Thursday, September 08, 2005

Hey, that's me, furthest to the left.
I just found out that the "Cult World Music Band" Czechomor is playing in Ireland for the first time on Sept. 21. For whatever that is worth.
Here's an odd little anecdote and a telling window on Prague-to-Dublin culture shock.

I'm walking down Westmoreland St. (one of the main thoroughfares through the center of Dublin, going from the Trinity gate to O'Connell Bridge) when I find myself approaching a group of people all holding clipboards. You know, those well-meaning, guilt-inducing types that ask you if you'd like to help children or join Amnesty.

Nothing too remarkable here, except that from about 10 feet away, one nice looking young lady spots me coming, says "Hello!" and extends her hand to mind as if to shake it.

So put off am I by this obscenely non-Czech behavior - greeting and shaking hands with a total stranger? - and so uncomfortable am I with the idea of actually walking past her outstretched hand, that I naturally take it and shake it. The pleasantries commence.

"How are you?" she says.

"Um, I'm ... fine," I say, glancing at her clipboard. It says UNICEF.

"So where are you from?"

"I'm American," I say. I think I'm making funny faces at her, waiting for her to hit me with the UNICEF pitch.

"Are you here on holiday?" she asks.

"Well, actually I'm here for a month, visiting my girlfriend*. She studies here."

"Oh, that's wonderful! Well, I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay."


"It was nice to meet you. Have a nice day!"

"You too!"

The end.

I later learned that they're looking for people with Irish bank accounts so they can sign them up to give money on a regular basis. Still. Strange.

* I didn't use the word fiance, although I might as well take this opporunity to announce that Alex and I are officially engaged. I'm opposed merely on the grounds that it's not a proper English word. In fact, I find it to be a bit of a cliche...


In case you're wondering what I'm doing here, the answer is not too much. I have a bit of work for a UK-based energy and telecoms newsletter covering news in those sectors in Poland and Slovakia. Owing to the glory of Skype, I can do this work from anywhere with an Internet connection. So life has not actually changed all that much.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Hi! Thanks for checking in, I’ve moved to Dublin. I’ll be here until Oct. 2, when I’m flying to Cairo. That'll be my base for at least three months. In the second half of October, I’ll head to Syria, where I’ve arranged to visit this archaeological excavation up near the Turkish border, on the steppes in the eastern part of the country. Tell Sabi Abyad was a Late Bronze Age military and trade outpost of the Assyrian Empire, on the border facing the Hittite Empire. Don’t ask how all this fell into place. It just did.

I plan to blog in the meantime. I’m not sure about what, but please continue to check in. I’m staying in a house in the southern Dublin suburb of Churchtown, if you’re interested.

It’s been one hell of a week, with all the goodbyes, giving away all my furniture and all the crap I’ve collected during nine years in Prague. I realized that despite an increasingly urgent “gotta get outta here” attitude over the last – well, actually, at least the last two years – living in the Czech Republic was actually a helluva lot of fun.

I was way over the luggage weight limit at the airport and had to send one entire huge suitcase back to a friend’s apartment via taxi. Czech Airlines wanted me to pay over CZK 5,000 ($200) for the 14 extra kilos. As if!

I had a moment of clarity when I ripped opened the suitcase and thought, “OK, how much stuff here do I really really need?” The answer, of course, was practically nothing. So I'm living out of a backback. In hindsight, it would have been nice to have brought that new suit.

Sucks to be in New Orleans, by the way.