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.