Galley Gossip: 10 Ways To Handle A Tight Connection

1. Book wisely. If you need to be somewhere really important, it’s probably not a good idea to book your flights with less than an hour between them. Even an hour is pushing it. An hour and a half is good. Two hours, even better. Whatever you do, don’t take the last flight out! Delays happen. So do cancelations.

2. Pay the extra fee. If you’re the anxious type and travel is stressful, pay the extra fee to sit closer to the front of the airplane and be done with it. Why start your trip out on the wrong foot and the risk a snowball effect. Because once something goes wrong, everything seems to follow suit. Better to be out a few bucks than to miss a flight! It’s worth it just to relax.

3. Check your boarding pass. Many airlines print the boarding time, not the departure time, on the boarding pass. Depending on the equipment type (smaller vs. larger aircraft), you can usually tag on another 30 to 40 minutes to your connection time. Read the fine print.

4. Switch seats. Ask a flight attendant if you can move closer to the front of the cabin on landing. Unfortunately, most flights are full these days and just because there’s an open seat up front doesn’t mean you’ll find a spot in the overhead bin for your bag too. If you’ve booked a tight connection, you might want to make sure your carry-on luggage fits under the seat in front of you.

5. Relax: I know, I know, easier said than done. Just know that while it might feel like it takes forever to disembark, the truth is almost everyone is able to deplane in less than 15 minutes. So take a deep breath and … exhale. Put in your earphones and play the most relaxing music you have. Then get ready to run. Here’s to hoping you wore appropriate shoes to sprint across the airport terminal.6. Call the airline. Don’t wait in a long line of passengers to talk to an agent. By the time it’s your turn to approach the counter, chances are the flight will have already departed. Get on the phone ASAP and call the airline’s reservation desk. Or try tweeting for an even faster response. Most airlines offer immediate feedback.

7. Hold the flight! Airlines don’t hold flights for passengers. On time departures are way too important. That said an airline might hold a flight if it’s the last flight of the day or for a large group of passengers traveling to the same destination. If it is the last flight out, rest assured the airline knows where you are and you’ll probably be booked on another flight before you even land.

8. Go, go, go! Don’t stop to talk to the agent meeting your flight. Run straight to your connecting gate and talk to the agent there, even if it’s past the departure time. Time is precious. Every second counts. Plus you never know if that flight might be delayed.

9. The thing about bad weather. If you’re delayed because you’re flying into an airport experiencing bad weather, chances are your connecting flight may also be delayed. And remember just because your departing aircraft is at the gate, doesn’t mean the outbound crew is on the ground and ready to go. They could still be in the air too. Sounds strange, I know, but we don’t stick with one aircraft all day long.

10. It’s not over until the airplane pushes away from the gate. I can’t tell you how many flights I’ve just missed only to have the airplane return back to the gate to remove a sick passenger or to fix a mechanical. I’ve actually gotten on flights airlines have brought passengers off of due to weight and balance issues that were later lifted after a creeping delay. Miracles do happen.

Photo Of The Day: Photographs In Chang Le

As travelers, we often enter communities, take photographs and then leave, content with the moments we have captured on film.

But what happens when a photographer returns and shares his photographs with their subjects? That’s what Flickr user Bernard-SD did after a recent trip to the Chang Le Village in Yunan Province, China. After snapping his images, he printed them to photographs using a Polaroid instant mobile printer, then distributed them to the people of Chang Le. On his Flickr feed, Bernard shares how one farmer couldn’t stop smiling after seeing photos of himself and his grandchildren. The farmer was so moved that he invited Bernard to his house for a home-cooked lunch of homegrown mushrooms, squash and vegetables.

It’s a touching story, and hopefully one that can inspire a greater connection with the people we photograph.Do you have any photos worth sharing? Upload your shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.

[Photo Credit: Flickr user Bernard-SD]

10 reasons to travel to Ljubljana

Ljubljana travel
When I found cheap airfare from Istanbul to Ljubljana, I didn’t find many other travelers who’d been there or even say for sure which country it’s in. The tiny of country of Slovenia is slightly smaller than New Jersey and its capital city isn’t known for much other than being difficult to spell and pronounce (say “lyoob-lyAH-nah”). After spending a few days there last month, I quickly fell madly in love with the city, and recommend to everyone to add to their travel list.

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Here are some reasons to love Ljubljana:

1. It’s Prague without the tourists – Ljubljana has been called the next Prague for at least the last 10 years, but the comparison is still apt. Architect Jože Plečnik is known for his work at Prague Castle, but he was born in Ljubljana and is responsible for much of the architecture in the old downtown and the Triple Bridge that practically defines the city. While Prague is a lovely place to visit, it’s overrun in summer with backpackers and tourists. In Ljubljana, the only English I heard was spoken with a Slovenian accent, and there were no lines at any of the city’s attractions.

2. Affordable Europe – While not as cheap as say, Bulgaria, Ljubljana is a lot easier on the wallet than other European capital cities and cheaper than most of its neighbors. I stayed in a perfect room above the cafe Macek in an ideal location for 65 euro a night. A huge three-course dinner for one with drinks at Lunch cafe was 20 euro, and a liter of local wine in the supermarket is around 3-4 euro. I paid 6 euro for entrance into 4 art museums for the Biennial, and the same for all of the castle, including the excellent Slovene history museum, and the funicular ride there and back.3. Everyone speaks English – Sharing borders with Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, Slovenia is multi-cultural and multi-lingual. Everyone I met in Ljubljana spoke at least a few foreign languages including English; one supermarket cashier I met spoke six languages! While a language barrier shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying a foreign country, it’s great when communication is seamless and you can get recommendations from nearly every local you meet.

4. A delicious melting pot – Slovenia’s location also means a tasty diversity of food; think Italian pastas and pizzas, Austrian meats, and Croatian fish. One waiter I spoke to bemoaned the fact that he could never get a decent meal in ITALY like he can in Slovenia. While I’d never doubt the wonders of Italian food, I did have several meals in Ljubljana so good I wanted to eat them all over again as soon as I finished. Standout spots include Lunch Cafe (aka Marley & Me) and it’s next-door neighbor Julija.

5. Great wine – Slovenia has a thriving wine culture, but most of their best stuff stays in the country. A glass of house wine at most cafes is sure to be tasty, and cost only a euro or two. Ljubljana has many wine bars and tasting rooms that are approachable, affordable, and unpretentious. Dvorni Wine Bar has an extensive list, and on a Tuesday afternoon, there were several other mothers with babies, businesspeople, and tourists having lunch. I’m already scheming when to book a stay in a vineyard cottage, with local wine on tap.

6. Al-fresco isn’t just for summer – During my visit in early November, temperatures were in the 50s but outdoor cafes along the river were still lined with people. Like here in Istanbul, most cafes put out heating lamps and blankets to keep diners warm, and like the Turks, Slovenians also enjoy their smoking, which may account for the increase in outdoor seating (smoking was banned indoors a few years ago). The city’s large and leafy Tivoli Park is beautiful year-round, with several good museums to duck into if you need refuge from the elements.

7. Boutique shopping – The biggest surprise of Ljubljana for me was how many lovely shops I found. From international chains like Mandarina Duck (fabulous luggage) and Camper (Spanish hipster shoes) to local boutiques like La Chocolate for, uh, chocolate and charming design shop Sisi, there was hardly a single shop I didn’t want to go into, and that was just around the Stari Trg, more shops are to be found around the river and out of the city center.

8. Easy airport – This may not be first on your list when choosing a destination, but it makes travel a lot easier. Arriving at Ljubljana’s airport, you’ll find little more than a snack bar and an ATM outside, but it’s simple to grab a local bus into town or a shared shuttle for a few euro more. Departing from Slovenia, security took only a few minutes to get through, wi-fi is free, and there’s a good selection of local goodies at Duty Free if you forgot to buy gifts. LJU has flights from much of western Europe, including EasyJet from Paris and London.

9. Access to other parts of country – While Ljubljana has plenty to do for a few days, the country is compact enough to make a change of scenery easy and fast. Skiers can hop a bus from the airport to Kranj in the Slovenian Alps, and postcard-pretty Lake Bled is under 2 hours from the capital. In the summer, it’s possible to avoid traffic going to the seaside and take a train to a spa resort or beach. There are also frequent international connections; there are 7 trains a day to Croatia’s capital Zagreb, and Venice is just over 3 hours by bus.

10. Help planning your visit – When I first began planning my trip, I sent a message to the Ljubljana tourism board, and got a quick response with a list of family-friendly hotels and apartments. Next I downloaded the always-excellent In Your Pocket guide, which not only has a free guide and app, it also has a very active Facebook community with up-to-the-minute event info, restaurant recommendations, deals, and more. On Twitter, you can get many questions answered by TakeMe2Slovenia and VisitLjubljana.

A Canadian in Beijing: Goodbye Schmoozing, Ni Hao Guanxi

On Monday night, I had a fabulous night of guanxi.

Guanxi, which literally means “relationship” or “relations” is a central concept in Chinese philosophy and represents one’s social standing and, therefore, social potential. I’ve heard this described also in terms of its obligations. By this, I mean that guanxi is very much about one’s role in exchange with others to both assist and seek assistance and thus maintain one’s intregity or “face” in society. Guanxi speaks to social status; if one properly maintains one’s guanxi, then the social group also maintains its strength. There’s mutual advantage to guanxi that cannot be overlooked.

Yes, it’s “what-can-you-do-for-me?” based, but it’s also “what-can-I-do-for-you?” Thus, not exploitative in nature (or else, mutually exploitative and condoned as such) and I like that.

In Canada, I can only relate this concept to the notion of “connections” or “making contacts” and by extension, an expression called “schmoozing” (commonly used in the arts industry). This expression has always held a negative connotation for me as it’s laced with the notion of sucking up and kissing the behinds of prominent figures in your field. There’s something that is inherently selfish about it.

I’ve never been one to schmooze. In fact, I usually avoid it.Unlike much of western culture that advocates such an individualistic notion of success, I find that guanxi is a concept that places more emphasis on the group integrity and takes longer to cultivate. There’s not as much competition or focus on being the “one” on top. I don’t sense that kind of competitive urgency here.

But, let me begin my story again: On Monday night, I had a fabulous night of guanxi.

I went to see my Canadian musician friends at Star Live, the same music venue at which I had seen Sonic Youth the week before. I was already in a good mood when I arrived because I had successfully found the place with little incident (getting lost in Beijing is becoming my norm!) and so when I walked up the stairs and saw Andy, the promoter for the Canadian touring bands who I met in Shanghai, I was full of smiles and so was he. He immediately greeted me and then asked if I had a ticket to the event. I said that I hadn’t bought one yet but was prepared to, and then he said “come with me,” and he whisked me by security, handing me a complimentary entrance ticket and pointed in the direction of the stage saying: “They’re up now. You’re just in time.”

VSH was on stage (well, without Suzie who had to go home early) and they were tearing it up. I sat at a front table and snapped some pictures and when they were done their set, I went around to the side of the stage to say hello.

Here, I met a man that is on tour with them acting as a tour manager named Norm. He, too, greeted me with a kind smile and grabbed my elbow to tug me back stage rather than side stage, past the security and into the room that was filled with sweaty Canadian musicians. They all greeted me with hugs and tired smiles (it was a night of double duty for each band — two venues and two shows each!) and I was immediately invited to hop on the tour bus and head to the other venue with them in order to catch their second set.

We headed down to “Nu Ren Jie” or “Lady Street” where a bar called “The New Get Lucky” is situated. I’ve been there a few times already and I was familiar with the venue. The owner, who I’ve met through Traci, gave me a smile and a nod of recognition.

I was helping my friends to set up when I heard my Chinese name being called out by a man at one of the tables. It was one of the men, Luo Yan, who had been on the picnic in Shidu on the weekend and he invited me over to his table and we started to talk. Turns out that he’s a bass player (for China’s “T Band”), a studio engineer and a record producer in the music business and he introduced me to some musicians who were sitting with him — four young men who are currently working on their album at his studio. I passed him my CD and press kit and he was truly excited to realize that we are in the same industry and that we’re both professional touring musicians! I was too.

My friends in the Canadian band were trying to do a sound check at this point and I could tell that they were having a hard time communicating and so I excused myself from Luo Yan’s group and started to translate between the stage and the sound person. Eventually, the sound person just motioned that I should take over and so I started to do the sound myself. Luo Yan also got up and helped by suggesting to me (in Chinese) what should specifically be changed in terms of detailed frequencies so that I could make more finite adjustments. (His studio ears were truly appreciated!) I literally saw the young men at Luo Yan’s table change their opinion of me from “foreign girl who sings” to “professional musician with technical knowledge.” It was just a flash in the air that seemed but was a tangible shift in the energy between us. It was a great feeling and VSH’s sound was pretty good after all.

Mid-way through their set, I was introduced to two women who turned out to be the arts contacts at the Canadian consulate! I spoke with them for some time about touring in China and they encouraged me to stay in touch with them as they can be helpful in terms of grant applications etc. What luck to meet them on this night when I was just riding a wave of spontaneous connections!

Then, as I’m heading outside for some fresh air between sets, a non-Chinese man comes through the door with a Chinese woman beside him. He was carrying a guitar and greeted another Canadian woman using English and with a Canadian accent. He looked at me with vague recognition and I looked at him with the same kind of look – that “where-have-I-seen-you-before,” cocked head of confusion. This man is Chairman George, a Canadian songwriter who performs in China in both Greek and Chinese and who lives in Ottawa, just an hour from where I live in Canada. Turns out that we’ve never really met but that we have some common “guanxi” back home and may have been at some of the same events. He offered to introduce me to some of his contacts in China and took my information, even intimating that we could possibly do some shows together next year. I was thrilled.

He introduced me to the woman he was with, Zou Rui, an opera and pop singer, internationally touring performer and model here in China. She lives in Beijing and makes her living in the arts. We all sat down and had a great conversation and Zou Rui and I became instant friends. She will most definitely be a subject of my “Beijing Women in Music” research, but more importantly I am happy to have met such a cool person to hang out with. She’s also excited to have met a language partner and so we’ve been spending some time together this week swapping Chinese for English and vice versa.

When I walked towards the restrooms, I saw Andy again standing by the bar with his Shanghai contingent. They were so warm to me and grateful that I had come to the show to support the bands. He said he’d definitely be in touch about the possibilities for my band next year.

As I was leaving the bar, I said goodbye to Luo Yan who gave me his number in case I wanted a bass player while I’m here. Then, I said goodbye to Kim and Elana of VSH who gave me warm hugs and thanked me for my translation and my support. I assured them that it was truly my pleasure to see them, hear them play and just to spend some time with them — my fellow Canadians — in this beautiful country.

I waved to everyone from the taxi window filled with even more smiles than before.

This is the kind of connection-making I want to experience.

Goodbye schmoozing. Ni hao Guanxi.

[Group shot above is from when I was in Suzhou last week. From left to right: Suzie Vinnick, me, Kim Sheppard, Elana Harte (all making up VSH), Randall (their drummer on this trip), Norm (travelling with them and filling in tour manager roles) and Andy, the Shanghai-based promoter.]