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!)
It’s been awhile, how are you all coping?
Wednesday, 15 February 2006
Apologies for not updating the blog for some time, but I’ve been coming to grips with being back home. I must’ve SERIOUSLY overindulged on the Turkish coffee while I was away (what? Two a day seems reasonable doesn’t it?) as I’ve got the largest caffeine-withdrawal headache I’ve ever sported, and it’s pulsating behind my right eye. Still, the struggle to focus on my computer has paid off, and I’ve just sent off my travel report to my Team Leader.

Shall I take you through chronologically then? As opposed to my oft-time-leaping rambles?

Right: so Thursday, H5N1 hit Azerbaijan (finally). It was reported on the FAO website as only being H5, and as of yesterday, that hadn’t changed (grr!) despite a copy of the original fax from Weybridge (the reference laboratory) sitting in my folder as my own personal ‘souvenir’. What? Some people bring home carpets…I brought home a copy of a fax. Your point?

Nothing much happened on Thursday evening, except the Team Leader was called to attend a meeting of the ministers (not all of them, just a few) to discuss the new information. Turns out the MoA was pissed off that the MoH had all this information when he himself hadn’t been informed by the Veterinary Services. Those guys claimed that they hadn’t received the fax from Weybridge, which is understandable I suppose because it would have come through after hours. Apparently, my friend the weasel-vet (no, not a Mustelidae specialist – he just did VERY good impressions), was subdued (which would have made a change from his saliva-projecting overconfident tangential soliloquies (empty of actual information) that he’d present to all of my questions.

On Friday morning, we had planned to debrief the other international members in Azerbaijan (and those national ones who were interested in what we had to say) with regards to our findings during our Mission. Obviously, because of the new ‘developments’ (I love the way they desensitise things like ‘outbreaks’ with words), the number of people in the room had doubled from the anticipated 20 people. And at one stage Reuters walked in, with television cameras at the ready. Now, I know I’d just come from my Media training in Berlin – but I didn’t have the right collar on to be on television, so I, for one, was relieved when our Liason officer told them to leave.

There were so many important people in the room that no one turned their phones off. People finally took their seats (lots of excited hyperbabble – and probably hyperbole – about the results beforehand). I was very grateful for the long tablecloth on the table I was sat at (at the front of the room, facing the audience) because it hid both my nervous jiggling leg and my lucky red ‘drama queen’ socks (thanks Lirachick!).

I was entertained by the demographic self-placement: evidence of a self-assessment of importance. In a room set up like a lecture theatre, the first two rows are often free, either because people worry about spitting lecturers, or they think their nodding off will be less noticeable in the fourth row. The US Embassy staff had sat themselves in the front row. The second row was filled with World Bank personnel. Both were basically filled with jowly middle aged men in poorly fitting suits decorated with the ties they received last Father’s Day. There was a British Embassy person (yellow tie!??!) also in the front row, but we’ll excuse him because he arrived late and had to take the only available chair (just to keep in line with my newfound eurocentricism). Everyone was scribbling furiously in their notebooks. I wished we’d been able to present them with handouts –because it would have meant they’d all be provided with one message (which was one of our recommendations – as it happens) rather than all writing down their impression of our pearls of wisdom, but because these were preliminary findings, we weren’t able to ‘publish’ them.

So the Team Leader gave his results: the surveillance of AI in humans. The scepticism in the room was palpable. There were scowls from people as he spoke about the current alert system (even I had to bite my tongue as he clarified that there WAS a system in place, it just didn’t resemble any that we’d seen in the west). Our darling team leader has a very terse manner – years of being in the military probably – consequently it wasn’t long before I was watching people make (poor) attempts to stifle their yawns. This was compounded by the simultaneous translation which was occurring after each sentence. The cardiologist who was translating did a pretty good job (as far as I could tell) but was left hanging in some instances as our Team Leader forgot about the translation and would move onto the next point without waiting.

After he’d finished his section: the lovely Irish lady gave her part (Infection Control and Clinical Case Management) and there were fewer deep sighs of dissatisfaction as people realised that infection control was a foreign concept to the hospital staff here, and that anyone with AI would probably not last (since there’s no ICU!!!). That got people’s attention again. She has a lovely soft irish lilt though, which when used in presentations has a very ‘lullabic’ (?) quality.

Eventually I got up to do my bit – pausing en route to hand the translator a bottle of water – no one else had provided him with one!. Momentary shuffling in seats, and then I had them eating out of the palm of my hand. It was magic (I love having an audience like that). I spoke clearly, precisely, slowly – allowing the translator enough time to interpret before continuing. I showed an animated slide of the migrating bird flyway and the consequent areas at maximum risk in Azerbaijan. There was hushed awe, both at the fact I’d managed to elicit so much information from various sources, and that I was able to display it in such a good way (the animation followed the birds actual flying routes…I know how to make impact). I showed photos which got a giggle (everyone had heard the public announcement to keep poultry and waterfowl separate – so the photo of the veterinary office at which waterfowl and poultry were running around together was particularly poignant), and generally made my point. Then I fielded questions (no one else had to do so!) as some people were already starting to leave (we were only running an hour late… Was there something more important to do?!!). At one point, someone asked a particularly banal question and I informed the floor that “I’m not prepared to answer that at this time”. Someone at the end came up to me and actually apologised that I’d had to field such a crap question (I know that some people say there are no ‘bad questions’, but really…this guy asked one that was dumb, and we had limited time, and this wasn’t the forum – nor was I the person to ask!).

So…I answered questions: at one point, was asked to repeat myself so that someone could write my words down word-for-word (scary – what I have to say can’t possibly be THAT important!), and then we were finally done. And whaddya know, the FAO vet had FINALLY arrived and was in the room *self-conscious squeal*. Turns out he hadn’t been there for most of my presentation, but we agreed to meet up later on that evening at UNICEF house (word to the wise: they often have the best digs – way nicer than the UN offices) and I’d share my notes with him so that he got a head start on his own mission.

Turns out (when I finally got to UNICEF house) that his mission pretty much overlapped with mine (ARGH!) and he disagreed with me that they had no plan (they did – it was just a plan for FMD which involved cattle!!! Besides which, it was neither finalised – and wouldn’t be until the President had decided upon it – or disseminated. To me, that’s a document, not a PLAN!). He did, however, allow me to bully him into giving me his TOR’s from FAO (sorry…I hate acronymising ordinarily, but you can follow, I’m sure) so that I could include them as Exhibit A in ‘why I think the two agencies need closer ties’.

Then, a call came through from World Bank, ‘er, is Naomi there please?’ ??!! Turns out someone wanted to talk to me about a ‘hypothetical’ situation in which ‘birds had died’ in the ‘drinking water reservoir’. HYPOTHETICAL remember? So…I told them I’d look into appropriate drinking water treatment and get back to them.

At 1am, I wrote to advise they got in touch with a water sanitation engineer (of which, I’m not) having not been able to find anything suitable on the net (probably some unfinalised ‘plan’ sitting on some presidential desk!). I hate not being able to locate references. In the meantime I had written to respond to the WHO request for a ‘state of the art’ list of PPE that they can go against when asked by donors as to what to purchase (saves donors using their own procurement methods and getting the wrong equipment – as had been seen in Azerbaijan). So I was little working bee indeed.

Saturday was rather a let down. In the morning, the lovely Irish lass went home – her aunt was in hospital with a stroke, so she changed her ticket forward 24hours. But I didn’t see her at breakfast, because I had a meeting with a World Bank agriculture guy who had been in Armenia for our presentation and wanted catching up. It was good to chat to him, and he ended up sending me his (confidential) field report from his Azeri trip. So I went into the office with the team leader – without my computer (foolishly). Eventually, I was so bored, that I strung chairs together, stretched out and had a nap. Five hours later, I’d had absolutely enough of being unproductive and doing NOTHING – so I suggested I return to the hotel where my computer was, and continued writing my report. Turns out they were just leaving anyway (conversations in different languages), as our team leader had decided to remain: and wanted to move into an apartment so as not to pay the extortionate US$100/day at the hotel (comes out of our per diem).

So they dropped me off at the top of our street (FREEDOM!! I got to walk 25m on my own!!! Ooooh!) and we arranged to do dinner at 7ish. Then at 7ish, I got a knock on my door. The team leader and translator were just going to say cheerio, since they needed to move the team leader into his apartment tonight.

Oh. Right. Well, bye then!

And that was it, ladies and gentlemen. I stayed on until 1:30, went to the airport, headed home via Vienna (misread my boarding pass in Vienna and ended up missing my flight…) on a business class flight (we like those a LOT).

Will wax on about my return to Prague in due course…but for now…I’m off to pack for a 6 day trip to London baby, YEAH!
posted by Nomes @ Wednesday, February 15, 2006  
  • At 10:50 am, February 16, 2006, Anonymous Hels said…

    Hi Nomes
    Wow sounds really exciting and you sound all important and busy. Meanwhile I'm just settling back into the chemistry lab life...much better than micro! Was talking to a girl in the micro dept here yesterday...they do a lot of the stuff I was doing in NZ...I'm so glad to be back in the chemistry world!!
    Enjoy London :) sooooooooo when should I expect to see you here on the Emerald Isle???

  • At 12:34 pm, February 16, 2006, Blogger mx said…

    Hi Nomes! I've just returned from the movies (Jarhead) and mulling whether to pack (for ChCh) tonight or do a frantic pack before the flight after work. Mark's down in ChCh at the mo doing science stuff while I hold the fort (ha - which means sleeping with all the lights on and my 30+ panda at arm's reach). You're sounding like an old hand at this pre-pandemic bizzo -busy yet happy, which is all a friend could wish to hear :) Btw, when do we get to see more photos?? Also, it occurred to me last week, if the altos were pillars of salt, what was our Sodom and Gomorrah? And does that make you Lot? Wasn't he that dodgy character who got drunk and shagged his daughters? The plot thickens... Nite nite.

  • At 8:56 pm, February 19, 2006, Blogger Brett said…

    Dearest Nomes- It sounds like things are finally beginning to get more interesting in your part of the world. As wonderful as the blog has been up to this point (and it has been delightful) we now are beginning to see the fruits of your academic labours. I can imagine you putting on your gleaming armour (ok, the head-to-toe positive air pressure yellow biohazard suit)and going to battle against the foe on the behalf of all. Wishing you success in getting the message across (in glamorous style, of course). Fare the well, our elegant champion! Hugs- Brett

  • At 11:17 am, June 01, 2006, Blogger Eddie said…

    Hi there, just wandering the blogosphere and I found your blog. I really enjoy how this all works.

    This is one to watch.

    Many thanks,

    binoculars for birding

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