Monthly Archives: March 2012

callin’ baton rouge… i mean… nashville.

did i ever tell you about that time i went to nashville?

yeehaw. 🙂

back in the winter of 2010 a friend of mine mailed me two tickets to a garth brooks concert  because he was unable to attend.

now, that may not mean anything to you (because you’re crazy), but here’s the thing. garth brooks is a country legend. he doesn’t go on tour anymore, and when he did his tickets sold for hundreds upon hundreds of dollars for hundreds and hundreds of sold out shows. nowdays he sometimes performs out in las vegas, but it is always an acoustic show, not the flaired and full-banded awesomeness.

so… i had to go. and krista, my most spontaneous, country-loving, ass-kickin’ friend had to come with. the show was in nashville, tennessee. we were located in des moines, iowa. google maps told us it’d be 11.5 hours… fine. it’ll probably be closer to 10. we could make it there in a day.

we left des moines on saturday morning around 5am. the plan was we would alternate driving and sleeping (if needed), and then get ready to get our shitkickers and cowboy hats out for when we arrived in nashville.


(the happiest i’ll ever look at 5am)
(for the record- in honor of the trip to nashville,  i ran these photos through the instagram “nashville” filter. you’re welcome.) 

we finally got to nashville in the late afternoon. we got checked into our hotel, played around with our sleep number mattresses (i don’t think they worked, what a load), and then listened to some garth brooks while we got ready to check out the scene.

cheap barbecue dinners and live music pouring out of every bar… nashville is booming at night. krista and i weaved in and out bars full of country singers trying to make it until we finally landed at the honeyhole of downtown nashville. a karaoke bar.

karaoke? one of my favorite things ever. karaoke + cowboys + $2 tallboys of busch light? heaven.

the night was great. we posed with a bunch of elvis statues (a lot of them around the city), got hit on by a gay cowboy who claims he is straight (denial), and got a cd from “rising star” that we never listened to. we never got up and sang, but we sat back, drank our beers, and soaked in the atmosphere.


(this man is not famous. but he gave us his cd and asked to take a photo with us.  i wish i was lying.)

the next day we went out to do some more sight seeing and went to the country music hall of fame. we dressed the part (cowboy boots, western tops, cowboy hats) and strolled around the different floors. it was an incredible place, i don’t think you even need to like country music to appreciate all that was there. tributes to the late and great, interactive kiosks, artifacts, and photos everywhere you turned. and a bear.

raawwwr.

that night, before the concert, we went to the wildhorse saloon, which was supposed to be pretty famous and well-known. there was a musician playing (go figure) and we sat and drank and ate at the bar because there wasn’t any open seating.

i really liked the restaurant, it was cheesy in all the right ways. fake horses doing human things, stereotypical country interior… big ass margaritas. yeah, i think those were my favorite thing. krista and i ate, we drank (a lot… but we walked, so it’s okay), we played some shuffleboard. and i won. and i only say that because when you play shuffleboard against krista, you rarely ever win.

and then we went to see garth brooks.

and he didn’t disappoint. fog machines, flashing lights… he came up from under the stage, cowboy hat tipped over his eyes, singing “rodeo.”  he sang all of his hits, he took crowd requests, he told stories. trisha yearwood (his wife) also performed and sang the song that was my favorite country song growing up “she’s in love with the boy.” there was this annoyingly hilarious couple in front of us that made out and danced the whole time. it was wonderful (to laugh at) and repulsive at the same time.


(ugh, that couple. for real.)

i’ve been to a lot of concerts in my day. and this one was easily in the top 10, probably top 5.

if you haven’t heard garth brooks, i highly suggest you check him out. country music isn’t for everyone, but even many non-country loving friends agree that he’s pretty good musically. these are my top 10 favorite songs by him– although if you ask someone else they might have a different list entirely.

1) standing outside the fire
2) she’s every woman
3) every now and then
4) callin’ baton rouge
5) the dance
6) i’ve got friends in low places
7)  much too young (to feel this damn old)
8)  rodeo
9) to make you feel my love
10) wrapped up in you

my job

don’t get me wrong. 9 times out of 10, if you ask me, i love my job.

but these passed few weeks have been so busy that a co-worker and i have decided we are going to start CABbing people soon.

Oh, what’s CAB?

choke a bitch.

[[what really happened in italy]]

written in response to my earlier post italy [[rough agenda]]

thursday, march 1
-had amazing airport companion that made the trip from st. petersburg airport to paris, france much easier. a few perks: getting to cut lines and save hours of time, using the business class lounge, good plane conversation/no motion sickness, had someone carry my luggage for me.
-had assistance finding my gate for verona. hung out in the airport for a few hours, got something to eat. boarded plane. fell asleep. woke up in verona.
-went to car rental place– realized i either forgot to bring my license or lost it in russia. (i am praying i forgot it.)
-took a taxi to san bonifacio to the soave best western hotel. approximately 70 euro, but very typical.
-checked in to my hotel room. fell asleep immediately.

friday, march 2
-woke up– tried to find a way to get from the best western to the eurhema facility. was suggested to take the train. colleague would pick me up at reggio emilia station at 3:05
-terrible idea to take the train. had to switch trains twice; one time a full station.
-friendly italian man who was helping me turned very creepy and wouldn’t leave me alone. kept trying to kiss me and put his arm around me. followed me from train to train even though he had not paid for a ticket for himself.
-friendly turned creepy (FTC for short) was very adamant that we got off the train at a certain stop. since he was right about verona station i followed– he was wrong. supposed to get off at modena. got off at mantova, putting me about an hour behind schedule…
-spent about 1.5 hours trying to get someone to help me as my phone doesn’t work internationally. no one speaks english. i bought a phone card. didn’t work. no one would let me pay to use their phone or internet. FTC still following me around.
-finally convince a taxi driver to talk to me- he lets me borrow his phone to call his son (who speaks english); i explain the situation, he tells his father. his father calls the eurhema plant and talks to them for a bit. they tell me to take the taxi to the plant.
-i get into the taxi, very frustrated. taxi driver speaks minimal english, i speak minimal italian. still, we make small talk, lots of gestures. i cheer up.
-i arrive to eurhema plant. it is now 5:00pm. i meet lauro and pamela, reintroduce myself to claudia and diego.
-get quick tour of the plant by claudia and lauro.
-take product shots of our products produced in the plant.
-take photos of the laboratory areas/facility for reference.
-ride back home with diego. he’s got a great accent- rolls his Rrrrss. he owns a restaurant and is a waiter in his spare time. he said american accents are very hard to understand because american movies/films are dubbed over in italian when they are at the cinema or on television so they never get a chance to hear them.
-got back to best western around 7:30pm.  realized i have not had any food all day.
-ate in the hotel restaurant. very good food. watched a family play with a small child.
-went back up to my room and uploaded photos from st. petersburg.
-tried to talk to my parents through skype but they were not home. they called back at 2:15am my time.

saturday, march 3
-woke up late.
-go explore san bonifacio- not much to do in town but find a nice little cafe. people are drinking wine and beer at the counter. it is 1:00pm.
-i order a panini and hot chocolate. the hot chocolate is not a drink, but hot chocolate pudding, served with a spoon.
-the italians try to ask me questions and joke around with me. i answer back with my minimal italian. lots of smiling. they were drunk. at 1:00pm.
-finish my meal, walk to train station. buy a ticket for vicenza.
-arrive in vicenza, walk around and soak in a new city. vicenza is beautiful- lots of parks and rivers. buildings are tall and old like venice, but the town is a lot smaller and less touristy.
-asked “dov’è il teatro olimpico?” (where is…) about 100 times. very helpful people, but no english. that’s okay. i know “sinistra” “dittro” and “destra” thanks to rosetta stone.
-found the theater. took some photos.
-walked back near the train station. got “e cafe” and sat outside and watched people.
-went to explore the city some more- took some off roads. bought some gelato. consumed said gelato.
-barely missed the 6:22 train back to san bonifacio. hung around the train station (it was getting cold/dark) until 7:27 train. bought some earrings and some snack food.
-got back to san bonifacio around 8:00. approximately 700 amanda steps from train station to hotel.
-ate dinner at hotel restaurant again. realizing how starved i am for real human interaction and conversation.
-got back to hotel room, uploaded photos from vicenza to computer. talked to my parents. and anyone else who was online. (again… starved for conversation.)

sunday, march 4
-woke up, ate breakfast, drank coffee, soaked in italy
-cleaned up my room a bit to get organized for the week.
-talked to some more people who were online. courtney made it to turks and caicos okay.
-read a bit, surfed the internet. stalked people on facebook.
-took a nap.
-got ready for the day– brian (our new HR trainer) was in italy too and had just gotten to soave.
-met brian for dinner. decided to have an aperitif first; ended up having about 3 glasses of wine.
-all restaurants full or not serving food. went back to hotel to wait. drank a few more glasses of wine.
-all restaurants officially closed. took a taxi back to san bonifacio and found little pizzeria that still happened to be open.
-got kicked out of the pizzerria after we were done eating because they were ready to close.
-went back to hotel and brian went back to soave.

monday, march 5
-woke up, ate breakfast, got ready for the day.
-benjamin picks me up on his way to work.
-traditional stop at gas station for cigarettes and coffee.
-work with benjamin on SOT (sound on tape) bytes.
-interviewed benjamin.
-tour of facility and equipment with benjamin.
-regular work.
-saw koen.
-re-fell in love with koen.
-discuss life, love, and happiness with bruno.
-toured sirmione/lake garda.
-broke camera. used phone to take photos.
-fixed camera. still used phone to take photos.
-ate in verona. walked around in the rain. (i love the rain.)
-saw giuseppe. bantered.
-back to hotel in san bonaficio.
-final final.
-sleep.

tuesday, march 6
– wake up. grumble. press snooze.
-quick breakfast.
-car pool to veronella.
-catch up with needed work for des moines office, review projects and workload.
-shoot b-roll for video.
-take photos for record.
-work with koen on SOT bytes.
fall in love with  interview koen.
-upload video content; make sure footage comes out okay.
-do graphic design/other video work as time allows.
-meet up in soave with kn europe sales team.
-feel awkward for about 5 minutes. get over it. socialize.
-dinner in soave.
-embarrassing conversation.
-new friends/colleagues.
-early retirement.
-sleeeeeeeep.

wednesday, march 7
– wake up way too early. grumble. can’t press snooze.
-taxi to verona airport. arrive at airport: 6:30am
-catch flight to paris, france: 7:40am
-arrive in paris and find gate just in time to board for minneapolis.
-board plane. excitement builds.
-watch about 4 movies. sleep. eat. get restless. get excited.
-touchdown, usa.
-call parental units. assure that i will be in dsm by 4:40pm and will need someone to pick me up.
-text the love and let him know i’m okay.
-get back to des moines: 4:30pm.
-food time.
-nap time.
-…karaoke time. (the first wednesday of every month is carl’s karaoke. i haven’t missed one since it has started and i’m not going to start on the account of jet lag!).

|| fav shots of italy ||

 

the motherland welcomes you.

i enjoyed russia so much more than i anticipated. don’t get me wrong- i was very excited to go, but i knew it would be cold, i knew it’d be busy, and i knew that work trips always have a way of… well, being work.

the opening reception at the grand hotel europe was amazing. it was a great opportunity to network and see some colleagues who i haven’t seen for awhile. a men’s russian choir also sang for us while we ate, an experience i’m not sure many would have. i sat with some of my favorite people within the company. they didn’t even mock me too much when i had sprite instead of wine. 🙂

the next day the meetings started. i won’t bore you with the details of the sessions- but our technical service people and marketing people split up into two different groups and attended sessions that related to their subject. i obviously went with the marketing group. the sessions were nice- they were lead by internal employees so we all had an opportunity to see and get to know people’s personalities more as the week went on. there were also poster sessions (where people presented an important “finding” for the year for their division) and a bit of time that i used to get interviews done, the main reason i attended the meeting.

after the first day was over we were broken out into smaller groups for dinners. our dinner was within walking distance, so we set off for this place called terrassa.  it was snowing, but very lightly. the walk was nice because it allowed us time to check out the sights of st. petersburg. it also gave me time to catch up with my friend chandru, who i had not seen in a very long time.


(looking fluffy in our warm winter-wear)

the restaurant was very nice– and the menus were absolutely ridiculous! the menu was more like a magazine, i think it had around 20 pages and it gave all the food and then the corresponding images were around the outside. we quickly made it into a matching game, trying to guess which item was what. the food also tasted pretty good. i had some sort of seafood udon noodle dish. the indians ordered round after round of food, then realized they couldn’t eat it all. it was kind of humorous. 🙂

our dinner ended and a group of us… well… the women…. decided that we were going to go shopping. there was a giant mall across the street from our hotel and everyone had a different mission of something they wanted to get. diane wanted a soccer jersey for her fiancee’s son. marsha wanted a coat like diane had bought the day before. april wanted a russian hat for her husband. and i- i wanted nesting dolls. the mall is actually very different than malls in the united states, because all of the rooms are connected. you walk into a store and then you immediately walk into the next, there’s no division. i found the nesting dolls almost immediately and then tagged along with everyone else while they made their purchases.

i got back to the hotel, went to the bar to say hello, but stayed away from any tasty beverages. i was still tired and recovering from the nights before.

the next day was potentially my favorite day in russia. besides having to present my poster, there wasn’t really anything that i disliked. the sessions were good and after they were over a bus took us to the hermitage, which is one of the most famous and prestigious museums in the world. kessler and i were in the same group, so we decided that the hermitage was our “first date.” and by that, he meant that he was going to throw his jacket on mine and make me wait for the coat pick up.

um. wait. what?!

the hermitage is BEAUTIFUL. words cannot even express how impressed i was with the museum. i know that the museum was so large that it would’ve spent days upon days to see the entire thing- but because we had local tour guides, they showed us the best of the best. we got to see some van goghs and some picassos. we got to see beautiful, elaborate design and rooms so breathtaking i literally was letting out contented sighs while i was in them. we also got to do a bit of goofing off, because i was with a fairly fun group who knew how to have fun. 🙂


(check out dexter’s “chiseled features”)


(twinsies)


(the gold room- possibly my favorite room in the hermitage)

At the end of the tour we were able to see this peacock clock. It’s a very famous clock that has a peacock, an owl, and some other nature-like items in it’s mechanisms. When the clock is wound the creatures “come alive” and the peacock even makes some… peacock-esk noises. they aren’t pretty. but they are pretty cool. the clock is only wound up around once a month now or for “very special guests.” i assume we were in that later group, and it doesn’t go unappreciated.

as we were exiting the museum portion of the hermitage there was a string-quartet playing music and champagne waiting on the tables. i wasn’t going to have any, but my arm was twisted (rather softly) by my colleagues and i gave in to the bubbles.

also, since this was the only photo i could find in my album with champagne, let me tell you about frank, who is also featured in this photo. frank is my favorite frenchmen in the world. he’s the nicest and politest person i’ve ever met, and he won me over entirely on this trip with his gentleman ways.

what i’m getting at is, if i was to have a “top 5 men of work” (which, let’s be honest, of course i do), he would definitely be on it. 🙂

the rest of russia kind of went by in a blur. i got the rest of my interviews taken care of. attended more sessions. worked. stressed out. relaxed. drank. socialized.

we did get to see catherine’s summer palace and also take a horse sleigh ride around alexander’s park. the palace had an extraordinary outside, but the inside was less impressive to me. don’t get me wrong, for a house, sure, it’s pretty amazing. but after seeing the hermitage i just expected more. as for the horse ride- well, we have horses and we have snow in iowa. 🙂 granted, we also have dogs in iowa and i was still excited to pet the dogs in russia, so i can’t really talk.

on the last day in russia i finally got to take advantage of some sight seeing opportunities. originally i had planned on going out on sunday, but didn’t make it out of the hotel. lucky for me, jim and frank had nothing to do the last day either and were ready to do some exploring.

the first stop was the church of the savior on spilled blood- the only thing that wasn’t on the agenda that i really wanted to see. the outside was just beautiful and iconic and i felt immediately drawn to the building. the church was built on the spot where emperor alexander II was assassinated, which i think is where the ‘blood’ reference comes from in the title.

the inside of the cathedral was even more beautiful and intricate than the outside. the inside was comprised completely of mosaics. 7,500 square meters of mosaics– having more mosaics than any church in the world.


after we left the church (which i think jim and i would’ve been content to hang out in all day), we moved on a bit farther to go see st. isaac’s cathedral. at st. isaac’s you can pay to enter the church, but also pay to walk to the top of the cathedral and overlook the city. of course we would like to. oh? it’s 622 steps? yeah. i guess we’d still like to.

breathtaking views. the weather was brisk, but i felt good after jogging up the steps. i was also very contented at the top of st. isaac’s- i’ve found that i like places where i feel calm, but slightly out of my element. those are usually high up places, or places where the land meets an ocean (not really a beach, but more like the cliffs of moher in ireland).

but i digress. feast your eyes on this.


(they will see us waving from such great heights)



(inside the lower level of st. isaac’s)

in conclusion- would go back to russia in a heartbeat.

russia: the bad and the ugly

have you heard?
there’s a rumor in st. petersburg….

(thank you, sarah, for getting that song stuck in my head on repeat)

oh, russia. let’s see what i remember about you.

this post might have to be broken into two segments: the arrival and the worst day of my life in the first post, the best and brightest in the next.

i got to the airport about two hours before my flight took off. the des moines airport got the new sexy machines, i mean, the hot naked, i mean, the tsa full body scanners so we were supposed to get there a little earlier than we normally would. i thought i’d be the first in my group to get there, but surprisingly i went to my gate and found dave and mark already sitting. jen joined us about 10 minutes after that and stephanie another 10 after her.

now tell me how this works out. all five of started in the same airport and were taking the amsterdam flight to st. petersburg, all arriving at 7:00pm. and yet i was the only one on my flight out of des moines. i was going dsm>msp>amsterdam and the others were doing dsm>memphis>amsterdam. not a big deal overall, but c’mon! i should’ve seen that as an indicator on how the trip was going to go.

i managed to sleep a decent amount on the minneapolis to amsterdam flight. i watched a movie, drank a bit of wine, and had some crappy airplane sleep. but by the time i got to amsterdam i was feeling pretty sickly. i had a headache, needed some real food in my stomach, and was not used to the new time. by the time i boarded for st. petersburg, i was miserable. add on top of that the fact that i get motion sickness fairly easily, and you can go ahead and say that the last flight was potentially the worst flight of my life. stephanie and i talked for about an hour and it helped take my mind off of things, but by the second hour my head was spinning and i was having trouble concentrating. when the plane landed and i stood up i was afraid i was going to black out. stephanie and mark both said i was getting paler and paler by the second and suggested once the people started moving to get out of the plane and they would grab my bags.

first off, i’m going to go ahead and fake that from now on to get people to carry my bags off of planes.

secondly, if i fake it i won’t have to make a beeline to the bathroom to throw up. so really, it’s a much better idea.

yep. what’s the first thing i did when i got to st. petersburg, russia? i threw up in the airport bathroom. awesome. top that.

but enough about that. we got to the hotel, got checked in, and i went to my room real quick to start feeling a bit more human. the plan was to have supper in the bar and then call it a night. i even made a pact with someone (who shall remain nameless) that we would not go out to the bars afterwards because we were tired, we were dehydrated, and it was simply not a good idea.

all our best laid plans, huh? 🙂

i stumbled back to my hotel around 1:30am. i know/can confirm it was this time because i skyped with tina when i got back and iMessaged jessica about my adventures. the night is a bit hazy, but these are the things i DO remember:

  • “Na zdorovje” means “to your health” in Russian. It is not normally used as a drinking cheers- but it has become more popular with tourists who know it’s very important to say something before you slam a shot. I just learned how to spell it a few minutes ago, but I could definitely pronounce it correctly (with lots and lots of practice). 😉
  • russian standard is the best vodka i’ve sampled- it is extremely smooth. too smooth. i was struck by a smooth criminal. i was not okay.
  • apparently i have very strong back muscles. i was told this after i was able to dip a 6’+ male without falling over.
  • there was a grey horse on the sidewalk and no one would believe me until the second to last night when mark confirmed that he saw it too, when he was escorting me back to the hotel. apparently i had wandered off with some russian women who “looked like they were going to have their way with me.” i’d like to think he meant that in the fun way and not that i was going to get Taken (with a capital T, Liam Neeson style)

so, i got back to the hotel, talked to some people and passed out.

i woke up at around 7:15am, very alarmed. where a nightstand once was, now sat a very large television set that was not there when i went to sleep. i was very concerned- was i in the correct room? yes. did someone bring a television to my room while i was out? was the television there before i went to bed? no. did someone deliver me a television while i was sleeping? that is extremely creepy. i would’ve thought i’d wake up to that. it’s kind of the opposite of robbing someone.

i thought about going back to sleep and probably would have, except my body was now paying me back for what i put it through the night before. i won’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say it was the worst i have ever been. i couldn’t keep anything down- after 6+ hours of continuous puking, i was afraid i was going to die of dehydration. around 3:00pm i finally started feeling a bit better and ate some of my room service sprite and crackers (i think i scared the poor bus boy who didn’t speak english and had to decipher my grunts of where to set the tray). i fell asleep immediately after and woke up again around 5 and started getting ready for the opening reception.

once i got down to the reception i exchanged knowing looks with a few that had been out the night before as well. i don’t know if i felt the worst, but i definitely was a contender. people at my table gave me sympathetic smirks while i ordered a sprite instead of enjoying the provided wine or beer. a woman at my table pushed food around on her plate to make it look like she was eating– eventually, after dinner and mingling, she went up to her room. i stuck it out and got to feeling better and better. i didn’t drink anything that night (or the next). and i definitely learned my lesson. i wasted my whole free day in which i had planned on sight-seeing st. petersburg. i was angry with myself. but it really was a night to remember (or not remember and be reminded of).

oh, and it turns out the television was INSIDE the end table. there’s a switch (that i obviously must’ve hit while trying to turn off the light) that raises and lowers the television. …oh.

…Na zdorovje.