Flying Xiamen Airlines

April 30, 2017

Leg 1: Narita to Xiamen

I don’t like long lines in Japan. Why? Because this is Japan. Except for themeparks, the Japanese just DON’T DO long lines. Unfortunately, Xiamen Airlines is Chinese, so wait I must.

Everything went smoothly afterwards.

Leg 2. Xiamen to Amsterdam

Once we got off Xiamen, we had to go through their immigration. Even if you are just transferring, you still have to pass through them.

We had to go through the entire check in again, but since we were the only flight in Xiamen at that point (we had the airport to ourselves!), it went quite smoothly. Everything was on time.

Oh, unfortunately they don’t have slippers, eyecovers or toothbrushes up the plane. And as most airlines, their earplugs suck.

Leg 3. Amsterdam to Zurich

I LOVE the Schiphol (Amsterdam) Airport. They have a pretty cool and automated conveyor belt for the security check which facilitates the process. The guy handling it was pretty cool, even asking me to say hi to Manny Pacquiao (it weirded me out how he figured out I was a Filipino. In hindsight, he probably saw my passport).

Their internet is also free and fast. Plus we can access google, facebook, etc. (I never thought I’d miss them so much until I went to China.)

We had to pass through immigration here, and not in Switzerland. Apparently with the entire EU thingy, flights across member countries count like a domestic flight.

We used KLM lines, and they’ve got really good sandwiches. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’ve got the best sandwiches, but I can’t recall a single sandwich that is as good. Or maybe it’s the European bread. Hmm.

Zurich Airport.

I lost my hair clip in the plane! I immediately went back, but they apparently were done cleaning when I did and there’s nothing they could do! Ugh!

Oh, and no free wifi! You need a phone number (which I don’t have) to register.

And this concludes my 30 hour-ish trip. I left my unit at 10am, Tokyo time, and arrived at Zurich around 4pm Tokyo time. Yep, that’s a loooong flight.


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Zurich, baby!

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May 2, 2017

As the last part of our touristic programme, we stopped at Zurich and had about an hour to explore by foot. The city was quiet, not crowded, and as with St. Gallen, expensive.

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I can hear Taylor Swift’s Blank Space in my head. Hello, next victim.
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It seems that the chairs outside the restaurants/cafes are indeed a thing in Europe. These, in particular, are worth sharing. These have fur in them. Fur.
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Where are we meeting? At the restaurant. Can you imagine how much time and effort it took to name this place?

The Swiss Alps’ Santis

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May 2, 2017

To kick off the the conference’s touristic programme, our bus went to the mountain near St. Gallen – Mt. Santis! Probably the most beautify alpine mountain I’ve ever seen (and that includes Mt. Fuji)

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Our bus went up a semi-deserted road and passed through these beautiful houses surrounded by snow.
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We then took the cable car up to the top of the mountain.
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Hello, Swiss Alps!

Abbey of St. Gallen

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May 1, 2017

An abbey and a church that is more than a thousand years old, this is one of the key landmarks of St. Gallen. The city started by a man named Gallus, who tripped on a root on his way from the famous lake nearby and deemed such tripping as a sign that he should live there.

It was a pretty nice walk, and I loved the feel of the place. It’s like a peaceful, original version of the 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

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I started walking from were I was staying, and the entire neighborhood looked like they were part of a grand theme.
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I was walking across the old city, and there were plenty of cafes. Oh, and it had plenty of snow. It wasn’t snowing when I was there. It was raining. and I was freezing. 😦
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Then voila! The beacon of chocolate shines bright to my tired eyes!
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I stayed in the cafe for at least an hour, enjoying the famed Swiss chocolate and some pastries. I think I paid CHF15ish. Tsk tsk. That’s pretty steep.
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After my coffee, I decided to spend the rest of the time inside the church (where it is warm)
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The church was pretty huge, of course.
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and here’s the abbey right outside.

St. Gallen Symposium

One of the top business schools in Switzerland brings together hundreds of leaders every year to have a chance to discourse on a central theme – a theme based on what the committee considers as a highly relevant topic in today’s world.

To do this, they invite current world leaders – be it in the political scene or the business world. They call them Leaders of Today.

To pass on the baton, they also invite people they consider as future leaders. They call them Leaders of Tomorrow.

These people are generally invited. That’s how you get in. You get invited.

How do you get invited? You need to have accomplished a lot (like be the CEO of a big company or invent something or cure cancer). So what if you aren’t one of these high profile individuals? You join an essay competition.

For current post-graduate students, they can join an essay competition about the current year’s theme. That’s it. No recommendations, registration fees, etc. needed.

Out of all submissions, they select the top 100 essays and invite these students to join the symposium – all expenses paid for btw. The organization will pay for your plane ticket, accommodations, food, insurance and land transport. Even the visa application is free!

So, how to do this?

1. Check if you are eligible. You have to be enrolled in a post graduate degree – it varies though, so double check every year. A couple of years back even undergrads can apply. You also have to be young enough (coz you’re supposed to be the Leader of Tomorrow) – normally less than 30 years old at the time of submission.

2. Write your essay and submit. Oh, I also needed a certification from my school that I am indeed enrolled. So yes, you need to be enrolled in a school. Any school.

3. Wait.

Timeline

January. Invitation.

The people from St. Gallen go all over the world to invite students to apply. Even if you are not “invited”, you can still apply. Just go to their site.

February. Deadline of submission.

For 2017, it was during the first week of February.

March. Results.

I’ve got mine via email on March 7, 2017.

April. Administrative matters.

There’s constant communication regarding visa application, tickets, etc. They are very detailed and thorough, way better than the graduate students of another event I participated in.

May. The Symposium!

Yey!

Schengen Visa in Less Than 24 Hours

April 15, 2017

Since I’m going to a symposium in Switzerland, I applied for a visa at the Swiss Embassy in Tokyo. There’s not much to read about it – probably because the Japanese don’t need visa to go to Europe.

How to Prepare

1. Go to their website to fill up the online application. Then print it out.

2. Prepare the documents. I printed out the list in the site and checked them one by one. Oh, you’ll have to present your actual resident’s ID, but I included a copy just to be safe.

3. Go to the embassy!

Yes, it’s cherry blossom season so of course there’s sakura near the embassy

At the Embassy

They only open from 9am to 12noon, so prepare accordingly.

1. Get off at Hiro-o Station of Hibiya line, take exit 3. Once you go out, turn right. After the conbini, there’s a small street at the right. Turn right and just follow the road.

2. Ring the bell at the embassy. They speak Japanese and English, of course. The room is fairly small, proceed to the counters on the left. Honestly, it’ll take a special snowflake to get lost here. I was the only person then, so thankfully no lines whatsoever. They say it might be because the Japanese don’t need a visa to go to EU, but then again they don’t need a visa to go to US but the lines at US embassy is loooong. But I digress.

3. They’ll take your papers and ask you whether you wanna pick it up or have it mailed. Of course I chose to have it mailed. So I paid the JPY600 fee. You’ll then be asked to write your address in an envelope they will provide.

4. Wait while they check your documents.

5. They’ll call you to take your picture and prints. This is done via a machine booth in the middle of the room.

6. Go home.
I went to the embassy on Thursday, April 14, 10am. I received the mail on Friday, April 15, 12:30pm. It easily is the fastest processing I’ve had in my life. Thank you, Swiss Embassy!