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!)
Day +1 - arrival in B
Monday, 30 January 2006
After what felt like a very early start for the seven of us, we made it intact, with all our belongings to the airport in Copenhagen. Our taxi driver was a mine of information: telling us about the merchant navy, and the real navy. When I asked who the navy defended themselves against, he apologised and told me ‘britain’. Oh. Apparently, Nelson had a bit of a barney with the Danes. And he won by sneaking up on them (how an armada sneaks, I’m not entirely sure, but there you go) during the Autumn: when the Danes had put their boats in dry dock.

I really want to go back to Copenhagen though – it looks like a GREAT capital. Hmm…this could make choosing my next destination after Prague very difficult: I like Berlin, I like Copenhagen…will there be places I’m not so fond of? Or maybe it’s the excitement spilling over!

Photo opportunities for the group at the airport. Yes: those refugee bags are the ones our most important equipment is kept in. Experts ahoy. A flight to London to start with (yay: English reading material – can just fit a New Scientist into bags already filled to shoulder popping with documents), a brief wait (mmm…Alas, poor Starbucks, I knew it well), and then a three hour flight (or thereabouts) to B. After we got off, KK (team leader) mentioned something about it being a horribly long flight for those continuing to Bashkek (capital of one of the stans…will hopefully remember to look this up before posting so as not to appear so damned ignorant – but have changed mind to reflect real lack of knowledge) and I reminded him that after a long haul flight from NZ – England: NOTHING was long if it was in the same continent (Europe). This led to a conversation as to whether the C’s were the tail end of Europe or the fringe of Asia.

So here I am in my ultra-expensive hotel room in B, the capital city of A. If you judge your hotel rooms by the number of channels they have on the television – then this is damned upmarket: I counted 750. Okay, only 5 were in English, and about 150 require additional payment, but there you have it. I wasted two hours of my life flicking through the channels.

Can’t be much worse than watching 40 year old virgin on New Years Eve. THAT nearly sapped my will to live!

Arriving at the airport was like coming home. An indentifiable language that sounds a little like Arabic, and a little like Czech but is, in actual fact, mostly Turkish was being bandied about by the guards (unarmed) and customs officials (friendly!!). The luggage was waiting for us – even our refugee bags containing our Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). The airport code (for those thinking of a far-flung place in which to take a holiday) is GYD – but I doubt Easyjet make it over here.

Upon exiting the baggage claim, we were met by an evocative mixture of scents: crude oil and meat on a spit.

Turns out – when we did an exercise in the communications module – that my sense of smell is my overriding sense. Not sure what that means for my pattern of learning – but it DOES explain why some people are attractive to me up to the point where I can smell them. If I can smell a person – then it’s very touch and go as to whether I find them still attractive, or whether I immediately label them ‘friend ONLY’! (sorry Dad!)

We were met by a WHO liason officer. And two drivers. One car took our team leader KK and our infectious control leader SC. JT (the lab guy) and myself (supposedly the animal health person!!) piled into a DISGUSTINGLY dirty Lada Niva with another driver. Our trolley was abandoned to the few guys in overalls who loiter to take care of such things. Then we drove into the city. Although it was night, there were some sights. Our driver, bless him, put on some music for us. First, we had some Arabic sounding wailing (okay, I admit, I CANNOT distinguish the difference between gulf Arabic and Turkish…I’m sorry!), and then he rummaged for a while (yes, while allowing his eyes to stray from the dual carriageway) in the glove box for a CD. Then we were serenaded by what sounded like ‘clarinet by candlelight’ – we were even blessed with a Celine Dion classic (eek!).

The recognisable and familiar scent of oil has not yet left my nostrils. And the landscape (what we could make of it) was just like it is in Doha – scrubby desert that has a proper name that I’ve forgotten. There are some trees, but what with winter, they’re not green or leafy. They appear to be the types of trees that have spiny leaves anyway…desert dwellers. There’s some snow around – but very little. What there is is filthy, oil soaked. We passed one chimney stack – with what appeared to be the biggest flare I’ve ever seen on top. Okay, so I don’t usually hang out at oil refineries/plants/wells but I’ve seen a few in my years.

Apparently, the area has just hit paydirt (ha ha) with a big oil field. This will change the economic status of the country accordingly. Approximately 50% of people are living beneath the poverty line. During the briefing, our country representative said that A could either go the way of Norway, or Nigeria. It’ll probably go somewhere in the middle. Who knows.

But as we passed the buildings, there are several influences. I’m not sure if it’s Turkish or Morroccan to have latticework (really intricate, and not always symmetrical or repeated) around the doors to buildings – but that’s here. There are no mosques to speak of, which is odd for a Muslim nation. The other religion is Russian Orthodox though (whatever that is), and we were also told that Islam is more of a ‘tradition than a religion’ here. So the rites are followed, but people aren’t particularly religious. They’re very polite though: while I sent a txt msg to Mum to let her know I’ve landed (we loves’s our phone, we does) the driver turned down the music, thinking that I wanted to talk. Aww.

After a very windy trip through the city, over some cobblestoned streets as well (good old Russian shocks meant that we felt them all!), past some very expensive looking shops (clothes, shoes, you can take the girl out of FashionTV, but…) and several ATM’s (it’s important to notice these things), we arrived at a tidy looking hotel. My room is pleasant. Apparently we get internet ‘tomorrow’. I almost asked the concierge whether tomorrow was ‘insh’allah’ but I figured I’d wait at least four hours before insulting anyone. Such restraint.

So tomorrow (Sunday) we meet with our WHO liason officer again and get the guided tour of the city: where the Ministry of Health is etc. Our team leader, KK, says that we’ll be staying in the city. Though I’m not really sure how I’m going to evaluate the veterinary system if I can’t go MEET the vets. So I’m going to push to go out of the city too: to see a bit more what it’s like in the ‘real’ areas – where there are no expats, and the money from the oil hasn’t filtered through.

PPE will, of course, be on board with me at all times.
posted by Nomes @ Monday, January 30, 2006  
  • At 12:29 am, January 31, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Re: Norway or Nigeria... What do you mean "Who knows"? You are WHO now aren't you? Shouldn't *you* know? ;)

    And DKK is 10 to the British Pound, give or take. Where was that restaurant? Must be one of the cheapest in CPH!


  • At 10:20 am, February 01, 2006, Blogger mx said…

    Hey dollink :) Having fun trying to establish my ideal Personal Protection Equipment. Somewhere in there is a big fat Q / Vanity Fair magazine (protection against transit boredom); sweatproof, white-powder-free deodorant (protection against wetness, odour and dectection against protection of afore-mentioned); the list goes on.. (am trying to squeeze bubbles and a foot massage in there but the connection to protection is getting ever more tenuous).I will also regard chicken dust clouds with a more appraising eye in future.

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