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Archive for May, 2007

We’ll call you

A typical adventure to the tax office:

After several hours of waiting in various lines and speaking with numerous “people behind a counter” I finally get my chance to go into the little office where the magic happens (which, oddly enough, is vaguely reminiscent of a karaoke booth). We have a little chat, photocopies are made, papers are stamped, and then I am told that the lady will call me when my paperwork is finished, probably in about a week. I repeatedly request for a specific date when I can come back to pick up my paperwork. “Everyone else got a date! Why can’t I get a date?” I get a little anxious in these bureaucratic situations…

Eventually, after I realize there is absolutely no way I am getting a date out of this woman and I’ll just have to wait for this mysterious phone call, we painstakingly write down my phone number on the little scrap of paper with my account number. Already feeling quite let down, I finally start gathering my papers to leave the office, and then she hands me the paper with my phone number on it. The ONLY copy of my phone number she has. I look at the paper, I look at her, I look to the nonexistent “candid camera” and then politely hand the paper back to her. “I think you need my number to call me next week, right?” “Oh, ha ha,” she laughs, ” that one was my copy!”

Oh yeah, they’ll call me when my papers are ready…

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The Waiting Game

Ah, the joys of leaving a country and moving on to a new one… Somehow you manage to forget the hassle as soon as it’s over (kind of like giving birth, I imagine) but when you’re going through it, it’s all-consuming.

In the last few weeks, I have:

  • Waited in various bureaucratic offices for hours on end. Anxiously watching the little numbers tick by, while I sadly look down at my own ticket realizing just how long it’s going to be.
  • Talked to numerous government officials with dubious English. Thankfully, everyone here speaks a little (or a lot of, depending on when and where they were educated) English (after Germany, I’m in communication paradise here), but their level of understanding varies greatly.
  • Filled out form after form after form. I think I know all of my “numbers” by heart by now – passport, all my bank accounts, everything!
  • Photocopied so many pages I probably killed an entire forrest by myself. Every office requires multiple copies of you entire passport. I just had pages added to mine, so now it’s over 50 pages long. At least 20 are blank, but they still have to be photocopied. Such a waste.
  • Obsessively checked various bank accounts to see if money has arrived, or departed – depending on what I need.

It’ll all be over in just about three weeks, but for now I’m mentally exhausted just thinking about all this stuff…

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Join the Club!

For the last three months or so, I’ve been attending a (very small) travel club at work. Basically a group of us get together every Thursday and share travel tips and advice, and then ask questions. Most of us have been abroad for a number of years, so we have lots of travel experience – especially when we all get together. The group is run by our high-school counselor who is an expert traveler and therefore full of all sorts of helpful advice.

So far the best thing I’ve learned is the Priority Pass – essentially a credit card sized pass that allows you access any of the first class lounges at almost all of the airports in the world (which, of course, you must pay an annual fee to join). I’ve never had the privilage of spending time in any of the fancy airport lounges I’ve hauled my exhausted body past on the way to the crowded, loud, waiting room for regular people, but I think I would like it. This may be one I have to invest in, considering all of the traveling I do…

The other major tip I’ve learned is to consolidate frequent flier miles. I seem to have developed the habit of signing up for frequent flier miles for every airline that I fly. I never bother to look if one of my already existing milage programs is linked to the airline I’m about to fly. For example: I’m flying Singapore Air home for the summer, then Thai Airways to BKK back in August. When I bought the tickets I signed up for each airline’s FF program. Now I know that they are both part of Star Alliance and I already have tens of thousands of miles with Lufthansa (also part of Star Alliance). Whoops!

So, now I’m trying to make an effort to consolidate all of my miles with one or two carriers. I think I’m going to switch to United for all my travels with the Star Alliance airlines, simply because they’re an American airline and my gut tells me they’ll have better customer service than Lufthansa (after 5 years in Munich, the last place I’m going to look for excellent customer service is a German company). Plus, I’ve read that United has a great FF program – now that I see how many airlines are connected through the Mileage Plus network, it makes sense to put all those miles in one place.

All of the other helpful websites I’ve learned about are posted on my del.icio.us account under travel. Check ’em out!

What are your best travel secrets?

Image 1: http://www.absolutbank.ru/images/cards/priority_pass.jpg
Image 2: http://interactive.snm.org/img/am_lufthansa_jet2.jpg

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Blown Away

Even though we live in a tropical climate (read: 90+ degrees Fahrenheit with 98% humidity every day), we have barely used the aircon in our mid-level apartment over the last two years.

We have enough windows and doors throughout the apartment to let the air flow freely with just the use of our ceiling fan. Plus, we have the added advantage of having screens on every window and door – including our second balcony, which is all screened in – so there’s no danger of the dreaded Dengue mosquito pestering us.

Most of the time, I just prefer fresh air anyway. I hate that feeling of being all sealed in. The first thing I do every morning is open all the windows and doors “to get some air moving” (yet another trait I get from my mother).

But, lately it has seemed so hot (though I doubt the temperature has changed very much at all), that we are turning on the aircon almost every day. I’m not sure I like it…

What about you? Are you all about the fresh air, or the cooling A/C?

Image: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/21/27233149_71039b1518_m.jpg

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Well, folks, it’s finally happening. I’m turning into my mother.

All those habits and behaviors I said I would never replicate as an adult. Yep, they’re all here. And they seem to appear when I’m least expecting them – they just happen, naturally. This was not in the life plan of superkimbo, all grown up. Unfortunately, it seems the only thing I didn’t get from my mother is her perfect figure…

So, here they are, the good and the bad:

The frustrating:

  • My mom has the most annoying habit of approximating time. For example, at 6:38, she’ll say “hurry up Kim, it’s already 7:00!” Arg. I can not tell you how much that frustrates me to this day. But, guess who just started doing it this year? My friend Darby totally caught me out the other day when I said that 9:30 was already the end of our first block (which actually ends at 9:50). Yikes.
  • My mom has a bit of the “tough love” attitude and has seriously high expectations (which is exactly how her father was). I do think this helped me be self-motivated, but I sometimes find myself acting that way and I don’t like it.
  • My mom is a real homebody. She could spend days at home just puttering around the house. As you know, I am equally likely to sit at home for an entire weekend. But, in contrast to my mom, I do live overseas and she has never lived more than 45 minutes away from where she grew up…
  • My mom hoards foods and household supplies. Let’s just say that we still have stockpiles from our Y2K stash. And, guess who actually shipped non-perishable foods from Germany to Malaysia the last time she moved? I’m really really trying to get over this – I’m eating as fast as I can in preparation for our move to Bangkok.
  • My mom is a know-it-all, even when she doesn’t know. Enough said.

The inspiring:

  • My mom is always a professional. Although she only attended a two-year college, she has a patent (and she’s not even a researcher), she headed up major divisions at IBM, ran the Euro conversion project back in 2000, and she pioneered the maternity leave policy for all mothers at IBM when I was born in 1977. I was born without enough platlets in my blood, so my mom had to stay at the hospital with me for a few weeks, and then she wanted to stay home with me until I was ok. The company wanted to let her go, but she wrote an amazing letter to the CEO and ended up getting 6 months paid leave and totally changing the maternity practices for the whole company. Rock on Mom!
  • My mom is an advocate for what she believes in. In my home state of CT, hunting is legal in certain conditions. One day a neighbor was shooting deer in his yard (we all have 2 acres of property, I think that’s the legal limit or something) with a bow and arrow. The baby deer that he shot wandered into our yard and died in my mom’s arms. She spent the next sixth months petitioning to get hunting banned in our town and won.
  • My mom loves home remedies. Alex makes fun of both of us for that, but I like them too. Gargle with salt water when you have a sore throat, keep your neck warm when you’re sick, drink ginger ale when your stomach is upset, and so on. He claims that his mother never offered home remedies. We’ll see about that this summer.
  • My mom is honest. She tells everyone exactly what she thinks. Most of the time I like this about her and about myself, but sometimes it’s too much. We all know the phrase “brutal honesty” – that’s us, all the time…

In what ways are you like your mother?

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One of the benefits (or disadvantages, depending on your opinion) of living overseas is automatically being a member of a community of expats. Depending on the size of the city you live in, there may be just on small expat community, or, like here in KL, there may be so many expats that there are different small communities all around the city based around where people live.

Working in a school, you always have that instant community of students, parents and teachers, but overseas the boundaries are much more gray than the black and white “no socializing with parents” attitude of working in your home country.

Personally, I always have a little trouble with those blurry boundries. I know many teachers that spend time in parents homes, go out to dinner with students and their families, some even go on vacation with their students. Although I think it’s great that those teachers and families enjoy spending so much time together, I usually try to keep work and social life as seperate as possible (keeping in mind, of course, that the only people I socialize with here are other teachers, so they’re not that seperate).

Most of the time, I shy away from social time with parents or students, but over the last two weeks, I’ve actually spent several hours in the absolutely beautiful homes of two of our families.

What could make me do this, you ask…

Jewelry. Beautiful, colorful, handmade jewelry.

But, before I show you the jewelry, I have to show you the cute, colorful, bags that come with each piece:

colorfulbags.jpg

Inside each one of those shiny, colorful, bags is an equally colorful peice of jewelry. Here is a selection of my favorites:

colorfuljewelry.jpg

The best part about these two extended shopping trips is that I didn’t really have any jewelry before I went with my fellow jewelry-loving friends, Tammy, Ann, Jana, Maria, Darby and Mairin. In high school and college I used to wear pendants and I ended up buying lots from the various cities I visited in Europe while living in Italy and Germany. But, recently I haven’t been feeling the pendant vibe. So, thanks to the advice of my personal jewelry consultants (read: friends with great taste), I now have a whole selection of awesome, colorful, jewelry I can wear with anything!

What kind of colorful things do you own?

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The truth behind the title:

The “insider” is me. And the “guide” is my newest article on the Viator Travel Blog. Check it out! It’s even on the front page of the blog today (though I’m sure that won’t last long)!

You know you want to learn all about these Malaysian beauties (technically, both from the same beach: Redang, my personal favorite):

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