A Christmas Story –or– Eine Kleine Weihnachtsgeschichte

A Christmas StorySometimes, you just can’t flout rules, even with an eagle on your passport. As tourists or businessfolk, we star-spangled Americans are allowed to spend up to 90 days in any given six-month period in most of Europe without having to actually visit a country’s consulate and applying for a visa. And as a star-spangled American, I simply took for granted that I could come and go as I pleased, the consummate jetsetter, throwing diplomatic caution to the wind and never paying attention to the 90-day rule on any of my previous visits. Well, as of December 22, 2012, I had hit Day 90, having entered and left the European Union six times since July. I had only discovered this grievous transgression on December 21st.

Now, I, Fly Brother, should have known better. I’ve lived in four countries outside of the States and have snagged more than a few visas with little more than a Coke and a smile for the consular official, so I’m usually up on my visa game. But we’re talking about Europe, here; specifically, Germany. I mean, we spanked Germany in 1945. Badly. By rights, I should have the run of the place, nahmean?!

Remember dat?

Remember dat?

Well, I’m in the process of applying for a PhD program in Germany (fingers crossed), and the Germans are actually pretty good about letting foreigners (well, Americans, at least) apply for work and student visas while on German soil. Catch is, you have to register with the municipal government in the city you’re living in before your 90 days are up. In order to register, you have to provide a lease agreement or some other proof that you’re indeed living in Germany, and in my case, I was going to register as the roommate of a German friend I live with.

Well, when I went to register with the municipal government, I found out that said friend never registered with the municipal government. In fact, he’d moved from his hometown, two hours away from Berlin, ten years ago and never filled out the simple single-page document stating his new address in the German capital. So in order for me to register, we’d have to wait for the landlord to send a letter stating that said friend still resides in the same apartment. Two weeks later, no letter. Landlord’s office said they’d send another one, but it wouldn’t arrive before Christmas. That’s when I get the idea that maybe I should check to make sure I’m not spending a little too much time in Germany. This was December 21st, Day 89.

Well, I had to get the hell outta Dodge. Immejitly. Germany is known as being a stickler for rules and regulations (me, not so much), but I didn’t want to jeopardize any future chances of obtaining a work or student visa in Europe—remember, we’re talking almost the entire EU here, not just Germany—so I went online and found a 600-euro one-way ticket from Berlin home to Florida, including a transatlantic crossing on—ta-daa—the Singapore Airlines Airbus A380! For an airline geek like me, it can’t get much better than this: flying on the world’s largest passenger airplane operated by arguably the best airline in the world.

Singapore Airlines A380 NYC

Well, my elation was short-lived, however, when I realized that a) I didn’t really have 600 euro earmarked for last-minute plane tickets, b) I had, oh, about 12 hours to pack for a trip with an undefined return date, c) I would conceivably have to remain out of Germany for another 90 days minimum, and d) all the plans that I’d made, including Christmas and New Year’s parties, work projects, German lessons, social activities, errthing, had to be postponed indefinitely or canceled. Yes, I’d get to spend Christmas with my family (always a good thing, even though I’d just seen them at Thanksgiving), and I could send off my PhD application and apply for the student visa from the States, but damn if this wasn’t an expensive way to take an unscheduled break from the limb-numbing central European winter.

Pretty. Cold.

Pretty. Cold.

Well, on Day 91, I embarked on my six-airport, five-leg, three-airline itinerary (the type you get when you snag a “cheap” last-minute deal): Berlin to Munich to Frankfurt on Lufthansa, Frankfurt to New York on Singapore (the route goes JFK>FRA>SIN and back), and New York to Washington to Jacksonville on US Airways.

BERJAX

The saving grace was that borderline-luxurious flight on Singapore, which included two full meals in economy, plus between-meal snacks, served up by an attentive, courteous flight crew. To top it off, I caught four great films I’d either been meaning to see for a while, or figured, “why the hell not?”: Frankenweenie (Tim Burton!), Oslo, August 31st (poignant and evocative), ParaNorman (EXCELLENT soundtrack), and Vertigo (one of the few Hitchcock opuses I hadn’t seen).

Kim Novak emoting on the A380

Kim Novak emoting on the A380

And though I’m still unsure when exactly I’ll be returning to Germany, I did make it home in time to catch the 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon on TBS. All is right with the world.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

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2014 World Cup Brazil – Host City Posters

In 2014, the FIFA World Cup soccer championship will be held in Brazil from June 12 to July 13. With Brazil being a continent-sized country geographically larger than the “Lower 48,” FIFA agreed to let the country host matches in a dozen cities, exceeding the usual number by two, and ensuring spectators from Copacabana to the Amazon get a chance to witness the ultimate expression of The Beautiful Game on its most fervent home turf. Ladies and gentlemen, today I present to you the promotional posters for Brazil’s 12 World Cup host cities:

World Cup Poster Belo Horizonte

World Cup Poster Brasilia

World Cup Poster Cuiaba

World Cup Poster Curitiba

World Cup Poster Fortaleza

World Cup Poster Manaus

World Cup Poster Natal

World Cup Poster Porto Alegre

World Cup Poster Recife

World Cup Poster Rio de Janeiro

World Cup Poster Salvador

World Cup Poster Sao Paulo

Which ones do you folks like best?

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Introducing the 787

Just over a year ago, Boeing debuted its newest jet airplane, the 787. Designed to take fewer passengers a much farther distance than other long-range jets, the 787—nicknamed the Dreamliner—will allow airlines to make money by serving farther-flung destinations that people want to get to, but that the current crop of planes that can fly the distance are just too big for. For example, there may be 200 people wanting a daily nonstop Miami-to-Tokyo flight, but until the 787 came around, the only planes that could fly the route all seated at least 300 passengers. No airline could financially justify such a route with that many empty seats, no matter how much they charged for first class. Well, times have changed.

Right now, eight of the nearly fifty airlines that have ordered 787s are operating the type and new nonstop, such as Japan Air Lines’ Boston-Tokyo, ANA’s San Jose-Tokyo, and United Airlines’ Denver-Tokyo, have already begun or are slated to begin soon (Tokyo’s seeing a lot of 787 action!). Other carriers, like United, Ethiopian Airlines, and LAN, are using the plane for “rightsizing” existing routes, with United flying the new-new between hubs in the US.

The airlines aren’t the only beneficiaries, though. Besides getting access to additional nonstop markets, passengers will experience larger windows, more room throughout the cabin, and better pressurization, and lightweight composite materials create for a less-gas-guzzling airplane that, in theory, should result in lower fares but don’t hold your breaths on that one.

Anybody else as excited about the new 7-8 as I am? Prolly not. :-/

Check out this video of ANA’s 787 interior. It’s pretty fly.

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Mad About Travel

One of the main purposes of this website is to encourage people in general, and black folks in particular, to do more international traveling. Well, one enterprising young lady has taken that mission a step further with the Nomadness Travel Tribe.

Starting off as a simple Facebook group uniting a few ethnically-diverse, internationally-focused travelers, founder Evita Robinson has stoked interest and aroused passions, turning the Tribe into a multifaceted movement with over 3,500 members, and facilitating group trips to Europe and Latin America, States-side events in various cities, and educational outreach to plant the travel bug among the kiddies.

What’s it all about? Evita explains:

 

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