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!)
Barthelona
Wednesday, 26 April 2006
Is not as gorgeous, lively, vibrant and clean as Madrid. The advantage it has over teh big smoke is that it DOES have the scent of the Mediterranean hanging around it. THat means that all activities are performed in a haze of ´must visit sea´ ness, which was nearly overcome when I climbed (okay, okay, took the ascensor!) to the top of the Colon tower (OUCH!) and took more photos of the city. Which I would immediately upload were I to find osmeone in an ostentatious 'sleazy' orange top (to go with the 'easyinternet' and 'easyjet' combination...) to find out how to do it. There are signs on the wall saying it's possible. that's just cruel.

So...

Prior to travelling within the EU, I'd never been able to sleep unaided on aeroplanes. I think it's an altitude thing. SInce I've been over here, I've been on many flights that have a, sort of, mountain shaped flight profile. YOu're up, they throw something at you (or, more often, race a cart down the aisle asking you to pay extortionate prices for dried sandwiches and luke-warm cups of tea) and then the cart's stowed, the tray tables are up, lights are down and so are we. It's quicker than the Wellington-Porirua!!!

That said, both Nis and I fell asleep on the trip from Gatwick to Barcelona - which is short in anyone's judgement.

And it's amazing how reliant I've become on ANna's instructions (Which are similar to my 'get into Prague without passing GO or collecting 200Kc' instructions) because we found ourselves on a train heading for the city, which appeared to carry on INTO the city, but actually returned to the airport. Just as well we'd paid little attention to the landscape outside the train windows then. We did much better on our (second) return trip...

Travelling with a pack was something I was quite nervous about. Namely because I hadn't really done it before. My previous experience of packs was using Johns *spit*, which meant that it was a suitcase with straps, more than a proper camping-I-could-go-anywhere-and-cook-me-some-eggs (b*tch) pack like the one I bought a while ago. It's like travelling with a small child.

ALthough I'm sure I'd be slung in jail for my behaviour to the small child, were I to (mis)treat it similarly to the pack.

I do, however, feel completely fraudulent. My pack has the ability (and clips/straps etc) to cope with a 'water system'). As far as I know, these come in the form of 'taps' (or, most confusingly, faucets) and I'm not quite sure what my pack's 7 'tabs' mean. I think there are instructions how to build a cairn and to read compasses (and topographical maps) and make a help signal to an aircraft under the lid of my pack. ALl this, and I'm staying in a cushy hostel (complete with hostel cat) in the heart of the 'concrete jungle'. I don't even have 'guy ropes' attached to my pack. *sob*

Katkomakova: Spanish men do the Czech woman stare. Freaky weird. Am countering with my own. So far, I've only had one indecent proposition. And quite frankly...

...oops.

My supermonsters are now reading this. That's why some previous entries from my missions have been somewhat, um, altered.

What I want to know is, where the hell did this persecution complex appear from (DAD!?). Why can a non-confrontational, totally reasonable conversation put me on knife edge (for most of the day, until the sangria hits at least!). Is it because the topic of the conversation was my blog, and that I spend so much time trying to make sure that I'm happy with what I write on here (knowing damned well it'll be read by all and sundry)? Is it because I believe I've been relatively careful and don't like the idea that someone doesn't recognise teh care I've attempted? Or am I feeling the guilt (catholic - of course) of someone who's let her editing standards slip of late?

Regardless. Several blog entries have been brought to my attnetion as possibly dangerous to my program and all who sail in good ship EPIET, so I've taken them down.

Many of you probably recall my views on censorship, but, honestly, if I bite the hand that feeds me (literally...I'd certainly lose a lot of weight if I weren't being paid by other than my institute! remember that part-time-administrative-assistant thing!?) then who shall employ such a big-mouth in the future? Much as I'd love for TIME/NEWSWEEK etc (hell, who am I kidding, Cosmo/Marie Claire would probably be the height of my writing career?!) to come a-knocking, they're hardly door-beating-down to retain my services are they?

So, *sigh*, you, my dearly beloved, will have to forego the (occasionally) pithy comments made in response to my situations (regarding work - at any rate. I'll still continue to have moments of weirdness I feel compelled to share with y'all) - you're gonna have to wait until my memoirs are published. By which time, all incidents and people to whom they may inadvertantly refer in a manner as which to identify, will no doubt be long gone.

Meanwhile: I've decided that while I like Dali, I don't like Gaudi. It's too colourful - such that I can handle the weirdness of sculpture. I can handle weirdness in painting. But when the two collide, and a sculpture looks like a painting, I feel vaguely nauseous. Like there's too much going on.

More as and when we hit somewhere else (or something amazing: other than me being on the phone for more minutes than I've actually spoken to Nine today, happens). She aint' happy. And I don't know why, which means I don't know if it's my fault or if I'm doing something wrong, or if I'm being daft and self-centered by thinking that I have ANYTHING to do with it.
posted by Nomes @ Wednesday, April 26, 2006   3 comments
Okay, I wimped out...
Friday, 21 April 2006
...because I have too much to do. I decided to have my computer changed over while I'm away. This gives them plenty of time to screw it up royally to an unrecognisable hunk'a'junk.

Apparently this might work. Remember last week I mentioned I went out to a dirty herna bar with the source of my putative downfall: Kat? And I said something about haivng video'd a Czech folk scene?



There's another one too..but I'll eke them out. I clearly need to work on taking video ONLY when there is sufficient light available. However, I really like it. It means I've another option for chewing through the 1Gb card I'm hoping Lira manages to pick up in Changi airport on her way through. I should've gotten all her flight details - then Nis and I could track her travel...

...have checked what sockets they use in Morocco (same as here - so everything should work) and what the weather will be like when I arrive in London on Saturday night at midnight (not raining...raincoat easily accessible regardless). My pack has all clothes in it, no toiletries or electronics yet. Which I'm hoping will add some weight to the thing - because as it is at present, i've carried heavier shopping bags. Remind me of this statement in a week when I'm complaining...

I've also just found a seller of NZ/Australian wines in the CR. Sure, they're pricey - but so much better than the local stuff. And yes, french wines are from hereabouts, as are italian wines, but since I've started drinking beer (EEEK!) my tastebuds are soooo confused. It'd be nice and reassuring to take along a barossa valley shiraz or a marlborough sauvingon knowing that people weren't going to look at the bottle and go 'WTP'.

Right folks. This'll be the last entry for a while (the real last entry!) since I'll be 'en route'. Am REALLY excited by the holiday, and am looking forward to the myriad of things that are bound to go wrong. Am kinda hoping they do - since that's what provides me with material...and you (hopefully) with the giggles. But not too wrong (no poison/jails/drugs/kidnappings etc. Unless they happen to 'a friend'...). And so, message to the universe complete, ciao, čau, bye, tarrah, arrivaderci, a bientot, choos, hasta luega, na scle...
posted by Nomes @ Friday, April 21, 2006   5 comments
Didn't I almost have it all...?
Thursday, 20 April 2006
Tomorrow, I may have a computer who's operating system is in English.

On the other hand, I may have lost EVERYTHING I OWN on the computer. Which would explain why I spent 5 hours of today backing things up. ARGH!

If the latter event occurs without the former, then the next time I write may well be from somewhere in Spain (yes, that's how I feel too).

Meanwhile, I've gotta figure out how to get video on this puppy...someone else has it on their blog, and I've got a great one I took last week to share with yas.

This anecdote is sponsored by Kat:

Where else, other than the Czech Republic, would you see a good friend of yours, demonstrating to someone she's seeing for reasons that COULD include 'free english lessons' what the english word 'spanking' means in a bar filled with expatriates.

If pictures are worth 1000 words, then that little image has to be worth a few more. Shame I didn't get THAT on camera.

If Nis or Nine checks this out before they see each other (or me) then AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

That's one damned excited banshee!
posted by Nomes @ Thursday, April 20, 2006   1 comments
Now, IF someone should want to happen to get in touch with me...
Wednesday, 19 April 2006
...then how on earth will they find me? Google perhaps?

Well, I tell you, that Naomi Klein has been very busy. She turns up on all 'Naomi, Prague' pages. Cow.

So here's a few words - and this entry's gonna be listed:

Naomi
Epidemiology
Diseases
Avian Influenza (eek)
H5N1
Czech Republic
Prague
Scientist
Research
New Zealand

I think that's as much as one can tell anyone in a few short hours. *sigh* I'm ridiculous.
posted by Nomes @ Wednesday, April 19, 2006   0 comments
Vesele Velikonoce: the most hedonistic weekend in the Christian Calendar
Tuesday, 18 April 2006
Once upon a time, the good people in the Czech Republic heard about the idea of a ‘good Friday’ holiday. Being the democracy that they are, they decided (unilaterally) to have a referendum on whether or not people should have a svatek to ‘celebrate’ the crucifixion of Christ. There was much mulling of it. Perhaps it was overmulledova, because they decided against. WTP!??!?!

Consequently, though the office emptied out at about 3pm, save for a few workers who started in on the wine, we had to work on Friday. This, and activities like this, are possibly the reason why Eurostat published results indicating that the people in the Czech Republic work the longest hours in Europe. Great. Still – since some of those hours (including the 9am one – this morning) are taken up by congregating to imbibe wine, who am I to deny a populace their opportunity to ‘work’?

Although the plan was to meet Mark after work on Good Friday – we each suffered a series of misfortunate events which culminated in an excellent night/day out. Hang on a moment…I had to think pictorially to keep things in track…

M bumped from Czech Airlines. Wins €250. Passes Go several times on revolutions around Healthrow.
N meanwhile, used her time wisely to purchase pack from Hudy Sport – where most shopkeepers speak English, but N found the one who had honed his ‘stare at strange person as though she’s a three-headed alien’ to perfection. Having said, ‘I need help’ and ‘do you speak English’ in, what Marketa assured me was, passable Czech, I followed with ‘do you speak Czech?’ allowing some incredulity to enter my tone before ending our ‘exchange’ with a muttered ‘what the prague’ and ‘never f-ing mind’. Grrr. Marketa ALSO assures me that this is more of an attitude barrier than a language barrier. I actually think it has to do with an ‘animation’ barrier frankly. I ALMOST tapped him on the shoulder to see if he resonated like a mannequin – but he blinked, so I refrained. Grr. Still, a few 15min ‘hikes’ around the shop (with pack containing coils of rope…) I decided upon this one which is the only one on the website without a photo. Don’t worry…there’ll BE photos from our trip.
N then bought underwear (we love M&S).
N met Marketa for a mojito (or three) in Bodegitas. Mojitos were drunk. N was drunk.
Eventually, showered and changed and slightly less drunk N went to meet M at his hotel to go onwards to a dance party.
Amusingly, M had been bumped from hotel too.
Finally arrived at dance party – well after midnight, which is when N’s SMS ticket mysteriously expired without her knowledge (you’d think they could program an event into the phone calendar from afar, wouldn’t you!?). Thus, entrance was denied.
Fortunately, M&N had stumbled across Jay and Heinz (who’d ALSO been in Bodegita’s earlier – just well before N got there!) and they went BACK to Bodegita’s for more mojitos (since that had been the most successful part of the evening to date!).
Bodegita’s closed. M&N moved to Bombay – a ‘hip’ (?) tourist/expat venue (with the occasional female Czech accoutrement, of course) where we did both stumble across a kiwi and Australian on the dance floor. Having instantly insinuated themselves into the tourist circle, N forced M to try Becherovka (verdict, ‘dear God’ – the first of the prayers of the weekend) and they danced like stupid people for hours until the sun eventually came up. Nomes was turned upside down outside the club by some strange people, and now wonders how on earth the hot hot hot hot (tall, blonde etc) Danish Jakub (sailed around the world, own business, not too shabby for a 28yrold) is EVER going to know that she liked him quite a lot after they spent limited time together and she didn’t pass on her e-mail address, blog OR phone number (yet the Moroccan diplomat gets it? Where’s the justice?!?!!).

Those of you who know me well (or read this enough) know that my laundry (or lack thereof) is a source of permanent concern to me. Namely, I worried how I was going to get through another four days of social events before hitting London AND have time to get self and clothes to Laundromat. When a double glazed, reframed and perfectly fitted window of opportunity provided itself, I finally decided to get ‘dva kompletni sluzba, prosim’, otherwise I was literally going to arrive at Nis’ house with a pack full of dirty clothes. ARGH! The woman corrected me ‘dvakrat’ (oh, of course, silly me!) but tonight, I return to Laundromat to collect two loads of freshly laundered, half dried and folded clothes. YAY! Expensive, but I’m ‘l’oreal’ing this one.

I’m not sure what the rules are for brunch parameters, but we finally sat down to our English and Tulip (I win!) breakfasts at 4pm. Welcome to Prague.

The vague plan of ‘walking and seeing’ extended as far altitudinally to Petryn Hill, whereupon I put forth the bright idea of going ‘this way’ which led us past some panelak looking things (old soviet-style buildings for cheap accommodation), some student accommodation (never the most scenic at the best of times) and a hospital. Way to go, Nomes. Having doubled back, we wandered through the rose garden, took gratuitous shots of the city (‘now as a backdrop’, ‘now through a different setting’) before grabbing strawberries and heading back to my place where I could ostensibly get ready for dinner. This took me approximately 5mins to decide what I was wearing, and 3 hours of gossip while I ate strawberries, Terry’s chocolate orange (M is now my Chocolate mule…he also brought some crème eggs over) and dithered over shoe options.

Dinner at Slavia was, again, delicious – though apparently, the Tiramisu is not a sensible option if you’re going to be pouring alcohol down your throat. But the waitress there was indisputably lovely as well, and also corrected my Czech (‘kafe s AmaretEM’ – for those playing at home) which I have no objections to. She got a big tip, especially as she didn’t come over and ‘hurry’ us when they turned the lights down (down in a restaurant, up in a club) to indicate the end of the evening.

But not for us. Oh no. Not us ‘intrepid explorers of the underground world of Prague pubs’. Next, we hit Popo. Famed for something or another, it’s a chain around Prague (apparently) which includes a ‘bar’. This bar, on Saturday, played what was undeniably the craziest mix of music I’ve heard in Prague to date. Rolling Stones (Paint it Black) followed by Russian peasant music (no song title I’m afraid!), Black Eyed Peas (Retarded), Pink (Party Started/Sweet Dreams mix), Nirvana, Prodigy…insane. We think we may have crashed a private function…

Having caught up with Australian EDS manager Jo, we headed for Zero - where the DJ’s were playing an EXCELLENT house set. M and another Australian boy both fancied a small Czech hairdresser (from Toni & Guy) so there ended up being a bit of a Tasman competition. Of course, since there were a few more kiwis and aussies in the bar – this meant we could all get quite competitive on the lads’ behalves. I’m not sure anyone else enjoyed it as much as I did…but if I could’ve gotten the TAB here…(I would have bet on her going home to her boyfriend…) which eventually – after leading us all onwards to Le Clan (where people make hoovering noises with their nostrils in the toilets that have horizontally placed mirrors behind the cisterns!) she did. I finally left at about 8:30am…

…had a few hours sleep…

…before allowing the alarm clock to seep through my strong-willed conscious resistance and get me out of bed – for more food (yep, food, booze and parties: I must be in Prague!) this time with Kat and her school mates (she runs a school…) for Easter lunch at Potrafina husa. It was DELICIOUS. And washed down with beers. After which we went to Wings (a dodgy themed bar) for more beer. And then the Crapolis (Acropolis) for, you guessed it, more beer. Finally headed home at about 10, after ranting about behaviour in NZ to Mark (most of you have already heard it – there’s no point in repeating) and explaining a little bit about why it didn’t even occur to me to make an effort being his friend (10 years ago) since he couldn’t just ‘accept’ the fact that Lira and I had ‘suffered’ a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT upbringing, and judged us as being snobby instead.

Qui, jeme?? Non. To je impossible. (That’s Frech, or Czench...)

Thankfully, an early night and a good sleep meant that we were able to make it to our Hilton meeting point the next day: to hire a car and drive to Karlovy Vary. Unfortunately, the accumulated sleep deprivation over the weekend caused me to forget my passport/drivers licence combo, consequently, poor Mark had to do all the driving. His cousin and cousin’s girlfriend (Dave and Anna) showed up too, and so the four of us went West (according to the song) and found ourselves in a spa town where Moser crystal, Becherovka and ‘spa water’ are manufactured. Let’s just say that the Moser is better put to use for Becherovka drinking purposes than for that of the water (apparently cures ‘metabolic disorders’ – including, I believe, the will to live). The water tasted awful. Salty. Sulphury. Fizzy. Warm.

WTKV!? (doesn’t quite work as well does it?)

Still, we had a great meal (venison for me – delish) and went up the funicular (I do love this – am trying to do a funicular tour of Europe…) to overlook a ‘sea of trees’, which Dave reminded me is referred to as a ‘forest’. *sigh* Kiwi literalist.

Took M to the airport (after going through MANY more motorway interchanges than strictly necessary for the trip) and then helped people catch a bus into town. This resulted in us running for, not one, but TWO of the same bus. Thankfully – they come past every 10 mins. Karma owes me (I hope – perhaps it was the other way around). But I took them to eat my favourite tomato soup (just up the road from me) and we also had pizza. Kat came along again – and uplifted some LemSip (how can a country get through winter without it?) from me – having generously delivered me her cold the day before. Thankfully – managed to get to bed by 12 again. Hoorah…on the road to ‘normality’ after a crazy Friday/Saturday.

All in all, I’m not feeling particularly reborn. But for whatever I gave up in Lent – I made up for at Easter.
posted by Nomes @ Tuesday, April 18, 2006   1 comments
WTF?
Friday, 14 April 2006
Easter Traditions here

Have warned Mark that if he thinks he can get away with that sort of carry on, he'll get more than a 'glazed egg' in return. PAH!

Regardless, I recieved a care package from Mum. In it were the following:
Ferrero Rocher
A Cadbury easter egg thingy that claims itself 'only chocolate' (ha, i've heard that justification before now)
CREME EGGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
A million tablets of Panadeine (obviously for the chocolate-induced hangover)
A lily of the valley candle
A book by DRKoontz
2 Little Miss Books (Sunshine and Stubborn...hmm...what COULD she have been thinking?)
A newspaper article about a €310/night place in Morocco (which looked so nice I checked the prices before the panic attack)
A weekly magazine from her local paper
A jar of BOVRIL (hooray!!)
A pack of cotton wool balls (warning to all: do not save the squishiest present to be opened last. It is NOT a great jumper, nor a funky top. It is a bag of cotton wool balls, and your attempted enthusiasm will render you the recipient of a similar gift every year hereforthwith. I love it! When I start running out in March...I simply wait...)
A Vesele Velikonoce card and...
A music stand.

I was so touched, I cried (yes, I'm pathetic). Then I retouched my makeup and went to a tango lesson. I danced with a lovely gentleman (married) called Ivan. I was informed by Marek (male instructor) and Radka (female instructor) that I 'had to let the man lead'. Poor Ivan. But they also noticed that I already had a lot of skills needed...mostly the posture (essentially, me leaning on/over Ivan). By the end of the evening, we'd gotten the basic move and the ocho sorted out. I'm so impressed.

My life in Prague cannot be described as 'slow' or 'staid'. For those of you who like to keep my schedule close to your heart:
Friday: Collect Mark from his hotel. Drink with Marketa in town. Go back to mine (so I can change). Vibrations.
Saturday: Brunch at Tulip. Shop for a pack (he's sporty, he MUST know what I'll need) Dinner at Slavia with Mark & possibly cousins. Onwards to Popo, Bombay or somewhere else.
Sunday: Brunch at Radost. Do a walking thing (you know, like Prague-Walk-3 on Flickr). Maybe have Sunday Roast with some other english expats. (I hope so, it's been AGES since I've had a proper meal!).
Monday: Collect car. Drive to Cesky Krumlov. Alternative (if weather bad, timing poor etc) Karlovy Vary. Picnic (or something) along the way. Drop me off at home.
Tuesday: Dinner with an expat guy.
Wednesday: Rehearsal with Intunition
Thursday: Tango lesson. Recording Intunition.
Friday: Party. Performance for INtunition. Tango Show afterwards (not sure I'll go...)
Saturday: Fly to London. See NIS.
Sunday: SEE LIRA!!!!!!!!!!!
Monday: Head to Spain.

Hope the weather's better when I get there. It's raining here...and I've left my brolly at home...

The CR still refuses to admit that Massey University does not give degrees on the back of a Cornflakes box. They've turned down (don't recognise) my Bachelors and Masters (which were the initial degrees we sent them) and have said that I did not attend the correct courses to be considered to have the degrees. (not much point in sending the PhD then) Consequently, I'm still employed as a part-time-administrative assistant. Am going to have to be particularly beseeching when meeting the Director of the Institute on Tuesday to ask him to make an exception for me, and all those who follow me through the EPIET program in the CR.

I love this country. The smallest things are made impressively Herculean - getting change (coins) from a 100Kc note (20Kc coins) took me 10mins and three queues on Wednesday.

I have to take my suitcase back to the shop to get repaired, and I'm absolutely DREADING it. *sigh*
posted by Nomes @ Friday, April 14, 2006   1 comments
Exercise is supposed to be good for you: so why do I hurt all over?
Wednesday, 12 April 2006
I suppose it was to be expected, going to a 7:00am Abs-Glutes class (what the HELL was I thinking, shocking my body like that?). After five weeks of over-indulgence in white bread, pain au chocolat, vodka, cheese (and butter), vodka, vino tinto, potato tortillas (mmmm) and great big rolls for breakfast, my body has gone all soft and squidgy again.

So, in my effort to appear limber and lithe (and other ‘l’ words like ‘little’ and ‘lissome’) for the next trip to Spain in a few weeks (okay, I’d just like to not be afraid of people’s reactions when I bare bits of myself to the sun for a tan…that’s all!), I thought I’d make a REAL effort to go to the gym every day – or at least to do SOMETHING active every day.

Yesterday was walking half of the city looking for the correct building to view a flat (to which the agent didn’t have keys…way to go!) and then walking at a slightly quicker pace to avoid being told by the scary Moroccan diplomat about how much he wanted me (er…go away now please!) and how he couldn’t understand what happened to his wife after the birth of their second child, but his attempts to have sex with her each night…etc (I turned off, I can’t recount the rest of a story I refused to hear!). It was pretty energetic anyway.

But today, I know that I’m looking at another flat later on in the evening – before going to my rehearsal. Conseqently, I could either exercise at lunchtime (no good classes) or at 7:00am (one good SOUNDING class).

So I set my alarm for god knows when, got up, stumbled around putting on the preprepared outfit I’d chosen the night before (lest I end up at the gym sans clean knickers, or with the incorrect shoes etc) and proceeded to stretch. Then the instructor arrived, donned his headgear (microphone pack) and told us to ‘get up off the floor you lazy critters’. Or something in Czech to that effect at any rate.

And we were off. They call the ‘grapevine’ the ‘three step’ here. And most of the words for aerobics (I thought I was going to be doing an hour of crunches that require no coordination…but alas…) are the same as in English – or at least the instructions don’t seem to require much translation.

Of course, I was in absolute fits of giggles, not at my own crazy ineptitude (grace is NOT with me first thing in the morning – neither is skill nor that word which means awareness of the extents of your own limbs), but because the instructor kept saying things like ‘L-step’ as though he was in a Weeble & Bob cartoon. I seriously couldn’t stop laughing every time he said it, which was every 32 counts for the first 10 minutes of class.

How embarrassing.

Tonight, I’m off to visit (yet another) flat which is quite far out of town and would be living by myself (with the occasional visit from the owner when the returns from London). Could be nice. On the other hand, I seem to have found myself an unlikely crew of people who may be interested in living in a large flat. The ad I wrote (describing the house in Wellington, essentially) also brought in one person who HAS such a flat that will be empty at the end of June. Could all my dreams and wishes really come true? Meanwhile: I’ve got RESPECT to practice, groceries (no green things) to buy and about a dozen documents to read through and check for accuracy/editing requirements for publications. Life is gooooooooood. (or am I just the victim of an early morning endorphin overload!?).
posted by Nomes @ Wednesday, April 12, 2006   1 comments
If I can’t make it back to Buenos Aires, then Madrid will suffice.
Tuesday, 11 April 2006
The city sleeps until 9ish, then slowly wakes as the sun warms it’s heart. The buildings take on a surreal bright white glow as the sun fluoresces, unabated by fripperies such as clouds etc. Inhabitants wake equally slowly, and gaze dozily from their terraces (balconies) as they sip their tea, before showering and stumbling their way to the local bakery to dine upon hot chocolate and churros (or, even better, torrijas in milk with café con leche – YUM). They might prevail upon themselves to turn up to work at about 10, before they sit down to a three course lunch at about 2pm. That lasts easily until 3pm, when they rearrange themselves into their offices before going home at 6pm.

They might take a short nap, or go to yoga, or shop for some more clothes that show off their bronzed toned skin. But at 9, they meet in Plaza’s on more terraces (this time, the word refers to the ‘sidewalk’ bit of ‘sidewalk café’s’) and drink a glass of vino tinto while nibbling on baked tapas. Eventually, at about 11.30, they start warming to the night (as the temperature drops to a more elegant 10oC) and they head into the salsa bars. A mojito or two may be consumed (but equally as likely, not) and then they’re off, wiggling hips, spinning, downright GROOVING with as many people as they can get their hands on. Finally, at about 4am, the bars start emptying, and people mill on the streets, bidding their friends farewell until next time.

What could stop me from moving there (except that whole Epiet thing, coupled with a job shortage in professions like mine)?

Well, after a big night out dancing on silly shoes, I like to get home as promptly as I can, with as little ‘walking’ as possible. However, hailing a cab at 5:30am on a Saturday in central Madrid is, as I now know, simply impossible.

So, Paulo walked Lisanne and I home. Paulo being the Brazilian student I met at El Son . Paulo, who spoke very little English, and I danced for HOURS…he was soooo good that subtle pressure on my hand would indicate to me exactly where I was supposed to go, for how long, and where my next step should be. MARVELLOUS! This was stunningly SIMPLE after dancing tango (at Palacio Gaviria) with our lecturer a few nights before – which requires acute awareness of every inch of your body so that you can follow their clear (to them – but not necessarily to you) lead.

So he walked us mostly home very, very, very slowly. And I WOULD have done what Lira and I used to do on many occasions (no, not THAT!) and walked without shoes, EXCEPT, the street-cleaners were out in force, and everything was soaking wet.

Finally, the metro’s rumbled up again, so down we went. And Paulo, who now goes down in the annals (that’s DOUBLE N thankyou) of my memoirs as a hero) CARRIED me down the STEPS into the metro station, then removed my shoes and rubbed my feet.

So here I am, in Madrid, having spent the week filling my brain with logistic regression concepts, knackered, with a paggered knee from spending too many hours on 4” heels dancing tango, salsa, merenque, cha cha cha and goodness knows what else, with a caricature of myself drawn on a napkin in my pocket (the lovely Alfredo – an artist celebrating his first feature length cartoon film!), the phone number of an British security guy in another pocket, being carried down the stairs into the metro station and having my feet rubbed by a Brazilian student with whom I can’t communicate effectively.

It was awful! *grin*

Shopping in Madrid, however, WAS awful (still managed to find something – that’s just an indication of how good a shopper I am!). Spanish women are petite to the point of disappearing, and I’m, well, not. They have hips – but only because they work out. Mine are the fault of my genetic code, and my lack of desire to work out. Crazily, this seems to appeal to small-statured Spanish men in bars – but not to suppliers of clothes in shops – damnit (I know which I’d prefer).

Apparently, this is a well known fact (?!) and means that I should be more sensible when I travel around Europe. For instance, when my jeans finally give way on the inner thigh (as they’ve all done now), I should make sure I get invited to Copenhagen, where Esprit will be more expensive than elsewhere, perhaps, but will at least stock jeans that will fit my width and height. I should also purchase shoes from Scandinavia (does this means I’ll be reduced to wearing Birkenstocks on a night out?) as they’ll also have my size there. And apparently, no one should try to shop in London – everyone agrees the prices are too steep. So…that being said, the idea of finding anything other than shoes and lipsticks in Spain is highly unlikely, for those of my stature.

So, imagine my surprise when a t-shirt that Lisanne tried on fit her (albeit snugly) and prompted the shop assistant to offer to ‘pop out back’ where they had ‘other sizes’!!! This, understandably, prompted a bit of a ‘green mist’ in front of mine and Lisanne’s eyes, and while Luise continued with her dresses, we tried on tops in various shades of turquoise – both finding something we liked and would wear that night.

Lisanne’s place in Madrid is LOVELY. Sure, she pays through the nose for it (in comparison to Czech prices) but her salary is a few nostrils ahead of mine too (keeping with the same metaphor – apologies). It’s light, airy, has a HUGE bedroom, charming kitchen with a hatch window onto the open plan lounge and dining room and – get this – a BATH. Not to mention the roof terrace. I’m insanely jealous – without any of the negative direction that jealousy is supposed to contain – but it’s definitely prompted me to further my search in Czech for a place in which I can be nearly as happy as I felt when I walked into her house.

I didn’t so much ‘leave’ Madrid as tripped and fell out of the city/country. Literally. I’d planned my route to the airport very carefully – taking complete advantage of metro stations designed for those with wheelchairs (advice in case you’ve got a trolley suitcase that weighs ~30kg) only to find that half of the ascensors were ‘closed for service’. *sigh* So that left the plain old boring escalators and where they weren’t available: stairs (good lord). After all this traipsing (the disadvantage of Epiets living in the centre of town…there’re few airports in the immediate vicinity, at least, not until we each have helipads...), my ankles obviously felt weakened. At least, that’s my excuse for being able to stumble and twist the left one at the top of one set of stairs. A quick cringe against a vending machine (it was selling chewing gum – for the trivia collectors) and I gingerly set about on my way again.

I thought I was doing pretty well to make it to the airport, and to walk the 3.5kms to the correct terminal (this ain’t Wellington, Toto) and find my check in counter. This being for Smartwings, a previously unheard of airline (these startups occur on almost a daily basis), I was expecting to be in a hangar somewhere on the airfield, chatting to Pedro who’d been flying cropdusters for the last 50years and was completely deaf due to lack of ear protection. I was almost disappointed it was a normal counter. A bashful, grateful smile and my bag was on the conveyor belt with no embarrassing rearrangement of belongings (‘so what if I own three kilos of underwear? Your point is?’) and I was racing back down the length of the check in area to the departure gate (A).

Twenty minutes later, and my body was being scanned by the handheld coathanger that they use. I then had a lovely Spanish senorita run her fingertips over my underwires, down the middle of my belly, taking into account my piercing. She gently circumnavigated my waist feeling for all the rivets on my jeans, before slipping her hands down my thighs to feel for coins in my pockets. She then crouched in front of me and ran her hands up both my calves feeling for my boot zips. It was the most erotic thing that’s ever happened to me in an airport – and I’m sure she didn’t mean for it to be, it was just her ‘way’. Thank goodness I don’t have her job – I get into plenty of trouble as it is!

So, having become even MORE heated from my ‘search’ than I had previously been from my trek, I thought I’d chill out looking at all the perfumes on display. They were on a circular pedestal type thing. Which I noticed as I approached the pedestal, but failed to notice once I’d made the sensible decision to walk away. Ha to sensible. I ‘sprawled’ away, having taken a tumble down the side of the pedestal thing twisting my right ankle in the process. I somehow managed to do a very good impression of a dying swan (complete with head bowed, and arms extended etc) because I actually had offers of assistance this time (the last time, people just pointed and stared).

And so it is that Madrid will remain, forever in my mind, associated not only with shoes (as it is for some people) but with ankles and feet. Both preceded by the word ‘sore’.

Weather upon the approach to Prague was sufficiently bad for the captain to put on the seatbelt light. This didn’t stop me from ordering my €0.50 hot chocolate and helping the Spanish couple next to me get more milk for their coffees (told ya, the Czechs know nada about coffee) before we touched down. After the drowsy bus ride to the metro station (during which I organised to catch up with Karo that evening) the metro was completely full to bursting. The buzzer went and I was nowhere near the door. However, a swarthy looking gentleman to my right jammed himself in the door to allow the second of two childrens buggy’s on board, then helped me with my suitcase. He then had a conversation (in French – the entirety of which I managed to follow, due to it being no more complicated than ‘I live here, I work as this…etc’) with the buggy owners (oh, the parents then). After they’d gotten off (he was a violinist visiting for some orchestra) he struck up a conversation with me. Once he realised that while I could hear and understand French, my spoken abilities were, er, shall we say, hopeless? We swapped to English. Turns out he’s a Moroccan diplomat. How very convenient for me (I hope). Having agreed that we love the city, but aren’t so keen on the people: we exchanged numbers, and I’m meeting him at the horse (Vaclavske Namesti) tomorrow evening. I’m hoping that he’s got good connections back home, and that those connections would be interested in hosting three kiwi/aussies in a few weeks time. It’d be LOVELY to see the Moroccan culture from the inside – rather than JUST as a tourist. I’ll keep you posted.

Every time I leave the house and return after a period of being away, the house smells ‘green’. Not green as in lush and verdant, like a field after the rain. More green as in slimy and growing, like the bottom of the fridge of most student flats before they move out (having idealistically purchased vegetables at the market at the beginning of the semester). But for the life of me, I couldn’t think what the source could possibly be. Yesterday, it was so strong that I ended up doing the bloodhound thing around the house (which – being all of 25m2, meant that it was possible even for a human) and to my surprise, I found that I’d forgotten (clearly on several occasions) to check the bottom of the pantry. There was a veritable field of onions (that’d be the ‘growing’ smell then) and a sludge that reminded me of a potato patch (likely the source of the ‘slimy’ scent). I feel much better having identified the sources, and put them outside the room for disposal tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll bother much with groceries of their mien again – since the chance of me cooking in the next two weeks of residence hovers around 0.00000001 and by the time I return, I hope that I’ll be moving out VERY quickly.

The first day at work was as painful as anticipated, softened only by the presence of Andreas online (still got many documents to sort out), my resolve (as yet unweakened) to work harder and my new toy of a camera (Sony DSC-T7 – I can still shop with pain in my ankles) which I tried out with photos of my room yesterday. AND, while the rest of Europe is put into a spin of ‘was he crucified today or tomorrow?’ Easter disarray, the Czech republic remains devoutly agnostic – ‘celebrating’ the whole shebang on Monday instead of giving us a long weekend. Not to mention partaking in bizarre leg-slapping, cold-water-dowsing customs! So I have a five-day week to contend with – OUCH. Boss only gets back next week after convalescing following an operation (nothing serious) but I’m hoping he likes the Iberica jamon.

I went to visit Jim this afternoon. I know, I know, I’m trying to beat anyone else’s record at ‘attempts to live a normal life’ as soon as I hit the ground. At Jim’s I walked/jogged/ran for 50mins (mostly the former, very very little of the latter) and then undertook a power yoga class. This meant that I returned from Jim’s, in the ‘almost snow’ (!!!!!) in a state of endorphin overload bliss. In such a state I finally deduced that I could test my own landline by calling it from my mobile phone. Of course, the bit that I needed to test wasn’t only the fact that it’d ring – but the clarity of the line. Which meant that I sat on my bed, talking into my mobile, hearing myself in the receiver. Odd doesn’t begin to describe it. But then Andreas called and made it all worthwhile – the line was clear as a bell. YAY! (and HooRAY into the equation too!)

Mark arrives on Friday – staying until Monday, so my Easter weekend will be nicely filled. We’re hiring a car and going off exploring somewhere (somewhere nearby because he’s booked a room at a hotel and there’s no point in wasting it). I’m quite looking forward to getting a little further afield than Prague – despite not truly having seen all that the city itself has to offer. I’m a little hungry for a green field – maybe a tree or two (but don’t tell anyone –they’ll think I’m getting pastoral in my old age). And since strawberries are in season in Europe – I’m planning crusty bread, ham, cheese and fruit for a picnic. We’ll have to forego a bottle of wine (the Czech wine’s miserable, I’ve decided, worthy only of the hangover it causes) for some Gambrinus. Not quite sure what came over me in Azerbaijan (necessity, methinks) but since the wine there was hopeless too (not in the same way, it was like sugar water), Andreas and I both started drinking the local beer (Xirdalan). I’ve since branched out and tried a bottle of Pilsner (how very supportive of the local industry) and am disappointed to say I preferred the Xirdalan (funnily enough, never seen before in the CR!). So I’m going to embark on a ‘taste it and see’ trip through the Czech Republic, not in bad time either since the weather’s supposed to get nice which will mean long summer bbq’s and evening spent in garden bars.

If it’ll ever stop snowing.
posted by Nomes @ Tuesday, April 11, 2006   3 comments

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