Rich and Famous

Ahoj Y'all

Well since my last update, I have hit the top marginal tax bracket and increased my income to roughly the same as a local university professor or doctor earns. This sounds pretty good until I convert it into any other currency (at which point it still looks extremely depressing!).

This gives me a great incentive not to save any of my income – there really is no point! So I work hard at living the “high life” and partying to the maximum. I have also figured out that it's a hassle getting the night tram home, so have started winding up my Friday and Saturday nights at 0700 the following morning (and just getting the normal Metro home)

One of the funny things about living in an expatriate community is that while I have made some great friends, people keep bloody leaving the country (Hello Rinky!). Still I guess new people keep arriving all the time to make up for the outflow. I am continuing to meet a lot of interesting new people and having heaps of fun. Of course I am also meeting plenty of Czechs too, including a lot through my work. I honestly feel quite sorry for some of these people who are working their backsides off doing long hours trying to climb the corporate ladder. It reminds me how lucky I am that I'm behaving be totally irresponsible :)


My new job is fun. I'm now working about 30 hours a week, (of which 17 are on Mondays and Tuesdays) which is quite enough for me. By Wednesday lunchtime I am totally shattered! The company that I am working for is French Canadian (oddly I didn't realise this until after I started), and half the people in the office seem to wander around talking to each other in French, while the other half speak Czech. Actually, everyone speaks English as well, so it's not quite as bad as it sounds. Being surrounded by French speakers isn't doing my French any harm, and I am pleased that I can actually understand some of what people are talking about (20%?).

My Czech is progressing less well. I now have a formal Czech lesson every Wednesday, and obviously plenty of chance to practice on people. I am hoping I will start to make much better progress once I get to a level where I am “conversational”. At this point however I am still at the “beer ordering and supermarket shopping” level. The lessons are helping a lot though. Last week I had a major success when I went into KFC and ordered lunch totally in Czech. This is much harder than it sounds as you have to deal with questions like; “do you want to up-size that?”, “What drink would you like?”, “would you like mayonnaise?”, “eat in or take away?” etc.

It's quite interesting watching the build-up to the EU referendum here and the power plays as the various “world powers” try to build influence. The Brits and Americans obviously have a nice head-start, through the benefit of everyone's interest in learning to speak English, but the Iraq situation didn't really help them and the French are doing an good (albeit much more subtle) job too. There are a lot of French people living here, especially in my neighbourhood. So I get to listen to French on the metro in the morning as well :)

Cesky Krumlov was fantastic. We travelled there by bus on a beautiful day just before the May day holiday. This made for a less than pleasant three hour trip as the bus was loaded to gunwales with people. Why open the windows? It's only 30 degrees outside. Think mobile sauna, and subtract the deodorant, and you start to get a rough idea.

However it was worth the trip. I have attached some photos to give you a rough idea. Basically it's like a mini-Prague, but even more beautiful. If you are planning a trip to Europe, then I would put Cesky Krumlov along with Ronda in Spain on your “must visit” list. Thanks Nick for your recommendation, we had a ball.

My contract teaching at the bank finishes at the end of August, and I have just discovered that I have to use my ticket to Brazil and Mexico and NZ before the 11th of September – at which point it will expire. So I will be paying a flying visit to Auckland for a week or so from 12 September. I've just figured out I have enough Air Points for another “round the world” ticket, so from Auckland I will likely come back here again (but with “a few” stop-overs on the way). As I'd be flying Qantas this time I'll get a chance to drop in and say hello to you Sydney-siders as well. For those in the UK, you may not see me until I get back to Europe sometime in October or November, (unless I can squeeze in a weekend away between now and August :)

Anyway that's enough from me for now. I'm still alive, still having a good time, still being amazed by the awesome beauty of this city, and no I'm not bored yet!





Famous (and not so famous) facts about the Czech Republic

  • The Hawaii Five-0 theme song was written by a Czech
  • Semtex plastic explosives are exclusively made here, and arms exports are still a major component of GDP. You can buy an Uzi here easily (but no one does)
  • The word “Robot” was invested by a Czech
  • Good King Wenceslas (as in the Xmas carol) was Czech
  • A nice 500ml bottle of beer costs 9 Kc here (about NZ50c or 15p). If you take the bottle back, you get a 3 Kc refund
  • Amadeus and Mission Impossible were both filmed here
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being was written by a Czech
  • The most difficult tongue twister in Czech is “strč prst zkrz krk” However as this means “stick your finger through your neck” it doesn't come up in conversation that much. Some other sentences actually have vowels in them.
  • Farting (quietly) in confined spaces such as buses, lifts, and the metro, is something of a national hobby (see comments on green vegetables below)
  • The Czech Republic has a population of 10.2 million, yet gets about 90 million tourists every year. Most come to Prague (Population 1.1 million)
  • There is no need to make speeches at Czech wedding receptions
  • KFC is very big here. They get especially busy in the early morning, and no, there isn't a special breakfast menu
  • Škoda, when literally translated into Czech means somewhere between 'pity' and 'shame'
  • The y and the z are reversed on the Cyech kezboard, which explains whz you zou occasionallz get strange and meaningless emails from me
  • It is polite to say hello and goodbye to everyone who gets into or out of a lift.
  • Everyone here has a “name day” in addition to their birthday on which they also get presents. Apparently the Czech equivalent of James is Kuba and my name day is 25 July. Please note this date in your diary :)
  • It's about 750 km to the nearest beach. People improvise here by wearing their bikinis in the park and to the shops


Czech Green 1

Czech people do not eat green vegetables because they simply don't like them. They tell me that greens taste “bitter” and are not healthy (unlike beer, which apparently has many vitamins and 'makes a beautiful body'). This is not something that would have bothered me a year ago, but now I run surreptitious trips to the supermarket and secretly buy (ridiculously expensive) broccoli and brussel sprouts for “veg outs”. It is impossible to buy any form of green or broad bean here.


Czech Green 2

Marijuana is supposedly illegal here, and indeed there was a march the other day calling for legalisation with attracted a huge crowd. However in my experience it would be very unusual to go to a bar or nightclub where at least a reasonable proportion of the crowd weren't smoking. I have also seen people indulging themselves while wandering down crowded streets in front of the police and on the footpath outside the presidential palace at Prague Castle.




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