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I have many gifts, but being instinctively funny is not one of them. I have met people who are an absolute riot without breaking a sweat- they tell stories of things that happened to them casually and as they remember them and I am rolling in the aisles. Saori had a korean friend who told us a story which involved a road trip to the grand canyon, some poor asumptions about weather, a broken rental car window, a strip bar, and a case of Coca-cola, and I thought I was going to die. My brother Taylor is also one of those gifted people. And so is Olena.
Olena is one of Saori’s coworkers, a mid twentysomething Ukranian from Kiev. I first met her on a company trip to the Vitra campus where on the return trip fueled by bottles of sparkling wine passed around by the furniture company employees, she led the back of the bus belting out popular music with altered lyrics to include expensive chairs.
She told Saori who told me the story of renting ski equipment as a student in Kiev. Instead of spor…

two nice days

It was a really nice weekend. Spring has officially arrived in Stuttgart and with the return of nice weather, the city explodes into the street. Every bench was full, every street stair, stoop, and ledge was occupied, and even bars and cafes with no outdoor seating apparently went to IKEA the night before because everyone wanted to sit outside and drink something. Stuttgart on the first weekend in spring is uptown Tokyo. Konigstrasse is Shanghai's Nanjing street.

Saturday we had a huge breakfast of fried eggs, tortillas, salsa, cheese, berries, and avocado out on the patio before heading out to the city center where we literally stumbled over my friend Apo and a friend of his. We stumbled over them because they were sitting on the ground, drinking at Palast, because that is what one does at this bar. We joined them for a beer and a redcurrant soda and just chatted for a little over an hour. Always, always running into people we know at Palast. It was funny because Apo, Saori, and …

What Alec Really Meant by Into Whiteness: the Second Day in Montafon

Hi it’s Saori again.

I made a real lesson out of the second day in Montafon. As we had breakfast we all looked together the weather forecast. Last week, it said it was going to be sunny and high of 12C so I was like those baby penguins from Happy Feet. Since last few days it said about 7 to 8C, cloudy. I was just a little bummed that it was not going to be bun-toasting, sun-frenchkissing, black beanie hating kind of sunny day, but rather going to be skiing under grey sky. The thing I did not realize is, that if you are that high on top of the mountain you are nowhere under that gray fluff. You are in it.

As we ascended sharply in that cable car which Alec had beautifully portrayed in the previous post, in the matter of few second we lost the sight of the cable car station at the base, and we barely saw the outline to the car before and after us. The empty returning cars on the opposite end of the cable appeared eerily out of the dense fog, coasted down right by us and disappeared into…

Ski: Behind Austria - The Second Day in Oberstdorf

Hey guys this is Saori. Alec forgot to write the second day of both ski trips so I decided to fill in. From here,  “I” is me. And the usual author will be referred to as “Alec.”

So the second day began with slow but very peaceful and unusually early awakening, since we all managed to go to bed by 10:30 the night before. I eventually got out of the top of the bunk bed very carefully and boiled water in the bathroom for my usual cup of warm water to drink. But my tip-toeing was appearently unsuccessful as I hear the tongue-clicking noise breaking the silence - the little lady’s favorite thing to do. I slowly look over to the bottom of the bunk bed and there she was, still wrapped in blanket but eyes bright and wide open. Give it 2 or 3 minutes and everyone was up. We took the sunny table and had a breakfast together, packed very quickly and said bye to the family who decided not to hit the slope that day.

One note here is that the magnesium tablet was a major hit to all boys of the group…


I've been thinking a lot about the differences between Germans and Americans lately. With the amount of time I've spent outside of the US, and the amount of time I've spent outside of Germany, it's given me a strange perspective on both countries and the bizarre contradictions each would see in the other.

Legal in Germany

ProstitutionSports betting and mini-casinos on every streetDrinking at the movies, drinking on the streets, pretty much anywhere including public transportation. Frowned upon JaywalkingTalking on your cellphone on public transport Illegal Drinking at a casino Germans have a very different view of privacy than Americans. In Germany, it's entirely common to see people sunbathing sans-clothing, and at the numerous saunas and swimming pools, there are areas which are mandatory swimsuit-free. In the same culture where you can sit cheek to cheek with sweaty men and women in a hot wooden room, people also petition Google to blur their building facades in st…

Into whiteness

Everyone had such a great time on the ski trip, we decided that we should try to get one more trip in the season, so we set a date two weeks after our first one. To stay ahead of the spring, we would have to drive deeper into Austria and ski higher mountains, so we picked the ski area of Silvretta Montafon, whose claim to fame was that it was where alpine skiing was invented.
Like the last time, Rafa picked us up at 5:30 AM and we drove out for about three and a half hours to get to the ski area. Saori and I had ski rental reservations at an Intersport at the bottom of the valley, and it was a little slow, but we got our stuff and the staff assured us if there was any problems with either the skis or boots, we could swap them out at any number of locations on the mountain. Ski rentals this time were more expensive, 70 euros for two days of boots, skis, poles, and helmet. Lift tickets, too. Where before, the lift tickets for two days were 75 euros, two day passes here were closer to 90…

Ski: Austria

The best thing about Stuttgart is really how close it is to much more interesting places.

Rafa and Magda and I had been talking about a ski trip for awhile, and we finally decided to go last weekend. Naturally, the only ski equipment and gear I had brought with me from the US was a few pairs of ski socks and some long underwear, so we had to stock up a bit first for the trip. Spring, as the end of the season, is a great time to shop for ski stuff, so Saori picked up a pair of ski pants from NorthFace in "high risk red." I am still pretty satisfied with the ski pants I have mouldering in a storage container in St.Louis, so I went for the cheapest ski pants I could find. I would not have imagined that I could buy ski pants for $25 normal price in Europe, but there you go. Decathalon is like Wal-Mart for sports goods- middling quality and low, low prices. They have a pick-up shop on the high street here so I also went ahead and bought some gloves and a mini backpack for the slo…