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!)
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  
  • At 8:35 pm, April 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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  • At 10:01 am, April 12, 2006, Blogger Mums said…

    Hi GNomes,
    serves you right for extolling the virtues of snowflakes - now you know they don't comes as singletons. That's why I like the warmth.
    Glad you had a good trip and "trips" in Madrid. You certainly were in need of the change. Haven't you got some lovely friends, all those supportive remarks to your last gabfest.
    Glad too that you've got a clear line now, and we'll be able to chat, without you having to suffer the white noise headache (not letting you our=t of getting the "Mother" headache!!)
    I'll give you a ring when we get back to Gladstone (or Gladdie as they call it - you have my permissin to shoot me if I ever call it that - there again, maybe not... when in Rome etc). Delighted to say that the Paj has come through unscathed, and with its new tyres, and is once more on the orad. However the plate change from MOGBOF (miserable ol' git, boring ol' fart - what Rowland christened Ron one drunken night when he was 17, Rowls that is, for those of you not in the know) to 184 JDO is a bit of a downer. At least it adds up to 13, lucky number, but I don't know what to make from JDO, though I'm sure there will be some obscure Aboriginal word I can use.
    Well got to go have a spa then it's off to Jade Buddha, the Oz branch of the Paris Buddha Bar, for dinner. Speak soon, and enjoy opening your care box.
    Love you heaps,

  • At 2:33 am, April 13, 2006, Anonymous David said…

    JDO: Jewish Defense Organization - "Death to NAZI SCUM!!"

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