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!)
I AMsterdam (apparently...)
Saturday, 26 August 2006
These dutch folk don’t need that whole ‘heart’ business, you can BE the entire city instead. To me, that means that I can simultaneously be:

  1. wafts of marijuana smoke.
  2. underdressed and overexposed in a red-lit window
  3. ogled at and possibly photographed by middle-aged American tourists whilst being 2 above
  4. a trendy bar
  5. an English pub – décor all brown – renamed a brown café
  6. a gay cocktail lounge with ‘luxury’ finger food
  7. a smelly canal with bits floating in the water
  8. a bridge with the most bizarrely decorated lights I’ve photographed yet (self-photography, since I now AM the bridge)
  9. a cool gym – albeit one that charges like the proverbial wounded bull to allow entry
  10. a leaning over, slightly squished in appearance, skinny house, with a dark façade made pretty by white trimming – crooked main beams are optional apparently
  11. an empty building for over a year – now inhabited by squatters, BY ORDER OF THE (er, not sure if it was the queen, but lets say so for arguments sake here)
  12. a mad cyclist
  13. the person sitting side saddle on the passenger rack of the mad cyclist
  14. a round building that looks like a public loo but is the opera building
  15. a ship with a mast up – despite low bridges (therefore, a conundrum to all who pass here)
  16. a magic mushroom
  17. a meal from any country you desire
  18. a knick-knack (probably farm animal related in shape, and possibly luminous in colour)
  19. a chained up bicycle, thrown over the railings hanging down towards the canal (you just know someone’s first words in the morning are going to be ‘for fuck’s sake!’ with the gorgeous Dutch accent!)
  20. a sea monster in a childrens park (there are loads of them around!!!)
  21. a streetlight hanging between the buildings on either side of the street
  22. a sunflower, growing straight up outside the door to an apartment (just the one, by itself)
  23. a bollard - painted maroony purple

I love this place. (er, how many places exactly have I NOT said that for, thus far, on the European Adventure?). Photos will be forthcoming when I have mega bandwidth with which to upload.

For many reasons. All of the above and then some more.

For instance, the oatmeal that Mårten makes me for breakfast. Just rolled oats and cold milk. That’s it. Nothing fancy here folks. Bless ‘im. He’s right – it DOES set you up for the rest of the day’s nutrition. One cannot help but stimulate the taste buds into paroxysms of ecstasy following the delicate breakfast (that resides approximately mid-stomach until about 4pm!). But hey…there’s a microwave here. And I use it.

The flat that Mårten lives in is GORGEOUS. It’s almost like he’s a real person (no, he’s not, he’s ephemeral!) – there’s a couch that’s comfortable AND pretty to look at, there are chairs in matching colours – there’s a RUG on the floor, and a PIANO!!! I KNOW! There are even plants. And a patio. *sigh* It’s beautiful. Of course, he’s paying – ooh – well more than a part-time admin assistant in Prague earns on it…so one must put things into perspective. *sob*

He has some lovely friends here too. I met my first ‘wine and food’ lover the other night – Michele. They do wine tastings where they actually spit the wine out. You KNOW that’s more class than we ever managed. So saying, they actually KNOW about the wines, instead of barely remembering how many bottles were consumed. And we ate steak!!! Perfectly cooked, and accompanied with a Chilean Carmenere. That finished off the rather gastronomical Wednesday I had: salmon salad for lunch at an ultra trendy – wouldn’t-be-out-of-place-on-the-Wellington-waterfront café/bar combination (I think that’s why it’s so comfy here – it’s familiar…I can eat/drink/socialise/dance in the same establishment all day!) that had so much salmon in it, I swear that I developed gills after consuming the lot. How trendy was the bar? There was a decibel measurer (there's bound to be a term...) set in exactly the right place in the room to detect whether the noise-level was dangerous…

Today, on the other hand, has been crazy weird.

First, I decided I’d embark on another European adventure, this one of a more personal nature. And this time, I wasn’t the only one who decided upon this. I’m not sure whether he’d be too pleased to read about himself here (although, being an attention-seeking Taurean as well, perhaps so…) just yet – so I’m not saying much. But my status is…subtly changed a little. Despite the 884kms that separate Prague from Amsterdam. Suffice it to say, my new Dutch vocabulary/phraseology, which includes “Dar ist een faast” (hideously incorrect now that Mårten has gone off to bed and babelfish is telling me crazy untruths) or ‘there is a party’ and the ever-hilarious “Mocconna haft mir mmmmmm…” means that I can communicate a variety of things by combining the two…mostly along the lines of “Dar is…mir mmmmmmm…..”. Don’t translate that at home, kids. (and a quick indignant “of course I didn’t say anything of the sort – as I had no reason to - for I am still as pure as the day I was born” to Dad!)

But, by the by, for those of you absolutely hanging on my every word to eke out meagre details: he’s absolutely lovely!! He even meets most of my high standards. But we'll see. Those 884km are long.

Following that: I receieved a schedule update, which had me down as having an Exit Interview at the upcoming training module in Tallinn (for which I should be practising my presentation now, instead of updating le blog).

Which was a little surprising (read: had me having kittens about bank balances, CV’s, places to live where I can communicate with people, plane tickets, my gear and a non-existent pension plan), as I thought I was merely having an ‘update’ style chat. Consequently: I sent an sms to the head coordinator and said, “er, this squeaky wheel has read she’s having an exit interview: is she going to be asked to leave the program?”.

Thankfully, he wrote back immediately, “NO!! You’re not allowed to leave!”. Which, instead of making me feel threatened and trapped, as it would some people, merely put the fear of the ‘tax bill’ into me – and so I’ll be saving up like crazy from now on. This might buy me a daily beer if I take a reel of string to the Albert in the train station in 40 years time…but damnit, that’s good enough for me!

Having had “kicked out of Epiet” images flashing (spinning newspaper headline style) through my mind for about an hour, we decided to put my mind at ease by distracting it with a movie (it was miserably rainy out – A’dam weather mirrors Wellington’s rather too closely for my liking). So we off’d to watch Volver. Unfortunately, while I knew that the original language was in Spanish, and Mårten knew that there would be Dutch subtitles, the two of us neglected to compare notes until the movie titles showed.

Thus, I sort of paid 10€ to snooze for two hours in an uncomfortable seat (but gorgeous theatre) while images of sandy, 70's Spain presented themselves to me. Sadly, it’s less an action than a dialogue flick, and when they started introducing ‘ghosts who aren’t really ghosts, but someone’s dead relative’s ex-housemate’ I got a bit lost between the languages (neither of which I know well enough to order coffee, let alone decipher an award winning movie!!).

The walk through town afterwards was more successful (coffee AND cake!) and culminated at the gym. Where we discovered that the interwebby had LIED to us the night before: the spin class was at 1900 not 1800. However, there WAS a yoga class at 1800 – so we could do that. The girl at the front desk had previously worked in the fashion retail industry (high end), she was so unhelpful I almost spoke to her in Czech. Take for instance, our conversation at the desk (blue for M, red for me, and puce for her),
“Oh, bother! The spin class is at 1900, despite the internet telling us otherwise. Which one is correct?”
“The internet must be wrong.”
*gasp* muttered “the internet is never wrong!”
“Hmm…I don’t really want to run and row for an hour THEN spin…I’ll die of sweating too hard.”
“Well, we should go do yoga beforehand…shall we?”
“Yes, lets.”
“Okay, can you let us in now please?”
“Not until you give me the entire content of your wallet, and your cashcard and PIN so that I can empty your account.”
“Um…could we get an additional free entry in case I want to come back with that amount of cash?”
“No.” accompanied by snort of derision.
“Perhaps, a free towel hire?” a look, “No, okay then.

5 mins later:
“Do we have to book bikes for spinning?”
“Okay then. *pregnant pause* Could you obok me a bike please?”
“You can only book bikes within the 30mins prior to the class.”
“Um, but I’m going to yoga first…”
“Oh. Well in that case. What’s your name? Never mind, I’ll just put you down as English tourist.”

OUCH. I slunk off to be instructed by someone wearing reggae stripes down the outside of his pulled-up-to-shorts-height yoga pants, who had no body fat. Not in the same ‘stringy spin instructor from Prague’ way: but literally: no body fat. Not much body muscle tone either. In fact, I think even I could have drawn him for an anatomy class (had I ever had to take one), called him Bones, and been awarded with…whatever it is one’s rewarded with for successfully drawing a skeleton in a Uni anatomy class…

(note to self: think these through some more…)

Once my back had been stretched to within an inch of my full height (I love the full cascade of popping vertebrae as one does that back stretchy twist thing…I think it’s called: ‘bone xylophone posture’), I took myself off to the spinning class – early to make a good impression (read: to waylay the instructor and plead typical british foreign language ignorance). I tied my hair back, adopted the bandana/pirate look, adjusted the bike (different bikes…ARGH!) and started pedalling. All going well until someone comes in and takes the bike next to me.

I think: Dude, there are 15 other free bikes here…and you come sit NEXT to me? Have you ever spun before? Don’t you know how sweaty you’re gonna get?
I say: Hi.
The chick says: Hi. In a voice pitched a good five octaves below mine. Now, bear in mind this female was wearing a Miami bitch sloganned singlet, complete with cutouts on the ribcages, which allowed her unfettered breasts (the underside of) to be ‘just’ visible, with yoga pants and boxing boots, red lipstick and black eyeliner and you’ve got the idea.

Low voice.
Dresses like a woman (albeit none I know personally).

HAD to pick me to sit and spin next to, didn’t she?

I’m sorry…do I have a beacon that flashes out morse for “all those who are transgender, transdressing, or transloving, step right up…ask me to marry you, spin next to me, swap makeup tips with me!” in a disco beat? No biggie though: the sweat got too much for her at minute 6, and she took herself off elsewhere. *sigh*

(For the record: it's not that I have anything against trans-persons, but I'm bitter and twisted re a tranny-shagging ex-fiance - and THAT is fair unless you can trump me somehow: comments are available...)

I love this city. (I wish I’d had the opportunity to visit RIVM – it’s the place I’ve always wanted to work – since I knew of it’s existence! Maybe after Oct 2007...)

posted by Nomes @ Saturday, August 26, 2006  
  • At 11:52 pm, August 26, 2006, Anonymous Craig in Prague said…

    Welcome ... as luck would have it when I leave AMS you arrive :)

  • At 1:09 am, August 27, 2006, Anonymous A said…

    Hee hee ... I can trump you, petal, having actually MARRIED the aforesaid tranny-shagger. *sigh* There is merit to your theory, though ... there I was, minding my own business, having an express manicure at the shopping centre ... and a cross-dressing she-male with questionable fashion sense and a VERY bad dye job sits down next to me for his/her/its nail appointment. Have you ever seen acrylics being applied to very hairy hands? No? Quite surreal. Maybe we have secretly implanted and hitherto undiscovered (given they don't set off beeps at the airports) tranny-magnets? If so ... I'd like mine removed PLEASE xx

  • At 3:49 am, August 27, 2006, Blogger Dad said…

    A, I'm delighted to see that you've trumped the centre of the universe!!! Also, that you've a similar sense of humour.
    I've now realised, after N's observations, how similar the "atmospheres' of Wellington and Amsterdam are. Viv and I felt very at home there, and in Holland in general (I was working in Zuitermeere spelling probly wrong)which was a nice small town.

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