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
  44. Take a French/German/Dutch course and SPEAK THE DAMNED LANGUAGE WHEN I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY EVEN THOUGH IT MAKES ME SOUND LIKE AN IDIOT!
  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!)
Sleep? Weekends? What are these strange words?
Saturday, 11 March 2006
So, it's quite exhausting this mission lark. It's (very) hard to believe that this time last week, I was out with a mate watching Pink Panther, it seriously feels as though it was a lifetime ago.

What's been happening?

Essentially, we've attended meetings. That's pretty much all it feels like we've done. Last mission, we were always in high-ranking meetings, where tea and sweets were served. This time, we're in operational type meetings, and we go for five hours without a break. Once again, my bladder sphincter (the one at the BASE for all those anatomists out there) is coming under pressure. However, I can pride myself on overworked pelvic floor muscles I guess...having to hold it in all the time.

I KNOW you're just delighted to have been shared that little tidbit of information, aren't you?

Life in Azerbaijan is relatively easy for expats though. There have obviously been sufficient oil-based plunderings that the local populace don't stare at /care about foreigners in their midsts. We can purchase all the things we need (some things that I can't even get in Prague for heaven's sake, though STILL no Starbucks...!) and people are FAR more friendly here than in Prague.

In Prague, when you go to a (local) restaurant, you have to attempt to make eye contact with someone to be seated. This is difficult when the waiting staff behave as though they're wearing Cannes-esque sunglasses (despite not doing so), avidly avoiding customers eyes/gestures. In Baku, if you stop at the door to tie your shoelace, they hoist you into the restaurant as though by a large shepherd's crook and plonk you immediately at a table. Quite a nifty trick.

There, when they bring food to your table, you're REALLY lucky if it's PLACED in front of you before the waiter continues on his trajectory to 'somewhere else'. Occasionally, if you're particularly unlucky or wearing white, the plate will slide across the table (as a result of too much kinetic energy - having been 'thrown' in the general direction of your place setting) and spill gravy down your top. Here, they visit your table so often to bring everything, that you're telling them about your ex-boyfriend before they can say "do you like?".

There, when you want to pay the bill, you have to mumble 'zaplatime' as someone (hopefully in charge of your area) stalks past you in a fug of Slavic snobbery. Here, if you want to pay, you have to convince the staff that, really, your meal was delightful but your eyes are too big for your belly, and no, thank you, dessert is unnecessary (here it helps to have large thighs to point at in horror) and yes, you really do have your own bed to stay in tonight, there's no need to join their family, and it's okay thanks, you don't really need to take anyone's first born home with you!

That's one advantage of Prague then. The OTHER advantage, is that as you stay there longer, you find yourself mimicking the 'don't care' nature of the staff. For instance, you can be gaily chatting away to a mate, almost doubled up in hysterics at something they say and someone walks by your table. Within split seconds, your face can melt into a would-be-slightly-dissatisfied-if-i-could-bring-myself-to-bother-having-an-opinion scowl so that you can mutter/bark/mumble something about getting another round in (complete with overanimated gestures still, if I'm doing it, which totally denounce my non-citizen status) and once they've flounced off, your face can remould (again, instantly) into it's previously jocular expression. It's crazy. You end up feeling vaguely schizophrenic.

Okay, not entirely true.

You end up with a GREAT outlet for your latent schizophrenia!!

If I keep writing along these lines, people are gonna think I hate Prague. Not so at all (I can't emphasize that enough). I love the place. When I was in the UK, I wanted to slap the staff for being so effusive, friendly and subservient. That's after wanting to hug them for speaking English (er, what was I saying about schizophrenia?).

If anything though, the experience in Prague has assisted greatly here. I may be overcome with a sudden attack of stage fright when partaking in a game of charades with close friends (I know!! What was all that about?) but I'm getting brilliant at acting out 'how to kill a chicken in a humane manner'.

It was a really bad C-grade movie from the 50's...
posted by Nomes @ Saturday, March 11, 2006   2 comments
International Woman's Day
Friday, 10 March 2006

So, an update that was supposed to be written yesterday.

We started the day dry. Literally. A call to our landlord located a
plumber who would come visit us on a public holiday. Turns out it was
the same guy who'd come the night before to fix the pump in some way.
And guess how he fixed it? Flicked the switch. This, despite about two
hours of 'international expert' twiddling of the thousand taps that are
suspended in midair on the walls.

The reason it was a public holiday was because it was International
Woman's Day. Now, I'm not sure whether they celebrate Valentine's Day in
Azerbaijan, but if they do, then it means women get given two lots of
flowers three weeks apart. Brilliant. I even got flowers.

From the plumber (awww, bless!). Lovely spring things that look like
minature white daffodils but are really pungent (jonquils?). They're on
the kitchen table, in a glass. Of course, this meant we had to put the
bowl with plastic fruit in a (darkened, non-windowed) cupboard...I know
you feel the pain of our heroic sacrifice.

All of our colleagues said to me, "Congratulations for being a woman".
I wanted to ask them whether they were congratulating me on managing to
put a bra on and take it off with minimal fuss or on dealing with my
approximately 180 menstrual cycles (to date)? However, I gagged my
inner bitch...

Please, someone, explain cellular phone supply companies? I thought it
bad when Telecom and Vodafone wouldn't communicate with one another in
NZ (way back when txt/sms was just available - you had to send sms to
another number, which would forward it on to the CORRECT recipient...),
and yet here we are: Bakcell in Azerbaijan refuses to communicate with
Optus in Australia, yet will happily write to anything in the Czech
Republic, who's vodafone will not connect me with one of the Canadian
suppliers...it's all a bit much really. Can we have some international
standards written please...protocols and guidelines...I insist.

We have schizophrenic weather. Today - 25oC. It was divine. Driving
along (in our automobile) was like being in summer again. Delicious (if
a little dusty and fume-y). Tomorrow, we're due the near-freezing high
of 12oC. Clarity of the air is equally as absurd. We had no view at
about 1930 the other night: some lightness 'over there' indicated the
possibility of buildings, but outlines weren't even visible. We ignored
the view from our 7th floor palatial apartment for about 20mins. Then we
could see for miles (to the lights on top of an oil platform in the
Caspian). Oh yes, did I mention? We can see the sea...*YAY*.

As I mentioned before, it's lovely being here with someone I know, like
spending time with, and respect intellectually/workwise. We've been to a
new restaurant every night: Azeri, Georgian, Persian and last night
Mongolian. Technique: walk for 20mins, stop suddenly, look in all
directions, and select a restaurant on it's name/location/appearance.
Given several are underground, they offer little in the way of street
appeal, yet we've had some delicious meals!

Last night's said "Mongolian BBQ", so I was getting quite excited about
the prospect of a self-made but not self-cooked stirfry. Instead, it
served an eclectic combination of types of food (none of which appeared
to be remotely Mongolian - she says, from her vast Steppes experience).
I (rather bravely - I thought) took the 'Beef in Crock' and was thrilled
to recieve a beef stew in a tangy tomato/garlic/vegetable sauce. YUM! I
even drank 500ml of local beer yesterday, and didn't find it
horrible...it's the embryonic Prazdan within (no Dad, not
pregnant...just a autorenaissance). Either that, or it's because the red
wine here is REALLY sweet and I'm alcoholic enough to just drink
anything in it's place. Surely not?

An advantage of being in our own place is the autonomous food supply. We
stock up on the vital supplies (bread, cheese, cucumbers and tomatoes
etc.) and look after ourselves like we're both used to doing at home,
much to the distress of our lovely but a little over-protective (unless
they're driving) in-country colleagues who assume we'll get lost on a 5
block walk down the street upon which we live! It ALSO means we
experience the joy of local supermarkets.

We walk in. We look at the cheese section. Someone comes and stands
beside what appears to be an inside-out sheep, filled with a crumbly
white 'feta-esque' cheese. We indicate "no thanks, I really couldn't!"
(I can't wear wool for fibres in my teeth...I wouldn't eat anything
'grown' in it!!), and point at another cheese block (probably
'pre-removed' from the reversed sheep, but what the eye doesn't see...).
She mutters something in Azeri, and makes us practise muttering it also.
She giggles a lot as we sound ridiculous. Neither of us care (which is
good). Then she points in the vague direction of a stand of chewing gum.
Barely visible (between packs of Orbit and Dritol) is a face, and a
number. We mangle the pronunciation of whatever it was we were told to
mutter. We then see the number, hand over the corresponding note, and
recieve a receipt. Then we return to the original person, who uplifts
our receipt, and hands us our new cheese.

This entire process is repeated for bread, jam, juice,
cucumber/tomatoes/bananas/pears and oooh look...Anchor NZ Cheese. "Is it
nice?" asks Andreas? "Who cares?", says I - craving a decent cheddar,
"we're having some!". We point. She takes out the end of the previous
block (one of those 5kg blocks). We look at one another, shrug and nod
at the woman. She yells (obviously not trusting our pronunciation) to
the cashier (who's close, so this cheese woman has clearly HEARD our
poor attempts) and we pay. We get cheese. YUM!

And it takes us two days to try it out. I cut off a long finger sized
chunk, to eat with bread for dinner. I cut off a cm cubed...ready to
chomp down on delicious, tangy, tasting-of-my-ex-home cheese, my mouth
salivates.

Which is good, because when the greasy knob of butter sits on my tongue
in the pool of collected saliva, it doesn't mix with said water-based
liquid, and I'm able to spit the whole lot out with minimal fuss.
ARGH!!!! *so crushed*

Just as well the baklava more than makes up for it. Today we had
chocolate, walnut, almond and 'zebra' baklava pieces (you buy them by
the 'one'). They're sooo good. This is what I'll take with me to our
Madrid training module (we have to take a 'delicatessen item' from our
host countries, but since I'm going straight there without stopping in
Prague, I'll leave the pickled vegetables and take these
honey-soaked-nutty-pastry-pieces-of-divinity instead. Everyone wins.

I'd like to point out though, that the baklava was well deserved. Last
night, we were up till 2am, preparing documents for today. We woke,
showered (yay for water) and were at work by 8am this morning - worked
unitl our meeting at the MOH (5 blocks - 5 minutes walk) at 11am. Three
hours of discussion later, we went to visit a hospital which took us to
4pm. By the time we were back in town (hospital was outside town), I was
lightheaded from fatigue and hunger (we hadn't eaten or drunk anything
since breakfast at 7:45ish). So we celebrated by eating pizza and
drinking proper coffee (short black, with sugar: who, exactly, HAS taken
over my body? I'm a long latte without sugar girl! Can she do something
about the extra 'cladding' while she's there please?) at a bakery (same
system as supermarket - potential for both high employment rates and
general confusion), and then taking our baklava to the seaside to eat it.

We had an hour and a half of peace and quiet (i.e. BBC world and sleep -
oh god, I HAVE turned into my father!) at home, before the phone started
again. Our EPIET coordinator, checking we were okay (bless!). Then WHO
HQ to see what the situation was (possible human cases now in the area).
We wrote our situation update after that, and sent it off (it took three
hours to condense a day's worth of work into four pages including a line
listing of all suspect cases) and Lisa (another EPIET fellow in our
cohort, who might be going to DRC for measles outbreak in two weeks
time!) called and talked to us till our line disintegrated into crackly
mush. Dinner of cheese (butter) and bread, and we flagged the idea of
going out for a quick beer (that inner Prazdan again), preferring
instead to sit in companiable silence with our computers, writing
e-mails/blog entries.

Our mission was supposed to be to provide guidance and support to
increase the capabilities of the national MOH to locate, identify,
evaluate, document and follow-up possible cases of human AI. However,
since we arrived here in the middle of what could have been an outbreak
(no lab confirmation) we've been taking care of both the outbreak
investigation AND developing the surveillance system. Which, for two
people, means we're a bit over-stretched. So we'll see how things
develop, but we might ask for a third person to come help.

Maybe that will slow down the development of my Churchillesque monocle
pouch that's 'coming along nicely' under my right eye. Yes, even my bags
are now chafing. Ain't no amount of touche eclat that's gonna fix that.
*sob*

posted by Nomes @ Friday, March 10, 2006   2 comments
Baku Apartment Hunting
Tuesday, 7 March 2006
We've just moved into a flat this evening. IT'S HUGE!!! My entire place at home fits into the lounge - easily. We've got parquet floors, chandeliers, the works. It includes all our linen, electricity, hot water, gas stove etc, for a mere US$80/day (which, when you compare living autonomously to the hotel which was US$100ish a day EACH, it's a lot more economical!). There are even three bedrooms AND a balcony that gets afternoon sun, overlooking the city and the Caspian sea. It's just amazing. The ONLY downside (thus far, we've only JUST moved in) is that our internet connectoin is the rather slow dialup - so it's a little painful!!!

Still, we've everything we need, and then some, so we're not complaining (yet!).

And I've been totally put to shame by Andreas' amazing toiletries bag. It's about the same size as my little black makeup bag. Whereas my toiletries bag...well, let's just say I can take it OUT of my suitcase and not pay excess baggage charges!!! So I've got almost two thirds of the shelf in the bathroom...

There's a washing machine (hoorah!) but it's rather old style. There's a washing basin on teh side, which you fill manually, tell it that you're washing something, and then it does it's spin thing. Essentially a top loader without a spindle. But then, rather incredibly, on the other side, is another, smaller toploader (approximately 20cm diameter) which is the spin dryer. We're both rather impressed...but doubt that we'll wash much more than underwear in it.

So far, I've experienced both more variety and more exercise on this mission than in the entire two weeks of my last. We've been to an Azeri, Georgian AND a Persian restaurant so far for dinner. We've walked around a little bit, exploring (not too much, and only really at night apart from the interminable waiting for landlords outside buildings).

Anyway, photos (taken by Andreas) are up. Work tomorrow - though it's international womans day. And now, it's time for baklava and coffee - to christen our flat. No christening in the 'normal' way, since Andreas and I BOTH go for men (and have been discussing the variants here in great depth!!!).
posted by Nomes @ Tuesday, March 07, 2006   1 comments
"I may be gone some time..."
But don't panic...I'm not walking out into a haze of viral particles in an Oates-esque manner!

This could be the last blog entry from me for a while folks. I know, I know…there ARE clinics in major cities that will help you overcome the physical symptoms of your addiction, but the mental and psychological ones are always harder to get over. I suggest writing me e-mails…

Andreas and I are about to go flathunting together. We’ve got three if not more apartments to look at this afternoon. Some, apparently, overlook the Caspian Sea (hell, our per-diem allows us to afford it – why the heck not?) and we’ve asked for silly things like ‘internet connection’ to be made available. This is because the WHO country office is reasonably small (four desks) and there are always people wanting a workstation – so we’ll be doing most of our work AND living in the apartment.

There’s a horrible rumour that any internet connection we DO manage to get will be dial-up. Despite the fact that this idea brings both Andreas and myself out in a rash, followed by a cold-sweat and induces nightmares set to a theme tune of ‘bbbbbrrrrrrr click, click….whrrrrrrr” etc (you all know the sound of a modem connecting…FINALLY), we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the west-facing apartment with a balcony also has ADSL. Both optimists, as you can see.

We’re actually doing quite a lot of work (already!?). We’ve sent a sit-rep back to WHO which was (apparently) “better than [our] wildest dreams”. Not bad for the first day huh? And despite it being International Woman’s Day tomorrow, we’ve got meetings booked. Today we’re working on some documents that our translator will hopefully be able to translate for us tomorrow so that we can present them to the national working group (argh!!) on Thursday. These will form the basis of the surveillance system for Human AI (HAI) cases.

We’re working entirely on the human side now, the veterinarian side has been left to FAO/OIE. Of course, it’s all muddled up a bit by the fact that the Vet Lab is better than that of the humans, so they’re testing our specimens…but we’ll get it straightened out somehow. The WHO office are being very supportive, sending follow-up questions that might help guide our mission, and documents that have been used (in a working sense, not just a published/guideline/protocol sense) in all the other countries (Vietnam/Turkey/Iraq in particular).

This is one of the reasons we’re hoping for ADSL…downloading all this stuff over a 56kbps connection could take us all night (and here we are “I’ll just grab the specimen collection guidelines…” ing at the moment!). So wish us luck, and a nice place. Oh, and you CAN buy chicken breast here (it’s very cheap at the moment – can’t think why!) which means that our diets will be far more varied than my last mission.

Actually, we’ve already been to two different (and both AMAZINGLY yummy) restaurants: 17th Century (which was still open at 12:30am) which served us traditional Azeri food (yum!) and last night Georgian House (traditional Georgian food – also divine). We have business cards for both places – should you happen to be passing through this way in the near future!!!

Should go put our bags downstairs to do this apartment thing. It’s very exciting (a. someone else has done the hard work and we’re just going to check them out finally, and b. they’re reasonably cheap and c. both Andreas and I have similar views on apartments and d. it’s going to be nice to live with a friend for a few weeks) and I’m much more positive this time round than last time. So, keep your fingers crossed for that ADSL line…and I’ll be in touch as and when I can.
posted by Nomes @ Tuesday, March 07, 2006   0 comments
Flaky boys
Sunday, 5 March 2006
I know some of you don’t really believe me when I say that Czech men are flaky. And I'm not meaning 'in a boat floating gently under a waterfall' kind of flaky either...

Here’s my version of events.

Steeerrrrrrriiiiiyccccckkkk One!!
Before London
Boy: Could you please bring me a delicious Chicken & Avocado sandwich from Pret a Manger since you’re going to London? I’ll meet you at the airport…
Girl: I don’t really like being met at the airport (unwanted exhibitionism for which I’m ill prepared after flying…bleee!)…but do you mean this sandwich?
Boy: I may have to ask you to marry me if you can do this….
Girl: Don’t be daft. You say any silly words like that – I promise to jam sandwich in your gob to prevent such idiocy.

After London
Girl reaches airport. Boy nowhere.
Girl: ????
Boy: I’m so sorry, something came up. Please don’t think badly of me.
Girl: I won’t. But what’s it like at the top of my ‘flaky friend list’?
Boy: I’ll make it up to you.
Girl: Mmmm…nice sandwich.


Steeerrrrrrriiiiiyccccckkkk Two!!
Sunday
Boy: So, when are you off to Azerbaijan again?
Girl: possibly Wednesday.
Boy: I want to see you before then. Tuesday evening?
Girl: Sure. Will txt then.

Tuesday
Girl: Am shattered. Can we do dvd/pizza at yours instead of out?
Boy: Er, I have somewhere else to be at 10…
Girl: You know what, I’m really shattered, and I can’t be bothered ‘squeezing into’ someone else’s busy schedule. I’m not going tomorrow. I’ll see you before I go. You’re another rung down.
Boy: Don’t be like that. I’m really sorry.
Girl: *silence*

Steeerrrrrrriiiiiyccccckkkk Three (and this is by FAR the best one)!!!!!!
Saturday - 1600ish
Girl: Can you bring my contact lenses tonight? I’ll swap you for your cartman t-shirt!
Boy: Cool. Fama at 10?
Girl: Sounds great.

2100ish
Boy: [calling not sms] Um, just thought I ought to let you know, I’ll be bringing someone else tonight?
Girl: Oh?
Boy: I had a date with her this evening, and, well, it wasn’t supposed to end up this way…she was just supposed to be a one-drink date.
Girl: But…
Boy: But…she’s not. I’m really sorry. But don’t worry, it’s not just going to be the three of us, I’ve got a friend Ivan meeting us too…
Girl: Are you trying to pimp me out?
Boy: *shocked silence as realises what it sounds like…*
Girl: Just bring my stuff.
Boy: Don’t be like th----

ARGH!!! Can you believe it???? This from someone I was supposedly ‘seeing’. Not that I expected him not to be seeing other people, but at the SAME TIME?!??!

0300ish
Boy: You know, I was thinking this morning how much I’ll miss you.
Girl: You have no idea. *frost* (I’d managed to keep up this frostiness for 5 hours to this point, including throwing out nice lines such as, “Oh, I dunno, you seem to be able to throw things away pretty easily” at his mention of him being a hoarder. To which he replied ‘ouch’. HA!)
Boy: I mean, it could be at least 6 weeks until I see you again, and that’s only if you come visit me while you’re in Spain.
Girl: No. It’ll be much longer actually.
Boy: *puzzled look* Why?
Girl: Personal choice. Did you really expect me to put up with the sort of bullshit you’ve been feeding me, sweety? All the best with your delightful friend over there (vacant Czech blonde gaze), I’m sure she’s your perfect match. Ciao.

And walked out of the bar. Had I had a full glass of water I MAY have gone the whole hog and thrown it over him. Alas, I didn’t – so I can’t cross that off the list of ‘things to do before I grow up’.


So…there you have it: Czech men. Flaky.

Still. It means that I now have developed the perfect ‘rant to the audience’ for Intunition’s version of ‘Respect’ for which yours truly has the solo (eee gads!). Yep. Nothing like a bit of literary amusement out of my personal shame – right?
posted by Nomes @ Sunday, March 05, 2006   4 comments
How to build a snowman
Saturday, 4 March 2006
1. Rewriting a document that wasn't your responsibility. Use imagination and lots of prepositions.
2. Frown as your phone goes “Goodbye” and dies loudly. Realise misspent lunch of tetris is to blame. Dismiss this – and remember the glory of a new high score.
3. Wave at phone.
4. Use internet sms to arrange to meet mates for movie at 7:30ish.
5. Eat imagination-bolstering chocolate until you’re late home (but the report’s in).
6. Plug phone in.
7. Realise all friends already in movie. Sob quietly to lonely self a little.
8. Get all "fine then!", and clean the flat.
9. 10mins later (small flat), look outside.
10. Go outside...measure snow fall, check water content of snow.
11. Run back inside. Run hand under hot water tap to relieve frostbite.
12. Put gloved hands in plastic bags.
13. Put on jacket. Add high heeled wedged suede boots (I kid you not, these are my winter boots!)
14. Race to an appropriate area, and start as you think snowmen are made.
15. Realise rather quickly that snow does not “roll” like it does in cartoons.
16. Pick a spot for the snowman.
17. Scoop snow. Make pile. Realise that snowman will be snow pyramid without immediate intervention.
18. Start shaping.
19. Decide on maximum width, based on how much back aches from crouching/leaning over growing mound which is now slightly ovoid...
20. Reach maximum width. Continue to shape, by adding handfuls of snow to 'thing'.
21. Realise that snowman now looks like has leprosy. Look for hose. No hose.
22. Sprinkle snow in depressions...and 'smooth' it around.
23. Wonder if neighbours are watching from darkened room...feel slightly stupid.
24. Get over it. Sing to Bohemian Rhapsody (from speakers turned out from room window) and start on next 'sphere'.
25. Stand back and admire: snow-jabba!
26. Realise that this method of piling snow and then shaping it, won't quite work this time.
27. Develop new technique, use entire arm to 'smooth' down the second sphere, adding bit of snow at a time, in a very 'butter icing' technique (as if it's running down the slopey bits of a ring cake!).
28. Feel quite accomplished as second sphere starts to approach 2/3 width of first mound.
29. Add head.
30. Realise that snowman will visit self in nightmares if head remains like 'that'.
31. Attempt to 'smooth' head shape.
32. Give up, grab some 'grass' and add hair instead (my snowman has a combover!)
33. Search for nose/eyes combination.
34. Note: 1st Property of Snow: it covers EVERYTHING.
35. Push snow away from earth. Use fingers to dig.
36. Note: 2nd Property of Snow: it FREEZES stuff.
37. Find three bits of bark/stone...can't be sure...it's dark!
38. Add the first eye to the face.
39. Wipe away the smear of dirt on the cheek.
40. Wipe away the smear of dirt now on the chin.
41. Realise that side of snow mans face entirely covered in smear of dirt.
42. Note: 3rd Property of Snow: you can always add more!
43. Balance out other cheek...Sing theme tune to Nip/Tuck.
44. Note: 4th Property of Snow: it can be used to 'wash' the other stones/bark bits.
45. Add these.
46. Use stick to make holes in belly (muttering "now, this won't hurt a bit...")
47. Put ivy leaves in holes, and pack stems in with more powdery snow.
48. Accost tree for suitable ‘hand’ branches.
49. Move hand like branches into Barbie™ position for fear that people will think the snowperson is saying ‘help…. Help…’
50. Look for curved twig for mouth. Hold up several candidates. Realise that manic snowperson will scare small children and dogs. (and me).
51. Find slightly crooked curve, think, ‘ah, the mona lisa’ and melt it into the face of the snowperson.
52. Admire handiwork.
53. Ignore fact snowperson looks slightly drunk and leery – after all, you’re in the Czech Republic, it’s a natural state for everyone.
54. Go inside for camera.
55. Position self to take photo: realise that background looks like landmine field (prior to the grass growing again).
56. Go inside for snow shovel.
57. Laugh maniacally to self, and take ‘dustpan’ from ‘dustpan and brush set’ as snowshovel replacement.
58. Spend next 30mins redistributing snow to cover ‘bombsite’ area around snowperson, thus leaving it looking ‘miracle like’ and ‘fresh’.
59. Wonder if anyone else does such ridiculous things.
60. Take many photos of proof.
61. Hurry inside for tea, replete with the knowledge that your snowperson cherry has been popped.
posted by Nomes @ Saturday, March 04, 2006   1 comments
I just saw the most amazing thing...
Wednesday, 1 March 2006
So, pet shops here are pretty diverse in their stock. Iguanas, monkeys, parrots of all sorts of descriptions. I'm just not sure where everyone gets their dogs from (must be breeders directly) because there are never any puppies in the shops. I would be less than impressed with the selling of such a wide range of animals were it not for the exemplary care shown them by the shop employees. They obviously care aobut the animals and their environments, without allowing themselves to become too attached. And from what I've seen, the Czechs' ALSO take very good care of their animals (on the whole, obviously). I've not yet heard of immolated kittens (which can ONLY be a good thing) here.

Anyway, as a result of all this animal diversity, whenever I'm in a shopping mall, I'll take a quick gander at the tanks/aquaria/vivaria at the back of the shop. I popped down to Eden (pronounced: ed-en, not eedin) at lunchtime and had a quick nosy.

Colourful fish: check.
Cute little terrapins flapping their fins/flippers underwater: check.
Turtles swimming with bubbles of air in their noses: check.
Squawking upside down green parrot: check.
Intelligent looking, head tilting competition entering (with me, natch) grey parrot: check.
Alarmingly eyed (they're so weird!) different coloured chameleons: check.
Cute gecko (about 10 times the size of any seen in Qatar) complete with front leg in the air "you can't see me if i'm really still" expression: check.
Coral snake making very groovy geometric patterns with it's body: check.
Boa constrictor wrapped round a stick: check
Python poised: check.

Why was the python poised? Well, in the cage below his tank (no idea on gender, had a male face!!) were snowy white bundles of wheelspinning energy. Mice. Dinner (to a python at least). And there was a worker hovering nearby.

So...I managed to witness, up close (my nose was fairly pressed against the glass), the addition of one snowy white squeaky bundle to the pythons vivarium. I imagine the thoughts went along the lines of:

Python: aha...here comessssss my dinner now...look into my eyessssss worker...get me a mousssssse...a mousssssse...
Mouse: hello pretty lady. You dont' have to hold me up by the tail you know...I have legs.
Python: that'ssssss right...closssser....
Mouse: really? a new cage? with glass this time? how cool. But what's this floor stuff? dirt? I liked my old straw...eek!
Python: oooh....there you are....GULP!

Yep. Within milliseconds, the python struck the mouse, stretching his jaws wide enough to take the mouse around the shoulders/chest area. He threw a coil (which previously had been his 'neck') around the mouse and held it steady. The mouse's tail twitched a while, and then fell still and droopy. After another 30s or so, Mr P unlooped the neck coil, and wiggled the mouse around a little - just with his mouth.

Then.

The grande finale.

Mr P, by now, had the mouse held over the face (if you'll imagine: from left to right, looking at the scene from head on, it was mouse ear: snake snout: mouse ear). The mouse's tail was dragging on the ground, but other than that, Mr P had it lifted into the air (with just his MOUTH!!). Then he started the laborious process of inching his mouth over the mouse.

You know how a person performs (or gets tangled up while performing) a leopard crawl? That's the one on your belly under a camoflaged net (for those of you who haven't 'benefitted' from a partner in the Army). You move one elbow forward with the opposite knee, then the other - and so on.

Well, the snakes mouth movement reminded me of this. I wondered whether he had little teeth on the underside of his upper palate because he held the mouse mostly in place, then the left side of his lip kind of extended and wriggled over the mouse a bit, pause, then the right.

I'm sure most of you have seen this on telly, but let me tell you, it's completely different seeing it close up. Amusingly (for me, less so for the mouse, I presume), Mr P couldn't do all of this facing down...and in the end, had to tilt his (now large) neck upwards to get the last millimetre of tail in. And the bit of his body that had the mouse stuck in it wasn't NEARLY as flexible as the rest.

And then it just looked like the rest of his body was 'catching up', the scales would ripple towards the head, then the head would extend further. Eventually, about three peristaltic movements after the tail had disappeared, Mr P opened his mouth wide (burping? yawning?) and then went back to posing.

I love snakes.
posted by Nomes @ Wednesday, March 01, 2006   1 comments
Potrebujete pomoc?
pot-jre-boo-yoo-et-te pom-ots? = Do you (formal) need help?

What do you do when a workmate isn’t at work for days, then it turns out he’s been on an alcoholic bender? That he feels his life isn’t worth living on the first anniversary of the death of his elderly and infirm mother whom he tended for five years preceding her death? How can you be of any assistance when you’re at work yourself?

Admittedly, I, personally, can be of absolute minimum assistance, since the person in question speaks no English, and my halting Czech is woefully inadequate to deal with these sorts of issues (hence my desire for a teacher to work one-on-one with me…covering current affairs, recent history – to put those current affairs into place – and general human-to-human interactions: I’ve already figured out how to purchase a ticket from a train station thanks!!!).

But today, my boss and his wife have gone to his house, to see if he can be hospitalised. It’s so sad. How does it get this bad? How can you ward it off at the pass? How do you help someone who’s at risk of self-destruction, when they seem to resent your offering assistance?

ARGH!
posted by Nomes @ Wednesday, March 01, 2006   3 comments

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