Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Annual Cost of Living and Quality of Living 2010 Survey Results Are Out

ECA's annual Cost of Living 2010 results are out and Tokyo beat out Luanda this year, which fell to third place after two straight years at number one. Oslo jumped to second place from eighth, and the other three big jumpers in the top twenty were: Stavanger, Norway up to six from 14; Moscow up to 15 from 29; and Seoul up to 20 from 102. The top twenty highest cost-of-living cities are:



















  Tel Aviv


The major cities in India (and Bangladesh) ranked:

  New Delhi



Last year's ECA Cost of Living report can be found here.

The other interesting annual report, that was recently released, is Mercer's Quality of Living Worldwide City Rankings 2010. Vienna held its position as top city for quality of life again this year. The top ten didn't change much at all, the only difference being that Frankfurt moved up to tie with Munich for seventh place, from eighth last year.

1 Vienna
2 Zurich
3 Geneva
4 Vancouver (tied)
4 Auckland (tied)
6 Dusseldorf
7 Frankfurt (tied)
7 Munich (tied)
9 Bern
10 Sydney

There were more U.S. cities in the top 50 this year, with Honolulu (down to 31 from 29), San Francisco (down to 32 from 30), Boston (down to 37 from 35) and Chicago (45), Washington D.C. (45), New York (49) and Seattle (50).

Mercer also added an Eco-City Ranking which measured water availability, water potability, waste removal, sewage, air pollution and traffic congestion. The top ten best eco-cities friendly are:

1 Calgary
2 Honolulu
3 Ottawa
4 Helsinki
5 Wellington
6 Minneapolis
7 Adelaide
8 Copenhagen
9 Kobe (tied)
9 Oslo (tied)
9 Stockholm (tied)

Last year's Mercer Quality of Living report can be found here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Krazy for Knedlíky

Knedlíky or dumplings are the national pride of the Czech Republic and I have yet to be fortunate enough to have one, but I am assured we will have plenty of opportunities once we get to Prague.

You, like I, may not have known that there are three main kinds: bread dumplings (houskové knedlíky), potato dumplings (bramborové knedlíky), and sweet dumplings (ovocné knedlíky) filled with fruit or jam. There are also regional versions, for example in Karlovy Vary, the dough is made of left-over bread, egg and spices.

The Czech Republic is the biggest producer of pre-prepared dumplings in the world, with 95 percent for the Czech market, and the rest going to Slovakia, Austria, Poland, and Germany.

The most creative use of dumplings goes to Helmut Winter, a graphic designer in a Munich suburb. In 1967, he was so fed up with the noisy low-flying German and US fighter jets from a nearby military base, that he designed a giant catapult to pelt soggy dumplings at the planes.

There were no causalities, but the conflict was jokingly labeled "the Great Bavarian Dumpling War," with a mock armistice signed between the designer and US Army Major Donald Murphy.

Images and excerpts from Czech Radio

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

FLO's 2011 Professional Development Fellowships

As I mentioned earlier this year in the post Funding Opportunities for Trailing Partners and Spouses, information on FLO's Professional Development Fellowships for the 2010-2011 term is out. The following was taken from the cable announcing the Fellowship:

The Family Liaison Office's Professional Development Fellowship program is open to spouses and partners of civilian direct hire US Government employees under Chief of Mission Authority [posted overseas]. This program is designed to assist those spouses and partners who are not in a position to pursue their career paths overseas to maintain, enhance, and/or develop their professional skills.

Fellowships will be granted on a reimbursable basis for enrichment activities. The 2011 program will have a minimum grant amount of $1,000 and a maximum of $2,500. The 2011 Fellowship period will cover activities that commence on October 1, 2010 and conclude no later than August 15, 2011.

Selected applicants must fund a minimum of 25% of the cost of the proposed activities while the Fellowship stipend will cover the additional cost up to the $2,500 maximum. Activities can include, but are not limited to, continuing education and distance learning through an accredited university, professional development, participation in professional conferences, and dues for membership in professional organizations.

The proposal deadline for 2011 is July 16, 2010.

More information and the application can be found on FLO's website at:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Happy Flag Day

I remember finding Flag Day a bit confusing when I was a child, since it was so close to the 4th of July. It seemed to be a bigger deal back then. or maybe it was just because my family loved to throw a BBQ at the drop of the hat.  Living overseas brings new meaning to the holiday since it stirs up memories of home and you feel more inspired to remember and explain all American holidays.

Here is my favorite patriotic song in celebration of Flag Day:

This Land Is Your Land

The lyrics were written by Woody Guthrie in 1940 based on an existing melody in response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America”, which Guthrie considered unrealistic and complacent. Tired of hearing Kate Smith sing it on the radio, he wrote a response originally called “God Blessed America for Me”. 

(Chorus)  This land is your land, this land is my land,
From California to the New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters,
This land was made for you and me. 

As I went walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway.
I saw below me that golden valley.
This land was made for you and me.  


I roamed and rambled, and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,
While all around me a voice was sounding,
“This land was made for you and me.”  


When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
A voice was chanting, as the fog was lifting,
“This land was made for you and me.” 


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Revisiting Singapore Chili Crab

While clearing out items to get ready for pack out, I found a pack of Singapore Chili Crab mix that I picked up at the airport in Singapore as an impulse buy. With an expiration date of June 2010, it was time to use it or loose it. Luckily large crabs are available in Kolkata, namely at the Gariahat Fish Market, where I picked up four large crabs for the dish. It was basically a rip open and dump mix but it was very good and reminiscent of our chili crab experience in Singapore. The hardest part was cleaning the fresh crabs, which got several rounds of laughter out of Krishna, as I squeamishly took on the task. The results of the dish in the photo above.

Which brings me back to Singapore. We visited last year in May, and although a hot time of year there it felt like a complete vacation from Kolkata. I like to call it an Asian version of Las Vegas (especially now since they have opened a couple of casinos), since the main activities are shopping, eating and relaxing.

We spent most of our time in the Chinatown and Indiatown (Mustafa's is a must) areas of the city, with a visit to the night zoo.

But the main highlight was the food in the street-food courts and markets. There are several large street-food courts around town where you can have several types of cuisines in the same meal. Our delicious chili crab is below with hand for size reference and to stop anyone from getting that big claw before me!