Nice island runs in Kiev

Spent the last four days or so in Kiev, Ukraine. It turned out to be a surprisingly good location for running. In what major cities, in addition to NYC, you can get directly from your hotel for a 10K run in a park — or woods in Kiev — without facing any major traffic?

I did that 10K two times during my stay. Just took the 1950s walking bridge over to the nearby island. There is actually a couple of these mostly inhabited natural park style islands over Dniepr. Based on map, it looks like you could do a 20K run in the woods basically without any traffic.

For some reason, though, I was definitely the only runner around. Just the odd dog coming out from nowhere in the bushes kept me from running too quick or too far…

Perspectives on China in 5 posts – 1/5

Returned from a quick but eye-opening five-day journey into Beijing. On the way back I thought the trip would be worth a couple of posts. At least. Let’s say 5.

These will be my own perspectives based on what I saw, heard, and read. My posts may have great misconceptions but what the hell. Wild guesses and random ramblings are the idea of blogging anyway.

First some background for this trip. A taiwanese professor Fan Chien Te visited Finland some years back. Now, a month ago or so he invites Niklas Bruun to give a talk in a symposiums held in Beijing. The trip didn’t fit Bruun’s schedule with such a short notice. Instead, he kindly threw the invitation to me.

At first, I had a great deal of mental hurdles to pass. I had my grazy Hong Kong experience from the past. We had a joint software venture there with Antti Halonen between 2001-2003, which the HK guys eventually stole away. I had since followed news from China with alarm. Pollution, SARS, poisoned food, immoral people, general dirt, “made in china” quality, free speech issues, pirate-midset with no creativty etc. Why would I want to visit such a rotten place on earth? I actually wrote a polite email back where I explained I would probably have nothing to contribute hoping that this would be it. Besides, I was having a tight shcedule in Finland. Teaching ongoing, completing an already-late book revision, one major consultation task etc.

Pofessor Fan then sent me a four-page letter to explain why I needed to come. Well, after engaging in the conversation I couldn’t say firmly no anymore (this happens to me all the time). I had the liberty to buy a business-class ticket and was given a loose schedule that included visits to major tourist attractions. Just five days or so total, I though. They must have fixed a lot for the Olympics, so maybe I can take it. To increase the thrill I chose Aeroflot – a day before that crash. Ok, I’m ready, this may be the last trip I ever do so let’s enjoy every moment like it would be the last!

Travelling salesman

Chamonix today.

When I was in the Finnish army, some 12+ years ago, I once did a pretty lengthy one-day trip. Woke up in Riihimäki, my hometown, very early in the morning. Got to the airport, flew one hour to Rovaniemi up north, where I took a bus to the garrison in Sodankylä, one more hour further north. Signed in and out, 15 minutes total, and then back the same way down (there was a maximum limit for the length of holiday, which you could not exceed, you had to sign in & out in between). I was home at about 21. At that time I thought this would be my record one-day trip for a long long time.

In fact, it was. But now that I’ve sometimes taken talking-head assignments way too far, that old record no longer holds. I have a strong feeling I did my questionable personal best today… Woke up in Espoo at 5:30, bus to the airport, flight to Geneva. Bus to Chamonix, give my talk, eat, another taxi, and return the same way backwards. At home just before the midnight.

I’ve sometimes wondered if my work differs much from a travelling salesman.