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!)
I couldn't help it...
Tuesday, 30 May 2006
...despite Andreas being first author (I was away so he did wrote this article, so definitely deserved it), here's what my time in Azerbaijan boiled down to.

In other news, there are MORE photos from the holiday up on Flickr now. Finally got to the bit where we crossed the Straits of Gibraltar, so it's downhill from here.

Further headlines: I've moved. I'm now living in a 3+kk (can't quite figure out housing definitions here) with the lovely Adam. It's Seifertova 13 (for the fact finders). We’re missing a: landline, fridge/freezer, microwave and oven. But it’s lovely and the bedrooms are big (in my case, HUGE in Adam’s).

Kat and I are now official Herna Bar Angels *fanfare-or is that choir*. In the building next to mine is a Herna Bar. These are dingy, often redolent of years of neglect and according to local lore, some are mere fronts for money laundering in the Czech Republic. Mine, in particular, has it’s ‘jackpot’ LED stuck on 10,000Kc…so who knows. Mostly, we don't ask questions! They are good sources of cheap beer. So, Kat and I 'tried my Herna bar' out (just a maly pivo. Mm-hmm). The regulars both propped up the bar, and were sunken into deep leather couches. The younger ones appeared to be intoxicated by a number of things ("is that a neurological problem, or is he on Class A's?"), the middle aged were stroking the faces of their toy boys (it's Prague, okay? Everyone is gay!), and the elderly were…were…nowhere to be seen.

There we were, sitting on outdoor furniture (inside), minding our own business (avidly, yet completely inconspicuously, eyeing the guy in the beige suit and the young 14yr old on the mobile phone...we couldn't decide who was pimping or procuring for whom) when in stumbles 'drunk guy'. Drunk guy pulled himself up a bar stool and attempted to drink the beer of one of the regulars. Kat and I raised eyebrows and thanked the heavens that we weren't that inebriated (yet). Then, drunk guy heard us talking English and decided that we looked as though we needed his calm (almost dead), masculine presence at our table.

Enter Kat and Nomes' Herna Bar Angels accents (slow, clear and well-enunciated) and attitudes (backs straight, shoulder down, downwards tilt to head conveying empathy and understanding).
Drunk guy: Heeeegh.
Kat: Good evening. How long have you been in Prague?
DG: [uncomprehending gaze]
K: Are you here on a stag party?
DG: Yeash.
K: Where are your mates?
DG: I looowst 'emmmm. [pulls out phone and has no coordination with which to dial anyone's number. Phone is a Sony (like mine)]
K: do you know where you're staying in Prague?
DG: Nooooo.
Nomes: Give me your phone. Who are you here with?
DG: Neeem.
N: Neem. [scans phone numbers recently called] Do you mean Liam?
DG: yeeeesh.
K: How long are you in Prague for?
DG: Weekenddd.
N (on phone): Liam, hi. I'm Naomi, and I have your friend.
Liam: Jase?
N: is your name Jase?
DG - now Jase: [single heavy headed nod]
N: Yep, that's the one. Whereabouts are you staying?
L: We can come to you actually, where are you now?
N: Er, no, you don't wanna be doing that. We're miles out in the suburbs (the locals and most expats become understandably disgruntled by the shambling appearance of english male 20something tourists coming here, binge drinking then throwing up inappropriately. Can't understand why, can you?)...what we're gonna do is put him in a taxi on his way back to the hostel. Which hostel are you all staying at?
L: It's called the Old Prague Hostel (warning bells for all other visitors), opposite the police station.
N: [knowing there are police stations for every suburb] Do you know the address? Is it in the old town?
L: I think so, but I don't know the address.
N: Right. He's got his phone and his money at the moment, just so that you know.
L: Cool, thanks. Are you sure we shouldn't just come join you?
N: Oh no, I don't think you should join us. Nice to talk to you. Have a good weekend.


Following a brief tussle where Jase refused to hand over his 2000Kc note for change (you can't give a taxi driver a note that big!) during which Kat played 'bad angel' to persuade him, a few shared eyebrow raises with the regulars then Kat stepped outside with our Jase. The regulars almost turned as one and looked at me, eyes wide with astonishment. One piped up (in English), "She's not going home with him is she?" incredulity clear in every vowel sound.

“Hell no!" She later returned, having informed the (apparently understanding and amused) taxi driver (whose attitude would alter if Jase threw up en route) as to the possible areas where he may temporarily reside. The regulars threw friendly glances, and Nomes and Kat downed their drinks, ready to go to the next bar, to continue ridding the surburbs of English lager/stag party louts.

Herna bar angels indeed.

Adam was away teaching all weekend while Craig helped me move. I only obtained ONE injury from the flatpack furniture purchased (2 of these and one of these: future plans involve beds...) where I hammered my thumb. Serves me right for doing this at 3am AFTER playing Angels (with no dinner, I hasten to add).

Saturday saw me at Reykjavik for lunch with Craig (delish! Highly recommended!) and then moving the bulk of my belongings. Although I went out later and saw Jamie Marshall play at Cowboys, I was home (old house) by 12:30, having packed the remainder of my gear!

A quick chat with Mum on Sunday morning and then Craig arrived again to help me with the rest of the stuff. Only 30mins later (I can't believe how little time it takes with a car!) and all the 'stuff' was at the new house. I unpacked everything, put things roughly into place, changed and was off out the door:

To the races!

Now, the races aren't something I completely understand in English, let alone a foreign language. But Mollie, Kat and I were determined to make the most of the tickets Mollie's student had procured for us, and by golly we did. Her student (circa 45-50yrs) works for the race sponsors, consequently, once we found him: we went up into the corporate box. And damned if we hadn't eaten lunch before heading out to Radotin, because there was a lot of food and alcohol we could have availed ourselves with had we been remotely hungry. As it was, we learnt how to place bets...

I even won 50Kc. :)

Adam called: "You've made it into a HOME!" he exuberated (is that a verb?) down the phone. I neglected to inform him that due to my not having a wardrobe and him having an EMPTY wardrobe, he now had a full collection of womans clothing in his room. Besides, he's skinny, what good would it do to tempt him? So apparently, even though I moved things around a lot, it was okay.

Intunition gave a performance on Sunday night to a PACKED (underground) bar (I was really impressed that a motley collection of friends, students, work colleagues etc. filled the ENTIRE bar) and it was mostly well received. Someone whose ear I respect mentioned a few things that we need to improve upon.

And why is it, that if you plant a pole in the ground on a stage, a girl will feel compelled to swing from it? *sigh* (photos are coming, be patient my pretties)

Out afterwards to some underground (they all are, really!) bar somewhere in Malastrana to see a band play. They were good. Loud but good. And then home. Not before stuffing face with Smazeny Syr (it's so bad, it's good: think deep fried cheese with tartare sauce...yummy!) and spraining ankle - the worst sprain yet despite anaesthetic alcohol consumption.
posted by Nomes @ Tuesday, May 30, 2006   3 comments
Short, brief and not particularly snappy. Enthralled yet?
Friday, 26 May 2006
Hastily scribbled message because a)I've been working *gasp* and b) I'm about to go home and start the big shift into the new house!

Yes folks, Adam (previously mentioned sneakily) is actually my flatmate-to-be. The flat is reasonably small, though both our bedrooms are large, and the bathroom is on the generous side too. The toilet is separate and far from the kitchen!

I have to furnish my own room, which is not a problem (I was hoping I'd get to) so I'm off to Ikea with Kat this evening. This month, I'll be sleeping on the futon, but I'm purchasing bedside tables and drawers tonight (there will be a hanging rail in the alcove created by covering the door that runs between the two rooms: wardrobe) and a duvet. That shoudl take care of all of my disposable income this month. Next month: a bed (frame, slats, mattress).

I'm so excited. There are already shelves in the room, so I'll have somewhere to put all my books. And, someone to talk to (i.e. open a bottle of wine with) in the evening! Hooray!

On another high point: Intunition are performing this weekend. I've been awfully slack and haven't sorted out the webpage, but since receiving a piece of software from Rowls, I'm hoping to get around to it soon.

Hesky vikend all.
posted by Nomes @ Friday, May 26, 2006   3 comments
Kul-cha
Tuesday, 23 May 2006
I know, I know. I’m slack. It’s that age-old conundrum comparing LIVING a life or WRITING about wanting to live one.

I’m STILL going through the photograph collection from the holiday (and afterwards as well now!). I simply haven’t the patience to do more than about 100 in one go, since after that, I forget what it was I was supposed to edit out and ‘take the photo of’. So sorry.

Anyway, L was here in Prague for a few days. Hoorah! She managed to drag me out to the fountain for which I'm incredibly grateful. She took my extreme lethargy in her stride (I seriously nearly fell asleep at Dvorak café prior to the coffee, amaretto and water combination, and we wandered up to Vystaviště in a spell of weather punctuated with thunderbolts and lightning (insert your own Bohemian Rhapsody here).

Thursday night saw us having a night out with Adam and his mates at the Tulip. L was dutifully introduced to the wonder that is Slivovice (I believe her response was “bleargh”, but I could have the spelling wrong!) which were washed down with plenty of vodka/limetka/mattoni’s afterwards. Met David (tall, Canadian author), River (yes, really; I now know someone named geographically), Ben (the 'leader' of the politics group. ‘nuff said!) and Hans (Norwegian Ewan MacGregor lookalike).

This latter bloke gives me cause to believe that my gaydar doesn't just require a tap on the screen every once in a while (barometer style), but I should really find the instruction book, learn how to plug it in and possibly swap the current labels around! I felt so daft when Adam later informed me that there had been a point where Hans and he were, "not so much in a relationship but…you know"!!!

There goes another Scandinavian…*grin*

Miranda and Ian (my godparents, whom I hadn’t seen since the Fiji holiday in May 2004) were also in town (for a conference) so L and I caught up with them briefly (once we’d had our visages laser etched into crystal – of course – to create the ‘Sisterhood of the Travelling Cube’) and had dinner at Chicken in the Clock (literal translation). I wish I hadn’t ordered what I had (chicken in a clock – spatchcocked chicken in tasty herbs with chips) as it delayed our meal such that L had to dash off by herself to get onto the train. I won’t tell her story for her (since I won’t do it nearly so well) but suffice to say, she must know Hlavní Nádraži reasonably well by now!

Took M&I to U Stare Pani afterwards, and we watched the final set of a Bossanova crew doing their ‘thang’.

Now, the night trams (yes, it’s a tram story: buckle up people!) are interesting places, as I’ve mentioned once (or perhaps twice) before. As DPP (Prague Public Transport) seem to get the old trams out of hiding for service during the wee hours, the seating is often ‘one seat behind another down both sides, and a big aisle space’. That’s the kind of tram I caught on Friday night. I tend to sit on these things perpendicular to the correct seating position, with my back to the window and face to the aisle. This is fine until a Chippendale-wannabe gets on the tram.

Broad-shouldered, narrow-hipped, Mr C-Wannabe took a position DIRECTLY in front of me (though there were many other ‘aisle positions’ available) and thrust out his left hand to hang onto the pole. With his crotch now planted at my eye height, you would understand if I was smiling from amusement not borne of the book I was reading at the time (I practically had a bookmark!). He then zipped down his jacket, and stood: left hand on hip, right still clasping pole. It was all I could do not to whistle and clap. When he REMOVED his jacket, I stopped the pretense of reading. Thankfully, the Czech stare is beginning to grow on me, so I just gazed at him (that seemed to be the desired reaction, right?). Obviously, he had no idea how he appeared, as he began to look flustered (was I obviously salivating?) and quickly moved out of my way when I put my book in my bag to get off (so to speak). As the tram departed, I couldn’t help but flick my attention back to Mr C-W who was now in my seat. Perhaps THAT’S the way to get a seat on the night tram…

A stupefyingly delicious lunch at Kogo with M&I, who’d just been around half of Prague. Warning: wear your most comfortable walking shoes. These two both ended up wearing their feet down to their ankles in the few days they were here, while L managed to get blisters in three days where she hadn’t in three weeks. Prague cobblestones win thrice more. They’d managed to get me an extra ticket for the Magic Flute – where the queen’s ushers had bizarre 1980’s rock mullets – which was simply beautiful (despite being sung in German, supertitled in Czech, and requiring more concentration than I thought could possibly obtained from me in 2hrs 35mins!).

Then I popped around to Adam’s with vodka and bonaqua citron (the closest I could get to limetka/mattoni at 11pm on a Saturday night!), and he, myself, Mollie, Ben, David and River (yes, still really!) solved the worlds problems by 7:30am whereupon we took ourselves home.

Met M&I again for lunch, managed to keep my eyes open for a trip to the National Gallery where they were showing a million pieces of art (at least). We walked slowly around one floor, before realising that there was NO WAY we could possibly get through the whole thing: so raced around the ‘bits we think we want to see’ on some of the floors. This included the 19th Century artists (Cezanne, Rodin, Tolouse-Lautrec, Degas etc.) that we all know and love.

I’ve decided that I DO like Picasso, though ONLY his cubist stuff (who’da guessed it?). I liked it back when he was learning about cubism – sufficient to be reasonably regular in his approach. Consider the juxtaposition between bowl of fruit vs. guernica. If you will. I also realised (having wandered through many an exhibition and now considering myself a COMPLETE amateur (as opposed to a complete ignoramus) on ‘art’: that the French were totally obsessed with nudity.

(oh, and for those who are interested: due to visiting the Prado in Madrid, I’ve also discovered a taste for Murillo and Reubens – pictures to be posted later on today).

After I’d seen M&I off at the metro station, I hot-footed it across to Pivovarsky Dum where Kat was having dinner with visiting French friends of hers from Vietnam. She’s had her haircut’n’all, but I forgot to ask by whom. It’s a very good cut…and since I can’t get KMS hair play moulding paste here, I need one of them instead (preferably as well as, but beggars etc.).

So after a weekend of muchos culture, I’m knackered. Next weekend: Intunition perform at Tulip (YAY!) and there’s rumour of attending the races (big hats mandatory…now where can I get a broadsheet from!?).
posted by Nomes @ Tuesday, May 23, 2006   2 comments
This whole moving to Prague thing...
Wednesday, 17 May 2006
...has been hard. Is hard. Continues to be hard. Shall be hard forever more. However, it HAS seen an increase in mail sent direct from the Antipodes to the Czech Republic.

I just opened a package from a rather special girl in Wellington (one of the infamous altos, in fact) containing a face mask, the most realistic looking artificial rose I've ever seen and a handmade card with a handbag on it(top marks that girl).

How did you know I'd run out of mask?

And: the best part about the mask is the description. It's from glamourflage: the Mia Sublime facemask which says:

"Not the shy and retiring type is our Mia. Her devil-may-care attitude has a strange tendency to get herself into scrapes that her charms (which have nothing to do with perky boobs and everything to do with attitude) are hard-pushed to extricate her from. 'Still', she says 'she who doesn't take risks, never gets to drink champagne'. She stopped believing in Santa Claus when she was six - her mother took her to see him in a department store and he asked her for her autograph. Having matured since then and emerged relatively unscathed from dalliances with several likely suitors, Mia is not about to plunge head first into another - she's busy painting the town all shades of purple - a life fetter-free seems to be beckoning."


I LOVE IT! Thank you SOO much sugar. I hope your car was towed, your CV was polished and the interview went smoothly. If you want the job, I also hope you get it! :)

Love you madly. And miss those (also infamous) hugs.
Nomes
XXX
posted by Nomes @ Wednesday, May 17, 2006   3 comments
Editing poor due to sudden urges of "inconvenience" according to usage instructions of Loperamide...
Sunday, 14 May 2006
Okay, so I know I've been remarkably slack in writing individual e-mails to you all, but is that ANY reason for you to not write back to me??? Grrr. I've had nothing but 'word of the day' and 'forwards' in my mailbox since i last updated the blog - which hardly inspires one's more authorly tendencies - that's for sure.

Rant aside, we're back in Marrakesh now.

See, what happened is we took an 8 hour train ride (charades for about 2 hours) south from Fez to Marrakesh a few days ago. We arrived here, located our tiny, tiny, sweaty, horribly-lumpy-mattressed double room (ie. room with two double beds), and went immediately for a walk into the major square here: the Djemaa el-Fna, and were hassled. Now, sure, we got hassled a little bit in Fez as well, as will any western tourist, but here it was different.

For one thing, we were the only tourists with our upper arms covered - and our legs too. Most wander willy nilly through teh streets of the Medina in singlets and shorts - where, believe you me, they'd be far better looking were they to abide by religious beliefs here and show more proprietry. I don't think these people would dress as they do here at home, so why do they inflict their considerable sartorial inelegance on the rest of us? Then there were the catch cries of 'hello' 'ca va la gazelle' etc. Which would have matched the cries in Fez, were it not for the accompanying tsks and whistles etc that make every stall holder sound like a victim of Tourettes. Then, when you fail to respond, you get asked (rather obnoxiously), 'why won't you talk to me?' so much so that I nearly turned around and said, "go on then, tell me what you want, I'm listening". People even step out of their shop and put their hand on your ARM here, which is completely unacceptable (according to most guidebooks, as well as my personal choice) so tempers rapidly fray here. Beggars are also abundant around the main square, and have no compunction at approaching you, thrusting their child at you and requesting 10 dirhams (1 euro).

I would strongly advise anyone travelling here to stop in Marrakesh for a day - see what you have to see, then get the hell out.

Astounded and bewildered at the heaving mass of teh worst of humanity (it smells here too), we regrouped and decided to take the three day trip into the desert (that'll be the big Sahara, folks) rather than previously uhming and ahhing over whethe rwe should go. Anything to get out of this stinking city, even if it DID mean forgoing the trip to the cascades.

So off we went the following morning, having secured three places in a people-mover the night before we turned in, to sleep on mattresses filled with (live) goats for all the comfort they provided.

Despite the early start, and Nis not feeling well at all, we spent my birthday traversing the High Atlas mountain range. The scenery is absolutely stunning (as you shall see when I finally edit my photos to the point of publication) with a mixture of red rock and green swathes in the valleys. It reminded all three of us of the Grand Canyon area. The switchbacks on the roads were insane, overtaking occurred when we could SOMETIMES see whether there was oncoming traffic. The driver had an ECOLAB keyring, which makes me think that those laboratory sales people get everywhere...

We spent a long time around an altitude of 2260m (approximately), and due to my cold, I was unable to clear my ears. So the trip occurred in a quiet, serene and surreal manner...especially for a birthday! Nis and Lira gave me a poof (a small fuschia one) which I get to fill with 'stuff' when I get back to Prague. It'll be far more comfortable to use as a seat than perching on the edge of my 'arm chairs' when I eat breakfast, and I'm really looking forward to having it in my new flat (wherever, whenever that'll be) so yay! We stayed overnight in a hotel somewhere by the Dades Gorges, which we would have gone to see were we not all feelng slightly nauseous and exhausted after teh 10 hours in the minivan by that stage. Ah well, you win some, you lose some.

Our group were an odd bunch. Two israelis (who told everyone they were from India - him, and Italy - her so that they didn't get into trouble. Odd, when the rest of our group were us...) and two belgian sisters - one with chronic fatigue. I would say we got along famously, except we didn't really gel. Ah well, the other van was teh 'sickly lovey dovey couple van', so we were okay in ours).

It was teh quietest, dryest birthday I've ever had, and I have to say, it didn't feel much like a birthday at all - despite the poof (which I believe is spelt pouf, but is much more entertaining this way).

Anyway, our co-car-iates were not v. impressed with the organisation of the trip, which was - admittedly - touristy. We stopped sporadically to see 'this kasbah' or 'that village', and weren't really guided at all - we were using guidebooks to find out where we were racing through. However, the three of us (stalwart travellers that we are) were aware of the fact we were travelling according to a timetable which would get us to the desert, on camels, in a caravan over the dunes to arrive at the tents by sunset. You can't ask sunset to 'hold off because I want to stop here for a while' unfortunately - so we couldn't see the point raising a mutiny.

Anyway, one of the stops was the Todra Gorges, into which we walked a small way, before climbing a bit and sitting watching the world go by. We reclined on divans under a sun shade and ate our lunch there, and while we did so: a bunch of motorcross bikes came roaring through. Sure - they might be smelly, noisy and dusty - but the riders looked like they were having a great time. Must remember that when I get my explorer...

A bumpy ride over sabkah took us into a riad (which I think just means 'place' - judging by the building) whereupon a string of camels awaited. The approach was filled with small pockets of sand dunes whose horns (the two ends) were starting to sweep across the single laned road - whcih put me in mind of New Club Reef. I remembered this as the land I miss...despite the ominous grumblings beginning in my belly, and the quick pelting of rain on the border of the desert and the fine sand that was already sticking to our skin.

The sahara awaited. Thankfully, we'd already condensed our packs to small backpacks (no shower facilities in teh desert = minimal toiletries...) containing not much more than a set of warm clothes and a set of spare clothes. We'd stopped at the 'last chance gas station' to use the toilets and purchase water and head scarves, the latter we'd been shown how to wrap around our heads/faces to keep the sand out of our noses/mouths. Since Lira got a blue one, and I chose red, we were suddenly the Bloods & Crips of the Sahara - such as we'd definitely taken on the appearance of windswept marauders.

The faces of the people we'ds een out here were more 'african' now, the bone structure less pointy, more rounded etc. We had camels chosen for us (unnamed - as it's un-islamic to name animals other than cats) and off we went.

It was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! The smell of crystalline glass talc filled our nostrils over the slightly sweet smell of our own breaths under our face scarves. We had shadows cast onto the dunes of our caravan, by the setting sun. Words really aren't enough - you'll have to believe my enthusiasm and the pictures I'll post instead. Sorry.

We reached the tents, dismounted (ouch) and then raced up a few dunes, to eke out the last few moments of sunset over the most amazing grandiose and scary landscape I've ever set foot upon. The sand is as slippery as I recall, but I did manage to walk some of the way without sinking (you have to do this weird hipmovement in order to shift your weight really carefully). For the most part though, my ankles were deep in the soft stuff...

...finally down to the camp. The moon was large enough that we didn't need to turn on our light - until we ate. Tasteless Tagine (again!) followed by Orange segments (yum). I'm not sure whether people have started cooking for the tourist tastes of 'bland' but so far, the food in Morocco has been significantly underwhelming, which has disappointed us all.

Lira and I also went up the other dune (immediately behind our camp) after dinner, and lay in the sand awhile, looking at the stars (the big dipper was right above us). According to our guide, they navigate by the stars, and the position of the dunes themselves. And (get this) "it's easy if you know how". ha ha ha ha.

Down the steep slope in about 2 steps (both of which had me almost hip deep in sand (there was sand in my back pocket which had only gotten there after the pocket had FIRST plunged groundwards, despite the dune-shaped obstacle directly beneath my feet) and we slept outside under the blankets we'd ridden in on (those camel humps are, um, awkward...how on earth do boys cope?) - which, surprisingly, didn't smell. EIther that or my cold was a life-saver! And despite seeing some bloody large beetles while our eating light was on, none of them walked over our faces during the night - bonus!!!

Small flies woke us all up at about 5ish, and we cleared camp after another stop 'behind the palm tree' which by now had several piles of disturbed sand (indicating 'do not dig here, someone else recently did...') since it afforded the only 'privacy' for miles. There's a certain something about having a gentle morning-Saharan breeze blowing gently across your 'privates'.

I worked out a few things (I was bored, my tummy wasn't well, what's a girl to do when lying prone dreaming of binding agents?). I've travelled over 548,090km so far in my life (as the crow flies - which means far more in actual fact). That's 1.5 times to the moon (not taking into account the increasing distance, which i cannot be bothered figuring out for each time I've travelled - there are SOME limits people).

And, if I wait until I'm 38 to procreate, Dad'll be 76. EEK! And I'd kinda like my children to have the opportunity to hear him talk about setting a field of wheat/straw on fire...and stealing one of those push-me-pull-you railway things, rather than have to relate them myself. Mainly because I reckon Grandad (his Dad) was kinda cool, and Grandma (Mums mum) keeps reminding me that her favourite memory of Stan (Grandad) was when he and I were walking up the road after she'd dropped me off at Nanny & Grandad's (I must've been quite young) - hand in hand with me looking up at him in my usual precocious manner and skipping alongside him (me? skipping???! What the prague?) and him looking down at me, walking stick (hunting stick - it was cool how you could fold it out and sit against it!) on his other side, off to the mobile library to get books for my brief stay in Aldershot.

I wouldn't mind a memory like that of my OWN child with my Dad. Of course, if Dad initiates the development of a persecution complex like the one I've nurtured...
posted by Nomes @ Sunday, May 14, 2006   2 comments
Long, and overdue.
Thursday, 4 May 2006
The place we're staying in Fes is called a riad, it's basically a homestay, Morocain style. This means it's in a house in the middle of the medina (you too can now have "Funky Cold Medina" running around in your head like we've had...) which feels positively palatial. These 'houses' (total injustice to the building) are designed around a central internal courtyard, with rooms coming off it, large pillars to other floors, and a rooftop terrace which can be accessed by other roofs in the neighbourhood. Kate and Ala have spent a long time doing up the riad and it's still got a whole lot of original craftsmanship decorating it.

However, despite my feeling like a total princess for having the downstairs double roo, (while Liorah and Nis share the twin room above me); the 'pea' in this equation is my interminable insomnia. Not because my comânions are in a room elsewhere, but because I'm being eaten alive at night!

Tonight, I've cunningly left the light on in the bathroom to tempt the bloodsucking bastards in that direction instead of to my semi-bare flesh.But I still woke at 3am to an even larger cape of bites than I wore to bed this evening (numbering circa 20 already!). What about insect repellant? I hear you, my lovely (mostly) readers? Well, obviously. However, the only insect repellent I was able to find in Prague prior to my departure was firmly situated in the 'household' section, and looked as though it would easily dispatch a scurry (collective noun please?) of cockroaches. Given their particular (nuclear war withstanding) style of temerity, I decided it probably wouldn't be in my skin's best interests to slather that stuff on, and by the time I'd arrived in 'midge-free' England, I'd totally forgotten about it.

Seriously, it's a very sad state of affairs when you have to cross international borders JUST to stock up on toiletries (and we're not even talking about duty free here!). OI'm really looking forward to visiting Andreas in early June, not just to retrieve clothes qnd makeup (my black and white boots!!!) but also to gather stocks of hairdye; insect repellent, sunscreen etc.

So here I am, sitting up in bed because I'm too hot to sleep and too scared to sleep without the duvet pulled up under my chin (I already hace 5 bites on my face!). Can we say, "pathetic"?

Which means I'm listening to the dawn call to prayer, and wondering who the hell attends this particular service to kneel and pray. Don't give me the 'the faithful do' answer either, too many people look too well rested to have been up half the night! I reckon it's gotta be only those who are already up and about, for whom it's reasonably un-inconvenient, those with international flights to catch, road sweepers, bakers; that army of noctuernal personnel who keep life ticking over for those of us who have a more 'daylight adjusted' lifestyle.

Not to mention the addition of the ever present insomniacs, among whose number I seem to regularly find myself.

What's a woman with hips like mine worth these days anyway? Apparently 3000 head of camels, according to one lovely shopkeeper...

Fes is pleasantly ogod for the ego. Since we're "tourists of unknown origin" we walk the ,edina to various cries of, "ola gwapa", "bonjour ma belles", "hello, beautiful gazelles" etc. So far, the best have been, "open your heart to me" (which set us all giggling and singing the rest of the lyrics for a good few hours), "nice size" (though, admittedly, we're not entirely sure for what...) and "beautiful arse". Oh yes, the female form is much admired here, and the larger your haunches, the better. Lira and I are amassing compliments which can ONLY make us smile, even though we're perfectly aware that they're offered in the (vain) hope that one day, we'll turn around and say, "why yes, Mr Kilm-merchant, since you're so admiring of my bounteous thighs, I've decided I WILL purchase something from your shop!"

Unlikely, perhaps, but you can't fault them for trying!

marriage proposals are also presented 'on the run', such that we are asked, "are you looking for a husband?" and, "will you marry me, beautiful eyes?" (or perhaps, thighs) with alar,ing regularity.

So we've each taken to married life like ducks to water. Not too difficult for the others, as they each have real-life models upon which to base their imaginary hubbies. I, on the other hand, really need to decide whether he's going to be tall, or my height; blonde or dark; Kiwi or otherwise. So far, I think I've got a composite of Brad Pitt, Joe McCormack (who I've also yet to meet) and a beggar (for the 'my husband can't afford for me to buy that!' line that Lira cunningly produced the other day!). What a man!

All of our husbands, are, of course, in the hammam, while we spend their (small) salaries...you know how men are...

...and mine, unfortunately, has nowhere to keep 3000 head of camels, which was my best initial offer (other than the 10,000 for three of us) from a tall, reasonably good looking, mouthy Berber shopkeeper who appeared to have most of his teeth upon our entry into one of his fathers four (shoe!!!)shops. His credentials (listed promptly, following above proposal) included his own car (though I admit to not assuring that it was in working order) and a house.

All in all, highly tempting.

And since "I'm just a girl who can't say no", my imaginary husband came to my temporary rescue, which prompted a litany of profuse apologies I've never heard in my life. Apparently (who would have guessed) it's awfully rude to proposition a married woman so. My indignance was certainly less adamant than the Brontes would have liked, however, since it was by far the best offer I've had in a long time: a camel, apparently fetches 1,000euro.

Bless 'im, he even squeezed in a quick "if you and your husband ever have troubles and get divorced..."option for me between statements of hope in finding a woman of my beauty who was not already married comlments. Cheeky bugger!

All this was even occurring without beauty enhancements (purchased kohl today, despite disbelief and wariness surrounding it's application and longeivity - as well as a block of jasmine) or visual accuity, as we'd just left the hammam ourselves...

While Nis had visited one in Turkey, and thought she'd gotten a rough deal there, I think our shared topless experience was much more, life threatening!

First, , we walked in, aided by a small lad who knew what we were looking for despite the Rough Guide leading us to a hammam that had been closed for four years (did we look actively dirty?). Upon purchasing our entrance fee of 10Dirhams, we were commanded "viens içi" by some fully clad women across the marble, slippery, wet and steaming internal courtyard. Obviously, we had our 'lambs to the slaughter' expressions on, as we were mimed instructions to remove our clothing, and wait. You're in no position to argue over the price of a clothing locker when you're standing semi-naked, as we repressed caucasian westerners quickly found out.

AZn elderly woman with the most spindly legs I've ever seen then 'collected' us from our 'waiting area'. This involved a lot of prodding (my ribs) which, following this mornings chorus of "nice arse" was starting to reduce me to feeling a little like a side of beef!

So we 'walked' (slipped and sloshed) our way through the river styx, which is very warm, to the furnaces of hell beneath the earth. Those, too, are quite hot. In fact, I did wonder what temperature of moist air a pair of lungs could actually withstand. The lady sat us down (more shoving on my shoulders this time) and we sat as 3 scared (terrified) teenagers around the edge of a pool/well type thing. Given the veritable buffet of female flesh on display, I quickly abandoned my cares, thinking "to hell with being shy about my body when these lasses aren't". It didn't even bother me that Lira and Nis could've "seen" since I hadn't bothered to look at their 'assets' (sorry fellas, I'm about as far from having lesbian fantasies spelled out on my blog as you are being involved in them...) so assumed they hadn't bothered with mine either.

Our old woman then amassed a series of buckets in front of us, into which she poured various volumes of hot water from the other well type thing, as though about to play out Mary Had A Little Lamb on plastic buckets instead of crystal glasses. Imagery ruined, she topped each bucket up with cold water, and splashed us. We took this to indicate we should continue, emptyng the buckets over us, only to have the water replaced by sweat almost immediately.

She returned after a while, did more bucket glockenspieling, and demanded "savon". I gamely handed her my soap, and was rewarded with more prodding, on my hsoulders and knees, pushing me prone on the tiled ground. I was then "washed". A cursory massage folloaed, and I was left to the buckets. Nis was similarly pummelled and after pronouncing our skin "pink and glowing" (we both knew she meant red and raw), Lira also succumbed to the same meat-preparation-like treatment (complete with slap on the arse indicating "turn over") before she passed out to the heat, and we were each subjected to a cold water rinse that left us gasping (especially when it was poured down the front of our bikini bottoms!!).

I'm not sure if my skin was any better for the aforementioned (mis)treatment, but I definitely felt exhilerated afterwards.

Am reading wild journeys which is a collection of journey-related stories that Nis was given by her boss before travelling. It's been inspirng me to think outside of the box with regards to future holidays:
Cattle drive somewhere (we're talking by horseback here)
Sailing (not that I necessarily know how to, but I can follow orders and can coil rope adequately)
DOC (type) capture-recapture study, in a forest somewhere.
Amazon basin, don't care what I'm doing, just want to get there and do something - possibly by canoe
Desert trekking, by horse/camel back - caravan style if possible (apparently, its 52 days by camel to Timbuktoo from somewhere in Morocco)
Mt Kilimanjaro (still) perhaps with www.cheetah.org?

So that's theh olidays sorted for the next 10 years or so. Just as well I've decided not to have children for the next 10 years (will make decision when am 38) so that I can develop my career (and have good holidays). So what if I'm 70 when my grandchildren are born...

Right folks. I think that's quite enough of an update for the time being. More later, when I have something nice to say about marrakesh. At present, the only nice thing I can think of is that it's big. Fes is MUCH nicer!
posted by Nomes @ Thursday, May 04, 2006   0 comments
Spain --> Morroco via cat from Tarifa to Tangers
Tuesday, 2 May 2006
Or maybe a holiday working on a tall ship? Just been upstairs to get a saltwater blast, and I LOVED IT (why yes, as it happens, the sun IS shining; and the sea water is refreshingly cool...what of it?) so perhaps I should concentrate on a holiday which; in so,e way, involves the sea. Particularly as I don' t see it often; living in Prague.

Am also considering the general merits of travelling alone...another being that you are continually forced into conversation with relative strangers, so likely to experience a different taste of a new country than when in a group. It also allows me to be slightly ,ore adventurous, risk-taking, without making others feel uncomfortable. So I'm thinking a few weeks in South America, learning Spanish and dancing; or the tall ship...

Finally: AFRICA. Not quite the tent-sharing, ebola outbreak in the Congo investigating that I'd (once or twice) anticipated for my first visit...but good enough for this girl...
posted by Nomes @ Tuesday, May 02, 2006   0 comments
Spring Cleaning
Monday, 1 May 2006
Listening to: Life for Rent by Dido - en route from Madrid to Granada by slow train...

So it´s been nearly a year since I broke up with my ex. For some reason, this has been playing in my mind in the last few days - plaguing my dreams it would appear.

At first, it was a dream about how he got together with my lil sis Rach (I know! Scandalous!) while we were still together - during Les Mis rehearsals. Ridiculous, and completely untrue - but the dream was all about me confronting him about the situation. I woke up feeling betrayed (couldn't tell whether more by him or her) and slightly nauseous (no offense to either party!).

Next up was a dream about being generally discarded - allowed to fall by the wayside of other people's lives (D was the example in this dream). In this dream, I sat down with D and explained that I felt he'd simply stopped caring about me, my future, and more importantly, my future with him. The fact that he immediately segued into the next relationship - with someone I consider entirely unsuitable (I mean, I still fail to see what they have in common - other than love of musicals and alcohol) felt like a slap in the face of our relationship, especially considering the intimacies we'd shared (dreams and ideas - we're not talking karma sutra here - my Dad still occasionally reads this!). I woke up from that one just feeling sad again.

Very weird dreams, I'm not entirely sure what my subconscious is trying to tell me. None of these thoughts have filtered into my conscious mind over the past year - so why have they taken so long to bubble up from the murky, swamp like recesses of my brain (eyes being windows etc. and mine resolutely muddy pond coloured!).

So yeah. Spring cleaning of the brain while on holiday: I guess travelling in May allows me an excuse to be painfully introspective for a period each year. Last year, I was too exhausted and excited to be introspective. Yes, there's the 'accounting' period at Christmas/New Years, but when do you actually have time to seriously dwell on your mistakes, your judgements and your plans etc if not around your birthday on holiday in a foreign clime. It's the closesy thing to 'home' I have (my head) so it must be spring cleaning.

Maybe that's what the dreams are all about. Or maybe I'm concerned about the cats (D?? Fill me in!! What's happening with them?). Or - perhaps it's the $700 fine I'm being taken to court (in NZ!!) for that I have no idea about (till the summons arrived at the Vicarage and were opened by Geoff!).

Was briefly considering heading to Aus/NZ next year around this time, but frankly, if Lira's not in Wellington for whatever reason, there doesn't seem much point (sorry Altos - am gonna have to meet you elsewhere instead!). It might be more worth my while to take a holiday to Buenos Aires - get some tango and spanish language lessons in a few weeks. Or a gastronomy tour (by bike, natch!) through France? This does appear to be a good time (of year) for travelling, and as I have no monetary goals (except, it would appear, fine-paying!) to save for - why not make it something to really plan and look forward to? On the other hand, perhaps if I get off my arse and get back to writing the novel, I'll have rewrites to do that could take three weeks, and my Czech language would improve immeasurably if I took myself off to a small village outside of Prague tp yake care of those...?

In general, I admit it: I'm happy with my demeanor. I'm an okay person (in my completely unbiased opinion). However, I've (today) realised (or admitted to myself) what it is I don't like about heights. It's not the height. I'm not scared of falling. I'm scared of the desire I feel, the near-compulsion to throw myself OFF the 'whatever-it-is-I'm-standing-on'. I tell myself I'm looking over the edge for exposure therapy, but I ALWAYS have to tell myself that the internal desire to 'see if I could make it' or 'feel what it's like' is INSANE and keep hold of the railing - not to maintain balance, but so that I can't hook my legs over the ledge and feel 'more'.

(I hope I'm never high on angel dust)

So this desire to 'fly' (or momentarily plunge towards an awfully crunchy experience!) translates into a wish for hanggliding - never for parachuting (oddly).

But anyway, this makes me curious as to my internal drives and motivations. We all know what a classic 'type A' I am: always striving to do 'more', to be 'better', to reach some ill-defined goal (hell, even defined goals!). Well, that, by sheer existance, indicates that I'm never going to be satisfied with what IS - that I'm living for the ever-unattainable future.

How do I stop doing that? How can one learn to acept what is, and be happy with it? How do you change your disposition so completely that you go from a 'how long till we get there' person to a 'how cool is THIS scenery?' person?

I think all of these are reasons why I run a million trillion miles when I meet someone potentially worthwhile spending time with: they'll always betray me, discard me and generally move on, so it's a lot more pleasurable for me to imagine the good times, the fun that MIGHT have happened, the mischief we MIGHT have gotten up to had I made an effort to not be so terrified of the eventual rejection.

ANd this is why it's safer to live inside my head, murky swamp though it may be. Just call me Shrek, and be glad I'm the only hero I need.

Right?
posted by Nomes @ Monday, May 01, 2006   3 comments

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