Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Feeling like a grown-up for the first time, all over again

Since moving to Europe I have lived in furnished apartments - at first this sounded exciting, a little luxurious maybe... sorta like a hotel or something. It's not. Its a big ole crapshoot. And after while you become aware that there's nothing substantial that belongs to you , nothing considerable you own and that aspect of adulthood sort of slithers away in to this odd remote concept that no longer applies to your life.

The first flat we had was tastefully furnished, if a bit spartan. The second - not as much... the third flat was filled with furniture from the second and the fourth was awesome. Really, it was freakin awesome. I loved that flat.

Now, I am here alone, living alone for the first time in my life and in a flat that is not fully furnished. It came with a wall unit, a couch and some wardrobes but no bed, table or chairs.

Tonight, for the first time in over four years, I am sleeping in my own bed. I am sleeping in a bed I own. Not a 'bought it cheap from some expat headed home' deal, not a second hand special from the shop around the corner but a brand new bed, new frame, new headboard, new mattress, all of which I went to the store for and picked out for myself. And I feel a little more adult-like, a little more established in my environment and a little more like potentially I may be a long-termer. And dammit, it's comfortable and I like it.

Now I need to bring the rest of the house up to the bed's standard :)

dating doldrums defined

A friend was talking about this speed-dating thing recently - actually a few of them were, both male and female. There is a FB group I belong to that is getting hit hard with this speed-dating company's promotion - they've been called out for spamming but it showed up again today... so, in light of  my recent conversations, I clicked on it to see what they were about before they got banned for their spam.

Here's the take-away... there are various age group divisions. In the 20-something to early 30s, both genders pay the same, full price. In the late 30s  to mid-40s females, early 40s to late 50s men, the men are offered a 50% discount.

That is how bleak it is.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

my new best worst date

I went on a date a little less than two weeks ago. On the date my date met someone, someone who was listening in on our conversation and then sat down at our table. They are now living together.

I am still waiting for my dating karma to change.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lend me your fairy tale... or rather DON'T!

Every country I go to I try to buy children's fairy tales from that region. I have a hard time in the past but have usually been successful. Never before have I experienced what I did today...

I'm in Dubai for a short while. I had a touristy evening last night and have a few days consumed with school stuff. Today, however, I went to the mall adjoining my hotel and went on a book hunt. I succeeded in finding a solid little English language bookstore. Not super shocking since every speaks English here and I'm both in an expat community and in a hotel complex, but nevertheless I was quite pleased with it.

I started my hunt for the kids books and found a huge selection and a ton of fairy tale options. After working my way through Hansel and Gretel type stuff I found the local fables... and I choked. Literally. These are not pretty kids stories, they're gruesome fables with mature themes and horrible endings. I read book after book after book.... then I found the Islamic story book for kids (the title was something like that, I don't mean there's only one) and I was horrified - and then I thought about the Old Testament's stories and put things in a bigger perspective.

The local fables deal with death, suicide attempts, murder, thieves, starvation, and punishment. They were not stories I would ever tell a child, ever. I could see the religious overtones coming through without necessarily being able to identify which religion it was - just old, style, heavy handed fear of God rammed down your throat type of stuff... not even fear of God, just FEAR of doing something WRONG.

I bought some really gentle books for my nephews and a little girl who doesn't yet appreciate that she has an extra aunt on the other side of the world and then picked out one of these books to share with my Mom. I'm not going to detail any of the stories in that one but I'll give you a summary of a story I thought was HORRIBLE!

In the jungle a rabbit wanted to get to the other side of the river. The lion offered him a ride but he was scared the lion would eat him so he went to his friends to ask advice. They said don't worry. The lion is trustworthy and he won't eat you. The rabbit was still scared so his friends said again, don't worry, we'll even join you. The rabbit took a ride from the lion and made it safely to the other side. When he climbed off and sighed with relief then all of his friends jumped on him and kicked him and hit him until he was dead and then they ate him.

Moral - don't always listen to your so called friends - you'll be better off when you think for yourself.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

summertime summary

As you know, I spent three months on crutches. During that time my kid went back to the US for her annual summer visit. I was scheduled to follow her out a month later and then we'd return together.

Not what happened. I got off crutches, went to a wedding in southern Moravia, was mistaken for a prostitute by a rather dirty nearly toothless man in a car who followed me while I walked to the wedding brunch, went to graduation, went on a weekend trip to Slapy, and then, just before I was to fly to the US for a pleasant summer holiday, the kid called to let me know she'd decided to stay.

So I packed an extra suitcase and moved over some of her favorite things. While I was there it wasn't so easy. There was an underlying level of tension in the air and a lot of preoccupation which made it hard to connect to the people I love most. Another family member was in failing health and that caused a great level of totally understandable stress. After three weeks, the chance to see my siblings and nephews and some friends, and celebrating my grandmother's 90th birthday I returned.

And then I had to start adjusting to being alone, not waiting for the kid to come back, but truly being alone for the first time in my adult life. Temporarily I have someone staying in her room, but that's truly temporarily. The cat is still here.

And now, just over a month after my return. I've had a family member pass away. This isn't the moment in which I'll pay tribute to him, but rather the moment in which I'm updating the events in my life. It wasn't sudden, he was in ill health for a long period of time and deteriorated while I was visiting. It doesn't make the loss of his physical being any less. It hurts. And it hurts knowing that I"m not present to be part of my family at this moment. I'm not able to share in the joy and the love and memories that are free flowing as he gave all of us so much and so many. And I'm not there to sit with my mom or my daughter or my grandma. I'm here, alone, and crying.

The last few months have been a bit of a rollercoaster. The time spent on crutches brought an underlying injury to my arms and hands to the forefront and I'm dealing with ongoing pain and required medication. Getting blindsided by the kid, adjusting my life and mentality to the empty nest and now the loss of a loved one.  I've taken a bit of a break from a lot of things. This post doesn't necessarily mean I've returned, but in case it's a while longer before I write again... well, now you know what's going on.

I hope you are all happy and healthy. And maybe you can sit down and write or call someone you love but don't see very often. Make sure the people you love don't just know it on an inner level but are aware of it on an ongoing basis.


I forgot - due to a rash of deaths this week from methanol poisoning the Czech government has suspended sales of all hard alcohol - anything over 20%. In respects to liquor this country is dry until the government can identify the source and destroy all of the poisonous alcohol. People have bought it in stores and restaurants across the country and so far 20 people have died and an unknown number have been blinded and otherwise seriously injured. There are a number of people here in an uproar about this "prohibition" and deprivation of alcohol. I think that's an ignorant and shortsighted stance. The government is going shop to shop, bar to bar and restaurant to restaurant to make sure that what is available isn't going to kill the consumer. Then it, the suspension of sales, will be over. Chill out.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Not truly notable news - sex, sexism and sports in reverse order

There were two articles released in the news today that are the kinds of articles that make you pause and ponder - what in the world is going on?!?

The first article covered an employer's guide to Euro Cup 2012. This is  basically an HR guide covering:

  • how to handle an expected increase in absenteeism 
  • what to do when you're given false medical certificates (something I have experiences with now)
  • how to handle it when your employees come back from that extra, extra long lunch break drunk
  • how to how to accomodate your employees' viewing hours by creating flexi-hours
  • potential charges of sexism, nationalism or other discriminatory issues that may be raised by those uninterested in football (this I found a little sexist - I like football and watch more than some men I know... does this mean the flexi hours are only meant for male Euro Cup viewers?)
  • what to do when your suit and tie guys engage in football hooliganism.
  • how to handle the betting pool
The second was an article about a primary school principal who was just fired after his S&M porn star past came to light. What a doofus.

But that leads me to some statistics that may be more horrifying than interesting - ok, statistic singular. I don't think I'm jumping leaps and bounds if I say, generally speaking, that European women have a different attitude towards nudity, sex and sexuality than Americans (I'm going to lump UK in with America on this one). And this region of the world sex and sexuality are even less... taboo isn't the right word, more of a non-issue? I don't know what I'm looking for exactly but the approach is more relaxed. Anyway, here's that statistic - approximately (that's a strong start for a statistic, but...) approximately 20% of Czech women have appeared in pornographic material - or at least material that by more American standards would be viewed as pornographic. A number of ads that are printed here would violate American standards for commercial publication. But that's the percentage. I heard it from someone involved with research in the industry who is not prone to over-inflate his figures. That's pretty high.

And leads directly to the billboard we saw on the way to the airport this AM - picture this... dawn rising, a peaceful taxi drive on a highway surrounded by the lush green of a country-side landscape and a billboard appears.... it's a close-up on a business woman - no, not the woman, on her bust. She's wearing a suit - and... ok, wait, it's a suit jacket and a bra, a push-up bra. That's it. It's a giant billboard of some woman's boobs. And the tagline? Boost your business

Here's a link to an article I'd thought I'd linked to earlier but apparently hadn't. It doesn't showcase the billboard we saw today but it definitely will give you a taste for the more outlandish and overtly sexualized advertisements that are displayed here. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Technically correct - not always the best choice

It's been a few months and I'm still dealing with the knee issue. Had my second appointment with the orthopedist today. Last week's was a treasure. He did a less than cursory (it is possible) interview and told me to take off my pants, walk around and then and lie down. I did. He started feeling around my knee and leg and then said he was going to give me a shot. I don't like needles and would prefer to avoid them unless absolutely necessary. So I asked what type of shot - I was already on medication and wanted to 1) make sure it wasn't duplicated, and 2) see if a pill could be substituted instead. He turned to me and said I didn't have to have it if I didn't want it, never mind. He was a bit snippy. I was uncomfortable and I still didn't know what he wanted to give me. I forgot that doctors here aren't used to as many questions. Then he told me not to walk, lose the brace, elevate my leg and keep ice on it. He sent me out to schedule another appointment.

Today was my follow up. He seemed in a slightly better mood. I got to keep my pants on. We were off to a good start. He felt around a bit and it hurt. He felt around some more and it hurt more. Then he told me that there's too much fluid  and he wants to test it. Here's the technically correct part that totally freaked me out - the way he said it. "I am going to puncture your knee."

Puncture in the same sentence as any body part will never sound good. You don't say 'I'm going to puncture my ears tomorrow', you say 'I'm going to pierce them.' You get blood drawn or you get a blood test you don't puncture your arteries. Dog bites leave puncture wounds, drug addicts have puncture marks, to test for meningitis our MS you get a lumbar puncture (yes, technically it refers to a region of the body but it's not such a body-part sounding word, lumbar, that is)... none of those are lovely sounding things. And it's not fun when you puncture your tire either.

Anyway, the use of the word puncture in relation to my knee freaked me out. But, it's going to happen - it just didn't happen today.

One more note - and actually, I really like this hospital, even though the staff often sends me to the wrong places and, unlike their advertisements, the nurses and intake people don't all speak English - I've gotten lost there a few times. With directions like "Follow the white line" it's totally understandable.

Friday, June 1, 2012

things to look forward to - or to skip

Pretty soon I will write a bit about...

DATING as a foreigner. FYI it can suck.

And that's not just my opinion. Details to follow when I'm in a less cynical mood :)

And, yes input is accepted. As are flowers and other romantic gestures.

(That input isn't to be your advice or views addressing my situation but rather it should be a sharing based upon your experiences dating as a foreigner.)

a little midnight anxiety

It's not keeping me up, I'm awake already, but my knee and potential surgery are kind of freaking me out right now. I'm starting to realize that I'll be here alone. And the hospitals here are clean but not friendly - 8 - 10 people per room, no dividing curtains, no sensitive caring nurses (nurses galore, just not sweet ones), I won't have any family around, I'm terrified of needles - and I have a very real and rather firmly entrenched fear of pain. Not just a dislike of pain, as is most common, but an actual fear of experiencing pain. After many years of a pain condition it's become ingrained in me - not knowing when it will stop increasing in intensity - being fearful that it won't; when, if ever, it will end; how to make it stop without screwing up my brain or the rest of my body... stuff like that. I'm realizing that this will be a very lonely and isolating experience. Right now I don't even know if I'll be having surgery in my "home" town or a few hours away - honestly, though, it won't matter when it comes to company. When I had major surgery in the US I was about an hour away from my house and the only person I saw was my husband. I was there for a week. I'll be in hospital for about a week here, too, but I'm no longer married so I can't count on that. And the hospital is in the outskirts of the city, in a rather isolated and difficult to reach location.  I honestly don't expect anyone will make it out there. The kid will already be back in the US so that's a no-go. Even if she weren't I wouldn't necessarily want her to come see me and stress out about stitches and tubes and stuff like that. Kids don't want to see their parents out of it. On the plus side, I will have competent care. I will be able to walk freely in a few months and I will be able to pay for it without having to worry about going in to debt. Maybe I'll get some new pajamas for the thing. You don't get much here, not even a real gown. When my friend broke his head and spent a week in the hospital he was in his underwear until I brought him some clothes - and the half dozen men in his room were either naked under the blankets or naked under the hospital gown - and let me tell you.... it's not just in the US that the gowns aren't made to fit. I believe that design flaw is global.

Monday, May 28, 2012

MRI awkwardness :)

Today I had two appointments at Homolka, the hospital that's working with me and my knee. The first was my first physical therapy appointment. The lady was lovely, however, unfortunately, there had been a bit of miscommunication with my doctor. Weeks ago he gave me some pills and told me to take them if it hurt. I took that to mean... here are some pills that you can take if it hurts.

I was wrong. He meant take them. They were, and I was aware, anti-inflammatory. 

When I met with the lady today she looked me over and said I was still too swollen. SEVEN WEEKS AFTER THE FACT my knee was still too swollen so start PT! She was as surprised as I was, especially since in her mind I was supposed to have been taking those darn pills. She asked me about them and I explained he said take them if it hurts and while it was uncomfortable it wasn't hurting so I didn't take them. (If you know me you know I've had major pain problems and bad experiences with prescribed pain meds and try to avoid them when I can - but do take them when I need to). 

She couldn't do anything for me today so she sent me on my way pretty early. Too early, actually, as I had a few hours to kill before my MRI.

Let's skip all the in between stuff and jump to the MRI. If you go to Homolka for an MRI you should know it's not in the main building. It's downstairs, outside and around the back of another building down a little hill. I knew, based on past experiences, that the recepionists, while well meaning, don't always send you to the right place, so I got there very, very early. As in... hours early. And I was sent to the wrong location. Fortunately a very kind man escorted me through the maze,down and through the doctor's passages rather than the patients'. 

Once I was called in for my exam things took a Czech turn. Modesty, compared to the US, is non-existent. There aren't robes or gowns or drapes. Be prepared to strip down and walk around in your underwear, climbing on and off machines, so make sure you're dressed appropriately. I was, fortunately. I was cool with it until he asked me to take off my "breasts". My first reaction was to say sorry, but they're real, but instead I said OK and took off my bra - which was kind of ridiculous on the one hand as only my legs went in the machine and the metal bits of my bra weren't going to be affected, but was actually reasonable once I remembered how powerful those things are.

They're LOUD. As in ridiculous ear damaging loud. I had earplugs in and my ears still hurt - in fact, one still does now. Despite the volume the machine goes through different rather rhythmic phases. I've had a number of MRIs  in the US; in the past my head and torso have been scanned - I've been given headphones and some music and just chilled out. Today, there was nothing going on. So I fell asleep. The rhythm of the machine put me to sleep - I think having my knee firmly encased in some comfortable foamy thing helped as it was the first time it was comfortable laying down in ... seven weeks.

Anyway, I slept. For a while. I was in there for about 40 minutes +/- and I think I was asleep for most of it. Up until just before the end. And why not till the end? Over the volume of that monstrous machine and the WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP CHIGA CHIGA CHIGA CHIGA WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP CHIGA CHIGA CHIGA CHIGA  - over that earsplitting sound, I woke myself up snoring.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Five and a half weeks on & the first week of finals

I"m still on crutches. Yesterday I had my review and thought I'd be relieved of at least one if not both, or, minimally, at least the orthosis. Nope. No progress noted in the big scheme. I'm getting some mobility back but I'm still numb from the knee down and quite weak. Next real evaluation set for June 4 - MRI and PT both take place on the 28th but nothing will come of that until the 4th. My  hands hurt at the thought of walking down the street. I"ll be really happy when this is over. Since I don't have a car I either have to walk somewhere or pay for a taxi.  I'm becoming a bit of a hermit.

This has been a frustrating week. I've been trying to implement some positive changes for the students and the most flack I'm getting is from them! It's really hard to fight for something when the most resistance comes from those who will benefit.

The kid has her photo exhibit today and she's sick. Finals started two days ago. They finish up on Tuesday. I'm hoping that things will be more settled next week. I think there might be a certain level of anxiety in the air that seems to be contagious - almost every one I've come in to contact with this week has been a bit out of sorts. And the weather's crazy too.

This weekend is the start of the Beer Festival  - this year it's in my part of the city. There's also an interesting art salon in the gallery down the street. I don't know if I'll make it to either but it's nice to know there are options. And we're having lunch with our Bulgarian family this weekend - our friend just graduated from AUBG and is in town visiting family and celebrating - I'm really grateful we get to be a part of that celebration :)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

3 weeks later

Had a check up at the hospital today. This one also cost only 30kc and included x-rays and a new knee brace. That was the good news.

There is no further update on my knee - I've got to go back in 3 weeks to check-in, a week later I have my MRI and 2 weeks later I'll review my results with the orthopedist.  That is the neutral news.

The frustrating bit - I'm still on crutches and I will be for a while longer.

Whatever. It's temporary. Frustrating cause it's incredibly inconvenient and my arms and hands hurt, but it's temporary. Hopefully this will all be resolved before graduation.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Oh clumsy knee, I mean clumsy me - another hospital excursion

We went to Budapest for Easter with friends (more on that in a later post) and had a great time. Friday through Monday was the plan, and the plan worked. However late Sunday night, while standing in line at this awesome taqueria, I experienced this incredibly intense, just overwhelming pain in my knee. Tried to brush it off. I hadn't been moving so I didn't move wrong, just thought maybe it was a spasm or something after having spent the evenings in the baths. I was wrong.

Took the train home in the morning, said goodbye to my friends and went to  a meeting on Tuesday and after that went straight to the hospital as my doctor was on vacation.  

Hospital narrative - took a taxi there which cost about $12. Checked in for the urgent care doc, less than $2. Took the elevator down one floor and walked up to the receptionist, sat for less than 3 minutes then was called in to the doctor who examined, wrapped, splinted and crutched me (no additional cost for the equipment) and gave me a prescription and advice in less than 30 minutes and I was done. Took a taxi home as walking was still not really an option. Picked up the Rx in the pharmacy beneath my flat - it was also less than $2.

The problem? Somehow I broke the meniscus.  I had thought that they tore but he said broke so broke it is. It looks like my kneecap slid sideways and then rotated. It feels like that too. 

Had two classes last week and two meetings afterwards, made them all and have been at home resting other than that. I was told to give it a few days for the swelling to go down and the pain to start to go away, and if that doesn't happen then in 2 weeks to get evaluated for surgery.  I am counting on not needing surgery but I'm still swollen and still in pain so I'm going to consider his "few days" meaning more like a week, few in a very loose sense. I'm seriously bummed about this. I hadn't written about it yet but I'd just found a gym I really like, but it's a circuit gym and I can't do the circuit right now, and I'd gotten back in to playing badminton regularly. I was trying to create a new habit and those efforts have been seriously disrupted. I'm also supposed to take a short trip with friends next weekend and that may not be happening as I'll still be in a stupid leg brace and on crutches.

all this cream will kill me

The cooking lessons have been completed. Skills and knowledge elevated as I'd hoped. The one drawback... cream and pasta have become a base for almost every meal. I am going to die. A long and slow but tasty death.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

you've made it this far...

Recently I reached out to a new transplant who had posted a search for new friends - he's a new expat and relocated here with his wife, a Czech woman, who has since reconnected with her old friends and left him to fend for himself. I've met quite a few people who have gone through that situation and it's been rough on all of them. I wrote and told him about some open events - mixers, parties, etc, that he might want to check out; opportunities to connect with new people and maybe check out a new place or two.  I wasn't actually going to be at the next few, but they're open and meant specifically for people in his situation - strangers looking to form ties in their new community.

The response I received, in summary, was that he'd heard of these social groups before but really couldn't be bothered as he hadn't seen anything that appealed to him just yet or fit in his price range. That, in my opinion, was unfortunate. I'd referred him to at least one local group that held regular mixers all over the city on a regular basis. Rarely is the location the appeal; it's the opportunity to meet new people. Never is there a cover charge or any other required cost.  Maybe he didn't want to go to a restaurant/bar/club/jazz club/hike/walk/bike/play volleyball/badminton/football/take a day trip/tour a castle/visit a winery/etc. Maybe he didn't want to pay for a beer/water/wine/soda/food/other optional purchase while he was out... Maybe. But asking for info about a social gathering and then shutting down an invitation to a social gathering, when you don't have contacts or connections is, in my opinion, ridiculous and self-defeating

Here's my tip for potential expats - you can't shut out options. Not as an expat. Not if you want to survive. You will do things you don't find immediately attractive. You will meet people you don't mesh with on a higher level. You will sit through gatherings for a few minutes wondering what you're doing. You will do these things and more. Why? Because somewhere, at sometime, you will meet people who share interests with you, who you do connect with, who you want to be around and laugh with and who you truly enjoy. But until you step out and engage in what is offered to the group you won't be able to connect with the right individuals. I wish it were otherwise at times. I really do. I wish that events and such were tailor-made but they're not. And until you join and get involved and create your own events that are likely to attract similarly minded people you'll be stuck at home wishing you knew someone you could connect with.

I'm not trying to be harsh or overly critical.  i want this guy to succeed here. Just as I want any other person to. I've gone through the loneliness and it's miserable. But you've got to be willing to participate. If you've moved around the world don't hesitate when it comes to stepping out the door.

poor little journalist in training

Earlier this week I heard a gripe. It went something like this, "Ugh! Class is cancelled this week. I have to go to the film festival instead." (That would be Jeden Svet - One World. It is an international documentary film festival and well worth the trip, even if you don't have a teacher making you go.)

My response was a little cheerier than appreciated in the moment. It was something like, oh that's nice, are you going as a class or on your own, have to write a paper on it?... along those lines. And was met with another exasperated response. "We each have to go on our own. I have to pick which film to see and then interview the director about it. UGH!"

Isn't that sort of ideal when you're a journalism major? Here, student - pick one of these fascinating topics, don't go to school, go watch a movie and then interview the key participants?

Is my concept wrong?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

kitchen wishin'

My daughter has expressed a desire for an apple corer. And better pots, pans and knives. And better lighting in the kitchen.

I'm so proud of her.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The kid is cooking

She finally got started on her Christmas present - private cooking lessons. Her reaction was excellent! She mentioned the trepidation she had while making the meal - mixed green salad with a vinaigrette, mushroom risotto and a creme caramel - as the vinaigrette had a lot of mustard, which she doesn't like, and the mushroom risotto had, well, mushrooms - another food she doesn't really care for.

When I asked her about it this evening her face lit up with sheer amazement - she gushed... it was so good. She loved it, all of it, even the stuff she doesn't like was just incredible. And it was better than "restaurant food".

And - it was easy. Really easy. She couldn't believe how easy.  Minimal ingredients, minimal prep time. And cheap.  The first step of the lesson was shopping together for the ingredients. They spent 200ck in total and she said the used less than half.

I'm really grateful she enjoyed it. One on one time with a stranger can be hard, especially when it's a teaching environment.  Fortunately she had a good time and learned something and seems quite amenable to completing the sessions... which is a really good thing as this was just the first - she's got 11 more lessons to go, 3 times a week for a month.

I'm looking forward to when she cooks dinner next.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

super cheap and effective - although confusing - Homolka... another hospital

So earlier I'd referred to a little surgery I needed. It was minor, nothing important, but the chain of events and the costs are what I want to cover here.

I had something on my skin so I went to the dermatologist. It was near my eye so he sent me to the optometrist - who sent me back to the dermatologist since it was on my skin. The derma guy said don't worry and sent me home. That was a few months ago.

Things changed so I went back. Again he wanted to send me to the optometrist but we'd been down that road and I said no.  The dermatologist said it had changed too much and he couldn't manage it himself so had to refer me elsewhere, I said fine.  He said it would have to be a cosmetic surgeon and I said "Great! Let's get this done."  Then he paused for a bit before writing out instructions.  He sent me down the hall and told me to look for the sign that said "Stomatochirgurie".  It's a weird looking word. It means, as I understood it, dental surgery. I asked him to explain why he was sending me there and he said - don't worry about the name, it's just a name, a funny name, but they can help you. He never translated it for me but I was aware. I thought maybe they shared surgery space with the cosmetic people or something.  I was wrong.

I walked down to the window in the wall and gave them my papers. The nurses had me wait, then pulled me in to see the doctor who poked me in the eye twice, said "no problem!" before the nurses pulled me back out the doorway (and I do quite literally mean pulled).  They set up an appointment. The Dr's card indicated he was an oral, jaw and face surgeon. I figured it out - the surgery was on my face.  Forget that it was my skin, it was on my face.... the dermatologist's logic was impeccable.

I went back 2 weeks later for the surgery (as already detailed).

When I returned to Homolka for the surgery I checked in at the main area and paid my 30kc. The receptionist sent me on a wild goose chase - I ended up in areas I shouldn't have been and was thoroughly lost so I returned to the stomatochirgurie hoping they'd be able to tell me where to go... turns out that's where I needed to be.  They had their own separate reception - the downstairs people sent me in circles as they didn't know where I was supposed to go - so I had to pay another 30kc.  I did, quite happily, and then waited.

When it was done, they told me to come back the following day, a Wednesday and that I would need to return again on Friday.  I arrived quite early on Wednesday, eager to make sure that I hadn't accidentally ripped out the stitches in my sleep - as it sure felt like I had.  When I went to check in they told me to sit down without having taken my payment.  I did.  I waited, they saw me, I left. No fee for the follow up.

I went back on Friday as instructed, to get the bandage changed, and again make sure I hadn't ripped out the stitches.... again, no fee, no registration, it was part of the initial service.

I had to go back again on Tuesday to get the stitches out.  And again, no fee.

All and all I paid twice as much as I should have for a minor surgery and 3 follow-up visits.  I could have gotten a refund on my initial payment but I forgot to take my receipt down after the surgery. I would have gladly paid a hundred times what I did for the care I received.  Considering that each 30kc payment was just about $1.60 it wasn't a substantial amount. The quality of the care I received  was excellent. Definitely not the structure I'm used to, but excellent care.  Even if I had a dental surgeon performing cosmetic surgery.  I never fully understood why I was in that department.  I wondered for a little bit, then I just stopped caring - I knew I could get it fixed if it were bad but had faith that they weren't out to destroy my face and would try to take some care.  And they did. The scarring is truly minimal.  It's barely noticeable when I look in the mirror and once it heals a bit more the pinkness will go away and I won't even be able to see it.

ridiculous wording

Today I had to write a responsive letter to a stranger. Although I haven't met him what he'd sent was of particular interest to me. He'd signed his letter with his full title so I used it in my greeting.

How ridiculous is this?
Dear Prof. Dr. Dr.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Karneval Parade in Ptuj, Slovenia aka... all the cowbells in the world

Ptuj (pronounced Puh-toohey, sort of like you're spitting out something foul) is a rather small town in Slovenia but is the sight of the largest Karneval celebration in the country. It has a whole weekend of parties, parades and festivities. I took weekend trip with some friends - Friday in Brno and Saturday/Sunday in Ptuj - back in Prague before midnight Sunday night.

Saturday night was a large party with a few thousand people (I was number 2659 and there were hundreds behind me in life) all in incredible costumes, live bands and a lot of happiness. Sunday was a giant parade - not only the participants but most of the observers were in costume.

Traditionally there is a character, known as a kurent, which also looks a lot like a Native American kachina, that is the most popular costume of choice. Those who wear it train all year to participate - the clothing and hopping and dancing, the shaking and rattling - the sheer number of people in the "tribe" - it's all quite overwhelming.

Here is the tiniest little bit of the experience. It's a bit loud so adjust accordingly.

And I doubt you'll ever call for 'More cowbell' again!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

the couch and other stuff

Yes, it's too cold in my room, so tonight I've got the couch. I've also got stitches and can't sleep on my side, so another reason why it's the couch tonight... no room to roll over.

I was hoping for a really cool bandage but that didn't happen. I'm not hurt or anything, it was a totally minor planned procedure, but it was an experience - in a room full of people only one other person spoke English and that only came to light when I asked directly, after gowned and draped and blinded by the lights, "Does anyone here speak English?" I can understand some stuf - do you have allergies, are you sick, go to xyz, here is your prescription, stuff like that....  but when it comes to medical issues beyond the mundane I believe absolute clarity is important.  He didn't like to speak English very much - only when I asked a direction question or they had to ask me a direct question... and once when I flinched he asked if it hurt... I said yes and that ended the conversation. (?)

I thought this was the first time I've had stitches and was getting a bit nervous about getting them out.  Then about thirty minutes ago I realized it's the first time I was conscious when I got stitches, and that I've actually had them a few other times before.

But those were in the US and they were dissolving stitches and more discreetly placed.  These are not dissolving ones and they're on my face and not so neat (I can't see all of them, only the bits of thread peeking through the not so cool bandage, but I can see that they're not as neat and tiny and tidy.... which in itself was stressing me out, too, as my vanity started kicking in - I don't have much vanity, but the little bit I do have is fierce and intense and doesn't let go.... like...  like a baby pitbull with lockjaw. Quite a vanity battle going on right now but I think I'm winning.)  Anyway, it will be a few days before I get to see what I actually look like now.  And in the meantime, I have come to the conclusion... they should have sent me to a plastic surgeon to begin with (this was affirmed by the doctor's conversation during the procedure) - in Czech but I can understand some stuff... like that.). But they didn't. And if I feel really self conscious in the future I can always go on my own - but if it comes to that I should wait until I'm much older and really really ready and by then, vanity will have won so I can use that little bit of cosmetic correction as a cover for more invasive or drastic plastic surgery since I will be getting  a facial procedure done anyway.  To be honest though, I rather like my face. And I think I can handle a little scar; it's still my face.  Any major alteration and it would no longer be my face; it would be somebody else's design on my face.

Monday, February 6, 2012

It is damn cold

At 9am I check the weather forecast so I could appropriately bundle up.  On my phone it read -16-.... the high was listed as -11 and the low for the day/night as -15. Somehow, someway, something seems to not have been working.  With the sun out and a few hours in to daylight it was colder than the projected low for the night.  UGH!

In other locations in the country, it's been down to -39.4 (that is about -39F) and diesel lines are freezing.  Apparently this freeze may lead to another potential oil crisis. Eastern Europe gets their heating oil from Russia and Russian demands have increased drastically due to the freeze and so limiting what's available for the rest of us.

While the rest of the house isn't exactly warm my bedroom is freezing. I've been sleeping with flannel pajamas, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, socks, two down blankets and a water bottle.  It's a lot warmer downstairs.  About three steps from the downstairs level you can feel a drastic shift in temperature.  If this doesn't end soon I'll start sleeping on the couch.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

It's that time of year...

... when I need to wish the most wonderful mother a person could hope for a very happy birthday. I love you Mom. Just so you know...  I've called you at home a few times, on your cell, at Dad's office and at your parents. You already know we didn't connect, but I wanted you to read this because - it's the first time I've felt like your mother - trying to track you down and not succeeding :) I hope you were out having a lot of fun!  And I hope you enjoyed our silly serenade.  Happy Birthday.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Polish Pottery

Last year I took a trip to Bolselawiec with the mother of my kid's friend while they, the kids, rather the senior class, were on a school trip.  Apparently, even though they were in Istanbul at the time, the girls had wanted to go pottery shopping too.  Well they both graduated and one moved away.  This is the first time since graduation we've all been back in Prague together so we scheduled a trip.

Here is the outcome - my purchases only - the monkey had her own.  I spent no more than $50 USD.

 What you see there, from the top left, is a rectangle serving dish, 2 cereal bowls (one is tilted so you can see inside it), another deeper bowl, a little teapot thingy  for teabags, 4 salad plates, 2 little tiny bowls, a big mug, and a spoon rest.

I love Polish pottery.  I love the colors and patterns and the heft to it. I started buying it in the US about 16 years ago, when I was in my early 20s. Part of what I like about it is that other than the 4 plates and the 2 bowls, nothing I have is the same - plates don't match bowls that don't match cups that don't match anything else.  But they work together.  If you break something you can just add something new and pretty and make a nice trip of it while you're at it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

new year, crazy weather

This year I continued my streak of uber-fabulous and exciting NYE celebrations.  Since moving to Europe in 2008 I've spent the occasion:

2009: Landing in Prague after a Christmas visit back home - sick and without my daughter who had visa problems.  Unbeknownst to me, at the time, I had pneumonia. I spent the night in my cold, empty flat way out on the edge of the city, without much food or any company, exhausted, coughing and watching fireworks in the valley beyond my flat from the comfort of my bed.

2010: Some of my family had come for a visit.  This was the last night for my brother who had an early AM flight back to Canada.  It was quite and mellow and an early evening. (My personal high note when reviewing the years covered)

2011: On a plane. Probably over the Atlantic, somewhere between the North America and Europe. With my daughter. At least one of us was sick but I don't remember which one, it might have been both.

2012: Bought tickets and was excited for a 5 day celebration some friends had organized. Promptly got sick and missed the whole thing. Gave the kid my pass and she, and her friends, had the best new year's eve celebration of their lives. I stayed home, watched fireworks from both my bedroom balcony and the roof-line windows in the living room and then watched movies with the cat. We live in a different flat now, one near the center, fireworks started about 3:30 pm and lasted until about 7 am... and then started again the evening of the 1st, but only for a little while.

Today - it's the 2nd of January, 2012.  We don't have any snow in the city, have hardly had any rain. it's 52F right now.   Cloudy and gray but not cold by any stretch of the imagination. Which is good cause I'm still sick, we both are now,  and I have to go for a walk to the grocery store to get some food for dinner.