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!)
New Shoes – more flats!!
Tuesday, 24 January 2006
As I flew in the ‘smallest plane known to mankind’ (I hummed ‘American Pie’ the whole way) to Berlin, I realised that I should’ve just taken the train. For a start, it took me an hour to get to the airport. Then I was waiting two hours (*yawn* European airports see so many commuters, that they don’t really bother populating the airports with shops other than those where one cashmere jersey is folded precisely and placed on a 1m2 shelf and spotlit from behind – terribly artistic, but hardly enough merchandise to keep one occupied for long) before the 45 minute flight. Once in Berlin, it took 20mins to get through “immigration” and collect my (wet) suitcase. Whereas the train takes 4hrs from stanice to bahnhof!

The other reason I thought I should’ve taken the train was: as we were taxiing to the runway – with our props already going in the snow to warm up (one assumes) – one prop suddenly did that whole ‘whining down the octave, threatening to cut out’ thing. Even the hardened commuters (all ignoring the air hostess’s rendition of Saturday Night Fever naked – well, it may as well have been for all the attention she received during her safety demonstration) allowed their newspapers to drop 5cm in consternation, as they collectively cocked an eyebrow in the direction of the stuttering propeller. Nevertheless, we made it (obviously). In the snow and darkness. Me and the entire Slovenian swim team (I eyed their buttocks for possible future nutritional value ONLY, honest!).

As we flew, I looked out of my window seat to see: nothing. Flying in the snow on a January evening in Central Europe is akin to wearing a blindfold – only marginally noisier. I was reminded of the small towns in Scotland that I flew over en route to Edinburgh at New Years: there was one in particular that was shaped EXACTLY like an Ebola virion. Turns out, you’re not allowed to take photos from planes – the air hostess just about hit the ‘eject’ button when I tried it. Sometimes though, it does occur to me to ask, “What do other people think when they look down on a streetlit town? Do they see virus particles? A town with lights? Something else?”. So: answers in comments please. What’s the weirdest or most ‘typical you’ thought that’s crossed your mind when flying over a place?

I’ve discovered what my ‘judging panel’ is for these European countries that I’m visiting, “Could I live here?” This selection criterion has only recently risen to the surface of my mind – it wasn’t important in Budapest, because I simply couldn’t see myself living there. On the other hand, I do feel as though I could happily live in Berlin. Berlin has a bit of the beauty of Prague, along with a tragic history and modern architecture as well. You get the distinct feeling that the Berliners would desperately like to forget the history (or rather, ‘move on’) yet, tourists ask for one thing when they come here. That means that they’re still constantly ‘apologising’. I feel a lot of pity for the Germans, who don’t seem to be ‘allowed’ to feel proud to be German. I hope that feeling is allowed to wash out with the ensuing generations, while maintaining the integrity of the memory of all the bad things that also happened here. Optimistic? I think Utopic actually!!

Not only that, but I found ‘Surf & Sushi’ – a restaurant who’s catchphrase is ‘sushi-internet-cocktails’. If ‘beds’ were added – I’d never leave!

You can’t help but feel peculiar as you approach Checkpoint Charlie – hideously touristic as it is. You’ve seen it in the films. You’ve been raised on the stories. You bandy the phrase ‘6million Jews’ around without really contemplating the streets that said Jews walked along during the deportations. You haven’t seen the signs posted during Kristalnacht. You haven’t seen the front pages of the newspapers in the 1930’s and you definitely haven’t seen photos of people being shot in a field. Take a walk down ‘Topography of Terror’ and you have.

Buildings ridden with bullet holes still stand. You look, you photograph, but you can’t imagine what it would have been like to be a small child in the flat inside, your family under attack. You have no concept of what these streets might have been like underfoot as you tried to keep hold of your mothers hand, your fathers hand and your teddy bear. You can’t begin to feel the confusion of seeing school mates with guns spitting at other friends walking to a train carriage with you. Neither can you imagine a political power so insidiously influential that it changed your opinion of playmates so that you’d want to spit at them.

That sense of utter incomprehension follows you as you visit the ‘main sights’ – the House of Parliament, the walkway by the park with the lights shaped as dentists mirrors, the Jewish Memorial, Potsdamerplatz, the Church of Memories, Brandenburg Tor, the Wall itself. And this lack of understanding, this emptiness of empathy doesn’t usually follow me around a city. I don’t know whether I didn’t want to tap into anything (in case I should burst into tears) or whether I just COULDN’T access the memories, trapped like air bubbles just under the frozen surface of the river Elba. But it made me feel like a foreigner more so than I’ve ever felt anywhere else.

Modern structures are everywhere here. They’ve embraced the age of the glass and aluminium façade. And much as I often dislike this style, there are some damned impressive buildings and ‘squares’ to be seen. Impressive – but not necessarily pleasant. However, I can definitely say that a day like today, crisp, freezing (-11oC at 3.30pm), with the sun beaming down (is that warmth I can suddenly feel?) is a great way to see the city. A far cry from the cloudy, wet, slushy misery that we walked around in yesterday. Or is it just that, since the slush had frozen into ice again (even more treachery underfoot), my feet were dry? And I do have to admit that if you’re going to be overwhelmed by the Jewish memorial, then it’s best to go in the rain/miserable weather to etch the feelings of depression further in your psyche.

Speaking of which, I think I understand what the artist was trying to do – make you feel overwhelmed and lost - but in my opinion s/he failed. But I don’t think he quite managed. If you imagine a rectangular concrete slab with no distinguishing features, the size of your average gravesite, and place a whole load of these in varying heights, in a grid pattern over undulating ground – that’s the memorial. However, because of the orientation (the ‘gridness’ if you will) then there’s never a moment where you DO actually feel ‘lost’ and ‘overwhelmed’ because you can ALWAYS look to the end of a row or column and see your way out. I do think that it would have had far more impact on people had the stones been staggered, or a wall circumnavigated the city block it’s built upon – because then you COULD get horribly lost.

As it was, only the lens cap to my camera got lost. Lisa actually suggested going back to look for it. Um…!?

Alexanderplatz was the centre of the eastern side of Berlin. But if someone could please explain to me why the U-bahnhof there looks like a men’s urinal, I’d be very grateful. It’s entirely tiled, and the tiles are spattered with tags. The ceiling is low. The lights have grates over them to protect them. There’s the faint smell of those urinal ‘cakes’. And when I walked through at 2am on Saturday morning, the floor was wet. All of these descriptors make it sound as though I’ve hung out in some very horrible mens loos…

In the meantime though, I’m sticking with the idea that Prague is probably more my spiritual home: after all, the Czechs make up the largest proportion of ‘as seen on television’ goods purchasers in the EU!
posted by Nomes @ Tuesday, January 24, 2006  
  • At 8:23 am, January 24, 2006, Anonymous Marisa said…

    What I see when I look out an airplane...I suppose my thoughts are rather pedestrian in nature. Gee, those cars look like ants. Amazing how you can see huge grid patterns in the fields. Why are we circling the airport 15 times.

    On a slightly different topic, my most amazing views from a plane were 1) Grand Canyon - I knew that it was big, but it took us 15 minutes to fly over the thing -at about 650km/h that's massive!
    2) flying into NYC at night - Manhatten is a pretty impressive sight when it's all lit up at night...even more impressive from the air - it looks like an amazing Christmas decoration. One is man made, the other, from nature...

    Enjoyed your Berlin photos...thanks for posting them and keeping me constantly entertained with your blog :)
    luv and a hug, marisa

  • At 8:30 am, January 24, 2006, Anonymous Marisa said…

    Another thing...sorry to hear about your friend with MS - my thoughts are with you and them as you try to assimilate this info. I imagine it makes it even tougher to hear this kind of news when you are so far away from those you love and depend on. I send you a prayer for strength...
    luv and another hug, marisa

  • At 4:42 pm, January 24, 2006, Anonymous Helena said…

    The first thing that came into my mind when you asked the question about the plane was:
    "Are we there yet?"

    But I loved looking out over greenland and the Rockeys when I first flew to USA. I love looking at the screen maps on planes which tells you where you are, your altitude, time to destination, air temp etc etc

  • At 12:15 pm, January 27, 2006, Blogger Nis said…

    Especially when I fly into London, I see neurons, which is similar to your ebola virus!

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