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 +2 – Orientation in B
Monday, 30 January 2006
So, it’s Sunday, and as with all Sunday’s this one started leisurely. Of course, Saturday didn’t end until 3am, or rather, 4am when I finally convinced my feet to warm up to the point where I could drift off to sleep. The blankets are thin here – apparently, they’re highly unaccustomed to the temperatures they’ve had this winter (-8oC, the phrase ‘get hard’ springs to mind), and the last time the temperature was recorded so low was in 1972.

This has led, as you can imagine, to an enormous amount of logistic problems. Firstly, people have been using more electricity – which puts strain on the ‘national grid’. Thus, there are blackouts. For instance, now. I’m writing this while my computer is on battery power. Shops are dim on the inside (from what I saw – I haven’t been ‘shopping’!) and have big signs saying ‘we’re open’ on them.

Some places obviously have their autonomous power supplies (aka generators) which can run on petrol, which is very cheap here. However, with more people turning to their generators, there are queues at the petrol stations (here on every roundabout). And don’t even ask about car accidents. Cars have apparently taken to driving down the white line on their side of the dual carriageway (two lanes on each direction) to avoid the icy patches in the woefully inadequate gutters. It doesn’t rain much here, so drainage is predominantly from the surface. And when the temperature does as it did today: hovers around the 0 to -1oC, you get slush melting into water, that refreezes at night into black ice. Mmmm…tasty. And again: the car driving with both hazard lights flashing – and no one else quite sure whether it’s the CAR that’s a hazard, or the road ahead! (more reminders to Qatar).

So today, we went for a Sunday promenade, having assembled for breakfast at 9am. KK is an ex-military man (Estonian and Norwegian) so he’s nicely regimented: makes sure we communicate appropriately. At the reception, we first met Sultaan (yes, really…were his parents setting him up for a life of misery and namecalling or what?) who used to work at WHO and now works for an unpronounceable foundation which is ‘doing’ MMR vaccination. Then our guide for the day, Samir, joined us. I’m not sure whether I’m a liability or an asset on missions like these, as I find both our guides spent a lot of time talking with me. Quite charming, I assure you, but I have to share them about with the other team members. The special attention has obviously not escaped KK’s powers of observation, when we needed to ask the guys at the desk about internet access, he said to the team that “Naomi should ask, she will have a good response.”. And I’m not even being flirtatious either. Good for the ego – not so good for the conscience.

What does B look like by day then? Well, there’s a tower in the middle of what is called the old city. It’s a tower in which a king imprisoned his daughter – who had the misfortune to fall in love with a ‘mere’ commoner. When the tower was built, the sea was higher than it is now, and so she threw herself from the tower into the watery depths below. Hence, the tower is now called the ‘maidens tower’. The walls of buildings are thick, and decorated with a variety of ornamental styles, some latticework, some iron work. It’s quite beautiful, in a stark, sort of Arabic/sort of not kind of way. Though this was part of the former Soviet Union, there seems to be very little in the way of ‘reminders’ – we couldn’t even find a statue of Lenin (except on the touristy stalls).

We finished the old city in record time (there doesn’t appear to be much to it) and strolled (believe me, this was strolling, I haven’t walked so slowly in my life!) along the promenade/corniche. The sea breeze was, er, invigorating, yet a quick look into the murky depths by the seagull ‘hangout’ certainly reminds you not to swim. Raw sewerage. Blee.

After being exposed to more ‘nature’ than we needed to be, we wandered up to the street of stalls. There, Samir purchased us each a wee memento of our stay in A, apparently a traditional guardian/talisman against people who intend you harm. It’s silver tipped on both the upper edge and lower edge of a small piece of intricately woven material. The bottom piece of silver (okay, metal of some description – but silver coloured) has metal dangling from it (drop-shaped) and an eye stone (you know, those blue disks with the white and black pupil. We’ve been instructed to hang them close to the entrance of our homes. Sadly – they don’t offer much in the way of barrier protection from virions…but they’re very lovely regardless.

Then to a restaurant which had a menu of about 200 items, of which 3 were available. The chicken, we were assured, was ‘off’ the menu today. Apparently the MOH has advised people stop selling chicken (kebab style), and since it’s come off the market in the open-air kebab stands, other restaurants have followed suit and pulled it from their menus also. I say it’s discrimination – but it’s probably better than putting your food workers at unnecessary risk. So: lunch was a Slavic salad (potatos, beans and mayonnaise) and an American salad (coleslaw). KK said that there would be war in my stomach. Ha ha. Followed by a lentil soup.

I have promised Maarten that I will eat something weird, and I would have accomplished it today had there been sufficient left: Dovka – warm yoghurt (ick!?) with vegetables and herbs suspended in it. I don’t even have raita with curry – let alone a warm yoghurt that was displayed under the soup section of the menu. However, it’s very difficult to follow the UN instructions and eat ‘things which have been cooked, that aren’t meat’. I mean: this morning I had poached eggs (gonna stick to scrambled from now on) which had runny yolks. They were perfect, but sadly, also possibly perfect for transmitting Salmonellosis – among other things. Then mayonnaise in the salad this afternoon. I almost called KK on it (he got almost the same two salads that I did) but thought what the hell in the end. There have been no recorded cases of AI here, the chances of me picking it up from consumption of a salad in a highly reputable restaurant are slim indeed. (QRA quickly done on napkin!)

The walk back to the hotel was in the sun, very pleasant indeed. Samir walked with me, and we discussed the reasons why people leave their home nations. We figured it was because they wanted something they couldn’t get at home, the most important of which was probably salary. I think it’s lovely here. Sure: there’s environmental pollution, and I’m boiling water to put in my water bottles, but again – there’s a variety of history in evidence around the place. There are very expensive clothes shops here too – apparently 1% of the 4mil population in B can afford Hermes, 98% can’t, and the remaining 1% are middle-classed who don’t really care either way.

Upon arrival at the hotel, we organised the internet connections set up (seems you have to set it up for US$8 and then it’s free to use after that) and I was informed that the boys on the desk last night had given me a deluxe room by mistake. So I shall have to move out when another single standard room becomes available. I wondered why I had a different key tag to the rest. So I might be losing my 700 television channels, and my safe in my wardrobe. Which will be a great shame. Not to mention the hassle of transporting all my belongings (freshly laundered for free – what a great hotel) to another place. Still…perhaps when I’m not in a corner room with two balconies (yay!) it’ll be warmer.
posted by Nomes @ Monday, January 30, 2006  
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