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!)
“We merely perceive this city, through the hazy shade of November.” – Dr Mårten A. Kivi, 2005
Thursday, 1 December 2005
You are warned though - this is the amalgamation of many days worth of open WORD try to bear with me...!!!

On Friday night I went to the Stereo MC’s concert. Paradise, their new album is aurally more similar to Connected than to Deep Down and Dirty, but it’s still the first few bars (or ‘measures’) of Step it Up, Connected and Creation that were the crowdpleasers. As a demonstration of the un-altered state in which I attended the concert, I wondered how bizarre it must be to be a performer who keeps putting out new stuff, only to find that the crowds still prefer your old stuff. All of a sudden, it wasn’t his wrinkles that made me think “To je škoda!” when I thought of Tom Jones. Oh, and to the crew at the Crescent (which includes all the extras), I REALLY MISSED YOU GUYS AT THE CONCERT! Not for your procuring abilities, but just for the ‘ritual’ of ‘mojitos’. Watching a couple of episodes of House just isn’t gonna cut it as pre-concert entertainment, damnit.

The night tram on the way home was torturously slow. At one point the back door wouldn’t close. Some people were left behind (because they simply couldn’t FIT on the tram – that’s how cramped we were) and STILL Mr Tram Schumacher couldn’t shut the door. An examination of the hinges and door tracks was to no avail, so in the end, the driver got a crowbar (used mainly for cleaning the tracks of leaves/dead animals/delinquent teenagers/the disenfranchised etc.) and thumped the control panel above the doors. The formulaic approach of ‘brute force over ignorance’ obviously translates perfectly!

And I’ve finally decided it IS possible to have an ‘erotic public transport experience’ sorry Dad – I’d rather you skip this paragraph if you don’t mind! (see above reference to sardine-like intimacy between riders). Thankfully, the only part of our bodies in direct contact were the outsides of our hands (my left, his right – for those playing at home) but he had a very piercing and intense (aquamarine) gaze, and since it was only turned on me sporadically (as in, when I shunted my hand right up against his – I’ve become so forward in my ‘old age’), while he talked to his parents and I talked to my friend, it was a great ride home! I wasn’t at all disappointed that it took so long! Nor even that the tram driver attempted to make up the ‘closing door’ time by whipping us around corners – thereby justifying sufficient jostling as to amuse oneself (though not in the more graphic way I KNOW some of you are thinking…filthy bloody sods that you are!)! Chris: I didn’t hear the word dcera (d-ts-erra=daughter) but since he got off at my stop (so to speak), I promise to stalk him until I trip over her.

In the morning, I took MY FIRST TAXI!!!! I actually ORDERED it over the phone, which was a huge adventure for my scanty Czech. First of all, I asked whether the operator spoke English. And she responded with ‘a bit’, to which I replied ‘mluvim se cestinu pomalu y trochu taky’. While I spoke in Czech (“I’d like a taxi at this time to this corner”), she replied in English so that we could both be sure that I’d not be stranded. In the taxi itself I managed to tell the driver that;
a) I wanted to go to the airport,
b) it was my first taxi in Czech,
c) I’d been living here 9 weeks and
d) I’d been taking Czech lessons for 5 weeks. That got me to the town…after which my scintillating conversation skills evaporated. Suddenly, an army of anteaters approached the taxi.

(just checking to see if you’re paying attention)

Only, they weren’t really ant eaters at all, more: people with leaf blowers. But there WAS a platoon of them, ‘blowing’ the pavement on one side of the street. I’d always wondered who raked leaves into piles taller than myself, and now I know. I wonder if they clean 25m2 apartments too!

And now here I am, in Budapest. There are a few differences between this city and my home city, and I’ve come over all patriotic for Prague.

Budapest, like Prague, is a city (or rather; two cities) built on either side of a great bloody river. More intuitively (in my opinion) the Danube actually flows in a southerly direction, whereas the Vltava runs north (which just ‘feels’ wrong for some crazy reason). Buda is the city on the western bank, and Pest is on the Eastern. There are many bridges that span the river – I’m not sure if, like Prague, there is a viewing platform in the middle of a northern park from which you can see all bridges (told you, I’m all Prazdan now), but the bridges are more ‘industrial’ in appearance than ‘renaissance’. The river has one island in the middle (not the three that ‘float’ in the Vltava) and there is a whopping great big hill on the north western side (Buda) upon which sits the castle. It, too, is lit up at night, but it is smaller, and the cathedral is shorter too. This leads to it having a far less impressive appearance – though, begrudgingly, it IS pretty. Perhaps the prettiest building is parliament, but that’s not as well lit at night.

On Sunday when we ran around the city, on a breathtaking tour in which we attempted to see everything while ‘getting somewhere’, we crossed the bridge, looked at the castle, took the funicular up the hill to the lookout – you know, all the normal stuff you do. And I took a photo of the Mary Poppins that stands (umbrella up) on the south western side…though apparently, she’s an angel, not Mary Poppins. Methinks they’ve never had horrible cough medicine here!

The street upon which our hotel is situated is a war zone. Or rather, it’s roadworks – again – with a large EU billboard on one end. I’m not sure quite what one should infer from this, but you are more than permitted to draw the conclusion that the EU is ‘building roads’ rather than bridges! And yes, the cacophony again includes the chip, chip, chipping of obelisk construction. And yelling. However, they’re very fast. It’s almost the end of our organised week here, and whaddya know? They’ve almost finished. It’s almost freakily as though they knew that we were approaching…

Arabia is quite close to Hungary. This means that instead of smelling of BO on the metro, people have drowned themselves in pungent ‘eastern’ scents. Pack anti-hayfever drugs. Rather charmingly, the metro uses ‘transformer faces’ as the insignia for the lines. At any moment, I expect my ‘blue line’ carriage to make that peculiar ‘zzhrrr zzhrrr zzhrrr’ noise that they make as bits and pieces of them mechanically swing around into a ‘rocket launcher’ position and fight ‘the red line’!!!

The hotel is very hot. As in, the outside is cold (though not as cold as Prague when I left) and so you wrap up warm (rats on ears, dogs on feet etc.) but this means that the moment you enter the hotel, there’s more than just a faint patina of sweat sheathing one’s body. So you must go through the contortions of a hasty unwrapping in the hotel lobby – which I think is a form of archaic entertainment for those who work behind the counter, I’ve almost hung myself with my own scarf several times!

However, upon first entering my room and running around all the heaters turning them off/down, and opening the window AND finally sticking my head out the window to cool down (think of a dog on a speedboat!) I realised that I could hear the faint sounds of a Piano Concerto, being played by one of the people in the opposite apartment building. The charm of which was not lost on me, as I lay on my bed – exhausted from my previous nights exertions at the Stereo MC’s concert – drifting off to the sounds of well-played Beethoven. So I didn’t make it to the rugby – oops. Did we win?

The course is challenging. The most challenging aspect, as is usual for me with a computer course, is working sufficiently slowly that things continue to make sense. I can’t take things step by step as we’re given in the ‘manual’ (which is written in barely comprehensible paragraph format which will mean that if I should ever have to use this program, I’m gonna have to rely on intuition and trial and error – again). Thankfully Mårten works fast as well, otherwise I’d go completely spare. So the course is run from 9:00 – 5:30ish, with a few breaks during the day. We start with a lecture (during which about 22% pay attention) and have another one after lunch. These are ‘landmark’ lectures – or an indication of ‘where you’re supposed to be by now’. The rest of the time, we plonk away on our respective keyboards, manipulating data that was gathered in a resthome outbreak that occurred in 1986. The weirdest thing is wondering whether the people whose illness we’re analysing are alive, whether their survivors ever think of them, or whether we are the only people in the world who ‘remember’ (if that’s a suitable verb to describe someone you’ve only met through a database) who they were, and how many of them had diarrhoea in September 1986.

Another increasingly bizarre thing is that everyone here has different keyboards. Sure…they all start with QWERTY on the top row, but the differential between layouts increases exponentially as your fingers travel eastwards. Mårten’s keyboard, for instance, has a variety of vowel keys with “¨’s” over them where your right pinky finger sits, whereas I have a key with a “§“ on it (I’ve still yet to translate that!). Now, this shouldn’t actually be a problem at all, unless you start attempting to type database code into someone else’s computer. Some keys I’m fine with being in different places, other keys are a pain in the arse. Then there’s the fact that the Hungarian and the Czech keyboard swap their z’s and y’s around. You try writing quickly on them…half of your keystrokes end up being ‘backspace’ (thankfully, ALWAYS in the upper right hand side). But since the flaky crumbs from the pastries that he keeps bringing back to the table are accumulating in between our keys, the keys themselves may not matter soon! If I put on weight while I’m here (ARGH!) then I have only him to thank (yes mother, I AM being force fed, honestly!).

So…one of our crew is ‘growing up’. Ok, I’m not entirely sure that he’s ever likely to, given he’s got a Y chromosome, and is often surrounded (ie. henpecked) by at least 5 α-females as well, but he’s actually made that giant leap (for himself) that means I’ve hopefully got a wedding to go to in Slovenia in August ’06. Congratulations to the gorgeous Maarten, all the single girls (and several gay lads!) in the world HAVE sighed in disappointment, but I (as their representative) wish you and Varya all the very best happiness that a successful marriage will (apparently) provide you!

That was the news from BEFORE the course. Lisa is still living in her shoebox, but her boxes ARE reported to be arriving on Monday. She’s currently performing a rather technical analysis to determine exactly HOW she’s going to fit 2.5m3 into her current 10m2 flat! But it’s amazing how positive one can view 30m2 when you’ve been living in 10! Lisanne is also living in 25ishm2, and one of the best parts of catching up with the crew has DEFINITELY been comparing how awfully small our pads are.

News during the course is rather scant, as we’re all bored of dealing with our dataset (which they keep having to provide replacements for as we don’t do the right thing!), and exclaiming things in our new languages (no one understands mine, typical!) at each other. It’s like the tower of Babel, with a slightly more European twist (and more language warping as well, probably). Having now swapped all the swear words that are in our various software dictionaries, we can formulate interesting, yet unintelligible, insults for each other.

The evening schedule usually takes includes a walk, a restaurant and then home. After a while, this gets a little tiresome (least of all, bloating), so four of us last night decided to head to a movie instead. And so I picked out a movie in one of the furthest quarters; transport to which included taking two metro lines, an HEV, a tram, and a Danube-side walk. A movie, and then finding a late restaurant that served ‘home-type’ food (you know, food you’d cook for yourself when you can’t really be bothered) and I was in bed by 12.30 – reading “The Long Way Round” and wishing I had a motorbike again!

Tonight though, I’ve organised a trip to the Opera. There are 19 of us going to see Madame Butterfly. And so, my darlings, I had best love and leave you: to do my face in a butterfly challenge! J

Paul: what restaurant?
Chris: Dr M.A.K says hi!
Mum: Miss you!
Cheryl: Don’t wait with the tree – just decorate it as though I would!
Ross: great ‘band’ picture: downloaded onto a computer at the front of the room. That’s my mid-afternoon distraction sorted for tomorrow.
Liorah: did ya like your letter?
Rowls: any facts you can share?
David: ta for staving off the bank...when are you coming to Europe?
posted by Nomes @ Thursday, December 01, 2005  
  • At 11:43 pm, December 04, 2005, Blogger Mums said…

    Hi GNomes,
    Glad to hear that you have become a Pragdan. Makes living in a new city much easier when you identify with it. To that end we have become Gladstonians - though most people will laugh, because they have no idea why we would want to. OK Gladstone is a small burg, but we like it. It has everything we need - and close at hand.
    Went out to dinner on Friday to celebrate the company repaying our travel costs. Well you have to celebrate all the small stuff too.
    Had a lovely lazy day just reading on Saturday, which was a good day to do that as it was chucking it down outside. We really have got into the "wet" season.
    Sunday is our swimming day (as well as Wednesday evening). At least the pool is clear enough so that we can swim our 40 (30 for Ron) lengths. We swam for half an hour, and then, because we felt virtuous, went and had breakfast at the Coffee Club - nothing like blowing all the virtue at once.
    Tomorrow we have our first inspection - done by the rental agency, so today is enforced cleaning. Not even going to try to clear the boxes. We've come to the conclusion this house is about two rooms too small for all our stuff. Were we to bring what's left in PN we'd need another 6 rooms, so I guess we could never live in your 25m.
    Ta for the txt, will ring soon.
    Love you, Mums

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