Thursday, December 17, 2009

Don't drink and drive

I know there's a zero tolerance policy in the Czech Republic when it comes to driving and alcohol. Zero as, zero is the only acceptable BAC there is... and there are no reprieves or additional chances. I could be wrong, but it's my understanding that if you get caught with any alcohol in your system while driving you lose your license.... for life.

Last year in California there were 1,198 alcohol related fatalities. In the Czech Republic, between January and November of this year (2009) there have been 83 - more than the total number from 2008. OK, so in California we have three times the population - but if you do the math, well the figures still don't match. We are pulling over and arresting and suspending licenses for repeat offenders... in my community a guy just got his 13th DUI... and today's paper talks about someone who got sentenced after his 5th. This 'lose your license for life' thing may sound extreme, but it also sounds like it would be a rather more effective deterrent. However - not effective enough for the Czech it seems. They've implemented a new policy.

Every person who is pulled over, for any and every reason, will have their breath tested for alcohol. Each and every single one of them... and now, they don't even need to breathe in a tube - there's a a new test that will check their BAC while they have a regular conversation with the officer. The technology exists. You over on the other side of the pond should start paying attention... if our government ever decides to start getting serious about drunk driving (drink driving they call it here, cause all you need is just a little drink) the road has been paved - and quite effectively.

Check out the article right HERE if you're interested.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

things from home....

Here is a rather comprehensive list of things I'd miss and/or would love from home:

Jelly Bellies - bubblegum, cotton candy, watermelon, lemon-lime... just send me some jelly bellies please
slippers - furry woolly ones (size 9 - we're both a 9 but she needs them and I have some old ones that are still warm if not quite cozy)
socks - warm ones but not really thick ones, SmartWool kinda stuff
quality belts - for each of us.... the ones we've found here sorta fall apart (?) why does that happen I don't know, but there's an inner lining that likes to detach and then it's very difficult to use the belt
Books - specifically, The Book of Joby and stuff by Anne Bishop and Haruki Murakami (we have the Black Jewels Trilogy and the Wind-up Bird Chronicles) - there are more authors Coral's into but I have to find my list
Itunes cards - inspiration for new music is a bit harder to come by, and we lost most of our stuff when our laptop died a few months ago... so basically - music.
twin sheets - quality twin sheets, cotton, not jersey and high thread count
pictures of you - if you're reading this then we probably (?) know you and would like to have a photo of you for our wall... get it to my Mom and she'll get it to me
recipes - years ago I made a recipe book for someone I love very much, compiled of recipes from people who love her... so, if I've ever shared a meal with you, or a drink, or a laugh or a smile... send me a recipe and I'll put it in my own personal recipe book (I need your picture for this too - or pictures illustrating any difficult steps... or drawings if you're in to that, those work too)
postcards - send us picture postcards for our wall
the rug my grandma made me - i had set it aside to bring later and i haven't been back to get it... i'd really like to have it.
bumble and bumble products - Tonic and De-Frizz
Sonoma Taco Shop - their chips and salsas. I know they're only sold fresh in the restaurant, but I really do miss their chips and salsa.
Gillette Venus razor blades OK honestly, it's not like they don't sell them here, it's just that they're ridiculously expensive!!! It's something like $25USD for a pack of four! I can't easily reconcile spending that much on a razor blades! It's completely out of proportion with everything else... and, yes, I've tried other razors - blades and disposables - and have yet to find one that is an adequate substitute... and my legs are screaming at me for the experiments. Coral agrees with me on this one - she doesn't like any other blade either.

pediatric neurologist

If you're in the Czech Republic, ideally in Prague, I'd love a referral to an English speaking pediatric neurologist. The one we encountered today was so rude, dismissive, and uninterested in both my child and her records - his responses were irrelevant and indicative of a preconceived notion that had no bearing on the situation in front of him. After quite specifically not naming him or the medical center he was affiliated with, but relaying my experience to another parent, she was able to identify him based upon his routine speech - different parents, different patients, same responses that were not pertinent to either situation or in fact to any physician's office.

The staff had scheduled our appointment, suggested the date and time, then refused to acknowledge we were should be there, insisting that I had not contacted them, and that no emails had been exchanged confirming our appointment nor with the follow-up information. That was the high point of our experience today. I've had plenty of experience with arrogant doctors, but this was a different level. I wanted to walk out within the first 5 minutes but was so desperate for advice from this specialist we sat through another 22 minutes or so. Twenty-seven minutes is not enough time to grasp a situation for anyone when they don't listen to the answers to the questions they ask, and not enough time when there are pages of relevant medical charts they've chosen not to make themselves familiar with.

She is sleeping right now, and will head back to school in the morning. Aspects of that are great. Other things aren't so much. I'll let you know how that goes.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

the headache continues: part deux

There are moments I wish I wasn't a single parent... it's never out of frustration with my kid or the juggling of schedules or things like that, it's when I feel fear or anxiety for my daughter. I wish I had that other parent/partner to bounce my emotions off of, to offer up a different perspective, to help me slow down and relax or to allow me a moment to release all this pent up stuff with someone supportive who feels as deeply about her as I do. Sometimes I wish I had that freedom.

As she never reads this I can write it here, and you can have a glimpse of what's going on... most of you (assuming if you're still reading you know us) know that she had a pretty bad concussion a few years back... if you follow this blog you know she fell a few weeks ago. Now, it seems, that fall rattled her brain enough to bring back some of those same concussion symptoms. She's experienced increasing headaches, sleepiness, dizziness, blurry vision, screwy literal interpretations, and forgetting the step by step stuff that's involved in short-hand speech (do the dishes means more than just wash the plates - solely the plates). We're back to writing everything down and she gets to read it when she wakes up about 1PM (or 13:00 depending on how you tell time). It's about 6 in the evening (18:00) and even though she slept all night, after days full of naps, she's napping again. Already.

Sometimes it's scary seeing her fall back in to that lack of understanding and physical pain... other times it's the frustration that is overwhelming - seeing her hurting or experiencing her own concerns about the situation. She's out of school for a bit while her brain rests, once again she's not allowed to read or do any school work until things are a bit better and her head is (nearly) headache free. Hopefully that will be very, very soon. In the meantime, if you care to, please write her or skype her or whatever it is you do to keep in touch with her - she's dreadfully bored when she's awake... so far she's watched the Matrix movies and is now on Star Wars (watching them in chronological order of their release). If you have suggestions for tv shows or movies that'd be great... as they require less brain activity than sleeping it's the one thing she can actively do to help move along her recovery. Brain injury - probably the only time the doctor will tell you to go be a couch potato.

Monday, November 30, 2009

PCTS - it's back :(

Coral's head is really not well. When she fell a few weeks back she rattled her brain a bit too much, and her headaches are increasing in intensity - so much so that I had to leave school today to pick her up and escort her home. The administration wouldn't let her leave on her own for the 4 minute tram ride as she was dizzy and had some blurry vision. When I got there she was pale and near tears and the spark was missing from her eyes... it's frightening seeing someone you love and they're not there.

I've contacted her specialists (we've been in contact throughout) and am waiting for Coral's medical reports/summary to take to a local specialist should things not improve soon. Please, keep her in your thoughts. She will most likely be home from school for a week.

As we got off the tram in Namesti Miru today we were going to get some roasted nuts in the Christmas Market - we pass through it on our walk home and Coral loves them. Unfortunately a portion of the market had caught fire and a few stalls were charred and crumbling. The firemen were still there with their water, breaking down the black beams and checking for embers. A few stalls had been engulfed in flames - completely blackened, not just the facing or the roof or the sides, but the complete structure was burned.

So - along with my kid, please keep those people - the craftsmen and the workers - in your thoughts tonight, or whenever night it is that you read this. Fire is a deadly force of nature. It's never something to be trifled with - many years ago I lost someone I cared for in a tragic Christmas holiday fire. I also just got word that my friend's Mom passed away after being diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday. Please keep that family in your hearts too.

I hope that each and every person you love, and each and every person they love, is safe and warm and well fed and healthy and in home sleeping soundly tonight. Life is far too short. Make sure those you choose to surround yourself with people whom you love and let them know you love them, and if you don't, love them that is, then take the positive steps necessary to create a happier existence for yourself and surround yourself with people you love, respect, and appreciate.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

we're in

We're completely out of our old flat and in to our new one... it's nice and cozy and full of boxes, and I can hear the neighbors' casual conversation (not a high point) and piano playing (which is quite good and makes me long for my own piano even though I no longer play) and things will be fine here.

If you're American we're on the 4th floor - no elevator. If you're not... it's no big deal so nevermind.

We have internet but we don't have heat just yet - for some reason we can turn the dial on the radiator but nothing happens. Hope to have that fixed soon.

I hope you've all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I love you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

pot kettle pot kettle black

My child called me in to tell me about this ridiculous name someone chose for their kid... it's possibly a nickname, but it's Oot. Then she told me that some celebrity named their kid Book. I challenged that, and we got in to a big conversation about names.

She started listing off absurd things people call their kids - Apple, Gaia, Trixie, Bluebell, Sky, Leo...

And I said, yeah... uh, and you???

Sunday, November 22, 2009

the pilgrims and their drinks

Today I went to teach the Russian family. On the way I saw two things that struck me - one was a woman carrying a grocery bag that was printed to look like a straw basket full of fresh healthy vegetables. The other was out in the suburbs in the backyard of a house I passed in the bus. They had gutted and beheaded a pig and strung it up by the hind-legs from the laundry line to drain into a bucket. A big dalmation was running around the yard sniffing the bucket but otherwise leaving the pig alone.

The boy and I had a good lesson and then I started with the daughter. Her understanding and speaking skills are more advanced so we incorporate more in to her session. Today we were studying about Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. After a brief overview of the difficulties the Pilgrims faced on the Mayflower there were some questions - such as what do you think the Pilgrims brought with them to prepare for the voyage, and then space for five answers. Her answers:

Good food
Lots of water
Good clothes
Meat without worms

I explained that I don't think the Pilgrims drank vodka, and she was absolutely incredulous "What Jenny?!? No vodka! Are you sure?" I was met with such skepticism that I laughed and let her know I was pretty sure, but I could be wrong, but still I was fairly certain that the Pilgrims didn't drink vodka and that they probably hadn't even heard of it. I know she still thinks I'm wrong because everybody drinks vodka. She's twelve.

Friday, November 20, 2009

My kid and the clumsy not so good weekend.

Two weeks ago I went to Berlin and the kid passed for a school trip to Budapest. I know she regrets that a bit because I had an awesome time and she did not.

Starting with Friday - somehow my elegant and graceful child managed to fall down a flight of stone stairs in the dark. She didn't break her ipod but did lose her headphones... that was the least of it though. She also managed to cut up her hands, her stomach and her legs as well as sprain her knee. She went back to her teacher's house, as the family was kind enough to care for her while I was gone, and slept on the floor in pain after a thorough checking over by the mother who is also a nurse.

This was within a few hours of our landlord coming over and telling us he had sold our flat and contrary to our written agreement, and Czech law, he was breaking our lease, not with the required 3 months notice, but with 3 weeks notice.

Saturday she had a birthday party to go to - she limped all over and managed to find her bus only to get off at the wrong stop in middle of the wrong nowhere... and some creeper got off at the wrong stop and waited there with her too.

Sunday they went to Budapest, did their thing, and she sat in the car for 3 hours at the end of the trip while her classmates sang worship songs. When they drove home (6 hours) the van started breaking down so they had to make a detour and find alternate vehicles and additional drivers.

By the time she made it home, nearing 1 am, she'd also developed a full blown cold.

Apparently, in her fall she also rattled her brain a bit - which isn't good when you're dealing with post concussion stuff... and has had some pretty icky pretty bad headaches ever since. Back to medication for her brain and head pain.

She's off crutches now but still limping and slowly getting over the cold but still has a headache. We've found a new place and will move next week... but that's a whole other story.

the kid's cultural update.

The kid has a choral performance in December and a hip-hop dance performance in January. She has just asked me for piano lessons.

Monday, November 16, 2009

super super quick

This is worth reading.

No time to write just yet... have to move in 2 weeks - landlord just told us he sold our flat and broke our lease... life is really hectic.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Berlin Slideshow - 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

I don't have time right now to write about even half of what I experienced and felt the past few days, but it was amazing, heartwrenching, enlightening, and full of fun. I learned about myself through a variety of ways, and learned a bit more about the world as well...

Here are some of my pictures... my battery started to die so I cut back on pictures.


I really, really loved Berlin and could easily picture myself happily living there some time off in the distant future...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hypothetically ridiculous adults on the school retreat

Let us say, hypothetically speaking, that my child, recently played a popular old word game with a bunch of other high school students and an adult. Let us also say, as is historically true with everyone else she has played for the past few years, that she dominated the game.

Then, lets pretend that later on the adult, the father of one/some of the other hypothetical players, pulled her aside, and said, in all seriousness "Now, just so you know, I was going easy cause my kids were playing."

Then, we'll continue this fantasy and say that she came home and told her Mom, me, about it, and upon my questioning her as to how she responded, we'll pretend that her answer was something like this... "Well, I didn't really say much about it but changed the subject... but he sure let me know a few things."

And if this had been real life and I had questioned her further, her answer may have been something like, "Well, he let me know he felt threatened by a teenager... and if he didn't say it cause he felt threatened by losing to a teenager... then he has no regard for my sense of self esteem cause he would have been crushing it by implying that I didn't really win. Either way, I lost a bit of respect for him."

And that's how the weekend may have gone... if she had actually been playing Boggle with anyone.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

super super quick

This is worth reading.

No time to write just yet... have to move in 2 weeks - landlord just told us he sold our flat and broke our lease... life is really hectic.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

what the heck is the violence about???

There is a different kind of violence here, a different kind of crime, but this is more focused on violence.

The first time I was exposed to domestic violence was when our former neighbor hit his mother in the face (he was well over 6 feet tall), knocking her off her feet and in to the wall. She was shorter than me. Then I saw it in my old preschool - not nearly as extreme, but still shocking for me.

Twice now I've witnessed public domestic abuse. Once was a mother who at first I thought was consoling another adult, then realized it was a teenager, and thought that her physical intimacy was not a comforting presence but rather a threatening presence. It became abundantly clear when she started striking the sobbing girl in the face, slapping her repeatedly - quickly and hard. I was in a tram and we were stopped. It was a few moments due to the loading/unloading, and then traffic. The girl must have been hit 8 times, at least.

Today it was at a metro stop. A ways down the waiting area a young woman was sitting on the footrails crying and a man crouched down in front of her. I noticed him as it was a funny position, not one of intimacy which would be warranted in her situation. Again, I realized it was more threatening (I had my headphones on and couldn't hear a thing.) He was leaning in to her, his anger was clear, the tension in his face and his mannerisms, clenched jaw, pursed lips, veins and tendons bursting out all over the place... and then he headbutted her, slamming her head back into the marble pillar behind her.

The metro came and he walked away while she wiped her eyes. I thought he walked away, rather, but he just walked around the pillar and boarded the metro with her, but then got off without her.

Both of this instances I've found shocking and horrifying and felt so helpless... my heart hurts to watch these women take this sort of treatment... and more so that it's so casual. The people thought nothing of attacking the person besides them over whom they had more power. It was such a non-thought that they did it freely in public for everyone to see.

I just wrote about the gang rapes... a horrific example of societal failure, but this sort of violence and aggression should not be culturally condoned either. Who is it that teaches their children that you hit the people you care about? Who teaches their kids that you hurt those you trust you? Why would you want to teach your children to expect to either accept or dole out physical pain? Why not teach your kids how to speak, to listen, to love, to respect, how to be happy without causing harm. Why not try to teach your children how to live in a world that is better than what is surrounding you now. Without that hope, without the idea, there will not be change.

Yea Czechoslovakian Independence Day

Yes, we live in the CZECH REPUBLIC, but today is the day that Czechoslovakia declared their independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire all those years ago... it was a time when Czechoslovakia had a top economy and was one of the areas to be... a period when they flourished and thrived, right before they were fed to Nazi Germany by the rest of the world, and then handed over, again, to appease yet another bully.

So, today is the holiday celebrating their first declaration of independence. It was successful while it lasted. And meaningful once again.

What is wrong with these men?

People ask me about the sense of safety and security here, compared to 'back home'. Richmond is not far from 'home'. While this (see the link below if you really want to, or just keep reading for the general idea which is more than enough) is going on, back in SR there is a preliminary hearing about another 15 year old girl who was was walking home, grabbed by a car of men, driven to a local school and raped and beaten. She, however, did not have to be hospitalized in critical condition for her injuries. She hid her bruises for a few days out of fear, embarassment and a sense of disgrace.

Young women - all victims of sexual violence - are victimized not only by the violence they've experienced, but again by the societal perception of the experience and questions around their acts or actions that may have "led to" or "warranted" sexual aggression.

This insanity must end. Not to say this is a cultural norm, as fortunately it's not, but for any gathering of 20 men to either participate or passively give their presence to such an atrocious act - it is a strong indication that our society is failing.

I don't have the answers, but parents must take the first steps to responsibly raise their children by lovingly teaching them integrity and respect... on so many levels that would make this world a better place.

Richmond High gang rape

SR teen gang rape - preliminary trial

stupid broken computer... introducing ASUS

Our computer broke last Friday. (Last Friday was a big day in our lives.)

Mom and Dad were kind enough to help us out, and we now have a new computer... which I am trying to get to know a bit better.

It is a PC and not a Mac. It has the right click/left click, and a totally different type of touchpad. I keep killing the touchpad.

We've had it for about 72 hours now and twice I've had a notice that I've killed the scrolling function on the touchpad. Not that I've done anything, other than scroll, it's just no longer working. I click on the option to look for an online solution, but then nothing happens. I'm tempted to take it in and ask for a new one, but... I DON'T SPEAK CZECH and while the sales clerk was helpful as could be in his limited English, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that his bit of English was suddenly a bit less once I indicate a problem.

ALSO - I have no idea how to create a secure connection with the new wireless router... my landlord gave us a new one and I need to set it up with the laptop, but again... the info is in Czech and I'm lost.

So... if you're local... a little help, please?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Friends/family - please email me your addresses!

My gmail address book is a disaster and I've lost my paper addresses, so, please, could you please send them along again. I'm trying to put a few things together, slowly, for Christmas... if you've ever received a note, postcard, email, FB message, or anything else from me, then please - this message is for you.

Monday, October 26, 2009

what the heck is she wearing?

When, please tell me, when did three inch patent-pleather boots,a matching mini pleather trench, denim printed lycra leggings, a gold lame and faux leopard print bag, and and brassy red, orange, and bleached shaggy mullet - accompanied by a teacup poodle become the height of fashion???

When - or what hell do I live in now? I've never been so grateful to be so unfashionable!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

over-qualified fast food workers & education.

I stopped off in KFC (seriously, don't judge) to get dinner the other night. I was able to greet the guy in Czech and asked, in Czech if he spoke English. The clerk was a little cocky and sorta of smirked and responded, in English, "and German, Russian, and French, too" except when he got to the French part he said it in Czech, and his co-worker burst out laughing. It was sorta funny.

But what kills me is that here are HIGHLY educated people working fast food jobs. They're not the immigrants struggling to make it who take the position out of desperation. These positions are sought after, and are competitive, and you must be able to speak various languages.

Along a similar train of thought - I was talking to someone and remarked that in my classes I feel so stupid, so ignorant, and I'm not a stupid person, but I get so lost... Today I realized, I'm not a stupid American, but I'd make a really ignorant European. Europeans know more about American history than I ever have, and more about their own than I ever will. The educational challenges here are insane compared to the complacency of the American educational system. I wish I'd brought Coral over here sooner and had been able to put her in to the European educational system rather than the American version of the Euro education. She's still getting more than she would back in the US, but not as much as her Czech counterparts.

(addendum - the competitiveness was not taken from observation, but as it has been relayed to me. When McDonalds opened for interviews there were over 800 applicants in line. The pay is better than most positions that student aged workers would receive elsewhere. There is no prestige, but as it offers good student hours and good pay there is a certain level of competition (obviously not for a career) and the workers who are employed here (Czech Republic) are disproportionately educated when compared to the worker employed in the US.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Further Thanksgiving thoughts

For me Thanksgiving means family, friends, turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, some green veggies, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. The focus on the family and friends part. It used to be a big homey sort of day, with cooking and cleaning, prepping a for guests, and football in the background (American Football - it's a big American Football day, and I used to be in the US for Thanksgiving).

I have found a place where I can get sweet potatoes, but marshmallows are a novelty here... The turkey can be ordered, but I don't know the ratio... it's so many pounds per person to calculate how large a turkey you need - I don't know how many people yet, but I know that a ratio exists. Pumpkin pie is another difficulty. I am quite concerned that I may need to make it from scratch as I know it would inedible. So suggestions for a foolproof American style pumpkin pie would be greatly appreciated.

And if someone could explain to me HOW any individual is supposed to prepare all of this in one day using one stove, one oven, and one refrigerator.... I'd REALLY appreciate THAT, too!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Anticipating Christmas

Until we moved overseas, and except for the few months my parents lived on the East Coast, I have never lived further than a few hours by car from my extended family. I've been fortunate enough to have been raised with a large, caring, and supportive extended family that had a rather active presence in my life. Same with Coral.

Now, it's mid-October, and with the exception of my daughter and my Mother, I haven't seen my family at all this year. The holidays are soon approaching.

Christmas back home involves extensive planning as traditionally there is a sit-down dinner in my parents home for the 50+ local family members... a gift exchange... Christmas carols around the fireplace in the front room... gifts early in the morning around the tree with coffee... and our personalized stockings my Mom made by hand for each one of us. There are so many cousins and nieces and nephews and growing families contained within my family that each year there is a new child to introduce to the holiday spirit... another child old enough to appreciate the excitement of unwrapping a gift, to help celebrate and hand out gifts.. each year is another gift in its own right.

This is the first year I will not be attending the greater family gathering. Even when I was married we spent Christmas with my family - either my in-laws didn't really celebrate Christmas or they held their dinner the night before (or both... not really big holiday celebrators or gift givers). Last year we flew home for the holidays and it was a wonderful yet mixed experience. Wonderful in that I got to see my family - mixed in that I had a terrible cold and barely got to see my family... and when I came back I felt disconnected to my surroundings having not been fully established when I'd left.

This year my Mom and Dad and youngest brother will be traveling to visit us. There are a few added bonuses to their journey - my brother's good friend in Canada (where he lives) is from Prague - Coral connected with her while she was visiting this summer... she will be returning to Prague for the holidays... and a dearly loved family friend will also be here from Bulgaria, visiting her parents who live in Prague... my parents will have a chance to connect with her after not having seen her for a few years - since she spent a Christmas holiday with us, in our home, in California.

We will all have a chance to connect with people whom we love, those who are special to us in a number of different ways. And I will have a chance to show my Mom and Dad where we live, what kind of life I've been able to put together over here, introduce them to a few people whose names they hear, and show them around our new home. I think we'll also have the chance to travel around just a bit, too.... maybe Vienna for a bit.

I really miss my parents. I miss working with my Dad, hearing about what is going on in the office, connecting with him over clients, being able to relate new challenges to past cases. And I miss my Mom. I miss talking to her every day, from next door - which is ridiculous, but true. I miss her 'Mom' jokes and her smile and how in her cupboards I can never find a simple snack but only incredibly healthy components that must be assembled in to something I normally wouldn't eat.

There's a fair amount of planning to do beforehand - tickets, hotels, etc... and as soon as I finish mid-terms I can't wait to get started!

and the lesson learned?

Coral relayed a story to me last night - something that happened in her classmate's home.

The family went on a week vacation and asked their neighbor to water their plants. The neighbor kindly agreed.

The first day of the vacation the neighbor stopped by, did the neighborly thing, and then stopped in the toilet to do her own thing. When she was finished the grasped the door handle to open the door, but unfortunately the handle was loose and it fell off on the other side, rendering her part of the handle useless.

She had locked herself in the bathroom on the first day of a week long holiday.

Obviously without food or water.

Left with no other options, and out of desperation, at some point she decided to kick in the bathroom door. Three days later, although weak from the lack of food, she found the last bit of strength needed to finally break through the door.

The moral of the story - if you're home alone, leave the door open. Otherwise you could die of starvation.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Why am I always sick here???

I don't know what it is, but I am sick so often... especially since we moved in June!

I caught a cold in June which by July turned in to pneumonia which lasted through August till the beginning of September, and here it is October, and I've caught, what feels like, the same cold again!

I can't speak much above a whisper, and can barely swallow, and have a cough. I HATE feeling like this!!!

I had to call in sick on Friday, tried teaching teenagers yesterday (they wrote a lot) and have had to cancel my classes today. I am also going to have to cancel all my classes tomorrow, too.

Additionally, at some point, I did something to my back, throwing it out or something, and I can't stand up straight.

I feel incredibly weak, extremely uncomfortable, and physically vulnerable - and none of those are good. But beyond that - I fell frustrated.

I need to stop catching everything that goes around!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Our 2nd Thanksgiving Overseas

As the title says, it's our second Thanksgiving here. Last year we went to our shared professor's house for dinner, but this year I want to put on a dinner... I still have to check with a few friends to see if they can host it - work on timing and such, but I think we can work it out.

There are a few obstacles and so I'm reaching out for some help:

I've never cooked a full turkey on my own - I don't know how to do it and I don't know how to gauge how big of a turkey I will need

I do not know how to make a pie crust - and the microscopic kitchens here aren't conducive for rolling out pastries

I want the sweet potato dish with pineapples and sugared nuts and little melted marshmallows on top - sweet potatoes are a bit of a novelty here but I can find them... the marshmallows I can't find (same with cranberry sauce - can't find it)

The ovens here are kooky - everything is Celsius and it jumps huge bits between the different temperature settings!

I don't have a lot of confidence when it comes to cooking new things... it takes me a few times to get it down

So - I'd appreciate some tips or advice, encouragement or discouragement... anything at all, actually. Thanks :)

Visa - approved!!!

We first applied in May 2008... there was a huge debacle (previously detailed) and we reapplied this year... FINALLY after many months and an inexplicable silence on the Los Angeles Consulate's part.... after a late night email spurred on by 3 weeks of messages without the courtesy of a return call, a bit of pain, and having been awake for 3 hours and unable to sleep at 5 am - we got a response.

They called my Mom and told her it had been approved.

Woo Hoo!

That wasn't the only wild and crazy thing to happen today... I was offered another private tutoring position by the university president - for his child. That makes 3 students through my school, 3 private students in the Russian not-in-the-mafia family, and 3 private students through an adult education school. AND that makes 3 pre-school courses I am about to let go as the hours are horrible and the pay is far less than 1/2 what the other people are offering... in fact, for some - only 1/3. AND my friend also set me up with another school on the weekends which will pay an amount that includes the digit '3' - there were just so many darn 3s I figured I should list that somewhere.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Out, out damn.... mosquito!

I am starting to wonder if there is some basis for the vampire legends... I can envision someone rationalizing vampires after the past week's experiences. I am being haunted by a demon mosquito.

I have killed this thing at least once a night, every night, for over a week. And each night one mosquito comes back and bites me. Every single night. It stays in my bedroom, hidden during the day, waiting to return at dusk. It stalks me and sucks my blood and flies off to return at its whim... I swear it regenerates each time I kill it!!!

This thing is driving me crazy. Literally. I wake up in the middle of the night, swollen, disfigured, discolored, and in a bit of pain with a lot of frustration. Last night I got another bite and broke out in hives - my entire arm was red and blotchy.... after waking from the bite itself I watched the splotches develop and the redness spread from my mid-forearm in either direction - to my wrist and elbow. The night before it was my face.

I am so frustrated that when I hear it I start moving to the other room to sleep on the couch instead of my bed. It doesn't bite me out there.

Each night, just one dead mosquito. The windows are closed. I can't figure out how it gets in the flat. But somehow there is always one blood sucking mosquito waiting for me in my bedroom. I haven't slept well in quite some time.

If you are an expert mosquito killer please, please let me know. If you can kill it and it stays dead and gone I will compensate you with homemade peanut butter cookies. And everlasting gratitude.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Flu & Good King Wenceslas

We haven't gone to the doctor cause it's not too serious, but she's sick. We had to skip out on the trip to Dresden we'd had planned for the long weekend... long weekend, you may ask, whatever for?

Czech Statehood. Now that looks like a rather obvious statement, but I'm still unsure which statehood that's referring too. It's not the creation of the modern day Czech Republic, and it's not the liberation of Czechoslovakia, so I made a half-hearted attempt to look it up.

Good King Wenceslas was the answer. You know..... good King Wenceslas from the Christmas carols... that guy. He wasn't actually a full fledged king - actually he was Prince Wenceslas... or Prince Vaclav as it would be over here - but he was a much loved leader and had a kingly type role and did some good stuff over here - until his brother killed him in a terrible power play. So, yesterday was a holiday surrounding good King Wenceslas and Czech Statehood.

I'm not sure but I think it was the anniversary of his murder. We spent it at home. She's still sick.

(Hey, I just did an instant of research cause I had my own questions, and came up with THIS RIGHT HERE. It's a nice little bit on King Wenceslas (Saint Wenceslas, Prince VACLAV)- the man, the myth, the Church's legend... propaganda from the Premyslids on through Vaclav Havel who led the liberation in Wenceslas Square.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

the world works...

Mysterious ways and all that.

No - I firmly believe that what you put in you'll get out. Not on your time line, and not if you try to force it, but things will turn if you keep at it.

Case in point (minor stuff but I'm grateful): I didn't get the job I wanted and started to freak out internally about how I was going to afford my life. I sent out my CV to a ton of places but it's hard with odd availability and a student visa. But things are coming together:

that anti-american boyfriend... the girlfriend just called last night with 2 new students - that makes 3 new students from her in the past week

my uni - the dean of my department (studies not work) tracked me down and asked me to teach the CFO starting immediately. additionally, the CFO has a friend who is a doctor who also wants to start immediately. i met with them today and we start on tuesday.

my uni - my Dean (employer) talked to me and asked me to stay on in a more limited capacity, adding the President endorsed adding my name to the website and handbook in my present capacity... he also asked me to teach a new course in the next academic year, once it's approved by our accrediting agency and made a core requirement. he already has the material for me and the curriculum in mind.

my private students - they were able and anxious to adapt to my schedule, enabling me to take a short vacation this weekend. the daughter broke her finger and didn't want to work so i spent more time with the mother... they adapt and pay when i leave and it's nice.

my private pre-school student - they decided to take vacation this week, and so rescheduled a full day of work to my free weekday so I won't miss any money

my private pre-school company - there are new classes waiting for me to take.

Each and everyone of those places (except the private pre-school) pays better than the school I started with last fall... the school that closed without paying the teachers.

About the private students...well... They're a Russian family and when we first talked the wife made a comment about being tired of people assuming they're mafia. I thought nothing of it. Today, after passing through the gate and ringing the bell to their beautiful brick home I looked up and realized I was on camera. Then I looked around and realized there were about 4 cameras trained on the front yard. The father works from home. He's a business man. That's all I know. I am not assuming anything... other than that they're serious about security.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

boredom leads to bank robbery?

Last week I was at work. I am a glorified babysitter once a week. I have to figure out my wages, actually, because glorified may be a definite overstatement. I was hired to lead a pre-school course but I have only one student, and she is only 2 1/2..

After lunch the child fell asleep for her nap. In a school with one teacher and one student. I did not have any reading material or other busy work to occupy my time. I ate my lunch, tidied up, was already prepared for my next lesson.... and so had nothing to do.

So I entertained myself.

I can now move across a room without triggering the motion detector. If you need that specific skill set - you know who to turn to.

Friday, September 18, 2009

coral is home

finally, again!!!!

my anti-american employer

I'm not incredibly nationalistic. Some people may take issue with that - some believe that makes you less of a person to be American by birth but not one of those flag-waving, might is right, AMERICAN Americans... especially overseas.

I try not to lump people in to groups and label them good or bad as a whole according to their country of origin (not perfect in that respect, but I try), much unlike this guy I met a few weeks back.

I hadn't planned on a late night out as I was still recovering from my illness (and am STILL recovering to date). But I ran in a DJ friend and his group after he finished his set while I was waiting for my tram - they talked me in to grabbing a drink since I had 20 minutes to wait... it turned in my hanging out with them for the next few hours.

During that time span a few things developed - I was the sole remaining female, the only American, and with a group of British and Czech guys out having a good time. UNTIL some guy tugged in the front of my top and I knocked his hand away with a lighthearted, "What the hell?"

Then he ripped in to me about how he hates Americans, American women especially as we're all uptight bitches and pushy and loud and self-righteous and demanding and selfish and blah blah blah. He'd already mentioned something disparaging before but I had chalked it up to him just teasing. I responded this time - let him know he was essentially a stranger and pulling my clothes off and that any woman would react in the same way, not matter where they were from. He argued that European women wouldn't have a problem with that and Czech women wouldn't mind at all. I laughed - it was a ridiculous stance and I said so. I thought he was kidding a bit, but I was wrong. It was a stupid conversation and it continued for a bit - I was absolutely incredulous, couldn't believe he believed his own words but he kept going and going and then got in to how even trying to talk to an American was basically a waste of breathe and he never does it voluntarily outside of the work environment and our little exchange, was the most time dealing with Americans than he's had in the past 5 years... with all over conversations combined. I asked - why start now? I forget what else was said, but one of the other guys, a giant of a man, standing behind me told he him he'd better stop talking because first he was wrong and second he was rude.

It ended with him just going further and further and my getting a little mad, and then, after the giant guy interjected a few more times, he said he was just trying to push my buttons and tried to laugh it off.

Earlier this week I sent my cv off for a teaching position with a school - within the next 15 minutes I had a response from the owner. She asked to meet with me at a cafe the following day. I arrived and she was seated with a man. Her boyfriend. The co-owner. That guy.

I couldn't place him immediately but when I did I started laughing. He was somewhat embarrassed as he recalled our conversation. He asked if I had mentioned to him that I was looking for a teaching position and I said no, I hadn't. He laughed that the meeting was pretty much to get a feel for people and make sure they're articulate. And then remarked, "that's not really a concern - you're definitely articulate."

I got the job. And no, I will not be working with the guy, just for him... and his girlfriend.

Monday, September 7, 2009

my Mom and technology

My Mom and I were talking today - she was on the phone and I was on skype... she needed some help with her new email account and I was trying to offer some advice - as in, just keep it simple and copy and paste the message... She explained she doesn't know how to do that as she never uses that feature - so I talked her through copy and paste on a Mac...

When we finished I explained that she didn't need to be at home to check her email - she can check it anywhere... and she said, "I know, I can check it on my Iphone."

Iphone. My Mom doesn't copy and paste but she can navigate an Iphone. And her hands free carphone/gps system. How did she skip a whole generation or 3 of technology?

I love you Mom.

the new old friends - yet not about friends at all

Recently I ran in to someone I'd met shortly after arriving here. Our interactions then, and my feelings about them, when set against our interactions now have helped me to see how I've had a positive shift in my focal point and comfort level since I left the US.

I think it's not uncommon for newly displaced persons to feel a need to connect - connect with anyone willing to engage with them on any of a variety of levels, pleasant interaction preferably, in their native language possibly, but with some shared dynamic that will help them to feel comfortable in affirming themselves and their presence in this new world.

I know I did, and I know many other people who acknowledge having been in the same place.

When this need isn't readily met there comes along a sense of artificiality - or maybe that's just part of moving to a new country... nothing quite feels real just yet - not vacation, but not home, and definitely not real life. Almost, but not quite, one may become a caricature of oneself. I can't say to what extent I adopted this 'other me' but I know I met quite a few versions of various people that don't truly exist.

That initial need for connection meant that I created immediate social circles, groups of people with language as our one uniter - I've written on this before and don't need to rehash it again. I appreciate these various groups of people, and many of them are still a part of my life today, but in ways that have evolved since we first met. We've all changed drastically in the past year... most likely in ways we would never have imagined back in our country of origin.

It took me a while to move beyond English as being the sole unifying factor and in to finding friends who are friends due to our various other commonalities... shared interests, humor, activities, ideas, etc.

Now when I contrast the 'me' today to the 'me', say 8 or 10 months ago, I find a few things...

ONE - I am carrying a lot of different stress for very different reasons than I was then, and am more aware of it... that's what comes to mind first in my initial instance of self-reflection... not quite as good as..

TWO - I am happier. I wasn't unhappy then (except for the time right after my return from Christmas when I was sick, isolated, without Coral and had a concussion), but I am happier now.

I came with ideas and ideals, and while they still exist I can't say I've done much to make them whole... but I've done enough to help me grow... and I have more work to do. In lots of ways. In various aspects.

The quality of my friendships and the quality of my friends are an indicator to me that things are good. That's what prompted this - I can see that the people who I immediately had surrounded myself may not have been the healthiest or most grounded or most 'real' options out there - but they were the options I had at the time, and have helped me by being supportive and caring and present to the best of their abilities - and I have returned that to them as well. And then, for a few, there came a point where I could no longer view them as having a positive, caring and honorable presence in my life... and now, they're not in it.

And that is the difference. It almost made me sad seeing my friend. There is this magical quality about my first few months here - and that sentiment is shared by everyone I experienced that time with. Life was a party, truly, and while everything has repercussions the idea of being here was still so novel and exciting and new that the idea (and actuality) of those repercussions hitting never popped in to existence. Today - some of those people have since relocated, been reassigned, reunited with families, distanced themselves even further from their loved ones, moved to the other side of the world (both North and South America), had children, lost parents, lost friends, lived up to expectations, failed to make an effort at true responsibility.

I don't know where I fit in on the evaluation, but I know this. I think that being here is worth the effort it takes... and yet right now it feels like that effort is breaking my body. Yet, when I see my kid and I know how happy she is, and when I get up and am myself happy and anxious to get to the interesting part of my day - those things let me know I'm headed down the right track.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wednesday at noon

Things I am not yet used to… the first Wednesday of the month the city’s air raid and emergency alarm system is fully tested at noon. It’s loud and sudden and sometimes scary.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

the un-funny guy... un-thank you?

I know this guy who has a friend - whose attitude and lack of friendliness and humor I had recently remarked upon. Turns out I was sort of wrong - he is capable of smiling and being friendly... and then suddenly he's not, again.

Just a preface to my experience with this guy and in no way does it have any bearing on the following:

I am frequently met with skeptical looks when I mention Coral's age... people think I'm joking or something, and start teasing me back. We were at a quiz night tonight and having a good time, and I joined my friend, the un-funny guy, and their friend. We were talking about age and music, connecting the two, when he asked me how old Coral was... I offered it up, and he thought I was kidding. After confirmation from another friend he accepted what I said... then remarked about how hard it was to believe as I look much, much younger. I said, "Thank you" which is sort of my standard response in this situation (why, I don't know and maybe I should reconsider whether or not my assumption that this is a complimentary remark is just me buying in to the male domination/societal focus upon youth equating beauty and desirability).

So, back to tonight...
"... so young..." him -"Thank you" me

Which was met with - "I didn't mean it as a compliment, it' s just my observation, my perception. To me you look about maybe 28 at the most, that's all."

So, how do I respond to that? "Un-thank you, sort of?" I really don't know. I just said, "ok" and then kept talking.

drinking dilemma - how to avoid having dumbass kids who end up injuring themselves and others?

How do you teach your child to drink responsibly? I know, child, drink, and responsible are not words you usually hear together, but there is a need for young adults to understand how alcohol affects them. Why? Because they will not be drinking with you, at your home, and under your supervision, and when they will be out drinking they will not know when enough is enough. Knowing when to say when doesn’t work when you don’t have an idea as to when it’s “when”.

Case in point:

Thursday afternoon the newest round of American exchange students arrived. The were greeted, fed and delivered to their new homes. Thursday night they went out. One young man did not know when to say when, and ended up getting so inebriated he hurled himself through a plate glass wall, severing tendons and nerves, and liberating other important things that should usually stay inside your arms. He was rushed to the hospital and prepped for emergency surgery. His father booked an immediate flight to Prague in order to join his son – the son he had placed on a plane not even 24 hours before.

This news prompted discussion amongst the staff and I heard horror stories of drunken (American) students who came over and made some attempt to live/work/educate themselves but not nearly as efficiently or as often as they were inebriated. The ridiculous events, catastrophes and tragedies relayed were of a most sobering variety - the worst ending in a boy who fell off his balcony and is now permanently paralyzed. Not a single one of them involved a motorized vehicle. These were just drunken students walking around town or in their own home.

If you bring a child to an amusement park you tell them – as do the workers – keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times. When you teach a kid to drive you explain safety issues and the rules of the road before handing over the keys. When you drop your kids off at the movies or the mall or anywhere for the first time you run through safety issues, stranger danger… things you’ve prepared them for since they were little children. How, as responsible parents, can we prepare our children to drink – the Reagan era Just Say No is not realistic… about as realistic as Bush’s theory that abstinence only sex education means that kids won’t have sex… how do we prepare our kids for the real world?

I ask this in seriousness, not because I am worried about my child, as I think our shared life experiences have given her a rather large view on the negative impact and effect excessive alcohol use can have upon your being and your relationships with those who love you (not my usage, others). I hope that my honesty and openness for discussion – forcing discussion on topics that were not part of my upbringing – has given her awareness and security in knowing that there is no need to hesitate should any issue arise. I would like to believe that we have a certain level of openness in our communication, and that issues surrounding sex and drugs and drinking are out there on the table, yet know that with her being who she is I have little need for concern regarding those issues – at least for today.

How do we, as parents, find that safe space? How do we teach our child how to be responsible without being irresponsible?

Monday, August 31, 2009

the summer was sucked away

School started today and the summer is gone... there's actually no real change for me as I've been sick and in town all summer long, and now, I'm still sick, and still in town - just, as I'm getting a little better, I have more things to fill my time.

Coral will be back within 2 1/2 weeks - on the outside. Apparently the FP are actually getting their act together and while they'd misplaced one piece of paper they've since relocated it and have sent it on to Prague - and once it's processed here a visa will be issued in Los Angeles for my child who is currently in Montreal. No worries, it will all work out.

Funding her education is a whole other issue - as my voice and lungs aren't good yet it's not realistic for me to pick up a lot of teaching classes - I start coughing if I'm talking for too long, and then it gets bad and I lose both my voice and the ability to breathe freely. I am finally interviewing this week for the position at my uni, and hoping desperately that it comes through for me, or else you may be seeing me at the likes of Darling Cabaret... but even seedier, as I hawk my wares to get my kid a religious education... kidding family, kidding. However, seriously, it's stressful. It's 2:50 am, I'm still sick, and can't sleep cause of the tension I'm carrying. It's moments like this I get frustrated. And somewhat angry which is a totally wasted emotion, but one I'm experience anyway. And appreciative and grateful too - that's directed at my Mom and Dad. The former frustration that in the past 3 I have received $21 USD in child support and no contribution towards tuition, health care, or plane tickets... and that platry sum wasn't because that's all that could be spared and a genuine effort to give what could be given, it was solely to keep himself out of jail. I am really keeping this reigned in, but I probably shouldn't write when I'm tired and frustrated.

So, I'm gonna stop.

Monday, August 24, 2009

CS Cheese!!!

I ventured out on Sunday, back to Rolf's house for another CS event. It was a cheese competiiton - marinated hermelin. I was a little skeptical, but after testing a number of cheese, I was more than impressed with everyone's creations. It was a great day - good friends, good moods, and good food.

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clumsy melting me

Ok, so when I get sick my other health stuff kicks in and I hurt a lot more than normal, fingers freeze, random body parts start freaking, etc... the result is I'm quite often clumsier than normal.

I could try to attribute my clumsiness to the events of my weekend, but I don't think I can get by using that excuse for everything... some of it was just too weird.

First - I twisted my ankle in the movie theater while walking down the stairs... how - on the step, no. I stumbled on my shoe. My ankle caught in the well of the step and I tottered trying not to fall and distract everyone from the film... and in the process I stepped on my own shoe with the other foot and just made it worse. Fortunately I didn't fall.

Prior to heading to the movie I tried these new curlers I had just picked up - not that I usually curl my hair but I was bored and had nothing else to do after 10 days at home... so I'm getting ready, curlers in my hair, drying my hair, putting on some makeup, etc, and it comes time to take the curlers out. Apparently the curlers just suck apples cause one of them melted. The stupid curler melted in to my hair. I had melted plastic in my hair.

That wasn't the only thing that melted this weekend either. The cord for my laptop was totally fine - plugged in, straight as could be, and I shifted everything just a little bit, pushed what it was resting on just a little bit away from me - and suddenly it fell off. The connection didn't fall off, the cord fell off the little magnet connecting piece leaving my charger in two pieces. I reached to grab it in a definite WTF moment and it was burning hot! So, logically I reach for the little lonely magnetic piece - and that's burning hot too.... and naturally I reach for the plug to take it out off the wall .... go figure, that burned my hand.

That stupid melted charger cost me 3,200 crowns to replace. I have no clue why it melted, but if this new one does too then I'm just gonna save another 1,000 crowns and buy one of those cheap-ass laptops that don't have melting parts!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Health odyssey

Throughout the weekend it was apparent that things are not getting better. I have been on 2 courses of antibiotics, have 2 forms of steroids for my lungs, and have cut out indoor social events as I cannot be around cigarette smoke. Actually, cut out most everything as I can't be around cigarette smoke. More than smoke, I just can't always breathe. It's scary and my lungs hurt. Really hurt, really bad. I start coughing and gasping till there are tears and then I'm fine for a bit and everything looks normal.

I started wondering if I should just go see the dr right away. I didn't. I waited til Monday as I wanted to find someplace that would take my insurance.

It turns out that there is no place that actually takes my insurance.

Before I fully understood that, though, I made my way to the university hospital. There is an area where foreigners need to check in, so I did that. The way it works here, is you give them a deposit before you go to the doctor. They give you the papers they need and you go back when you're all done and either get a refund or pay the difference. The deposit is 1,000 crowns. I took care of the finance stuff and then tried to follow her instructions to the actual doctor's office (it's a HUGE complex!). I failed and was literally walking in circles. Somehow I ended up on the wrong floor in the wrong building surrounded by doors and corridors and words I didn't understand. I found someone in hospital uniform, showed her my paperwork and she led me in the right direction.

After a wait I was examined by a young doctor who called in another doctor. They sent me straight down to the emergency clinic where I waited again... Once they cleared the ambulances and stretchers I was given a bed, an EKG, blood tests, and x-rays and told to sit again... I did for a few hours (or so it seemed). More ambulances, more emergencies. The wheezing and raspy breathing continued - and the security and administration staff kept tossing off pitying looks.

A young guy in a uniform came out of the clinic, pointed at me, smiled and snapped his fingers. The doctor followed as I rose to follow and explained to me I needed to get in to the ambulance and this guy would take me where I needed to go. I hadn't coughed during our brief exposure and so I think he had the impression that I was fine - he pointed where I should sit, I did, and he left for a bit.

When he returned he started off at a nice slow pace... I was seated immediately behind him on the other side of the plexi glass, in such a way that he could see my profile in his rear view mirror. For the first 2 minutes everything was fine. Then I started coughing. Hard. I grabbed the medical mask one of the ER doctors had put on me and pulled it back up over my face. And then I was coughing more and more fiercely and couldn't catch my breathe. Sometimes I can' stand up, but I was already sitting and felt like I was going to fall, when I realized he was taking corners like a madman and I wasn't buckled in - I really was sliding around on the edge of my chair. As I reached out to brace myself he slammed on the brakes, ran around the ambulance, threw the door open and helped me out. (I found out later my chart was marked as being potentially life-threatening... that explains why he freaked out.. silently, but it was still a freak out.)

Once I had both my feet on the ground he grabbed my hard by my upper arm and started pulling - really pulling, not just guiding or leading, but pulling me in to the building - we rushed through (still coughing, still pulling) the lobby and a corridor to find the right elevator. He slammed the button, the doors opened, and we both stepped on. My coughing stopped, the doors closed and he let go. I looked up and met some very concerned eyes - I pulled the medical mask down to smile and let him know I was ok. I realized we were standing as far apart from each other as possible given the confined space. The floors clicked past and as the doors started to open he grabbed me again... I made it about 5 meters before another coughing fit and then he wasn't just pulling, he was dragging me down the hall, around the corner, and down another hall where he started yelling for the nurses. I couldn't breath, my eyes were teary and I couldn't see but I could hear that everyone was yelling at each other. I regained my composure and walked forward to see the driver holding my file and the staff refusing to take it. The nurses were looking at me shaking their heads and yelling at the driver. I started coughing again, my eyes teared up the yelling continued, and then I cried. Not much, but enough - one of the nurses saw and she came over, took my by the shoulder and showed me to a room.

I thought she was leading me to the exam room, but no. Apparently I was in the pneumonia clinic and they weren't admitting me - she put me in the doctor break room and then left.

After a while another doctor came in apologizing that there wasn't a doctor to see in the clinic. She was there to examine but didn't want to do it in their lunch room, so she brought me in to the doctor's computer labs... there were about 10 computers, a kettle, a machine to view xrays, a fridge and some other equipment. She sat me down in the big comfy chair and had me strip to the waist. There was another doctor in the room.

All in all in was a really odd experience. And this is getting rather lengthy - the quick summary (ha!)

I was seen by 2 specialists and in the emergency room, had an ambulance ride, blood tests and xrays and the total cost was just under $100 - the cost of my medication (3 piils and an inhaler) just under $200. Total cost.


I was subsequently required to return to the hospital 3 times during the week - more exams, more bloodwork, more frustration. The costs remain comparatively low, the aggravation high... nurses and receptionists tend to yell. I'm tired of it. The preliminary diagnosis - faryngitis and most likely some form of pneumonia - the continued testing is to determine what type of pneumonia as it hasn't been responsive to the first 2 antibiotics. It's responding now. I can breathe. I'm not great but I'm not dying either. I go back on Thursday.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Surströmming - the Swedish meal

Today was the day... the day of Surströmming, the Swedish delicacy, the stinky fish. There is a little youtube clip I believe was already posted as a preview... as a general overview for those who haven't watched it - some English men make their way to Sweden determined to try this little fish. Three men go, two men only catch a most distant whiff and drop out, and one man eats the tiniest little bit. Ultimately he throws up.


You have to open this stuff under water so the smell can slowly bubble up and be released rather than overpower you at once and cause you to drop the can and run away.

You serve it with buttered flat bread, boiled potatos, sour cream and red onion. I don't particulary enjoy onions but I piled them on. You have to debone the pickeled fish - and I am not very good at that, so I had the merest morsel of fish flesh. It was more than enough. Think two long thin slices of prosciutto - I had about that much food wrapped up in my bread and could manage only 2 or 3 bites before I had to give up.

I did not capture the horrified faces of my tablemates as I was too busy focusing on chew and swallow Jen, just chew and swallow. Fabio however, the man sitting next to me, HE ate three!! The Swedish people at the table didn't even eat one - combined!!!

In spite of the offputting taste and scent - it still wasn't as bad as I expected. NOT that it was good, it wasn't good, but it wasn't ghastly either. To be honest, more than the taste, I think it was the texture that really did me in.

The evening was awesome! Another incredible CS event hosted by one of the most open and generous men I've met here - thanks again Rolf!

Here is a quick collage, just to give you a flavor, err, idea, of the evening. (click on the collage to make it bigger)

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

all new folk remedies

Since I've had this version of the walking plague I've had a lot of friend suggest different folk remedies for me, and not being fully coherent I wasn't thinking while I was listening and forgot to write that stuff down.

I remember there were a number involving ginger, garlic, and other herbs, some that had me bathing or soaking or steaming or ingesting... and a number sounded totally odd to me - which makes sense as my most well-aquainted folk remedy is along the lines of chicken noodle soup... or feed a fever, starve a cold... stuff like that. No old-world, tried and true, great-grandma's grandma used it when she was sick in the dead of winter, scraping away at the frozen tundra, gave birth, and gathered 60 potatoes to feed the army that night sort of thing.

If I can remember, or track down, those amazing remedies I will post them

Except for one that I just experimented with. There was a guy from the BBQ this past weekend, a real good guy in fact, he went downstairs and negotiated with the police when they arrived, and he also offered me this suggestion.

Honey and garlic. Chop the garlic up as fine as you want and then put it in the honey and then eat it.

So I did. Two large cloves of garlic finely chopped (that's an awful lot of garlic!!) and 2 packets of honey I happened to have lying around. Sweet, crunchy, and with a bit of a kick at the end.

I don't know how it will help my condition, will take another bit in a while (it was oddly appealing taste and texture, fascinating actually and I will experience it again) but regardless of the cold stuff - I think the mosquitos may leave me alone tonight :)

I can...

Yeah, I can breath just about as well as I can juggle whales.

I've been sick for weeks now, and am really really tired of it. I'm now on my second round of antibiotics and this whole cold/illness/flu related lung infection thing is really cutting in to my quality of life. And my social life. And my income. I can't teach if I can't talk, and I've lost my voice a few times this summer.

And along those lines - I think I need to actively start looking for a job, another job with actual pay and regular hours, as my boss at my uni job was interviewing a super spiffy suit today, in Czech, and they laughed a few times. My boss laughed. More than once. I can't even get a smile. Unless it's ironic. I'm so screwed and am not getting the position I was sort of hoping for as I'm rather dependent upon it. Which means I need to make myself NOT dependent upon it by securing actual employment. Preferably in a form that doesn't require 6 locations in a 12 hours span, but I will take on-sight teaching if need be. Because I can.

Actually, right now that's my mantra... I can... I can breathe. I can pay my bills. I can get through this next additional delay before Coral returns...

Oh yeah - still, no visa. She'll be outside of Schengen for another month. She was due here on Friday (it's Wednesday, so in 2 days) but will stay in the US for another 10 days and then go to Canada for about 2 1/2 weeks, thereby finishing up her 3 months removal from the Schengen zone. Darn, I miss my kid.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My first non-Mom family visit!


Hey, it's me and my cousin, Will. He's here, traveling with another friend, visiting a former classmate of his who happens to be Czech and lives here in Prague. I took the three of them to a BBQ yesterday, and hopefully, will have another little visit with them later today. Kinda cool to be able to introduce someone to everyone here as my family... it's the rare day when anyone has family in the same region of the world (Central Europe).
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For more pictures from the same party... you can follow this link RIGHT HERE!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

mmmmmmm...... Surströmming

So I've been invited to partake in a dinner surrounding the tasting of a Swedish delicacy... Surströmming. I hadn't heard of it until the opportunity arose... and after watching this short clip I'm fascinated...

check it out!

By the way - Surströmming is a fermented fish. Yummy, right ?

access to immediate medical care

In the past few weeks I have been seen by two healthcare professionals for two different reasons.

The first was my bum ankle which you can read about down below, and the second was this cold, which I've apparently had for a while longer than I truly realized. The preceding post is about the state of my health, this one is about my experience with medical care.

When I bought my insurance earlier this year it appears that I was not given an accurate understanding of the easy of getting in to see a health care provider who accepts my policy... bummer. I put off scheduling an appointment as I couldn't find my policy info until Friday - and by Friday I was frantic. When I did find it I started making calls... and the Drs who would accept my policy were not available... so I find a private physician very close to my home. Private means they do not accept insurance.

I called and they said come at 1 - GREAT! Then, it turns out I couldn't get there by one, so I called back.. they offered to let me come when I was free, so we set it for 3.

When I showed up at 3 there was a man sitting in the waiting room. I walked past and picked up the forms. As I was experiencing some serious fits of coughing I sat as far away from the man as possible. I was having a hard time breathing and it took me a while to fill out the forms -the man stood up and went to the receptionist's desk, just a few steps in to the next room.

When I had finished I again tried to keep my distance from the man as I know I sounded terrible and didn't want to make this stranger think about me getting him sick(er). Turns out the guy who had been out in the waiting room was the doctor. He'd been waiting for me.

We went straight back to his office - sat at his desk and reviewed my medical history - he briefly looked at my throat and listened to my lungs through my coughing - this time with a stethoscope - and then we sat back down at his desk... he gave me a diagnosis and my prescriptions, handed my paperwork back for me to take to the receptionist and that was it.

I went out to the receptionist, paid, as he had requested she handed me his card with his email and mobile number on it in case I had any questions or further issues - and told me the pharmacy was downstairs....

The cost of my visit was 1,250 crowns. At todays' conversion rate that is $69USD. The last time I was in the US and had to pay the full cost of a doctor's visit it was $150 to see the Nurse Practitioner. I should have been able to see an insurance doctor and pay about 30 crowns... that would have been ideal, but it couldn't happen within my given set of circumstances on Friday afternoon.

So, I went downstairs to the pharmacy where, again, I had to pay the full costs of my medications. I needed an antibiotic and a steroid spray. A ten day supply of antibitics costs about $40 USD and the steroid spray about $4USD. I handed over my prescription, they took it, retrieved the boxes immediately and handed them back. There wasn't any wait time while they prepared labels and bottles and such... in fact, the antibiotics are packed in boxes - 5 days in each box - and each pill is in a separate blister... which is a good thing in my opinion as this stuff smells like hell and opening a bottle with that stench built up inside would definitely turn any person's stomach!

Anyway - the point being here - I was able to get in on an immediate basis without any wait time, and while I payed an astronomical amount on the Czech scale, relative to the US I got first class treatment at less than half the cost.

Friday, July 31, 2009

christmas revisted

If you were one of the very few to see me this past holiday season then you've seen what I'm dealing with. Again.

I've been sick for almost 2 weeks... not all the time sick, definitely thought it was the flu sick, suddenly shaking, sweating can't breath sick, this isn't all right or do-able sick.

So, after much searching and calling about (turns out the Dr.s who take my insurance are out of town) I finally found an English speaking physician with responsive office staff and was told to come on by. So I did.

I have another lung infection. That things that seriously sidelined me back over the holidays - spent weeks in bed... yeah, that. Again.

I am not going anywhere, doing anything, or being anyone until this thing is over. Again.

All the best laid plans go awry.

I need to be able to breathe and stop with the shaking sweating fever stuff. Life, right now, is not a ton of fun.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

it's a small, small world

Recently a friend remarked upon an experience she had that reminded her of how small the world is... and it reminded me of an old story... and moments later I had my own reminder. They both make me smile so I'm going to share them with you here :)

A few years back I was at a party held by a guy I've known since I was 5. There were a number of people I hadn't seen in quite some time, and someone I got involved in a conversation with - a lot of catching up to do. I was talking about my daughter (Coral, duh!) who, as you may or may not realize, has a very distinctive name. Our conversation continued and I made some remarks about "Coral and I" or "Coral is" or Coral this or Coral that... whatever. There was a woman, an adult, I did not know standing on the outskirts of this small group - and as that phase of the conversation was ending she turned to me and said something about having just seen Coral at a party... some sort of innocuous statement that also had a proprietary feel to it - and I was confused.... and I asked "How do you know Coral?" and she responded, "My brother is her uncle. How do you know Coral?" To which I responded, "I'm her Mom. How do you know Coral???"

It turns out her brother was married to Coral's Dad's sister (Coral's aunt) but both sets of siblings were somewhat estranged... she'd just met Coral for the first time the previous weekend, and then we met for the first time at that party.

Secondly - this week I received a message from my most favorite barista on the world... she happens to live back in my hometown in California (HEY!) She sent me a flyer for a friend's band and told me I should check them out... why would she send me a flyer knowing I love on the other side of the world? Yeah, they were playing here, close to my flat actually. She's friends with the singer's brother who publishes a cycling magazine out of the East Coast... and the singer brother lives here in Prague - with the wonders of the internet she's up to date on his band's schedule and so giving me tips from back in CA. Lovely!!!

And then, a friend from my hometown who has relocated to LA just sent me a message introducing me to a friend she had met at a conference in the US who happens to live here in Prague, too. And then, I had classes with exchange students this past session who not only were from the same school as my cousin - but good friends with her as well.

There are more little things that remind me the world is so small... but I need to go back to bed - still sick, darn it!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

36 Bottles of beer on the wall....

Actually, today, no beer at all. I've lost my voice again, quite bothersome really. And it was my birthday - so I spent most of it in bed, resting up for an afternoon of fun and games with some friends.

the bottom of the chandelier 


the interior of the billiards hall 


This is a rather interesting and kind of funky place... I'll be there again and again and will continue to take pictures to give you a fuller feel for the experience. I've been a few times already, but have forgotten to bring my camera.

For starters - the door locks behind you when you enter.

You must collect a white ticket where your expenses are marked, and present it when you want to leave - they don't unlock the door until you've paid... you must be buzzed out of the building.

Inside you can find card games, pool, snooker, table tennis, bowling, pinball, foosball, a basketball shooting game, electronic darts,a boxing game, and supposedly a golf game somewhere too. There are various rooms and other devices I haven't explored yet, so I'm sure to come across more as time goes on.

Anyway - it's where I spent my birthday with my friends and a stranger or two. Not everyone was captured in a picture - most people weren't... these pictures are here are more to give you a feel for the place than any attempt at capturing the day.

Hope you're all as happy as mole in a hole. I've got a cold and now I'm going to bed.

My First Brunch

Last weekend I woke up Sunday morning and desperately missed my friends... so rather than sit around and mope about it I called a few people (texted rather) and invited them over for a spur of the moment brunch. It was quite last minute and I didn't actually expect any positive responses... but I was wrong. Everyone who was awake to get the message showed up - and it was great!

Here are a few photos from friends who stopped by for the first of what will be many regular Sunday brunches. You can click on them for a better view - I uploaded them differently this time and they're rather small. Live and learn. :)

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Emergency Care Clinic

Yes, this week I was introduced to my neighborhood emergency care clinic... it wasn't an emergency, I was just hobbling along and wanted something to wrap and support my ankle - let me back up a few days...

Last week it poured while I was out walking in some open leather shoes. The shoes were drenched and chafing my feet, so at the end of the night I had a total of 8 big blisters covering my right foot, and a lesser number on my left. Not necessarily a happy day. The following day I had to go out for another long walk and wore different shoes. Despite the the change of shoes those darn blisters were really hurting - so I was walking a little gingerly, trying not to aggravate them any further.

Which mean that my balance was NOT free flowing and centered as it normally would be, and while it was raining, again, I slipped and fell in to a big crack between some cobblestones, twice, while crossing the street. That is when I think I hurt my ankle. THINK, I say, because I'm not 100% sure, but I know it started hurting then.... but being the stupid person - stupid, not stoic as I'm too much of a wimp to be stoic, I overlooked the pain for a bit and continued on with life.... until Sunday when I was aware it was really hurting, and Monday when I actually payed attention and notice my ankle and leg were a little purplish and definitely swollen.

But, at that point, I couldn't walk. I would have had to be dead to not know something was wrong.

I was slowly making my way home when the gyros guy stopped me - I get gyros from them fairly often so we have a friendly wave and a smile sort of dynamic goin on. He asked what was going on and I asked him where I could buy a wrap - at the droggerie or at the lekarana? He told me to wait 2 minutes so I did, then suddenly the other guys were kicking me out of the shop so I left... and he was out there on the street - ready to give me direction - or so I thought. Instead he started walking and I had to follow, limping and gimping along. We walked round the corner, passed my flat, round another corner and then straight on until we reached the emergency care clinic.

He took me inside, located the English speaking doctor, and handled all the translations - the doctor apparently was a holistic doctor and said she couldn't help me as she didn't have any medications and I needed x-rays - I was able to so NO X-RAYS and he let her I know I didn't want medication, just a wrap for some support. So, she checked out my ankle, wrapped it up, and sent me on my way after refusing to allow me to pay her for the wrap... to pay her anything at all, actually.

And then the gyros guy - his name is Omar, he's from Algeria - walked me back home and went round the corner and back to work.

And that is my intro to emergency care.

big time... birthday blues

This weekend... this weekend marks a few milestones. Sixteen years ago today my brother was in a plane crash, two days later I had my birthday, two days after that my one and only child was born. This is the first year I will not spend this time with my family. Even then, when my brother had made it home, broken, and battered, he rested but was there through my birthday and then he made my parents bring him back to the hospital to see his niece.

The kid and I always have a week long celebration - indulgent but fun, it is full of love and affection. She is in the US and I am missing her terribly. Fortunately, on her end, she is surrounded by her family and friends and will have plenty of love headed her way.

I opted to stay here in Prague, take summer courses, and continue work at school. As it turns out - due to circumstances beyond control - those whom I care for most here will be gone. In fact, almost all the people I consider good friends here will be out of the city. And a few people, who I had considered good friends, are no longer the people I want around me... and the people I would really like to get to know better are also it will be a rather solitary experience. One I've not had. Ever. I don't mean I will be a hermit, there are things to do, events planned and such, but I usually spend my birthday, and hers, with the people who matter most... my family and a few close friends. And that is not an option this time around.

The closest is 16 years ago when I celebrated my birthday by going in to labor. I was home resting most of the day, and in the evening my water broke - but I wasn't in any discomfort, so we had my birthday dinner (I was told to abstain so I watched everyone eat)and then went off the the hospital. I came home later that night, but went back the next afternoon - and she showed up right after midnight on the 28th.

That was the most hectic of all birthdays - and the highlight. I can't think of anything that could top that as a birthday gift, belated, but miraculous and wonderous and continuously giving more and more and more...

Happy Birthday kiddo. I love you.

Monday, July 13, 2009

About last night.... sometimes I just like listening

Yesterday I hung out with some new Dutch friends and a few guys I've known a few months and have really come to appreciate and think of as 'real friends' - more than people who hang out cause you speak English and get along moderately well but still need stuff to fill your time together as you only sort of connect. In other words - I have strong affection and appreciation ( you both may be reading this... it isn't anything you don't already know.)

After dinner with a few more people who I don't know quite as well but whose presence I really enjoy - I was going to go home... instead I stopped by a party I had rather circuitously been invited too... a text from an acquaintence inviting me to a party at a strangers whose voice I'd heard a few nights before as he identified me at a meeting but with whom I'd not engaged with at that time.... I knew about the dinner invitation but had opted to stay with my friends - the people who matter, rather than the people I don't really know. However, on my walk home I gave a call and ended up walking past my house and on up to his.

I had already told someone (not involved in any of these events) that I was planning on an early evening as I'd had too many late nights too many times in the past week. I was wrong.

I met quite a few people completely disconnected from my social circle and enjoyed expanding upon the acquaintance dynamic with the few people I had met already... as I was getting ready to go I engaged in a conversation with this guy from Serbia. At some point he made a remark about having fought against Americans in the war - and I had to ask him his age as he looked far too young to have been active in that conflict.

It turns out we're only 8 days apart... his birthday is next week and mine the week after. (Side note - I swear - not smoking in a country full of heavy smokers preserves your appearance - but in relative terms - cause I can look in the mirror and to me I've aged drastically since I've been here!) We got started talking and talking, and he was probably the most fascinating and knowledgeable person I've had the chance to talk with in a very, very long time - not fascinating as in - he's an expert in this field with this degree and that title blah blah blah - like the people who are supposed to be fascinating and to who the term is applied to far too liberally, but fascinating as in, he spoke from experience balanced with knowledge gained through education and his personal passion, his ideas and theories were well thought out and more unbiased than I've been exposed to in a very long time, and the dichotic manner in which he has been forced to live his life would drive me crazy... And yet he spoke passionately and at length - but not too long, I could have continued the conversation but realized it was well after midnight and everyone there had work in the AM.

Every now and then something little happens and it makes me go - THAT is what I wanted when coming over here, THAT is what interests, THESE are the people and ideas that need to be raised up and attention given to, and THAT is what feeds me. This was one of those experiences.

I had ben introduced to him in a large group of people, with another man standing next to him. We talked for hours, literally as it was well after one when I got home, and he walked me back down the street (strip club central) and around the corner towards me flat on his way home too. Despite the length of time and the quality of our conversation I have no idea what his name is. None.

stripping for Unicef

No, not me... the people on the street today.

Actually, they were Unicef workers, finishing up their shift. As we stood at the tram stop they all decided to change. So guys yanked their shirts overhead and then fussed with their t-shirts buried deep in the bag... and girls kept their shirt cover their chest as they shrugged it off, overhead and through the armholes, their new t-shirt quickly in place - it was only a moment, a quick flash, but quite brazen nonetheless. Especially as right next to me was a police officer with a roaming, watchful eye.