Trolling my little brother…

My little brother will be visiting me at the end of the month, it will be his time leaving South Africa and his first long distance flight. The poor guy is a little nervous as it is his first time and also because he is a self proclaimed nervous flyer.

He booked his flight via Kenyan Airways and I could not resist the opportunity to troll him. So I wrote the following “article” and posted it to our family whatsApp group, pretending that it was written by a writer for the New Yorker.

Hahahaha read the following article by Menno Hermes from the New Yorker  🤣😂😂:

My flight on Kenyan Airways was exciting to say the least, from faulty air compressors to spoilt chicken served from paint cans, Kenyan Airways certainly kept me on my toes.

My flight from Cape Town to Dubai via Nairobi was scheduled to last twelve hours with a quick stopover in Nairobi, this was not the case as I ended up arriving in Dubai three days later, after spending no less than thirty-two hours in the air and another thirty something hours in Nairobi.

The first warning sign was the price, flights are like tattoos, be weary if when they cost almost $200 less than the nearest competition. If this is the case one has to ask oneself why and even more importantly, how?

Both of these questions were swiftly answered minutes after checking in to the flight.

Most airports provide a shuttle service if one’s terminal is located a certain distance away from the check in counter but not Kenyan Airways, we were put on what in South Africa they call a “local taxi”, a decrepit vehicle running on mercy alone, and once at the airplane we were each expected to pay a couple of dollars for this “service”.

The taxi driver’s driving had my stomach turning, and I had not even set foot in an airplane.

From the outside, the airplane looked no different to any other major airline, the green and red logo was actually comforting but upon entering the plane, I knew that this was not going to be like any other flight I had taken before.

Normally the Boeing 737 is able to seat six people per row with the isle in the middle but on this particular flight, they managed to squeeze in an additional two seats per row, increasing the seating capacity from six to eight. It has to be noted that when selecting my seat, it did not reflect this overloaded seating arrangement, which in turn, led to people standing around confused, not knowing on which seat to sit.

Not unlike in the “taxi” to the airplane, an air host started whistling and shouting directions, slowly ushering passengers to their seats, it was amazing how proficient he was, especially since in his left hand he was mercilessly gripping a living chicken.

Once everyone was seated instead of being given the usual safety instructions, we were immediately asked to fasten our seatbelts as the seatbelt light did not work, in fact the only indication that we were taking off was the engines roaring to life and the airplane starting to slowly inch forward.

In a matter of seconds, we were building up speed and takeoff had commenced, in that moment the air compressors gave out, causing all the oxygen masks to fall from their overhead storage, immediately causing airplane wide panic and anxiety.

The passengers erupted in cries and panic as we were unsure whether we were taking off or plummeting back to earth. With that said, in a minute or two the atmosphere subsided as we had completed takeoff and were safely at a climbing altitude.

All things considered the takeoff was very smooth and once in the air the passengers seemed to calm down and the air hostess assisted people with storing their air compressors again.

Just when I thought that my travel experience was about to normalise, the air hosts started hawking products, each sold an array of crisps, beers, soft drinks and chocolates and they all seemed to compete with each other, shouting out prices, specials, combinations and products names.

I bought a Black Label and a pack of crisps, retailing for ten dollars, daylight robbery by any standard but after haggling with several air hosts, this was the lowest anyone would go.

Watching people haggling and bargaining certainly made up for the lack of inflight entertainment, where the small screen normally is, there was an ash tray, confirming my suspicion that this roaring beast comes straight out of the seventies.

The additional seats made the seating arrangement uncomfortable to say the least, I was in the unfortunate disposition to be squeezed in between an American bodybuilder who considered the use of the arm rest as his sole right and an African woman who probably had flown Kenyan Airways before thus bringing her own KFC family bucket.

The faint smell of chicken and gasoline permeated through the airplane as an air hostess pushed a trolley with a large drum, plates and cutlery through the isle. The old joke regarding airplane food is that the air hostess would shout “beef” or “chicken” but in this case it was chicken or nothing.

I opted to try the chicken as my diet of beer and crisps were not going to sustain me for another seven hours, I would greatly regret this decision especially upon finding out that the only working lavatory did not have a working lock.

The boiled chicken was bland, cold and tasted slightly of paint which was expected as the drum from which it was served very closely resembled a large fifty litre paint can but there was no way to definitely confirm this suspicion as the sides were blackened from cooking over an open flame.

I munched half way through a chicken leg and to my horror discovered that it was in fact still raw, to the disgust of my neighbouring passengers I choked up a bit of chicken, who both were wise enough to refrain from the onboard meal. I immediately ceased eating but the effect of the salmonella seemed to be instant, I could immediately hear and feel my stomach bubbling as it attempted to digest the partially cooked chicken.

Incidentally at this time the turbulence also started, and this was not your run of the mill regular rain storm turbulence, if this was an earthquake it would have registered an 9.5 on the richer scale.

Evidently there was no need for an seat belt light as everybody immediately buckled up when the airplane started plummeting, ascending and then plummeting some more.

Upon looking out past Mr. America out the window, I realised the absence of any clouds whatsoever, and this made the entire situation all the more alarming.

Birthday weekend.

My birthday was this past Saturday and we went way for the weekend to celebrate the occasion,  hence the title. It  started off rather rushed as I had overslept a slight bit due to a work occasion the previous night, which was Thursday night as I took the Friday off from work.

On Thursday evening it was a colleague’s last day at work, so we went up to the roof of the office building for some drinks and snacks and the fact that we are an proudly beer selling company, the supply of top quality craft beers were not limited. Hence me missing my normal 7:00 AM gym session and sleeping in till 8:00AM.

Once we left Amsterdam station and were on the train to Antwerp, the rushed feeling and slight stress was immediately replaced with excitement.

Antwerp is a magic little town in Belgium, famous for one of the biggest ports in the world as well as a flourishing diamond trade, which both contribute to the cities wealth. Wealth which one can see, throughout the city and its residence, it has an air of ‘well being’ which is not easily experienced everywhere.

Antwerp is full of little squares surrounded by cafes and restaurants.

We arrived at the magnificent central station, known to be one of the prettiest in the world and quickly made our way to our AirBnb. It was a few minutes from central station and upon arrival we were met by the owner, Grethe, who sat us down for a quick Antwerp information session.

She was very sweet and just meant well but it felt like she was talking forever, elaborating about the history, the people, the food and she eventually called it quits, after sharing several restaurant and specific meal recommendations at the said restaurants.

When we greeted her she mentioned her age, 73, she looked no older than 57, maybe 59, good genes she said.

We circled Antwerp several times, looking for the perfect restaurant until we eventually settled on the restaurant recommended by Grethe and the food was delicious.

The rest of the day was spent visiting breweries, shops, parks and several historical sights in town. We ended the day with a delicious meal at a French restaurant, I had a steak and it was probably one of the best steaks that I have had in my life. Jytte had the vegetarian lasagne, to be honest, I am not a vegetarian but I would order that lasagne any day!

French cuisine.

We called it an early evening with retired at around 11:00AM. The next morning we were up bright and early and visited the city market. It was an amazing mixture of sights and smells, with the most delicious food and snacks that once can imagine.

What really grabbed my attention was the alcohol consumption, all around the market and surrounding restaurants, people were drinking anything from beer to wine to champaign. This must have been around 8:00AM in the morning and coming from a country where it is illegal to sell liquor before 11:00AM, I was quite surprised.

So I order two beers and a shot of tequila.

Just kidding but what I did order was a delicious Turkish wrap with honey, olives, cheese, sun-dried tomato and artichokes. It really hit the spot. Jytte had a few bites but it was not up to her tastes.

As the day before we spent the rest of the day eating, drinking and enjoying the amazing Summer weather. We also rented two cycles which I would definitely recommend, its so easy to get around on bikes.

Give a Dutch persona bike and the sun and you get that face of pure bliss.
Exploring Antwerp!
Antwerp from the sky!

The evening we decided on a piquant pizzeria looking out over a busy piazza surrounded by several restaurants. We both had pizzas which were equally amazing. I swear the food in Antwerp is just on another level.

Food!!!

We decided to have desert elsewhere and seeing that I am not entirely a desert person, I was in no rush.

At one stage Jytte got frustrated and said that the only reason that she wanted desserts was to ask them to put candles on it and then I could blow it out as it was my birthday. Super sweet!

Eventually we did find a place and Jytte went to place our order, 2 coffees and one creme brule, she also went to ask whether they can put the candles on the dessert.

She can back flustered throwing the candles on the table, telling me that they told her that they don’t do such things here like lighting candles. I almost told her  that we should just cancel the order and leave and she said “No, lets just drink the coffee”. Sure.

A few moments later the lights started flickering and I could hear the loud song ‘Happy birthday…. ” Ah, she got me…

So the staff did not agree to the candles but had their own sparkles! They marched through the restaurant singing happy birthday while the whole restaurant clapped hands. They messed up my name but that did not matter as the table of ten next to us, literally gave a standing ovation and kept clapping long after the song was finished.

It was great!

We returned home after this as we still had big plans for Sunday. The next day we went back to the market for some snacks and soon after left Antwerpen for Rotterdam. It was a great Summers day and the weather was even better in Rotterdam than Antwerpen.

For some city was buzzing with excitement and energy as there was a soccer cup final taking place later the day but for myself the excitement and energy translated to fear and anxiety as we were surrounded by hundreds of screaming, drinking and rowdy soccer fans.

The police detained the entire train whilst they got everything ready to search all passengers upon exiting. It was a scary experience seeing all the police and dogs and people being searched.

Once we cleared the search we headed into Rotterdam which is airy city which felt very green, spacious and modern and reminded me a lot of Pretoria, South Africa.

We walked through the city and eventually came to a street called “Witte de Wit”, where Jytte’s father once lived, many moons ago.

The street was a mix of trendy bars, cafes, clothing stores and restaurants lined with green trees almost forming a roof above the road. We headed over to “Paneke Bar” of which Jytte knew the owner, who I then met and we enjoyed a cold beer. The owner , Wim, was slightly nervous as he was not sure what type of crowds the soccer game would attract and apparently it can get pretty messy.

Our last stop for the day was “Felix Food Factory”. This is a sort of market in a old shipping building right on the water. One can buy all kinds of food and drinks there and then sit on edge of the river enjoying the food and the view.

We bought an amazing cheese platter and two craft beers and sat with our legs dangling over the piers edge. We could see “Hotel New York” from where we were sitting which is an old hotel which looks like it came right out of a Wes Anderson movie.

Jytte’s great grandfather was actually a project manager and worked on constructing the hotel.

So back to the title of this post, birthday weekend. As you can tell I did indeed have an amazing action packed birthday weekend!

Hotel New York, straight out of a Wes Anderson film.
Beautiful Rotterdam!

Amsterdam Month Four

Tomorrow will mark my 10th week in Amsterdam. It genuinely feels like it was yesterday, when I was waiting for my passport in my tiny bedroom in Hong Kong, all packed and ready to go.

It makes sense that time flew, it normally does when one is very busy and I really hit the ground running, in less than a week after my arrival in the Netherlands, I had already started at my new job, not leaving me with much time to settle in, especially considering that I had caught a horrible flu just before leaving for Amsterdam which ultimately caused me to spend the better part of my the first week, bed ridden.

So far so good.

I nervously walked into the office on my first day of work, it was a semi industrial looking open plan space, walls lined from the floor to the roof with beers from all over the world and the area buzzing with mostly twenty something year olds, all busy with some Tweet or some task.

Luckily the first person with whom I had made eye contact with, was exactly the person that I was looking for, namely Roel, my new manager. At this point we had spent no more time getting to know each other than a twenty minute Skype interview, so to say that I was not sure what to expect, is a glorious understatement.

After some small chit chat, Roel showed me my desk and introduced me to the team, thereafter, we had a one on one where he talked me through the ins and outs of the business and what exactly where I fit in.

I was burning to get started. Some people say that South Africans have a great work ethic which I can definitely related to, regarding my own standards.

I mean I just wanted to get going and be productive, no matter for who I work or who the client is.

I was (still am) hired as a Senior Frontend Developer which pretty much means, I build the front part of the website, which is http://www.beerwulf.com and after about an hour or two at the new job, I was already poking and prodding around the website trying to get a feel of how things were done.

So the thing with Front End website development and any software development for that matter is that there are literally thousands of ways to get the job done. Actually tens of thousands of ways, the reason for this is that there are so many software frameworks and libraries and languages out there, which can be used individually,  separately or even integrated to do the same job, so even someone with several years of experience may walk into a job and would still need to spend a few weeks getting a feel for the project.

Luckily for me with this job, I was familiar with most of the technologies used and got orientated within the first day at the job. At this stage there was not really that much for me to do yet but I spent most of my time filling in some technological gaps and helping out my colleges where I could.

Sometimes at a new work, you feel kind of useless the first couple of weeks as you are onboarded and getting the hang of things, here it was not the case and actually at my previous work neither. I was pretty much productive after a day or two but I still believe that the onboarding process at most companies are not complete and there can be a better of doing it than sitting employees down and giving them a brochure or Word document to read but that is a story for another day.

So I always commit to trying to blog more and I am going to try for a post a day, eventually catching up to the present day, then I want to go back in time a bit and write more about Hong Kong, then maybe even go back a bit more and write about isolated incidents in my life but who knows, writing one post a day might deliver some awesome content. Till tomorrow.

Waiting in Limbo

Recently I wrote about my final days in Hong Kong and how I am absolutely ready to start a new life in Amsterdam! Today would have been the day that I race to grab a taxi, then en route to the airport, book my flight and hop on a plane to the Netherlands, all within the span of two hours!

Or at least this was how I had it all planned out in my head…

Here is the current unfortunate situation which I find myself in: All my possessions are packed, my apartment has been spring cleaned and I have given or thrown away all my toiletries, cooking essentials and junk that I have accumulated over the last six months, so now I find myself in a barren apartment, living out of an unsettlingly overpacked suitcase.

Furthermore I have left most of the expat Facebook groups, leaving me slightly vulnerable and understandably lonely, as it is common knowledge that you do not enter a country before joining every expat Facebook group, from “Expats who read in Hong Kong – The Book Club” to “Expats who like to dance – Salsa for expatriates in Hong Kong” and you certainly do not exit these groups whilst still in the county.  In both of the above mentioned groups, I was a pillar in the community, and leaving them was done with a very very heavy heart.

The only slight hang up is that the Dutch Consul still has my passport and I am still waiting for them to let me know when I can pick it up with my works Visa approved.

It is actually the only factor holding me back and worst part of all is that there is nothing I can do about it.

I called the Consul as soon as I woke up, only to be told by the voice messaging service that the Consul is still closed and that they will only open at 09:00AM. This prompted me to call again at 08:30AM and also at 08:59AM, just to be told again the Consul will only open at 09:00AM.

When I called at exactly 09:00AM , my call was answered in a very thick Dutch accent by a very friendly and stern, Bianca, who I assume is not on the premises at the Dutch Consul, but actually in a call centre somewhere in the Netherlands.

Bianca requested my tracking number and after a slight pause, she told me that my Visa application has already been processed, but could technically be anywhere in Asia and there was no way of knowing exactly where it is…

She went as far as telling me that I may only receive my passport in the new year.

Gutted. Absolutely gutted.

Actually, I really believe that everything happens for a reason, and that I will leave Hong Kong exactly when it is meant to happen but this does not stop me from wanting it really badly.

My ex college told me that the secret to life is to really want something, it must be a burning desire, you really need to feel it, but if it does not materialise then you should be perfectly fine with it. It sounds rather contradictory but it actually works in perfect harmony.

With this philosophy, you allow yourself the pleasure of getting really excited about something but you also spare yourself the disappointment if it does not come to fruition.

I am always a naively optimistic, positively positive, optimist who in most cases believes that a situation will always turn out for the best, so with this mindset, the idea of getting my passport in the new year, never even crossed my mind.

I really thought that even though the Visa application process can take up to two weeks and it is the holiday season, I could still get the Visa in a couple of days, so yeah that is the naive optimism which may be shattered today but its has payed off tremendously in the past.

So here I am today, waiting in my favourite little coffee shop where I routinely bought a flat white and a salmon, cream cheese and  poppy seed bagel. This morning I deviated from my routine and bought a standard breakfast of sunny side up eggs, bacon and toast, this may well be my last breakfast in Hong Kong or it may later turn out to be my first breakfast of 2018.

Bags, shoes, outfit and skateboard stacked against a wall and ready to go.
Bags are packed and ready to go.

*South Africans

Three nights and counting…

Sunday night, Monday night and Tuesday night, this is all that I have left before leaving for Amsterdam on Wednesday… Or at least so I hope.

I was actually planning on leaving Hong Kong a few days ago, which would have allowed me to spend Christmas in Muiden, a small city outside Amsterdam, with my girlfriend and her family in their super cosy family home.

Unfortunately my dreams of pyjamas, cuddles, Christmas treats and hot chocolate was stopped dead in their tracks before they could ever realise due to a delayed visa.

Actually it was not delayed at all, in fact it was processed in record time but in this case record time was just not fast enough.

About one month ago I was hired by Beerwulf (the lead online craft and speciality beer retailer in Europe)  as a senior frontend developer, this was amazing news.

The process would most likely have been a breeze had, I been an European citizen, but due to my South African heritage, Beerwulf had to sponsor me with a higher skilled working visa and this naturally takes some time.

The process was started a few days after I signed my employment contract and then it took two weeks for the Dutch government to grant me my work Visa. Once granted by them, I also had to follow several steps to get the process going on my side.

I immediately started with process. The first thing that I needed to do was to apply for an appointment at the Dutch Consul in Hong Kong via their online scheduling system and to my horror, the earliest appointment was for the 31st of January 2018! Off course this was out of the question as I had been planning to start my new employment, bright eyed and bushy tailed, no later than the 2nd of January.

I immediately called the Dutch consul and after several conversations, emails and a lot of pleading, I was granted an appointment 09:00AM the next morning, this was Monday, a week before Christmas.

The following morning I was there with all my documentation, passport photos and  the pleading eyes required to get the necessary assistance. In my heart I knew it would be a stretch, I mean just the fact that I was already granted an earlier appointment was already a stretch but alas, upon leaving the Dutch Consul after handing in my completed paperwork, I gave Tracy one more teary eyed look and mumbled something about Christmas alone in Hong Kong. This would surely do the trick, I naively thought.

The big thing is that they need ones passport which I handed in my passport at Tuesday 09:00AM, it then had to be shipped to the back office in Beijing, there it had to be approved, processed, examined, fraud checked and then shipped back to Hong Kong and in order for me to be in the Netherlands for Christmas, this had to happen before Friday, so like I said, “This would do the trick, I naively thought”.

After handing in my passport, I called the Dutch Consul several times over the following days, even my girlfriend called them trying to speed up the process. On Friday they informed us that my passport has been mailed back to Hong Kong but it would not be here before Christmas 😦

In defence of the Dutch Consul, they were always super helpful and super friendly but unfortunately all our calls, tears and prayers (yes we did pray) did not increase the speed at which the government official graced the pages of my passport with their tired stamps.

Hence this post and hence me still being in Hong Kong for Christmas.

So is it disappointing to still be here?

Well I did have my hopes up about spending Christmas with my girlfriend and her family and about making the big move to Amsterdam (I am packed and can be at the airport in 45 minutes) but actually it is ok… I have been invited by my (ex) manager from Palo-IT to spend Christmas with her and some friends, which I am really looking forward to and I also have time to say farewell to Hong Kong and all that goes with it.

It can be easy to forget but Hong Kong has been great and it has also been great to me and it will stay in my heart forever. ❤

Back at Kuala Lumpur airport en route to Bangkok

Little restaurant where I am writing this post.
Little restaurant where I am writing this post.

It was almost two weeks ago that I was also here at the Kuala Lumpur International airport, blogging about my final days at Suwit Gym in Thailand. Well here I am again, this time I am blogging about my final days in the Philippines.

My last week at Boracay Legacy gym went past in a blur. I contracted food poisoning and this stole an entire day from me, which I spent lying in bed, nursing my dehydration with blue Gatorade.

In six months of traveling through South East Asia, regularly eating street food and drinking water or tea from jugs on the table, I had never once contracted food poisoning. The closest that I came, was a slightly upset stomach, which was more than likely my own fault, caused by dousing my food with enough chilli to kill a small elephant.

But this time it was different… I was completely void of all energy and strength, simple movements were a real struggle and I could not stomach any food, I only just managed to keep liquids down.

It was not only me who fell ill, another trainee and one of our trainers also got very sick and their symptoms aligned perfectly with mine. The strange thing is that we were five people who ate at the same place and three of us got seriously ill, whilst the other two were fine. We may have all had different food but I cannot recall exactly what I ate.

Apart from the food poisoning, two girls, who train with me, had an official boxing match, this will be its own blog post and we had a barbecue party at the gym, also a post on its own and I also had a few final great training sessions.

So I have a lot of writing and catching up to do but right now I need to head over to my boarding gate to catch my red eye flight to Bangkok.

Impressive airport ceiling.
Impressive airport ceiling.

Back in action at Boracay Legacy Gym

I woke up feeling a whole lot better today, my energy levels were still not 100% but I was ready to train. The wind was so loud, it drowned out the roosters, that normally wake me up. I did not think that there will be beach conditioning due to the windy weather, but at 8:00 AM I got ready for it anyway.

Despite the windy weather, the group gathered and we made it down to the beach, where we had another intense session of sprints, jumps, crawls and push ups on the beach.

It was not the hardest session ever, we have had worst but I was thankful as I am still recovering from the flu.

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After the morning session Tim and I went for fruit shakes, I had a banana, peanut and chocolate shake, no sugar. Melissa who runs the little shake and breakfast shop already knows the drill, no sugar and no milk, just the fruit, some cocoa powder and ice, simple but makes for a great shake.

We were planning on doing boxing training after our shakes but training had been cancelled, which again, I was thankful for and took the time to rest before going out a few hours later for lunch.

Lunch was at our old time favourite Na-Meet, we had the usual of rice with a couple of side dishes, delicious home cooked food.

This afternoon I had an interesting training session. We did our warm ups and was immediately told to wrap our hands and put on our gloves. We were paired up with a partner and did two rounds with that partner before moving on to a new partner.

My first partner was great, he is very fit Filipino boxer, who clearly has some great experience, he gave me a real run for my money with his ducks, dodges and side steps, very good session.

After two rounds I moved on to Christiaan, with whom I did spar with before but very lightly. Today it seemed that he had some kind of score to settle up as he threw punches hard enough to take my head right off. Keep in mind, the sparring sessions are supposed to be without real power, therefore I don’t even wear a mouth guard.

So after repeatedly asking Christian to take it easy, the coaches also told him to control his punches from the side, I realised that I have to fight back. One of his weaknesses is his fitness, I definitely have the upper hand when it comes to raw fitness.

So I started dancing around him, staying out of range of his punches and just coming in close when I wanted to attack. I could immediately tell he was frustrated with my tactics as he was hell bent on hitting me even harder.

After dancing around him a couple of times and also hitting back with all the power I had, he stopped me and said, “You are hitting hard.”, I said “Yes off course!” and showed him my bleeding lip where just moments before he threw a straight punch which I could not block and the inside of my lip exploded.

The last few seconds we went very hard, it was more than just sparring, it was a personal little battle but it was still good fun. In the end we bumped gloves and moved on but I am sure that I could take him if we were to have a proper one on one boxing fight.

My third partner was Leah, yes a girl who packs a mighty punch and also knows some pretty wild combos. By the time I sparred with her, I was exhausted and barely finished the two rounds.

It was great. I think to really compete I need to take a private lesson or two which I might do tomorrow or Thursday. That is it for today, here are some more Boracay shots.

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