Red-eye to Hong Kong

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Ah, the thrill of being on the move again. The time for my visa is up, and as a solution I decided to get out of the country – so I can enter it again. The destination I chose was none other than Hong Kong. So yesterday I hopped on the taxi in Baner and set forth towards Mumbai.

Gradually, as we approached Mumbai, the Pune highlands morphed into the flat lowlands of the west coast. Dark silhouettes receded into urban skylines, and three hours later I stepped into the brand new T2 terminal of the Mumbai international airport. After taking in the vast inner space and the intricate shamiana patterns in the ceiling, I proceeded to the baggage drop and immigrations. For the last time I flashed my employment visa and exited the borders of India.

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The flight was a red-eye, in other words a night flight, with departure at 1:30 and arrival at 9:00 local time. With a flight time of a mere five hours, the chance of getting anything resembling a good night’s sleep was next to nil. As always, I had a window seat. Because I like to look out of the window. If I can’t get one at the online checkin, I give my most charming smile at the airport checkin and ask if there is one available. Everyone are not aware of these options, including the young indian man who sat next to me on the flight. Every now and then he would lean over, a bit too far into my space, to glance out the window or to take photos. That, or he was trying to make advances. And every now and then I would respond to his approaches by looking at him with my most sincere “can I help you with something?” face. He calmed down a bit, but I’m not sure he got the hint.

Clearly he would have appreciated a window seat more than the middle one he had.

Sunrise over the Chinese mainland below was beautiful: long mountain ranges protruding from a cover of clouds, casting vast shadows underneath the rapidly heartening gradient horizon. Quickly the light became blinding and we had to close the curtains, which gave me some breathing room from my cuddly neighbour.

Not long after that we descended through the strata and landed in Hong Kong international. Since the clock was only 10 and check-in was in four hours, I was in no particular hurry to exit the airport. I had a latte and took in the scene. That’s when it became clear to me: I was not in Kansas anymore. Or, to expand the Wizard of Oz -metaphor: I had come back from Oz. It all felt so.. functional somehow. Subtle things that made more sense. Didn’t cause confusion like their counterparts in India would. Clear signage. People were queueing properly. No need for second-guessing if a train would be on time or not.

So I bought an MTR ticket and took the train via Tsing Yi and Kowloon to Hong Kong island. From the central station, instead of hopping on a local train or bus, I decided to get to know the surroundings a bit better by walking to the hotel.

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And it was very different: the developing landscapes of Pune had been replaced with this modern, multi-layered, towering metropolis of glass and neon lights.

A thought struck me: in terms of solitariness, this is as far as I’ve ever been from everyone I know. Closest friends are 4200 km away, in Pune. Distance to family and friends in Finland is 7800 km. It doesn’t have to have any greater meaning, but it is a healthy reminder that I’m here, in fact, very much alone.

So where to from here? I don’t know. But it sure looks good.

The End of the Employment Visa

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You’ve been.. working in India?

Yes. For five and a half months now.

Hm.

The immigration official behind the counter continued to scrutinize my visa. I was wondering if I should mention that I have the FRO certificate with me. He didn’t seem very interested in the fact that my visa was about to expire during my imminent stay in Hong Kong, and that I had a return ticket to India a few days after that. On the other hand, neglecting to hand over documents when you’re supposed to has a tendency to come back and bite you in the ass, regardless of if the mistake was by me or an official.

So I pointed it out to him. Zero response. He just pointed to the camera, indicating that I should face it while he takes a snapshot for their archives. With a familiar sounding thump he gave the page in the passport the coup de grâce – the last stamp to go on that visa; no more entires into the country with that one.

So, wait, what did I need to do that foreigners registration for again?

Suit Up – Part 3: The Black Mandarin

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As the final part of my project to augment my formal wardrobe – the previous ones being measurements and fabric selections, and the classic grey suit – I decided to go for something a bit different and, with western fashion in mind, contemporary: a Chinese suit, also called a mandarin suit. No, not like the citrus fruit, those are for Halloween – and I don’t think they come in jet black like this one does.

As far as the style goes, it’s much simpler than the western suits; the jacket, also known as a Bangala, is closed all the way up to the upright mandarin collar, and should stay that way while you wear it. You don’t unbutton it when sitting down, like you would with a classic one.

Underneath is a shirt with a mandarin collar – ties or other accessories are not used. There is a breast pocket where you can put a neatly folded handkerchief, but the main principle is that the entirety should be kept simple and elegant.

That’s why the texture of the fabric is important, since it has a slightly more important role than in the classic suit. For this one I opted for a lightly striped pattern, which from afar looks like a uniform texture but up-close has a more detailed motif. Going for a plain fabric could result in an overly simplistic and borderline boring look.

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The suit is surprisingly comfortable and the fact that you don’t wear a tie is a big bonus. It might make me look like a Bond -villain, but I’m looking forward to donning this the next time I’m supposed to wear a dark suit.

Big thanks to Raymond’s in Phoenix Mall at Pune, especially to the master tailor. If you decide to drop by, listen to his advices and remember to address him by his title – he’s earned it.

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Props to Sajjad for the photos.

Pomegranate

I have something to confess: I’ve never deseeded a pomegranate. Some say it’s the easiest thing ever, others advise to make yourself comfortable as it will take a while.

So I decided to give it a try.

For those equally uninitiated into the ways of the pomegranate as me, it’s a fruit with a thick reddish skin and contains seeds. The seeds are in clusters, separated by membranes. The tricky part with peeling or deseeding a pomegranate is to do it without breaking the seeds, as they are quite juicy and will just make a red mess of everything. Don’t wear white.

One popular way of peeling or deseeding a pomegranate is to start by dividing the fruit into four sections. The cuts should go just a tad below the surface. After that, slice off the hat. It doesn’t contain seeds and will grant you easy access to the inside of the fruit. Then, using your fingers, lightly bend out the four sections. The cluster membranes should make sure that everything stays intact. After that it’s just a matter of picking out the seeds and separating them from the membranes in whichever way you see fit – some use a spoon, others pick by hand.

Enjoy.

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Update: I’ve been informed that there are at least these alternative ways of deseeding a pomegranate:

  • Slice it in half, put the halves on a plate with the inside down, and tap with a wooden spoon on the outside – the seeds will fall out
  • Just tear it open and pick out the seeds

Suit Up – Part 2: The Grey Classic

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Some time ago I decided to improve the formal section of my wardrobe by having a custom tailored suit made. So, after a session of having measures taken and selecting the fabric, all I had to do was wait for the goods.

A few weeks later they called me and asked me to come down to the store; it was ready.

It’s an exciting moment when they bring out the suit. I was a bit anxious about whether the fabric I selected – based on that small swatch – would match that inner vision I had. But as they opened up the carry bag it all went away – it looked really good. The texture and slight shine of polyester worked just as well as I had hoped.

The fit is as good as a made by measure suit should be. The pants and vest sit perfectly, and after a tiny adjustment of the shoulder padding even the jacket was exactly as I wanted it. The shirts – one white and one textured light blue – were also tailored so they hug the body without constricting. Finally a shirt with long enough sleeves and a collar that doesn’t feel like it’s trying to slowly strangle you! The cuffs – French one-buttons – are embroidered with a monogram, next to which I added a pair of cufflinks by Arrow.

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I needed a pair of good shoes to go with this, and opted for a pair of brown ones by Aldo.

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Now I just need to get myself invited to formal occasions where I can flaunt this shamelessly.

I was so happy with the results I decided to order another suit – this time a black mandarin one!

Props to Sajjad for the photos.