Wow… it’s much longer since I wrote then I thought!
So. After I recovered from the tonsils, went on the weekend and caught up with the rest of the group in Budapest, Hungary. Stayed for one night and went to Cinetrip- ‘Sparty’- which was held in a very old Turkish bathhouse. My favourite part was the artificial rain from the ceiling! But they also had laser shows, beach balls, girls hanging from material from the roof doing acrobatics, and fireworks. We played ‘chicken fights’- where you get on peoples shoulders and wrestle- I was undefeated, despite on of the girls ripping my swimmers off, eek! We saw some pretty sites, and the next day went to the thermal spas in Gyor (about 1.5hrs away). They were beautiful. Much fun was had on the slippery slides. I had a Swedish massage for about 20 bucks Aussie, and it was, umm, unsatisfying. I wanted to go home to Judy and Lotus!! The lady couldn’t talk English and seemed to be making it up as she went along. Hmm.
The following weekend we went to Olomouc by train- still in the Czech republic. We were all very sleepy but trooped around the city in ordinary weather looking at churches and old buildings. I liked the astronomical clock and now want to go see the big one in Prague. Most fascinating was a group of street dancers practicing in the main square; I could have watched them for hours. We went to the zoo… there was a beautiful big lion, but his concrete apathy was heart wrenching. He couldn’t even be bothered moving his head; because it was raining he was stuck inside. My heart hurt for him. I felt like I wanted to apologise to him and pick him up and carry his huge ass out of that shit hole.
In our society, if you kill someone, what is the absolute worst punishment you can get? Life in prison. If you rape and kill 20 people? Still, life in prison. And it drives people crazy, right? Counting away the hours of boredom waiting to go out into the yard. Now what did he do to deserve that?! Ange = not impressed.
Moving on. Rami Pastrami (who has a really big Rami) realised a few weeks ago that I make amazing crepes (which they tend to call pancakes? or in Czech, are palačinki). As a result, many midnight and 3am pancake parties were held. My stomach and thighs started objecting to this floury sugary treatment. Additionally, Tesh, bless her heart, found a delicious brand of dark, dairy free chocolate. Do you see the predicament?? Not good for the tight new jeans I bought in Vienna.
The weekend March 21, we went to Krakow, in Poland, and I trekked across the city and found an AWESOME little vegan restaurant- that means absolutely no animal products, which means, absolutely no milk!!! I could eat anything off the menu. Amazing. 🙂
Day one in Poland, we went to the Auschwitz Nazi Concentration Camps.
_ It has taken me a further week to come back to this note and I still don’t know what to say about it. Left me very angry with everyone around me, and feeling utterly disconnected, mistrusting. Kevin summed it up by, feeling like there is no good in the world. Some good conversations the following day helped to lift the fog (thanks guys). I am glad I went though, it was so real and undeniable; the Holocaust became personal for me.
It raised a number of questions that are difficult for me to express in a politically correct way. On a spiritual level, I, and most of society, hold certain ideals. Most emotionally mature people come to realise that as long as you hold yourself a victim to situations, they have the power over you and you do not heal until you reclaim it back; that until you find a higher meaning for yourself within situations, it is very difficult to move past them and heal. This can probably be generalised to larger wounds on a societies consciousness.
I don’t tend to believe in the concept of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, like some people do. I think most people are doing the best that they can, and making messes along the way, because we are imperfect, flawed humans. So, what to make of the holocaust? The question that came spewing out of me the day after Auschwitz- I am (going to be) a psychologist, when I see peoples behaviour, I like my ability to explain it, usually. But, why??Here was something utterly incomprehensible to me, such a mass of human beings cooperating to orchestrate something so awful.
Going to a place that millions of tourists trudge through every year, where the past is painstakingly re-explained every single day; it was strange and difficult. Because there is no ‘why’. At current, the best there seems to be is- because ‘they’ were evil? and we were victims to what ‘they’ did. And that is no good explanation. Ugh. And I wondered, where does the rehashing of it all get anybody, what does it achieve? While so much effort is being put into honouring the past, where does that leave the human race, in the here and now? Where does that leave the people in the present day who are suffering equal atrocities around the world? The people who are dying for oil in Iraq- but more so, the people whose situations I am ignorant to: because now, in the present moment, we still do not know why, so we don’t want to think about it and experience the helplessness this presents. These situations
recreate themselves around the world: in Africa where the children starve and die every day, just like the prisoners at Auschwitz did. We are visiting the past, finding no meaning, only senselessness, and turning a blind eye to its recreation right now, what’s happening in Rwanda? I don’t even know. Got no answers to this one.
The MasterCard Story: rapidly becoming a problem.
WARNING very long ranty paragraph
Saturday night in Krakow, went to the Deutsche Bank ATM in the main square to get some cash out. ‘Please Wait’ it said. Five minutes later, it goes back to a blank screen, and I am minus a bankcard. It has taken a while for me to comprehend the implications of this. At the time, I was like *Ugh, now I can’t get myself any of those shot that’s are 19 zloty for 8*. Casually I called the commonwealth. They told me, they can send me a new card- either to Australia in 7-10 days and then family can forward it on to me, or, the can send it to me and I can pay for the courier. Never mind, I thought, I’ll just get it back from the DB ATM. I emailed them and they told me to call the bank, or contact my bank at home. I emailed the bank directly, no response. Called the bank directly and am currently waiting for a response. For $6.50/min from my Australian Optus phone, I have indeed contacted my bank repeatedly (because I can’t use my Czech phone to call or SMS because I am out of credit and can’t buy anymore!) The commonwealth gives me two numbers to call MasterCard. I call them both and can get neither into the proper calling format. Still not feeling too fazed, I figure I will just transfer the money out of my commonwealth account to my Czech KB account; the fees are WAY cheaper anyway and I am sick of paying so much every time I want money! So! I go into KB and ask them to do all the necessary things to activate my net banking; 15 minutes of unnecessary European paperwork later, I have a Netbank account and password. I spend half hour on Ellen’s computer getting the ‘security certificate’ to work (don’t they have tech peeps for that shit?). I sign into my Commonwealth Netbank and it tells me I need an international money transfer code for KB. I call KB and get it. I log back into Netbank and it tells me that the default limit for international money transfers is ZERO and that I need to call the bank. I call the bank and they tell me to call back tomorrow because their system is down. I call back tomorrow and they fix it. Yes I think, this problem is solved. Not so. Soon after I talk to Kim and Christine and they tell me that international money transfers between banks take 7-10 days, standard, not immediately like my fabulous KB banker told me (he usually is fabulous actually). So I start investigating direct money transfers through Western Union. Call home, they are good to transfer me some sweet moolah when the Czech bank opens. Then I realise I can do it online straight from my account. $60 transaction fee, it tells me. AHH well I think, lets get this over with. Then I realise Australia is sleeping. I call the commonwealth and they tell me that no, they cannot guarantee the transfer will be processed before their following business day. And by the time it is the following business day in Australia, I will have left for Norway. ‘Okay’, I think, I will find a western union in Norway. There is one in Oslo, near the airport, but once again, Australia is sleeping. And Tromso? None. No Forex either. I call the commonwealth with a final plea of DO SOMETHING- they tell me to find someone who has an Australian account, transfer the money which usually happens quickly- and then use their card to withdraw the money. I know 2 Aussies, why didn’t I think of that! It’s 6am and Dal has passed out after his birthday, and Dan is missing. I message him. Wait 4 hours and then finally wake up Dal, he doesn’t have enough money to withdraw. Midway through all this, Ellen informs me I can use my maestro (normal commonwealth card) overseas! YES I think. Go to the ATM. What is my password? After using the card multiple times a day in Australia and not in the 2 months since, I have forgotten my pin. FUCK. I meditate on it. 5357! I’m sure. I go and try. Incorrect pin. Dom might remember. I call him. 6124 he says, without hesitating. Sound right, I go. Incorrect pin. Call the bank- no we don’t know, no we can’t tell you, you’ll have to get a new card, they say. I drink some Griotte, cut marks hair while drunk, and suddenly think- 1624! I remember the eight-digit difference between 16 and 24. Last minute run down to the ATM. Incorrect Pin. SO I borrowed enough money for the bus ticket, and deposit my emergency travellers cheque of 100 euros into my account… and then manage to pay for my bus ticket using my credit card number, without having my credit card. And now, I am winging it and hoping for a miracle! Fucking Polish Bank.
So, after all that, a 21-hour bus ride. I arrive in Norway and see that a cafe sandwich or meal at McDonalds is $15. After receiving a particularly beautiful, heart wrenchingly beautiful email from Dom, I sat in the square outside the train station in Oslo and cried. A man bought me a flower and told me to stop crying, bought me a beer. I realised the sun was setting over the beautiful snowy bay and I wanted to witness it. He followed, telling me which way I should go and insisting I go that way.
Jason Mraz came into my head:
Hold your own
Know your name
Go your own way, and everything will be fine.
I realised that independence doesn’t always win you friends, that chasing what you want sometimes means you have to refuse to compromise. Sometimes I have to say no, even when I can feel what another person wants, if I want to feel truly satisfied and not resent them. He asked me if I want to be alone and I said yes. I ate dinner at a gorgeous Iranian restaurant in Oslo, and upon learning that all the hostels are full, slept at the family home of the waiter from said restaurant, upon his insistence. Adventure Adventure!
I’m now in Tromso, above the artic circle at the top of Norway. I’m couch surfing in a house with heated bathroom tiles and a breathtaking view. The guys are lovely. Unfortunately due to the stupid airport laws, I had to abandon the Pilsner and wine I bought for them. Time to go to the tourism office to investigate banking (ugh), snow boarding, dogsledding, and the (please, please, please) Northern Lights. I have some incredible sinus congestion going on, on the plane I thought my eardrums were going to explode and its like I am trying to drown myself in snot. Ewww. Don’t tell mum, but living in a dorm is such a hotbed to catch so many varied germs and illnesses.
Random details I want to share, of which there are many: I have an on-going fascination with the different sounds lights and styles of pedestrian crossings across Europe. I am collecting postcards from everywhere I go and a magnet for Macca from each city/country.
Until next time, time to explore! Love you all, big hugs, keep on truckin’ 🙂
Okay okay okay. Time for me to write ya’ll!
Sorry it’s taken me a while, feels like I’ve been off in another country… maybe that’s cos I have! My apologies for those of you not interested in the many delightful details included here. Figured I’d just get the update out of the way in one go 🙂
There is snow on the ground, everything is covered in it. For most people here it’s old news, the whole ‘snow thing’, but I’m loving it 🙂 It’s absolutely beautiful, and I don’t have to shovel it, so no worries! It melts into odd shapes when there is a warm day and then refreezes. For a while I enjoyed kicking it when it was fresh and fluffy, and then kicked it one day after it had snowed again and it killed my toes!!! So I haven’t been kicking it as much anymore.
The indoor heating here is amazing, so I actually prefer winter here to Australia, when you wake up in the morning its practically like a summer morning 🙂 nothing like the cold floor boards and tiles at home…
I have an official Czech phone number now, its listed on my page, it’s free for me to receive calls, if you can negotiate the time difference!
When its 8am in Australia its 10pm here, so, day/night is opposite and add two hours for my time.
(I have a Skype account and headset but none of the uni computers have it. Perhaps when I am travelling and using net cafes).
So, what other news? Czech food is really odd. Constantly- pig, cheese, potatoes; most things are crumbed and fried. The main vegetables are cabbage and capsicum, which incidentally are called peppers or paprika? Go figure.
It has taken a while for me to find some restaurants that serve vegetables and to learn enough Czech to be able to order what I want and navigate the menu. In the meantime my immune system took an absolute beating from the milk content, and lack of nutritious food! Last night, this dilemma was officially resolved when we found a cheap restaurant, very close to the dorms, where they speak English, milk-free is no problem and I had the side dish ‘garlic broccoli’. Heaven 🙂
The change from summer to winter was incredibly distinctive, my appetite skyrocketed, a lot of the time all I want to do is eat and sleep! Hibernation time.
I am taking the semester Czech language course and so far I can say-
good day, good bye, please, thank you, sorry, yes, no, allergic, milk, cream, cheese, where, how much. I’m sure my pronunciation is dreadful. I prefer learning Spanish, Cómo estás? Muy bien, gracias!
You have probably seen party pictures posted online from here in Brno. There is constantly something happening. I live in the international dorm with hundreds of people from all over the world who love to have a good time (bunch of alcoholics!!) Last Saturday night was the traffic light party, in celebration of Valentines Day. I was given a bottle of vanilla vodka and, wearing green, celebrate I did! The dignity and stomach took a week to recover from that one.
Every Wednesday there are themed parties at the mandarin club, you might’ve seen the awesome Australia Flag dress I created for the flag party, Czech it out 🙂
Each week we have country presentations where people take it in turns to present their country to the other people. This week is my turn!!! What is Aussie? I am making a PowerPoint with Aussie songs, videos and pictures. DESCRIBE THE BOYS
As for Travel… Have been on a few excursions but haven’t left the Czech Republic yet. We went to the Czech opera and I slept solidly through the first half. Brno has it’s own castle, and a cathedral. They’re nice. I’m sure I will see more then my fair share of castles and cathedrals throughout Europe before I come home, they’re everywhere. Finally getting a sense of direction around this town…. you don’t realize how much we usually rely on being able to read signs! DESCRIBE MY FIRST NIGHT MEETING ENRIQUE
We went to a Czech brewery and Punkva caves and Machoca Abyss a fortnight ago. One of my darling new friends was absolutely mortified when she puked in a gorgeous historical cave… The look on her face still makes me smile 🙂 The other kid’s pics are on Facebook. The view of the sky, snow and lake out of the cave was absolutely breath taking! Stunning. It is my new happy place 🙂 INTRODUCE ELLEN
Have started planning travel for when Uni finishes in May. Norway/Scandinavia (gonna need some serious warm clothes for that one), Croatia/Greece/Italy, France, Germany (and Prague again) is my short list. Can’t wait to go snow skiing, skating and snow boarding. YAY!
Plus, in the next few months the uni has excursions to Krakow in Poland, Budapest in Hungary, Slovakia and East Bohemia, Phew. I’m definitely becoming more familiar with the map of Europe in any case, since hanging a copy on my wall.
The thought of all the travel before me helps when my heart is aching for the comfort of home.
-The beer really is that good, and really is as cheap as water.
– There is a bar just down from the dorm where the bar stools are big swings! Apparently this is fairly common in Europe. Love it!!!
– It may not surprise you to hear… I have cut and coloured my hair… again. Sorry Ariel 😛
– Postcards are coming soon, I promise!
– Have been having incredibly vivid dreams every night. Repeatedly dreaming that I’m back in Australia and trying to pack my suitcase for Europe. Why?!
– My first wisdom tooth is coming through my gum! Hopefully I won’t have to be shipped home for surgery
– Please can someone educate my mother in the ways of Facebook.
Please take care of each other. Much love!