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!)
LOOOONG entry (that should put half of you off...)
Monday, 27 February 2006
THIRTY ONE PEOPLE FILLED OUT MY JOHARI WINDOW!?! I mean, I know I KNOW 31 people (on my e-mail list) but that’s quite an accomplishment (I think) – to get them to all log in and say nice things about me! Hooray (just as well I didn’t set up the inverse ‘nohari’ window).

I’m happy. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my memorable existence so far (admittedly – my memory is really lousy). In fact, the only time I was this happy that I CAN recall was when I was driving down Aotea Quay with my best friend and my (now) ex-boyfriend, songs turned up loud on the iPod, sun streaming in through the open windows. In a fit of American-type expressiveness, I believe I may have turned down the music temporarily and TOLD them how happy I was. I’m glad I did.

But this happiness is different. This is the lack of wanting to be ANYWHERE else (even Azerbaijan ha ha ha) and not wanting to be DOING anything else either. I love everything about my life at the moment (barring a few little pieces of administration that are going to follow me around everywhere). And that’s a pretty good feeling. Sure, it doesn’t mean that I leap out of bed at 0700 singing songs from Mary Poppins (because I’m happy (or I’m happy because…) I have a social life that keeps me out till at least midnight most nights too!), but when I look a the sky, the patches of snow on the ground, a small bird hopping around with cold feet, even *gasp* EVEN a burbling toddler (normally greeted with a derisory scowl if not an audible snarl), I have an inward smile. I sing everywhere I go (I heart miPod), and don’t care who hears (not sure if this is a symptom or cause). I travel (some may say excessively) and I smile at the airport Nazis. It’s craziness…I feel as though I’m in love (just after the honeymoon period has worn off – and you no longer feel slightly nauseous all the time) and it’s JUST SO GOOD.

I think it’s the continuous learning process that helps make it good. Or the fact that I know so few people here, that I can do whatever I want, without fear of being seen (see, those of you who picked me for self-conscious were pretty much spot on!). The other day I learnt that I REALLY do not want to find preservativ’s (the Czech version) in my food. This is nothing to do with an organic food movement. It’s because a preservative in the CR is designed to preserve the uterus and egg of a female. Yes folks, preservativs are what we’d call condom’s, prophylactics or (god help us), rubbers (ARGH!).

The weather has taken another nose dive, plummeting the temperatures into the nether regions again. Essentially, we had an absolute stunner of a day on Friday, temperatures up to 6oC – positively indecent. I wasn’t wearing boots – NOR tights – and could contemplate wearing a skirt (didn’t go so far as to do so, though!). However, Saturday started nice and warm, then turned crisp, went through even and quickly disintegrated into cruel, wildly lamenting and bitter (see photos). Now, I can tell you exactly how cold it got. I’ve developed a very good sense of feeling in my left nostril. That’s the one that’s got the additional bit of metal through it now. Turns out that this metal, far from being heated by the skin contact, is cooled by the air. ARGH!!! It’s bloody freezing…and it aches. Silly me (it’s not gonna make me take it out though Dad, so stop hoping).

Funny thing about the nose piercing is that my boss didn’t notice it for the full 6 weeks. And only noticed when someone else pointed it out to him. Guess it can’t mar my beauty too much then huh? Would show you photos, but taking photos of self makes me feel a little daft (I know!! Who’da thunk it?) so you’ll have to wait till the next Epiet module!

The only problem living somewhere with so much history is that it has so much history. For instance, as part of my exploratory walk this weekend, I wandered into ‘the crypt’ of Kostel sv Cyrila a Metoděje (Church of Sts Cyril and Methodius), in which an awful sacrifice occurred in May 1942. Most of you darling readers would recognise this date as being ‘during the war’. Good. Stick with me. So, apparently, Czechoslovakia, at that time was being run by Reichsprotektor (ha ha) Reinhard (the hangman) Heydrich, an SS fellow. Nasty piece of work judging by his parenthesised nickname. Anyway, there was a ‘government in exile’ in London at the time, and they basically decided to take some of the soldiers who’d escaped from Czechoslovakia and joined the Foreign Legion (everyone did in those days, it seems) to go back home and assassinate this dude. After some training from the English, a few guys agreed to do so. There were two main people, then teams of three and two were ‘backup’. All seven parachuted into Prague on a flight that made it safely back to Ol Blighty (just – cockpit cover up all the way home…pilot and crew slightly hypothermic upon landing…and missing a few bits of metal from their plane too).

Anyway, the attempt on Heydrich’s life didn’t quite go according to plan. The plan was to ambush the car as it slowed down on a corner on the way to work (this plan apparently took MONTHS to figure out, being so simple). First, they’d sten-gun the car, then lob a bomb into the back window (or thereabouts) and then finish off the bloke with their colt guns. Seems they weren’t taking many chances. Anyway, the sten gun jammed (apparently, this happened a lot…) so the assassins lobbed the bomb and it missed slightly. It did GET the target – but didn’t kill him – just got lots of metal bits into him. The driver, meanwhile, chased the assassins to a nearby area…one finally got a colt out of a holster and shot the driver. Right…

…so…problem solved? Not quite. Turns out these 7 guys then had to get OUT of Prague again. After a crazy path across town in several different routes, they arrived at this Church. They holed up there. One local guy agreed to get their food and supplies from local supporters (dissidents to some, I suppose) and in the end betrayed their presence to the SS. Who turned up at 0400 one morning to request their immediate surrender. Turns out the metal had caused massive septicaemia, and The Hangman had died in hospital. The SS were a bit pissed off with this result, and so they razed the village Lidice with the excuse that the parachutists were aided there, taking the 172 men (and boys >16yrs) outside and executing them, packaging the women and children off to a holding ‘camp’ and then killing them later. This, in turn, got the allies a little upset (as it tends to) as the SS weren’t shy about their village razing success (they’d had quite a lot of practice by this time, and had the whole ‘pose in front of burning buildings with bodies strewn’ down pat).

So…here we have an early morning surprise for the 7 in the church. Three of them were in the choir loft, and attacked the SS valiantly. The remaining four were in the crypt, digging their way to the sewer. The SS (750 or so) fought back against the three in the choir loft, and eventually blasted their way into the church. Two of the three lookouts had already consumed poison and were dead. The third had taken ‘enemy fire’ and was in the process of bleeding out. Though taken to a hospital (?) he died without regaining consciousness.

Which left the four downstairs, digging through concrete and brick (they made churches out of sturdy stuff over here). The SS decided to smoke them out (sound familiar?). This didn’t work (smoke kept rising…out of the crypt (good to know for future reference). SO they thought of drowning them out instead. At about 8am, they called the fire department, who attached hoses to nearby fire hydrants (okay – it was probably to a water mains, but afford me a little licence here, I’m no historian), and poked the hoses through holes (presumably inbuilt to keep the corpses fresh?!). The four soldiers got up on a ladder and poked the hoses back out into the street (now that’s balls!). The SS reached in and grabbed the ladder and pulled it out of the hole (the hole was ladder shaped – work with me here). Simultaneously to pumping water in, the SS also blasted another hole in the side of the wall of the crypt. Then they heard four shots.

The four soldiers had decided that their attempts to dig to the sewer (they were about 4m away) weren’t going anywhere and they weren’t going to be ‘taken alive’. This was at approximately 10am. You can imagine how pissed off the SS were.

Because of their collusion with the dissidents/assassins, the chaplains and rectors (not sure of the exact titles but you know who I mean) and their families were captured, tortured and killed.

But because of the awful razing of the village, the Allies felt pity for Prague –the government became ‘not-in-exile-any-longer’ and had demonstrated to other countries that the Third Reich COULD be beaten, AND from the inside. Apparently, this boosted ‘allied’ morale.

My morale was fairly shaken though. You couldn’t quite smell the cordite, but you could definitely close your eyes, place your hand on the hacked out area where the soldiers were digging towards the sewer and smell the fear drenched sweat, hear the butts of their useless sten guns hitting the rock, and feel the heat in the room. The pockmarked walls of the crypt tell their own story of bullets in the dark.

And what of the traitor? Well…after he identified the bodies of the soldiers for the SS, he was kind of thrown back to the wolves. And guess what? They found him, and hung him.

I’m not going to cast judgement. But I did write that I’m newly aware of the incalculable debt paid by these young men so that we could live in the free way we take for granted in the ‘guestbook’. I know there are countless of these stories in EVERY war situation. But it’s not something I’ve really had the opportunity to feel. Those feelings are VERY strong in a place like that…despite the new halogen lighting, and the display case containing a mannequin dressed as a parachutist of the time (they wore suits under their jump suits!!) which freaked me out when I was leaning down to read the cards left in the dugout area. You can definitely still imagine what it would have been like in the quiet times, 4 men gathered around, probably sleeping where one or two caskets were missing from the walls (must’ve been reasonably cosy) and eating what little black bread and cheese they could get their hands on (and, knowing the Czechs, washing it down with beer – makes me smile a little). Maybe they would’ve told each other of their families wherever they were. Maybe they would’ve simply farted and masturbated the time away till they could be collected again (being blokes in their 20’s after all!). Whatever, you could feel the camaraderie in the crypt. Or maybe I’m just a ridiculously overimaginative slightly empathetic female with a hero-complex. Whatever. THAT’S the ‘problem’ with so much history having gone before us.

(sheesh…I didn’t realise how much I’d remembered from a 20min wander around!)

After finally catching up with some friends on Saturday night (I’m glad they remember to invite me out, I’m so often away I can’t see them more than once every 6 weeks or so, which as you know, is quite peculiar) I returned home on the last normal tram (which had a pile of sand covering vomit in the front…turns out that DOES still happen!). After the quick walk down the hill, whaddya think I find outside my door? A dead body. Now, it’s pretty bad for Feng Shui to have a body popsicle on front door – no amount of flutes/golfish/mirrors or crystals are gonna fix that little Chi drain.

We’ll call him the blue guy (on account of his countenance at the time) wouldn’t be roused with normal ‘hello – can you hear me…’s (I was so tempted to do the ‘hello, is there any body there???’ lyric – but relented…) and so I did the knuckle-over-collarbone thing (which hurt me as much as it must’ve bruised him) and finally got a groan out of him. Good. So not dead then. No frantic crystal-waving or geode-placement required.

Finally figured out the words for ‘are you cold?’ which is like asking someone with a spurting artery, ‘are you okay?’ but he did nod and mumble assent at this. So helped him in, to put him at least on the chair in our (heated) joint corridor. Then I managed to formulate the question, “do you live here?” (it’s only one word for goodness sakes! But it still took me about two minutes to remember…) and when he mumbled ‘ano’ I managed to remember the word for ‘where?’ (not quite as correct as ‘which one’ but hey! I was traumatised!). Turns out the bloke is my next-door neighbour. The one with canaries/budgerigars that sing during my lunch break (it’s kinda nice listening to them chirrup as I eat my sandwich…yet not have to put up with their crap – literally). Poor thing. I hope it doesn’t make
‘corridor moments’ awkward. I think he was so wasted though that he wouldn’t remember. Sometimes, alcohol IS my friend.

Have found a TimeOut equivalent at Andel this is the local space-invaders/video-game parlour in NZ) and went there with T last night. Had a blast (literally) playing GunBlade. They also have House of the Dead 2 (which I kicked his skinny white Canadian arse in) and Manx TT (motorbike race game). They have A dancey machine, but *gasp* it’s not [deep voice] Dance Dance Revolution – so David and Nine are gonna be SOOOO far ahead of me when I next see them. *sob* How will I ever catch up? I'm gonna have to get the home version aren't I? And that, quite frankly, just doesn't really bear thinking about too much.

Oh yes, the troubles of an EPIET fellow in Prague indeed.
posted by Nomes @ Monday, February 27, 2006  
  • At 11:58 am, February 27, 2006, Blogger Dad said…

    Ooooh, you are learning things. History! History is bunk, as one famous, now dead, American once observed. The trouble with it is, it explains very clearly the world we now live in, and why it's like it is. To make matters worse, today's crisis is tomorrow's history. The human race has so much baggage to carry around, and accumulates more each passing day. This is all so that the 'wronged" parties can go back over the entrails, and revisit their grievances! If only there was a time limit for history! Everything deleted from the hard disk after 40 years (say), and all memory expunged. Would that be better than unlimited memory, via archaeology, followed by old writings?

  • At 9:07 am, February 28, 2006, Blogger Mums said…

    Hi GNomes,
    I even checked out all of your links. Didn't need the words to Good King Wenceslas though, cos your Father still remembers all of them, and I can still la la along with him.
    Amazing the perspective history gives, though it is wasted on the young. I never like history much at school, beyond the Stuarts that is, but now I'm quite happy to delve into any part of the world's history. I find it fascinating, though it can often put me straight to sleep - very much depends on the author's style.
    Glad to see you are enjoying Prague so much, I'm looking forward to see it IRL.
    Hope you managed to get your phone fixed, cos hope to speak to you soon. Love Mums

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