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!)
Tuesday, 10 January 2006
You can say that however you want (I had in mind an antipodean/southern drawl of the words 'go' and 'on'...) but it actually stands for Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network.

They want people to go help in Turkey. I REALLY REALLY REALLY want to put my name down for it – but at the previous instances (Kashmir, Darfur) I’ve discussed it with Vlado and we’ve decided that we shouldn’t send me away until after I’ve set up projects to run at home (here) while I’m gone. It’s a reasonable reaction, but…you know, power, glory…all that jazz that comes with being part of an outbreak response team (ie. overalls/chicken sheds…see? With all my previous experience, I AM the PERFECT candidate!). So…I’m going to do some serious work on a study protocol – and if I get it done by the end of the week, I’m going to consult with darling Vlado and remind him who gave up her Sunday afternoon (okay, who required a reason to get out of bed – but I won’t mention that) to back translate a questionnaire for him (well, tidy up the English after he’d back-translated it anyway)!

For those of you males out there reading this, wondering how on earth you meet such a fabulous specimen as myself (those anonymous comments will get you nowhere) let me advise you that to meet intelligent women with a great sense of humour – hang out in Public Health. The sense of humour is definitely required for the salary – and the whole field of STI research (how do you keep a straight face presenting an outbreak of Hep E that was spread by fisting in darkrooms?!), and intelligence and a sense of ‘helping others’ is required for the analytical side and the stamina behind it all. Also – there are dozens of desperate women in the field (this is the bit that’ll really help you out) since there are few men in it – and we’re all too busy saving the world (sentence at a time) to go out and meet men from other fields. For instance, the class in Ceske Budejovice that Vlado co-teaches has 31 people in it, 5 of whom are male. Good odds huh? Then factor in that public health is also a popular field for gay men (why, I don’t know) and you’re down to about 3 eligible men. One of whom will have a penchant for dressing up in womens clothing, another will have a mummy complex and you’re left with one who thinks he’s a playboy/stud.

Speaking of which – what do you do when your boss shows you a cartoon from Playboy? There was a context – so it wasn’t uncomfortable, but the magazine was a recent copy. Does he have a subscription? Do I really want the answer to that question? (I think not, my sweets). And what then when he suggests a ‘business trip’ to Bratislava some time in April?! Poor Vlado – I’m sure it’s all normal behaviour here, no one else bats an eyelid (least of all, Marta, his wife) so it must all be on the up (ha ha) but still. I’m glad I’m me, and not some shy retiring sort…though I would know more about the Czech workplace harassment laws if I were!

Took down the Christmas decorations two days ago (a day late – were I in Baker Island), so a big ups for Mum who sent them to me. Had she not, then I wouldn’t have had ‘the pretty lights’ to see by at night – it took me a week to discover from where one purchases lightbulbs. And also a big ta to Helena, Luise and Marisa who all sent Christmas Cards. You guys are so disgustingly organised, you make me feel chaotic.

After doing the questionnaire thing yesterday, I went on a retail therapy crash course. Having parted with €480 in the space of 4 hours, I have scant little to show for it. The first payment went to Marella, part of the MaxMara chain of clothing stores for a grey suit. I was fairly certain I’d wander around the store, feeling the fabrics and looking at the sizes and then walking away disappointed again. However, this time, I said to the sales assistant, “I need a suit – not black.” And she popped out the back, returned with three suits for me to try on (jackets all in different styles) and voila – one fit perfectly. Amazed? I sure as hell was. She even advised me on other shops to try in town. This, after spending 4 hours wandering the shops on Friday afternoon to no avail and much self-esteem damage? This, after being told in one shop on Saturday that “we only have small sizes” in the typical Eastern European snarl? So I have to take the trousers in a week in advance of my needing the suit (Berlin) with my heels so that I can get them adjusted – they don’t even bother hemming them – that’s how ‘proper’ a suit place it is. Oh – and yes, the label says “Made in Italy”, AND it was discounted 40%.

Then I went along to the gym. I know…I got suckered into signing up for the whole year in advance (which means I get two months free). And so now I’m a member of the largest gym in Prague, which has a solarium in the foyer (as you do) and…even serves alcohol. And cigarettes. (?) It’s also open ‘non-stop’ as they say here, so I’m going to try to make it my spiritual home over the next wee while…and in order to assist with that, I’m going to rename it ‘Jim’. So that instead of ‘going to the gym’ which sounds like drudgery and pain, I’ll be ‘off to Jim’s’ which sounds much more pleasant and enjoyable. First session: spinning at midday today. Given it’ll be in Czech, I should come home with new vocabulary along the lines of “dial it up” and “dial it down”. If I get confused, I’ll feel like I’ve just done the Tour de France/Spain AND Italy…but returned home with fewer pairs of shoes.

“All this is in aid of what?” I hear you ask. Although it sounds rather like New Years Resolutions – it’s not at all along those lines. Thing is, I’m sick of not doing any exercise. And I’m REALLY sick of the food here – it’s horribly unhealthy, butter deep fried in lard type stuff. So…I’ve unearthed my copy of the Liver Cleansing Diet, invested in a water filter for the fridge door (“as seen on tv!”, apparently, even without a tv I can still find this stuff to buy!), have searched high and low for carrot juice (to no avail) and am hereby renouncing alcohol, coffee, red meat and dairy products for the next 8 weeks at least. See – the last time I did this thing for real was while my tranny-shagging ex-fiance was in East Timor, and I felt absolutely fantastic (I still didn’t know he was shagging tranny’s back then…I wasn’t so amused when I did find out!). I woke up WITH energy (which was a very peculiar feeling indeed) and just felt good all the time. So I decided that it was high time I did it again, and there’s nothing easier than imposing a strict eating regime on yourself when you’re living alone, and can hang out at Jim’s at ANY time, right? Oh – and btw – the solarium does‘ happy hours’ from 8pm through till 4am. Midnight burn anyone?

So far, I'm still resisting the Suduku craze. Yes, I know how it works, and yes, I've helped a friend with a particularly difficult puzzle. But I know what sort of an addict I am - one who can't be trusted to sell cocaine - for instance (that was JUST an example, I've never even tried the white powder known formerly as Charlie). I know damned well that the endorphin rush from completing a sudoku grid will far outweigh that from completing a womans day crossword puzzle - which means that I'd be more and more likely to abandon social interactions for a little book and a pen (perhaps pencil - some of them are quite challenging). I'm not sure how many of you out there are converts, but if I dip more than a toenail into that particular water, I'll be sitting up at 3am figuring out whether a 8 should go here, but that means that it can't go here and I could but a 9 in this place instead which would then leave the 8 free for...

How cold is it here anyway? Put it this way, this morning, my breath wasn’t just taken when I exited my building – it was stolen. Literally ripped out from my lungs. I later discovered (when I sat at my cosy desk by the heater in my office) that it was a mere -9oC. (er, +6oC in London at the same time, I thought it was unseasonably warm when last there!!) No wonder I’d been hypoxic when I left. This also means that there is considerable delay induced in visiting Jim. There is absolutely no way I’m prepared to have a lock of fringe welded to my glasses rim with ice – so I have to blow dry my hair after washing it. AND although I may be slightly damp from perspiration (at this point) following a shower after a spinning class, moisturiser is a must. Even after using the gloopiest one I can find (a sample of a CD delight) I was still struck with a slightly alarmed expression as, once more, air was removed forcibly from my lungs when I left Jim’s. You know the one, eyebrows up but apart, nostrils slightly flared in dismay and a rigid mouth. There are little patches of ice everywhere as well – so no longer are the pavements merely dangerous terrain – their murderous now. These patches appear to have developed where water has collected and neither evaporation nor drainage has come to it’s rescue. It’s no wonder the pavements are the way they are then – even I know that water expands when frozen. Forget hot ice I’m more worried about cold ice. But the days are DEFINITELY getting longer already – it’s no longer pitch black when I wake up at 7 – there’s a hazy shade of winter in my room instead. The sun has also been shining (hence the cold temperatures) every day – so as long as I get a moment or two outside at lunchtime, then I don’t feel as though I’m in the Arctic Circle.

The Czech people are very studious. There’s not a single Czech person I’ve met yet who has not been in school for at least one night a week. I’m not sure whether they refer to tertiary education as ‘school’, hell, sometimes I find myself referring to work as ‘school’, but maybe it’s a national pride thing. What I can tell you is that my boss’s third and youngest son is also a stunner (it’s just wrong when they’re 14!) so I’m going to assume that his ex-wife is a model. And the poor boy has large exams coming up soon, and is thus being forced to study by his parents (all four of them). Consequently, he’s also got that ‘Oh God, when will it end?’ expression that hovers around the features of teenagers everywhere – especially those with clever parents.

They’re also (the Czech people) excellent botanists – or so one must assume when visiting their offices. It’s next to impossible to find an office in any building I’ve been into thus far that hasn’t devoted one wall to an indoor jungle. Either these people are getting some serious negative ions from their plants or there really isn’t enough work to keep them busy. There are always Benjamin Ficus’ climbing up over a frame somewhere, usually a few variegated (see, I remembered it this time Mum) species and numerous cacti as well! The variety is astonishing. And just when you think it was safe to turn green – there are usually cuttings sprouting roots somewhere in water in the room. Yes, the green thumb is very much alive and kicking here. Just not in my office (seriously, we’re the only ones in our building without plants…!).

I think they’re (still with the Czech people) generally a fearful race. Okay, so history will prove me incorrect (they’re more ambivalent than fearful – having been overrun by all surrounding empires at one point or another) but I suspect they all think that the tram/bus/metro isn’t going to stop. I can’t think of another reason why they would start queuing at the doors a good two minutes before the stop has come into the sight of the driver – let alone before the vehicle has stopped moving. Perhaps it’s excessive politeness – in which case they must think me awfully rude as I wait until the vehicle has ‘come to a complete halt’ before bolting from my position and out the door. I think I also take my seatmate (where I have one) by surprise – I must look as though I’m half asleep and have only just realised that we’ve stopped at my stop! Nothing like injecting a bit of humour into the lives of others though, right?

And it’s no wonder this place is famous for it’s porn movies. At Jim’s, there are no dividers between the showers – it’s all one open area with some hooks on the wall as you enter the area upon which you may hang a towel. Not for the weakminded, that’s for sure. If ever I was to display lesbian tendencies – this would be where I’d go. However, today when I left the shower (wrapped – I haven’t been going there often enough to feel comfortable walking through the changing room dripping and naked yet – though many women have!) there were two servicemen who ‘escorted’ me down the length of the changing room. I did feel like saying “is that a ladder you have there or are you just pleased to see me” but couldn’t think of the word for ladder in time! Wouldn’t you know it, they were fixing a light cover – which afforded them a rather generous birds eye view of the changing room. For once, it was opportune that I needed to remove my contact lenses…

So – to round off the last two days reflections, I’ve trudged a million miles with 200k of wet laundry (okay – so it might only have been 1km with 10k or so…), spent €480, eaten nothing but healthy stuff, been to Jim’s twice, spoken to Marten once, written to Grandma, sent in my homework for the Berlin module, printed dozens of articles on BCG vaccination adverse effects (though not read any yet!) and watched 1.75 episodes of Spooks (prior to battery of computer dying!). So far, I’m having a good week. Oh, and after further consultation with Vlad, we both agreed that it’s better to apply for something and be rejected, than not to apply at all (story of my life really, I wonder what Christian F is doing now!); consequently, I’ve applied for the Turkey mission. A VERY good week indeed.
posted by Nomes @ Tuesday, January 10, 2006  
  • At 12:56 am, January 11, 2006, Anonymous David said…

    "GOARN.... You can say that however you want"

    My initial pronunciation was as "groan", especially after I saw the length of this current post. But, it seems that you are in a great mood, so I decided to mute the groaning so as not to offend you.

    Glad you're having fun babe... hope the Boltons aren't keeping current on this blog!

  • At 1:57 am, January 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous hot chick said…

    That David sounds great... how can I find someone like him?

  • At 1:58 am, January 11, 2006, Anonymous Nomes said…

    Yeah, he's a great person... caring and sensitive and kind too.

  • At 1:59 am, January 11, 2006, Anonymous David said…

    Aww.... shucks girls. :)

  • At 10:28 am, January 11, 2006, Blogger Mums said…

    Hi GNomes,
    ARGHH, I had this whole long comment written and the machine sent it elsewhere.
    So I'll try to reiterate. Glad to hear you are feeling chirpy. Very much liked your changing of the word Gym to Jim's, though I keep having visions of you taking off on the Starship Enterprise. Must be something to do with my age if I keep interpolating with the 1966 series.
    We bought some torture equipment way back in October, and your Father took two whole evenings to put it together. Since then it has spent a very lonely time. It is too HOT to exercise in a room without air conditioning. Consequently we are now looking at purchasing a mobile A/C. Don't you like our procrastination methods? Can we keep this up until next NY's resolutions? I'm sure we can, somehow.....
    Good thinking about Turkey, you never get what you don't ask for, and how will they know that you are willing and able? if you don't tell them. Conversely if you do tell them they may refuse you on the grounds that you must be nuts, but that's another story.
    Much love, Mums

  • At 10:35 am, January 11, 2006, Blogger Mums said…

    Hi GNomes,
    Remembered something else I wanted to say. Odd isn't it, how the males groan when they see your long blog? I love to see a long blog that I haven't read yet when I turn on the internet - yes I have you as my home page, saves looking it up each time (I can hear you say "how sweet" too).
    It also saves me from having to settle down with the business of arguing with the banks - who still haven't figured out our change of address; or getting to grips with the continuing saga of the NZ houses - there's always something needing doing. I'd far prefer to read and then write - in the absence of long phone calls.
    We're off to NZ on 22nd, for a week, so with you in Berlin, your Grandma in India and us over the ditch, we're back to being a travelling trio once more.
    Speak soon, love, Mums

  • At 10:06 pm, January 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree with your Mum - the longer the blog the better!

    Thanks for the shout out in an earlier blog too, I felt very privileged to be mentioned by name (especially as I'm sure this would make a good (though perhaps heavily edited?) start to your autobiography, to be published following your appearance on the cover of Time?).

    Just to clarify though, I have been a dedicated reader right from the start, and this website is SO much easier and faster to access than the old one, so quite glad you had to change!

    Bit rough though when you pour your time and wit into making us all grin and then Dave gets the compliments! ;-)


  • At 8:24 am, January 12, 2006, Blogger Nine said…

    I have ended a short and not entirely pleasant relationship with jim, and am now dating a lovely wee chap by the name of Jock. Jock O'lette. Will announce wedding plans anon, I have no doubt.

    Mwah, doll.

  • At 8:40 pm, January 12, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh dear, my blog gullibility is online for all to see... and I thought you were busy at work Dave?! I did wonder about the "kind" part though ;-)


  • At 9:58 am, January 20, 2006, Anonymous Helena said…

    Yay I got a mention :)
    And I've finally caught up on your entire blog! Now I just need to add it to my favourites and keep up to date :)

    Still intending to replying to your email - any day now! (although it'll be next week by the time I do)


  • At 12:54 pm, January 31, 2006, Anonymous Health Fitness said…

    I found reading your blog interesting and well done, I do like what you have done with your site but it is not really the information I was after about Health Fitness . Keep up the good work and hopefully I will visit again sometime and also find the information on Health Fitness that I was looking for in my travels.

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