500px-London_evening_near_House_of_Parliament_01195

london, calling.

i began this post weeks ago. i had great intentions of telling you all the wonderful news that bill and i would be moving to london in a little over a month’s time. that my wonderful husband had secured a wonderful new job (with an energy news site off fleet street, no less!) and that even i was interviewing for a fancy job in one of the world’s greatest cities (i didn’t take it, by the way. i turns our i really AM way too much of a hippie to want to work in a corporate office.)

so here we are. it’s five weeks later and i’m blogging from the back room of a tiny camera shop-cum-cafe around the corner from the british museum, from my ipad. (first time using wordpress for ipad, by the way, and i’m loving it now that i learned how to turn off apple’s crazy auto-correct feature, which always hated my ee cummings-esque non-use of capital letters.)

we’ve been in london for 4 days now and i already love it. the way that hipsters and power suits alike dart down the streets, rushing to and fro, ducking into busy shops boasting mobile top up cards and cans of ale, or munching on designer sushi bentos at lunch. Continue reading “london, calling.”

what do you do when

what do you do when…?

i have been thinking about how to start this blog entry since last week, when the incident happened. i suppose it is best to begin by telling you a bit of back story about the day. it was thursday and husby had taken a vacation day from work, so we were out flaneuring, as we’ve come to refer to our lolling walks-slash-drinks around prague.

we’d been wanting to go to two brew pubs, thanks to the recommendations of prague beerophile, evan rail, and our boozy buddy (and prague post food writer), fiona gaze. both pubs, zlý časy (a.k.a. “bad times”) and zubatý pes (a.k.a. “the toothy dog”) are located in an area of prague called vršovice (roughly “vr sho vitsuh” – try saying that ten times fast), which is nowhere near where we live or where bill works. so, this was the perfect chance for us to check out a new area of the city. Continue reading “what do you do when…?”

a bit o’ bluegrass

giant mountains band, prague
giant mountains band

it seems no matter where i go in this world, i always need some good americana music to keep my soul in shape. perhaps it has something to do with being lugged around to bars as a baby, falling asleep on the floor while my mom and dad were sound checking with their various bands or maybe it was my mother playing the mandolin over her tummy when i was still in the womb. whichever combination of these things it is, i don’t know, but i need bluegrass.

interestingly, the czechs are really into bluegrass. in fact, they are into all sorts of americana, and there is even a subculture of czechs who actually go out into the woods with cowboy hats and boots and spurs and pretend to be in the wild west. i am not kidding.

Continue reading “a bit o’ bluegrass”

Suburban garages

suburban prague

as you may notice, my last post was in november. it is now march the fourth. i would love to say that time has just gotten away from me here in my enjoyment of prague, but that would not be enitrely truthful. time did get away during december and january, when we had friends visiting for the holidays and then were off for several weeks for our dublin wedding and subsequent honeymoon in lisbon and rome. and i suppose i could’ve blogged about all that, but i didn’t.

so here we are in march.

Continue reading “suburban prague”

Photo by hobvias sudoneighm

check-ups in a foreign land

Photo by hobvias sudoneighmone of my favorite stories to tell people is about the time that i got rolled over on by a horse two weeks before my first trip to china and fractured my wrist and L3 vertebra. i was pretty out of it for a few days, but i got a cute, short cast (in purple) put on my left forearm and somehow managed to go on my merry way across the world for nearly a month of english teaching and then traveling.

despite my pleading, the US hospital was unwilling to take off my cast just four weeks into the healing process when i was due to fly out. instead, i’d have to wear the cast for an extra unnecessary four weeks because of my trip.

i was not prepared for the 40-degree heat and high humidity that would make my cast an unbearable prison within the first two days in china. the itching was so bad that i began sticking a chopstick down the cast, which would inevitably bring up chunks of rotting skin. that’s when i asked marco, an enigmatic chinese dude who wore aviators, carried a black man-purse and had connections in the nanjing mafia, to help me out.

[tweetmeme]off we went in marco’s little black VW jetta with its tailpipe barely rigged on by a coat hanger. we were staying at a private boarding school quite some distance from nanjing city, so the nearest hospital was one village away. it looked like something straight out of the cultural revolution. nurses wearing paper hats with red crosses on them had me fill in paperwork (thanks to marco, for my chinese reading was minimal at the time) and head down the bare concrete hall for x-rays to see if i was fit to have the cast off.

after two x-rays (the first of my casted arm and the second of my good arm, for comparison) taken by a massive and indescribably ancient machine, i was sent in to see the head honcho, who was seated in a dusty office with several other doctors, musing about my x-rays over green tea and cigarettes.

i was fit to have the cast taken off, he said, and i would be tended to in his private office, no less, just around the corner. after paying the mere $13 for x-rays and consultation, i sat nervously in the office.

Photo by David Schroeter

two nurses arrived and inspected the cast as if it were made from the intestines of an alien life form. they murmured a moment, disappeared and then reappeared with what can only be described as a humongous pair of scissors. one of the nurses struggled to stick an edge of the giant scissors down my teeny, silicon cast while the other watched with mysterious eyes. a lot of intense sawing ensued, none of which was successful in breaking me free of the little purple cast.

more murmuring and they were off again, this time returning with a tiny round saw. as they approached my cast, i prayed to god that this was the type of saw that could cut material but not skin and finally, my arm felt fresh air for the first time in five weeks. meanwhile, the nurses were enthralled with the cast and wanted to keep it as a souvenir, nasty rotten skin and all.

most people i tell this story to are fairly horrified by it, and that is in part why i love to tell it, but also because it is an apt example of just how harrowing it can be to receive medical attention in a foreign country. in all my moving around the world, i would venture to say that having a medical problem abroad has got to be the single worst part of expat life. the language barrier alone is enough to scare the lights out of you, not a mind fears about hygiene, sanitation, general medical knowledge of the doctors and everything else.

having just come from my first appointment at a sparkling new czech clinic with a brilliant doctor that spoke perfect english – all of which cost me only $1.69 in total – i can safely say that what is most interesting is that the scariest, most expensive and generally WORST doctor’s experiences i’ve ever had have been in the united states.

Photo by Flickr user Sugar Pondsure, the chinese hospital was dusty and old and the doctors were smoking inside, but they cared for me perfectly and didn’t send me bankrupt for it. and yeah, chinese pharmacists have given me a pill made out of cow gall bladder to soothe a cold before, but guess what? it worked.

same experiences in ireland, even seeing basic student doctors or walk-in clinics – all were incredibly well-appointed, clean and, most of all, the physicians were quite competent.

and best of all, unlike in the united states, most doctors around the world don’t just brush off your symptoms and shove the latest Pill of the Moment down your throat. they listen to your symptoms, check you thoroughly and offer remedies – whether they be herbal, pharmaceutical, dietary or otherwise – that are right for your condition. best of all, you are not asked to hand over ungodly sums of money to them for it.

and that makes all the scary moments of “will the doctor understand me?” and “will my medical history translate” completely worthwhile.

oh, and if anyone in prague wants the name of my awesome, english-speaking doctor, just lemme know and i’ll gladly send you her way.

a first-time love affair

every traveler has a first love. i believe this as strongly as i believe in real love. it is that city – or sometimes that place or country – that you first completely fall for. you are a young traveler, inexperienced and green enough to think the world is even more amazing than it is and fully believing that none of your experiences will ever disappoint you. you can only learn later that, sure you’ll be disappointed, but that only adds to the experiences.

but there is always that one place that you fall for and can never go back. Continue reading “a first-time love affair”

some funny things about prague

it’s a few weeks on and things are normalizing here. well, normalizing as they do when you are in a strange, new and foreign land. which is more to say “becoming more familiar” than actually normalizing.

i am beginning to make peace with prague, but the city still completely mystifies me. as bill’s friend who visited last weekend put it: “prague is an enigma.”

Continue reading “some funny things about prague”