Friday, May 8, 2009

The Real World Bratislava, I

It has been an adventure thus far, I don't really know where to start.

I had to wait at the airport for 2 hours as my ride was late. It turns out they thought I was landing in Vienna. I tried to keep my cool but would be lying if I said I wasn't at least a little anxious. It is an extremely humbling feeling to be in a country where you literally don't know anyone, and in which no one speaks English or French. To further my dilemma, the one contact number I had wasn't working and that was only after an hour of trying to figure out the cryptic/Slovak instructions on the pay phone.

Needless to say, when someone came up and asked me in a Welsh accent if I was Jeff, I was elated. We went to my flat, beside the hockey arena, and got taken out for a night on the town. The old town centre is remarkable and I will hopefully get some pictures taken/posted soon. We drank some beers on a patio and watched the beautiful women walk by (in the least creepy way possible, I promise). The local beer was delicious, although the pear brandy was pretty strong. If it weren't for a bunch of loud English Stag parties crashing the party, we probably would have stayed longer.

From there we hopped from one club to another. In the old town centre all of the buildings are 500+ years old, so some of the clubs are pretty cool, if not a little cramped. Circa 2:30 am (after 2 days of traveling, hungover no less) I found myself in a bar called "The Alligator" with a few of my co-workers, including Patrick (he later told me he wants to start calling himself Pacho) a fellow from Seattle who arrived 4 months ago. I talked to him on the phone in March in an attempt to try and find out more about what I would be getting into. "The Alligator" played rock music pretty exclusively and aside from having to order beer (Dva pivo prosim!) it felt a lot like home. Thusly, I wasn't that surprised when the lights came on shortly after last call at 2:30. I was ready to go home when Pacho informed me that it was only this place that closed early. I soon found myself in another club/labyrinth of underground rooms and stone tunnels where we stayed for another few hours.

Patrick/Pacho and I ended up going to get some Kebobs and then headed home. The number of shawarma and bad pizza places made me feel surprisingly comfortable. By the time all of this went down it was about 5am. Pacho had to leave for Amsterdam at 9am. Rather than sleep for four hours at his house and then trying to get home I decided to try and adventure home. Keep in mind a few circumstances: I had been to my flat only once, I was all kinds of tired and had been drinking hard for the majority of my time in the Slovak Republic. I think I can blame the chirping birds and quickly rising sun for the false sense of confidence which was suddenly instilled upon me. I convinced Pacho I would be fine to get home and went on my way.

I headed in the right direction until I realized I didn't have a clue where I was. I stumbled upon two taxi drivers and tried to ask them where I should go. I quickly realized communication was certainly a barrier. I ended up saying "hockey hockey hockey stadium" while pretending to take slapshots. It got the point across and a 6 euro cab ride later I was across from the flat, snuck inside and promptly slept for not long enough.

Another note, everyone smokes here. Packs of Marlboros are about 3 Euros and sold everywhere. The hardest part for me about going out was dealing with the literal fog of smoke that shrouds the rooms full of chain smokers.

The Flat:

I'm living in a "newer" Panelak and while the lift (elevator) and exterior are a little sketchy the flat itself is actually very nice. I would classify it as an upgrade from student housing in Kingston. My Flatmate is a 26 year old Turkish guy named Sarp. He works as a cost control analyst for IBM. He took me to the super market this afternoon and I got some bread and Nutella. We are on the 9th floor and the view is pretty nice, although somewhat scarred by the filthy communist housing blocks.

I need to unpack but I really don't want to. I might take a nap or just sit on the balcony for awhile. It's 24 degrees and very sunny. I think I will spend the rest of the day trying to get settled and maybe working on some Slovak. I need to get a cell phone and bank account amongst a few other administrative things.

All in All:

I want to take this opportunity to do a lot of traveling around Europe. I am really excited to start working, if only to bring a little structure to my life. I have enough errands to do now but I'm afraid that I will start to struggle if I don't keep busy. I am really happy that I have the internet and as a result don't feel completely out of touch.

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