Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gimme, Gimme...- The Best Abba since Abba

Last night we went back in time with an ABBA show. At first it was cold. The show took place in a skating rink and we had to wait more than 45 minutes for the show to start (we were early and they were late) I went to the toilet before the show started (way before) and on my way (the place is a maze) I saw the lines for klobasa, or hotdogs and hot wine, I'm still salivating. We had brought our own sandwiches and drinks (we didn't know about the local treats) and really felt like on some sort of picnic. The people coming to the concert were all prepared with blankets to keep warm : a nation of hockey lovers. There were people of all ages and all walks of life. There were parents with kids and grand parents and young couples.

We had some of the best seats in the skating rink but we decided to go down, in front of the scene because we didn't have room to dance (and we had grand kids and grannies in the neighborhood). Besides the atmosphere, it was also warmer and we still had a great view (ok, he had to carry me on his shoulders so I could see the girl's shoes).

The show was nice, very colorful, very professional, a lot more than what I had expected; they had Abba band members and good band and they sang the songs really well. I must say that I half expected your neighborhood revival act/drag queen show. But I had none of that : it was really a show I recommend. It helps knowing the lyrics. We sang and danced all the evening. And my boy seemed to really enjoy the present (for his birthday/Christmas).

We were making guesses on what song will be next. They sang all the big ones: Mamma mia, Gimme, Gimme, Supertrooper. Of course Dancing Queen. But also some unknown ones. We were a bit disappointed, no Waterloo? Well they left the Eurovision winning song for the end :)

We went to see the show in Plzen, but I could only find this poster for the Brno event. They are touring allover Europe and apparently they are one of the best Abba revival acts.

Friday, January 22, 2010

La Cucaracha, La Cucaracha, Ya No Puede Caminar

Last night I had my first dancing lessons. There have been other tries to teach me how to dance, including my boy who leads me when we dance French Rock and Roll, with more or less success. But this time, it's a definitely maybe, good try, once and for all, now or never, I'll learn to dance or else.

I opted for a Lady's class so I can also improve my social skills and my sociability score (I don't know anyone in this town apart from friends of my boy's and the friend's girlfriends).

And so yesterday, on a terribly cold evening, I went and had my first lesson with a group of other 4 girls: (of course) a Eva, a Petra, a Jitka (I was waiting for a Zdenka or Lenka but Jitka is also very common), and a Krystina (less common). Jana, the dance instructor was a skinny little girl, the kind you're afraid to break just by looking at her. She wore a white short dress, very suited for Latino dances and her shoes bore the signs of wear and of a passion for dance that was apparent also in the position of her body.

The class was fine, even thought I understood like maybe, maybe 1/4 of what was said. which is still good. We learned some postures, hand gestures and a few steps of samba and rumba (dansul dragostei). I left the school very cheerful and had one of my half mute monkey conversations with Petra, in Czech. The classes take place in a school, the kind of communist neighborhood school that all my friends (and I) attended. Only this one was huge, with swimming pool, football ground (with grass) and all sorts of interesting activities (archery club and room).

After the class, the boy and I drove to down town and had drinks in a pub. Thursday night is really full everywhere, I think we're going out this weekend: the atmosphere was great during the week, hopefully it will be the same on Saturday (last weekend was great, nice pub atmosphere, danced, had tequilla shots, the boys pissed in the river from a bridge, they made me an unofficial gadz'arts, I made a perfect snowman at 4 a.m.).

I'm beginning to like this town, I can go out after work and during weekends. And I've got stuff to do. :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Back in the Czech Republic (2) There and Back Again and Christmas in January

My hoards of fans are on my case to continue the story of adventures on the bus, so where was I? Ah yes, leaving Prague. I got on the bus, I sat down next to a girl, considering this to be the safe choice, the other was some strange manele-listening, jerking off kind of guy. Besides, sitting next to her must be some sort of camaraderie as we were the only girls traveling alone, the other two or three girls were with boyfriends or husbands (there was one more girl traveling alone but she was one head taller than the tallest guy so she could fend for herself).

I don't know how this happens but I always find myself talking to the person sitting next to me in the bus or train. I guess I get bored. Maybe I want to know more about my fellow traveler because we are crossing roads for a while, be it shorter or longer. So I can tell you that the Czech grandma in the Student Agency coach was going to visit her 3 granddaughters from her daughter. They live in Prague and love cookies and being read stories. Mihaela, the Romanian girl on the coach home, also has a daughter; a toddler living with her grandma and aunt which hasn't seen her working mother in several months. The Romanian is working here in a laundry, with other Moldavian and Romanian girls, speaks no Czech, gets a minimum salary and lives in a Ubitovany (like all workers) with her husband, also a worker.

So off we are, one or two passengers more than the number of seats, but at least I have an OK place: behind the driver. Of course the drivers smoked all the way and so they kept the window ajar and I was cold and smoked almost all the way . Had some conversation with the girl but dosed off now and then, that's how it is when you're traveling by night. Ate the delicious sandwiches my boy had made for me, drank very little water, read a bit of my book, Czechs in a Nutshell and that was about it. But really, Bulgarian music and weird looking guys with strange names (Trifon, he had a number plate with a name, that's how I know), I was like in a mafia bus taking girls and pimps to the West (only I was going East).

And just like they would do on the way over, they stopped in odd places like in gas stations in the middle of the road (to let people off or change drivers) and gave no toilet brakes (I managed to snack out). Yeah, I know, I talk a lot about toilet brakes but people, it's a necessity, really basic stuff that Eurolines drivers have to give every 4 hours and these guys had to be begged to stop the bus.

On the journey to CZ, I took the bus from Brasov and not Bucharest because there were no more places so I had to take a bus coming from Chisinau. Ludmila, from Prague, the Orlan girl, was traveling with us, again bossing everyone around and spreading wafers. Luckily she did stop the bus more than the first time. The trip you've all been waiting to hear about, was boring people. I had a Slovak seat mate, a blond that spoke English so we did talk a very bit. And I can tell you my mom's chicken schnitzel sandwiches were delicious. Other than that: boring, nothing to read, cause too dark, I just slept, listened to some radio and called the police when I got bored. Well, yeah, there was a truck on the side of the road, with nothing to signal it apart from a dim blue light that I might have imagined, so I called the cops, cause maybe someone was hurt there, right? Yeah, you've guessed it, false alarm...

20 Hours later, after snow blizzard in Hungary and police stopping us after the border we finally arrive in Prague, right on schedule (it helps not giving pee breaks) altough it would have really helped being late: no bus to Plzen for about an hour and a half (and the one I got was backed) and no boyfriend (back home only in 6 hours).
Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you one last detail : no keys either. I had absolutly no keys of the flat or of the car so I would have been stranded outside in the cold if it wasn't for a friend who picked me up.

When the boy came and we finally went back home we had Christmas number 2, exchanging presents we had each got from the other one's parents. He got an apron fit for a chef and some scarves (he's French) and I got a lunch box and we both got tea mugs and a tea pot. I'll post pictures, promise.

That is more or less the account of my winter travels. Any questions? Feel free to ask.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back in the Czech Republic (1) Going Home

Well, the holidays are over. No more mistletoe, no more holiday cheer. Gone are lazy days playing cards and all sort of games with friends. The food has been eaten; the champagne has popped and flooded our glasses with sparkling wonder. The last firecracker was heard and we are back to work.

What I wish you all is what I wish myself for this year, and for every year: health and strength to go through all that the New Year has to offer, good or bad. For me, 2009 has been a good year, as I already told you but I find it strange when almost everyone around finds it was a terrible year. The crisis may account for that I think. But even with the crisis (which at one point turned into a big personal financial crisis), overall I found the strength, humor and love to pass all the difficulties. So I wish the same for this year.

The holidays passed like a charm and here I am back at work, back home in the Czech Republic. Yes, home, because on the way over it hit me that I was actually leaving one home for the other. The flat in Plzen is not just "the flat" but it's "home" You're going to say I did a lot of thinking...well yeah, because on a 20 hours bus trip, there is little to do but think. And try to sleep. And call the police with unfunded warnings about turned over buses but more about that later.

My fans want to know about my latest adventures, so without further ado I will start from the top: Going to Romania for the Holidays. I think this will generate another post, but I'll see about that later. What you must know about this trip is that I did not plan it in advance. So here I am middle of December, without a ticket to get back home, planes and trains are too expensive, Eurolines are booked out so I find myself having to reserve a ticket from a strange bus company. Why strange? You'll see. And to make things even nicer, the three days before my departure I made so many miles, going to Prague, going to work from Prague (at 5 o'clock because I had forgotten some papers. Yes, AM), then going on a business trip, coming home, going to a Christmas dinner, going back home, packing...On the morning of the trip I was exhausted.

So here we are, December 23rd, I leave my nice flat in Plzen, and the boy takes me to the bus station, where I take a seat on one of the last places in the Student Agency coaches. First off let me tell you this: Student Agency is the way to travel in CZ. No pub here, just facts: comfy seats and a nice hostess giving you a free hot drink: coffee, good hot chocolate, tea, and putting on a movie for your viewing pleasure (with English subtitles). All for the price of a normal coach ticket. If you manage to find places that is. The trip to Prague: bliss, I even stroke up conversation with the lady sitting next to me, yes in Czech (well very poor Czech).

From there it all goes downhill. Picture this: me with a huge luggage, half empty but just as heavy as if it were full and a smaller bag meant to hold all the food I'd bring back (I had a large order of sarmale, carnati and other Romanian delicacies). The next part of the trip was so long and difficult (thank God I didn't have to change metros, from Zlicin to Florenc it's all straight and they do have some elevators but I still had to carry my huge coffin-like bag up and down) that I was glad to reach the coach station and hopeful that the worst was behind me. I still had some time to kill before my coached arrived so what do I think? let's get a burger and chips from Burger King, cause you know, I usually like the burgers here. Well yeah, the burger was ok (at 10 o'clock in the morning) but the chips were awful. Yes awful. Stale. And cold. And did I mention awful?

Being a bit nervous, and afraid I'll miss the coach (it could happen, especially with my track record: missing busses and trains is a specialty of mine), I go to the toilet for the last time and then I go wait for the coach on the quay. And a good idea that was: it was already full, mostly of my compatriots, but also Bulgarians, Ukrainians and Moldavians. All working here, more or less legally. And now you will understand why I said strange when talking about this company, you see, I had no ticket. Nothing. Just a phone call with a guy who said I had to pay 500 crowns up front, but if I couldn't, I can get my ticket from the Ukrainian girl that will be at the coach. And so I go to look for Irina who gives me my ticket in exchange for some crowns (cheaper than Eurolines) and also a business card with her phone number and those of the company. And she also sells me another ticket for the way back, with another business card. (it's a leitmotif that one).

Coming down from a coach with a hostess and getting on another coach with a hostess, I think to myself (mummy >:D<) I'll get a decent ride after all. And then I see the other girls, Moldavian, Ukrainian, hostesses like Irina (Ludmila and Iulia) and they are all nice, frail girls, well dressed and wearing make up, showing the Slave heritage very well. But they boss around the hordes of workers, telling the guys where to sit and the guys listening, despite some (futile) resistance. And they give candy too. But the trip was made without the Slavic goddesses, only the two drivers remained, the same who put the luggage in a very irrational way and then started smoking on the bus. By this point I was like in a mafia movie: strange looking characters, lots of men wearying big rings and a longer pinky nail, longer hair at the back and shorter in the front (80's style) or other strange hairdos and I've even spotted the blade of a knife (I was carrying an Opinel myself).

Half an hour later, bags packed in reverse order (Bucharest bags where somehow to the front of the pack), men put at their seats in the rear and girls traveling alone at the front, couples seated together, candies distributed, and we're off.

(to be continued...)
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