The Adventure Continues...

Rants, raves and random observations from an itinerant epidemiologist.

100 in 1000
  1. Spend a week up a mountain learning to ski
  2. Visit Karoline's place in Moravia
  3. Hold a conversation in Czech (only)
  4. Drink 500ml of each of the following beers:
    1. Pilsner
    2. Staroprammen
    3. Budvar
    4. Velke Popovice
    5. U Fleku
    6. Gambrinus
    7. Krusovice
  5. Respond to at least one GOARN request (WHO and MSF are also acceptable)
  6. Travel across the Atlantic
  7. Return to South America
  8. Read a book to, or with, an impressionably aged child
  9. Participate in one NanoWriMo Challenge and come within at least 10,000 words of the goal length
  10. Have my nose pierced
  11. Have my next tattoo drawn
  12. Purchase the perfect jeans (x 2 pairs)
  13. Attend a spin class 3 times a week for 8 consecutive weeks
  14. Bake Viv's cheesecake
  15. Make David's casserole
  16. Make David's Chicken Cashew-nut Stirfry
  17. Invite 4 people who don't know one another too well to dinner
  18. Ride from Vienna to Venice on a motorbike (pillion acceptable, those less desirable)
  19. Attend a book group for at least two books
  20. Go on a choir weekend (learn and perform difficult piece in two/three days)
  21. Visit Madame Tussaud's (in London)
  22. Take an architecture appreciation course
  23. Join an all-girl group and sing a solo
  24. Publish in a scientific journal (top two authors)
  25. Cook a duck or other 'waterfowl'.
  26. Locate the Al-Timimi's from Doha Veterinary Practise
  27. Have a pedicure
  28. Maintain a Brazilian (ouch) for three months.
  29. Find a trustworthy Czech hairdresser
  30. Treat my inner-6-year-old twice a week (at least)
  31. Do the liver-cleansing diet properly (12 weeks)
  32. Don't eat out for one month
  33. Find a flat and flatmate
  34. Purchase one Joseph sweater
  35. Purchase one of the following pairs of designer shoes (they MUST also be COMFORTABLE, and be able to be worn with 4 different outfits and 2 types of occasion): Jimmy Choos, Manolo Blahniks, Christian Louboutin (Ebay or 2nd hand are acceptable)
  36. Send 5 books to the booksphere and track them.
  37. Go hanggliding
  38. Read 10 'classic' books (from 1001 Books to Read before you Die)
    1. Moll Flanders
    2. Everything is illuminated
    3. Madam Bovary
    4. Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance
    5. Catch-22
    6. Odysseus
    7. On the Road
  1. Run (non-stop!) for 5kms outside (preferably in a street race thingy)
  2. Send Christmas Cards on time
  3. Make a collage/mural out of street lights on my wall
  4. Buy a bed, build it, and sleep soundly in it
  5. Go to Africa
  6. Host an 'event' (classified as and when)
  7. Organise a 30th Birthday Party
  8. Wear a costume
  9. Sing on stage
  10. Buy a painting that evokes memories of Prague (cannot involve queues!)
  11. Learn a god-damned card game that stays in my memory (other than fish/snap)
  12. See sunrise. Be sober. Have woken for it. Excludes months Nov-Mar
  13. Take a walk and flip coins at each intersection
  14. Win something
  15. Draft a will
  16. Take a roadtrip
  17. Go to Italy already
  18. Sea Kayak around Abel Tasman Park (NZ)
  19. Get plants
  20. Take a train to another Eastern European Destination (accession countries are acceptable) alone preferably.
  21. Get UK to give me a provisional motorcyclists license and simultaneously get a 'card' license.
  22. Go SCUBA diving again - at least two dives lasting 30mins each.
  23. Go to a dentist. *sigh*
  24. Do a Czech Wine Trail. And live to tell the tale
  25. Make an 'outbreak emergency kit'.
  26. Go to bed prior to 11pm every night (inc weekends) for four consecutive weeks.
  27. Marvel over lack of tiredness
  28. Dine at a Gordon Ramsey restaurant (or Nobu)- preferably for free.
  29. Bet on the nags
  30. Do something for charity (applying and getting a 'red card' will count)
  31. Walk along the Champs Elysee
  32. Do 100 sit ups in a row
  33. Do 50 pressups (arms in tight)
  34. Make branston pickle (or nearest substitute)
  35. Cook something 'new' and 'adventurous' at least once a month
  36. Find a mentor
  37. Be a mentor
  38. Learn what mentoring is all about
  39. Meet an online person in real life
  40. Resist the flirt. Once. Just one night. It's okay if people don't immediately succumb to my natural charm. Really it is.
  41. Spend time at a spa (spa towns in the CR don't count)
  42. Send a care package to someone
  43. Get a Tata Bojs CD
  45. Order new contact lenses.
  46. Make a list of things I take with me when I pack for different occasions
  47. Eat lobster. Prepared by someone else.
  48. Back up the blog
  49. Put everything onto an external hard drive
  50. Find a DDR mat and console and 'dance, I say dance!'�
  51. Go to the beach and lie on the warm sand. For an hour. (with sunscreen on, natch)
  52. Take and complete a course in either: Tango, Salsa or Flamenco
  53. Join the Municipal Library of Prague
  54. Move to another country
  55. Go to a live concert of a band I actually like
  56. Pay off debts (student loan excl.)
  57. Send thank you cards for every gift I receive (other than the gift of happiness, blah blah blah).
  58. Get an agent (literary or theatre)
  59. Go to a sports bar without cringing, by personal choice
  60. Ride a rollercoaster
  61. Hold a snake
  62. Spend a day wandering around a museum (not art gallery!)
Menorca Pt I
Tuesday, 27 September 2005
So here I am, surrounded by a few dozen other people who are all wanting to be field epidemiologists - called to problems in Africa/Asia/hell-anywhere at the drop of a hat.
I know that many of you think that we´re just having a laugh - that we´re spending three weeks on an island off the coast of Spain. Well...let me tell you the TRUTH.
The island is in the bay of Mahon, which is on the island of Menorca which ITSELF is an island off the coast of Spain. All sounds very good, but our island ´Lazarote´ (not to be confused with Lanzarote under ANY circumstances) was the quarantine island for Spain. We´re in a group of buildings that have DOUBLE walls around them - well over 15´ high - made of bricks. We´re not allowed to swim to the bay of Mahon, because it´s too busy a passageway (large liners, tankers, ferries and sharsk...nice!).
The buildings themselves woudl be stunning if they weren´t so run down. For instance, the one I´m ni currently (sitting at a bank of 6 comptuers for about 40 people - do not expect regular updates) has a many ´vaulted´ ceiling. I don´t know if tehy´re properly called vaults, but they´re two arches that bisect perpendicularly in teh middle. Very ornate, very good acoustics for singing - not so good for lectures.
My bedroom is in an apartmento. This means I´m actually one of the lucky ones with a suite of (empty) rooms at my disposal. I sleep in one of them, which has two single beds, and a bathroom. The water from teh taps is seawater. One shudders to think what teh coil in the bottom of hte hot water heater looks like by now.
So...I wake up at 7:00am. Then meet the girl in the apartmento underneath me (we´re the only two with so many rooms, and we´re not sure what we did to deserve tehm but are v. grateful anyway) and we go for either a walk around the island, or a quick dip. When I say dip, I mean a hasty swim till we worry about sharks. To get to the ´beach´to go swimming, we have to pass teh sewage outlet. We try not to think about this. Either that or we go walking for a ´bit´. Bit being about a 30mins. Then back to our rooms for showers and to change into ´summer office garb´. Then off to breakfast at 8:30am. By 9:00am we´re all in the lecture hall again, reviewing the days notes, checking the notice board to see what groups we´ve been placed in etc.
Then we all take our places. Our places have namecards in front of them (imagine the UN on telly - it´sjust like that only ours are made of plastic and paper - I´ve coloured mine in already! - and yes, it was pink but only because I had no glitter...) and we await our lecturers (called ´facilitators´ for some jargon reason). Our lecturer claps his or her hands at 9:30am (yes, very germanic) and begins. We have a variety of topics covered (today was operational logistics of outbreak investigation - SOO exciting as we foudn out what we should have in our óutbreak bag´ that we have with us all the time...ready to go at a moments notice) until morning tea at 10:30. Then after some really milky coffee (spanish coffee is awful), and about 10mins in teh sun, we´re back in our seats again until 1:30. By this time, everyone´s stomachs are rumbling - so we´re very glad to be served our three course lunches (today: risotto, meatballs, watermelon) and by the time this is over, it´s 2:30. We break into the aforementioned groups, and then work on various case studies until we´ve finished what we have to do. today, we finished at 7:00.
So...then, because it´s still light and we´re trying desperately to kid ourselves that we´re a) still in summer and b) on some jaunt, we go for a swim in the ocean again. It´s not that warm at this time of night. After that, we hang out our washing (that has been washed for us) and shower for dinner at 8:30 (tonight: melon and prosciutto, eggs and chips (I kid you not) and yoghurt). By 9:30 we must be otu of the ´salon´ so we head back to the outdoor seating area, grab a bottle of €7 red wine, about 4 - 5 glasses for whomsoever, polish that off, then bed by 10:30.
Which means, in other words my dear, that the taxes of those in the EU who are paying for this, are ACTUALLY being well used. I don´t think we´re being spoilt, we´re really working hard the whole time. It´s still an effort to be nice to EVERYONE and I find myself taking a lot of comfort in seeking out a few people´s company. Theyér starting to do the same, so I´m clearly not on the ´pariah list´ just yet. Our personal name badges are starting to come off (you mean I´m notorious already) but I´m definitely deleting the history on this computer...
...and for those of you who were as curious as I was: gay or JUST European?
The jury is STILL out. And there´s a whole load of other bits taht I had written, only I gave this blog address to one of the other fellows, and don´t think it at all appropriate. In fact, once I realised what I´d written, I ran BACK to the vaulted room in my pj´s to delete it. Sorry y´all. And a big warm welkom to the delightful Maarten! ;) (my pjs and I are now back off to bed)
Still, there are plenty of people to hang out with regardless. And Andreas (a german FETP) has assured me that the rumours Iév heard from expat women in Prague are incorrect - that men are well up for it over there. The fact that he´s also into lads shouldn´t worry me in the slightest should it?!!!?
Right my dears. This is a call for many e-mails reminding me what life is like in teh real world - wheré you´re not having to be nice to people you think are not worth your time beacuse they need their damned attitude adjusting (and having to hold your tongue from telling them this even though you´re supposed to be providing feedback constantly about your colleagues...). Damned Italians is all I can say at this point. All I WILL say rather.
And although I beg for e-mails, I can´t promise many in return (crap, and I do apologise, but surely the sheer length of my updates compensates somewhat?) due to inability to get onto a computer. So...if any of you have a spare laptop lying around seldom used...send it to Nomes, care of ¨quarantine island, spain.
posted by Nomes @ Tuesday, September 27, 2005   0 comments
Saturday, 24 September 2005
Turns out people DO read my crazy blog: hi to les parents, lil bro Rowls, lil sis Rach and the all spesh Lira! :)
Anyway, just a really quick update today - since my sleeps are restless and my days are filled with roaming the streets to tire me out so that I sleep well (why is this not working?).
Today I went to the World Press Photo exhibition which I missed (by one day - damned Les Mis) in Wellington. I somehow suspect that the Wellington exhibition was better - in more space, with more photos. i almost bought the book because looking at them in that would have been preferable. Still: fave photo? A sandstorm approach. I've seen it for real and it does actually look exactly as threatening as that. Yay to the photographer for getting it so well.
Then I spent about two hours lounging in the main square. In the sun. I watched butterflies drinking nectar from flowers that bees had already attempted to empty. I was right underneath it all (there's not many places to 'sunbathe' here, so one does what one can.
I learnt today that in teh war of new shoes vs. feet, new shoes always win. Plasters all over mine are testament to that fact. And these are 'new' from Melbourne trip - before any of you get all het up about me having ALREADY bought shoes. FYI - I haven't. Though I HAVE started looking (this is akin to "nomes settling down").
I found out that to get ones legs waxed, one should go to Yves Rocher - less painful, and they do actually know what a Brazilian is. I found out the name of the best gynacologist in town (oooh gooody). I also found out that visiting the gyne is probably as much 'action' as I'm going to see (bar the porn films, obviously) since expat blokes go for the 'tits on sticks' that the Czech girls have been renamed and Czech blokes are just not worthy (they either treat women like poo, or are after Canadian/American women for their passport opportunities). So yeah...two years of no sex. Apparently. Will update you on that - with ample warning for Dad to LOOK AWAY NOW!!! ;)
Tonight we were at a mate of P's place's party (make sense?) - which is where I gleaned all this information. Since htey all work for vodafone (or rather, Oskar, a recent vodafone acquisition) they were discussing the foibles of their CEO's, COO's, CFO's etc.. Apparently, (without divulging too much for fear of a big 'quotation mark' sized lawsuit) there is a wall that cost a lot of money - built of sticks - in the building. Ahh, the excesses of the corporates. While we, out in the national institute of public health, struggle to pay our technicians to isolate bacteria. (not necessarily true - i'm merely painting a picture, I didn't say the colours had to be the RIGHT colours) I love life. Apparently, one doesn't get into the field of health for financial benefits - but for opportunity. Er, exactly when does the opportunity to drape myself in couture arrive? That's the one I was aiming for, damnit.
So yeah...not too much to report I'm afraid. Am starting to get a little nervous about the whole Menorca trip now. I don't know whether we'll need pens/paper (does this mean I can do a stationary shop?) and I need a smaller suitcase than the one I have (which is HUGE) but mine haven't arrived here yet. I also need new batteries for my calculator...(it's just like your first week at school, only more scary!).
Gotago sleep - it's late. XXX to you all.
posted by Nomes @ Saturday, September 24, 2005   0 comments
Weird vivid dreams
Thursday, 22 September 2005
I'm not sure whether it's my body finally allowing my brain to have dreams, but whichever...I've been having some real humdingers since I've arrived here.
Yesterday morning, I woke with a horrible jolt at about 5:00am (am I preparing myself for when I get back or what?) with the thought "Where am I?". I'd been dreaming about the difficulties of leaving NZ, saying goodbye to everyone (I think it was 'emotional difficulties' not 'logistical complications' - though I can't rightly remember). I dreamed that I had connection problems with flights, and that everything went all haywire essentially.
Then, I woke up...and couldn't recognise my surroundings for a while. Sheesh. Spider bites? When I finally figured out where I was I thought, 'hmm...that was weird'. And was totally reassured to be in Prague.
This morning I had two dreams.
1. A person at work (at ESR) is pregnant with twins (I don't even know if this is true or not). She's working right up until they're born, essentially. Anyway, she goes into labour in the toilet upstairs (though the layout has changed) and no one knows. She has one baby, and it's alive but needs help. I walk in, with a friend Steph, and we see what's going on (the blue baby on the floor by the edge of a cubicle gave it away!) and we tell the chick (whose name I dont know) that it needs medical attention, will she give it to us. She responds with the sentiment, "no, that one was born wrong so that this one can be born fine". Weird, vivid and quite horrible. The blue baby dies. The other survives.
Given my penchant for premonitory dreams I'm not sure what to make of this one. Do I tell my friend to watch out for someone at work who is pregnant with twins? Or is it symbolic (my old life had to die so that my new life could go ahead)?
2. I'm at a dinner organised by some old karate friends (M&E). It's quite a posh dinner with several courses (M loves to cook) but we're eating outside on plastic furniture (no biggie - just a point). There are table cloths. It's not their house though - it's set somewhere else. And we're also situated 'at the bottom of the garden' instead of on the 'balcony' or close to the kitchen (which is odd). Anyway, there are a few of us at my table. The wind picks up and the tablecloths and napkins are starting to flap a little. The guy next to me (never met before, someone else's partner) reaches over and starts tickling my arm. Crazy huh? And I turn and look at him and directly say, "What the heck are you doing that for?" and he responds, "I'm trying to help you feel the most from the drugs.". I'm a little taken aback by this (and the tickling of my arm is annoying too) so I point out, "But I haven't taken anything, so it's not likely to work is it?" in rather an overly querulous manner. So he stops and looks alittle sheepish. I remind him that "at least I didn't let you continue making a fool of yourself."
And then I woke up.
ARGH!!! So I came out of my room and asked my flatmate (apropos nothing - she can deal with it - she's REALLY cool) when you dream - what phase of sleep it's in. Because I'd also noticed the huge bags under my eyes - maybe I wasn't sleeping properly. She (ex PhD student in neurophysiology with a background in psych) told me that you dream most in REM sleep and always have really vivid dreams around periods of change. Vivid, yes, but premonitory? So we got to talking about our various systems (she feels conversations in her sleep - to the point where she knew a friend of hers grandmothers was going to be put in hospital - having never met the woman before - which would stop her and her friend from meeting up, while I see scenarios played out) and talked for about 4 hours (see? She's really cool!) before she had to dash to go teach.
So yeah - crazy weird Nomes has weird vivid dreams. Nothing much doing, just documenting.
P.S. I think i'm picking up a Canadian accent.
posted by Nomes @ Thursday, September 22, 2005   0 comments
So. I had an audition last night, for an all girl a capella band called Intunition. I was so nervous - as it has been months since I'd sung. After being at work in the morning, dealing with administrative stuff, and writing a presentation, I decided I'd better practice some singing to remind myself how to do it. I started by figuring out how to play the iPod on M's father's stereo. But the speakers are really crap - and I couldn't play the music loud enough to drown out my own voice... I plugged the iPod into my ears instead, and sat on the windowsill (open) and sang out to the sky.
Well. No windows in the building across the street that were open I can't have offended too many people with my squeaky versions of songs. In fact, by the time I got to Les Miserables (on the alphabetical order...I was singing various songs from various albums) I even had tourists on the street below taking photos of a 'traditional prague scene'. Bahahahaha! AND i got applause.
Did it work though? Was all that warmup for nothing - I hear you ask.
I managed to brave my way through the tram system (which is REALLY good here I have to say) to somewhere well out of the city. And I found the apartment building. Met one of hte girls. Then more and more arrived till there were eight of us in total. They asked whether I'd like to sing with them first and THEN sing solo - or do it now and get it over with.
Er, sing first (then hopefully they could hear that I was okay and they'd like me enough that even if I botched the solo...they'd keep me on). So we strolled our way through Hazy Shade of Winter, and then Java Jive, and then they looked at me. Um.
I'd thought it would have been easier to sing in front of them having sung WITH them already...but no. So off I went..."Billy Ray was a preachers boy...." and by the time I got halfway through that verse they were all coming in with the accompanying "ooo-oooh's" which was REALLY great.
So yeah. The leader told me to write my name on the music - take it home and practice it for next time. And she said she'd send me an official e-mail sometime today. I guess I'm in. Then we practiced "in the mood" as well.
Our first performance is at the end of November - to the college of expatriate surgeons here. It's a black tie high society event, and we get to have dinner and drinks afterwards too. Fantastic! I'm so thrilled. The singing sounds great live, but not so good when we tape it. At present, we're still all learning (well, I definitely am) the notes, rather than starting to listen to each other so we blend nicely. But I know we'll get there. No ones voice is phenomenal, but we all love singing - so it's the perfect ensemble I think - we each take turns having solo lines so no one is 'left out' either. No major egos (or at least, all major egos that will accomodate others) so hooray.
Will let you know when we're approached with a recording contract! :)
After rehearsal, we popped down to the nearest local pub, had a few drinks and then I braved (this time it WAS braving) the night tram home. This one's only half the size and has lino floors (to make it easy to sluice, one imagines) and no digital display of "the next stop". But that didn't matter, I still got home (at 11:30pm) and made myself some dinner (note to self: don't mix sardines on toast with vodka and orange juice again - it just makes you have a dream filled sleep).
So today: I'm off to organise travel insurance ($18 for a YEAR? Okay then, sign me up!) for the trip to Menorca. And apparently my company has to organise my social security number there's really nothing more for me to do than have my medical (when I return) and get to work. Things are looking good. I haven't felt this positive about things in, oooh, about 5 years (let me guess, the length of time it took to complete my PhD? What a coincidence!).
I guess this is what happiness feels like. Or at least, contentedness. Or is it that I like change? Whichever...I feel at home in my own skin. Even if it has a few spider bites!
posted by Nomes @ Thursday, September 22, 2005   0 comments
Ahoj there me hearties!
Wednesday, 21 September 2005
The Czech for Hello (colloquial, ie. "Hi") is "Ahoj". It's not pronounced Ahodge's pronounced Ahoy. So, as I've started adding this word to my ever-growing vocabulary (Dobry den, Dikuju, Ahoj!) I've felt more and more like a pirate than ever.
Yesterday I wandered across Charles Bridge (Karlov Most) to the Lesser Town. Instead of getting into the castle (see pictures) as planned, I got side-tracked by the idea of the torture and spider/scorpion museum. Yes, I was a little concerned I was walking onto a set of that daft program about Fear (who's name I momentarily forget). And I did think it slightly ironic that the signs to the museum ALSO directed one to a McDonald's. Hmmm...
So, first I tackled the spiders and scorpions. They are, quite frankly, AMAZING. I've never seen a collection so vast, and so humungous (individually). Check out some of the photos. The only slightly disturbing bit was that some of the tanks had leaves growing between the glass panes - out into the area that I was in. But the spiders are so huge...they were unlikely to squeeze through the gaps. These are spiders that crush when you drop them, due to their weight! Oh - that and the sign that says "we have no responsibility if you break the glass and are caused harm by the exhibits". Charming. So I definitely heeded the 'do not tap on the glass' signs. I'm glad there weren't any 'no photos' signs, because surely, these are fascinating critters. Not that I'd like one to bite me (as apparently, one of their much much smaller cousins did last night!) but they're gorgeous in their own way.
They certainly didn't freak me out as much as the next museum did. I don't know what they did to the air conditioning, but when you round the corner (with all the 'do not take photos' signs) and confront a beheading block, complete with grooves and stains, it's a little unnerving to feel the hairs on your neck prickle. Mine hardly went down at all through the whole area (twice as large as the spider section) and I was, honestly, appalled. Some of the things that were done in the name of the Spanish Inquisition.
So I learnt about the garrott, the original one with the screw that got screwed into the base of the skull (soon replaced by the simple neck tie version favoured now), the wheel (first they hit you with one, then they tie your broken limbs in and around one, hoist it on a stick in the air and leave you) the rack (did you know that the body stretches 30cm before the muscles tear? They used to cut the muscles to hasten the process for some people) and various other tasty things. Truly, I did feel quite squeamish - and I'm not usually like that. Might have had something to do with the fact that these weren't 'replicas' of artefacts, they were (purportedly, they felt it from an empathetic point of view too) the actual machines themselves. I think the most horrible must have been the saw - two handed - which was used to cleave a body hung by it's ankles into two - longitudinally (the upside-downness made sure that the victim remained as conscious as possible - blood going to the head etc). Ouch.
Anyway, as I was signing the visitors book (Nomes, NZ, '05) a spider (approximately 3cm diameter) crawled out from underneath. And THERE, ladies and gennelmen, was the adrenalin rush.
Back along Karlov Most to purchase plugs. Have now successfully changed most of my electrical appliances to the European plug, which means that my toothbrush, hairdryer, iPod and camera are all charged and primed. Then off to visit a flat (as mentioned previously). It was quite small and only had a single bed, but the flatmates seemed v. cool.
Then off back across the river again to dinner with current flatmate and her friends. I had half a roast duck, sauerkraut and czech potato pancakes. It was surprisingly lovely, the company was good - and there was even a traditional (czech version) Mariachi band. They played Que Sera Sera, and Roll out the Barrel (among others) which I claimed as being a traditional English Drinking song, only to find out (having been beaten down at the table) that it was actually composed by a Czech composer, Jaroslav Veyvoda way back in 1929. So much for that claim again.
Had a good discussion about the Commonwealth (thank you 5th Form English Oral Speech Competition!) with the Canadians. Seems that they used to send loads of people down to NZ to school, but have stopped that of late. Hmm...NCEA anyone?
Today I went to work again. Takes me 30mins door to door including a pause for "hang on, this isn't the right station...oh...wait...this is the link to the other network...maybe if I go down this corridor" thoughts. Don't need to sort out my medical (yay) until I get back from Menorca. And have to pay for hte lab tests myself (huh!?). So I handed them a few more forms, a few more proofs of identity and learning, and then sat at my boss's computer (he's already in menorca - presumably learning how to be my supervisor or something) and composed my first presentation. Which was great, only there are four characters on every key on the Czech keyboard, so my typing was slower than my handwriting is! Still, an hour later, I'd got my presentation sorted. Now I just have to make sure that it's okay to do it on that topic - rather than the one requested (since I know nothing of any particular disease in any particular country of the EU) - and I'm sorted.
Am listening to Elaine Paige and Barbara Streisand in order to get me into some form of singing shape. I have my audition tonight. First part is FINDING the damned place, there's (seriously) a page of instructions. So...wish me luck. Or at least perfect pitch! Okay then, how about melodiousness. That'll do for the time being.
posted by Nomes @ Wednesday, September 21, 2005   0 comments
Damned Clock!
Monday, 19 September 2005
The astronomical clock (with the figure of death that opens the door every hour) is being renovated. There's scaffolding and shade cloth all over it, along with signs announcing it's reopening in November this year. I'm glad I live here - that's for sure. Meanwhile, due to this (I suspect), savvy postcard salesmen have taken to charging three times the normal price (5Kc - $0.30) for their postcards that depict the clock face. Brilliantly entrepeneurial - these Czechs.
So I wandered around a little further afield instead - taking in the Jewish Quarter. The photos tell the story really - words are insufficient to do justice to the city. Let it be stated that Wellington cafe's woudl do well to put blankets on their chairs too...I've seen sheepskin on some chairs as well which is just amazingly sumptuous.
Today, I found out (in horror) that my workmates get in at 7.15am! What the Prague?! No wonder the metro was empty when I was on it at 8:00 (and I thought I was doing damned well to be on it then too). So, organised most of my administrative stuff, but have found out that I need my ACTUAL degree certificates (since an epidemiologist here is clinically trained - while I am not) - so have written to Massey to see if they'll send me new certificates.
Also opened a bank account - possibly the easiest opened bank account I've ever had. Since I can get paid in Euro's from EPIET, I can keep some of my money in Euros - or transfer (free of charge) to Kc's. Brilliant (apparently - I've no money to put in either at present). Later on, I can get a credit card (after they've seen that I have regular income). That's it folks. No banking history needed. Not even an IRD number equivalent. I feel as though I'm in the Orkney's! :)
Cooked a pasta dinner for myself last night - feel as though am already mostly integrated. Got to go check out a flat tonight (hopefully) or tomorrow. No plans tomorrow so might head out on the tourist route again.
Missing everyone from home - the cameraderie. People are still nice here...that must be it. Missing the hurled abuse! :) Emotional masochist me.
posted by Nomes @ Monday, September 19, 2005   0 comments
The most beautiful city
Saturday, 17 September 2005
...apparently. Though at present, it just looks like an ancient wellington - bathed in the omnipresent glare of low lying clouds. Thankfully, my new flatmate has presented me with keys AND an umbrella...which I've already used.
So. I arrived in Prague last night. Phillip met me at the airport...bought me a vodka and off we went to the new place. Reassuringly he turned out not to be an axe murderer (or at least, he neglected to share this part of his personality with me) on the first meeting. However, the driving here is much like that in FOR your life, alternating between the accelerator pedal and the horn.
Found the flat (which has two entrances on parallel streets...apparently about the only parallel streets in this city) and met Marketa, a canadian czech. Far from being a 'studio apartment' as advertised, this is a HUGE apartment in which her father (a nuclear physicist - more later) and his partner (journalist) usually reside. She's housesitting and wanted to rent out the 'guest area' for some additional Kc. And why not. So...I've got a large room with a sofa bed (comfy - if a little squeaky) and an ensuite. I unpacked onto a movable rack/few shelves and voila...I'm here. Albeit with (already) a glass of "Kind-of-Mojito" in my hand (there were no mixers so: sugar, vodka and one sad looking lime = very very strong drink!).
Went along the road a bit and had dinner of gnocci, chicken & spinach (+ pack of Marlboro lights, two vodkas = NZD$28!!!!!!), great conversation (about our respective mothers, of course) and back home to sleep, perchance to charge ipod. Woke up to find room bathed with sunlight - mysterious since sun nowhere to be found in sky.
Made first excursion alone: off to Wenceslas Square and a bookshop from which one can get a good latte (still haven't seen a starbucks anywhere Cat!). Then to Tesco's for breakfast items. Sadly, Tesco's no longer appeared to be a supermarket - but sold EVERYTHING else (including electronics on the 4th floor, fabric on the 3rd, womens clothes on the 2nd, mens & sports on the 1st and toiletries/makeup/wine/perfume/cigars on the ground floor). Wandered (as much as one can on escalators) around and left, having finally decided to 'stock up' from the small 'dairy-style' section right at the front. Having found (UHT) milk, cereal and bread, I left the building - spying the DOWNSTAIRS supermarket as I wend my way back through the myriad of streets to home. Typical. Will make second excursion later to get sufficient ingredients to cook at least one meal in the next week. Such aspirations in one so young. (a weeks worth of breakfast stuff = NZD$14 inc 1L freshly squeezed OJ!)
Still...I got myself a new sim card too, the number to which I shall send in due course (via e-mail, this hardly seems an appropriate forum, given most of you don't bother reading it either!).
So far so good. Tonight I'm off out with Phillip and his mates. Tomorrow, I'm planning on wandering around the city on one of my new guide books "all day tours" that it advises. And then on Monday I tackle the public transport system. Stay tuned...
posted by Nomes @ Saturday, September 17, 2005   0 comments
Things that go 'sssshhhhhhhh'
Friday, 16 September 2005
Nice. Not!
Okay, so Michael Keaton did a good job in this movie - totally believable as the husband of one 'dead' wife. He discovers EVP (electronic voice somethingoranother) which means that he starts seeing and hearing messages in amidst a whole lot of static.
Seems fairly innocuous...
...until he starts realising that he's getting 'assistance' from his dead wife, to prevent deaths happening - he's seeing or hearing the spirit of a person who has yet to die. There are three shadowy figures that keep appearing on the screens (as shadowy figures, no less) and the string section gets going quite often. I'm still not sure what happened to the fourth shadowy figure - we suspect he was off for the night, too hungry/sick/wartorn/hot to bother with the show.
All in all, I thought the movie was really good. The camera angles and set direction caused for a tense ride. The premise was reasonably sound. But I (well, we, Julia, Rowland and myself) talked most of the way through it to maintain contact with reality. The lights stayed on (at the beginning I thought perhaps we shodl turn them down, but was v. glad we hadn't) and I'm not going to be listening to my ipod to get to sleep tonight - just in case I get a static noise.
The woman assistant during the movie is vacuous and appears to have had one too many facelifts (I didn't know 'surprised' could be so permanent).
Be advised to watch this movie in a room full of people you know won't do that 'tickle you on teh leg while you watch arachnophobia' thing that is SO not funny.
Sweet dreams.XXX
posted by Nomes @ Friday, September 16, 2005   0 comments
Getting this far...
Wednesday, 14 September 2005
So many things that have run through my head since I left Wellington.
I was very sad to leave behind my two best friends, D and L. :( Didn't stop crying until attempted to explain independent variable to the two 1st year 'health sciences' students sitting next to me on the plane. They thought Epidemiology was well boring until I explained where I was off to...
A's was great. V. relaxing complete with red wine and antipasto platter. Talked, as you can imagine, about our ex-in-common for a bit. Spoke to Mum and Dad briefly too.
Airport - sent txt to say cheerio. Finally getting really excited...
...and we're in the air. Watched many movies (Mr & Mrs Smith, predictable; Dot the i, brilliant; Sisterhood of Travelling Pants, made me cry) and listened to 'jukebox' (select songs from 100's of albums and listen to them - inflight ipod). Sat next to a guy with HORRIBLE breath - he must have thought me peculiar as I kept offering him gum. Thankfully, he kept accepting - perhaps I was making him paranoid. Honestly, don't people realise that it's their responsability to smell decent when they're cloistered with humanity so?
Shared section with 50 school kids. Yes...lots of fun.
Arrived in KL. Stood behind a guy waiting for free computer. He was writing to a chick he'd obviously just met (I'm too nosy to contemplate, suffice it to say i feel less compulsion to reserve other's privacy when I'm never going to see them again!) and had just left. Very cute message he sent her indeed (aawww).
Checked mail - and repeated a few hours later. This time I stood behind a woman from Japan who got (essentially) a dear jane letter. Ouch. "was fun to see you. I hope we can stay friends." she stared at the message for about 40mins without typing (yes, it was hilarious being the person behind her in the queue!). Despite my heart breaking a little bit for her, I still thought 'jeez woman...let me do MY e-mailing and then get back to the bastard!'. I have no heart.
Had a lie down for a few hours in the airport hotel. Showers are so restorative.
Back on plane. Although L thinks I'm brave and adventurous and not afraid of confrontation etc, I HATE counting off the seats, looking in the right place and then discovering someone is sitting in your airplane seat. Really, would it have made a vast difference for me to take the aisle seat left for me rather than force the lady out of her seat and take the window that I'd requested? No. But damnit - I get the window so I can lean away from my fellow travelers and create a small bubble of space around me.
Not so this woman...her and her chemise thingy (ok, kill me, I'm culturally ignorant!) leaned in my direction the moment I leaned into the window. GO AWAY! After a 13hour continued battle for the armrest, I finally arrived in London. Thank heaven for sleeping tablets is all I can say.
I don't wear makeup on flights (too damaging to skin). But even before going through passport control (which is laughable if you've the red passport: they swipe it through a scanner and then wave you through!) I stopped at the bathroom and washed/applied warpaint. This may be considered a vanity - but not so. It's merely to protect my skin from teh abyssmal pollution hovering over london.
So...bag came through fine. Still damned heavy mind. Got on tube. Came through to Holloway Road without a change (yay!) and then saw stairs. *cry* Some kindly gentleman helped me up them by grabbing the bottom of my suitcase as I hauled the top. Then wandered along the road to Big Red (a pub) whereupon I did order a vodka.
After drinking that, i felt much better. The publican (tee hee) picked that I was from NZ and has offered to show me around London on Thursday! Aw bless. Little does he know that I'm now going up to Ipswich to visit my grandmother and brother in their own houses (for the first time ever in the case of my little bro, and for the first time in about 8 years for my grandmother) on thursday.
M finally arrived and we went back to his flat (where I'm staying). One of his flatmates is currently 'away' so I even have a proper bed. Just as well I'm accustomed to sleeping on a bed with other stuff sharing the empty half as this room is seriously teh width of a double bed!! It's crazy. It's about twice as long as one, but the left over space is taken up by a door that swings inwards, a chest of drawers, a shelf unit and a wardrobe. I'll take a photo tomorrow and post it up! It's insane.
I'd forgotten how oppressive the heat can be in London. It's heavy heat...there's no air between the buildings. It's also difficult to determine what the weather is like - you can't get a good angle looking from a downstairs flat to the sky - other buildings are in teh way.
However, I wouldn't have it any other way. I love this city...and all the crowded, stinking, pollutedness *chess* that it includes. I hate black snot (one tube ride is sufficient to cause you to thank the gods for nasal cilia!) but I love the wide pavements crammed with people and stalls. I love the smell of the city...dirty, hot concrete, diesel and petrol fumes, and concrete powder (roadworks EVERYWHERE). Crazy but true.
Anyway. Homemade dinner (how long was it since my last? CP's I think...) and then out to meet up with friends at 'The Victoria' befor eheading to Koko to see Fat Freddy's Drop. Nearly fell asleep in the pub, but had about 6 vodka redbulls (thanks to the lads we met) at Koko's and managed to stay awake for the full set. It was brilliant - great atmosphere (more kiwi accents than are heard in Wellington!) and the lads looked after me. My host is very drug-naive and didn't even notice when his mates were all, um, powdering their noses. Bless 'im. Due to a possible drug test in my near future, I declined politely (secretly thrilled that the others thought me sufficiently not 'uncool' to enquire).
Made it to 2am...then crashed totally. Home on the night bus, and crawled up the bed, under M's sleeping bag, and out like the proverbial lightbulb (I'd rather be considered a candle though. much nicer to be 'blown' than 'switched'!:)).
Body woke itself one min before alarm at 8:59am. Brilliant. So now, i feel kinda smug that I've avoided all that jet lag crap.
Full cooked breafkfast eaten outside on the picnic set in teh garden (yes, a almost-central London...) and then to this here internet cafe.
Off to meet L's big sister N for coffee and cake next. Am keeping an eye out for a computer too...I hate being without. But this cafe seems to have USB ports so I COULD take photos and upload immediately. Will see.
Anyways, much love to all. Missing you but am so thrilled to be here that the excitement definitely keeps me going. Part of me thinks I should've pushed straight through to Prague without stopping here first, but I love London too much, I would have arrived in Prague feeling like I'd forgotten something! Maybe I need to live here for a prolonged period and get it out of my system for once and for all.
posted by Nomes @ Wednesday, September 14, 2005   0 comments
Damn, Damn and Blast!
Tuesday, 6 September 2005
Feck! The flat that I was supposed to be moving into (yay, I am so clever, I have it all sorted well before I leave NZ) has fallen through. Not mysteriously fallen through the piles due to poor insulation or anything like that, oh no! That woudl be easy to fix.
The clever and reasonable american I was supposed to move in with asked me for ELEVEN months of rent upfront. HELLO!? What?? 11?!?? Craziness.
So I kinda went - er, no. Thanks but no.
And have found another place to stay for six weeks. This ones more in the 'Courtenay Quarter' of town (imagine me living over, say, Hummingbird for instance) and is a studio apartment - fully furnished. I've got it until the end of October, which gives me a few weeks respite in which to find more permanent shelter.
But on happier notes, I had a blast at my leaving do. The flatmates at teh Crescent put on a GREAT show, there was a chillout room (Jo, you darling man), a disco room (where did K and L put all their STUFF) in which Craig spun some choons, and Mal had the decks in the lounge going most of the night. Photos of the view will be posted posthaste. (remember - that whole lawyer clause thingamebob). Still...I have to say that I must have been in full paparazzi mode. I'm wearing that dress again - in nearly all of hte photos, I look okay!! YAY. Poor Tim (resident photographer...dragged around by the wrist and told to 'take photos of me now' by me, for about 20mins!!).
So yeah...packing should hopefully finish this afternoon. If I post this and get on my jolly way. Have charged iPod...will provide you with 'packing playlist' tomorrow.
posted by Nomes @ Tuesday, September 06, 2005   0 comments

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