Preview: A Life Unknown
A Life Unknown
This is a compilation of postings from myself, Zach Barnes, in showing how the leading of my life evolves through July 2005-July 2008 on my adventures through the Czech Republic and wherever else life takes me in the time thereafter. Cuz let's face it...
Daytrip to Vienna
As the times go on, more and more troubles with the visa process. But things look better now, but I feel like Tim Robbins in Shawshank after he got out of the sewer. Light at the end of the tunnel.
I was to go to Vienna to apply for another Visa. And this would be the last step for me and my search for all docs to get my vísa.
On Friday morning at 1230 i boarded a bus to Vienna, Austria (about 5 hours away). nice trip. I slept for most of it. And I woke up at 5AM on one side of Vienna. I started the morning out with a nice brisk 5 mile walk across Vienna in the cold and rain. Yea, the public transit was running, but I had a few very good reasons why to not use it at the time in question:
1. Because the Consulate didn't open til 830 I would have had to wait anyways. So I figured walking instead of waiting in the rain was a better decision. Thus, I only had to wait an hour and a half instead of three and a half.
2. The second is simple. I had only an extra two Euros with me which would only pay for one way of the public transit. Yea, I had my ATM card, but I have recently forgotten the PIN code on it, so it was more or less out of the question. And I could have exchanged money, but I just wasn't in the mood.
Anyways, the story ends well. After an hour and a half of waiting, they opened up and I was in. I couldn't have asked for a nicer lady to help me and within a half hour, I was out of there. But, unfortunately there was still the long ride home. And a wait. So I got back to where the bus was leaving and had to wait for another hour or 2 and finally after a day full of hanging out in the rain, I was on my way home.
And a really great ride also. Sat next to two young American college students who were taking a trip up to Prague. The girl spend every 20 minutes in the bathroom throwing up cuz of the party they frequented the night before and all the Czech people around us were quite rude to the guy because he didn't speak Czech. Really great hospitality by the workers of Student Agency buslines. Still it¨s a good bus though.
Anyways, when it was all said and done, I was back home at about 6pm and the long day had finally come to a close. Glad it is over and now I just need to wait three long months for it to be processed. Thanks for everything.
Problems Galore, but a light...
In the last few weeks, things have been getting quite milky, to put it nicely. Milky but frothy. :)
Finding time to get everything done has been an issue. Luckily, as the time has continued, I now do not have my Seniors at school anymore. The students I have had for 5 years are now gone. It is sad, but maybe one of the most rewarding feelings in my life. It is really great and I am really looking forward to seeing my students become successful in the coming years. It is a great feeling.
Also, a problem has been with getting my visa. Going from one office to the next has been a difficult process while having a full time job. Several times and back to the city housing office, town hall, trade license office, embassy, and the foreign office. And then after all of that, they tell me it is not enough and tell me I have to take a trip on a work day to Dresden to the Czech Consulate. Gosh, it has been a real headache, but things will work out, I am sure of it. In times like these, you always have to be optimistic or you will go crazy.
The next fun thing is job hunting. It has been a lot of fun going to so many interviews and everyone saying, yea great... so probably not, but have fun. But optimism will always triumph so I have a few more in a week or so. They are fun and I am looking forward to the increased practice in job hunting.
The last problem is my roommate. He sleepwalks and through the year I have awoken and found a stray window open or something, (one time when it was about 5 degrees Fahrenheit outside. But earlier this week he turned our gas stove on and went to sleep. By the morning our flat was completely consumed with gas and had not our neighbor come in early, suffocation would only have been a few hours away. I feel someone was watching out for us.
I really can't complain about things right now. I am happy and though scary things happen. Life always brings reasons for everything. I am looking forward for the next step God has for me in my life and I am not worried about the problems and trials He brings because I know that it comes for a reason. I look forward and am ready for whatever He may bring. Thanks guys. Talk to you soon.
A Strange School
Schools... they are here to educate each of us. But to some degree, even sometimes schools are quite incomprehensible. Take this one school. Let's call it... Dark. It's an "English school". Why do I quote it? Well, for just that reason. They "say" they are an English school, but I am still a bit wary about it. Let me tell you my story.
I got a phone call a few days ago before I started teaching one of my classes. A lady was on the other line. She was calling me in response to my resume I had sent to their office. )Note: I sent my resume to several different places, and it was all basically the same: some note, my resume, and a current photo, maybe I included an educational essay I had written. And mind you, everything was written in clear English.) This lady is on the line and doesn't bat an eye before she starts away in her native language, Czech, expecting me to catch everything... I did... She quickly proceeded to explain to me who she was and for what company she works for and that she is "in charge" of prospective employees. She asked me a minimal number of questions about myself and told me that before anything, I would have to come in and take an "English test". A perplexing moment for me when I think that it's clear that through everything I sent them, and them obviously knowing the fact that I am a native speaker, that I should also come in and take an "English test" (you will find out my use of quotation marks soon enough). I thought it quite funny and continued on and was actually quite looking forward to such a possibility. I thought it would be some normal grammar sentences and I would be in and out in 15 or 20 minutes.
After our conversation, I went and looked at their website to find quite a credible school. They have flourished quite well after 15 years or so of existence and have even expanded to 13 different cities around the nation. Sounds quite good. But one thing did strike me as strange. The fact that there wasn't any English version to this website. I find it odd that such a prestigious English school wouldn't have even a small English translated version, since clearly, they ARE an English school.
But I digress. I travelled the next day to Prague to take my exam. I was quite excited and eager to for my exam, but still not totally understanding the exact reason and importance to know how well an American can speak English. I arrived to a healthy greeting of a few of the office workers (none of which spoke English). They explained to me the test and I was off to work. But... what was this?... an English test?... with so few English words?... I looked quizzically at this test, and jumped into it. The first part... translation. Translate from Czech to English... ok, I can do that, but I don't really understand the importance of why I should have to. Next, translate English to Czech... still not sure why it's important for teaching English in an "English Only" classroom. But, ok. Next part, translate the following 35 sentences from Czech to English. Ok, now this is ridiculous. I can speak English perfectly. Fluently even. Why do I have to translate from Czech to English? I did, and quite well, I think.
Then come the essay questions... in Czech... Quite unnecessary for me I thought. But I continued. The entire process was a bit ridiculous I felt, but an experience, nonetheless. Thankfully, it's over now, and I don't know if I will ever fully understand the process to employment at this "English school".
Like a Dutchman
Hey all. So, as the world continues to turn and life slowly passes by, so as similar likenesses occur in my life as well. Last week, as we had a 5 day holiday from school, me and Joseph and Blanka. It was really an unbelievable experience. We took ourselves a small little trip to a small little country which has two names... one of which is Holland and the other of which is The Netherlands... First to mention that I never would have would have considered this country to be one of the last European countries that I would have visited, but it's true that it is. And second, I never would have thought that this country could have produced one of the best remixes ever with Counting Crows and their song "Holiday in Spain". Check it out here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzQtEk9CzCAWe got here and we stayed in a factory. You can see a few of these pictures first. It was actually quite a scary place, and after staying here, and walking around and taking a tour of all the halls and empty space where could be creeping all sorts of freaky scary people, it makes it much easier to walk around my school in the night time. Not scary one bit. So our first real day we went to Alkmaar which has one of the best and oldest Cheese Markets in Holland. Holland, which has the famous cheese cities such as Edam and Gouda. This was a really amazing day where we got a chance to see so many different kinds of cheese and taste so many kinds. It was surprisingly an amazing experience. You don't really ever think about how important or how good cheese can be. You just kinda buy it whenever you want a ham and cheese sandwich, and life goes on. But this was a great day and time by all.After this we drove around this part of the country and saw the countryside which included a cheese farm which we toured as well as many small villages with canals and windmills, sheep, farms, and goats. It was truly time that you never want to forget and want to experience over and over again. The last day we spent in Amsterdam visiting such places as the House of Anne Frank, the famous flower market in Amsterdam and the Heineken Brewery. Also, we saw really narrow houses, and lots of boats and canals in a major city. I was surprised to hear that Amsterdam is the first European city which has English (a non-native language) as its second official language. Anyways, the pictures are the most important part here. After such a long time of working and laboring, this was a much needed and relaxing trip. And although I'm looking forward to the last coming months of work, holidays are always a nice thing to experience. :)[...]
The Kettle of Infamy
Taking a trip last weekend was a fun time to finally get away from life and to relax and experience something different. Here, above, is a picture of me in the accommodations we stayed at. Next to me you see the countertop with an electric kettle on top. This is what the story is about if you are curious.
This kettle, doesn't look so electric, does it? I mean besides the electric heater underneath it and the plug into the wall. But just the kettle looks normal. So, if a tired person would wake up in the morning and put water in it. After holding it, where would you think to put it? On the electric heating pad or the stove? Of course I chose the latter. And after putting it on the small one, I decided that it wasn't big enough, so I put it on a bigger flame for 10 more seconds or so. I saw a strange flame and then realized what I was doing. Luckily, ( this picture was taken after.... looks pretty good, huh) it wasn't harmed... much. And it still worked quite normally. Just the bottom looked a bit strange.
Anyways, that was a funny thing that recently happened to me and my life. :)
And the Silence is Broken
How to break the long awkward silence?
That's what's been going through my mind for a few months now. I've wanted to write something, I really have. But something's been holding me back, and for that, I beg forgiveness. :)
Just to try and catch some of you up on what direction my life has been going in, I'll try and fill you in as much as feasibly possible, ok? But you have to promise that you'll catch me up with you as well, deal? :)
- November - Winter started (it would be the first of the following five months of the coldest winter in 18 years.)
- December - Winter continues. I was so looking forward to my Christmas holiday and finally getting a chance to relax, but I found myself ill and in bed for most of it. New Years Eve was also quite uneventful due to the heavy fog/smog in Kralupy. You'd be surprised though how unimportant this minor detail is for most people who have fireworks. Apparently, it's only important to hear the fireworks, no necessarily see them. Even the city set off their fireworks in this dense fog. And what a "noise-show" it was. Brilliant. But even the better because I was able to watch OU's bowl game on TV, and it finished at about 1215 am on the 1st of January, so I was satisfied that we at least won. Would've been quite a waste of a New Years celebration if I had spent it watching my team lose...
- January - The winter braved on. But throughout the month, there were interesting events such as the Kralupy music festival and a few Senior proms. We changed churches because we weren't satisfied with what we were getting from the other one and have since found the best church, for us, in the Czech Republic.
- February - We started out the month with Spring Break. Quite early, I know. But we spent, with Blanka, a week in Italy skiing. It was an awesome time skiing for a week in the Italian Alps. The month withered on and the winter showed no signs of giving in. Temperatures dropped to -10 F at times but mainly stayed around a cool 0 F. It was a fun time had by all.
- March - And now we come to happy times. Winter has left. Spring has arrived and life is much happier. It's time to start taking trips a bit more. I've taken already a few trips around and bike trips are soon to be had. A great thing that we did was visit a local waterpark during the winter. There's nothing like beating the winter with a nice warm water park.
School is going great. As my Seniors are finished with learning all the topics, my life has gotten about a million times easier. Which is nice to not have so much stress. But life is good. I don't have any complaints and I'm really looking forward to my holidays. And relaxing. :)
On Being 25
So, it's finally happened. My car insurance is officially lower. Too bad I don't have a car, and too bad I don't live in America. But if I rent a car (maybe i'll do that soon just because) it'll be cheaper. That's really the thing I'm most excited about. It's been an interesting last two months, for many reasons. Mostly I'm glad to be back over here because it's a great place for me right now. It's where I need to be. Some things that have happened recently:
- I recently heard that my long-term visa has been processed, so finally all the hassles and problems are behind me and I can finally rest happily with my visa. Next Thursday I will be traveling to Dresden to pick it up. Wow, my last 4 years in the Czech Republic, I drove through Dresden once, but in the last 6 months I will have been there 4 times. Wild times. Nice city though.
- I participated in a bowling tournament in Kralupy. It was great. About 20 people came and first prize was an IPhone, but unfortunately, I came in second, so I had to settle for a few prizes that were not as hefty as the prized phone. But it's ok, it was fun and I had a really fun time.
- I have finally, after much trouble and hassle and problems, applied for my Teacher Certification! Finally, after all those years of hard work and turmoil, I finally will have my certification and license to teach History! The processing fee was 52 bucks which is stupid, but i guess they have to make money somehow, and I guess they figure the students will have the same reasoning that I had,"If I spent all this time and money to apply for the license, and if all that's standing (finally) between me and getting my license, then so be it. I guess I'll do it."
Well... I guess that's at least 3 important things that have happened. My birthday was really nice. I kept myself quite busy with phone calls from friends and fun times. That's the great thing about birthdays is that you don't just have to celebrate it one day, but maybe for about a few weeks when you have time for special excursions here and there :)
A Foreign Saturday
So, as time goes by, I start to think that I know a lot about my small village of 18k people, give or take. I've been here long enough that I think I know most of the different kinds of foreigners. And I start to feel like normal. But what happened to me today made me feel exceptionally different.
Me and Joseph wanted to get out, so we left the flat in search of a good walk and a good lunch. We went to the market about 7 minutes away. The weather was rainy, yet sufficient nonetheless. I really liked it. Typical fall weather that makes you feel like your life is continuing. That's the reason for seasons, but enough of that. So we went there and got some food for the day and went to pay. I was getting ready to pay, with my food on the conveyor belt, and I looked at what the person behind me was buying, really really cheap beer in cans. Hm... I didn't pay much else to it, and continued in the line. Then the guy bent over to tie his shoe or something and hit my arm on the way up and I looked at him and he was Asian. He then tried to apologize to me and was quite insistent on it. Then he tried to invite me for one of his beers, or so I thought, and I declined. But he was ruthlessly insistent and took my by the arm and Joseph followed, to the nearby Chinese restaurant.
This man really couldn't speak Czech at all. And it was entirely impossible to understand anything that he was telling me... almost. He asked me my name a hundred times, and I finally understood what he was asking for, and then he asked Joseph's name and where he was from. Throughout the day, he continued to ask this. This fellow wasn't Vietnamese which the majority of people from Asia in CZ are from, this guy was from Mongolia. And what I got from the two beers that we had with him were the following.
He has lived here for three years. He can hardly at all speak any Czech (he just knows the words: wine, beer, vodka, finished, home). He doesn't know how to write in Latin alphabet, only Cyrillic. His wife is finally coming tomorrow to Czech Republic. He has at least two small children, maybe a third one. His father was killed by the police in front of him when he was thirteen and he then tried to fight the police, but they beat him up. Joseph is a super friend, and so am I. Mongolia has passports that look like drivers licenses (only some laminated plastic card).
I'm pretty sure that's all I got out of him. But It was a really interesting afternoon. I came home after that and was really confused at what had just happened. But these things seem to sneak up on my quite often. Interesting to say the least. :)
My Wedding Weekend in Vestec
This past weekend, I traveled down to the small farm/village of Vestec. I'm still not really sure where it is, but it's somewhere in southeastern Bohemia. Maybe I should look on a map or google it to find out where I was this past weekend. I was to travel there for the wedding of my good friend, Hana. Hana was one of the first people I befriended in Czech Republic more than four years ago and she was my first teacher of Czech. We traded off language lessons for 2 years before she moved away from Kralupy, but we have kept in touch and have been able to hang out every so often. So the wedding was last Saturday. But quite far from Kralupy, but luckily, I had an option to hitch a ride with some friends. Otherwise it probably would have been quite near impossible to get to this small town in the middle of nowhere on a weekend. But there was one condition. I had to help my friends in the morning with building a playground and reconstructing some things in their village with grant money they had applied for and won. The whole village was there at 830am and we went to work. It was quite an interesting thing to see, but I quite liked it. So I was filling up a sandbox and then pulling out weeds and stuff most of the morning. The next morning, after the wedding, I couldn't remember why I was so sore, but probably manual labor for several hours would do the trick. We finally left about noon or so and got to Vestec at about 130 or so. The wedding was at 2. It was cold, windy, but not rainy, just seemed as though it would any moment. It looked like it'd be a nice wedding. It was at a "mill" or I don't know if you can call it that, but that's what they did, and it was really nice inside and had a few garages and the wedding was outside. The wedding started and it was really cool. After the wedding was a great big feast and really tasty everything. Afterwards, I didn't really know many people there and the few people I did know knew lots of people and I would have felt bad to just kind of latch on or something. So I took a few walks in the fields and stuff. There are some really famous hills near this place which are the origins of one Czech legend. So it was a really nice walk I think. I came back and was bored for a bit longer, but then it started getting later and everyone started to get happier. We ate some came and people started talking to me and it was more and more fun. Then the Jewish band came and started singing and everyone started dancing and having a good time. I'm pretty sure that by the end of the night I knew everyone and it was definitely an overall good experience. In the morning, we woke up and I was talking to several people and then we decided to finally head back home. I rode with this guy who was going back to Kralupy. He was a really nice guy and friendly. But we stopped to get gas for his car and we were with his wife and daughter, who was terrified of me :), and he came to me and told me that we have a serious problem. He just came back from pumping the gas and he had accidentally filled up his car completely to the hilt with diesel. It was kinda a problem. So we waited for the tow truck to get there and just as they got there, another of our cars pulled in and i traded cars as to get back home faster. I hope to talk to him soon to find out if it all worked out, but I think it did. Just quite bad luck I think. But I got back home about 230 and had a few hours to at least try and relax a bit. But it was an overal really great weekend and I'm quite happy that I was able to attend another wedding in the last month. :)[...]
Really strange. In Dresden today I found these mixed drinks in a can. Really interesting. Vodka and Red Bull, Bacardi and Coke, and Jack and Coke. How Strange is that
Less Work for the Police
I was on a train today back home from Prague. Me and joseph were sitting in some seats talking when the ticket guy came around. We gave him our tickets as normal and he continued onward. He went to the next girl after us, who was listening to her music, and she gave him her ticket. Who know what she was trying to really do. She was probably just trying to scam him with a fake ticket, but you never know. She had some child's ticket, and he asked her how old she was. "In a month I'll be 16", she said. :) It's always funny to me that people say this to make themselves look older.
He asked for her ID which she didn't have on her, which is a big no-no. He told her that she couldn't use this ticket. I really couldn't hear that well why, but I think I guess correctly. Not really down with all the rules of tickets with youth or special ticket prices, but I dunno. He then told her that it was gonna cost her 44 crowns (2 bucks) but she said that she didn't have any money. She wasn't sure of the rules cuz she never goes anywhere by train. It was 9pm at night, dark outside as well. He said that she could either get off or he was gonna call the police. WOW, this guy was ruthless. I was listening tot he whole thing thinking how much this would suck to be this girl. And nothing I can do... or was there.
She sat there staring at him. He with his cell in his hand ready to call the cops, waiting for her to answer. And I was sitting there watching it all go down. Then she started crying. Really interesting. Poor girl. I really couldn't be this guy was gonna call the cops on the girl who was almost home and was a quite young girl or he was just gonna kick her out at night at some random stop. It was ridiculous for me to think about. A true number one a-hole. Then I realized that I could help the situation a bit. So I got out of my seat, went to the guy and gave him the two dollars to make the situation go away. She was a nice girl and hopefully learned her lesson. It's a nice thing to be able to help someone out like this sometimes. I've had people help me out a million times, that I think it was about time that I do something good as well. She said thanks and shortly after exited the train and said bye, so I kinda hope that she doesn't forget the generosity of people, that people are good and that maybe someday, who knows, I might run into her again. We'll see. It was a nice night to make someone less hassle, and in this case, a lot.
The Ride of My Life
This picture is of a simpler part of the trail :D
For years upon years upon years, it has always been some kind of fantasy to cross the gap of Kralupy-Prague, a gap of 26 km, upon my own strength. Cars and trains had been the only means of transport that I have made it from one to the other, but with a new years comes new horizons and new challenges to be met. Normally, this challenge would be impossible due to the small fact that my bike that I had from my friend's dead grandma wouldn't exactly be up to such a journey. But luckily, it seems that we have a newer, nicer bike for the time being, and when invited on such a journey, I jumped on it.
I jumped on my bike and was off in a flash. And it was starting out awesome. I was excited. To prague on my bike. Wow, what a thrill. But this thought was short-lived. I realized that i really haven't ridden a bike in a pretty long time, and a trip of 26 km was an unthinkable quest that I had never even come close to. But I was truckin along pretty well at the beginning. Yet the road got smaller and smaller, and the asphalt became less and less, and then gravel, and then nothing but dirt which was fine for the time being. Then came the forests, and the trees, and the roots. But I was able to handle that, but then the trail got narrower and narrower, and although that still wasn't a real big problem I did need to start going slower for a plethora of reasons. First, the roots were quite big and I don't have much experience of trail riding, there'd be some hills every now and then which didn't look like much traction could be had on them, thirdly, big rocks made the journey more exhilarating. Yet, probably the biggest reason that slowed me down was the fact that the trail was maybe less than a foot wide or so and to my right was the river, a dropoff directly to the river. Not really a long way down, but I could see if the spill was taken at the right place how it could be fatal. It's interesting, I'm curious how many people each year fall off into the water. It could be a pleasant surprise in some areas, but most of them, I can't see the pleasantness of it.
Anyways, I made it through the death-defying part and for the most part it was smooth sailing the rest of the way. Such a beautiful ride. great weather, great nature, lots of peace and not too many people out doing the same thing as I. It was really a fun time and I'm glad that I was finally able to get the chance. Next up is running it. I'm not sure if I'll be up for that, but don't count me out.
A Day Full of Blood
Ok, so it wasn't really quite at the beach, but it definitely could've been... Ok, maybe there are actually no similarities to my day in no way, shape, or form to that of a day at the beach. But I'll tell you about it anyways. So... after being back in the Czech Republic for a few days now, I really haven't been getting a good sleeping pattern down at all. But that's not what this story is about.
I don't have a visa yet. I know... kinda strange, but I don't have it yet. And it's kinda confusing because I never got my passport stamped when I got off the airplane in Frankfurt nor Prague, so I am not sure if the Foreign Police will have a problem with that or not when and if I actually do obtain my visa. I had to wake up early today, which wasn't really a problem since I have been acting like a cat more recently by sleeping for 3 or 4 hours and then being awake for that amount of time. So I got up and got on a train leaving Kralupy at about... 530am I think. I was Germany-bound. To Dresden I was going. Fine, not a problem. I've done it before. I brought my computer so I could get a little bit more work done on the journey. I had to change trains in a city called Usti, so I did. Let me ask you something. What was the last liquid puddle you might have ventured across? Mine... was blood. I rode up the escalator and literally there were several PUDDLES of blood. Just everywhere. More blood than I had seen ever. I really couldn't believe that it was blood, but then I saw a lady sitting in one of the benches in, no joke, all white... except for her leg, which was a dark maroon shade of blood. A few workers were tending to her, but they weren't doing more than just wrapping a bandage around it. It was A LOT of blood. I'm pretty sure that with that amount of blood loss, she should be treated like... well, or something. I really don't know where she went afterwards, she was just kinda out of it and when the guys finished with her, they just kinda smiled and said, Well, have a beautiful day miss. Yea, I'm sure she will.
Gosh, it was so crazy. So much blood. At such an early hour of the morning. On such white clothes. Blood blood blood everywhere. Wow, it was hard to even imagine that something like that was possible, but it was. There was so much blood just everywhere. On the ground, on the escalator, on her, on everything.
So I got over that after a long while and got on my train to Dresden. Nothing much to say about it, except I was working on finding more embezzled money, which I did, thousands and thousands more. So that was productive. I arrived in Dresden, found the Czech Consulate quite easily, actually, which was a cool thing to have been able to do. And there was only another guy in there. So I made it out after a bit more than an hour and my short-term visa is being processed and I have to get a few more things ready before they can start processing my long-term visa. That's a quick run down of what has happened so far in my day before noon. Right now I'm on a train back home and should be there before mid afternoon. Wow, what a day. And... yea...
A Home of a Farer Fare
Yea, I know, a long time since the last one. Lots have happened since moving back to the States. Been to Phoenix, cleaned up, had 3 jobs, went to the beach, interesting business proposals, experienced a lot of interesting times. And they keep coming. As of now, I'm not far from looking back into my Czech household and the blog should be more regular as I should have more time. I feel like things have gotten interesting with the time running out. Lots of problems and solutions with visa process, interesting times with support raising, trying to sell my car multiple times, and even a longtime smouldering has produced a wee amount of flame.
A lot of waiting to see what pans out with most of my situations is necessary, but I'm confident it will all work out. A few things that I need to do in the next week or two:
-sell a few things on Ebay
-sell my car... again
-wait til I sell my car so I can buy a plane ticket
-pay off my tuition from last fall
-cancel my car insurance
-get my stuff from my sister's storage unit
-book some bus ticket to Dallas in preparation for departure
-go to Norman to see a few special people
-get my passport back (hopefully with some kind of visa inside it)
-pay back certain people for debts I've incurred
-get a few recipes to take back with me
Man, I'm sure that there are others also that I just don't know how to remember them all. Good luck to me
The Experience of Yet Another Flight Home
It's almost started to be routine, me flying across the Atlantic, but I decided that I wanted to spice it up a bit, and it decided to spice it up a little itself. My journeys are never without a little hint of adventure. Maybe that's why I always look forward to it. It's always a learning experience that I enjoy.It started off the night before with me figuring everything out on the internet before it went out on me. I spent the night cleaning up the homestead, cleaning up myself, finishing packing, saying bye to a few people, and by that time, the night was well in progress. It was about 2 or 3 in the morning I think and by that time, it almost seemed ridiculous to go to bed because I'm always afraid of going to bed before I fly out due to the fact that I perhaps might sleep through my alarm. So I didn't. I watched a movie on my computer and made sure I had accomplished everythign that I had needed to before leaving at a little before 5am to the train station. It would be the first leg of the journey. Was I going to Prague airport, as I had done every time beforehand? No, this is where I wanted to add a little spice to it. I got on a train heading north. I was going to Dresden. So... could I sleep on the train? No, because that leaves me with the same problem as sleeping the night before. I would be too tired and was afraid of sleeping through and waking up in Western Czech Republic. I waited at the train station for it to get there, and luckily, it wasn't late and I got on the train without a hitch and relaxed, ate my breakfast and after an hour, I had to get off and wait an hour for my transferring train to Dresden. Waiting for an hour at a strange station early in the morning, without sleep doesn't sound so appealing and it really wasn't. It was boring and I felt my life wasting away at this very point. :) But I digress and I pushed on. I finally got on the train heading to Dresden and it was a nice one, ready for my hour trip to Dresden, so once again, no sleeping. But at this point, exhaustion started setting on and I had to get creative as to not fall asleep. I thought of a few fun things that made the time fun. Maybe hallucination of tiredness set on, so I was able to make it even more fun by setting up interesting scenarios, but for the time being, I was satisfied. I got off the train in Dresden and was in search for some way to get to the airport. After spending approx. 15 minutes working the ticket machine trying to figure out how to buy just one simple normal ticket, I was able to make my way to the train to the airport and I got there without problems. Everything really worked out quite fine. I got my ticket successfully and made it through security with them taking away from me my forgotten juice and my shaving cream. The guy said something in German, and I said, yea, ok, i don't need them. Take them away and motioned for him to take them, and he said, no, and said something. And I was confused. I tried to leave, but he said no. And gave me the stuff and pointed me out back through security. Apparently he wanted me to dispose of them myself. So, one of the guys walked me out and to a color coordinated set of approximately 10 bins with different things written on them. I looked at them in confusion until the guy said something in German which i took to mean, "Throw them in any one, it doesn't matter". I did, he was satisfied and I got my stuff again and left. The plane from Dresden-Frankfurt was fine. I was able to sleep from take off to set down. It was nice to get this rest. But my next problem I was anticipating was getting to my connecting flight because I only had an hour to make it through[...]
Your Move, Pawn
It's go time and I'm going back to America now in a few hours. After almost a full 4 months of relaxing traveling in Eastern Europe, it's time to make the transition back to the States for the time being. I'm looking forward to it and spending time with people that I haven't seen in while and enjoying what is the culture that I was raised in. The last four months have definitely been an experience and I'm leaving with definitely different thoughts as to what I came here with. As to what I thought this time would be.
I came here wanting some closure with a part of my life that was dearly important to the shaping of what I am today. I am leaving with something else. I'm leaving a greater feeling for many relationships. Relationships with my former roommate, relationships with my neighbors, relationships with very close friends have been strengthened. And I've realized what a difficult person I am to get to know, even more so. But to a point to where people have even given up on knowing me at all. It's been interesting.
I have realized that wherever I am, I can never please everyone and though my intentions are always good and never malicious, there's always a few people out there who wanna get me. I realize more now than ever how evil the world is and how your life is always being tried. I've come to know that the easiest way out is never or mostly never the best. Right things are always difficult yet worth fighting for. And I think that once these decisions have been made, it only gets harder. It makes me wonder how these decisions will affect my future. It makes me excited/looking forward to/interested/scared a bit as to what it will look like.
Either way, I know that God is looking out for me and guiding me in every way. I know that I will never stray from what He desires for my life and that although I falter often, He will always be there to make my bad choices good, for the better of His Will. I can't explain how blessed and lucky I feel to have experienced the life He has given me. I hope and strive to not let Him or anyone else down in accordance with His Goodness. Life is good, life is bad, life is life, and I'm living it.
The Raft of Our Destiny
So... it all started the other day when me and Joseph were walking along the river on a trail to this marina on the river bank to play cards and spend a great Easter Day loungin in the sun. I love Easter. We got there and we were standing by the river, and the idea just came to us... We should get an inflatable raft. "We should totally get an inflatable raft."
And then we started talking about it and usually when we get a crazy idea like this, the next day it doesn't seem as cool, but this one still did, and we thought if we could find a cheap one, then we'd go out and be on the river all the time. We talked that we'd go out every day in the summer, spend weeks on rafting trips. We'd do whatever we needed to to be out on the water. It was, as we decided, a much better alternative than just sitting here in the flat watching a movie or something.
So, we continued talking about it, and then i started searching on the internet. Could we really find one for a good enough price? It wouldn't be possible to find one for a reasonable price. The odds were desperately against us. And I searched, and sure enough, I was right. Several thousands of dollars for these things. But it really was never exactly what I was looking for. I continued searching and searching, until I found exactly what we had wanted, and even at a cheaper price than we had expected. Wow! it was great. Now the decision was to actually get it or not. We know where to go, the problem is actually going and shelling out the dough for it. Could we do it? Joseph said yes, and I said, I'll go tomorrow.
The day came and we got excited about the possibility. I had to go to Prague to get the thing. Wasn't totally sure where it was. I went and by metro came to the wrong station. I was looking for this specific street. I finally give up and ask someone where it is, and they point to this highway. Oh.. great, it's the highway... lovely. So... i walk along the highway for a while until I realize that I must be going the wrong way. Not really sure about it, but i decided to turn around and walk in the other direction. I ask a car dealership where this sports shop is. They don't know. It's ok, I'll just keep walking. 15 minutes of walking later, I run into a pub and ask them. They'd of course never heard of the sports shop, but he pointed to the end of the street and said, "You see that big SPORTS sign? Maybe try that. Maybe that's it." So I continued to walk and walk and sure enough, it actually was it. So, after 45 minutes of walking, I made it there. And after conveying to the man the necessary questions I wanted answered, I got the raft and was on my way. But not too fast, because it was a really heavy raft in a big box. about 40 lbs or so and I had to carry it to the metro, about 15 minutes (i found a closer one), to another metro, up to the train, and then 15 minutes walk home from the station. My arms were dead after that.
BUt... after getting home, we pumped it up, and what was suggested as 15 minutes, turned into 45, but in the end... we had accomplished perfection.(image)
The Epic of the Green Beer
We thought the day would never come. We waited in anticipation for weeks, for months (or so it seemed), and as the day grew closer and closer, our hearts started beating faster and faster... well... maybe it wasn't that much of an excitement, but you could imagine if it were. The day had finally come for the "Green Beer". In honor of the Thursday before Easter, which Czechs call "Green Thursday", the local pub next to my place was offering green beer. What an experience. It really drew a lot of customers I think, and it was definitely something that was making everyone excited.
Then we got the green beer finally. Eh... not bad, but the other beer they had was better. So, that was it. One big green beer and the excitement had rushed out of my heart. And back to the normal stuff it was. But you see now, the story doesn't end here. It's almost like a fairy tale actually.
Everytime we went back to the pub, after Green Thursday, we were being pressed to have the green beer. Apparently, they just couldn't get rid of it. I, every time, refused it, but was always offered it first before all others. For weeks, nay, months, after, there was green beer. It was like the green beer that never went away. Everywhere I looked, green beer, green beer, green beer. I couldn't get it out of my thoughts, out of my dreams. It was haunting me! So finally, me and Joseph went in there last night and I was going to conquer my fear. I walked right up to the owner, waiting for him to offer me the green beer... he didn't. He offered me my usual kind... I, perplexed, got up the courage to tell him NO! I want the Greenest beer you have. That's right, the greenest beer you have. He looked up at me, and I swear I saw a tear in his eye. He slowly looked up at me, and it was at that moment I knew. I would never be haunted by the green beer again. The owner's mouth opened, and those fateful words I'll never forget... "We're all out." A little piece of my heart broke right then and there. As I turned around, I walked with my head down to my table. As I passed a table of a couple with green beer, horns grew from their heads and they were mocking me as they finished the last two pints from the green keg.
That's the story and I'm sticking to it. Exaggeration to any part may have been used for theatrical expression ONLY.
Recovering my "stolen" bag
I totally forgot to keep you up to date about my bag that I lost. As most of you know (who follow my blog) i told a story a week ago about how I got my bag stolen. The story goes like this... with a continuation.
I was traveling in Montenegro and was going from the capital, Podgorica, to a coastal town 3 hours away, Herceg Novi, and I got off the bus (my bag was under the bus in the luggage place, and it wasn't there. After some hand signals with the driver and the attendant (who didn't speak Engish), they told me to go to the bus station an hour away, because apparently there was a "Big Station". Those were the only English words they knew. So... I went there the next day, and was looking for the information place because that's what they said. I went to the ticket office asking for the "informacije". Where is it? I asked. This guy came up and I told him i lost my bag. oh!! he said. Baggazh! Yes yes, he said. Come. 5 Euro. What? I said. What? no no, i thought he didn't understand me. I met another young guy that worked there that actually spoke English. I told him about my bag and told me I needed to pay 5 Euro. Why? I said. Well, we found the bag here. You forgot it. WHAT!! I DID NOT FORGET IT!! I DIDN'T EVEN GET OFF!! How did i forget it! He said... well it was here on the station. I said, But i didn't get off here, i was going to Herceg Novi. He said... Well, it's not OUR fault. Me: Well, it's certainly not MY FAULT! What am I supposed to do, look out the window every stop to make sure my bag didn't fall out? He was perplexed at this. Apparently it was my fault. It wasn't their fault. OF COURSE IT WAS THERE FAULT!! HOW COULD IT NOT BE THEIR FAULT! Gosh, the people here are total idiots. After trying to explain ourselves for about 15 minutes, I was like, fine, you know what, fine, here's your freakin 5 Euro, give me my bag. I had already thought it was stolen and I'd never see my expensive glasses and contacts and bag again. I was happy to pay five to just get my bag back. That's the story and these people are complete idiots. End of story. And my bags are never leaving my sight again. :)
The Wear of Traveling
Stats of Traveling:
Duration (in weeks): 6
Duration (in days): 42
Countries visited: 9
Nights spent on buses, trains, and ferries: 8
Different modes of transport: 6
Number of nights crashing on a couch: 10
Number of different travel partners (must include actual traveling 2+ days): 7
Times been scammed, robbed, or almost jumped: 4
Currencies in my wallet or pocket: 9
Times I've washed my clothes in 6 weeks: 2
Other places I want to see: 0
As you see, I've got a lot of numbers in my trip. Too many. I've become quite weathered in the past 6 weeks and really don't desire to travel anymore. I'm looking forward to relaxing and being with friends and family and being around familiar surroundings. I still find ways to enjoy the time I have though, don't worry. Usually, I just sit and smile and wonder why I'm so happy. Usually I can't ever think of a reason, but I keep smiling anyways. I make conversation with myself almost constantly. I've met so many people and traveled with a lot of them, and many of them I just didn't like talking to or I'd just want to be alone. The good thing about talking to yourself is that you always agree with yourself. I wish I could describe the kinds of conversations I have, but they're pretty good. I find myself intriguing. Most of them time I'm just trying to figure out why I'm happy all the time. I just can't seem to help it though. :) That's really all I want to say right now.
Living like a Hobo
So... after being in Montenegro, I feel that I've been rather lucky because I haven't had to pay for accommodations for at least 5 nights which really has saved me a lot of money, and I've met some really great people who have bent over backwards for me. I've seen a lot of things that I would never have seen otherwise. I've been on the radio, seen the countryside, been in a taxi more than I ever have in my life, due to the fact that taxis here are cheaper than public transit. But... it seems to have all caught up to me.
Today I was started off from the capital, Podgorica, on a 3.5 hour bus ride along the coast to a city in the north, Herceg Novi. I got there and quite easily got on a bus to the coastal city of happiness :D I went to the bus, and as usual, they don't allow me to take both of my bags with me on board. No problem, as I have done a million times, I put my backpack with all my clothes and toiletries underneath the bus in the compartment for luggage with a plethora of other bags. I enjoyed the long ride there, slept a bit, relaxed a bit, listened to a book on tape, and then after a journey, I got off at my destination, being the last person on the bus. I got out and told the guy I had a bag underneath. He opened it, and to my surprise... a black pit of emptiness. Uh... excuse me... where is my bag? The guy looks in... looks at me confused. Of course no one on the bus service speaks English. Where is it? He looks at me, looks back. Asks if it is onboard with me... No, of course not, I'd recognize if I had it with me the entire time idiot. We look again at the black hole of despair. The driver gets out and looks also. And puts his hands up as if he's sayin... well... it's not there, sorry. What am I supposed to do? I asked. He had no answer. Well... we looked at each other. What now? Then they told me to go to the big station at the city an hour away... Uh... ok, thanks...? I had him write down his name and number and there really wasn't much else for me to do. I guess I'll go check out the place tomorrow. Nothing doing now.
In all honesty though.... it sucks that I don't have my bag, but again, I have the irreplaceable stuff with me still. All the expensive stuff. I just had my clothes and toiletries in it, and the bag also was important. But everything is replaceable. I still hold out hope that I'll find it tomorrow, but I'm pretty sure someone just took it off and stole it. It adds more adventure to my trip, in my thoughts, than anything. It's quite interesting now to see how the final few weeks of traveling will work out now that I don't have clothes or toiletries... so we'll just see how it works out. Long live the adventure. Adventure is what I longed for, and that's exactly what I've gotten. Moral of the story: Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
A 23 Hour Excursion
It's funny logging into the blog in different countries, cuz whatever country I'm in, it switches to that language. And although I wasn't able to make it to Ukraine, I'm quite glad that I'm in Serbia because I really like trying to read Cyrillic. It's quite fun and cool. Anyways, that's not what this is about. I got on the train in Istanbul to head to Beograd (Belgrade). I got on the train and was in a 3 person sleeper car since it was a long night's journey. I got on the train and soon after met my roommate which just so happens was an American. I hardly met any Americans at all in my two weeks in Turkey and now I'm in an overnight train with one. Basically just there were Japanese and British people. So I was quite excited and happy to hear some normal English once again. And he happened to be going to Beograd as well. We talked a lot and we became friends pretty quickly. The trip went quickly due to the fact that we were sleeping most of the time. We had to switch trains in Sofia, but we'd have about an hour and a half break, so I wasn't so worried about not having a ticket for the rest of the way there. It'd be cheaper this way anyways. Problem number one, though. The train was about an hour and a half late. Here's where the story gets interesting. I wake my friend up telling him we're there. I gather my things and tell him that I'll go and check the ticket situation and he could just get all his stuff together and I'd see him in the station. I get off the train and there are these guys there asking if I'm going to Beograd. Yes, of course I am. HURRY HURRY HURRY. The train is about to leave. Five minutes. Hurry. Ok, I start to run with them. Wait! I don't have a ticket. I need to buy one. Wait, I have my friend in the train, I need to tell him. No time NO TIME. HURRY. We go buy a ticket, come with me. So we ran down into the station at breakneck speeds to the counter. I thought, well, my friend won't have time to get a ticket, so I'll just buy his ticket for him as well and he can get me back later. But wait! I don't have any Bulgarian money! And so they say, HURRY HURRY HURRY!! let's get money. I run to the machine and get the money out. The guy actually takes the money and we run back. I try to get the money, but this is a lost cause. We pay and get the tickets and then run run run to the train. Wait! Kolega, (my colleague), I tell them, I don't know where he is! NO TIME NO TIME!! GO GO GO GO. We run to the train. And I get on. They ask for money, but I've spent all that I got out. I think they probably got some money from my ticket anyways. And I got on the train. Wait a second, I'm thinking. This had to be a scam somehow. What just happened. Am I even on the right train? I ask people, they say yes, this train goes to Beograd. I look confused and dazed a bit and just kinda try and figure out what I'm supposed to do. I'm looking for my friend, of whom I just bought a ticket for and he's no where in sight. No way he made the train (he didn't). And so I'm kicking myself for buying two tickets! Why did I buy a ticket for a guy I don't know and I knew wouldn't make the train. This was stupid. I was thinking more. Ok, I have my wallet, my passport. I wonder if these tickets are actually valid. Somehow I must have been scammed. In the end, yes, the tickets were valid, it was the right train. I did actually pay twice as much as I was supposed to pay I think, but to catch the only train out of Sof[...]
Turkish Delight... not so much...
I met up with my friend Ben in Istanbul for a 6 day tour of Turkey. Our first stop was Cappadocia, but by a dirty smelly night bus with lots of ugly Turkish people. Coming into this bus, i literally hadn't slept for the last two nights, and this night would be one to remember. I was hoping i'd be so tired that i'd just fall right to sleep, and it was somewhat so at the beginning.
We sat down in our seats in the middle of the bus with no room in front of us, cuz the middle door was there, so, where to put our feet, or our stuff. My satchel was a bit bigger, so I thought, no problem, I'll just put it under my seat, there's no one sitting behind me anyways. After sleeping for an hour, I woke up because I was thirsty, I grabbed for my bag to get my water. I pulled it up only to realize that my worst fear had just become reality. My computer was GONE! Oh no, where was it? Maybe it just fell out. I scrambled to the floor to look under but to no avail. I looked inside my bag, and after some searching, I realized that all my power cords were missing also. Ok, someone definitely stole it, but who? Had anyone gotten off yet? I don't think so. The only person sitting behind me at all was the bus attendant. But he couldn't have possibly done it, could he have? Yea, he coulda. I told him, though he spoke no english and he started searching. He wanted me to sit down and do nothing while he did it. I said no, I look too. I used a lot of signals with him. He then said that we would look in a few hours at our first stop. I told him NO, we look now. So... after about ten more minutes of searching, he motioned to me and I came to him and he pointed on the floor half way up the bus under one of the seats layed my computer. I was so shocked and happy I gave the little thief a huge hug. He seemed perplexed but i didn't care.
Next order of business was the cables for my computer, 2 mp3 players, phone, and battery charger. But he refused and resisted adamently and I looked for a few more hours but again to no avail and in the end, there was nothing I could do. What I DID have still were things such as: computer, both mp3 players, phone, camera, everything of real importance. I am still a bit bummed, but I know that it coulda been a lot worse, and I'm just thankful that I have some of my most irreplaceable things. Now that's a story I'll remember, and never again will I leave my bag from my sight.
Traveling in Style
I arrived into Istanbul after a twenty hour train ride with my new Argentine friend Juan with whom I had met in Brasov when i was there for the second time. We got onto the train and realized that there was no dining car, and we were in the second class couchettes, so we were really excited about the next twenty hours and the possibilities they could bring. And no outlets in second class to watch movies on my computer. I went looking at the cost of an upgrade to first class only to find it was 39 euros. Something that we both really didn't want to spend money on. So we waited and after a few hours, I went back to ask the man something, but i forget as to what it pertained, but he was trying to sell me again on it, and I asked him if there'd be a group discount. He gave me a piece of paper to write it down on and I wrote 50 euros for the both of us, and he wrote 60. Ok, not bad, that's 9 Euro less. But it was still quite a bit for us. An hour later i went to try to use the outlet in the hall of the first class but he wouldn't allow me and asked me to write a new number. I was gettin the hang of this, so I wrote 20 euro for both of us, he wrote 30, I wrote 25, and he said no, 30. I left and talked to Juan and we still decided not to, that we could get lower. After another half hour, we went back and said only 20 euros. he took it, and what was normally 39 euro, we got for 10 euro. A 20 hour upgrade into nice bedrooms for an extra ten bucks or so. it made the rest of the way much more pleasant. We slept, watched movied, and had a good time.
So, my travels and time in Sibiu, the 2007 EU Cultural capital, was quite interesting. I first came from Cluj and looked at bus times and saw it would take about 4 hours to travel 150 km, which I saw as a ridiculous experience. I really have grown to hate the minibuses in this country and plan to avoid them at all costs. So, I talked to the hostel guy and asked if it'd be easier hitchhiking, and he said yea, probably. So, he helped me prepare for it, told me where I should go and wait and thus, I did. I went there and was a bit confused with it all. I had my sign and I was waiting, and cars were stopping and taking everyone else but me, and I started getting discouraged. But finally, after about 45 minutes or an hour wait, I got a ride from a pretty nice car from a pretty young guy. I thought that it was great because of course he'll be able to speak English. Most young people in this country can speak English pretty well and since this guy has a nice car, I imagined that he'd be able. I crawled in the car and said, "Vorbit engleza?" And he said "Nu", so I then asked him if he spoke any other language that I know anything in, (German, Spanish, Russian, Czech) and he said he spoke Czech! So we talked for 2 hours all the way to Sibiu... Ok, not true... he said that he only spoke Romanian and no other language. But no problem, I was determined to have fun with this, so I pulled out the papers I had printed out before my travels on Romanian phrases and I asked him things like What's your name, Where are you from, How old are you, he helped me count to 20. We had ourselves a real ball. And by the time we got to Sibiu, we were discussing the effects of Global Warming in connection to the recent migration of the humpback whales :D Well... almost, that is.Yea, the car ride was fairly bland, but it went by and we were finally there. Once we got there, I took a taxi to the train station where I was to meet the guy I'd be staying with. Now... I kinda had a bad vibe about this guy from the start. Not like a serial killer vibe, but just a "this guy is strange and weird" kind of vibe. First off he started saying in his messages that he was really happy and blah blah and it was just really strange. And then he said how he refused to respond to my by SMS because of the international roaming. Seriously though, it's like five cents more. We met in front of the train station, and he was very adamant that I be THERE at THIS time. So i was, but he was 10 minutes late, and then I thought he'd be free, but no, he was just on a break and we went back to his office and then he said that I should meet him in 3 hours at this theater. Everyone knows where it is, ok? I'll see you there... Thanks very much sir, but I don't know where it is, so can you show me please? He showed me and said he was going to some classical music concert alone. And I said ok, I'll be there. And he lived 30 or more minutes from the center. As I was walking around the center, I just didn't feel right about it. Not that it would be dangerous, but just that I didn't really think it would be a very good time. The guy was a really nice guy, but I just felt strange. (Hey guy, if you're reading this, sorry). So... I in the end, I wanted to just stay in the center, it was really fun and I wanted to be in the center, so I wrote him and said i randomly ran into an old friend i hadn't seen in 8 years and I'd [...]