Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Quote from Last Weekend

This past weekend Miriam and I went to Lucas's (LCP Zilina) home town of Topolcany. Just like most other Slovakian towns it had the usual city square, with a church in the center and surrounded by little shops etc. We had a really good time on Friday night as we finally got to go to a dance club. Good to know that I can still shake it! It really irks me though that clubs in many European cities have not adopted the concept of . Really, if I want a vodka seven, then mix it for me, instead of giving me a shot of vodka and a whole bottle of Sprite or Seven Up. Its just a hassle.

Saturday, we headed to Nitra and yes you guessed it, there was another castle. Well this one was more like a church on a hill surrounded by castle walls. Very nice inside though with beautiful painted ceilings and sculptures. After Nitra we headed to a smaller village outside of Topolcany where there is a Ranch of sorts, something like our version of a petting zoo. Perhaps if I was 15 years younger, and not hungover from the night before, I would have been more interested. Nevertheless it was all worth it when Lucas said the most bazaar thing I think that I have ever heard; "I want to buy my mom a monkey for her 50th birthday!" What made it even funnier is that he said it in all seriousness.... A MONKEY, for the house, one that she could take care of while Lucas was away. Really I'm just gonna leave it there because there is nothing more I can say other than good luck.
I'm sure it's no sweat getting a pet monkey in Slovakia.

The Answer to the Pigeon Problem

Every time I am in the city square I notice tonnes of pigeons flying around (ok so thats over exaggerating a bit but there are enough to notice). I don't understand why? And its not just in Zilina but several other cities I've been to including Prague. This morning I got my answer! I get off at my bus stuff for work and what should I happen to see but a young woman chopping up small pieces of bread and throwing them out around as far as she can. There was enough to feed a small family! If I was a pigeon then damn right I would stick around for the free food too.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Lets Adopt Meal Tickets

Slovakia and much of Europe by the sounds of it has this wonderful concept known as meal tickets. Your employer provides you with meal tickets which are basically as good as money at many restaurants or even the grocery store. The amount varies but it is usually around 80 Slovak Koruna, or about $3.50 Canadian. Many restuarants in the town center here in Zilina have their "Daily Menu" or lunch menu for about 80-85 skk. It includes a choice of a soup and a main dish containing a meat and potatoe or rice, etc. The best part is that these are big hearty meals and usually very delicious. When I think back to what I could buy in Calgary for $3.50 it doesn't even compare to the lunch here in Zilina. I'd say that companies in Canada could take a lesson from Europe and provide their employees with lunch! Anyone want to start a petition with me....

On another note, while I was at a restaurant today for lunch with a couple co-workers, I met an American guy from Michigan here on business. I assume that it had something to do with KIA automobiles because there is a manufacturing plant outside of Zilina. He was also sitting with a couple of Asians and thats usually a given here. In any case, I was having yet another craving for something sweet so we went to the front of the restaurant where cakes, cookies, and fruit bowls are available. While I was enjoying my chocolate marvelka, this guy walks up and automatically assumes that everyone should understand him and know how to speak English. The waiter of course did not and looked a bit flustered the more that the American tried to ask him what kind of cake is this. I went up to try to help; well actually I was just excited to speak English with someone. Turned out that he was kind of ignorant and asked me how can I live here, it was so depressing to him. I on the other hand have found a lot of charm in this city so I didn't appreciate his comments. Could we call this loyalty on some level?

Monday, October 23, 2006

National geographic LIVE

Did I mention that we have a snake as a company pet?? Yeah, not the most attractive of creatures but a pet nonetheless. Today is feeding day! This means that as I speak, there is a poor little white mouse running for his life in the cage.

I'm sitting here in awe. Its like watching a national geographic show live. All I need is the dubbing of the narrarator who will give me the play by play or whats happening, the predator vs. prey relationship. I wonder if the poor little guy knows whats coming for him. Its taking the snake forever to find him and catch him (I may have to update this post later.)

Sure enough here is the latest and greatest. The first mouse was a fighter! He lasted at least an hour before the snake devoured him. I actually missed it because we went out for lunch and when we came back he was gone. The second mouse though was not so lucky, or maybe he was. He was quickly snatched and eaten. It all happened so fast and it's definately not a sight for the squeemish. I sat there with a disgusted look on my face the whole time but I saw it all. Ahhh what an exciting day, I need to get out more!

A lesson….on how to bail

I’ve never considered myself to be the most coordinated or graceful individual but I did think that I had left my clumsiness days behind me in high school. Thursday night proved to me that this is not the case. After a really fun evening at a new trendy lounge in Zilina with my roommate and a couple of guys from upper management in her company including the CEO, we proceeded to leave and make it to the car. What followed was one of the more embarrassing moments that I have had in a long time. Keep in mind that I had only had one drink, a delicious long island ice tea I might add. So I’m leading the way to the parking lot, walking along the edge of the sidewalk, my first mistake, when I slip and fall to my knees. The whole time though I am thinking “woops,” but that I still have control of the situation. It’s just a small trip, ha ha, we’ll laugh it off and that will be that. Second mistake. Somehow, my body thought otherwise and I am witnessing myself fall flat on my face sprawled out on my stomach; it was more like a dive I suppose. The worst part is that it felt like something out of a cartoon, or a slow motion funniest video clip. I saw everything that was going to happen, before it actually did, and I had absolutely no control over it.

Of course everyone is all of a sudden shocked by my acrobatics. The general “are you ok” remarks are exchanged. I of course pretend to be super great, no problems because I feel like such a goof ball in front of everyone. In the meantime Miriam is laughing her face off uncontrollably, and while at the time I didn’t find the situation to be very funny, I can now see the humor in it. I was so anxious to get home because as soon as we got in the car I realized that I had scraped up my palm pretty bad. Upon later examination, it’s actually really bad and hurts like a you know what! I’m trying not to be a big baby about it but it continually throbs and all I can hope for is that it is not infected. I should have a nice scar to remember the evening.

In the meantime, I have a bruised ego to cure as well. The trick is to shed my new reputation as the clumsy Canadian girl!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

All in One Weekend

Alright so the past weekend was kind of a rollercoaster. It started out with me managing to get lost in Zilina. Thats right, as small of a town as this is, I conquered the feat of running around in circles while trying to find the main bus station. Once I left my office, I was so disoriented but at the same time so sure in my mind of where I was going... WRONG. It was so frusterating not being able to ask for directions either. Luckily I had Katka, a friend of mine from the local AIESEC come and find me. Bad news was that because I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, we missed our bus to a conference that we were going to. Don't even ask me to pronounce the name of the village. So off to the train station, another bus, blah blah blah, and we end up in the middle of nowhere in Slovakia. Seriously though, we came to a set of cabins where the conference was occuring, no phone signal or anything. Miriam and I felt a little out of place because there was a lot of younger people at the conference and the majority of sessions planned with in Slovak language.

Castle in Trencin

The solution as we saw it was to head to another city and do some more exploring. We got up on saturday mornign after getting only 3 hrs of sleep, and walked about 5km to the nearest city bus stop. With minimal knowledge of Slovakian we managed to get to Trencin. This city boasts a beautiful castle atop of a hill. We did the castle tour (you always have to do the castle tour otherwise you only get to see the outside). Unfortunately for us that was in Slovakian too, so we walked around the castle and looked all of the paintings, artifacts, etc. without understanding the stories behind them. This is the first castle that I've been to that allows you to take pictures inside including pictures of the art work. Flash photography is probably not the best thing for 18th century paintings. I was amused by some of the spelling mistakes that I found printed in English beside the paintings. Last I checked Queen is not spelled like "Qeen." Miriam couldn't get over the fact that I take pictures of everything and anythign. Memories hello...

At night we found a great Mexican restaurant and had a good bottle of wine, Frankovka. We checked out some of the nightlife, which was pretty good for a smaller city. Bedtime came early due to the lack of sleep the night before but boy did we ever make up for it. 11 hours of sleep will certainly rejuvinate you. Once we got back to Zilina, we went shopping for the essentials for our place, and now we are nicely settled in. Anyone want to come over for coffee? cuz we have mugs and everything..

Check out the pics from Trencin.

The View From the TOP

Last Friday I had the pleasure of going to the top of the mountain of the ski resort that I am working for with my boss Marcel. It was definately an off road drive and I'm sure his car wasn't happy about it. The name of the resort is Snow Paradise Velka Raca and it is due to open, weather and snow permitting, at the end of November. The highest point at the top of the mountain is 1050 meters. I know what all of you Calgarians are thinking, and yes it pales in comparison to our Rocky Mountains, but nonetheless, the view was beautiful. I especially love this time of year when the leaves are turning and there is so many different colors on the trees. Autumn doesn't really exist in Calgary as far as I remember. The city that I live in is about 25 km. away from the resort so there will definately be some weekend skiing happening. Time to start looking for a ski bunny outfit!!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

On the bright side

Today was the day that made me realize that everything works out in the end. It started out with a meeting with my company, Snow Paradise, here in Zilina that went really well. I found out the details of my new job, half of which I can't exactly explain right now but more details to come once I start doing it. Tomorrow I am going to tour the ski resort with my new boss and then Monday I will begin my regular work hours. My office is in the city center and seems like a relaxed enviroment, no penguin suits thank god. I'm quite ecstatic about how the meeting went because my job appears super interesting, and my supervisors have some big plans for me. Because I've had so long to prepare for this, it was nice to have it turn out to be better than I expected.

The rest of my day was spent sampling Slovak delicacies. I had bryndzove halusky for breakfast. It is a popular Slovak dish made with a local cheese. My best way to describe it is like our mac and cheese only with a white cheese and no crappy macaroni noodles but something along the lines of gnochi. I later went out with another friend and had some burcak, a drink that is made up of the liquids before they become wine. Basically it is like a sweeter, less bitter version of wine. After that, I tried langos. This is a quick meal you can grab on the go, comprised of a deep fried piece of dough with garlic spread on top and whatever other condiments you wish to put on there. We had cheese and sour cream, but ketchup, mayo, etc. is also available. Dessert time included a fruit cup with a really thick cream. Needless to say we walked back to our place to work off some of the calories.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Cesky Krumlov

This past weekend was spent at Cesky Krumlov, one of the best preserved Medieval towns in all of Czech Republic, perhaps Europe. I decided that I really ought to take advantage of all of this "vacation time" that I have nowadays. So I packed up my bags and came to Prague to meet Alex, and one of my good friends from school, Megan and her boyfriend Dave. I was feeling quite independant woman like after conquering the local bus in Zilina, train to Prague, and the metro here in Prague. Dave, Meg and I, tried to purchase bus tickets in advance but the very unpleasant lady at the ticket office said that there were no busses leaving for Cesky Krumlov even though the schedule says otherwise. Needless to say there was, however you had to transfer busses in Cesky Budejovice. Details I suppose. We all stood in line for the bus, got on and soon realized that there was way more people than seats meaning we had to stand!! I've never seen this, standing on an intercity bus, a bit dangerous don't you think?? We stood for an hour and a half which after a 6 hour train ride was a bit too long for me but something different. Luckily we got a seat for the rest of the way.

I booked us a bed and breakfast in Cesky Krumlov which turned out to be so great after a long day. The guy even came and picked us up from the bus station. Pension Sebastian Rocks. Super nice place with a big washroom, and nice clean beds. Before departing for bed though, we all thought we were due for a beer after that experience. Our host suggested a place down the street, VERY local, and boy was it ever. I had a local burley man who had way too much to drink, try and romance me (ok thats being generous, he made grunting noises and gestures and all he knew how to say in English was "me normal"-not so much buddy). Alex, Meg and Dave, felt sorry for me but at the same time really amused by the whole thing.

We spent saturday touring the town and the castle, before going for a hearty meal and some drinks. By 11 pm we were at a local discoteque putting our dancing shoes to good use!! I love dancing in clubs that you know you will probably never be back at. It means 80's moves are absolutely permitted and encouraged I might add. Dave and Meg left for Vienna on Sunday morning and Alex and I went and toured the city some more. We went to the Castle Theatre tour which turned out to be a bit disappointing, it wasn't so much of a tour as an entrance and history lesson with a very nervous tour guide. Pics are up so check them out, link is on the side.

I'm back in Prague now. I plan on going to do some more exploring on my own, maybe check out the national museum. Its quite nice outside though and after a chilly Saturday I feel compelled to stay outside and enjoy the sunshine while its still around. Happy Thanksgiving everyone, I hope you got your turkey fix for the year. Send some my way!!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

My week in Prague

I thought I’d take a couple of minutes to provide some more details about my time in Prague for those interested and for my own future reference. As stated numerous times before, it was AMAZING. From the moment I landed in Prague, I was so anxious to get out of customs so I could see Alex. Luckily for me there was only one counter open for all non EU passport. Oh and they don’t tell you this until you make it to the front of the line, at which time they point to the line you should be in.

Tuesday night and Wednesday were spent getting over my jet lag. I couldn’t really eat much and I was waking up at strange hours of the night. Thursday we took a day trip to Karlovy Vary, which happens to be such a nice little town. I could retire there. It offers mineral water fountains which you can drink from. The water is supposed to have healing properties, although after several sips of hot salty water, this point was lost on me. It was really cute to see the locals though as they just sat on the benches with their weirdly shaped cups, sipping on mineral water. Guess like many things, it’s an acquired taste. The mineral water fountain at Karlovy Vary

Friday, Saturday and Sunday were spent doing the tourist thing around Prague. I got to visit many monuments, half of which the names escape me right now. Of particular note was the Loreto, Main town square, Charles Bridge,Jewish Cemetary and Prague Castle which I didn’t realize was so big. We will have to go back to the castle and explore St. Vitus Cathedral, so beautiful and intricately designed that words can’t do it justice, St. George Bascilica, Golden lane and the Castle Towers. As you can tell I’ve been reading travel books!! On Saturday night we sat by the river and drank a bottle of wine as we watched the sunset behind St. Vitus Cathedral, so romantic. Sunday, it rained in the morning so we went and caught an exhibit of the World Press from 2005. It was a collection of photographs that won awards for capturing certain news, sports or general life stories.
Sunset with Prague Castle

Here’s some other details about Prague that caught my eye;
¨ Ladies, put away the high heels, you won’t be needing them. A) because you walk so much that your feet would be dead by the end of the day, and B) because cobblestones cover most of the sidewalks and streets meaning your heals would be trashed anyways
¨ Everyone owns a dog, I’d never seen that before in a European city
¨ McDonalds and if you can believe it KFC rule in the fast food world
¨ The metro and tram system is incredibly well designed. You can get everywhere with it and in efficient time, that is if you figure out where the trams go
¨ Gulash and Pilsner Urquel is a must. I know, most of my girl friends must be thinking “since when do you drink beer” but Alex told me as soon as I got that that everyone drinks beer so why mess with tradition

I also got to meet a lot of the other trainees in Prague all of which were super friendly and had so many interesting things to say. And I think that about sums it up as if it’s not enough.

Welcome Back

So I realize that my promises to keep my blog updated have gone to shame in the last couple weeks. I have however tried to keep everyone posted with the mass emails so I don’t feel so bad. Anywho, its about 1 am here in Zilina. I had a really busy day and got to see a lot more of the city than the confines of the university dorms. It’s a cute little town with a nice center square, actually two. I went and had lunch there today, and while it was a bit chilly to be sitting outside, I could imagine how nice it would be in the summer. I even opened a Slovakian Bank account today.

The AIESEC local here has been great. They’ve been with me since I got here and have helped me with everyday tasks that I would normally have no problems with in Calgary. Being the self dependant person that I am, it’s a bit hard for me to constantly ask for help with such mundane tasks as going to the grocery store or even buying a bottle of water, but I guess I should be happy that I have someone who is willing to help me out until I get used to things here. The language is somewhat similar to Croatian and I can pick up some words but at the same time once the locals start speaking quickly, I’m totally lost. I went to a recruiting presentation by AIESEC Zilina and watched a whole hour presentation in Slovakian knowing what it was about, but not understanding a word anyone was saying. I was just looking around and watching for cues of when to laugh because someone told a joke, unbeknownst to me. I even got to have my own part in the presentation, talking about why an exchange with AIESEC is such a great experience. Mind you it wasn’t my greatest speech but I figured the audience couldn’t understand half of it so I was safe.

I’m starting to get settled in. I’ve had my room to myself all week as I wait for my roommates to arrive. Miriam from Spain is arriving tomorrow and I am really looking forward to meeting her. It will be nice to speak with someone who is going through the same things I am. Being the first one here meant that I got first dibs on a bed and a desk. I think I’ve left my mark on them!! I’ve also partaken in a local drink known as tatranski caj, or as I now like to call it “hangover in a bottle.” My first night in Zilina, I think I can show off to the boys in the club and four shots later, I wasn’t feeling so hot. Needless to say the next day was spent drinking plenty of water while I sat at the recruiting table (Layial, Peter and Andrew, you would be so proud of me!!). Oh and for all of you fuse ball players, just wait till I get back to Calgary, I'm getting lots of practice here.

I’m heading to Czesky Krumov this weekend with Alex and my friend Megan and Dave from Calgary. I will attempt to take the city bus and then train to Prague on my own. It will be so great to get to see Meg half way across the world. I hear this town is supposed to be really quite charming.
I've posted more pics of my time in Zilina, I swear I didn't drink all of those shots!!