Thursday, May 15, 2014

Amsterdam Part 2

Slightly hungover and half a day late to a conference is never a good thing, not to mention I was soaked from the rainstorm that had decided to start right when I got on Hugo's bike. So I guess you can say I really wasn't feeling my best when I finally checked in at Hotel Casa 400 and clipped on my QSEU14 badge. My head was pounding and even the ambient light was hurting my eyes - damn what do they put in Dutch beer? :p

Eventually I started feeling better and sight of familiar faces put me back on track. I ran into Erik and Jakob from Cortium( and we attended some office hours and sessions. Cortium makes an awesome little heart monitor that tracks your heart rate, respiration and position. It's portable, accurate, open source and takes advantage of off the shelf parts like standard electrodes. Being the curious person that I am, of course I offered to try it out for the conference, and besides, what better way to get insight than to wear the device and see how it really feels and get feedback. The device was surprisingly easy to put on and my data collected inside the device but also could be streamed via bluetooth to a smart phone/tablet. I spent the rest of the day with the device on and I must admit it really was surprisingly comfortable to wear.

--more to come--

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

First day in Amsterdam

I spent just a bit under 72 hours in Amsterdam and I must say it was fantastic. I am not sure what I was expecting and maybe I must admit I skipped most of the tourist sights here. No, I did not visit The Hague, or the red light district or even hit up a "coffeeshop', but I did meet some truly awesome people here and got a small but authentic view of Amsterdam.

Believe it or not, my Dutch adventure started on the plane ride from Berlin, I ended sitting next to a pair of German DJ's - Chopstick and JohnJon. Being unfamiliar with the German music scene, I had not heard of them before, but JohnJon was a real chill guy and actually doled out some great life advice to me during our 45 minute flight. The duo was scheduled to performed at Studio 80 that night and offered to put me and a +1 to the list for their 3 am set. I wasn't sure if it was a smart idea for me to out all night as the QS Conference was scheduled to start at 8 am the next morning, but I figured, I'll just go with the flow and see how the night goes.

My host in Amsterdam was Hugo, a Dutch student studying Medical Informatics. I didn't know him before I landed in Amsterdam as he is actually the classmate of a girl I met during my volunteer stint at the World of Health IT Conference in Nice, France last month. What a small world? Who would have thought my random encounter in Nice would lead me to a place to stay now in Amsterdam- and to come to think of it, another contact from WoHIT was also my "couch-host" in Berlin. Pretty damn amazing huh? - I love it.

After a rather sunny week in Berlin, I was a bit bummed to be greeted by wind and rain in Amsterdam. But my ever- enthusiastic host, Hugo, reassured me that the weather was really not that bad and was sure to clear up soon. After dropping off my things and a short bicycle ride(of course I rode on the back :p) into the inner city over the scenic bridges of Amsterdam(what a beautiful city) Hugo introduced me to the finer points of Dutch fast food. We started our weekend binge at FEBO- a certified Dutch institution, where vending machines meet fried balls of cheese and mystery meat. It was f*cking fantastic! Like little exploding balls of greasy joy, each of FEBO's plethora of croquettes were unfailingly delicious. This place is a must visit for Amsterdam, just makes sure you have exact change for the vending machines as they do not give cash back. After stuffing our faces we figured a couple of cold ones would be the best way to wash down all that delicious grease so we popped into a snazzy little jazz bar-Jazz Café Alto just off the main street. We were lucky to snatch up a pair of much in-demand bar seats just before the live show started. Even though I am not a jazz expert-couldn't name you any famous jazz musicians, I am definitely an admirer of the music. The vibe of this place reminded me of La Fontaine in Copenhagen, but a bit more intimate and cozy :). Hugo and I sampled a variety of Dutch brewery classics: the Palm, Brand, La Chouffe and Wieckse, with my favorite being Brand Zwaar Blond.

After our 3rd round of beer, I could feel my recent jet setting antics finally getting the better of me and I was starting to power down, but it was a Friday in Amsterdam and it just didnt feel right calling it quit so early ;p. So we refueled with some Flemish Fries from Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminkx(get your fries with mayo) and a slice from New York Pizza(decent pizza but there is nothing NY about this place). Feeling our energy returning we made our way to Studio 80. This club was fun but a bit crowded with drunk tourists, that annoying fact aside, the music was SICK. We showed up around 2am and just caught the last hour of Daniel Bortz-very good stuff and then we stayed on for Chopstick and JohnJon's set. As we were leaving I jokingly told the guys that their music wasn't that bad :p but to be honest, their stuff was damn good. I would definitely see them again - and for my Chicago friends- you should check out Chopstick and JohnJon in Chicago this June at the Primary :)

And so my first night in Amsterdam drew to a close at the wee hours of the morning and of course I knew I wasn't going to make the 8 am opening session at QS, but was it worth it? Hell yeah :) What a perfect way to start my weekend in Amsterdam, well everything was perfect except for a small bicycle crash on the ride home haha! -you can blame the bridges! ;p

-Ran - A Nomad in Amsterdam

Friday, May 9, 2014

Oh Berlin

Oh Berlin, what can I say about this place?!
Berlin is definitely my type of city! It is a city covered with graffiti, inspired by the art, and filled with history. There are delicious CURRY DOGS and bratwurst on every corner, endless cafes and vintage shops. It is a modern metropolis that is a mix of the old and the new- I love the architecture here. I think I love everything. Berlin is a city that is bursting with life, possibilities and mystery. There are so many international people here and I hear so many languages on the street. Sitting here in this little cafe on the corner-enjoying my Berliner Pilsener, I feel content just watching people walk by.

I'm in Berlin for 6 days, which may seem like a long time, but I feel like I have only glimpsed a tiny portion of what this city has to offer. I have watched street performers, gone to flea markets, strolled by the river and seen the wall. I've met wonderful people with warm hearts and been to the places that I never imagined I could go. I'v heard stories of other places that seem too crazy to exist and now I am curious and I feel I must see these things for myself. But alas, I am all out of time. I am flying to Amsterdam tomorrow (which is sure to be another great adventure.) I have been to many cities in my 27 years on this Earth, but Berlin is has earned a special place in my heart. So I will be back sooner than later, for another glimpse of this fantastic city.

Thank you Berlin for inspiring me, intriguing me and leaving me wanting more...

-Ran - A Nomad in Love with Berlin

What have I learned?

It was a really tight squeeze with my apartment issues and electronic problems, I almost didn't come on this trip-but I am so glad I did. When I left on this trip to Berlin, I thought I would learn about startups, investing, IT etc, and I have learned about these things, but I have also learned something much more valuable- I learned about myself.

During my time in Berlin I have learned both how fragile and how resilient I am. I have really not had a easy go of things lately, but you know what? I still did all the things I had to do- for better for worse, I never stopped trying. I'm here trying my damn hardest to live in the present, to seize opportunities, to make new connections- to learn by doing. But, this does not always come naturally. I think I must fail 100 times a day. I get shy and awkward. My words get stuck in my throat. Sometimes really important people talk to me, and I am flabbergasted why they are interested in me. Even worse, sometimes I meet people and I get intimidated and don't say anything at all. Maybe all those years in the lab and studying engineering has really made me an awkward turtle -.-

But life is what you make it right? and we humans are not static beings. We are self aware for a reason-we evolve to match our environments so that we not only survive, but thrive. So as I watch the people that are older and wiser than me network and pitch-it becomes obvious that business is an art. There are opportunities everywhere. Especially when you are traveling, chance encounters can happen in the blink of an eye, and you never know who you are going to meet or how that meeting might change your life. So now I know I need to keep practicing, be clever, and most especially- I need to trust myself. Because what is the worst that can happen? Someone doesn't like what I have to say, or doesn't want to talk to me? Oh well?! I need to stop being worried of saying something wrong, because a wise friend told me: "Everyone wants something, you just have to figure out what they want, and sell it." So what happens if I never say anything? Never have the guts to even say hello. What I have learned on this trip is that I will lose 100% of the opportunities that I don't take. My future is in my hands and I'm ready to take it in stride. And besides- Fake it till you make it, right babbby? :p


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Reporting from Berlin- May 3, 2014

Written on May 3, 2014
This week has been so hectic with my move and all my broken/stolen electronics. So I write this post from my trusty iPad- so glad I had the foresight to buy a keyboard for this handy little thing. I just landed in Germany and I have already met interesting people. A VC from Singapore who invests in biotech startups just happened to help me with my suitcase off my flight. Who would of thought? And now I boarded the train with a nice Mexican family from Guadalajara who offered me their place to stay if Im ever in town. My dear readers, this is exactly why I love traveling - because everything is possible and you never know who you will meet. That indescribable feeling you get when you know your life could change at any moment. I love this feeling.

So, I sit here on the train in Berlin with my suitcases next to me and the sun on my legs -with each kilometer traveled, I feel the weight of recent stress falling away. Kilometer by kilometer, I feel more free. Don't get me wrong, I love traveling with my friends, and I am excited to see Marta and the rest of the group from Copenhagen. But for the next 30 minutes or so, I will enjoy my solo bliss on this train. This is my favorite part- right before the journey really starts- because in this moment its just a girl, her iPad and her thoughts. Yes, this is my life :)

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Beautiful Life

Packing, packing, packing my life away. When one thing ends, another begins. Done with my move, my next big adventure awaits me :)

The best part about traveling is not knowing where you are going and when you are coming back. Into the unknown I go. So my dear friends, its not goodbye, its until we meet again :)

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