Jul 29, 2008

Hallo from Hungary

And having left Kate's keyboard behind in Prague, I'm back to mixing my z's and y's and typing extremely slowly. It's like being a kid again learning to type.

Yesterday was my last day in Prague, so na shledanou to the Czech Republic and děkuji for your hospitality. We checked out the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul, the St Vitus cathedral, and the tower of the Charles Bridge before racing back to pack up a month's worth of clothes from every corner of the apartment. I also got to experience the Czech postal service in Wenceslas Square, and I'm really hoping my doctor clothes make it to Grenada, because the clerk had no idea where it was even after a drawn map as well as a Pirates of the Caribbean reference, since that worked during my neurosurgery rotation... "Caribbean? Jack Sparrow, yes?" Apparently Johnny Depp is pancultural.

So I got to ride my first night train (insert music) and ride in a couchette, which is like people-storage. But with sleeping pills, a night shade, and earplugs, it's no problem. The number of stars is quite incredible. Unfortunately, when we booked the tickets, our brilliant ticket agent booked our tickets on the 9:53 train and our couchette on the midnight train... not really sure how that was supposed to work, and despite checking our tickets when we boarded, the conductor rousted us at 5 in the morning to charge us 40 euros for being "on the wrong train". So that was fun.

Now, I'm waiting to check into my hostel in Budapest and then go sightseeing. Hard to imagine how fast everything's going. But train is now officially my favorite way to travel. Cramped or not.

Jul 27, 2008

Deck of picture cards

I have two cameras, and I'm using up enough space on their respective cards, of which I have multiple, that I'm going to end up with a sufficient deck of them to play blackjack.

Kutna Hora was awesome. The bone church is incredible, particularly the chandelier and the coat of arms, but the entire experience is pretty breathtaking, though the location is small. The smell is odd... very stale, very cryptlike, yet as Slappy pointed out (yes, she's here now!), then you see children skipping and singing through the smell and the sight, which creates a pretty cool juxtaposition. I thought about having a series of photographs on "Children in odd places in the Czech Republic", featuring all the kids playing in the Piss sculpture, the toddler on his dad's shoulders in the sex museum, and now kids singing in the bone church.

The town itself is beautiful too, with churches rising up, though by the time we did the full walk in, St. Barbara's cathedral was closed to inside tours, but the outside is breathtaking, and per usual, I took a ton of pictures.

The train ride back was really peaceful, and I tried to learn to be functional at braiding my own hair. Between this and actually regularly wearing make up this trip, this is the most girly I've been since I dressed up when I was 6.

It's been a whole interesting experience though, though I am becoming wary of Wenceslas Square. On my language lessons, I thought it was weird that the tutor took two places at seemingly random, namely Vodichcova ulitse and Voclavske Namesti (sp?) otherwise known as Wenceslas Square, and kept using including them in phrases.

So I tried to go out to a club there with some friends on Friday... first, the club was 200 crown cover to play what seemed like flashy boring house music, so I passed, though that was the reason we'd gone out. Then we ended up with a homeless guy threatening us with, of all things, his cane. "Polizie" and reaching for my cell phone made him eventually go away. Then, after all this, ended up with a guy acting pretty inappropriately to one member of our party, necessitating a call to the police. As another friend asked me where we were, I looked up at the bus station and realized we were, of all places, at the Voclavske Namesti stop, just like in the language tutorial, so apparently, knowing the phrase is useful. It also necessitating to translate the entire incident through a fourth party into German at the police station (And to think I promised myself to stay out of them abroad). Gods. So fun night, eh?

So not dissuaded by all of this, we'd found a cool sculpture that somewhat mirrors the main horse sculpture in the center courtyard that features a man sitting astride a dead upside horse and went back yesterday to take a picture of it (none of us had a camera at the time), only to find it surrounded by firefighters, news media and so forth, because apparently part of the building had caught on fire.

I think I'm sticking to the Charles Bridge. Though I won't have to, because we've got a night train to Budapest tomorrow night.

Last night (what, you want this in order?), we toured around Vyserad (sp? Again), which is a really nice place, and allegedly the site where Prague was founded, and at least the two times I've been there, isn't half as packed as many of the other popular sites, yet has a wonderful church, great views, nice courtyards with statues, so it was really peaceful. The night was topped off by a trip to U Sadlu, an excellent, if pretty darn expensive medieval restaurant. Huge portions though, so we offset some of the cost by eating leftovers throughout our day in Kutna Hora.

So disjointed, yes, but it's an update!

Jul 26, 2008

Going to Kutna Hora!

So many going-tos; so little sleep.

Selective has come to an end, and I can barely believe it, since it seems like just yesterday I was looking at the outside of my apartment going "uh oh", and now, I'm heading off to Kutna Hora (site of the bone church, to put those anatomy skills to use) before a last day in Prague and a night on a train to Budapest.

Synopsis on the selective... very very cool, but a little organization could be in order as far as who gets what rotations (I got pretty lucky), organizing the final exam, informing hospitals and so forth, but I still got to see a lot of the differences between American and Czech medical care plus some general practice stuff on medical care.

For now, bedtime though. Late night at U Sadlu!

Jul 23, 2008

Zebras are reactionary

Speaking of Simon and Garfunkel, "The Boxer" came on in the dermato OR right after a Czech pop song. Weird.

So, yesterday was the Praha Zoo, known as the 6-7th best zoo in the world, and since I never grew out of my little girl love of animals, I had to go.

Very nice, and notably, the whole time we were there, no one popped out of an unseen location and yelled at us in Czech, which doesn't seem like it would be unusual, but I can say there's been a fair part of my European experience that I described as "having someone pop out and yell at me in another language until I wander off". Or in Grace's case, until she produces money to get them to go away.

I went right after my selective, in which we saw a bunch of venous insufficiency ulcers and some contact dermatitis, burned out to the zoo after, in time to experience Prague's extremely temperamental weather. Dress in layers. Bring sunglasses and an umbrella. I needed my whole collection. Joined up with Grace and Neeta once their afternoon session had ended, and we promptly got to work awww'ing at the cute baby animals, snickering at the defecating and fornicating animals, and climbing on the metal statues to take pictures.

Realizing that the zoo was about to close, and we still hadn't seen Africa, we decided to wait around to see what would happen and see as much as we could. My experience in Czech, to date, has taught me that if you linger anywhere up to 10 minutes before closing, you will be chased out physically by security guards, and occasionally have people threaten to call the police if you attempt to inform anyone you have ten minutes left (Grr, I'm looking in your direction).

Not at the zoo.. we just wandered around as it got emptier and eerier, which was a time where we were near the wolves and hyenas, at which point, the zoo saw fit to post "caution: dangerous animals" signs around in English (neglected near the tigers) which increased the creepy. So finally, an hour and a half after closing, we wandered toward the exit, feeling decidedly like we'd gotten away with something, so that was nice.

Grabbed a train station potato pancake that inexplicably had a piece of chicken inside of it, and headed out to the Agharta Jazz Club, which is a very cool, if sort of expensive little place near the old town square. They were playing freeform jazz last night, which is definitely not my favorite, but the whole brick cellar experience was worth it and proved a drastic improvement over the previous night's venture which landed us in the middle of the projects in a club that had been shut down and replaced by a biker bar where as we walked in, not only did a bunch of scary men pull heads up from bar and stare us down, but one of them had a knife strapped to his belt. Eeeeeeeeeeeek. So we proudly sat down in a booth, pushed ourselves to the far back of it, and watched everyone eyeball us as I sucked down a beer as fast as my liver would allow, dropped the money out with a decent tip to the surly bartender in exchange for not having her colleagues beat me to death, and got the hell out of there as fast as possible.

On the plus side, we got to see the crawling baby sculptures on the TV tower at night, back lit by red light, which is creepier than I can even begin to describe. Good times!

Today, meeting the minister of health. Last week, meeting the ambassador of the US to Czech. Tomorrow, meeting my friend Slappy. Three guesses which one I'm most excited about?

Jul 21, 2008


Europe is awesome and yet, exhausting. Today, I feel like I'm gonna die, but it's such a good death that I can't help by try and make it out to a punk club tonight just to show that I can. What medical selective?

Got back from Vienna at about midnight last night, crashed and burned and headed out to my first round in dermatovenerology this morning.

Vienna... Vienna. The train ride is very nice, though not anything like Dresden to Prague. We got a second class cabin, which is surprisingly cozy, and cozy in a "cozy" way, rather than being cozy in a "crammed into coach class" way, though I did get stuck across from the overly affectionate couple where the girl insisted on "play kissing" her boyfriend's cheek for four hours, making a 'smacksmacksmack' noise. Ahhhh, twu wuv.

The hostel was awesome. Very different than the one I stayed in when I was in Berlin with smaller rooms, but cozier. They had free instruments in the common room, and really pretty gardens/courtyards with a giant chess set and an all access BBQ grill, which was a nice touch. According to my top bunkie, some people around 4 in the morning were using the garden for more than a stroll, which is freaking hilarious.

On Friday, we checked into the hostel and headed out for Wienerschnitzel and local beer, which was excellent, and we dealt with an exceedingly patient waitress in the process. I was going to go out Friday night, but got held up, so wound up sending Grace off and heading hostel bound with Neeta to hit the bike tour the next morning, which we missed, but rented bikes nonetheless and headed to the flea market/farmer's market to see some real Vienna.

NICE bikes too. When I saw the "if you destroy or lose our bike, we're charging your credit card 500 euros" thing, I balked a bit, but they were really nice, curb hopping, light frame bikes and they got the job done. Definitely the way to travel, and I should have rented one in Berlin. Prague is not as much of a bike city.

At the market, Grace managed to get yelled at by an Austrian vendor, and then we found far nicer ones to sustain us with candied fruit, fresh mango juice, and goat-cheese stuffed olives while I got myself a nice all-over burn due to leaving my sunscreen at the hostel like a complete dumbass.

Then, we joined up for the afternoon's Viennese death cycle... holy crap, what an awful tour. At first, despite the guide's speaking German for five minutes to every one minute of English on a 'bilingual' tour, we were goofing off, having fun, playing bike tag (dangerous, but awesome), hurtling through the woods, seeing the brown polluted portion of the Danube (the guide said when you look perpendicularly down at it, that's when it looks blue, which is not true in the slightest). We crossed a giant bridge that ended in an incredibly fun fast spiral down, at which point one guy on our tour skidded out and had to have his bleeding shoulder tended to by fellow cyclers rather than the guide, who has never heard of the concept of "no man left behind".

Speaking of which, due to the guide's insistence on seeing all of greater Vienna at top speed, we took a wrong turn and got lost for a half hour, during which we saw the blue portion of the Danube with a really cool sort of wakeboarding "ring" going on, during which we also stayed in contact with a friend that had managed to stay with the group, who was also the one that had to come get us, since our guide, while making everyone else stay and wait, wouldn't look for us, despite telling us by phone to stay where we were and he would, all the while telling the group that we were irresponsible, etc. Blech. Then, another member of the group (not ours) had her bike that she rented through the tour (not our shop) break, nope, no helping her, and we continued whipping through the Vienna outskirts without really knowing what we were seeing or seeing the main sites. Blech.

BUT, riding bikes is fun! And we got a good story out of it.

That night, due to missing the previous night, I HAD to go out, so headed to the Gurdel (I think) club district and found an awesome little no-cover grunge place that had really nice music and danced the night away as much as I could.

Next day was really awesome. We took pictures of ourselves doing handstands in the castle gardens, then headed for a walking tour arranged through our hostel. Our guide was wonderful, lingered, showed us all the main sites, and ran the tour as long as we wanted it, and he just enjoyed hanging out with us, so we finally had to leave because we had a train to catch, but it was just fantastic, and I got a ton of pictures, including one with our guide. He also did a bilingual tour (in English and Portuguese!) but it was much more even, and he made sure that both groups got a full appreciation of each place, and while he was doing the other language part, the other group was free to wander around without fear of getting left and buy water, see the sites, take pictures, use the toilets, or whatever. Oh, he also told us that during the World Cup, they put an Austria t-shirt on the giant statue of Anubis that's near the Natural History museum. Oh, to have seen that!

The one thing we were missing was Sachertorte, which we managed to get AT the train station, though according to others that had it at real places, ours was a highly inferior version. We spent the train ride with five of us in a car laughing, dressing up Grace like a ninja and so forth, and one Austrian student who told us a ton about the program she was studying in Czech, her town in Austrian, a Vienna perspective, so that was really cool.

And now, back in Prague! Whew!

Jul 17, 2008

Going to Vienna!

It's a whirlwind, eh??

Sorry not to write, but I'm never in my apartment! Helped largely by the stairs, but also the amazement that is Prague!!! So there'll be an expanded version of events once I'm sleeping off the Europe back in Grenada, but for now... uhh...

Got to be REALLY close to a neck dissection surgery where since I was the only one hanging out for it, the surgeons just chatted with me while showing me everything, including the pulsing jugular vein. Freaking incredible.

Had a talk given by the American ambassador to the Czech Republic in the basement of Dr. S's nightclub. Odd.

Wandered around as much of the city as humanly possible between selective stuff.

Have endured the bite of the green fairy AND have briefly set my pants on fire with it. Yes, only a small spot, and no, it didn't burn me or the pants... which is kind of cool when you think about it. Hmm... holding flaming alcohol on a spoon, which technically is already supposed to be slotted, generally either held over oneself, a wooden counter, a drink napkin, or best of all, an entire glass of potentially highly flammable alcohol. Who came up with this idea?

Have seen a concert in the National Museum where they absolutely celebrated music and have suffered through a concert in the St Salvador church where they murdered Pachelbel and Mozart. I was not the only one looking pained. I'm not sure if the out of tune violin, the lack of technical proficiency, or the fact that they were all playing at such a pace that I figured they had to catch a train right after the show was the highlight, but I did get to sit down in a pretty church for an hour.

Saw the five level nightclub by the Charles Bridge which is so trendy that it has a hired half naked woman that dances on top of a spotlight as a decoration, I was suitably impressed. My normal pre-Grenada haunts largely consisted of used furniture tossed into abandoned warehouses to hear undiscovered bands... which is also nifty and doesn't involve having to wear nice shoes, but it was still cool.

Drank out of the Piss sculpture previously mentioned, half of which was to disturb my friends, and the other half of which is because buying water in Europe is freaking expensive, there aren't any drinking fountains, and half the water you do buy is carbonated mineral water. Ick. And incidentally, I didn't contract any parasites from the sculpture (to my knowledge) and the water tasted better than the 5 dollar stuff, so go nuts.

Went to a brewery at a monastery where I ate goulash soup out of a bread bowl. Mmm... On the food front, also went to a little creperie that has to die for caramel pear crepes.

Walked around the Jewish Quarter marveling at the architecture (which you do in pretty much every part of Prague) and had a guy in a superhero outfit wander by me. I love Prague.

Continued wandering around Old Town and Mala Strana because I've rarely seen anything prettier.

Talked to a patient who knew WAY more English than we thought when we were discussing his case, who then said he liked English because we have limericks and the Czech don't, and said that he was scared because of his cancer. Aw.

Saw ears get drained. Nummy.

Walked through the palace again, and on the way down, wandered through the oldest vineyards in Prague.

And now?? Heading for Vienna! Can't believe how nuts my life is right now!

Jul 11, 2008


First trip to Europe is the killer, eh? I still want to see everything and do everything and eat and drink everything, which finally left me at the end of yesterday, having done the selective in the morning with a very cool surgery in the fourth ventricle of an 11 year old, which was fascinating, despite getting a kick in the head from the green fairy the night before at the mixer party (great timing, that), only to go home to take a nap, get ten minutes into it, have Grr call, and go "Want to walk around the castle?" "Dammit... Yes." AND we got our token dorky pictures with the motionless castle guards (like England but no funny hats) AND discovered entrance to St. Vitus Cathedral is free, but they will still kick you out at closing, no Sanctuary!

So this ran me out last night and yesterday, upon not being able to get a ticket to Munich for under 180 euros, forced me to accept staying in Prague this weekend (awww, poor Ishie, eh?), and sleep until nearly noon. Ahhh.. Then to compensate, I walked about five miles uphill into southern Mala Strana, saw and walked up the fake Eiffel Tower, saw the Hunger Wall, had some pivo in a garden on the side of the hill, and went into a Renaissance style fairy art cavern museum that I found along the way before heading back in search of the John Lennon Wall only to overshoot and instead find a famous sculpture called "Piss" in which two computer animated statues piss with their animatronic weiners spelling out famous quotes from Czech literature. Tres classy. Naturally I got a picture of a small child playing in the fountain this display creates. How... cute?

So it's been a good day, and it only took me five minutes to get through all three tricky impenetrable doors of my walk up bombed out flat.

My apartment in Prague serves the function of field sobriety test (useful, considering the location), despite the fact that I love it. There's a huge outer door that opens into a courtyard/place for serial killers to choose victims. Then you go into a stairwell that contains an elevator that doesn't work, or works sometimes, but "works sometimes" is one of those descriptions that causes me to never use an elevator. Then you go up an unbelievable number of stairs. At night, the light is timed so you can flip it on, but it is likely to go out at some point when you are halfway up the stairs. Then you reach the second door, which should ostensibly have your apartment number on it, but doesn't, making it a real treat to find. This door also boasts having kept my roommate out for half an hour on her first day, and me out for 15 minutes last night despite being sober, despite my rising level of profanity perhaps indicating otherwise. The lock is VERY tricky. Then comes our actual front door, which is a little tricky, though pales in comparison to the one that procedes it. The entire process combined with the aesthetics does a decent job of convincing you that you're about to enter a crackhouse, and then it opens into a spacious, clean, high ceilinged, well lit, Ikea-drenched flat. And this pattern seems to be the norm. It's pretty cool.

I've also seen a string performance of, inexplicably, Vivaldi and Gershwin, at the Narodni Museum, which was a definite highlight. Baroque music is far more interesting live in a place with good acoustics. Last night, as stated, I found castle and dinner while my roommates went to the Wu Tang Clan concert. Yes, I'm a dork, but wasn't a big fan of the Wu even when Old Dirty was still alive, so I'm not going to feel too bad. Are the Stones coming back?

I finished the neurosurgery selective, which was really interesting, so will be reporting for ENT on Monday at a different (closer) hospital, and I've heard that particular selective is interesting as well, so overall I should net some good experience. My last week is dermatovenerology, which should be net me a strong stomach.

In the interim, I've been sampling Czech beers, Czech food, Czech streets, and Czech language. I've found that knowing about four words of Czech increases the surrounding population's knowledge of English by about 30:1. When I've seen people ask "Do you speak English?" (like asking for directions), about 85% say "ne rosememe" (I don't understand). When you say "G'daya _______? (where's ______?)", the answer to the question is in English very frequently, or it switches to English the second you try to elaborate. Bizarre. Thank you, Pimsleur language tapes, once again giving me just enough rope to hang myself.

I also haven't figured out if I look really really American or am getting confused for Czech, because while Czech people often figure out to speak English to me in restaurants before I've done *anything*, people keep coming up to me on the street and asking if I speak English. Unfortunately, they then assume that I know something about the surrounding area and can convey something to them other than "I dunno. I'm lost too." We also had a guy approach us asking us to speak Spanish, and as we tried to brokenly tell him about the route of the Number 14 tram, he realized by our internal conversation to each other that we spoke English and fluently switched to that. Speaking of Spanish, I'm discovering I know more of it than I thought I did because about 75% of the time I realize I need to ask someone a question here, I realize I can say it in Spanish but not in Czech. D'oh.

So... I may try to hit Cesky Krumlov tomorrow if I can drag up early enough. Here's hoping!

Jul 9, 2008


Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooot!!!!!!!!!!! What else is there to say?? yes, I'm getting a ton of pictures. Yes, I'm neglecting my blog because I have too much to do. Yes, neurosurgery is my first rotation. Yes, I've tried absinthe. Yes, I've walked across the Charles Bridge. Yes, things are absolutely amazing and you should totally do it. Yes, you should do the selective when given the chance. Yes, I'm going to bed before I die.

This whole Europe experience is amazing beyond what I can express, particularly when combined with living in the Caribbean less than a month ago. My life has become surreal.

Jul 4, 2008

Happy 4th!

From Berlin!

Which one might think means it's just another July 4th since the whole 'our holidays aren't everyone's holidays' thing, but then the skies exploded with celebratory fireworks, which made for a wonderful (wunderbar) surprise.

Exhausting, but fantastic three days. Berlin is incredible! A baroque palace, the Ishtar Gate, Reichstag, Jewish museum, tv tower, Berlin Wall, Döner, etc etc etc. I think I've walked 30 miles, and I can't remember the last time I've been so tired, but words can't describe it. So rather than trying on a keyboard where I don't recognize a good portion of the key positions, I think I'll bedbound it so I'm not dead for the train to Prague tomorrow.

Jul 2, 2008

Top o the mornin

From Dublin airport!!!!

This has been quite the hectic week. Thank you out there to all of you who offered support during fourth term. Despite the nastiness of it, I feel really good about how it went, and will be careening back in for fifth to finish off these bad boy basic sciences before they let me go practice being a real doctor.

Oh, and a big thank you to those of you helping me out at Banana's last Friday. You know what I'm talking about. Jumbie Juice is a killer. I don't even know what's in it. Jumbie may not.

So now I'm doing the joint whole backpack through Europe/Prague selective thing without trying to decrease the overall perception of Americans any further, so I wonder how that'll go... I've got my boxer shorts, but fishing hat, my "I'm with Stupid" t-shirt with the American flag on the back over which is emblazoned an eagle with the words "These colors don't run, but people from your country do", so I think I'm all set. Either that or I'll go with "I'm from Canada. Er... Eh." or I'm from Grenada. Er... Mon."

So what to do in Dublin for the next four hours until my flight boards? I'm thinking of trying to score an Irish breakfast outside the airport without risking a missed flight to Berlin, where I get to demonstrate how little German I actually speak. I've preconverted some dollars to Euros (HOLY )(*)(£*)(*)(*)(")*"( WHAT THE HECK HAVE YOU GUYS BEEN DOING WHILE I'VE BEEN GONE??????), and I'm raring to go. Hostel is arranged, Lonely Planet book is bought, and so I'm hoping to get my food, walk, talk, doc, and drink on. Probably in that order.