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!)
Airport Centipedes
Sunday, 25 February 2007

Leg 1: Taxi from Veyrier du Lac to Geneva airport

Leg 2: Queue for days to check my red and black, newly fixed, backpack into the underbelly of the plane.

Leg 3: Discover that the ONLY watch I’m going to be happy wearing costs 650E, and was (thankfully) ‘out of stock at the airport’.

Leg 4: Wait, interminally (ha ha, airport joke) for my plane to arrive from somewhere.

Leg 5: take off to Munich, VERY late – due to arrive at gate H21. Plan strategy with air stewardess for dashing from H21 to H22 in minimal time…where the flight to Belgrade was waiting…

Leg 6: taxi towards H21 in Munich. Wave to the people taxiing FROM H22 in Munich.

Leg 7: head towards service centre.

Leg 8: head towards service centre on the OTHER side of the airport after finding the first one closed.

Leg 9: speak to agent at desk 4.

Leg 10: speak to agent at desk 10. Discuss the options of arriving in Belgrade at midnight….or ‘maybe before that, if we rush’, and with the instructions “you’ll have to check in at the next airport”. Hmmm….

Leg 11: mentally whisper ‘farewell’ to my bag, my toiletries, my toothbrush.

Leg 12: leg it to Gate G48.

Leg 13: remove all electronic componentry from backpack. Dump in blue bin. Drink a litre of water (didn’t expect to have to go through security again after having been within the ‘airside’ zone of airports since 10:30am – silly me). Walk through gate.

Leg 14: develop need to pee. Beep loudly.

Leg 15: be swooshed by the magic wand of beep. Remove belt. Remove shoes (that didn’t beep at Prague or Geneva airport). Curse the Germans (quietly, and excluding Andreas).

Leg 16: retrieve shoes. Relace. Repack. Redress. Regain modicum of dignity. Head to gate.

Leg 17: arrive second to last, and yet wait on bus under the armpit of smelly man. SMS taxi driver who’s collecting me from the airport with flight changes. Send sms in Czech AND English to be smart.

Leg 18: bus across town (MOTORWAY!?) to tiniest plane on planet (Dad could fly this sucker. Hell, I could probably fly the damned thing – with a remote control!).

Leg 19: sit with knees under chin en route to Zurich (yes, very close to Geneva, glad you noticed).

Leg 20: arrive in Zurich, ask ground staff in halting French (why? I don’t know, I thought I’d like to add a communication aspect to my multifactorial problem) whether they thought I’d have to go collect my bag BEFORE checking in (i.e. go ‘public side’)

Leg 21: roll up at the Zurich transfer desk (airside) with unaccountable tears slowly trickling down face.

Leg 22: under strict instructions to “pull it together, Nomes!” ask the kind lady whether I needed to leave the airport to check-in, and whether my bag was in the same hemisphere as me.

Leg 23: be checked in on the “last seat on the plane” and make way to gate.

Leg 24: take train.

Leg 25: go up longest escalator in world, having previously checked gate number to ensure was on correct side…

Leg 26: turn around, go back, due to correct side being closed as plane already boarding.

Leg 27: approach security check (!?!?!?!?!). Ask whether they knew if my gate had closed or not. Be informed (in a very brusque manner, possibly matching my own) that ‘we don’t know’. Strip. Empty bag. Drink yet another 500mls of water (still no toilet stop…starting to walk cross-legged).

Leg 28: reclothe. Repack. Re-wish all airport security staff would curl up in a hole and die. Especially the one who told me I couldn’t put my shoes on on the counter, which was where they were sitting moments previously having been X-rayed. Just explain to me the logic, and I’ll be happier. Don’t HAVE any logic, and I get annoyed.

Leg 29: bolt to gate E46.

Leg 30: skid to halt in front of desk and ask whether they can track my belongings. Find out that my belongings are ‘on their way’. 5mins later (queue), be informed that they ‘probably won’t make it’ and I’ll ‘have to file a report in Belgrade.

Leg 31: Enter plane. Sit next to crazy old lady who reads from a Russian prayer book and does the sign of the cross backwards (freaky) as she takes her first flight.

Leg 32: hold her hand for takeoff.

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posted by Nomes @ Sunday, February 25, 2007   1 comments
Prelude to a Fashion Week
Tuesday, 20 February 2007
Now, you and I both know that to compare Italy to the Czech Republic is doing gross injustice to both parties. Nevertheless, I’m going to do it (oh yes, fearless travel writer that I am).

It’s the greetings. In the CR, if you neglect to say anything during your exchange with someone in the service industry, it is perfectly normal. Nay, I would go as far as to say that if you can snarl at some point during the exchange, you can consider yourself integrated. Compare this with Italy, then, when even the person who sweeps the floor of the small café that you step into says “Arrivaderci” upon your impending departure, and you are SCUM personified if you do not kiss each person with emphatic sorrow as you bid them “Ciao”, promising (through hand gestures alone) to return, just as soon as you are able…

Not that they’re hard to kiss, mind. These people are SOOO good looking, it’s enough to make one want the ground to open up and swallow them. The men, however, are short. We’re talking 149cm here folks. Proof you can’t have your couture and wear it too…

Speaking of which: note for fashionistas (or fashionisn’ters): metallic sneakers are IN, in a big way. Not to mention, Miu miu (who had, “I’m too drunk to fuck!” screeching out of their Bang & Olufsen system) are bringing back the eyepatch. You saw it on MY blog first*.

I saw a woman stop in the middle of the street, grab a sketching pad out of her bag, a thick pen and start drawing an outfit. A DESIGNER, dlr’s, in REAL LIFE! She wasn’t overtanned enough to be Donatella, so I didn’t bother asking her for a quick sketch/autograph. Not to mention that this request would have brought about the ubiquitous up and down (I was soooo grateful for the small amount of “ciaoooooooo bellaaaaaa…”’s that I received, I didn’t want to push my luck by ASKING for appraisal) from a designer…and I was wearing my usual crap…!

Feeling immensely ugly (and grossly overweight), I took myself for a (free!!!) MAC makeover in order to feel sufficiently presentable to share thefootpaths/pavements/sidewalks (for all my DLR’s nationalities) with the skinny (short!) Asians and Russians (where did all the Amazon women go to? Gisele must have relations?!).

I fervently hoped that some short, rich, well-heeled Italian senor would take a shine to me and Pretty Woman me up Via Montenapoleone. Needless to say, I am still short one Valentino gown, a Gucci suit, a pair of YSL Gwailer 100mm T-strap sandals and a Dior saddle bag to go in my LV Ebony Pegase 70! ::sigh::

The shops are, without a doubt, the most gorgeous shops I’ve ever set be-sneakered and un-worthy foot in. The male security guards (finally, tall(er) men!) are extensively groomed: eyebrows are neat and orderly, concealer may have been used, possibly foundation and most likely powder. I wouldn’t be surprised if these boys knew what microdermabrasion was either…they’re skin is poreless. It seems un petit de trop (even to me) when you consider they’re guarding 750E baby slings….Generally speaking though, this is the only city I’ve seen where males are catered to as well as the females, in terms of shopping for clothes, that is.

I strolled into one shop, past the table of plastacine (for children) and large scale Scalectrix model of Monaco (for men) into what was the space of a warehouse filled with clothes, interspersed with well placed lily-festooned white painted wrought iron tables littered with architecture and design coffee-table books. While I sat to rest my feet and absorb the sumptuousness of it all, I wondered how I could instantly shed the necessary 30kgs to fit into anything. Luckily (for the paramedics) I came up with no alternative option than to lop off a leg (and no multitool available – damnit!), so I’ve still got SOME money left in my bank account (and my original blood quantity).

The shops are flat. The floors are completely smooth. There are seldom gradations in the heights, certainly no steps (without warning beacons and sirens) and wheelchair access is non existent (how many wheelchair-riding fashion disasters do YOU know?). I believe this is because your attention is so distracted by “oooh…pretty things…must touch….must…oh my god…is that the price…*faint*?” that it’s too dangerous to have level changes inside. That’s if you can FIND the inside. Some shops are SOOO exclusive that the doors are hidden. Perhaps they weren’t entirely ‘hidden’, but since I couldn’t pick which one to push from the four linked identical glass panels, I didn’t risk being branded someone “who doesn’t usually come down this way” by attempting ingress.

D&G did have doors (well, a doorman who opened one of the glass panels, at any rate) and it seemed rude not to enter while he was “bueno sera”ing me. They have THE sexiest clothes around: a white viscous (pun intentional) cowl neck long sleeved jumper nearly undid me, as did a marabou and PVC jacket (don’t ask, it worked, trust me!). Yet the atmosphere was the best in this shop too. It was part movie set, part club chill out room, part warehouse chic.

Shoes? (I know you’ve all been waiting). Gucci. Metal. Pointy. High. COMFORTABLE (!!!) Gorgeous. 800E. And I wish I'd taken pictures, but those male security guards were watching me like a hawk. Or was that the eyebrow shaping?

If I’d had the cash in my account, I would have come into some SERIOUS self-negotiating waters. As it was, haute couture will remain, for sugar-daddyless Nomes – out of my range: I can look, I can touch, I can even try on (shoes, gloves, glasses and bags only), but I can’t take home.

P.S. I didn't even buy a fake, because I couldn't find one that looked real enough - to me - to warrant spending the 20E they were asking. *sigh* The price of good taste for longlife bags!
*Except, damnit, Manolo got there first! But YOU saw it HERE first, right??!

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posted by Nomes @ Tuesday, February 20, 2007   1 comments
Dining – it’s an Italian thing
Monday, 19 February 2007
My hotel is, well, let’s put it this way: if rooms could be rented by the halfhour, I wouldn’t be surprised. The word “Hotel” is inscribed in Helvetica Upper Case going down the side of the building. If only one of the red neon bars were flickering, it’d be straight out of a trailer trash movie.

It’s my first night, and I’ve come to a local restaurant, a few blocks from the hotel. According to the noses, it’s a family run joint, and the sons scurry while myopic dad pregos and grazies, occasionally showing a group to a table. Papa has sat me down at a table with silent 40 year old women. They acknowledge my presence without smiling. I feel as though I should excuse my intrusion saying, “I don’t speak Italian, so go for it, feel free to gossip about your husbands’ lacklustre performance in bed, and debate whether he has a mistress…”

But I don’t.

Papa swishes over to talk to the 5 and 7 year old cute girls at the table across the room. They have been brought out by their grandparents who are sipping a digestif and punctuating their conversation with praise for the artistic merits of their crayola-crazy grandprogeny. Bear in mind that it’s 9:45pm, and you can add Italy to the “list of countries Nomes could be quite happy in”. Not to mention the motorcycles outside…this country is 2-wheel crazy.

People chow down their delicious and inexpensive food with their mouths open (ewww!), and unashamedly stare at people at the neighbouring tables (as would you if the conversation were as interesting as the hand gestures seem to imply!). People in this restaurant are clearly eating and arguing with their own families. I wonder whether anyone who lives in the city has a dining room table, or if that’s reserved for the farmhouse in Tuscany (doesn’t everyone have one?).

Near to me, a family with three sons (18, 24, 28) struggle to order sufficient food for the boys to feel (temporarily) sated. As well as their ages, the lads range in engagement, from sullen to soliloquising. All three are beautiful to look at, but their immediate response to Mammas momentary comment reminds me that they’re attached to the apron strings still. Hand gestures abound, and are easy to interpret. Papa says “What the hell is your problem?” to the youngest, who responds with a sullen and disagreeable (not to mention, downright dishonest) “nothing, I’m fine.” Complete with the teenage sneer.

When the shrimp cocktail arrives, I’m torn from my people watching, absorbed entirely by the decision, “to eat the radicchio lettuce, or to leave it as the garnish it appears to be intended for?”. I clear my plate. I ordered a ravioli del nero chef. I think that means ravioli made by a black chef, which seems a little racist, but all of a sudden am struck by doubt: I hope squid are not involved….

Two couples enter the restaurant and the women immediately take the diagnonally opposing seats at a table of four, to leave space for their husbands (who hang their wives coats) next to them. Everyone touches everyone else as they speak, so it’s quite hard to distinguish lines of ownership.

Two gentlemen are sharing a gigantic plate of meat (complete with a knife sticking straight up out of it) and their side salads are WHEELED to them on a separate, side table. Seeing the dessert trolley, I immediately make the decision (irrespective of hunger levels) to have dessert, merely for the novelty of having something wheeled to MY table too.

Squid, it turns out, were involved. Note to self: if I intend to keep returning to Italy on gastronomic missions, buy a bloody dictionary/phrase/menu book!!

Ahhhh, so the women are ENGLISH. It now makes sense. They have trouble dividing the bill into three, so pay with a 200E note. I’ve never seen one before, so I try not to stare. The waiter asks for 2E more, and then gives them a 50E change. They look at one another as if to say, “well, that was unexpected…” and don’t leave a tip.

My dessert (I pushed all the squid out of the ravioli, I’m gonna have to find somewhere else to eat tomorrow night!) was a chocolate tart with chocolate shavings and chocolate sauce, topped with strawberries and ice cream.

I drooled when I typed that, in remembrance.

People here (the Italian ones) have sminkles on their faces. Sminkles, darling lovely readers, are the wrinkles one gets from smiling frequently. A few of the women have reduced this with toxic injections and face-smooshers (smooshing is what you do with a cat, when you pull it’s ears back and make its face look like htat of an alien. They love it – guaranteed, and you’ll find hours of entertainment in their features!), but alas, their faces have a plastic, not porcelain sheen. It’s horribly unattractive, and reminds me that even though I’m soon 30, it’s GOOD to have lines.

At least then, I’ll also have an expression. And my expression right now is, “oh my god, I’m full!”

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posted by Nomes @ Monday, February 19, 2007   1 comments
“I’m too sexy for Milan, too sexy for Milan, Veyrier and Novi Sad…” – then London…
Sunday, 18 February 2007
Okay, so it doesn’t rhyme quite as well, but I hope you’ve got your seatbelts done up. We’re off on another 4 week adventure.

Months ago (October, according to the lovely internet), I figured I’d be single, morose and depressed come the 14th of February* (as opposed to any other day of the year). To put my mind from my misery, I decided I’d book myself a cheap weekend away in Milan (hell, it was the first thing I picked from the list of 0Kc destinations!).

But then the news came that we were having an Epiet module the following week – in the Alps (snow…I thought I’d managed to successfully avoid it this year…but no!) no less. So, lots of travel internet sites later (it takes ages you know, organising all this larking about!) and I was booked on a transAlpine train from Milan to Geneva, and a Geneva flight back to Prague.

BUT, then things went awry, when I was selected (admittedly, I applied first) for a mission to look into a 3 week WHO measles outbreak in Novy Sad, a city in Serbia (where I was a few weeks ago, remember?). I have to leave on Thursday – thus missing my return flight to Prague.

And by the time I’m dong out there, it’ll be a birthday celebration in London that I simply can’t miss…so the WHO dumps me off there, and I’ve a ticket booked back to Prague on the 18th of March.

Oh, and for the WHO mission, they’ve written me in as Team Leader (though there’s a far more suitable person in the team…*panic*). Which means that this time, I can’t bitch and moan about the leadership, as I may have done in the past (even on this not-so-private media). Or rather, if I do bitch and moan about it, it’s because I’m not living up to my excruciatingly exacting standards. *self-pity-in-advance*

So DLR’s, stay with me. There might be speed bumps ahead.

*I wasn’t, by the way.
posted by Nomes @ Sunday, February 18, 2007   1 comments
*hack*
Monday, 12 February 2007
Am sick, phlegmy, coughying and uninspired (though excreted sputum consistency does bring to mind many MANY adjectives). I think you're probably as bored of me being ill in 2007 as I am. It seems each week I succumb to a new variegated (yes, multiple colours) strain of the Czech lurgy. Je mal aux tout.

In other news: Pertussis outbreak is to be 'investigated' by yours truly (though likely attributed to someone else), cards are ho-hum, flatmate decisions are nearing and I'm off to Italy on Friday, France on Sunday.

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posted by Nomes @ Monday, February 12, 2007   0 comments
Drifting
Wednesday, 7 February 2007
There I was, lying down, talking to a friend. My consciousness started to slip, and I was drifting in that special place between dream world and real world, where you are you, but anything could (and does) happen.

I was with a work colleague (I think, because) we had packs and medical supplies with us. For some reason, we needed to contact someone who could do something (you know how these things are), but there is no one looking anywhere near official enough for our liking. We move over towards the bank, on the other side of the street. It is hot, dusty, sweaty, and the folk there are predominantly dark skinned – though not African dark – and wearing trousers with sandals that they don’t pick up properly as they walk, so the bank with it’s tiled floored hall of tellers is filled with the *shuff shuff* of about 50 patient locals.

Me and whoever is with me, decide that the tellers probably won’t speak English or French (er, neither do I, perhaps my colleague spoke French), so we headed to the Bureau de Change section. That was behind mahogany and glass panels, air conditioned. We entered the small door, and waited for a teller to show up on their side of the glass partition. I said,
“You know, we don’t even really need the bureau de change”*

And the person I had been speaking to while I lay in bed, said in very puzzled voice, “What??”

Oooops. Two worlds collided.

*it seems I state the blatantly obvious even in the dream world.

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posted by Nomes @ Wednesday, February 07, 2007   2 comments
Deal
Monday, 5 February 2007
I’ve been reading my cards each morning. I create a quick spread on my duvet, then write down the cards and leave the house. Then, I have something to dwell upon whilst on the bus.

I don’t know what all the cards mean yet – or how they should be interpreted in what combinations. Todays:

The Flowers
Lovely card. Anywhere this card falls, you’re being looked after. An improvement after a long period of unhappiness; very encouraging. If beside The Ring, a relationship is truly excellent.

The Ring
A wonderful card spelling joy in relationships. Represents a relationship. Lovely card, refers to strong bonds and happiness.

The Anchor
The card of great security, suggests “staying put”.

The Moon
Card of beauty and luck: forecasting new ideas and invitations. Tells of growing good fortune.

The Key
Success. Whatever has been locked away before, has been released. Occult card: sense of destiny, or someone with spiritual guidance.

The Letters
Very happy card. News awaited will arrive shortly (if surrounded by positive cards; positive news). Near The Moon: definite invitation, near The Ring; love is self-explanatory, near The Sun: news will be especially good and may answer a wish, and near The Sun and The Moon: an invitation concerning your love life.

The Sun
Wonderful card, heralding optimistic outcomes. Near The Ring: this is a sound love affair.

*ahem* I guess things are looking up then, huh?

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posted by Nomes @ Monday, February 05, 2007   1 comments
Not OK.
Friday, 2 February 2007
So, last year I went on a road trip. Only, it wasn’t really a road trip, bits of it were, it was more like a ‘backpacking adventure’, but that just sounds wanky, and there haven’t been films with that name…

…so road trip it was. It was with my best mate 9, and her sis Nis. We convened in London prior to the ‘big adventure’ and departed after having good quality chocolate and tea at Nis’s huge flat (a theme may have been born).

Our first stop was Barcelona, I assume we flew there (but remember NOTHING of the flight, so cannot be certain. I was still in my days of getting on a plane, falling asleep before takeoff and awakeing only barely in time to wipe the drool from my shoulder, my tray table and the person next to me in order to pick up our bags). After rambling in Barthelona, Madrid beckoned.

We departed on a train, in the morning, having first stopped at the most amazing market to collect “train scroggin” enough (and of sufficiently bounteous delight) to give our carriage mates envy. Chocolate coated fruits/nuts, jamon, quesa, pan so fresh and tasty you could smell it in the next carriage…

…after we’d finished our feast (approximately 20mins after boarding the train), we were soon in Madrid.

And while there’s no place I like more (except, perhaps, Buenos Aires), there are some funny things in Madrid. The signs on the metro, for instance.

Now, we three girls had been travelling for a few days. Hyperglycaemia had set in due to the amount of sweets we’d ingested. We were in
SPAIN for heaven’s sake. Some of us could exclaim “I’m in EUROPE” in a voice that begged the response “yes dear, now have some more tea”. So we were all a bit giggly.

Also a bit alarmed at how much we were learning about one another that we hadn’t already learnt (despite being blood relations or spitting sisters…not that we ever did that because I have an aversion to saliva…but you know what I mean). All the secrets were coming out, they had to, since we’d be sharing beds in some arrangement or another in the near future.

So when we saw the sign on the metro, it entertained us to think that the sign did not mean “keep your filthy paws off our silky doors” and instead, read it as “okay – not”.

Which quickly became the excalmation “NOT-okay!!!!” when I asked whose turn it was with the vibrator that night.

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posted by Nomes @ Friday, February 02, 2007   1 comments
Dilettante
Thursday, 1 February 2007
Someone called me a dilettante today.

I totally understand WHY they called me that, because I expressed an interest in ‘not settling down in one topic’.

You see, when you do a PhD, you put blinkers on (as well as strapping yourself to a bed of nails upon which you lie each night, further burdening your load with a concrete slab of ‘guilt’ tethered to your chest) and narrow your field of vision down to one particular thing. In my case, it was the epidemiology of Campylobacter jejuni in commercial broiler flocks in New Zealand.

Pretty specific, no?

Then I spent two years working on the surveillance of outbreaks. Not outbreaks themselves, you’ll note, but looking at how many there were, where they were etc. I also did some work on genotyping strains of TB. Not DOING the genotyping, just talking about how it will be a good idea in a few years time, if you’ll please continue to fund the project. Still, it was all reasonably specialised, as well as “not really what I wanted to do”.

When they interviewed us for EPIET, one of the main questions they asked was, “what area do you want to work in?”. You can pick between things like, “gastrointestinal diseases”, “respiratory infections”, “sexually-transmitted infections”, “nosocomial infections”, “zoonoses”, “vector-borne diseases”, “vaccine-preventable diseases” etc.. You can even get even more specific if you so deside: TB, FLU, HIV. Those diseases often get their own special departments.

But what if you are vehemently against specialising? What if you think you’re not much good at specialising (because you get bored too quickly, too easily) and are better placed in a position which coordinates, which has to know a little bit about each of those family of diseases, and see over-arching common goals etc. That way the knowledge that person has can possibly be applied to new situations as they arise, and can see things from a fresh perspective, or can see where efficiencies can be made due to undertaking similar tasks across all programs (you follow?).

So what I really really really want (apart from zigga zigga ahh) is a job that allows me to do that. Is that a crime!? I came into epidemiology with the understanding that my attention span is short (almost to the point of ridiculous) but that I love learning new stuff, and preferably under pressure. The idea was that this field would provide a variety of disease problems/issues/situations and I would constantly have to learn how to deal with them, because they wouldn’t be like each other.

When it appears that, in reality, people don’t want some bloody ‘jack-of-all-trades’ dilettante with a bit of veterinary science background, some food science background, a dangerous amount of knowledge in laboratory techniques, a PhD and an EPIET diploma (not to mention a smart mouth) merely dabbling in their precious disease fields.

So what do I do? Who wants what I’ve got to give?

And who EVER thought that my work situation would so acutely reflect my personal life?

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posted by Nomes @ Thursday, February 01, 2007   2 comments

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