Monday, June 29, 2009

After Hours

I just found out Youtube is currently banned in Turkey. Sarp also posted a Marcy Playground video on Facebook.
Two web2.0 in two sentences, is that over quota?
Anyways grade 5 called and I love it.

I'm working on re-writing our sales pitch. I've already done it once and to some accolade but I'm not all that pleased with it, after further review. A lot of my job is talking to people on the phone, it's like telemarketing but on coke mixed with speed, you might say. A lot of the conversations are varieties on the same theme. I consciously try each day to be the best. I look at call rates and push myself to make the most calls on the floor.

A lot of the sales themed books I've read talk about focussing on what you can control. In this game, it boils down to quality of calls and quantity of calls.

It's like what that guy Joey used to say, work hard but work smarter.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


There is a giant TV tower on the mountains to the North West. I like watching it play hide and seek as the clouds and fog consume it and then roll by, exposing it briefly before it vanishes again.

Following a 21 bar Bratislava Monopoly Pub Crawling I am in a dire state. I notice a nice plant on my window sill that I remember stealing circa round 17.

Watching episodes of House season 2 and plotting my next move. I found some gummy bears that will help moderate my blood glucose in the interim while I think of something better to eat and if in fact I will leave my bed today.

I fond this, start the slideshow it's cool.

Two cups of coffee, a chapter of Zig Ziglar, an hour of ironing and I am well on my way to salvaging the day. The TV tower is hiding again. I'm almost as wet from the humidity inside as if I were in the rain outside.

Also did some research to care for my new botanic friend. Apparently it is almost indestructible which ironically makes me somewhat more worried. In the event I neglect it too much and it does die I will know I definitively lack the green thumb.

Just got back from getting groceries with Sarp. I am unstoppable.

Did some writing and watched the TV tower reappear, it looks like a ray or two of sunshine has burned off ths vaporous cloak for now. I think another episode of House is in store while I eat dinner. Slovak lessons have gotten rescheduled to Monday morning from Tuesday so early bed will be the most beneficial thing for future-Jeff. I still have so much trouble with actually going to bed. I wish I just loved going to sleep, that would probably make mornings way easier. It must be a priority thing.
I'm going to bowl on some clowns this week.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Midnight Stroll

As the Friday work day crawled to a close I made plans with a few of the fellas from the office to have some drinks. Nothing too crazy. I made it home before 8:00 to take a nap. For whatever reason I never believe that I will be able to fall asleep when I nap, I consistently fail to set an alarm and sleep for longer than I had expected. When in truth, I am an excellent napper.

I woke up around 10:30pm and tried to pull my life together and meet Sarp at the bar. As a direct cause of my shoddy planning I missed the last bus and was forced to resort to the heel-toe express. The sparsely populated residential streets, low lying fog and the eerie glow of struggling lights completed the feel that I was in a completely Alien world. Ten minutes into my walk I lost count of the ubiquitous unregistered gambling houses and the burly men standing in front of the neon signs regulating the trickle of shady characters in and out.

Crossing streets here is hard. Roads and sidewalks are separated by fences that have not been replaced since the tram line was thrown down. The intersections resemble the middle of an intricate spider web with cars flying in every direction showing an impressive lack of regard for the pedestrian life. Generally they are so complex and contain crosswalks on only one side, there are often tunnels underneath that bypass the entire mess. After the busses stop running the tunnels because some type of Gypsy night league where all bets are off, and are best avoided by anyone holding a 3rd grade education or higher. I cut through the Saint-Tropez parking lot to save time instead. It is important to note I was going to get my drank (sic) on so the most efficient route was the one I needed to take. This particular bar is worthy of note because it might not exist much longer. Sarp told me that in the 2 years he has been here it has changed names 7 times. Each because a trigger happy bouncer capped a 'roid-raging skinhead looking for trouble. I've been to bars with metal detectors before, but never one with such an overt no gun policy.

I arrived at Club 80's by pure luck, where a veritable Michael Jackson tribute was in effect. A dying cell phone battery prompted an early end to my night. I'm not that upset, tonight is going to be huge. The next morning my lungs struggle to expand and my eyes still ache like they've been washed with chlorine. The second-hand Marlboro smoke is something I'm still trying to come to terms with.

I am a full half-day ahead of Honolulu.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

An Evening with Work

One of my friends had a going away party last night. Needless to say, this Thursday morning was a little more arduous than the average. 5 "International Business Development Executives" as we are known, have quit or been fired in the 5 weeks I've been on the job. I guess it's not for everyone. Afternoon reprieve came in the form of a network shutdown. When your job relies entirely on the phone and the internet little work can be done when neither of the communication vectors function.

At the afore referred-to shin-dig, I had much interesting conversation with a colleague of mine about twice my age. He is South African with a doctorate in theology. He had some interesting and informed opinions on the Palestine-Israel conflict. I also learned that he used to own a bar and live in the Canary Islands. He used it as his home based and launched deuce-weeklong missions to places around the world. He picked up a bad smoking habit after a vicious motorcycle accident in Singapore and the subsequent three weeks in a hospital with a chain smoking Mexican dude. He has now spent two years in Slovakia because his Slovak wife is getting her Ph.D. From the sound of it he is itching to move on and get out of here. I think the attitude of the people are the most difficult thing for him to deal with, sort of a slow erosive process I guess.

In a tunnel underground on the way to the party I saw a gypsy playing an imaginary game of soccer with himself and an empty beer can. There also would have been an award ceremony at the bus stop had the "Mullett Adjudication Committee walked by." The shit this guy sported was legendary.

Over shots of high potency homemade plum brandy and tallcans of Zlaty I learned more about politics in Slovakia that explained the frustration of one particular expat in the Slovak Republic. In this year's presidential election the vote coming out of Bratislava was for a change from the extremely socialist policies of the incumbent. The rest of the country voted overwhelmingly for the opposite and ended up getting their way. Apparently this president did a good job of getting Slovakia into the Euro zone but as is common of the Slovak people the concept of earning is a distant one and they are now failing in huge ways to uphold the minimal standards the EU expects. I can appreciate that the above generalizations about a people sound extremely prejudice but everyone else, including native Slovaks, within earshot shared an empathetic groan at the pandemic lack of motivation to work exhibited by the locals. I do not feel like I have been here for long enough to accurately gauge this for myself but when you look around while hearing people talk about how Bratislava is the most modern part of Slovakia it makes you wonder. I'm excited to take a jaunt into the countryside one of these days.

Playboy magazines at bagel shops, the liberalization of drinking and driving laws and the realization that if the liquor store here went on strike it wouldn't matter because you can buy shots at the bus stop, make up just a few of this week's other peculiar observations.

Have World Cup 2010 ads started playing in Canada? They are all the rage here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Take Control

Earlier today I was kicked down a figurative stairwell by a verbal assault delivered to me by a Senior Director, Clinical Development Oncology of a major American pharmaceutical company.

I have some pretty ambitious, albeit lofty plans for how I want to make my mark in this world. They are more or less on the backburner. I think about them every now and then but I don't really have any even concrete goals. I admit, at first mention it doesn't look too promising.

It might at first sound a little counterintuitive, but actually it is all rather simple. I am not currently in any position to implement such said plans. I am not yet operating on anywhere near a global scale. I lack the resources, the abilities and the contacts to come anywhere near successful in pulling off the far fetched ideas that periodically occupy my cerebral cortex. More often they are previews and snippets of silent films shown only in the privacy of my own occipital lobe. I have bigger worries right now, like learning Slovak so that next time I need to cab home at 3:00am in the pouring rain with stolen beach chairs and bottles of wine I won't get hung up on four times in a row.

ASIDE: I now know what it feels like to be illiterate and it is awful. There is almost zero english signage. I buy things at the grocery store based on pictures and learning from bad experiences. Things are improving though, lessons help.

To make any big impact on humanity in the long term I am going to have to start taking some big steps in my day to day life. It is my firm belief, and I am going to do my best to implement it in my own life, that you need to change yourself before you change the world. The most obvious example is going to be at work, where I will have to persevere in the face of often immense frustration. Only with an indefatigable ethic will I enable myself, financially and professionally, to accomplish the lofty goals that brew in the depths of my subconscious mind. Listening to rap music helps.

More importantly though, I think the idea of incremental and perpetual improvement will have to be a lifestyle. I am willing to work hard now so that I can enjoy success later. As always, easier said than done but I think writing it down helps affirm it. And I have much fewer distractions on this side of the world than the one I've previously occupied for the 22 years prior.

Without actively trying to succeed on the day to day I don't think I will ever "make it big," so to speak. Fear complacency.

After getting chirped by the man leading genius researchers trying to cure cancer, my Sales manager, who observed the entire ordeal from my immediate left asked me why I didn't take control of the call. I was a little perplexed as to what he meant, but after some explanation and replaying the scenario approximately 294829 times in my head, I realize that it's up to us to make the most out of the situations we find ourselves in. There are things I could have said that might have been uncomfortable to orate but would have put me back in control of the situation.

Live and learn.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Another PartySlava Weekend

It is really nice to get visitors. This weekend I was lucky enough to host a friend from school. The last three days have been a lot of fun, if not a tad taxing. I'm writing this, sitting at my kitchen table with sunglasses on and a tallcan easily graspable with a slight lateral rotation of my dominant arm. I guess that's indicative of good times.

I was slightly better prepared than when Amit came to visit. The arrival and meet-up was much smoother this time around.

Binge behaviour more or less defined the three days concert girl spent here. Friday saw us at a Hawaiian themed party at a sailing club on the border of Austria. The event was the birthday of a friend of Sarp's. The liquor was free and the music extremely random. We brought a bottle of Absinth along for good measure. The night ended in the pouring rain when we managed to convince a cab driver to let us get in with stolen beach chairs. The balcony is now a little more pimped.

I don't know where the credit is due; but, someone made the conclusion that any girl whose last name ends in -"ova" is beautiful. I concur.

Saturday was Sarp's birthday. The suddenly poor weather and pickling livers left us lounging around the flat for the majority of the day save a prompt foray to the grocery store where we got food for a feast of near-epic proportions. We only ate once during the day though which resulted in what I like to call a "multi-kebab" evening. Good times, no doubt.

We did eventually move out to continue the slow euthanasia of our bodies via ethanol abuse. The first bar we were at closed around 10pm. Don't ask, "Welcome to Slovakia." This all came as something of a surprise and we couldn't convince the bartenders to pour us another beer because they had already closed the lines and cleaned the taps. Not to be defeated I managed to convince them it would be clean and easy to sell me a bottle of Smirnoff Vodka and some shot glasses. We settled on a price of 17.70 Euro.

The night continued on in much the same manner as the weather steadily improved. Sarp, Carlee and I were home and in bed by around 3:30am after a short post-bar drink at the kitchen table. I took Carlee to the Bus Station at 8:00am and have been doing some research for work and eating leftover pizza since.

I should crash about 7 hours from now, setting me up perfectly for what will no-doubt be a "Slam Dunk" Monday. Efficiency is a way of life, as far as I'm concerned.

Bill Bryson on Stockholm:
"It had a kind of knocked out charm, but was surprisingly lacking in any air of prosperity. Most of the windows were dirty, the brass name plates and door knockers were generally unpolished, and almost every building was in serious need of a good coat of paint. It looked much as I would expect Cracow or Bratislava to look."

Who is Concert Girl?

Depending on how you know me she might be known as Commerce Girl or Concert Girl.

I literally bumped into Carlee, spilling her beer all over her, at a Matt Good Band concert at Bluesfest last year. For whatever reason, probably my boyish charm, we ended up interacting amicably for the subsequent two hours. That was it.

Three months later, after deciding to toy with Commerce oriented electives, I noticed this girl who looked quite familiar. A few days after mentioning that I was from Ottawa during the awkward class introduction stage, we ended up walking out of class at more or less the same time. We had to go in the same direction and she inquired about where in Ottawa I was from. A few minutes of lively discussion later she put on her sunglasses which triggered the vivid visual reminder of the girl at the concert with the huge sunglasses who was now covered in beer.Turns out it was the same person.

I just returned from the bus station as she is now headed to Praha (Prague). It was great having another visitor and I'm sad she is now on her way. It is worthy of note that I was less upset than when Mr. Ayer left. I think there are probably a few contributing factors to this but I'm going to say that I'm adjusting more and feeling a little bit more like home.

Last night was Sarp's birthday. The place is a mess and I am going to wait until he wakes up before passing the Hoover. Instead I will listen to the new Dave Matthews Band album, drink coffee and read the news. An update of the weekend will come soon enough.

Podcasts I'm hearing:
-LSAT Logic in Everyday Life
-Ideas, CBC Radio
-Business Week Innovation of the Week.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

NEWS UPDATE I: Shit is crazy. Quite graphic.

NEWS UPDATE II: Twitter and Iran, 6 lessons learned.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I like this. Maybe because I won't be able to do too much for Father this year?

Friday, June 19, 2009


Fridays around this time are marked by joy, jubilance, exhilaration and the notion that anything is possible

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Jaunt to the Store

I just returned from getting groceries. I'm starting to find myself do funny, adult-like things every now and then. Like putting food in the fridge when someone is coming to visit.

On my way out of the flat I waited for the bigger elevator to come even though the small one arrived almost a full minute earlier. The legitimate rationalization running through my brain is that I would rather spend 2 days in the bigger lift on the chance it gets stuck.

During my trip I am pretty sure I saw 6 supermodels in addition to the array of other beautiful women who were a little less tall.

I keep leaving the house without a camera which is starting to annoy me. Every time I go outside I see at least a few things that make me wonder and are worth capturing. I take a lot of pictures but mostly of random stuff, not like the tourists that coagulate the city centre at lunch time.

Concert girl is coming to visit for a few days starting tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Radical Ideas from Random Memories

Often, on an idle afternoon I am blindsided by a rogue memory or idea - like this present Tuesday.

Usually I promptly forget them. Today I was in the unusual situation of being able to record it [and later evaluate it for merit]. I'll propose it here instead and let you objectively think about it before I form any solid opinions. I think it will be good for me to see on paper too.

In grade 8 my English teacher was a woman named Mrs. Bertrand. One particular morning in late spring 2001 she mentioned Todd White. He had been a former pupil of hers. We awed.

On one hand it was cool and we could relate. Growing up in Ottawa, hockey rivalries were a way of life, particularly when the Leafs came to town. The 32 of us swept up in the fever of the season, the anecdote bestowed Mrs. Bertrand with an unusually high amount of adoring credibility. I think now, that we all felt a little cooler knowing she had taught someone who seemed so important at the time. More importantly, I think we pictured ourselves in the same situation as a young Mr. White, destined for success against the tyrant foes in blue. It was inspiring.
ASIDE: In reality the Leafs probably won the series.

The opposite palm presented an entirely more unfortunate and less obvious reality that I have ignored existence and exploration of until now. When I was in grade 8 the only professions I knew existed were teacher, doctor, lawyer and professional athlete. It wasn't hard to imagine myself as a hockey player. For a long time after that I wanted to be a doctor. The next bold idea I had was to be a dentist, hardly out of the mould (sorry Mom, I still think it's cool but not for me). I still don't know what exactly I want to do, but I'm doing stuff and I am confident that when I do find something I absolutely love I will know it and be happy to dwell on on such activity for awhile. I bet I'll be successful too.

For awhile everyone seems to want to go to a good university and get good grades so they can get a good job. I don't think this is for everyone though. Do not think that I am discrediting the value of a good education, in fact I deem it of extreme importance. That's why I would challenge our concept of a good education. My initial thoughts lead me to the conclusion it should be one that enables us as responsible global citizens driven to do the best for ourselves (d'uh I want to be rich as hell) and others.

Just like the medicine will soon be tailored to the genetic and proteomic profile of each individual, when it is feasible so too should education. Some might study books, some might get dirty with experience, some might travel the world and most will do a combination of the above and more. I think when this is encouraged people will better explore their strengths and significant leaps will be made in solving fundamental problems like the separation of profitability and social issues.

Maybe grade 8 is too early to make a good impression but that "take a kid to work day" in Ontario is incredulous, if you ask me. Someone could think of something better. A solution I haven't thought too much about but might propose, would be to find an incentive to bring former students back into the classroom 8-10 years later. So that kids could be made aware of what people actually do when they disappear after that awkward display of raw emotion that hallmarks the final end of year dance and the tumultuous four years known as high school. Alternatively you could just find a lot of internet job ads and bring them in but that would be way less fun.

I can appreciate that comparing a full time job to being an NHL player might be a lofty one. I think then though that I need to implore myself to treat it as such an engagement, with the hard work and focus that it deserves. The successes might some day be comparable, who knows?

I have a few postulations about why random memories are maintained but I don't yet know enough about neuro-"nonsensery" to draw any confounding compelling conclusions (there's that annoying letter C alliteration again, sorry about that).

Maybe next time I'll write only in elaborate rhyme scheme. Have fun with that.

UPDATE: I am eating a piece of toast and jam and the jam literally tastes like grass. Like I am chewing on blades of freshly cut jam. Welcome to Slovakia.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Compiling Common Contemptible Contemplations

I now know the name of a few bus stops and how to read the schedule so it allows me some freedom in my route planning. I'm no longer a slave to the #39, but remain a whore shared by the component parts of the public transit system. Today
I found a new tram to take home. I'm not sure if the tram was struggling to stay running or trying to give me a seizure but the ride was punctuated by rapidly flickering lights. It almost caused me to spill chili sauce from my offal stuffed pita all over myself. Speaking of kebab, the man who made it also gave me my change by digging through a pot of Euro coinage with his filthy paws. Another testament to the lack of public health standards.

I have yet to experience anything near writer's block. If anything I struggle to get my ideas onto paper fast enough. I think the clarity of my prose suffers as a result. Sorry about that. Now excuse me while I continue to vomit semi-digested thoughts and observations onto this webpage.

I'll start with Monday, because that's what I remember most recently. Work is getting better. For the first time today I felt justly confident in my optimism. Life with the new sales manager has been good. I'm getting a lot of feedback on the regular. The calls we make are supposed to follow this eight step process. It's annoying because in principle it should be easy but you try so hard not to sound like a robot while reading a script. Today we had a meeting at which our newly anointed leader explained why we did each step. I think that was critical for me because it allows me to be more flexible in talking to clients. I can react and prompt the conversation in a natural way while still accomplishing the big picture goals that are prerequisite for a successful sales call. I'm also told it's a matter of perseverance, that the next call could literally change your life and you just have to get in touch with the right person. Basically it's a numbers game, which I can deal with.

This morning a man in a suit stopped me in the street and started talking to me in Slovak. I replied with "Nie Slovensko" and he looked genuinely surprised. I guess I'm starting to look like I fit in.

Over the weekend I went to a beach. Summer is going to be awesome. I also found out I work beside a Casino. Enter gambling addiction.

Friday at lunch I was served soup steaming hot. I don't think I've commented on it yet but every lunch special comes with a bowl of soup, which is perplexing given the consistent 30 degree climate. Usually it's not so big a deal because the soup is old and cold. Friday was the first time my soup was served closer to boiling hot than luke warm. My Friday morning at work was further interrupted by a bomb siren. Allegedly there was an announcement in Slovak beforehand saying it was a test but the city went into "Fire-Drill" mode for the better part of 30 minutes. I've never seen anything like it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Oatmeal and Self-Discovery on a Sunday Morning

I'm eating a large bowl of piping hot oatmeal. It's quasi-delicious, I work hard to convince myself it's tasty because I know it's good for me. More important, it is a subtle sign that things in my life are starting to come together, at least a little bit. Oatmeal for breakfast has served as an important litmus test in my life over the past few years. Allow me to explain.

A great book, "The Opposable Mind" suggests we often gloss over apparent trivialities in an attempt to simplify the complex realities in which we must operate. The result is a faster and more efficient decision making process but it is inherently, one that suffers a compromise. Often times, the critical information we eliminate, is that which disagrees with our ingrained fundamental values and beliefs. To discover innovative and more creative solutions to complicated problems we must objectively listen to our staunchest critics. Much easier said, than done. I do think value exists in thinking about thinking. On one hand I might be wasting time postulating about a bowl of dried oats, but my analysis will continue in the spirit of the corollary, that some better understanding may come from the most meagre of cereals.

Taking a jaunt to a whole new world really toys with your priorities. Two months ago, I was in the middle of orchestrating a symphony of intricate social plans with people whom I had only a few weeks left to share. My biggest concern was Jack Daniel's or Coldshots? One month ago, I didn't know where to buy food. I didn't know where the grocery store was, what the grocery store was called or where to buy the oatmeal once I did manage to pinpoint the local dispensary. I'm resorting to sprinkling with sugar instead of the still elusive low-calorie sweetener I would prefer, but I'll take one small victory at a time.

ASIDE: Conveniently liquor and beer are available everywhere here so it's less of a problem. I still do my best to consume it in the most contemporary of manners.

Further reflection upon the last few weeks and what it might mean leads me to maintain that the actual process of obtaining the oatmeal was the tip of this particular proverbial float of ice. The 90% that remains lurking beneath the surface is more interesting if not a little convoluted. Consider for instance, that it wasn't until this week that I've started eating oatmeal again. For three weeks I bought things sporadically, if I ate the most important meal at all. Consider further, that I had had the oatmeal in my cupboard for a week before I started eating it. It takes time to make and is not the easiest food to eat in a rush. In short: I had much bigger problems to worry about.

May 2009 forced me to face a drastic shift in priorities. Oatmeal seemed irrelevant until only recently and certainly my struggles held more consequence than where to get the drunkest and which girls to harass with 140 character instant messages.

In the last month I've started to learn what Robert Martin wrote so well about. Perspective is something we might think we possess but there is always more to the picture than our simple mental models will at first allow us to understand. Embrace complexity, even in the simplest and seemingly most mundane things may clues about the inner workings of our lives lie. Alternatively, a bowl of hot cereal might be just that, but we don't know until we objectively consider what it has to offer.

Do new things. Challenge yourself. Put yourself in an uncomfortable situation in the short term for the notion of long term benefit. You might go a few weeks subsisting on stale bread and spoons laden with Nutella while you worry about if you're going to get jumped by a gang of Neo-Nazis or scammed by gypsies. But you will eventually get your oatmeal. And when you do, it will be the best bowl yet.

As if you just read such a long post about oatmeal.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bus Sense

It's about time we talked about public transportation.

When I first found out I would have to rely on a bus and tram system to deliver me to my place of employment each morning, I was a tinge disappointed. Any vague perceptions I held of busses were marred by experiences with unreliable "OC Transpo" mixed with a splash of communism.

Needless to say, after arriving at work in a timely manner each day for the past month. I have been extremely impressed by the frequency and logistical precision with which the busses run. As of yet I have never had to wait more than 2 minutes longer than I expected for a bus.

It makes sense, if you think about it. Since everyone lives outside of the city centre in extremely high density residential prison blocks with limited parking and a relatively low average income it makes sense that many people would rely on public transportation to arrive the masses into and around the city. The city is also relatively small and traffic jam free.

Of course the electric trams breakdown constantly.

Other factors contributing to my overall thoughts on getting around like a commoner:
-Lots of people in the mornings and it gets hot here fast. Old Slovak men all "up in your grill" can really mess with your morning.
-I usually see at least 3 extremely beautiful girls to and from work.
-I buy a ticket 0.3% of the time.

UPDATE: Now that I wrote this I'm bound to have terrible experiences. I will update as they occur.

UPDATE II: No crack in the Slovak.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Month in Review

I's weird to sit here and try to think about the last month I've had. It's certainly been one of the most tumultuous in recent memory. I'll take the good with the bad.

A little over a month ago I stood alone, unable to talk to a single person, with haunting thoughts of sex-slaverystalking my occipital lobe. I stood for 2 hours. I can't remember ever feeling happier to hear english when my ride showed up. I've since adjusted, the only constant has been taking out the recycling Sunday morning, full of empty bottles.

I remember feeling completely useless during the first few days of my stay. Learning how to take the busses and discovering town for myself were major victories. When you are addicted to things like the ability to get whatever information you want instantly (thanks internet) not being able to know how to buy food is quite upsetting.

Work has been more difficult than I imagined. I maintain my hope that that is some indication I am learning, or at the absolute least being challenged. That stuff must be good for my character. I think?

The people have all been amazing. The graffiti tagging every surface 8 feet from the ground made me feel like the city was grotesquely unsafe but I have since been proved wrong. Today while working to work I saw 3 men with giant vacuums cleaning the old city centre. All the custodial resources they are able to muster are obviously clustered in a tiny place.

In my first month in the real world I've enjoyed some great weather and parts of my view are nice. By contrast, in first year university part of the weather was nice and my view was great. I could continue on that thought train but comparing Bratislava and Queen's would birth an analogy far too painful to cement in writing.

One exception to the above: My flatmate Sarp is the polar opposite of my first year room mate Richard. Wow. Another blog post all in itself. I appreciate them both in very different ways.

My trips to the grocery store are getting quicker. Yesterday I found myself walking towards the Nutella without even thinking. I guess that means I'm adjusting. The rate determining step remains the hand of the cashier which she lugs around, almost as though it were molten lead oozing through her veins acting as the source of resistance. She's an older women though, so I am fairly confident it's a lingering memory or two of communism responsible for her sloth like movements.

All in all, and maybe ignoring a few days at the start spent in near complete isolation I think it's all gone by really fast. For some reason I feel disdain with myself for saying that.

UPDATE: Car alarms go off like crazy here.

Bosses Don't Play

The last time I had seen this particular cluster of ugly tower-block houses I had felt a sense of pure jubilation. This time around, only a few hours later, was completely different. Let me explain.

Amit arrived four days prior. He missed a flight and ended up arriving while I was at work. With nobody to meet him at the airport and no way of getting in touch with me, after his phone was stolen in Morocco. He did exceptionally well to make his way to my street where I spotted him from the patio of a nearby restaurant. I was elated to see him, and almost didn't believe he had made it.

The next four days were a blur of liquor bottles and kebab. I think Amit was happy enough to sleep, relax at home, use the internet, shower and launder while I spent my days fighting vicious hangovers at work via the consumption of record-setting doses of caffeine.

The real fun started Friday and Saturday, some highlights of the trip:

-Titcomb beach on the Danube river. The view is a panoramic of the nicest parts of Slovakia framed by beautiful girls in scant clothing. Drinks were cheap and our rounds of three pints and two redbulls totaled 8.33 Euro. The redbulls were for the bottle of absinthe under our table, incase you were wondering. Drinks everywhere would have been cheaper though had we not continually got short-changed on every transaction.

ASIDE: I'm realizing "accidental" bad change is a hidden cost of life as an ex-pat here. After numerous sequential bills at restaurants with plenty of extra meals and drinks on the tab I refuse to believe that it's a mistake. I'm sorry but your job is to bill people, you do it two hundred times a day.

-Sub Club: Our next destination was a drum and bass club. It is located underneath Bratislava Castle and in it's prior lifetime was actually a Cold War nuclear bunker. The bouncers, while no longer brandishing Kalishnakovs, looked like they were the same men who had been guarding the lengthy concrete tunnel leading to the shelter 40 years ago. The concentration of dude was way too high for our liking though so our stay was short-lived. The cheapest drinks in town and the unreal setting made it one of my most unique drinking experiences to date, however. I would like to return if I hear a rumour that girls are going.

-Kebab: As alluded to, we ate a disgusting amount of it. Probably averaged 2 a day. Kebab is the same as Shawarma, I know, it's confusing at first. It's also about half the price here.

-Goulash festival: Picture below of the musical entertainment. Think Eastern-European chili cook-off.

-Pizzaria: Thursday night we decided to go out for dinner. We were quite drunk at the time but chose a fancy restaurant none the less. We ordered bruschetta to start and two pizzas to share. The pizza was delicious and the server was one of the nicest and fastest I've had. The bruschetta was two pieces of Wonderbread, lightly toasted topped with a few canned dried tomatoes. I think they were older than Sub Club.

-Slew of other bars: We spent a lot of Friday night doing a mini-pub crawl of our own, as I took Amit from one hole in the wall to another before we finally ended up at Channels.

-Harley's: If I had to pick a bird to describe Saturday night it would be a phoenix. We didn't sleep much the previous night and ended up passing out at 9:00 pm until about midnight. We pulled ourselves together relatively quickly and got to the bar. I also called my first taxi and spoke only Slovak. I was secretly surprised when it showed up at the flat in a timely manner.

The night really rose from the ashes once we arrived at the Harley Davidson Bar. Not only did we get in free because we came so late, it was packed and the crowd was mostly female. Furthermore, when we arrived there was a beautiful girl in a nurse costume shedding such said costume at an alarming rate. Turns out the bar is also a strip-club? One of the dance floors was a boxing ring. We stayed until the sun came up and actually ended up meandering the four kilometers it took to get home. Other than a run-in with a family of swans that were surprisingly aggressive we arrived home safely and in a fairly straightforward manner.

I was genuinely worried we weren't going to make it home. That is until I saw that group of apartment buildings scarring the skyline. I was elated to know we would get home. We finally walked in the door somewhere around 7:30am.

The next time I saw the buildings was bussing back from dropping Amit off at the airport. An entirely different mood altogether.

It was cool having Amit around. I finally feel like someone experienced most of what I see on the day to day. A lot of times Amit seemed to be left shaking his head in disbelief at some of the realities we had to cope with. I don't want to speak for others. Ask him about his experience here if you get the chance. You will no doubt receive a thorough and well phrased perspective.

NOTE: After not blogging for five days, I feel very removed from life at home. Whether or not anyone reads this, writing it makes me feel like I'm a little less forgotten I think.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

In the News

The other headline is: Amit's visiting. This is the best.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Not so Manic Mondays

In fact it started off better than I could have hoped, based on the impunity with which we consumed wine yesterday afternoon. I spent the day sightseeing, in this part of the world no one cares if you sightsee with a bottle of vino. We went to the Slavin WWII memorial on top of a giant hill and watched life go by in the city below. It was fun and surprisingly relaxing given the significant hike up the hill.

Things promptly went awry though when I was pick-pocketed on the way to work by some rogue Roma skank (-50 Euro). I took little solace in the notion that I was feeding a family of Gypsies for a week. I've decided not to give a penny to a homeless person for the next 20 years. Take that.

Work was difficult, not in the usual sense. I spend the majority of my days on the phone with pharmaceutical exec's in Europe. Today, 14 European countries were on holidays and so our list of opportunities was diminished in the most stark of manners. I resorted to watching the clock and thinking about the money I wasn't making.

Lunchtime should have offered a reprieve from the excruciating boredom punctuated with hunger pains that hallmarked the 5 hours prior. Unfortunately, as if to remind me once again that I was in a very different part of the world, we didn't get lunch. I've commented a few times on the complete lack of customer service and today was subject to it once again. We went to one of the more reliable restaurants and ordered our food immediately. Lunch menus here usually have 3 options on a chalkboard in front of the restaurant -enabling the servers to do the least amount of work possible. We then waited for 50 minutes before realizing we weren't going to get to eat. I made up for not eating and managed to get through the afternoon, with periodic and substantial doses of caffeine.

I then missed my bus because a parade was blocking the street I needed to cross.

It's all behind me now though and Amit is coming to visit tomorrow so that should be great fun. I really should start depositing to my sleep bank now as I'm sure I'm about to over withdraw.

UPDATE: The big elevator in the apartment building seems to be broken. There is now a 4 person elevator, that is very slow, for an apartment with 120+ people. Sweet.