Saturday, January 5, 2008

(Good) New travel rules

A rainy dark Dutch day, mirrored in events (from local to global):

  • My post-holiday battle to get below 78 kg again by diet and exercise is frustratingly stalled at 79 kg,
  • My long drive to Utrecht to return a Christmas gift at ANWB yielded only a store credit, costing me an additional 2 hours and 2.40 euro for parking,
  • I've found out that the US government entity that oversees the airlines, the TSA, has tellingly renamed itself from the Transportation Safety Administration to the Transportation Security Administration.

However, the bright counterpoint came from British Airways. Starting January 1, the one-carryon rule is being lifted for UK flights. image *Finally* This is a great way to start 2008, with a sensible return to being able to carry two items onto an airplane.

Just last month, while in England, I made my annual trip to Marks & Spencer to pick up my Christmas Pudding and Mince Pies (with Brandy-Butter topping). But I forgot the one-bag rule and, standing in the easyJet line Stansted, realized that there was no way to consolidate the goodies into my full shoulder bag (already filled with clothes and computer, thus evading the 5 GBP bag charge).

Nothing to be done but to try to sneak by the screener, turning and juggling to try to keep my plastic M&S bag out of her sight. It might have worked, or she might have been distracted with trying to decide whether the Brandy Butter sauce was liquid or gel, or it just might have been a stray whisp of Christmas spirit, but she let me pass.

Otherwise, though, I've been told to stuff everything into my shoulder bag or leave it behind. This change is going to make life much easier on frequent trips across the Channel. Specifically, the new rule is:

· One bag no bigger than 56 cm x 45 cm x 25 cm (22 inches x 17.5 inches x 9.85 inches) (including wheels, pockets and handles)

· A maximum weight of 23kg per bag, and you must be able to lift the bag into the overhead lockers in the aircraft cabin unaided

· In addition, one briefcase or laptop sized bag

The exception will, unfortunately but not surprisingly, be easyJet. They plan to maintain the "One-Bag" rule to "minimize confusion".

Photo credit kendrive

Friday, January 4, 2008

Easing out of the Holidays

It's nice that the Dutch take a slow start to the new year. Emails are starting to fly in from the US, and even my UK associates are asking if I'm back online. But our offices remain quiet and dark, the company is running with a skeleton staff.

solitude.jpg

It's all kind of nice. Life starts to speed up for me around Halloween, with Thanksgiving, birthdays, Christmas, New Years all tumbling together week after week.

By January, I'm saturated.

Douglas Welch recently commented on the need to take time for yourself at year's end, to reflect, to integrate, to understand. He advocates contemplation, not resolutions, and I have to agree.

A few days of relative quiet and isolation are really welcome: I can collect a thought, finish some tasks, and prioritize the future. Some around me are hurt by a few day's withdrawal, but the solitude restores (some) balance to my world.

Drawing credit aravisarwen.com

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Looking back / Looking forward

I've been reading all of my fellow expat blogger's year-end reflections over the past weeks with interest; they have come in all forms, shading the spectrum from enthusiasm to weariness. Thanks to all who posted their thoughts and plans.

For me, 2007 was a transitional year in many ways; I think that I can March Spring Morning Fog 4look back on some solid professional achievements and long-overdue fulfillment of heart's desires. At the same time, there aren't enough hours in the day or dollars in the bank to have taken advantage of all of my opportunities or intentions (as if there ever could be...).

So a short account of the years highs and lows, and a few hopes to come...

This year, I fulfilled a longstanding dream to relocate to Europe, landing in my new job in January. The sabbatical year in the UK gave me new business perspectives and understanding, and it's been exciting to be able to put it all into practice as a member of the management staff here. Even though organizational transitions kept life edgy for the first few months, April 20 - Morning Neighborhood 11and I wasn't sure that the job had legitimacy until my first project and personal reviews in summer, everything now feels like it's got positive momentum. I am facing another cliff as my contract ends in May, though, and need to put a priority on getting a renewal or finding my next job

In parallel, I found an apartment and settled into my Netherlands neighborhood, taking up everyday life and accommodating Dutch language and culture. While I still get things wrong sometimes, I do feel comfortable and largely confident. Two weeks with the Nuns was a good start towards fluency, but I failed to find the time to really learn the language: that will be high up the list this year. Still, I'm proud of successfully making the many adjustments, largely on my own.

The rigid Dutch separation of work from not-work time helped me to achieve a better balance in my life, getting time to travel, to exercise, and to reconnect with friends. Still, I take on too much, effectively holding three jobs at work, leading a start-up in England, as thesis supervisor for a Master's candidate. That needs to stop. I haven't spent enough time with charcoals, with books, with sleep, Swedish Archipelago Day 1 Grimsa 49and by year's end, it was taking a toll (fortunately, the ever-direct Dutch pointed it out). Now that I'm back from a break and feeling more sane, I need to start respecting my limits.

Some health issues are beginning to surface, nothing overt and largely just doctor's warnings about controlling cholesterol, monitoring vision, and updating dental work. The muscle weakness in my ankles is becoming more pronounced and may need some surgery. I feel like I need to be diligent abut maintaining my overall health and tone while avoiding any major reconstruction.

It's been a difficult year for relationships. I've become closer to my parents and to some friends, but I've lived alone, Laura - Daveaway from home, for over two years now. A good friend worries that I'm getting used to it: maybe it's true, people say I no longer make small talk easily when I'm around the house. I worry that I am betting adept at using distance as a convenient excuse for letting close relationships drift, largely for the worse. This year I need to resolve things: helping my son to find his passion and direction, encouraging my daughter's transition to college, and sorting out long-term relationships.

I've done wonderful travel this year, and want to keep thatIsola Bella 35 passion high for the coming year. The week bareboating on the Archipelago in Sweden was the highlight, followed by discovering Italy on several trips and getting a long weekend in Istanbul. I want to continue to explore the contrasts and sensations that accompany experiences with new cultures and to reflect on them in these pages.

I need to do more professional writing and networking, and spend more time having fun with friends. I need to go a bit easier on myself when I fail, and be less judgmental of the shortcomings and differences of others. I've never been the sort to go hard on others. But in the US, the combination of Republican politics and provincial perspectives has progressively soured my outlook. I need to be more detached and indifferent, and act more constructively, when confronted by these events.

For it is, after all, 2008, and they, too, shall (finally) pass.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Best Wishes for 2008

In search of New Year's fireworks and celebration, it was off to Brussels for the weekend, having heard of the wonderful light shows, seafood feasts, and Christmas Markets that are part of Europe's Capital. Brux New YearBut a terrorist threat led authorities to curtail the celebrations: the markets were closed by 9 pm, and the fireworks were canceled. Unfortunately, they neglected to tell the people attending, so thousands of people drifted around the city looking for the festivities.

Still, it was a fun two days, and the break really helped me to renew and to approach the new year with my customary mix of hope and innocence.

Hope because, of course, anything is possible. At this time of year, I really believe that dreams can become reality.

I also purposefully choose Innocence, not only Brux New Year 2because we don't know what the future will hold, but even more, because we are still in the state of not having done anything wrong (yet).

Regardless of whether you approach the new year with dreams, resolutions, or resignation, I hope that 2008 opens stimulating opportunities and fulfilling relationships for you, and that your health and enthusiasm for life (maybe even for the expat life) continue undiminished.