Saturday, 5 October 2013

Projector Hunt.

This morning I awoke at 7:15am. I did not have my alarm set. I stayed in bed until 8am hoping to fall back to sleep, but this was all in vain. Congratulations, body clock: you have destroyed my ability to sleep in. This did mean I had the entire day ahead of me. More time for activities.

Due to last week's epiphany, I had decided to do something this weekend. Something worth writing about. I did, however, opt for a quiet night in last night. That is how I celebrate my most successful week in the office yet. I had planned to watch a film, but as the night drew on, I became more and more distracted with my research into a projector. My big plans for today were to pick up a projector and set up a film night.

As such, this morning I donned my hoodie, coat and hat, and left the house before 10am. My destination was an electronics shop all the way across town. It was a delightful walk. The weather is great. Unfortunately, upon arriving at the unpronouncable electronics shop, it did not take long to discover that they do not stock projectors. I browsed for a while to pretend I hadn't just failed my mission, then left. On my way back I walked through an estate that I could only describe as: communist.

Row after row of large, dull blocks. It is probably the most communist thing I have seen.

After this I went to Euronics at Afi Palace. There was even less selection there. Resigned to my fate I did my week's shop, and went home. In other news, I now have a 30 day free trial of Amazong Prime. This ensures my projector will be home, ready to bring out to Pardubice next weekend. I cannot wait.

My journey took me over the main river: somewhere i have not actually been properly yet. It seems to be where the communist remnants lie. But there is also some sort of large park. This might be worth checking out next summer.

This is me looking back to the more western part of town.

Boat  tours? Okay then.

This is the ice hockey arena. Pardubice's team is like the Manchester United of the Czech ice hockey scene. Not to brag or anything...

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Eastern Europe.

Something I realised yesterday is that if I don't do much, I don't have much to blog about. I have had a couple of lazy weekends. But not this time! I finally have something to tell you about. Last week at church, there I sat, not understanding a thing, looking up words on my phone. Suddenly I  heard my name, looked up, realising that I was being invited to go and help someone with their garden. With nothing else planned for the weekend, I went for it thinking this is a good chance to associate more with some Czech people and learn a few new words. It ended up being an excellent day.

Upon getting into the car, I was told the journey would be 16-17km. Not too bad for a Saturday morning drive. Thirty minutes later it became apparent that I had misheard. It must have been 60-70km away. I got to see some nice Czech countryside. Just under an hour in we pull over to the side of the road, the driver turns to me and says, in his broken English, "we make technical stop," hopped out of the car and dived behind some bushes.

Upon arrival at our destination I came to the conclusion that this would be the day my jokes about people harvesting my organs would come back to haunt me.

This was the scene I was greeted by. I wasn't sure what kind of gardening I would be getting involved with...when there is no garden. 

This lady lives alone on a small farm-type thing. We were going there to chop up wood for her winter's supply of firewood. She seems to live completely off the grid. There were chickens for eggs, a pig for something, ducks, rabbits for eating, hay to feed animals with. She has a barn. The following are some pictures of us at work.

Below is Sergei. He had the most fun job.

Gulash. We really Czeched it up. The gulash was delicious.

Don't get too attached to those rabbits...

This was my wood chopping stump. It took a while to get used to it, but after a bit I managed to successfully chop some wood like they do in the movies.

The difference is my axe was just an axe. Those wood splitting axes are very heavy and are designed to just fall onto the wood and split it. I was about as successful as this video:

This guy will probably be dinner in the coming weeks...

As a thank you I was given eggs that were freshly laid that morning.

All in all it was a great day. I enjoyed chopping wood. I enjoyed learning some more Czech. This was by far the most "Eastern European" living here has felt. Lets see what happens next weekend.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Czurch in Czech.

So here is how I learn how to pronounce Czech:

It is the most I speak Czech all week. Unfortunately, if my experience of singing hymns in German carries over into Czech, much of this will be grammatically incorrect and designed to fit into the tune. But it helps me with the correct pronunciation of the more complicated sounds.

Just thought I would share.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Of Dragon Boats and Victory

I am waiting for a Schnitzel to cook in the oven. It should be ready soon, but due to the temperamental nature of our oven it may not be ready for another twenty minutes. Time enough to write a blog post. Much and more has happened this week. As previously mentioned, I successfully gave my presentation, thus fulfilling the requirements for continued employment here. Every CV I sent to my senior consultant actually got passed on to the client, which hasn't happened before. I had a couple of those moments where something suddenly makes sense, or a sudden realisation happens enabling me to be a more effective and productive employee. I need more of those. Work wise, while the week started off pretty badly, I managed to mostly turn it around and rewarded myself with a nice relaxing Saturday.

Part of my relaxation was the wonderful feeling of being able to convert my Ukulele from decorative item, to useful instrument. 

Learning Ukulele chords and attempting to make headway with my Czech was how I have ended up whiling away my day. I am not sure how I feel about the results. While I am still struggling to count to ten, and introduce myself, I can now play the F.U.N. song, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, and am making headway on House of the Rising Sun. I suspect this will come in handy should the cashier at Tesco allow me to serenade her instead of paying for my tomatoes.

...But what does this have to do with Dragon Boats or victory I hear you asking! I don't actually hear you asking that, as you aren't here with me and are likely reading this blog on the other side of the channel. But the point still stands...

We had an advert writing competition on Friday afternoon. It was a clever way to get some adverts out for a job that I think we have had trouble recruiting for, and also for our team leaders to see how our advert writing is coming along. The prize for the top three adverts was the chance to take something from the English box. Somehow I came second. In fact, the three winners were all surprising. Myself and Sam (who is in my group of trainees) who both work in a different industry than the job in the advert, and another more experienced trainee, Josh, who also works in a different industry. It was the last thing that I was expecting, but pushed that out of my mind as I reached into the repurposed  Wotsits box, saw a brown cylinder and immediately made a grab for it. Victorious indeed. You are all cordially invited to the roast dinner we will be making tomorrow by way of celebration that we have Bisto gravy.

I haven't finished though. There were more victories to be had. Because the company had a very good month in July we decided to knock off of work two hours early and celebrate with a Dragon Boat race. For some context here is a video of people doing it in Pardubice. We were on a different stretch of the river though.

We split into four teams. There were only two boats, and in the end they seemed to judge us mainly on times rather than who won the races. But it didn't actually end up mattering because my boat won all three races and won overall anyway. It was a good afternoon. Special mention goes to Captain Pete Byrne for memorising King Leonidas' speech from The 300, Mahdi for falling out of the boat while on drumming duty, Kate for somehow managing to not fall out of the boat, and my entire team for being winners. There is something special about the feeling one gets rowing down a river singing Flight of the Valkyries while stretching ones' lead. Mention also needs to be made of the losers' race where a few people just jumped out of the boat. This made the drummer, who wasn't one of us, fall out, and also made the boat crash into the jetty, damaging the dragon's head. I would say that our managers weren't pleased about this, but one of the culprits was, in fact, our managing director and founder of the business. It is all fun and games here.

We then retired to a boat house for a bbq, which was better than I expected. For some reason the Czechs haven't discovered that burgers are a staple bbq food. Hopefully one day they will.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

One burden down!

I don't want to be too specific here. At work we are deliberately vague about this particular thing so the newer trainees don't get advanced warning. It is an important part of the training and if we don't succeed in it then we are at risk of losing our position here. This morning I succeeded. I was beyond nervous. But I did it. I am so happy right now.

This has removed that one element of stress from my life. I am now free to concentrate on learning Czech, attending the gym (when it finally opens to the public has been taken over by the Qatar national swimming team), and excelling at work.

Life is simple again.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Interesting Week

This week was an interesting one. I returned to the UK for the bank holiday weekend. It was a great laugh, although the travel was pretty rough. I arrived back in Pardubice at about 0:30 Tuesday morning, and was in bed by 1:00. I arrived at work not overly tired, but definitely not in the best state. The irony is that Tuesday was the day I got the most visible results. The following three days have been pretty difficult. I don't really know, I just seem to have some things to be working on for which I perhaps don't have the most effective tools yet because I haven't been trained in everything. That being said, I gave it my best shot. There were likely things I could have done better, things I will definitely find out about for next week in an attempt to have a more successful time of it. I am hear to learn, and learn I shall.

One other interesting element was that this week I miscalculated the timings of certain things and ended up having to do something I had never planned on doing. Sad times. But as a silver lining to that cloud, I would never have seen this sign had I not miscalculated.

Having previously been in a situation where a fair few of the rules were directly related to things people had done, this sign leaves me with all kinds of questions. Questions probably better left unanswered.

I have a busy weekend ahead: busy with studying. I had hoped to travel to Kutna Hora and see the famous bone church tomorrow, but it looks like I will be hitting the books (internet) instead. Then, come Tuesday I will be free as a bird, and the following weekend will be the most touristy I have had yet...apart from when I went to Prague that one time...

Thursday, 15 August 2013

To Praha, or not to Praha.

Twas a summery Saturday morning. I sat, sunlight beaming into the sparsely furnished living room, eating cereal from my not-quite-plate-not-quite-bowl. I had slept in a little, but was too excited to sleep anymore. The sky was clear and blue, as it had been pretty much since arriving in Czech, (think it had rained once by then) the temperature was set to reach the high thirties, my camera was on charge, water bottles cooling in the fridge, and I was wearing shorts. Today was the day I was going to Prague.

I had put this off a week already. Myeslf, Kate, Dale and Sam (the group of trainees I started with) had discussed going to Prague the week before. I decided I would wait and go the following week because that was when Mathilde was coming to visit. Kate and Dale agreed to postpone it a week. Sam decided to to his favourite thing: nothing. Unfortunately, upon moving into my new place, it became apparent that the internet didn't work. I had no way of contacting Dale and Kate to arrange a meeting place. We had vaguely mentioned meeting at 10am, but I wasn't certain about if they would make it. They didn't. As such, my trip to Prague became probably one of my more adventurous attempts to woo a female. 

The train was pretty packed. It also looked decidedly old. It is the only thing so far to give me that real "Eastern Europe" feeling. The picture below doesn't really do it justice. There were no open seating carriages: only compartments. Walking along trying to find an empty one proved fruitless, so we just sat in one opposite a couple and a teenager listening to his ipod. The couple spoke a funny sounding Czech. Turns out they were Spanish and weren't speaking Czech. The train journey takes 68 minutes to get to Prague: plenty of time for a snooze.

By the time we arrived in Prague the heat was almost overpowering. We stumbled around the main station until we found the underground. Obviously we wanted to make our way to Charles Bridge and then work our way further out from there. The only trouble with visiting a major tourist attraction in the middle of summer on a weekend was of course: the foreigners. Oh the tourists! For shame, I was one of them. Here in Pardubice I occasionally see an item of litter, but generally the streets are clean. Even the graffiti seems classy. Czech people seem to know how to take care of their streets. But in Prague...the bins were overflowing with rubbish. Fast food and water bottles mainly, and it got steadily worse as the day progressed. 

So there I am. Casually walking around Prague, slowly melting, camera battery using itself up, frequent stops for water, so sweaty it feels like I am wearing liquid clothes, and it dawns on me: I am just casually in Prague for a day trip. This is my life now. Well...bring it on, I say.

This was the view from where we had lunch. We were sat right on the edge of the river. I ate some delicious schnitzel with a bowl of cucumber salad. Just what you need in such heat. Their home made lemonade was about as refreshing as it gets, and the waiter looked like a Thunderbirds puppet. I didn't get a photo of him, but you would know what I mean if you saw him. It was fun watching him speak English and German to passers by who tried to sit down without ordering food. He did, however, give me a mystery plate of vegetable salad that I mistakenly ordered. Were I not so passive aggressive in my outrage, I would have done more than just think mean thoughts in his general direction.

Below we see a lorry that just drove about spraying overheating tourists with water. What a great idea!