew RyanAir which has strict requirements about take-on luggage. Everyone in Europe knows these requirements. RyanAir allows each passenger to bring 1 carry-on (this includes purse or laptop bag - 1 means 1) weighing a max. of 10kilo, and it has to be smaller than certain dimensions. If you go over, the gate attendants will require you to pay a 30EUR fee and check the bag at the gate (they get commision for every bag they catch which is over).
At this point I boarded. Then 10 min later she re-appeared on the flight and decided to sit next to me (I should have said no). Next steps: she threw her kid on the seat and then took-off 4 (FOUR) pairs of pants, 4 (FOUR) shirt, and 1 coat. In an effort to make her largest bag fit within weight restricitions, she took out all her clothes and put them on. Turns out she had 3 bags + 1 purse + 1 stroller + 1 child, none of which she checked ahead of time. The largest bag wasn't able to fit under the seat or in an overhead bin. She placed it in the aisle between our seats instead. What was she thinking?!
During this entire ordeal, her ~1 yr old baby was trying to get to the floor, hitting the tray table, and throwing things from her purse. The only things she brought for her baby (that I saw) were a pacifer, an empty bottle and a bunch of diapers which she tossed all over the seat midway through the flight when she decided to change the baby on the seats (YUCK!!). When packing up the diaper bag, she put the baby on the ground where it fell over and hit it's head on the bottom of the seat. During landing, she was more interested in the conversation with her new friends across the aisle than making sure her baby was sitting down in her lap.
People like this should not be travelling with kids, or perhaps not even have kids.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
The Guaja Valley forest is absolutely gorgeous. It's a long valley with a river running through the middle (a perfect canoeing & camping spot... anyone want to go next year?). Pine and aspen trees are everywhere. Caves are also a frequent site. And medieval ruins are scattered throughout the valley. The E. European & Baltic forests are the most gorgeous that I've encountered in Europe.
It was the perfect day for an outdoor adventure... warm weather, sunny skies, and the leaves just starting to change colors (it looked like a Monet would if painted in fall). I was really looking forward to some hiking. However, it seems Latvians have the same view on hiking as Croatians... paved paths and high heels are the preferred option. There are even paved paths and stairs to nowhere (like the 200 stairs I climbed to get to a platform overlooking nothing... my legs & butt thanked me though). Off-road hiking and canoeing would be the best way to see the valley.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Fly with China Airlines.
Before June 2001, I had no problems with flying. Then in June 2001, my family took a trip to China, flying with China Airlines. The seat belt sign remained on for the entire 10+ hour flight to China due to extreme turbulence. We were able to look out the window and see the wings bending with the turbulence bumps. And the pilots decided that the best take-offs and landings involved the plane going straight up and straight down. If you looked around on this plane flight, everyone was gripping the arm rests with white knuckles and was praying. This flight description is on par with the rest of the flights that we took within China on Chinese Airlines were the same. I’m very happy we survived.
Now I'm fine with flying, until turbulence hits. When this happens, I immediately start to panic and think of this incident.
Thus, my flight this weekend to Riga, Latvia was not a pleasant one as the RyanAir pilots seem to have the same opinion as the Chinese Air pilots that a straight up and straight-down landings are the best approach. Also, for some reason they keep alternating between 1) going sharply up (or down) + engines roaring, then 2) leveling out + engines going quiet, then repeat. It was so extreme that the teenagers on the flight going to Riga actually started cheering whenever our stomach would drop from a sharp up or down (like on an amusement park ride).
Is this normal? If yes, I need to find a good coping mechanism for turbulence. Any ideas?
I originally had low expectations for Zagreb for a couple reasons... Our trip to Zagreb was set for a Sunday. Sundays in Western Europe usually involved everything being closed and people staying at home. In addition, we’d found the in-land cities to be more industrial and not tourist friendly. And I was tired from all the traveling.
Upon arrival, we found a cute Italian restaurant in the basement of a random building in old town. This was obviously the place to be as it appeared many groups had spent their entire evening there, based on the bottles of wine. Sunday was spent taking a foot walking tour through the many, pretty old buildings and monuments. The best part was visiting all the parks that Zagreb is known for. Each park in this city has a different theme: old English park with walking trails, lake & tea garden, botanical gardens full of unique flowers, and manicured parks. This town is so dog friendly - we even saw a guy taking a posing his dog in front of a fountain, taking a pic, then rewarding the dog (pic below).
There was a "Nike" festival happening in town when we were there to celebrate the opening of the new store. They were raffling off this cute little Nike car. I was hoping to win the contest, but soon realized I had no chance - especially compared to the 10 yr olds who were much better able to kick the ball in all the holes.
Going to Plitvicka Jetzera National Park almost made up for missing the Grand Tetons.
The drive to the park was entertaining. We encountered some of the windiest conditions that I’ve ever seen. When parked at a tourist info store on a ridge near the park, the car door literally almost blew off when I opened it (it definitely didn't shut fully after that). Many of the visitors to this station were not physically able to walk to their car by themselves.
On this trip, I learned that “hiking” in Croatia is actually equivalent to the US phrase "taking a Sunday stroll.” At the beginning of the hike, we noticed that we were quite out-of-place in our hiking clothes, especially compared to the women in high heels. All the paths to the ravine were paved or wooded (for those going across water). And trams and ferries transport visitors to the beginning of the walks, ensuring nothing too strenuous. I was slightly disappointed as I was looking forward to some serious hiking.
On this trip, we were lucky enough to be in a small walking group with 3 very cute, Italian soccer players. All in all, a very worthwhile trip.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Split & Trogir left a lot to be desired. This impression could have been caused by the extreme heat, the lack of sleep (we had to get up at 4am to catch our ferry to Split), or the fact that there wasn't much to do (they're both more "industrial" towns, so not as much fun for tourists).
They both have charming old city centers with castles, churches, squares, and huge, vibrant markets. Trogir is even listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. But the tourist stuff took only 2 hours to do. At which point, we were so overwhelmed by the number of tourists and the heat that we headed to the beach.
The beach (i.e. concrete deck around the bay) was my favorite part of the days. Croatians play this random water hackeysack/soccer/acrobatics game. Many of the moves are very impressive, like the black flip, half twist, kick with foot in air before a wave comes.
Must see's in Split & Trogir: 1. Flower growing on every balcony. It's like a giant garden.
2. Little kids selling their school books in the town square. So much for centralized book sellers, it's all about bargaining here.
Must NOT See's in Split & Trogir:
3. Unsafe metal & cement staircases and decks. Building safety codes are not up to standard. In Split, I climbed a 8 flights of metal stairs to the top of the bell tower. During the entire climb, the stairs wouldn't stop shaking due to two little boys stomping up them ahead of me. I thought they'd break away from the wall. It also didn't help that there were often waist high windows, with no safety bars, on the climb up which would be easy to fall out of. During the walk, I kept telling myself to turn around for safety reasons. Ironally the next morning, there was a news segment showing an apt deck that collapsed and crashed into a car below. I passed on climbing the next bell tower.
Pic1 (above): Split from the ferry
Pic2 (above): food & flower market in Split
Pic3 (above): church tower at castle (which had the dangerous steps)
Pic4 (above): sunset on the waterfront in Split
Pic5 (above): young entrepreneurs (i.e. students) sell their school books
Pic6 (below): Trogir waterfront
Pic7 (below): balconies with flowers
Pic8 (below): unsafe stairway in church
Pic9 (below): little kid who is very proud of his seashell collection. He pushed another kid out of the pic so that it was just him.