Monday, June 15, 2009

Cappadocia, Baths, and Boys

Cave Dwelling in Cappadocia
Flintstones, meet the Flintstones. Cappadocia is in central Turkey and apart from having the most diverse landscapes of anywhere I have seen in my travels, we lived in a cave for three days. Yes, the ancient civilizations carved their cities out of volcanic stones and had miles of underground cities that could house societies up to 100,000 people during times of invasions.
As many of you know, this region was the main stomping grounds of the Crusades and people often had to live for months, even years at a time underground to avoid attacks.
Just out of an Indiana Jones movie, these caves and passageways have rocks which roll into place to block invaders and long, creepy tunnel, which no longer house skeletons, but modern day excretions from the locals. People still live in some of the caves, and others are preserved for tourist attractions.
Early Christian churches have well preserved frescoes inside since the temperature is constant year round. The columns and archways are carved into the rock rather than built up as modern technology mandates today. The rock is so porous, it absorbed smoke and almost every room contains a fire pit in the center.

The Turkish Bath Experience
I remember studying the Romans in Mrs. Widmeyer’s 6th grade social studies class, then again in architectural history courses through college. The baths looked so relaxing. A cold pool, a warm pool, slaves fanning you with palms and feeding you grapes over your head, reclined on a chaise lounge surrounded by Roman columns, mosaics and boys in loincloths. In my imagination, Turkish baths were much the same.

NOT! We checked off one of the 1,000 places to see before we die..the Cagaloglu Hamami, 300 year old Turkish baths in Istanbul. Architecturally, it is an amazing structure with concrete domes protruded by a central occulus and small cylindrical punctures through the shell. The floors are marble and Persian rugs line the hallways to private changing rooms opening up to a central atrium with a tearoom below. International women are lounging in orange Turkish towels.

Once undressed, a large Turkish woman takes you by hand into the anti-chamber to change into your pink water shoes to keep from slipping naked onto the marble floor, like Bambi on ice. A blast of hot, humid air emits from central chamber. There is no bath, Jacuzzi, reflecting pool or any body of water. The perimeter has faucets flowing into marble sinks and metal buckets to rinse your body. If you do not get wet enough, the large Turkish lady takes the bucket into her own hands to douse you with cold water over the head.

She then reprimands in Turkish and maybe if she speaks louder, I will understand. I do not, so she forces me to follow her to the central marble platform where I am placed with eight other naked women, head to toe in an octagonal formation under the dome. I cannot understand what she wants so she manhandled me into position and dumped another bucket of cold water over me…two for me, one for her.
She motions for me to put my hands over my head, which end up on some other woman’s feet, then she massaged my front, my entire front from head to toe before exfoliating two layers of my epidermis off my body. She grabs my hand to feel the pile of dead flesh on my stomach. It feels as if someone dumped a box of dried mashed potatoes on my tummy. She started yelling at me in Turkish again and I don’t understand…. whoosh – another bucket of cold water dumped on me and she flipped me over like a pancake.

Same thing on the other side. My feet are in someone else's hair and my face is on someone’s leg. I hope she left some skin on my back. I am flipped again and she motions for me to go rinse myself off. Upon return she has a bucket of soapy water. I get a dry massage, a wet massage and soap massage on each side as she rotates me around as a pig on a skewer and I am kneaded like a pile of dough. Soap gets in my eyes and she can see me fidgeting frantically. WHOOSH, whoosh, two buckets of water over my head and I am gasping for air. She applies the soap with a shredded palm mop and I am covered in bubbles and lubricated from head to toe, sliding around on the marble slab, laughing hysterically and crying, because this is NOT what I expected.

More buckets of water are poured over me to get the soap off. She shows no mercy for washing me down in buckets of cold water. If I was in Turkish prison, this is how they would bathe me. Now she wants to wash my hair and I feel like she just made cotton candy on my head, then about ten buckets of water, one right after the other as I was, laughing, screaming and gasping for air all at the same time. She takes a comb and is ripping the hair out of my head. Without conditioner, my hair is a giant knot and I beg her to stop. I could not even open my eyes because I was not sure when the next rinse was about to happen.

She gave me a big bear hug, says me very pretty, and points me to the hot room…as if this one was not hot enough. Here I sat in the Turkish steam room as Laura and Katy join me one by one. It was the most barbaric bath I have ever had, but at least I got a parting gift of Hello Kitty panties.

The Turkish Guide to Picking up foreign women
Tip #1, hang at nearest famous mosque or architectural relic.

Tip #2, get yourself a carpet shop and dress it like a Jeannie’s Bottle!

Tip #3, compliment EVERY woman who walks by…one of them is bound to entertain you.
Tip #4, it doesn’t matter how young or old the girl is, just go for it! My favorite young man who tried to get me in bed in Lebanon had the line, which was also a favorite of the Turks – “age makes no difference, you can be like Demi Moore…”

We had to make a compilation of our favorite pick up lines, although almost every one starts trying to guess our nationality. This must be the international icebreaker.

“We are 3 men, you are 3 women…yeah?” (enter silly grin here)

“Where did you steal your beautiful eyes from?”

“Are you Jennifer Aniston.” Yes, it does not help to travel with someone that looks like her twin. The best I got was Paris Hilton, but at least I had Madonna’s arms from the guy at the baths.
“I get off of work at 11:15pm – you come back and we go dance.” This came in some way or fashion from just about every waiter we encountered throughout the trip until we realized the sign language I thought was to get the bill, may have been asking him for his phone number.
“Are you real, or are you a dream?”

“Hey Angel Lady...”
“Have you fallen from Heaven?”
“Let me change your Life.” In Cappadocia, Katy and I had dessert and wine with a couple of Hot Air Balloon pilots and a carpet shop salesman. The Hot Air Balloon industry is booming in Cappadocia and a middle class income is easily obtainable to charge tourist 250 Euros for a short morning soar over the rock valleys. This is the most lucrative industry in the region and it opens up the Turkish men to meet mass quantities of foreign women. They were very honest about the marketing prospects in Turkey in regards to tourism. Basically everything costs more than it should.
A Foreign Girl’s Guide to avoiding the Turkish Men
Tip #1, get up at 5am to take pictures at all the touristy areas…all the Turkish men are hung over on Raki at least until 9am. You can wander the streets of Istanbul freely without any fat cruise boat people and busloads of German tourists in your pictures…and the sky looks pretty cool too. Wake up with the first Morning Prayer call.

Tip #2, pretend to be Helen Keller – blind, deaf and mute…ignore them, they are not there you can not see them. Some may actually follow you for sometime, so if this happens and you actually need to open your mouth, pretend to be foreign, really foreign, and speak a language none of them knows. I used to pretend that I was Swedish and talk pig Latin with a ‘fart’ after every word. Try it with a friend, you can actually understand what they are saying and it really does sound like Swedish. Then I realized that most people know that everyone in Sweden speaks English, so I started to pretend I was Polish, which I am and can speak a couple phrases, but nobody in Turkey can actually speak Polish and they will be dead in the water.

Tip #3 put your iPod on and DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH ANYONE. Even if a man follows you like a puppy dog, remember Tip #2, they are not there if you cannot see them.
It is hard though, because they are honest people, trying to make a living…Well, honest may be stretching it, but deep down I bet they are really nice.

The Turkish man’s dream is to run off with a foreign woman, or at least have a fling, because as Ramadandan, ‘Rambo,’ on the beach at Ephesus put it, and sorry for the harsh language, “If you f@ck a Turkish girl, you are expected to marry her, but foreign women you can just fu$k.” This was an interesting fellow who though he could impress three American girls with his stories of all the international women he has ‘f*ck@d,’ including the Japanese woman who begged him to stop after five times in a night. Seriously, the word fcuk was every other word out of his mouth.

Tips #4 – never any under circumstance, find you alone with a Turkish man, especially at night. He will ask you out for a drink and every excuse you make will be rebutted to make it more convenient for you.

Yes, you CAN go back to Constantinople! A flight from Istanbul to Amsterdam, to Washington, DC – living a couple blocks from Obama’s house for an ISPE conference and getting over jetlag by walking the mall. Made it back to SF the next evening with Stefano waiting for me at the airport. I am suffering schwarma withdrawals.

During the flights, I started to plan Kelly’s next adventure! Africa, including Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya and Zanzibar! I hope to leave on Christmas Eve for a layover in Chicago to see Anabelle Bananabelle’s first Christmas. Oddly enough, my flight on Christmas night flies through Istanbul again, so I will be able to return for another layover en route to Addis.

In Ethiopia, I hope to visit an orphanage that my friend from MBA classes is supporting through a non-profit organization. She worked for Gilead, a biotech company that provides HIV medication to children in Ethiopia. She adopted a little girl from Addis and will be living there this summer to work in the orphanage. I am helping her gather medical supplies from Genentech and Bay Area hospitals to take over there and researching the possibilities of maybe adopting a little girl from there someday. It will be nice to learn more about the culture before jumping into such a large commitment. Some people say it is like going to the SBCA to 'look' almost always end up coming home with a puppy....

From Addis I will travel to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, embark on an African safari and SCUBA dive in Zanzibar! Meanwhile, Amazon picked up my children’s book – World Playground. You can order it online from there and now! Cute little Anabelle keeps growing and I will be working on the sequel soon – Anabelle Bananabelle’s Totally Terrific Travel Tales!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Turkey and The Republic of Georgia

After 5 months officially back in the US, I am starting to recover from the culture shock of leaving my jet-setting life in Singapore behind. People warned me about the depression expatriates feel coming home, but I didn’t realize how hard it would be to go back. I went from living it up in a $10K/month apartment with maids, waterfalls, pools, relaxing on white sand beaches on weekends and riding my bike to Malaysia to cleaning my own toilets, gardening, reconstructing dry rot during the rainy season, replacing sewers and cleaning up the shit-n-slide in my neighbor’s yard.

So I have taken a break from the blog to write a children’s book instead – it is published on, called World Playground, a compellation of pictures I have taken of children around the world. I dedicated the book to my niece, Anabelle Hanna, who was born April 20th. Anabelle in Farsi means, ‘I am beautiful,’ so she will be saying that every time she says her name. I got to see her for the first time this weekend in Madison, Wisconsin, where Brian and Nancy live. Boy is she cute and I am not just saying that because I am now Aunt Kelly. She has this little layer of puppy fur that makes her even more adorable.

That evening began the next international travel in Turkey and The Republic of Georgia, located on the Black Sea that Russia tried to take over last year. Why the heck would I choose to Tbilisi, Georgia? It all started in Singapore last summer while I was working on the mycoplasma lab with a colleague from Georgia, Vadim Estravi. His family is high in the political system, extending from Georgian knighthood. He was consulting with me on master planning ideas for a biotech campus sponsored by the Georgian government. Vadim has an accent similar to Count Dracula and my favorite memory of him was listening to him order chicken blood for the mycoplasma lab. It sounded like a crank call.

Then on New Year’s Day as I set my resolutions for 2009, I decided to not travel as a tourist anymore, but try to travel with a purpose of preserving cultures or educating people along the way. I contacted a professor from architecture school who is a world known Byzantine architectural historian a former boyfriend spend two summers uncovering frescoes in the caves of Cappadocia, Turkey. Professor Ousterhaut replied to my email within hours and although Turkey does not give archeological permits to foreigners anymore, there is some work being done in Georgia. He has a contact at the University of Pennsylvania working in Vani and gave me the contact to the curator at the National Museum at Tbilisi, which needs help with a structural analysis.

Last semester, I combined my term paper for my international logistics class on manufacturing collaborations, using Vadim’s project as my case study, so I have a little background on Georgia.

Istanbul, not Constantinople
My first stop was a layover in Istanbul. I booked the Kybele Hotel ( as recommended by a Russian friend of mine and it was amazing with a prime location within a minute of Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and the Hippodrome. Turkish lamps line the ceiling with a charming tea parlor, courtyard and, of course, a carpet shop. As I step out the door, there are no less then 10 men who want to me my friend…and probably sell me a carpet. (See note on research for Marketing 343 on facebook.)

“But you must have an escort in Istanbul..” one hustler recommended.
“If I accepted every invitation to escort me, I would have a line of Turkish men behind me.”

I refused them all until a very attractive one stuck with me a while and snuck me into the Muslim side of the closed Blue Mosque. Ramadan is his name because he was born during the feast of Ramadan and is sure to let me know that he is Kurdish and not Turkish. Kurds are a derivative of the Iranians who live primarily through Turkey, Syria and Armenia. I am blunt that I am not interested in a tour guide, jewelry or a carpet, but he is still adamant on following me like a puppy dog. He does know Istanbul well and led me in all the right directions to make the most of my 24 hours, including a roof terrace looking over the sea and a mosque for sunset.

He seems less like a salesman and more like a friend now. As I learned in Morocco, Fiji and Egypt, if you have a local with you, all others will leave you alone. Ramadan inquires on my age and wants to know if ‘I have boyfriend.’ I tell him about Stefano, which he is sure that all Italians cheat on their women, which led to an interesting conversation about sex around the world and how foreign men view it.

He claims I am now his ‘sister’ and he is my brother.
“My real brother tried to sell me for camels last year in Lebanon. You wouldn’t do that to me, would you?”
He just looked at me perplexed. It is Mother’s Day in Turkey, but I do not accept his invitation to meet his mother for dinner…she probably wants to sell me a carpet too.

Georgia – Home of the Unibrow!
Am I in Russia, the Middle East or Eastern Europe? I am lost among cultures, but I like it. Nothing is in English, the language has no western characters and sounds Russian. Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia and it is the only place where a Mosque and Synagogue exist next to each other. Some churches look Christian Byzantine, some have onion domes as in Russia, and others were constructed around 500AD and taken over by different religions through time. Great Medieval research for Sword Lake.

I wandered into a very organized protest encouraging the resignation of Mikheil Saakashvili, the president. Although I do not know what is being preached to the crowd, I can tell by the tone, the pauses, and the applause that it is politically charged. There are a large amount of supporters and some travel in ‘cells’, which are temporary structures, aligned perfectly in the streets with cots to house the protesters. They have shut down the main thoroughfare to Liberty Square and caused chaos and a huge traffic jam in Tbilisi at rush hour. If you cannot beat ‘em, join them. Cars just park in the jam and join the protest.

The next day, what I thought would be a quick hike up to a tower outside my hotel, turned into more than a three-hour tour. This tower lights up like the Eiffel Tower at night and seems to have viewing platforms. It is WAY farther up the mountain than it looks and what, are these people, goats? What starts as a paved staircase with rails through a field of red poppies turns into me bushwhacking up a mountain with rusted cables that used to support the Gondola? Once I make it to the top, there is a huge security fence surrounding it. Now I know I cannot possibly go down the hillside I had to scale and I can see vehicles up there, so there must be a road down.

I walked the perimeter of the fence until I find a hole, which every Tbilisian teenager has probably snuck through at some point. Once inside, I realize I have just broken into an amusement park. This may be most people’s dream, but my nightmare because all the rides are running, it is filled with carnival workers and I am the only visitor. Guards are approaching me, but I have no idea what they are saying, so I am good now at playing stupid blonde. Every time I think I see a way out, the guards will not let me leave! I am trapped in an amusement park and the Carnies are stalking me!

I find a service road and take it downhill, except it is the wrong way down the side of the mountain. I am hoping for a switch back to reorient me back to Tbilisi, but an hour down the road, I am just in a small village. It is a beautiful walk, surreal green rolling hills with snowcapped mountains in the distance and I still feel like I am in a dream, and I may be walking, like, FOREVER.

I see 5 teenage boys ahead who I think are making fun of me. I ask if they speak English and they just make obnoxious noises. I say Tbilisi? And point downhill. But they have no idea what the crazy girl in spandex is saying (I was not expecting to encounter people when I set out this morning.) A bus pulls up and I just hop on to hope it goes to Tbilisi. Half an hour down windy roads in a rickety bus and these boys may be retarded and who knows, I could be heading for the zoo. Finally we turn a corner and I can see Tbilisi. It would have taken me 3 days to walk. I saw a Monastery on the side of the road, hopped out without paying and took pictures of this 5th century church before finishing my walk home.

According to my Georgian friends the amusement park was the work of a billionaire who made his millions in Russia. The Georgian government was going to strip him of it if he did not reinvest it in a public project for Georgia. He skipped out of town to London and had a massive heart attack...coincidence, I think not.

Yesterday I met up with Vadim’s brother and good friend to visit some hella old churches and eat traditional Georgian food, which would be perfect for a hangover. The biggest cup o’beans, fried pork dumplings, ground beef rolled in dough, and fried cheese. I may be in Wisconsin.

Today I am adventured with two wild and crazy guys on a mountain bike ride into some gorges and through the rolling hills, past 5th century monestaries and cave dwellings. 60km, mostly uphill and my legs are exhausted. Political uprising is brewing and the President will break it up on Saturday if the protesters do not leave. Tomorrow I head back to Istanbul to meet up with Laura and Katy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


The Land of OZ
Do you come from the land down under? Upon arrival on the red eye from Singapore, I am questioned by the customs agent about bringing cash, fruits, vegetables…oh and am I convicted felon? “Isn’t this where we are supposed to come?” I ask.

The amount of hot young guys in my neighborhood at 6:30am, just returning from the clubs, is amazing….then I realize that I am in the gay part of town…not that there is anything wrong with that. I am staying at a stylish boutique hotel at King’s Cross called the Diamante. The staff are all very good-looking gay men, but bitchier than the women that live to watch Oprah.

The host makes it seem like my room is just about ready at 7am – why don’t you grab breakfast. An hour later they are still working on it. I inquired again – just 5 more mins….half an hour passes…they are just checking on the room. Half an hour later he disappears long enough to get boofed. When he returns, it is back to 5 mins. Finally at 11am, I give up on my room and take off into the city. This starts my bad relationship with this queen.

It is a blustery Winnie the Pooh day in Sydney. Just perfect for having lunch with a friend and wandering Georges Street to start my Christmas Shopping between down pours. The city has a very similar feel to SF and London combined. King’s Cross, where I am staying, is a center point between the C
astro, Tenderloin, North Beach and the Marina. What this means to those of you not from SF – gays, heroin addicts, nudie joints, the trendy spots for dining and night clubs. Very cosmopolitan.

That evening, by recommendation of my friend Megan on the ANZA cycling team, I hang at the ‘place to be’ on Friday nights in Sydney. A bar called Ivy, upon multiple levels en plein air of posh yuppie population. Here I meet other visitors from London and Perth who are in town on business.

Maybe the Dingo ate ‘cha shoe

The next morning, the storms cleared and I set out to walk the city in my cool green shoes, which are soon to become the victim of a shoe fetish. I walked from Kings Cross through Hyde Park to the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Sydney Opera House, the Rocks and down to Circular Quay to take a ferry to Manly.

The ferry to Manly offers stellar views of the Harbor Bridge, Opera House and upon arrival; Manly is similar to Berkeley, if it had a nice beach. Christmas in the summer is hard to image, but all of the holiday fair vendors line the pedestrian walkways to the beach.

In the evening I met up with a girl from Washington, DC who has been traveling for 3 months on her own. We went to try one of the trendy bars and restaurants in Potts Point, Lotus, known not only for their outstanding cocktails with creative names, but stellar cuisine. She has just finished traveling Fiji and New Zealand, much like the trip I took two years ago.

The next morning is beach day. I travel to Bondi beach, which is the LA of Australia, known for Bondi Rescue on Australian TV, equivalent to Bay Watch. From there, I hiked a costal walk across multiple shorelines and cliffs to Coogee Beach. I baked on the beach, just long enough for me to realize there is no ozone layer in Australia.

My last morning, I awoke at 6am to take a BodyPump class down the street. This is the exact same class I have done for the 3 rd day in a row and multiple times in Singapore. Les Mills is an idiot for introducing these pathetic monotamous aerobic classes to the world, but I need some arm work since I’ll be sitting on planes all day.

When I left, my other 2 pairs of shoes were neatly places in my closet shelf, like every anal architect would do. Upon my return, one, only one, of my favorite green platform sandals remained. Disappeared! Poof, into thin air. This is my favorite pair of travel shoes purchased in NYC. I never get blisters in them. Now the queen I am having problems with during my stay at Diamante is working the desk, saw me leave for the gym, and I had to trade him my key for the pass. Either he is trying to make me crazy or has a shoe fetish. I hope he doesn’t stick the shoe anywhere intimate, especially since I walked through all kinds of dung in India with them.

When in the land of OZ….there is no place like home….
The last day is the most beautiful and I have to spend it on planes all day. I flew first to Perth to get a birds eye vies of the Outback. The coast is beautiful. The land between cities is desolate. The people are friendly, but rival the Americans for being obnoxious, especially while traveling.

Before leaving for OZ, I had another embarrassing moment in an Asia massage parlor. No happy ending, no yogurt, but this time I fainted and puked. I blame it on a combination of dehydration from cycling 60k prior in the middle of the day, not eating enough and then having a deep tissue massage, releasing toxins into my body. I felt my temperature raise, nausea hit, a loud music went through my head and I tried to open my eyes, but everything was dark.

Next thing I know I wake up on the floor with two Chinese girls washing me down with cool towels. My body was covered in sweat and when I gained consciousness, I tossed my cookies. Once I got water down I was able to walk, but still could not hold down food.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Friday I organized Singapore’s first Biopharmaceutical Symposium at the Biopolis Matrix Auditorium. I had hoped to get 100-200 students to attend. I reserved a theater that held 480, out of convenience and location. 674 students registered and at least 600 showed up. I hoped it would be similar to the US where students sign up to get out of classes and take an early weekend. Kids were sitting in the aisles, but the event was a success set to become a yearly conference.

The next day I took off for Mumbai. Bombay. Bollywood! I flew in around 10pm to the Grand Hyatt Mumbai. It is a fortressed complex with the slums along the perimeter of the premises, but once inside, it is a modern-day palace. It is Saturday night and I ask the concierge if there are any nightclubs nearby. Well, coincidence has it that the Hyatt houses the China Room – Mumbai’s premiere club where the Bollywood stars hang.
I waited until midnight to check it out and was quickly escorted to the front of the line – one of the benefits of being blonde in India! However, once inside the posh spread of a glowing bar surrounded by expensive rooms to rent by the hour, well stocked with liquor, I realize that I am the only Caucasian in the bar and feel again like a piece of meat. I made friends with two Indian Airline Stewardesses who could pass for Bollywood’s finest, but I couldn’t recognize one of the stars if they were looking me in the eyes. Now I know some of you are asking yourselves ‘why the hell did she go back to India?’ after my last visit under the curse of Shiva and the six weeks, six medications, and ten pounds I lost in a most unhealthy way. I LOVE INDIA! I am also speaking at the International Bioprocess Conference and seeing the more Westernized side of the country, but not before I jet down to the beaches of Goa.

Going to Goa
The 45-minute drive from the airport to Baga Beach, I was living on a prayer. The taxi driver had no regard for cars coming in the opposite direction as he enjoyed playing chicken with trucks and cattle. However, what I have learned is that the makeshift shrine on his dashboard will save us from any accidents. I just need to hold on and enjoy the ride.
What is strange in Goa though is the fact that the shrine is actually Jesus – no Shiva or monkey gods looking me in the eyes – it is actually the Son of God. Christian Indians? Who’d a thunk? And by the number of churches and crosses on the side of the road, I realize this is not the India I know.

The Portuguese settled Goa and the people are Jesus freaks! Sunday on the beach hosted the Indian techies who have driven in from the internal Silicon Valleys to enjoy the waves in their business attire, un-stealthfully snapping photos of me on their phone cameras. Some are actually bold enough to ask to have their photo taken with me…as I wonder how many are referring to me now as their ‘girlfriend.’ Sunset brought a break in the crowds of young men, allowing me the chance to do yoga under the stars in peace. The beaches are beautiful, strolling for miles with a gentle slope down to the Arabian Sea. Fishing villages and restaurants line the shore.

The next day, I have my own beach hut where the Indian boys protect me from the passers by, cursing them in Hindi if they even glance my way. This is their beach and I am their Betty!
I did homework, watching the sunset at a beachside cafĂ©, listening to the Thriller album. read a Sedaris book and started my term papers. I don’t mind the smell of India anymore. Now that I expect it, I just enjoy the stench as part of my adventures. The slums outside of my boutique hotel are actually beautiful in a way to me, as well as the beautiful little girls in their colorful saris waving at me as I pass.

Fashion Week

Bombay’s Lamke Fashion Week – where the Bollywood stars walk the runways in the newest Indian mode. The morning I flew from Goa back to Mumbai, I was mistaken for an Eastern European model at the airline luggage belt. A nicely dressed gentleman who had been riding in first class inquired on my presence at Fashion Week. Unfortunately, I am here to speak for a Bioprocess conference. As we waited for the bags, he gave me the lowdown on the Indian fashion industry and all the parties that would revolve around it. “Please come tonight as my guest when you are done with your meetings.” as he passed me his business card. Executive VP of marketing for India’s largest media company.

After sitting through a day of technology transfer, IP legislation and biological guru talks, it was time to see the real Mumbai. I Google his company to make sure he was legit and emailed the man. Within seconds, I had directions to the premiere event in town along with tickets to two fashion shows.
As I pondered my suitcase, I realized, oh shit, what does one wear to Bombay Fashion Week? All I have is business attire and beach clothes. What would Carry Bradshaw wear? I picked up a black bathing suit cover up I bought for 150 rupees (~$4). It is sheer, black and sequenced up – together with a black mini-skirt; I was ready for the catwalk. I walked down to the foyer to grab a cab and was informed that I cannot get through Mumbai due to the riots in progress.

RIOTS? Raj, a politician, was imprisoned and now the riots have started to demand his release. I knew there were problems at the airport this morning and cabs were hard to come by, but I cannot miss my only opportunity to see the Bollywood stars on the runway. I went to street level to try negotiating with taxis, rickshaws and limousine drivers and no one would dare enter the riot areas, until I met Bala, my bodyguard. Bala knew all the back roads and was not afraid of the media’s scare on Mumbai and as he promised me, it was a situation blown out of proportion and the ride to Fashion Week was without traffic, congestion or Indians setting cars on fire. Tuhin met me at the door of the auditorium , which is the Indian equivalent to Christmas next week.

As we wander from designer showcases and trunk shows, stopping in the private lounges sponsored by Chivas and Skoda for drinks along the way, I realize he is purposely making me walk a good 3-4 steps behind him and I feel like a paid escort.
The runway shows were amazing with the fabrics and saris clad over the most beautiful women in the world and concluding each show with a Bollywood start to showoff the premiere creation. I catch him staring at me often and rubbing my leg with his hand. He is relatively a nice man, successful and interesting, but way too paternalistic for me to ever to consider as a mate.

As the last show closed, we headed to a party at the Taj with my bodyguard trailing behind us. The parties would go on until dawn and I had to present at 9am. While Tuhin was trying to get me to go home with him, I had a good excuse to exit stage left.

My presentation was well received by the International community and Germans, Swedes, Indians, and Englishmen all approached me after the talk to find out more about our modular project in Singapore. It is a revolutionary process design in SE Asia and it was rewarding to know how influential the project I spent the last 18 months on was to the rest of the world.

An overnight flight from Mumbai back to Singapore to Raphael’s to find out the Singapore position did not come through for him and he will be returning to Germany at the end of November. This is where our story ends. He is going back to the Black Forest and me to California. I have to say I have learned a lot from this relationship and wish it had worked logistically.
The next morning, I boarded a plane to SF via Korea. The next morning to Atlanta via Denver to visit Samantha. The next to Boca Raton via Charolette for an International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers Convention. Fifteen Flights in one week.

Free Bird

The night at the Bombay fashion shows, I was approached by a man who unsolicitedly read my palm. It is scary he revealed almost the same information to me that the little Chinese lady did a few months ago, however, he extrapolated more than the fire inside, the stubborness, the two loves and hard worker in me – he says that I am a ‘Free Bird’ and I do not want to be tied down by anything….also that I am looking for something specific and I will not stop until I find it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Phuck It

Phuket – pronounced ‘poo-kay’
Saw a man drown in the sea off the coast Nai Harn beach this weekend. It was very disturbing with no sense of urgency. A drunken Thai kid got caught in the rip tide and while it took four guys to find his body that was submerged for a good 20-30 minutes, when they got him to shore there was no ambulance, no resuscitation efforts, nobody with this boy who cared that he died. Instead, each holding one of his limp limbs, they threw him in the back of a tsunami rescue SUV.

So the first day in Phuket, we relaxed at the pool, had lunch on the beach watching the kite surfers, played a little tennis and had an $8 Thai massage, which felt more like a power yoga class. The woman contorted my body into formations I never though possible. That evening we rented a scooter and drove an hour at dusk to Patong Beach to walk the streets of sex shows, man ladies, old, perverted men and drunk Aussies.

The second day we took the scooter all over the island, visiting beaches and marinas along the way and window-shopped the knock-off designer stalls.

The third day we thought we would bike the National Park preserve, but we only got about 2 km before the monsoon downpour. We took cover in an abandoned restaurant for an hour with a Thai family. When the heavy rain subsided, we rode through the wet streets back to the Indigo Pearl for a day of sports. First I got another pretzel massage, then Raphael and I played some ping pong, followed by Mui Thai boxing, billiards while watching the Berlin marathon, the gym and then an evening of watching the Formula 1 race in Singapore.

Raphael is very competitive and a black belt in karate. He was not impressed with my boxing skills and was rather annoyed that I would not do exactly as he, the master, says. He showed no mercy in beating me up and then he punched me in the nose and knocked the wind out of me, telling me I did not move fast enough. I have finally met my match. He is stronger, faster, smarter, more anal (yes, even more anal than Carl and I put together!) and I am finding it difficult to keep up.

Cohabitation can teach you a lot about someone. My new roommate follows me around with a vacuum to get those blonde hairs and cookie crumbs sucked up, does the laundry EVERY day, irons his socks, underwear and Tshirts, AND has four closets organized like a Banana Republic….10 white shirts, 10 blue shirts, 10 blue shirts with stripes, 10 dark blue shirts, 10 dark blue shirts with stripes, 10 pairs of khakis, 10 Armani suits, 3 black and 3 brown pairs of Pradas, Italian gym shoes that cost $300 and look like what grandpa wore in 1985, a collection of D&G leather belts, 10 watches ranging from $5K-$25K ea in a humidity-controlled chamber, and countless other European designer fashions of whom I can not pronounce or spell the names.

Kelly Raw – TMI (too much information, as usual)
Most of you know that I can be very vulgar in speaking of bodily functions, so if you are a bit prudish or do not wish to hear about my personal issues, stop reading now. NOW I SAY! I have already shared my diaper rash problem from biking long distances in sweaty spandex. Combine that with a Brazilian (the people in the next room must have thought I was suffering from Tourettes syndrome when I had it), not seeing your boyfriend for 3 weeks, being dehydrated for three days after a 200km ride in the Orient, you have the perfect storm for a fungal infection.

Now granted I pride myself for getting to be 37 years old without suffering from a yeast infection, I still am not keen on going to see a doctor, especially in Thailand. Instead, I consulted Google for symptoms, prescriptions and home remedies. Since it is difficult to find Monistat 7 in the 7-Elevens of Thailand, I raided the yogurt from the hotel breakfast bar. Most of the websites recommend yogurt as the cure all for yeast infections and can offer handy tips on how to get it up there. I was not about to make yogurt popsicles to stick up my couchie.

Now all was good until after I got rained on during the ride and went straight for a Thai massage. Usually I wear my undies during massages, but I did not wear any with my spandex, which was now soaked from the rain. Therefore, I was getting my contortionist massage in the buff. All was fine until the little Thai woman started walking all over my back, putting pressure on my stomach and, of course, squeezing the yogurt out. Now the masseuse must of though that whitey wide-eyes was either really excited by the massage, or she is suffering from some really bad STD. On Seinfeld, you might get that from riding the tractor with no undies....

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hong Kong

Hong Kong Phooey -
(wasn't this atom ant or secret squirrel's sidekick?)
Just returned from my third home leave back to California where it was as hot as Singapore but without the humidity. On the way back, I took a 36-hour layover in Hong Kong and experienced an amazing time in the city. It is very easy to explore from the airport and I would encourage everyone flying through to take the extra day or two to see it. Contrary to what others have told me, I found the city extremely cosmopolitan with cutting-edge architecture, easy to navigate, clean, and the people were very friendly. Maybe it was a face for the Olympics. It reminded me of a mix between Singapore and the Bay Area, with wonderful hills with hiking galore.

In my first eight hours I took planes, limousines, shuttles, MTRs, an alpine gondola, a ferry and a taxi ride throughout the city. Landed at sunrise and did not stop sightseeing until sunset, when jetlag began to take me down.

The gondola takes you through the hills to the base of the largest outdoor Buddha statue with a killer staircase to reach him. Around his backside is the Wisdom Path where someone cut trees in half and performed calligraphy on them. Maybe it was the aliens. Then there is a path up to a peak, but I turned back on since I was in my urban hiking stilettos and had no sunscreen. I did peddle a black cowboy hat off a Chinese man on my way down to protect my face.

I thought Singapore was the shopping mecca of the world, then I was proven wrong upon my visit to Dubai. Well, there is somewhere in the world where malls and designer clothes are even sacred – Hong Kong! It is not only sport, a pass time, and the point where almost all merchandise passes through en route to every other mall in the world, but you are literally forced to shop everywhere you go! And the prices are not cheap, as one blonde girl would have thunk. It is very cool to take the ferry from the mall in Hong Kong to the mall in Kowloon. It is the best view of the skyline one can have, especially at night! I spent my evening exploring the streets then settling in an Internet karaoke bar to do my homework.

Wow, that was interesting. The next morning I walked the entire town on foot again through the financial district with thousands of Filipino maids who had the day off and picnic in the plazas in their sausage casing tight jeans and t-stirts with sparklely writing on them, up to the botanical gardens and zoo, where I got to see monkeys in cages. I walked so much that the bottoms of my feet were blistered.

The Kuwaiti Ambassador is a PRICK!
(or at least his driver is...)
This week I moved out of my serviced apartment as my project is beginning to end and I am now classified as a business traveler. Instead of living in hotels, I have moved into Raphael’s house in Novena for the next six weeks. His stay in Germany was extended and he was nice enough to let me use his SUV to move my stuff over to his place. Yey, I got to drive on the wrong side of the road!
The driving I had no problem with, except I kept turning the windshield wipers on every time I wanted to make a turn. The parking was a different story. The garages are very tight in Singapore and granted I have television cameras on the bumper, I still parked kind of funky.

I was told the car I was juxtaposed next to belonged to the new Kuwaiti Ambassador, a black Mercedes. I filled Raphael's vehicle with my stuff before running off to my meetings. When I returned, the Mercedes was gone. Someone had keyed the entire drivers-side of Raphael’s car, probably because of my un-orthogonal placement of the vehicle, that was still within the lines. I have filed a complaint against him and hope he will not send the Taliban after me.

After all the jokes last night about trying to drive on the correct side of the road, Raphael still thinks I have made this whole story up! He doesn’t believe his car is keyed. Well, he is in for a rude awakening upon his return from Schnitzeland. It is long, deep and was definitely intentional.

After I realized that my apartment complex was not going to interfere with a case against the ambassador (they are refusing to release the CCTV tapes to me), I went to file a police report. It took an insane amount of time to do the paperwork and I missed my yoga class. I ended up walking through rush hour traffic. At a stoplight, a taxi next to me rolled down the window and my friend Joe yelled out, "hey Kelly, are you on your way to the ambassador's party?" Not the Kuwaiti ambassador, but the Irish ambassador. Now in the past 6 months, I have been to 3 parties at the Irishman's house and met him at the European film festival and I don't even know where the US ambassador lives.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cycling Malaysia

Diaper Rash
You know you have become a bike Nazi when you discover adult onset of diaper rash. Eight hours in that sweaty bike schammy and weird things being growing between your thighs as the layer of skin chafes against your seat from the motion of your legs. My couchie is on fire. I used to laugh at Raphael when he would grease up his nards with some Swiss cream before a ride, but now I know, the schnitzel is always right.

Just short of 200km, and I cannot move from the couch with the jar of nutella. Right now I feel sorry for those of you who have to diet, cause I can’t eat enough, fast enough to match my calories burned. We left this morning at 6am from the Longhouse in the setting full moon, over the causeway into Malaysia, through the rolling palm fields, waving at little girls in veils on the side of the road and dodging monitor lizards the size of alligators.

Nine of us in total lead by a crazy Frenchman, Jean-Francois, who does not believe in stopping at red lights. Two guys from Ireland, two Aussies, an Dutchman pushing maximum density, Christina, the German, a Brit, and me, the lone American, who J-F thinks is Canadian since most Americans can not speak French. This is my first bike ride I have had to take my passport on.

The Palm Reader
Have you ever been freaked out by someone who knows nothing about you but can tell you everything about your personality by looking at your hands? It is kind of scary. Raphael told me a story about going to this palm reader with a coworker and in 20 minutes she was able to unfold their lives with good accuracy. For fun, we went to Chinatown to give it a try. Her observations:

I am a very hard worker, often working harder for others approval than for myself (hmm, kinda sounds like that #3). She says there is a fire inside me which burns, driving me to achieve and that I do not have to work so hard. I am harder on myself and go above and beyond what others expect me to do. In fact, she says I don’t have to work. (Just when I was thinking of taking my own sabbatical if the Roche deal goes through.)

She looked at my thumb and could tell I am stubborn. “Um,hmm.” Raphael uttered in unison.

She can’t tell if I am right-handed or left-handed, because it looks like I do things with both hands. (I am ambidextrous, but I do write with my left-hand.)

Not knowing my profession, she proclaimed to me, ‘Start being more like woman. Wear more make-up, dress sexy, be a woman among women, not a woman among men.’

When I asked her if she could tell what industry I worked in, she said ‘healthcare.’ Now, although I am not a truly a medical professional, I do work for a major biotechnology corporation and teach fitness classes, so, in the big picture, she was right, I do work in healthcare.

Ping Pong

I remember watching endless footage of the Olympics in the US – 24 hours a day each summer for two weeks, every four years…and one summer, I ate so many free Big Macs because the Americans won so many Gold metals. Here in Singapore, the main footage is PING PONG. And they keep playing the same winning matches OVER & OVER! No footage of the 8 gold metals in swimming, only the sports that Singaporeans are good at are covered. I didn’t even know badmitton was an Olympic sport! I guess Singapore has not won a metal in over 45 years, so they are VERY proud of their silver in ping pong.

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