Mittwoch, 14. Februar 2018

Chapter 1 ~ The Journey to Japan

For those who don’t know me, allow me to introduce myself.

And for those who do already know me, allow me to really introduce myself.

I am Kira Kyera’fa Whytefyre Resari of the Darkfox Clan, the Radiant Winged Fox, Creator of Worlds, Proxy of Fate, the Wild Card, also known as the Game Design Fox, the World-Creating Fox, or the Travelling Fox (occasionally also as the Pizza-, Cookie- and Cake-Baking Fox).

Whew, that’s quite a mouthful. Most people just know me as Kira, and that’s just fine by me =^,^=.

Anyway, I travel the world in search of my vixen, disguised as a human, going places, seeing things, and generally following wherever the wind will take me.

Last year, it took me to New Zealand. The wind has been blowing that way for some time anyway. I remember talking about it with my grandfather even before I started going to school. That was before I awoke to my true vulpine nature.

As for after my awakening… Well, let’s just say it didn’t take me long to figure out that the winds would eventually carry me to this particular country next. Some of you will already know why, and everyone else is going to find out in the next chapter. I had to wait for some time due to unforeseen circumstances, but now the time has arrived, and I am about to disembark to…

Part 1: The Journey Begins

I already took care of most of the preparations in advance. My visa has been issued, my insurances taken care of, and my flight booked. Now all that’s left is to pack my belongings.

It’s not an easy feat since I got a whopping 124 Items on my list, but thanks to sublime packing skills that tend to run in my family, I eventually manage to stuff everything into my backpacks two, which I’ve already taken for a spin around New Zealand.

Naturally, wearing that sort of harness makes me look more like a mule than a fox.

My father comes along to see me off at the airport, and before long, we are on our way, standing at the train station and waiting for the train…

…which will take us all the way to the airport.

Part 2: The Airport’s Allures

We arrive at the airport way ahead of time…

…and the check-in is quickly taken care of, and I now hold my boarding pass.

Since I’ve already travelled to New Zealand via Singapore, I decided to stop over in Bangkok this time around, which means the first leg of my journey is going to look somewhat like this:

But first, it is time to exchange the Euros I still carry on me for a fistful of Yen.

at an exchange rate of 132:1, I get a whopping 36,000¥ for my 300€. That sounds like a lot, but it should be gone faster than you’d think. Generally, though, as a measure of thumb, you can think of Yen as Euro Cents, and have a pretty accurate representation of how much stuff costs.

Anyway, now it’s time to bid my father farewell again, and make my way through the security checkpoint…

…followed by the passport control, where I this time remember to take my glasses off at the convenient fully automated control station, and thus manage to make my way through without any human intervention whatsoever. I hear people complaining about all this biometry stuff, but personally, I find it really nice at times like these.

Now, I once again find myself in the transit area, which is filled with restaurants and duty-free stores.

As my first order of business, I go and find my gate though. It is quite a ways to the north, almost at the border to the extra-high security wing for flights going to the USA I guess.

With that having been taken care of, I now have almost two hours left until check-in. Curiously, there is an unexpected way to pass time literally right next to my gate.

After that, I do now what I realize I should have done before my departure to New Zealand, and go to a good olde German restaurant…

…and indulge in some savoury German cuisine for what will most likely be the last time in a year or so. Honestly, I would have preferred something with Schwammerln and Spätzle, but I suppose a hearty steak with fries and salad will also do, accompanied by a glass of good old Spezi.

By the time I finish with all that, there’s only about half an hour or so left until boarding, and the boarding area is starting to get rather crowded.

Part 3: Flying into the Sunset

My plane for this leg of the flight is a good old Boeing 747-400. I don’t think I’ve ever flown in one before. Even my lengthy trip to New Zealand was done aboard the more lightweight Boeing 777. That might actually make this the first time I’ve flown aboard a quad-jet plane.

Boarding starts momentarily, and within a matter of minutes, I’m aboard the plane that will once again take me halfway around the world.

Just like with Singapore Airlines, every single seat has its own display on this Thai Airways machine. However, despite the fancy remotes, I quickly find out that my options are rather limited, and nowhere near as fancy as with Singapore Airlines.

Now all that’s left is to go over the obligatory safety procedures…

…and then we’re off, roaring like thunder, racing the wind, and piercing into the clouds on steel wings of lightning blue!

If you are one to enjoy a good cloudscape, then this trip is a veritable sightseeing tour. Some people might look out of the window and see “only” clouds, but as I gaze upon the mighty messengers of heavenly deluge, I see towering mountains, sprawling floodplains, rolling hills and twisting valleys alike. Were angels to inhabit this ever, changing scenery, they would not have the need to build palaces for the sheer majesty of the ephemeral natural beauty outshines all.

Perhaps most interestingly, I get to witness a great display of multi-layered clouds. With that, it truly feels like I have entered a higher plane that has its own layer of clouds to rain down on the fluffy white ground below, while rivers of blue separate the white masses of land.

Eventually, however, there are brief gaps in the clouds, allowing me to catch glimpses of lakes and mountains below.

And then its dinnertime already. I’m having some Gai Pad Prik Gaeng, or Grean Beans with Chicken on Jasmin Rice, and although I don’t really fancy green beans, I do enjoy the dish as a whole.

Not much later, night fittingly falls as we cruise above the Black Sea...

…and as we get close to land again, I can see the lights of what must be the city of Batumi in Georgia in the distance.

Once again, it turns out that I’ve chosen the wrong side of the plane to sit on, and so as we pass over India, I do not get to see the lights of New Delhi, but only a suburb that might be Gurugram or Faridabad.

The rest of this slightly-shorter-than-normal night is rather uneventful, and so I go about getting some sleep while most of the other people in the plane set themselves up for jetlag.

Breakfast arrives while it’s still dark outside, about an hour before our landing in Bangkok as we fly across the Bay of Bengal. It’s nothing special this time, only Scrambled Eggs, Chicken Sausages and some mashed potato. At least the sausages come with some genuine Thai sauce.

Shortly therafter, we begin our descent in pitch darkness, and only as we approach the ground do the lights of the city rise to meet us from below like a cobweb of luminous ribbons traversing the deep darkness.

Part 4: A Bangk-Robbery

And just like that, we’ve arrived at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Well, actually, not quite. We arrived at a satellite gate, and now have to ride a rather crowded bus over to the main building for at least ten minutes. One nifty thing about the bus is that it has doors on either side, so we end up getting in on the right side and exiting on the left side. Also, did you notice that the cars were driving on the left side of the road here too? I didn’t consciously register that during the landing, but now that I’m in the bus it becomes blatantly obvious.

A short while later, we finally arrive at the main airport building…

…and while it’s not anywhere near as fancy as Singapore Changi Airport, it still strives to impress with a selection of murals…


…and pagodas.

Naturally, with this being an eastern airport, there are also drink fountains to be found all over the place.

It is about here that the incredible happens, and I end up losing a bunch of my stuff.

What happened? As I am going through yet another security screening, a pair of flustered female attendants starts making a fuss about a number of items in my luggage. Mind you that I was able to get those same items safely through the security checks of Auckland, Singapore and Munich before, yet for some reason the ladies here are being extra fussy about what they deem to be “dangerous goods”. And what exactly do they confiscate? The first item is a scissor in my first aid kit that is about as blunt as they come. Were you to try and assault someone with this, they’d be more likely to die of boredom than the scissors.

The next item is much more painful for me to lose. Ever since the beginning of my New Zealand trip, Liete – my trusty laptop – has been acting up occasionally, freezing up in such a manner that the only way to reconstitute her is take out the battery. No easy feat, since the battery is secured with a pair of teeny-tiny screws that are all but impossible to undo with my standard set of tools. For that reason, I acquired a jeweller’s screwdriver set back in Marton, New Zealand, at a shop called Mitre 10 Mega. I remember my trip there like it was yesterday. It is this treasured and functional memento that they cold-heartedly steal from me, not spending a single thought to the fact that I could probably deal more damage with a ballpoint pen (of which I happen to be carrying two) than with those teeny-tiny screwdrivers. Also, it goes without saying that Liete did not wait long to freeze up on me again after that, but that is a story for another time.

Anyway, moving on now. I made it through the security check more or less unscathed, and am now inside the massive terminal hall…

..from where my flight to Tokyo Narita Airport is bound to depart in about an hour.

[To be continued…]

Part 5: Clouds and Oceans

Part 6: A Japanese Welcome

Samstag, 10. Februar 2018

The Travelling Fox Blog ~ Book 2

Without any further ado, I am proud to present to you the official opening of the Travelling Fox Blog's second Book:

(Word of note: As of late, I have observed that blogspot has trouble directly playing embedded videos. If a video on this blog has issues playing, just right-click on the video and select "View Video".)

Stay tuned, as I tell you about my journey to Japan in the first chapter of the second book, coming soon, on this blog!

Mittwoch, 24. Januar 2018

Interlude ~ The Festival of Lights

Now that I am back home, I get to enjoy the holiday season together with my friends a family, because…

Ah yes, winter in Europe is truly a marvel to behold. As the day grows shorter, layers of snow drape the countryside and cities alike in a pure white garment, and the annual Christmas markets pop illuminate the roads at night as the festival approaches.

…or at the very least that’s how it would have been a few decades ago, but with global warming in top shape, Munich has been seeing less and less snow every year.

As a result, a visit to the Christmas markets of Germany these days looks more like this:

However, this year I’m lucky, and we do still get a few precious snow days. That makes this the first time in almost two years that I’ve seen snow up close, and hear its soft crunch beneath my feet (also, driving a bicycle through snow is loads of fun once you get the hang of it =^,^= ).

But alas, the snow does not last long against these temperatures…

…and soon the world is grey again.

Whoops, that would take us straight to Sylvester. But one thing after the other. For starters, let us begin with…

A Landride to Leipzig

For years now, my godmother Babsi invited my father and me to join them for their Christmas Party in Leipzig. Unfortunately, that’s quite a journey to undertake just for a single-day event. Yet, now that I’ve travelled halfway around the world and back, and travelled an entire country on my own, these local distances have been put into perspective, and so my father and I finally take them up on their offer and one Saturday embark on an about 500 km long journey that takes us halfway through Germany.

Since Germany has an excellent train system (at least by comparison with New Zealand), we immediately agree to go by train. Fortunately, a new high speed line has just recently finished construction, and so we can cover that entire distance in only a little over three hours. Even going by plane would not be significantly faster if you factor in the time to get to the airport, checking in and then waiting for your luggage. Also, this way we get to enjoy the beautiful scenery up close, and even get to see some snow as we pass through the mountains of the Thuringian Forest.

Oh, by the way, in an amazing coincidence, one of Germany’s major transit methods is the InterCity. However, unlike in New Zealand, where those are buses, InterCity refers to trains here in Germany. We are going by InterCityExpress – or ICE for short – which are Germany’s fastest trains which can go as fast as 320 km/h. Go much faster than that, and you’d have to worry about avoiding liftoff!

After a journey of little over 3 hours, we arrive in Leipzig, the central station of which is one of the grandest in all of Germany, possibly even all of Europe, almost resembling a majestic palace.

Since we still have some time before the party, we go for a leisurely evening stroll through the city of Leipzig and check out the Christmas market.

…that’s where “leisurely” ends, because the streets are crowded with approximately twice the city’s total population, and we have to somehow make our way through the throng.

And yet, we still get to take in some of the sights, such as the grand Nicholai’s Church near the city centre.

Afterwards, we join my Godmother Babsi, her husband Josef and their daughter Franziska at their party, and we are hardly the only guests. Altogether, over 60 people convene at this private party that happens a week before Christmas, and even though Babsi and Josef have quite a spacious apartment indeed, the place quickly starts to resemble the Christmas market from earlier. Must be a Leipzig thing.

Apart from all the people, this place is also populated by a piano full of pigs…

…as well as a randy little doggie.

And on top of all of that, there’s even a band of sorts. It’s really quite the event.

Eventually, however, it is time for us to leave. For that purpose, we have rented a small apartment in a nearby building. It’s right next to one of the city’s big tram lines, and every few minutes, you can feel a tram going by.

Oh, and speaking of trams, the some of the trams here sport a peculiar combination of old and new wagons.

Nonetheless, we awake well rested the next morning, and I start the day by taking my father on a lovely little Geocaching Tour around Leipzig.

Along the way, we pass by the mighty city harbour of Leipzig…

…and pass by the artfully designed open-air pool, where a bunch of foxes are presently trying to abduct a freaking whale.

And naturally, there are Geocaches to grab. In fact, my father quite literally catches me in the act.

Shortly after that, we cross the bridge across the mighty Elsterbecken (Magpie Basin), an artificial lake of sorts that was created to contain the effects of flooding in the area after the historic flood of 1909. Its construction was somehow impeded by the occurrence of World War I, and so it was only completed in 1925. Today, not even a century later, the Elsterbecken faces sedimentation issues. Originally planned at a modest depth of 1.50 m, the basin nowadays is barely half as deep in parts, and plans exist to dig a new bypass river and have the Elsterbecken repurposed into a proper lake and flood basin.

Incidentally, I take note that similar to Poseidon’s personal driveway, which I came across back in Auckland (See Book I ~ Final Chapter ~ The Tail of the Tale), this seems to be the location of Poseidon’s personal tram stop. My bet is that it’s probably called “Atlantis West” or “Hy-Brasil” or something.

Near the basin, we also come across mysterious structures that line the basin on either side in irregular intervals. Neither I nor my father nor my godmother can guess what their purpose might be. Can you figure it out?

Our stroll ends near the Red Bull Arena. The site of this place was once a magalomanically humongous Third Reich stadium that fell into a state of disrepair after World War II. Recently, however, Red Bull has sponsored a new stadium to be built inside the remnants of the old stadium, giving the place a most curious structure.

Funnily, one of the parts of the old stadium that remain up to this day is the macabrely-named Soulbinder-Tower.

Afterwards, we take one of the odd old new trams…

…and ride it to the odd old new city centre…

…where we go into the oddest restaurant…

…with odd old washbasins…

…and have a not-so-odd burger meal.

However, the coffee my father orders afterwards definitely falls back into the “odd” category (also, since I didn’t order one, we even ordered an odd number of coffees).

After that, our stay in Leipzig draws to a close, and we return to the truly marvellously big central station, where we await the ICE that will take us back home to Munich.

We Wish You a Foxy Christmas…

It’s the week of the Festival of Lights, and for me that means: It’s time to bake some Christmas Cookies!

The ingredients are quite simple. All you need is some flour, eggs, sugar, butter, baking powder, vanilla sugar and lemon aroma for the dough, as well as icing sugar and sprinkles for the icing. In addition, this year I’m trying out some experimental decorations featuring cinnamon and un-iced icing sugar.

But the most integral assets are no doubt the cookie cutters. Looking at my selection, I notice that I do seem to have quite an array of vulpines among other beasts. One might even assume that people just keep giving those to me!

And just like that, I get ready to dish out tray after tray of delicious Christmas cookies…

…and then glaze them with a variety of tasty toppings.

With a plate of tasty Christmas Cookies on display, the Festival is all set to begin.

Well, actually. Not quite. There is yet one thing to be done: Decorating the Tree of Light...

…using my family’s vast supplies of decorations.

I don’t know exactly when it started, but setting up the decorations for the Festival of Lights has probably been my job for decades by now. Those also include a small crib beneath the tree.

At night, we then have a traditional dinner of Weißwurscht and Bretzen with Senf…

…and then it’s time to illuminate the candles on our amazing revolving tree, which is also outfitted with a music box. This unique custom-made contraption has been owned by my family longer than I’ve been around, and the Festival simply wouldn’t be the same without it.

By the way, “we”, that includes my father Peter, his Girlfriend Doro, and her dog Sunny, a little Franzuskaya Bolonka.

As usual, we wrap up the Festival with some punch (alcohol free for me), and the traditional exchange of presents, before letting the evening slowly fade out.

…and a Fiery New Year!

Next up is my favourite time of the year, and one that I’ve missed dearly during both of the two times I’ve been abroad so far (once in the USA in 2004, and the other time in New Zealand in 2016).

It’s on the day of Sylvester that my best friends and I congregate at the Fox Den, each with his personal stack of explosives, and we assemble it all together to create a mighty arsenal. Meanwhile, my father and his girlfriend (and her dog) have retreated into the Jachenau, a peaceful municipality to the south of Munich, near the border to Austria – their personal traditional retreat for this time of the year – leaving the apartment to me and my friends.

But before we proceed to set it off, we have a delightful day of board games ahead of us. Those that have assembled on this day are, from left to right, Peter, a relatively recent addition and an avid board gamer, Robert, a Software Consultant and PhD of Chemistry, as well as my very best friend whom I’ve met almost 20 years ago in a class of gifted children, and Stephan, the very archetype of a scatter-brained artist and possibly crazy inventor whom I’ve met during my time in university.

That evening, we have our traditional Sylvester raclette, where we melt various combinations of cheese, and combine them with grilled mushrooms, bacon and shrimps.

And then, the time has come. As 2017 finally runs out, my friends and I proceed outside to set the skies ablaze. Once again, due to our incredible arsenal, we manage to keep shooting for a full two hours, easily outlasting the entire neighbourhood (particularly those twits that illegally started setting of their fireworks four to five hours early). Notably, this should also be the year where Peter's Pyro-Petarde (Patent Pending) almost set an enemy balcony on fire. By now, one of those mishaps is pretty much standard in our Sylvester Fireworks. In past years, we already had the Siggy Stray-Shot Battery, Robert's Rocket Roulette® as well as Kira's Kaos Karoussel. Fortunately, despite everything, we all managed to obey Rule #1 for yet another year.

The next morning, it’s clean-up time. I’m actually one of the few people in the entire neighbourhood to personally clean up their Sylvester mess, but I think that’s just the right thing to do. Also, after all the things I did in New Zealand, cleaning up for half an hour the next morning is nothing! Cleaning up the big bits is always easy enough, however, getting all the small fragments scattered through the grass can be quite tedious indeed.

Munich ~ Fox at Work

This is only going to be a short chapter, but I figured I’d at least mention it for Arky’s sake. Finding a job isn’t exactly easy here in Germany, especially for such a short time. However, after a lot of back and forth, I managed to find something nice. From a cute little office in the inner city of Munich, overlooking a little courtyard that actually looks quite picturesque on those few precious snowy days…

…I work for a company by the name of NetFira. The atmosphere there is really nice, especially when put into direct contrast with my last employer (you know, the one with the million of African equids united by their distinctive black and white striped coats). In fact, on some days I have the entire office to myself, and on others I can even work from my home office, giving me more time to invest into my projects, such as the Chronicles of Ceal or this very blog. By the way, if there are any able programmers reading this, we’re still hiring!

The work is quite tricky, and I have to deal mostly with stuff I never touched before and where most people would have to study for a couple of years to get it. Fortunately, I’m a fox, and so I’m good at improvising and adapting if at nothing else. Within the time frame of two months, I’ve learned to use PowerShell, Octopus Deploy, TeamCity, MSSQL, Visual Basic, AdvancedInstaller, VMWare, and created an automatic installer that literally installs everything but the kitchen sink. I was a bit nervous about it at first, thinking I might have bitten more than I could chew, but I managed to bite my way through it anyway. And now, as my contract with NetFira comes to a close, I am told with delight that I have managed to impress them with my vulpine prowess, and that they would like to keep me employed as a freelancer during my next big adventure. Of course, that’s a big load of my shoulders, since it’ll mean I won’t have to worry too much about not finding a job very quickly if I can just take on assignments from NetFira whenever I have some extra time to spare. So yay! I’m happy and grateful that things turned out this way. =^,^=

One Last Ride

The winter has been a massive let-down this year. However, the lack of snow also has its good sides: For one, I can indulge in the bicycling-mania which I’ve developed back in New Zealand and ride my bike pretty much everywhere, be it to work, to board game meetings, or just to go shopping. The final of those cycling tours is when I decide to ride my bike to a day-long board game meeting in the district of Harthof on January 5th in the morning, and back again in the dead of night.

First off, here’s why I like living in this part of Munich so much, not even five minutes from where I live, the residential areas look like this, in the middle of the biggest city of Bavaria!

Since I took off with some time to spare, I naturally go after some Geocaches along the way. One of them leads me to an old, abandoned train station near the Olympia Park. Back when the Olympic games were hosted in Munich back in 1972, this was one of the main public transit access ways to the stadium, along with the recently completed subway. However, it has been deprecated ever since, and nature has long reclaimed the platform.

Naturally, that means I’m not far from the Olympia Park with its trademark the Olympic Tower and the sweeping canopies of acrylic glass stabilized by a rigging of metal ropes. This amazing construction was ground-breaking and futuristic at the time, and is still a landmark of Munich op to this very day.

That corner of Munich has quite a few architectonical curiosities. For example, just a short was further, there’s the unique BMW tower and museum…

…and who ever said that there aren’t any queer murals to be found in Germany (although, to be fair, the amount of murals in public spaces in New Zealand easily exceeds that of Germany by a whole order of magnitude).

By the way, I believe I already mentioned this a few chapters back, but Munich is a city with lots of greenery, not unlike the cities of New Zealand, and there are many strips of parks that make cycling here quite a pleasure.

My final challenge before arriving in Harthof is a tricky cache hidden up a tree. Without my claws, climbing up there isn’t quite as easy, and I pretty much reach my limit. But in the end, I succeed, and the cache hidden at a height of 5m is mine!

And then, I arrive at a cosy little community centre in Harthof…

…where I get to enjoy the rest of the day playing all sorts board games with fellow geeks before finally cycling back home in the dead of night.

The Road Ahead

By now, the time of my next great adventure is rapidly approaching. Little longer than a week from now, I am going to board the plane headed east for adventure again. The place I’m headed for actually has quite a few things in common with New Zealand. It is an island nation composed of multiple islands at the western end of the Pacific Ocean, and it is frequented by earth quakes. Also, like New Zealand, it is a mountainous country, and the majority of its land is covered with forests. Its language even shares the same roots as that of the Maori. However, that is where the similarities end, because culturally, the two countries are almost polar opposites. I wonder how I’ll fare over there.

But I’ve kept you guessing for long enough now. Some of you may already have figured it out by now, some might have heard it either from myself or from the grapes, and some might have seen it coming from way over there. My next destination is the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan. It’s the land where my kind are revered as messengers of the goddess of rice and prosperity, O-Inari-Sama, in the animistic local religion of Shinto, and a veritable jewel box of tales of mischievous fox spirits. I’ve been fascinated with this place ever since my Awakening, and have learned Japanese for several years, hoping to one day go there. My first attempt during my time in college was thwarted by an unfortunate nuclear reactor meltdown near the Island of Luck, but this time around, I’m going for sure.

This is the last time I’ll be able to make a working holiday like this. You can only get a Visa until you’re 30 years of age, and I’ve passed that milestone last October. Fortunately, the Visa is valid for a full year, and allows me to work in Japan for up to one year starting from the day of my arrival. But speaking of which, getting the Visa was already a major pain in the tail. Unlike for New Zealand, where I was able to get the visa in 15 minutes flat using an uncomplicated and streamlined online procedure, for Japan, I had to prepare a whole stack of documents, including travelling insurance, flight tickets, a letter of motivation, and a detailed travelling plan. Then, I had to go to the Japanese General Consulate with all of that, drop off my documents, wait for a full week, and then return to find out if my Visa had even been granted. Mind you I had to buy tickets and an insurance before that. Fortunately, they gave me little trouble, and I was able to procure a valid Work and travel Visa with only about an order of magnitude more of an effort than it took for New Zealand.

Now, all that’s left is to pack my bags, and then it’s off to adventure again! Naturally, I’m a bit nervous. Scared, even. But New Zealand worked out, so I’m sure I’ll be fine in Japan too. To a point, it even feels like my year in New Zealand has given me the courage to finally pull through with this.

What sorts of exciting events will I experience there? We are just about to find out! So stay tuned, and look forward to the soon-to-be published first issue of…