Monday, April 27, 2015

Things that Made Me Happy Last Week: Week 17

1. Meeting the Empress who has recently returned to Vienna.
2. Enjoying unexpected quality (and quantity) time with an unlikely candidate for both categories.
3. Watching the sunset over Lake Neusiedl on Saturday.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Things that Made Me Happy Last Week: Week 16

1. The Wanda concert on Friday night. F***ing amazing! I wanted to press "fast forward" at times during the 3 hours of supporting acts as my legs were beginning to kill me standing around (old age and all that), but it was SO worth it. Can't wait for their new album to come out now. Consider me a fan.
2. Booking my multi leg flight Vienna-Sydney, Tokyo-Vienna for September. Details of this trip are still vague but it makes me happy to have the "framework".
3. Making the most of my week in Vienna despite several mishaps and my health being sub par (see previous post) by meeting some of my favourite people.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

And What About the Bad Things?

As you know, I introduced my "Things that Made Me Happy Last Week" series at the beginning of this year and, personally, I find it a good reason to reflect on positive things, in particular when it wasn't that great a week. Which happens. Take this week. It's not officially over, but I have had my fair share of highs and lows. You'll read about the high points on Monday as usual, but let's highlight some low points if only to make you feel better if you think your week was not as picture perfect:
As I am writing this, my flat is still a mess. I am getting my yard-facing windows replaced and according to the guy from the installation company, "we'll be gone by 12". It is currently 3:30 p.m. and there have been some glitches. Shortly after some (Alessi) glass jars fell down (o.k., mental note, next time empty your kitchen completely), there was commotion and I smelled gas. Oh-oh. Right enough, one of the guys had drilled into a gas pipe, which runs right underneath the window frame. Not ideal. Apparently they had hit water and electricity as well in some of my neighbour's places, but a punctured gas pipe is not exactly what you want. The gas supply was switched off and a plumber called who arrived 2 hours later to weld the whole and fix everything provisionally for the weekend, assuring me everything was working as intended now and I don't live in danger of the whole place blowing up. Fingers crossed. Below is a picture of the gas men's equipment:
On Thursday night I went karting with the Austrian team. Or rather, I had planned to as I didn't survive the qualifying. The guy who gave us a pep talk before our turn had neglected to mention that you need to be careful where to reach as the cover of engine and exhaust can get boiling hot. I noticed as I tried to shoehorn myself into the car and innocently touched exactly some such hot spot with my right hand. Ouch! I immediately got a burn on my palm, which has now developed into a pretty blister:
Well, to be honest, I probably should not have joined that team event in the first place as I had fluey symptoms the day before, including a temperature. I am still feeling extremely congested to the point of finding it hard to breathe. I am beginning to suspect that I could be allergic to something (pollen?) after all, despite the fact that I always claim to be the only person on the face of the earth who is not allergic to anything. I will get it checked, but it is really the oddest "cold".
Gas pipe mishap aside my place is a major mess right now (have you ever got new windows installed? If so, you probably feel with me) and my plans for a nice Saturday afternoon have changed to one agenda item, CLEANING.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Things that Made Me Happy Last Week: Week 15

1. Spring weather finally. Loving it!
2. The short, but truly delightful visit of my lovely friend from Munich.
3. Coming back from Minsk on Friday and knowing that I am going to spend more than 2 weeks in Vienna in a row with lots of nice things planned and good weather forecast.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Royal Treatment

On my recent visit to Almaty, my colleague and I experienced hospitality at its best. Nobody has ever made such a fuss over me, in a good way.
We were invited by the GM of an agency who regretted not finding a mutually agreeable slot last time we were there. Well, as far as I knew, we were going to meet her for dinner so I had no expectations. It started with the agency driver picking us up from our hotel and her waiting outside the restaurant, probably half-frozen without her jacket, which was inside (it is customary to leave your coats at a cloak room right upon entering restaurants). She then led us to the table, where 3 female colleagues were awaiting us. One knew English fairly well and had been enlisted to act as interpreter for the evening, together with my colleague.
Well, our hostess pretty much ordered everything off the menu (including the obligatory horse meat and fermented horse and camel milk) in vast quantities. When I commented how much I loved the silky goat cheese that I had already eaten at the hotel, they ordered an extra plate just with that cheese for me.
Having already experienced several dinners with Russian-English interpretation on the previous nights, I focused on the food and tried to just nod enthusiastically at the required intervals, assuring the others that I didn't mind if they continued their conversation without attempting to translate everything for me.
Well, this didn't really work as I, being foreign, was regarded as the Super VIP and it turned out the most junior lady at the table had virtually begged her boss to be allowed to join such exclusive company. Honestly is apparently a valued quality in Kazakhstan: "We didn't want to take her, but she wouldn't stop begging us". This girl pretty much just giggled and took pictures of us, but I hope she got some benefit out of it. Once we were done with the main course (having managed to eat about 20% of it), they ordered desserts. Despite our protests that we were REALLY full, a huge selection arrived, together with more tea. Since the cheese plate was still sitting in front of me and I decided to pick at the halved grapes that served as decoration, they concluded I wanted fruit and I could just about stop the hostess from ordering a fruit platter for me. She then asked the waitress if they could pack some cheese for me to take home since I had praised it so much. I pretended to be very concerned about the EU customs regulations and said that I wouldn't be able to import it, otherwise I am sure she would have bought a kilo.
When I got up to go to the toilet, I had the English-speaking colleague escort me to the restrooms so I wouldn't get lost. I half expected her to wait outside, but they trusted me to be able to retrace my steps.
When it was time to leave, the hostess of course not letting us split the bill, she ordered a taxi for us, then walked us to the car and insisted on paying the driver in advance despite our protests. When we were in the car, we both agreed that we had never experienced hospitality like that. It may sound OTT and it was indeed, but in such a nice and sincere way that it felt like being taken out by your granny or great-aunt who you know always spoils you rotten.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Things that Made Me Happy Last Week: Week 14

1. My Russian course. I am getting individual tuition and the teacher is so lovely and keeps praising me for (allegedly) making much faster progress than her other students.
2. Hosting my first ever hangout-on-air webinar for work with speakers in 2 different locations and no glitches whatsoever. Phew.
3. Closing skiing season 2014/15 at Gerlitzen on Easter Sunday. I went on my own as friends and family here in Carinthia had already packed away their ski gear. Other people had as well or else been deterred by the weather forecast (sub-zero temperatures and wind), but powder snow and empty slopes made this little ski bunny very happy indeed.

Friday, April 03, 2015

That Old and Scruffy Thing...

I own about 40 belts. I wear about 3 of them, with the one in the picture above being my absolute favourite. It is a random silver (!) belt I bought at La Redoute years ago (when they still had an .at domain) and it is just that perfect length, has the perfect smooth leather, goes with pretty much anything (despite being silver) and does not show underneath tight tops. As you can clearly see, it has seen better days and looks worse for wear. I have tried to find a replacement, but this scruffy old thing is still my all-time favourite and I keep reaching for it.
This does not only apply to belts, I have underwear as well that is not the prettiest in the kingdom but still my favourite.
You could ask why I still keep those 37 other belts in my wardrobe. Well, you never know, right? Right?
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