My rich & shitty 2016 in retrospective

Everyone around me is bitching about their hateful 2016 — war conflicts started, planes crashed, singers died, lots of people lost their jobs. And generally speaking I tend to agree — from one point of view this year is sucks for me too…

My year is in one picture: full and rich, but ending terribly wrong…

But in the same time, 2016 was the most my eventful and saturated year for the last decade! So here we go: my year in a short retrospective.

Running

In this review I’ll try to follow a chronicle order of events and the first thing that has significantly changed to the better in 2016 is my running habits… To be honest, this running adventure was born from my strong desire to burn some fat on my stomach (and I have actually done it — according to my Withings report, I have lost ~10 kilograms in the last year)... Following a lead of my friend, I started my own 300 days running challenge. As you can guess, I had eventually resigned (oh come on, who wouldn’t), but still — I’m proud to say that I was able to keep this daily runs streak unbroken for more than 100 days in a row.

In the past I also used to run on a daily basis, but in this year I was able to start running outdoors, which actually is quite an accomplishment for me. I remember how incredibly difficult were these first runs out of the treadmill — I had been literally counting steps of the first (and the single one) my lap in the park, which was approximately 2.5 km.

Look at me now — I’m able to make 10 km. in 1 hour without much effort. Since April 2016, when I was forced to break my daily streak, I managed to run 175 km. outdoors, participated 5 km. charity marathon and changed one pair of shoes… And that is more important — as my friend’s example had inspired myself to reinforce my running efforts, my own example have inspired my friends and even my wife to start running! This simple fact makes me much more proud of myself!

I haven’t defined any running goals for the next year yet, but I think I will try to make a habit to run 100 km. a month (which is only 5 km. a day 5 days a week). And since 10 km. is not a big deal anymore — I’ll try to run this distance as a part of mini-marathon (believe it or not, but here in Bangkok it’s even more difficult to register for marathon in time than actually run it). I’d like to say I will try to run half-marathon in 2017 too, but I’m sure — on this stage I’ll need a help of a professional coach and right now I can’t say if I’m ready for it… But still — I feel positive about my running and happy that now it’s a part of my life!

The Coffee

I have a pretty strange relationship with coffee. As I can remember — I had always been an orthodox tea-drinker. Until I turned 25, I used to prefer a cup of strong boiled tea over a cup of coffee. I can’t say why for certain, but I tend to blame Russian cultural traditions and global domination of instant coffee. Things have changed a bit when I have started to consider coffee as an energy drink, but I had abandoned it for a while after one episode of coffee-overdose :P

My attitude towards coffee has changed once again when we came to Bangkok, at least I remember myself here ordering Cappuccino at the local branch of Black Canyon. Back then I really didn’t see a big difference between Black Canyon, Starbucks and a random Thai vendor-lady on the first floor of Big C supermarket…

AeroPress and my first pack of beans from the local roaster

I could certainly write more and more paragraphs about my Australian colleagues being influencing my coffee tastes, about my unsuccessful experience owning a Dolce Gusto machine (I’ve spent a fortune on their capsules though). But long story short — this year I came across AeroPress and my journey to the coffee snobs world has officially begun.

Since then I’ve tried dozens of blends of multiple vendors from different countries (if I can — I grab some beans from countries I travel to). I know a perfect brewing temperature for AeroPress and grind size for an espresso-machine (ah yeah, I’ve got one too). I really can see difference between Thai, Indonesian and, for instance, Brazilian beans (Thai beans is almost always sucks), I do care about roasting date. Unfortunately, I‘m still not that good in defining acidity, bitterness and after-taste (how the hell coffee could have a peach or grape aftertaste?), so becoming a better cupper will be my coffee-goal for the next year…

Books

Back in elementary school days I remember myself as an addicted reader. I used to read a lot and it really didn’t matter what. But since I’ve become a critically busy and serious adult (oh, look at this terrific poo emoji 💩) I’d been barely reading a several books a year, including technical literature. But year ago, when Goodreads and Kindle Paperwhite came to my life, my reading habits changed to the better…

Actually, I don’t really think that Kindle is the main reason of rising the new wave of my reading obsession. According to Goodreads, I already read 23 books in 2015 (mostly in Russian, several in English). Based on these stats, in 2016 I made a new challenge for myself: I was going to read 30 books only in English. Unfortunately, I haven’t reached desired amount of books from my challenge (only 19 our of 30 completed, several in progress), but damn — I have had a lot of fun and absorbed unbelievable amount of new information.

And the most important one — my decision to read in English is certainly the best my decision (after buying Kindle) in all my reading life. All of you have probably heard that reading in a foreign language helps to learn this language, but you won’t believe how much it really helps… The native speakers could think this post might have been written by elementary school student (by a kindergarten kido?) but the thing is that just a few years ago I barely would be able to read such a long sheet at all… And now I’m reading 700-pages books in a month (okay, Hitler’s biography was a tough choice). So if you need my advice — buy Kindle and start to read as many books as you can…

Important: this paragraph is more like a note to myself, but I don’t mind you still reading this ). In the next year I’ve decided to practice reading in particular order otherwise my goal to read 36 or more books seems less achievable to me… Thereby, I’m going to iterate over 5 books per cycle, where first two books are fiction books, the next one is from life-hacking/self-help section, memoirs or history book next and something about programming for dessert. I believe it will help me to absorb new knowledges without getting bored too much.

Vacations and travel

I have to say that despite our living in Thailand for more than five years, we haven’t been traveling across Asia a lot (except for our occasional visa-run trips to Cambodia or Lao and vacations on the local islands) until 2014, when we met the new 2015 year in Hong Kong.

Malaysia

I have strange relations with Malaysia because the first our meeting was a complete mess: each and every bad thing that could possibly happen with a hapless traveler had happened with us. But it was almost five years ago and Malaysia (at least based on my recent experience) has changed to the better since then.

Our first trip to Penang, Malaysia in March 2016

To my own surprise I’ve visited Malaysia three times this year: in the first time with my wife, the second time alone and the last time — by my own car with family in tow.

You would hardly want to go to Malaysia for vacation until you are local citizen, have a great interest for this region history or have some sort of business there.
Traveling alone

I’d put us to the third group — every time when we had to go to Malaysia it was due to Thai visa related needs. I can’t say that Thai Consulate on Penang operates differently comparing to the others, but one small exception exists — along with us there usually are just a few people with similar business attend. And of course Penang in every way is more clean and civilized place than a shithole like Vientiane in Lao, where we used in the past.

Thereby, when it suddenly turned out that we have to go abroad to obtain new visas once again, it was no doubt that we will go to Malaysia. I must admit: my first thought was like “Hell, not that again”. But after short consideration I also thought: once I’m a jobless asshole and now have a bunch of free time why not to go all together by the car and turn our obligatory trip to a great adventure? And this final idea magically transformed to a weekly trip from Bangkok to the Thai-Malaysian border and through it, to Penang; from Penang to Kuala Lumpur and back to Thailand! And it was a really exciting adventure indeed — not that smooth as it could be, but still — I’m happy about that my decision! It let us know Malaysia better and visit Kuala Lumpur at the first time. And maybe in a several next years we will ride from Malaysia once again — to reach Singaporean border and visit Lego Land.

Singapore

Singapore it is kind of a place where I would barely flight on my own — I prefer relaxing vacations and this city doesn’t seem to be a place where you go to relax... At least I had been thinking this way until I eventually go there to attend RedDotRubyConf 2016 (thanks to Icelab). What can I say — this place is really a city of the dreams and I would certainly go there once again, this time with a whole family and stay there for longer.

Let me share some my observations about Asian region here, because they were highlighted by this trip to Singapore... And the the thing is: the more you’re moving from the North of Asia to the South, the more developed countries, economics, cultures and people are surrounding you (i.e. Laos → Thailand → Malaysia → Singapore) and vice versa. And I’m pretty sure — the colonial past has affected countries present a so much too (okay, British colonial past — Laos had been a French colony).

In general — Singapore has confirmed everything that I have heard about this city before: it’s modern (even futuristic), it’s clean and it’s freakingy expensive. Multiple nations are mixed here and the most of people speak perfect English. Changi airport is the most impressive place that I’ve ever seen — sometimes it felt like it was a large shopping mall than the airport…

City of Dreams

Unfortunately, I spent only four days in Singapore (half of arriving day, two days on the conference and only one day after conference) so I feel I’ve seen only a fraction of Singapore’s hidden treasures… But I was lucky enough to review some of the most popular attractions: Botanical Garden, Marina Bay, Sentosa Island with its Cable Car and even lovely park on the shore not far from my hotel (West Coast Park). Last three — on the last day almost before departure…

Russia

Before this part of my narrative begins I have to mention one thing: last time I visited my home country two years ago (in 2014) when my friends got married. And it is not like I avoid trips to Russia, but I must admit — every time when I’m there I think “What if this time I won’t be able to go home?”. It’s especially funny when think about Thailand like a home being on my homeland, but this is how it is… And if we brought only a few bright memories from our trip to Russia two and half years ago, this summer holiday was very rich and remarkable one. As always — we spent a lot of time in my hometown (Nizhny Novgorod), visited Moscow (mostly for business purposes) and Saint Petersburg (for vacation).

Speaking of Nizhny in general—predictably, it’s centre part becomes modern when outskirts (like my own district) stagnate. It’s a but selfish to think in this way, but I like to come home and find my old town in the same condition as it was years ago. But I’m sure — I wouldn’t have been happy to see my city in this condition if I lived there for longer… I was happy to see my old friends, even though (and this fact saddens me so much) some of them have become fat bald turds. I mean, of course it’s sad that your parents tend to become older, but this is a law of nature and you barely able to change it. But when your childhood and youth adventures partners become old farts it makes you realise that you are welcome to join their club (and will probably do so very soon).

Moscow didn’t surprise — I like to be a part of this dynamic and futuristic megapolis especially in Summer. In this time of the year city freshness and lush vegetation makes you forget about how ugly and dirty and oppressive this city is during other seasons. Also, I learnt how it feels like when you live in the city center and if in the future we will stay in Moscow for a longer period of time I will look for accommodation around the central part.

And great conclusion of our summer vacation — trip to Saints Petersburg. Last time I was there when I was a bit older than Alisa right now (i.e. more than 20 years ago) and can barely remember anything. Well, maybe except for the fact that it was a winter time ). Now, thanks to our dear friends, we were able to enjoy Saint P. for almost a week in the Summer and we were lucky to catch a row perfect sunny days. Oh, and I met my auntie whom I also haven’t seen for more than twenty years.

Thirties

I haven’t mentioned that our trip to Russia wasn’t planned in advance (as always) and in general I’m happy that everything happened as it happened/ In the middle of August I was able to celebrate my thirtieth birthday with people whom I love…

I remember myself a couple of decades ago observing peeps obviously in their thirties and thinking “Oh boy, look at these pathetic old bastards, it’s great that I have a plenty of time before becoming one of them”. Well, here we go — I’m in the body of thirty years old white guy in the heart of Thailand with very naive judgements and almost with nothing for the soul… What to say — at least I haven’t joined 27 Club >:|

His Majesty The King has passed away

October is typically a taught month for our family — a lot of tragic events had happened during past several years in this month or around it. Unfortunately, this October is not an exception. Remarkably, on October 13’th we were going to celebrate our 12’th anniversary in Hemingway’s restaurant (which, as I knew, would be demolished very soon) when we finally heard the news.

To be honest — everyone knew that The King is in the critical condition, so rumors about his death had spread around the city already in the middle of the day. What’s why we were kind of prepared when we met this news literally in doors of the Hemingway’s. This restaurant used to settle in front of skytrain BTS station Asoke, so you would be able to observe people on the station from the restaurant. And you know what? Nothing had happened after the announcement. The sky has not fallen on the ground and the flow of people with their own thoughts and worries was coming home. Just a few cried… I mean in my thoughts I have beed always referring to Stalin’s death (I can judge only by black and white tapes from the past) which was a mess.

Honestly, I don’t care much about King’s blessed soul as the most part of foreigners here — for me he was just a yet another celebrity (a pretty big one in the county’s scale). But the vast majority of Thai people do care so much so they voluntarily (with the government designation though) decided to convert theirselves to a nation of wearing dark clothes goths, which, I must note, is a pretty depressive movement. And I would like to express my condolences to the Thai people too — it should be so painful to lose somebody whom you unconditionally love on a DNA level…

And at this point I’ll wrap up my year review… It’s hard to believe, but I actually started this post before 2017 and wasn’t able to finish it earlier. Now I can see why people don’t do their year reviews very often (besides the fact that such posts barely interesting for anybody except their authors) 👅