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!)
Does anyone want to break my nose?
Friday, 25 November 2005
I’m not unhappy with the Boxall/Hilder combination nose that I managed to develop in utero: it’s straight, mostly pert, and has a small bulb at the end (I AM a cross between Groucho and Rudolph?) and is generally ‘fine’, complementing my other facial features in a way sufficiently aesthetically pleasing that I’ve not had to resort to wearing a paper bag to prevent small children from crying. HOWEVER, I’ve been giving some thought to this whole ‘weather’ thing. Seems that if you have rhinoplasty performed, then you have to wear bandages over your new shnoz for about two weeks to a) hold it in place and b) collect your life force as it drips out of your stapled face.

Bandages are warm. And would collect the condensation like drips that threaten to hang from the tip of my nose when it’s this cold. Everyone wins.

Today I realised I’m living in a song by the Bangles (oh, okay, you bloody music purists – Simon and Garfunkel, since you insist!): Hazy Shade of Winter. It snowed while I was walking to the metro, this morning, but by the time I’d gotten to the University, the snow had stopped and the sun had returned. This meant that by the time we were released from our three hours of hell (ie. two Czech lessons), there were indeed ‘patch[es] of snow on the ground’. I’ve never really understood this expression until today (life is SUCH a learning experience for me!) as I always thought snow had to be about 10cm deep. But no, these patches I speak of (sing of, the song is part of the Intunition repertoire) are mere snowflakes thick, and yet can cover a reasonably large area. Fascinating stuff. Especially when they cover cobblestones which are uneven. The combination is almost as good as moss on a wet rock (ooh…I think I’ve invented a name for a new cocktail containing green chartreuse) for stability. Just as well the earmuffs have already destroyed my ‘street cred’ as the windmilling arms certainly buried whatever ‘cool’ I had remaining this morning.

But…old town square is now getting ready for Christmas. There are a dozen little midget huts (well, they’re not really, but they’re really dinky and cute looking) which I reckon would freak Joseph out completely. Apparently, this is collectively referred to as the ‘craft market’. I deem it ‘crafty’ indeed – who ISN’T going to buy roasted chestnuts when the temperature is -4oC? Alas, said stalls aren’t open…so thankfully, my tongue hasn’t been scorched by overhasty consumption of ‘hot nuts’. Yet…

There’s also a giant Christmas tree that I’m glad I don’t have to decorate. Having said that, the decorations are lame, so I’m a little upset that I wasn’t able to perform my yearly ‘but I decorate the tree’ tantrum which turns me into Christmas Tree Nazi. Yet…

Thankfully – I haven’t heard even one rendition of ‘silver bells’ or ‘rudolph’ or ‘I saw Mummy…’ which is very good news indeed. It means that small children running amok may get to keep their tenuous hold on life for just a fraction longer in time, since I’m not feeling homicidal. Yet…

I’d like to share with you a brief insight into the positives of the Czech language, remember my ‘I don’t eat breakfast’ comment? Well, here’s some more ways in which a synthetic language (as, apparently, Czech is) can be so groovy: the word for castle is hrad. “Za” can mean, “behind”. What is behind the castle? A garden. So Zahrada is garden. “Pre” can mean “before”. What is in front of your castle? A moat. So Přehrada means water reservoir. Ain’t that just the cutest?

I’d also like you to visualise my writing progress. Naturally, this has been checked by moje ucitelka (my female teacher) who returned it almost covered in red, so you’re getting the ‘corrected’ version, but I want to impress you all anyway. Gold stars in the comments section please!

Milá Liorah,

Jak se máš, moje nejlepší přítelkyně? Já se mám fajn, ale někdy jsem smutna. Praha je moc daleko od Wellingtonu! Taký jsem často unavena, protože moje české lekce jsou těžké! Ale je mi akorát, o pravdu, nedělej si starosti! Také, neříkej nic tvojí mamince, jestli vaři cheesecake pro mě samozřejmě. Beztak…

Na fotografii je dům Moje pokoj je moc malý, ale mám tam dvě polohovací válendy a všechno prádlo. A práce není daleko, jenom pět minut pěšky! Moje program je plný: dopoledne jsem na universitě a studuju čestinu. Učím se pomalu! Odpoledne pracuju v státním zdravotním ústavu., je to česky „ESR“. Znáš Prahu, protože jsi navstivíla Prahu minulý rok, ale je pořad krásna. Ale někdy počasí špatné, protože zima se blíží.

Jak se mají kočky? Ještě tlusté?! A Midge? Tvoje rodiče? A malý Justin, kolik dni už je ve škole? Těším se na příště měsíc, když tvoje sestra bude na návštěvě tady.

Tak můj milý, je už pozdě, už jdu spát, aby se mi něco zdát.

Zatím, čau! Nomes. XXX
Which translates into (or rather, was translated from) the rather slanderous...

Dear Liorah,

How are you, my best friend? I am fine, but sometimes I’m sad. Prague is very far from Wellington! Also, I’m often tired, because my Czech lessons are hard. But I’m okay, really, don’t worry. And don’t say anything to your Mum, unless she’ll make cheesecake for me. Anyway…

The photographs of my house are on My room is very small, but I have two fold out beds with all their bedlinen. And work isn’t far, it takes 5 minutes by foot! My schedule is full: in the morning I go to university to study Czech. I learn slowly*! In the afternoon I work at the Statni Zdravotni Ustav, it is the Czech “ESR”. You know Prague, because you visited last year, but it’s still pretty. But sometimes the weather is crap, because winter is coming.

How are your cats? Still fat#?! And Midge? Your parents? And little Justin, how many days has he been at school? I look forward to next month, when your sister will visit also.

Okay my dear, it’s late, I must sleep, maybe I’ll dream.**

For now, ciao! Nomes. XXX.

*a compliment gathering exercise I'm afraid: my Czech teacher wrote "to neni pravda!" which means "that's not true!" which was reassuring.

**the closest I'm gonna get to translated Shakespeare without hanging around the English Literature department! I'm certainly not going to start behaving like THAT! :)

# apologies sweety, I don't know the meaning for 'slightly portly' yet! And since there are so many other lies in this letter - no one need ever know that they're not the svelte killing machines they are in their own mind. Well, one of them at least...

Now, believe it or not, I actually recorded that into my phone. And as you'll soon witness, I managed to convert it into a rather muddy sounding wav if you want to hear me mangle another language...then drop me a comment! :)

Did I once complain that I wasn’t given enough to do at work? Well…thank goodness it’s always Friday in my office (as in, Friday 11am, not Friday 4.58pm when the emergency happens) because Vlad and I have just spent the last two hours sending bits and pieces between our phones and computers. Complete file transfer went along these lines.

Vlad’s phone to Nomes’s computer – infrared – voice message.
Nomes’s computer to Vlad’s computer – LAN – voice message .
Nomes’s downloads free program .amr <-> mp3…slight glee at possiblities
(listened to voice message – decided it was too quiet)
Vlad’s voice to Vlad’s phone – receiver etc – voice message
Vlad’s phone to Nomes’s computer – infrared – voice message
(listened to message – eureka – it was fine)
Nomes converts small file to .amr
Doesn’t work.
Nomes downloads another program to convert m4a – mp3. Is too scared to install.

Nomes’ computer – Vlad’s computer – line in - Jerry Goldsmith’s Badge of Honour
Vlad collects Badge of Honour as mp3 using AudioGrabber
Vlad’s computer to Nomes’s computer – LAN – Badge of Honour
Nomes converts BoH.mp3 – BoH.amr
Nomes’s computer to Nomes’s phone – infrared – Badge of Honour
(listen to BoH – change alarm to BoH and hope it wakes me up to get to Budapest tomorrow).

The possibilities are endless. And Lira, apologies for this piece of music overriding your horn solo as my wakeup call…please record and send me another one if you can! My neighbours REALLY loved hearing it (when I’d gotten into the shower before the alarm went off and the volume keeps increasing until someone/thing intervenes!).

And now, I’m off to pack for Budapest, before changing into comfy shoes (no more walking home in my socks in -7oC weather…stupidity – thy name is Caipirinha) and heading out to the velvet roped off area of the Stereo MC’s concert. FOR FREE! Guest list baby, guest list!! I guess hanging out with some expats who know other expats can come in tremendously handy….see ya après- or if you’re lucky midi-Budapest!!
posted by Nomes @ Friday, November 25, 2005   6 comments
Snow's melted, now it's just plain cold!
Thursday, 24 November 2005
Some people are just never satisfied are they!!? I don’t update my blog for a week and I get berated for having a life.

Actually, I don’t really have a life at all – there’s just been (seriously) nothing worth commenting about. Unless you count having really horribly dry cracked lips worth commenting about. I have really horribly dry cracked lips. They hurt. So far, I’ve been through ‘chapstick’, ‘blixtex’, ‘labello’ AND ‘vaseline intensive care’ - I’m covering all bases, and as of yet, nothing is working to the degree my lips need. It hurts to smile.

I think I’ve just discovered the reason everyone scowls in this part of the world.

I considered taking part in the National November Writers Month (or some such) where you ‘write a book’ in 30 days. Course, the book is only 50,000 words, and is more of a novella than a novel. Also, being written in 30 days, it tends to be a little, how you say, ‘rough around the edges’. But since I only caught on (read: found the website) on the 20th….I don’t think even I could manage to fill in 5,000 words per day. I’m just not that imaginative. And we all know that any book I write would have to spend a year with a lawyer to make sure I can ‘say that stuff about those people’. I changed the names to protect the innocent – honest. Just that no one was entirely innocent…

The American’s here are on an all-out cranberry hunt. They didn’t really like my suggestion of buying cranberry juice, adding gelatine and boiling it all up to see whether they could ‘make’ cranberry jelly. I even suggested that no one would actually notice if they put raspberries instead of cranberries in it (for texture, you understand). There was a collective gasp at the suggestion, and I do believe I heard the theme tune for Tombstone. Somewhere in the distance, a dog barked. So they’re all celebrating this Saturday: turkeys, pumpkin pie – the lot.

I’ve never celebrated an American thanksgiving and am a little confused by it all. I mean: for what are they giving thanks? That the Mayflower didn’t sink? That the horses that brought the wagons west (seriously folks, you think my central/eastern Europe history is bad? It’s NOTHING in comparison to my USA history...which is based entirely upon Hollywood’s portrayals – just like my career!) didn’t fall foul of West Nile virus? It’s all a bit ‘lucky’ then isn’t it really. I’m surprised they haven’t cottoned on to this (well, actually, not all THAT surprised…*apologies to Brett!*) and bought into the whole ‘be lucky general’ thing. Oh yes, you’re right. Vegas.

My accommodation is still lovely. I love my little space – even if I DO have to open the windows to remove my nail varnish (some would probably argue one should do that anyway). Or after a shower. Or for at least three hours after cooking anything remotely aromatic (boiled eggs being the only exception thus far). I’m very grateful for the giant, soviet style heater underneath the window. Less grateful for the soviet phone lines, which ensure that while someone else talks to me, I hear their voice down through a disconcertingly large proportion of white noise. No KGB agent would BOTHER tapping this phone….it hurts too much.

Yesterday I had my first negative thought relating to winter. The thought was ‘three months to go’, which, in retrospect, is not ENTIRELY negative. Then I went for a walk, and once I could no longer FEEL my nose, then it didn’t bother me that it was chilly out. In fact, the cold weather means that most people are inside with their windows shut (unless they’re removing their nail varnish – obviously), which meant that I could sing out loud while I walked.

Thus far, my exercise has been solely relegated to walking. And the walls are quite thin in my apartment – so I’m not sure about singing there (not loudly, at any rate) which means that I get to practise in the frigid ‘circa 0oC’ evenings, and singing while jogging on the spot to keep warm gives me a vibrato I never thought possible! And though it pains me to say, any pauses are not ‘instrumental breaks’ as far as I’m concerned, but more ‘nosewipe and sniff’ breaks. Charming, I don’t think.

In spite of this ladylike demeanour, I need help choosing my ‘winter look’. Given ANY ‘look’ begins with footwear, my options are:
a) Ugg boots: the sleeping bag/cozy warm/fur lined hood look. (amazingly tempting as the temperatures plummet – though am wary of appearing to be an Sunday afternoon anorak-wearing trainspotter)
b) Leather riding boots: the long woollen coat with the scarf and perhaps a flat cap look.
c) Boxing-type boots: the velour funky tracksuit with diamante bling and hoodie look.
d) Buttonhooks brogued boots: swooshy long skirt (with petticoats), high necked ruffled blouse and long velvet coat (perhaps a Russian style fur hat) look.
I need a poll. Please vote in the comments section. Photos will follow…

What I want to know is why those darned bank robbers had to go and make balaclava’s ominous…I’d (almost) kill to own/wear one about now. I’m not sure whether it would do my reputation any good though, picture it: balaclava’d, gloved and scarved woman, wandering around stomping on the piles of snow, pausing every now and then to peer intently at snowflakes that have fallen on her sleeves, singing to herself and grinning. Yes…the policie WOULD be visiting, but only for the entertainment value. In a vain attempt to keep my head warm, yet leave SOME room for extra warmth over the coming months, I’ve purchased earmuffs. Yes…truly. They’re furry too. And because I love you, dear readers, almost as much as I love them, I’ve taken a photo. But then, I also took a photo of the snow, and have yet to figure out my new photo hosting thingymabob (come back myblogsite…you made it so easy) and do some coding to get it in here somehow *sob* which is all very well but it leaves little time for the amount of Czech language homework I have to do. (so, in otherwords, have patience my dears, have patience).

Not sure if or when the WHO will offer assistance to China – or whether we’ll put our names forward for it. It’s a bit too ‘environmental’ for my preferences…but if there’s all of a sudden high mortality rates due to lack of fresh water, one of the EPIETS (previous, present or even future – we’re just like ghosts, we are) may even be there in the ‘sludge’ of things, counting the dead.
posted by Nomes @ Thursday, November 24, 2005   5 comments
Nomes's mind dwellings
Sunday, 20 November 2005
Thirty minutes and one zeleněný čaj (gulped to the mantra of "this stuff HAS to calm me down!") later, and I’ve finally managed to open IE6 on my computer which is apparently connected to the wifi server at this cafe. This is the first time I've tried to hook up using this new-fandangled (that one's for you Mum) technology - and of course, I have to go at it from a bloody different language. One where the word připojení means "connection" and the words nastavení mistní sítě are the ones you need to click onto to get the computer to detect proxies automatically. Who knew? Not me, and not the people behind the counter either. Thankfully, my stores of 'self-containment' have been recently stocked, and I didn't burst into tears.

No link…no apologies either.

The night tram drivers are less likely to be of the Schumacker-personality type. Why? Well, it seems they've read the QRA that informed them that the more hectically they threw their trams around the tracks, the more partially digested food and alcohol will be disgorged onto their floors. However, it's with interest (not to mention morbid fascination) that I note the most puddle-forming liquid to be found on a night tram is saliva...the most mucoid (bleeeeeeeeeeeee!) of bodily liquids. This being because one side of the tram is jammed with hormone fuelled and semi-undressed (in THIS weather? God damn it people...haven’t you heard about hypothermia?) couples, not-so-furtively attempting to stroke each others tonsils (or more worryingly, oesophagi) with their tongues. The slurping is enough to make one wish for one's ipod. The other side of the tram is also covered in lolling bodies which are also showing the effects of overindulgence in alcohol...the people themselves have temporarily checked out. But their mucus membranes continue to produce saliva...which hangs/drops/dribbles from their open maws in a VERY horrific manner. You know it's bad when you're disinclined to disembark at your own stop because you NEED to know how long it'll be before that strand hits the's SOOOO close....

Sadly, the morning tram drivers aren't the night tram drivers, so when you get onto one of the first trams in the morning they hurl you around the corners again. Hurl. Bleh.

But what was I doing on the night/day tram? Well, it was a public holiday here on Thursday so I went out. Karoline (one of the other singers in Intunition) and I went to an expats dinner. It was fairly predictable, but thanks to years spent in Qatar, I found resources of diplomacy and feigned interest that I never realised I possessed. Parents, we weren’t so ponderously patriotic were we? Did we really make horribly judgemental comments about our newly-borrowed host countries? Am I like THEM? I’m sure I remember some fierce slagging sessions in the kitchen with Mum, but I don’t recall making ‘impolite’ small talk at parties. Or perhaps that’s my notoriously selective memory helping out again. Whatever, never have I had the (dis)pleasure to meet some really awful people. *sigh*
There was a nice Scotsman though, who has offered me the use of his washing machine, and is currently cooking me haggis (as you do) as a pre-entire-series-of-House-on-DVD dinner. The expat lads really know how to woo here - television series’ and English-language fiction! And there was an Australian woman from Sydney who is ‘into hiking’ (oh, please!) who tried to coerce me into coming on a trip next weekend. Er…hello…does NOONE look at the weather forecast? Other than that, the highlight (highperson) was Patrike, an adorable Frenchman (yes, they DO exist) who is a music producer. Although Parisian himself, he was unenchanted with Paris on his last stay there so came to the “Paris of the East” instead. CD’s available soon…

Oh – and with the exception of the two dears we met outside Diablos’ on our last diabolic attempt at ‘going out’ in Palmeston North, please tell me I’m not intellectually condescending? I met a mathematician at this dinner thing too…and oh my goodness. After telling me that I ‘probably wouldn’t understand’ his field (Logic) and then nearly boring me to tears (I stifled three yawns - yes, I was counting) for the next 15 minutes telling me about how he ended up in Prague (it’s one of the first ‘opening’ questions for goodness sake’s, I was just being ‘charming’) I finally responded to his very arrogant question of, “And you teach English, I suppose?” with a grin, and “Actually, no. I’m a field epidemiologist on a European Fellowship, posted to Prague for two years.” before returning my attention to Patrike. Little did I know that his interest would be piqued such that I now have the unenviable task of putting him off a dinner date. ARGH! I thought snogging the lovely ice-hockey player (“HELLO forearms!”) that we met at the nightclub later on would have dissuaded him…but alas. L

Anyway, after the nightclub, we went out to a morning club called “The Clan”. Vaguely disturbing? No more so than the fact I’m sitting in Kava Kava Kava – colloquially known as KKK!!! Anyway, what I valued the most about the place (other than it’s cheap mojitos) were the toilets. No longer do you have to precariously perch on the loo to cut your lines on a sloped surface, you can actually use a mirror shelf stuck to the wall seemingly for that very purpose. Thank you VERY much. (I would like to remind you all, at this juncture, that I do not condone the abuse of drugs (use them properly folks!) – I’m just appreciative of those who know the underbelly of society well enough to consider it when designing bathroom fittings!)

And on other bodily functions; is ovulation supposed to make you more fond of humanity? The only reason I wonder is because I woke yesterday at about 9am to the sound of children playing and did not feel homicidal. I remained prone, however, and managed to tune them out eventually, to drift back into the land of snooze. When I DID finally get out of bed, and swootched (well, you don't 'draw' venetians do you? And to switch indicates a 180 turnaround...whereas I only opened them entirely...) the blinds...everything was covered in bees.

Okay, not bees: snow.

It is just so gorgeous…the boughs of trees were all lightly sprinkled. I felt as though I was on top of a café dessert (you know, the ones they sprinkle indulgently with icing sugar?). So the first thing I did was go out. Of course. And I jumped on the snow on my garden. And I sunk a little bit. I’m always so amazed how much of snow is actually air…it condenses so much when under pressure. And I LOVE the crunchy noise of it. And I love how it collects on my eyelashes. Very Sound of Music indeed. But…I also learnt something.

See, all those years of designing snowflakes – either the ones cut out of paper or the virtual snowflakes on that site we all logged onto in the middle of NZ summer last yeat – I thought that the only reason we all ‘knew’ they had six sides was because someone had arduously collected and studied them under the microscope. I didn’t actually know (or couldn’t remember) that you could SEE them. They’re sooooo beautiful.

So another 30mins was spent hanging over my heater (under the window – thanks for the energy efficiency lecture from Rowls) with my head out the wide open window watching the snow fall and examining the flakes that ended up on my sill. I saw loads of different shapes. *sigh* It’s sooooo cool.

I can actually HEAR the slightly knowing and patronising grin on all the faces of those who regularly live in snow. Okay, it’s a novelty now (you’re all thinking) but wait until you’ve put up with it for 3 months. I know, I know. So, instead of just sitting there (now) shaking your heads, how about posting a few comments with your ‘most handy tips’ for dealing with it in time to come. What’s the best waterproofing spray for my suede boots (that being the most important thing to sort out) and is ‘having snow on your car’ really as accurate a socioeconomic distinction as it appears to be?

That and more questions – answered (or posed) next time. Love to all. Or rather, love to all those I know well enough to have your number in my phone…hugs to others, and a firm-wristed handshake to those strangers who browse on by…
posted by Nomes @ Sunday, November 20, 2005   4 comments
Moving...for the umpteenth time...
Friday, 18 November 2005
...but this time, it's in a virtual world instead of a real one (gosh, I wish this coudl be the case most times, think how few boxes and rolls of tape you'd need). has officially decided to close. And they've given us until 30th November to shift our arses (or at least our journals) out of here before they shut down the utilities. They've offered to migrate our files all to somewhere else - but that new place will cost US$8.95/month - and as you all know how much I earn - I'm not going to go the 'pay as you go' route. Of course, I'll happily prostitute my prose if someone else want's to sponsor me a site - but until that happens, I'm gonna have to find another 'free' supplier. That probably means more pop-up ads for you lot...but them's the breaks.

Consequently, and having been looking up blogs in the past few days (using my internet time wisely, you see) I've decided to go with blogspot. Conveniently, picasa also publishes easily to blogspot - so photos may be uploaded more rapidly. So yes, it's a google thing. Again.
However, the layout is all different, as is the 'things one can do'. So I'm going to apologise in advance for a lack of postings while I transfer all this to there. Wish me luck and good ether.
posted by Nomes @ Friday, November 18, 2005   3 comments
Oh god...I have to migrate an entire RSS?!
Wednesday, 16 November 2005 is closing down. They say that you can migrate your entire blog (including the photo albums) to another hosting RSS thingy for US$8.95/month, but as you know, I'm skint.

So I'm going the free, more difficult way. Watch this space....
posted by Nomes @ Wednesday, November 16, 2005   0 comments
Is a blog a bacterium?
Tuesday, 15 November 2005
I don’t have a cuttings agency providing me with summaries of how famous I am, but I DO have a page counter. And last week, I found out that there were 1406 visits to my blog in a seven day period.

Internet page counters are notoriously sensitive – one accidental click and you register as a new visitor, but that total is 7 times more visits than a similar period in September. And three times more than in October (there’s a reason I went into epidemiology). Even if I add a bug to one of the three confirmed readers computers, one of those annoying ones that opens dozens of internet windows in one go, I still doubt you’re making 500 visits per week!

So today I’ll extend a warm and hearty gulaš-y (goulash = what the heck do YOU think?) welcome to the additional 10 readers we seem to have collected along the way (I can live with 100 page visits between the 13 of you – the other 100 are legitimately mine). And now stop giving me stage-fright and start leaving me comments would you?

Welcome and ‘Ta for the chocolate fish explanation’ (I’ll stick to red wine) especially to Em – who has joined the ranks (Mums, Rowland, Chris) of those who care to write messages. And a quick shout-out to Rowls – who is clearly developing his vocation as an armchair expert. You were both wonderful.

Brett has also stepped forward with a script that I have embellished somewhat. Sure, it’s a work in progress (i.e. skeleton plot lines), but will be published here shortly in both languages for comments and stage directions.

Phew…all those formalities! Now I can return to being the erudite if somewhat self-absorbed diarist you seem to be following.

Last Friday I shifted to my new byt (beet = flat), and I now live 5 minutes away from my office. In fact, I now have to remember to go to the main gate and swipe in (akin to the ‘punching in’ of old, with slightly less violence, and more bag waving!) before hooking my computer (carried under my arm) to the cables that are coiled up on my desk awaiting it’s return.

The flat itself would be described as a bedsit, maisonette or garconiere depending on your current continent. Here, it’s officially a(n?) 1+kk where ‘kk’ means kuchyně kout (koo-chhin-ye coat = kitchen corner). There’s a room with furniture (duly rearranged - Feng Shui!), and a DAMNED fine radiator (though how it’s so efficient when it’s under the window I’ll never understand). I’ve already learnt that clean-but-wet white sheets placed over a radiator to dry => dry white sheets with brown stripes.

I’ve got parquet floors in the (bed)room and in the entry hall, which finally legitimises my long held and peculiar desire for a hall table, while the kitcheny bit has tiles that don’t seem to get cold. The kitchen itself has a half-fridge, a gas stove (four burners, and the bit underneath – for cheesecakes – and I’ve only caused one minor explosion thus far which burnt all the hair off one of my arms) and a sink with draining board. The ‘bench’ space is the draining board, the top of the fridge and an upturned tray (stolen from the canteen) on the (not burning) gas stove. You’ll note that there’s no mention of a microwave. However, there IS a kettle, so I can make myself a cup of coffee without zapping my ovaries (well, where else do you stand while you’re waiting 2mins10seconds for your cup of water to boil?). A toaster is high on my list of ‘things I need’. IKEA is my new MARIE CLAIRE.

Opposite that wall of kitchen appliances is a pantry and a shower.

Yes, a shower. So I can shower, and then while I dry, I can take one cautious step (you know, those ACC ads really put you off being casual on tiles – thanks for that Nis) across the ‘kitchen’ to turn the kettle on. By the time I’m dry, the kettle’s boiled. Communist efficiency.

Showers, however, must be a relatively ‘capitalist’ invention, as all shower heads are still ‘hand held’ – there’s no hook up the wall from which to post them. This is all well and good, until you try to shave under your arms. Water up the nose as a result of failing to deftly manoeuvre the showerhead appropriately hurts at 7am!

I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for photos. I’ve taken some, but they’re very ‘before’. I am tempted to save for a ‘mezzanine bed’. They’re apparently space efficient – as many people put couches or workstations beneath them - but let’s face it, it’s really just excusing those of us who never grew out of sleeping on the top bunk! I know what you’re all thinking though – and I’ll assure you that I’m quite capable of climbing a ladder when plastered...thank you very much!

Access is pretty good: it’s a 20min walk to my nearest shopping mall (complete with cinema multiplex and decent coffee) or a 10min walk and 10min metro to the centre of town. All this for NZ$120/month. And since I’ve got it for, essentially, as long as I want: I’ve unpacked my toiletries. This means “I’m home” (beware any of you who notice unpacked toiletries should I ‘visit’…).

As and when you visit, consider leaving you corrective lenses behind, some sights are just too painful to witness. This evening, there was a GORGEOUS bloke on the metro. I nearly went over and spoke to him just because he was that, well, attractive (god knows what I would have said!). Good jaw, high cheekbones, looked as though he’d eaten in the last three months, aquamarine eyes, taller than me (with heels), good shoulders etc AND had a tube of labello and packet of orbit professional chewing gum (aka. Extra) which indicates that he might be a good kisser takes care of his dental and oral hygiene (Hi Dad!). Anyway – this perfect specimen was in front of me as we disembarked the metro, and that’s when I noticed: although his upper half was ‘mountaineer slash medical student’, he was wearing baggy acid wash jeans and shiny black slightly-too-pointy-square-toed shoes that went ‘click’ as he walked AND *gasp* had the label attached to them still!

WHY?!!! *wails* Admittedly, I’m not ‘cover of vogue’ material, and I can recall some horrible incident involving matching (but deviously reversed colours) shell suits with my family (my therapist sends his regards Mum!) but that was BEFORE I knew who Tom Ford was. Anyway…for this reason – and this should be sufficient – I think it’s very important that you forget your contact lenses and just let your mind wander. Of course, this is very dangerous if in heels (Liorah, Nis) so we’ll try to make sure you avoid the ‘break heads’ (literal translation from Czech to English of the name for the cobblestones here – slightly less morbid than the Dutch ‘childrens heads’ (!) but a definite worry none-the-less!) by taking taxis everywhere.

Spanish wine that costs $3/glass has the same effect as Moravian – even though it tastes better. Meanwhile, Panadeine is worth more than gold here. Please bring/send some.

We may have the fastest escalators in the world. Which is fine, when you can summon up the courage to join the throngs and take the first step. The downside is being propelled at speed at the other end into the back of the senior citizen in front of you. I’ve not knocked anyone down yet, but I’ve definitely had to incorporate some deft side-stepping into the commuter jig.

English people are foolish. A bunch of English lads got on my metro on Saturday, and since they were talking English I removed one ear bud (as it happens, the one that’s not working properly, and causing me to wonder why all my music contains a trombone being played underwater…even the vocal tracks!?) and listen in (it’s a nice change to be able to eavesdrop). Anyway, the conversation went like this,
“So Jim, which stop are we getting off at?”
“Two stops – mala something or another.” (malostranska = by the castle) I smiled to myself
“Then where?”
“I dunno, we’ll find it…it’s somewhere near the station apparently.” I suppressed a knowing giggle
“It’s cold out. We’re gonna get hypothermia and die before we find it aren’t we?” I couldn’t contain myself and answered,
“Probably. It’s really easy to get lost here.” and was answered with
“Yeah, we’ve already been lost four separate times this afternoon.” By the guy worried about hypothermia. Unfortunately, we’d reached my stop so I had to leave them to it, but I did wish them luck. And told them to find a tourist place and buy a map as soon as they could. And then left, with a great big grin on my face!

I may have found my local. Except it’s not. But it’s called Jet Set. Only problem is that it has furry covers on it’s television sets (remember my old pencil cases? Like that, only pink!) and I’m not sure I can be seen in a place with furry television covers. Still, they’re only the telly’s outside the loos…so it’s not ALL bad. Most importantly: a cosmopolitan will only set you back NZ$6…

Angry men have NOT ransacked my apartment. Morton set me worrying when he called on my mobile and said, “Er, is there any reason why an angry Czech man should be answering the phone in your apartment?” to which I could only say no (still on the shelf…top though it may be!). Which meant that while I was spending a reasonably ‘normal’ Sunday afternoon with some people I’d never met before (coffee, cheesecake and a movie – extraordinarily normal and yet so decadent!) my belongings were being rummaged through. I decided against dashing home, I’d rather give the angry man time to cool down or clear out, and focussed on the important things (remaining cheesecake). After the movie, and a trip back to my old home (to make the bed with aforementioned stripy sheets) I finally got home to discover that not a hair (the one I lay across the threshold to tell me if there’s been an intruder – a la Trixie Belden) had been disturbed and Morton must have spoken to an operator or wrong number. *sigh* At least he followed up with an e-mail today ‘er, you weren’t stabbed last night were you?” which I answered with “apparently not!” though one wonders what would have happened had I not replied. Still…the trip to Edinburgh for NY is on…

Christmas is dangerously close. The queues are already longer. I’m trying to learn sufficient Czech that I can do all my shopping online and avoid the queues. This may mean that some of you will end up with crazy weird presents (if I get it wrong) or may not get any at all (if I misinterpret the ‘addressing’ instructions). Apologies in advance. *smug grin* Clever huh?

However, I am off to Budapest soon – and if you want fridge bling, don’t forget to e-mail me your postal address. If you click on the author name “The adventure begins…” beneath any title of an entry, a new window will open – and one of the options is ‘send e-mail’.

A French horn solo is the perfect alarm clock – thanks to Lira for providing me with that soundbite at our “sing for your supper” dinner on the 21st August (oh my god…that’s SO long ago!) – but I’m starting to be able to sleep through half of it. Any chance of sending me a new recording hon? Or any one else who can play any (particularly brass) instruments? You’re all welcome to send me music clips…the best one won’t be winning a chocolate fish, but I’ll send you a knedliky in the mail. What’s the betting Rowls informs us all what that is…
posted by Nomes @ Tuesday, November 15, 2005   1 comments
Chocolate fish?
Friday, 11 November 2005
There are some things in the world designed for humour.

Trams are definitely high on my list (though you must be tiring of hearing about them). This morning, I had to shift – hopefully for the last time for six months or so. So I woke at 6am in order to take my inordinately over endowed suitcase on the tram.

Has anyone else trundled a suitcase over mud? I prayed for well lubricated ball bearings. Anyway, I made it out of the building (down two flights of stairs) without disturbing the peace. And I EVEN made it onto the tram before the doors closed. Unfortunately, this was one of those trams driven by a contender for the Formula 43, so it wasn’t long before I was seriously worried. Not about anything in my bag, nor even about myself…but I could see my suitcase falling over, then sliding down the aisle and generally kneecapping anyone in the way. I’ve no idea what the court system is like in the Czech Republic, but if it’s anything like any of the other unnecessarily administrative-inflated systems here, I might NEVER get to go on an outbreak investigation.

But at least I HAVE a stable centre of gravity (hovering right about where these as-of-yet-unemployed childbearing hips reside!). I really wonder what was going through some maminka’s minds when they dressed their 6 year olds in warm woollen mittens and a backpack the size (and weight) of Denmark. Had they no idea that their offspring would spend the entire trip flailing their bemittened hands like a turtle – sliding up and down the aisle on their backs at the whim of the crazy tram driver?!

(I should get up this early more often – I'm giggling so much I can’t type straight!)

Getting the bag UP onto the tram (i.e. stepping up and then hauling it up behind me thinking “hold core muscles steady, support the back, lift with the legs through the heels”) is FAR easier than putting it down again. So far, I’ve adopted following approach: half push, half throw the bag from the back door and hope it lands with some semblance of stability. Then follow the bag out, look nonchalantly in its direction as though wondering to whom it belongs, before waiting until the way is clear to reassert ownership status and haul it off in the appropriate direction. This procedure is in case it DOES kill someone…

It seems Nis has been pipped to the post as ‘Nomes’ first visitor’ as Umit’s is arriving for the weekend of Dec 10th. Umit – as some may recall – was my classmate during L6th Chemistry, a Turkish Canadian whom I haven’t seen since, er, 1992! THAT’S OVER 10 FREAKING YEARS AGO. Though we have ICQ’d and even spoken in the meantime – not regularly – but we actually did that whole VOIP thing prior to Skype – me on my laptop in the kitchen of Aberdeen Ave, cooking while he instructed. What else is technology for?

So, the frenzied list of things to do before his arrival: lose 20kgs (there’s an ad for liposuction in the back of one of my magazines…at least – that’s what I think the ad’s for…“how much fat can I have vacuumed for $3?? Oh…my little finger? What? Are you saying my little finger is fat?!? Why you little….”), learn to speak fluently (it’s sooooo much more impressive than my female Hugh Grant impresion “er…excuse me…um….do you speak….er…no….right then….um. Maybe these people….”) and finally summon the courage for a haircut (or just find some scissors…).

Not that your visit wouldn’t have thrown me into equal a state of ‘tiz’ Nis, but I’m not taking advantage of expense account double rooms (that’s TWO beds, father dear) at a flash hotel when you swing by!

Africa has it’s first lady president huh? So…are the TAB odds on the website or do you have to have an account with them…? (TAB = Ladbrokes for those of you playing from the UK). And despite looking like Weeble, there’s a new presidentu across the border (one of them) from me too! He’s one of a twin (this section is designed to impress Daddy dear that I AM actually reading the news!) as well. Oh my goodness…I would LOVE to have a twin (hell, a doppelganger would suffice) in power. Albeit, perhaps not of an economy such as Polands…

And I notice that none of you have sent in a proposed synopsis…come on people…I can’t be the one with all the creative juices out there! Hit me with ‘em (ideas that is). Best one wins a chocolate fish. “What’s one of them?” I hear the brits ask? Well…it’s marshmallow, shaped like a flat fish, and covered in bad chocolate. Why? I haven’t figured that out yet either…please Rowland: the etymology of the New Zealand Chocolate Fish…if you wouldn’t mind…
posted by Nomes @ Friday, November 11, 2005   0 comments
Banks, Trams, and Elevators.
So it’s been a while since I’ve written - I apologise. Half of you have probably already given up now (hi to the three remaining willing victims – Hi Mum, Rowland and Chris). I simply haven’t been doing anything worthy of mention. And while I don’t want this mundanity to affect whether you suddenly realise your hair needs washing (no, it doesn’t, the wet/greasy look is in right now!) or that your goldfish tank needs cleaning (you don't HAVE goldfish!), I do feel slightly ashamed for continually badgering you to read it and then having a far more boring existence than you can imagine.

Seriously – this weekend I did my washing (highlight) and went to a party (mediocrelight) and then slept in (highlight) before realising it was only 9am and I couldn’t sleep any more (low, very low light) and going for a walk to the metro station instead of taking the tram as I normally do (filtered light) and wandering around a huge shopping mall (high and lowlight: still unpaid!) and then coming home for a microwave meal (where’s the lightswitch?). Hardly the stuff novels are written about. At least not the ones I read. Actually, now that I think about it…

Still, this doesn’t mean I’ve been wandering around with my eyes closed (indeed, how could I have identified the Czech equivalent to Glassons and Pagani with my eyes closed?) despite what my dear father may believe. In fact, I’ve taken to checking BBC news prior to my e-mail. Of course, it’s the entertainment news…I need to know what’s new for winter boots…(don’t wanna disappoint you, Papa!) so there are still musings to be conveyed.

There are a few types of trams v Praze (v'praaz = in Prague). There are the ones made of materials that can withstand being sluiced down each evening. Obviously, other people agree with this interpretation, as these are the trams that smell of stale human urine. I’ve seriously considered getting off and waiting for the next one, but I was too engrossed in Tetris, so I just flared my nostrils a bit, and breathed through my scarf. I’m so tough.

Then there are the ones where the drivers have heavy hands. They beep at you like you’ve never seen a tram move away from a stop. Or approach it. Or close the doors. Or open the doors. These trams are very easy to find, just wait until this song’s over, and you’ll hear the loud beep in the moments before the next one starts.

Some drivers are frustrated racing (tram?) drivers. Either that or they hate senior citizens – who are stalwarts of public transport. At least, that’s the impression they give as they hurl their vehicles around sharp corners in an attempt to dislodge either someone else’s record or grandmother from the seat down the back.

On the other hand, people are so polite here (if grim looking), that it’s not entirely unheard of (or unseen) to jump onto a full-to-bursting tram, only to find half the seats are empty. Those who are under the age of 30, unencumbered by shopping bags/dogs/children (in order of cumbersomeness – cumbersomosity? The cumber index? Qcumber?) remain standing to give those older a place to sit. Those older (often hampered by shopping trolley’s, crutches, zimmerframes, mother-in-laws and the likes) refuse to acknowledge that they’re incapable of withstanding 4G’s as Prague becomes the Indie 1900 (well…what do YOU think a tram race would be??) so they too remain standing. So all the seats are empty for the tourists, who don’t get ON the tram in case it smells of pee or because it looks too full (all of a sudden, I see the method to the madness), or the dogs and children to clamber over the seats.

I usually get on, and shake my head as I take myself a seat (no, I haven’t changed in 8 weeks), especially if I have my two work bags with me. But yesterday, even though I was in the middle of a very engrossing game of Tetris, and listening to the Dawn & Drew show, I relinquished my seat to a woman with twins that appeared to be under the age of 3 foot. Thinking of myself as one step from beatification (i.e. still breathing - albeit through my scarf!), I continued with my game. Only to be distracted by the two shorties. Who insisted upon getting their mother’s attention at every possible instant. Both of them. Simultaneously. So my tetrines (did you know that’s what they’re called?) started going all over the place as my play was interrupted with piercing and poorly articulated, unmusical cries of “mama” and occasionally “maminka”. Maminka herself was doing very well, describing what it was at which the midgets were gesticulating (to call it pointing would be to employ so much artistic licence it would run straight into the realms of ‘lying’!). So, I learnt some more vocabulary. Ulice (ooh-lits-er = street), okno (ock-no = window) etc. It was with commendable restraint I didn’t learn the vocabulary for ‘crazy woman with homicidal gleam in her eye holding prematurely terminated game of tetris…”.

I went into a bank the other day, and the security guard gave me a very peculiar look. In fact, had I not noticed his general snarl of disapproval, I may well have been forcibly removed – I was too close to hysterics for the bank’s marble vaulted interior. Why? Well, the sign on the door of course. I wish I’d taken a photo (but I thought I was taking sufficient chances displaying mirth, imagine what could have happened had I displayed a lens?) but suffice it to say it was one of those ‘please do not…’ signs. The following items were crossed out: a cigarette complete with a long bit of ash held beneath the river Vlatva, a dog of unidentifiable genetic heritage, an empty helmet, and a handgun.

Yep…please don’t bring your personal munitions into our bank. “Rover, put down that cigarette – you look pathetic trying to smoke it through that visor anyway – and hold onto my Desert Eagle would you? There’s a good boy.”

The list of things I’m worried about while here is ever increasing. It used to be just getting my haircut. Now you can add taking anything into the drycleaners to that list. Because it would seem they haven’t got the hang of dry cleaning sleeping bags and are mysteriously shrinking them instead. That’s the only explanation I could arrive at when I witnessed the spectacular new turn of the average Prazdian’s wardrobe. Not only do they all seem to have jeans they can tuck into boots (and the corresponding vice versa) but they all have ‘person bags’ – some of which are decorated with fur etc around the hood. Oh…and for your reference: you do NOT all of a sudden look chic, warm and Russian Princesslike when wearing one – you just look like someone too lazy to make an effort who’s opened the bottom of your little brother’s sleeping bag in order to get a cup of coffee)

Oh, and I can answer a question from ‘the book of questions’ more honestly now than ever before. No, my father and my best friend have NOT both fallen into a pit of deadly vipers, both been bitten and left me on the edge of the pit with one dose of the antidote. Not as far as I’m aware anyway (please write to assure me that this hasn’t happened). No: I was trapped in an elevator. And I now know exactly what goes through my mind under the circumstances, a) I wish I wasn’t wearing so many clothes, b) I wish I’d been for a pee more recently, c) I wish there weren’t so many people in the lift, d) I wish I hadn’t been the last one in and e) how long will it take before the oxygen runs out or I die by exsanguination? (latter due to having period I presume!)

Thankfully the engineers arrived before we expired (by exsanguination or otherwise) or anyone wet themselves (as far as I knew!). And because they had to send our elevator (with us in it) to the very depths of the parking building beneath the shopping mall, we kinda had to ‘get straight back on the horse’. I mean, my newly discovered sense of claustrophobia was insufficiently developed to force me up 16 flights of stairs…whaddya take me for?
posted by Nomes @ Friday, November 11, 2005   1 comments
Oscillations in the Nomes Orbit
Thursday, 10 November 2005
So I’m still uncertain about being here. Okay, it’s beautiful – at some moments Prague truly deserves it’s nickname of the Golden City. But the bureaucracy is interminable, the language inhospitable (not to mention incomprehensible) and the city planning (with regards to guessing which street to turn down next) is totally counter-intuitive. Also, I take a tram at least twice a day at the moment; I see it pull away from the stop JUST as I arrive at least once each day.

But, on the plus side, the Stereo MC’s are playing for one night on the 25th November, and I don’t leave for Budapest until the morning of the 26th. Talk about fortuitous. Incorporate the fact that, by then, I’ll have been paid and will be able to afford the NZ$30 or €17 ticket and you’ve got one very happy excited Nomes – who thinks she should pack on Thursday evening so as to avoid making the mistake of turning up in Budapest with nothing but ‘going out’ gear.

The downside is, of course, that I’ve no one to go with.

Have you ever watched people of different nationalities eat? There are only a few people on the planet who can make me feel like a total klutz at the dinner table (I prefer to use the term ‘expressive despite cutlery’) but the Czechs sure ain’t likely to win prizes for ‘neatness with food’ either.

I’ve noticed they hold their forks in their left hand, like a spoon. Then, when they need to pierce something with it, they put their fist around it, not over the top as you or I (the more proper of us) may do in a rare moment of ‘must-eat-now’-ness, but underneath – as one may do to shovel more ice cream into my mouth - apparently. So that when they take their food to their mouth, they’ve got their left fist held inner-wrist-upwards, with their little finger closest to their mouths. To think I’ve made at least two people hold their fist as such on the other side of the world – merely with my words! Mwahahahahahaha! Where did I put that ring with the funny inscription…

Seriously though, I’ve never seen cutlery management more awkward. And instead of ‘carving’ with a knife, they tear. I remember my Dad telling me (when I was all of 7 I think) that knives aren’t claws. I think it was the imagery that did it…I’d loved to have thought of myself as a giant cat, mauling my way through my pork chop dinner, but obviously – big cats don’t have poles stuck down the back of their clothes (long story) so I wasn’t one. Yes mum, snort with laughter all you like now dear, but you won’t be snorting when you get my therapy bills. Or, more satisfyingly, the therapy bills for my offspring!!

Today, I thought I would get the keys to my new place. But alas, the holder of the keys has already departed for home; it is, after all, 3.30pm. And I also thought I might have been reimbursed my relocation expenses. But again, alas. It’s still a good day though. Because I had a good Czech lesson this morning, following a night where I spent at least four consecutive hours in blissful unconsciousness.

And, because I am just so impressed with myself, I’m going to show you something I wrote. Press print, cut it out, and put it on your fridge – if for no other reason than to confound the person/people you live with!

Moje rodice bydlíte v Gladstone, bizko Brisbane, v Austrálie. Ron, můj tatínek je inženýr. Moje maminka, Vivienne, je v domácnosti, tak ona dělá oběd a večeři každý den. Ona vaří dobře. Muj mladší bratr, Rowland, bydí v Anglií s Julia, jeho přítelkyní. On dělá hezký nabylek: skřín, polici, stůl etc. On má narozeniny v sobotu! Julia je v úřednice záležitosti. Těším se na vánoce, jsme spolu.

Not bad huh? I should really leave it at that – since it looks impressive. But, damnit, the honest bone in my body tells me I ought to inform you that it says:

“My parents live in Gladstone, near Brisbane, in Australia. Ron, my father, is an engineer. My mother, Vivienne, is a housewife, and she makes lunch and dinner every day (not true – you KNOW you get takeouts sometimes! J) She cooks well. My little brother, Rowland, lives in England with Julia, his girlfriend. He makes nice furniture: wardrobes, beds, tables etc. It’s his birthday on Saturday (see…I haven’t forgotten yet!). Julia is an environmental health officer (though I’m not entirely convinced the teacher understood what you did!). I look forward to Christmas, we’ll be together.”

I bet you’re less impressed now huh? From the eloquence required to “adopt and express the Central European malaise” © (Brett) to writing a bunch of verbs, nouns and adjectives in the present tense. It’s enough to make a grown woman cry (on several occasions). See what I mean about sounding like a four year old!?

And how’s my reading going – I hear you BEGGING to know? Well, every day I read a few pages from a children’s encyclopaedia (published 1959) to Tamara, complete with the finger under the word, and the pauses to ‘sound it out’ when I get to a word like nejmocnějším! I have no idea what I’m reading – but at least it’s unlikely to offend if I mispronounce too horribly. And on occasion, we have drawings and actions to describe particular words (today: tears, bush vs. tree (we concluded that an angrešt is a gooseberry – so don’t laugh!) and thorn).

This learning another language thing is hard bloody work when your brain is set to ‘science’ and ‘rules’. Sure – there ARE rules…but first I have to figure out what the grammatical terms are. “What’s the first person, past participle, masculine inanimate object of the sentence? Funny you should ask that, Paní Kořanova, I was just wondering about it myself!!”

Oh – and for a final task - next week: I have the domácí úkol(doh-mahtsi ookol = homework) of writing a one act play comprising a scene between four characters. It has to contain at least 80 lines of dialogue, and be set ‘at home’ or ‘at a restaurant’ or ‘in school’ or ‘at a public transport place’. If someone wishes me to include anything, now’s your chance to say! Any assistance will be gratefully appreciated, and you WILL of course, be duly acknowledged when it wins a Nova (Czech telly award).
posted by Nomes @ Thursday, November 10, 2005   0 comments
Coke Accounting - 101
Thursday, 3 November 2005
Just when you think you’ve got this city sussed, it throws you a curveball (Rowland: please rescue once more, what defines a ‘curveball’? Can it ‘curve’ to either side? What about in a vertical parabola – does that count or is it merely a case of general ballistics…?). To start with today, it was in the form of my laughable contract and salary: 4,000Kc/month before tax. That’s a hilarious NZ$240. Or two grams.

Still amused from early morning salary humour, I used the miraculous to arrange my trip from work to home via the post office near(ish) work, then from home to singing, and back home again. Sounds simple right? So I type in all my destinations, the places I want to go via, and realise that I have to leave after lunch in order to get to singing on time at 7pm.

Recalculating, (I’d left my passport at home therefore couldn’t go to the post office) I realised that the trip home would be fine. However, the trip to singing rehearsal is not so straightforward. According to the computer, I had to take bus 201 from Vychovtelna (where I now live), to the metro station Nadrázi Holésoviže which I’d then ride to Prázskeho Povstańí, before jumping on the 193 bus to Palouček. A little complex, even without the accents on the letters, so I wrote it in my phone.

Let me explain something at this point. Tram stops are in the middle of the roads, and indicated by giant tram lines, lit shelters, barriers, neon flashing lights and carnival music. Bus stops, on the other hand, are a little more discreet (read: invisible). I decided I’d walk the tram line (on the pavement to avoid ‘tramdeath’) so that I couldn’t possibly miss the bus stop. I found it. Or so I thought, until the 102 (yes…that IS correct) bus with the label “Nadrázi Holésoviže” went past. So then I realised that I wasn’t at a bus stop at all, merely a temporary shelter for people tired of walking who need a ‘sit down’.

I accosted an old lady with a shopping trolley (they’re as popular as mullets here, and so much more attractive), who informed me I could speak English with her after my embarrassing “Prominte, prosim, kde z autobus…er…stop?” She told me that it was “just up past those two streets, see where those lights are, well, it’s between them: in the dark patch.” She ended, “na schledanou and good luck!” so I was less than inspired.

Then I stumbled upon a stump of a post that may have held up a corner hem of the iron curtain. Attached were the number 102, and an overflowing bin. It smelt of stale urine. I’d arrived.

Finally the 102 came along. By now, I’d completely missed my original planned connections, but, having made no contingency plan (idiot, I know), I continued on my way, blithely (i.e. with just sufficient ignorance to remain optimistic) assuming that I’d be fine.

Metro trip was uneventful. I was doing fine.

Or so I thought. Remember I mentioned that I had to get another bus? Now combine the general camouflage of a Prazdan (?) bus stop with all the possible exit permutations available at a Metro Station. Some of you may recall the Tottenham Court Road underground station in London. I believe there are no fewer than 8 exits – on various sides of a large junction. Then introduce the freezing, foggy cold and dark. Divide by one ‘hungry’ Nomes (I had crackers and sardines planned for dinner, until I realised there was no can opener. Mmm…crackers!), and goodness me: X (for this is what the equation describes) is fucking lost, cold and rapidly losing patience.

After taking each of the 5 possible roads outside one exit of the metro station for at least 500m in each direction without successfully locating a scrap of paper indicating a 193 bus may be along sometime this year, I called the girls and apologised for my tardiness. After explaining my situation, I was advised to take the metro back one station…and then “exit by the Corinthia Towers, keep them on your right, pass a carpark, go one road over, to the right, and that’s my street”.

Again, the metro ride went fine. So did the ‘keeping the towers on the right’. Only – I had ‘arrived at’ another penta-directional junction, this time complete with a flyover (which made spaghetti junction in Auckland look like an intersection in Palmerston North!). And I ended was facing the Škoda building (never something to which you want to admit). This time when I phoned, a newly arrived English girl pointed out to the American (giving me directions) that she’d said to ‘keep the towers on the right’ when what she’d meant was ‘go to the right of the towers’. No wonder they suffer so much from ‘friendly fire’!

The phrase, “One road over, to the right” will also remain a mystery, I’m afraid. I assumed that this was shorthand for, “you are now parallel to where you want to be, and you’re one block too far left”. So after wandering around the general Paloucek area for another 15 mins, I went into a restaurant on a corner (in a right huff) and phoned the girl giving me instructions and asked her to explain in Czech to the bartender where the hell I should go, so that he could POINT me in the right fucking direction!!! Having listened to his explanation of where the restaurant was situated, she didn’t even know how to give HIM directions.

Note to all who may come this way (and self): tourist maps don’t cut it here – unless you don’t plan to travel out of the centre at all.

Tomorrow, I’ll explain my new dům (doom = home, ha ha). I don’t want you to die from the hilarity.
posted by Nomes @ Thursday, November 03, 2005   0 comments

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