Tuesday, November 10, 2009

All is well - what's wrong?

Whoo hoo! Pull open the pinot - I’m bloody celebrating! Why? A party? A promotion perhaps? No. The joy of actually having my apartment to myself, a decent bottle of wine and time to write about my favourite subject… me.
Oh it’s been a while. Since I last typed, nations have fallen into economic quagmires, a bearded lady became the singing sweetheart of Britain, the pope has invited Anglicans to join the Catholic church (Rome invading Canterbury! Has anyone else actually picked up on the historical significance of this?) and rather more predictably lots of angry men in Pakistan blew each other up.

Summer came and went. Of course it was beautiful every day and rainy every evening and weekend – even in the Republic. Which still doesn’t have a government. And as I may have mentioned in previous blogs, the solution is easy - all they actually have to do to solve this is to send me to live all expenses paid in Barbados. There is nothing more guaranteed to start a military coup or the fall of a government than me moving to the country in question. No the Czech’s don’t have a Government, the second time I have experienced this in this particular country. The difference is that in Czech is that nobody cares.

Some things happened to me also. I have thus far kept a man drunk enough to date me for more than two weeks. He works in IT so when he explains what he does and my memory fails or my eyes glaze over, he is used to it. Perfick! Although now I have mentioned it in this blog it is no doubt doomed. You may place your bets now but I do demand 10 percent of all profits. Those who haven’t yet met him, I hope you will, and that he will amuse you as much (but not in the same way) as he amused me.

Work is, as always, unstable… ish. Such is the tragedy of the advertising industry. Since my entry to the dark side in January of this year I have failed to find a managing director with any moral compass. The ethos in advertising seems to be ‘you should be grateful to work for us’ or ‘ahhh there’s a crisis so we can treat you all like shit and lay you off with n’er a pay packet to your name’. Not one has failed to rip me off, lie, cheat and steal. Luckily my experience as a journalist hardened me to a life of dealing with scum. Except in the old days at least I had a decent expense account. Despite the PR, anyone under director level in advertising has to have invoices signed in triplicate and converted into rand or zlote to even claim a legitimate flight. Mad Men it ain’t.

Despite this they have still managed to stifle many of my personal projects due to work volume. Both boxing and running got kicked to touch this year due to long working hours over summer. My belly lies resplendent. Motorbike lessons followed suit (although that was mostly due to the bad evening weather all summer). But I did learn a thing or two; I have now decided that after 13 hours of lessons with a prick sporting a Napoleon complex who screamed Czech obsenities regularly and once even punched my arm, that I would be far better off, and safer, doing a course in England – even if I can’t remember how left hand traffic goes.

Since Africa I have had little or no time off. I work… and work some more… and learn Czech, and also work, sometimes there were bikes lessons. Usually I don’t get home till 9.30pm on a weeknight. That cuts into my social life some. But this summer I did see some great bands. Bloc Party and the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s being my favourite.

In seven days I go West to the U.S of A. Not a country I would usually consider spending my money on seeing. Especially since my motto is, that while I can carry a rucksack and I am still vaguely young enough to be stupid, I should travel more far flung corners. However, the aforementioned boyfriend invited me to accompany him on a grand tour of the East coast. So New Yoike! (which I know I will like from watching various episodes of SATC), The Florida Keys! (which I know I will like because lots of gay friends told me so) Virginia and Baltimore! (which I know I will like because they are so bloody random). We also went to a festival or two this summer, we are both still alive, I deduce we travel well.

For the time being (knock on wood, turn three times, touch your ear, knock your teeth –depending on where you are from) I can still say that I am happy. My problems are probably manageable, the people I love are mostly in good health or on the up. My nieces and nephews continue to thrive under the loving eyes of my fantastic sisters. My mum, god bless her, is still my lovely mum I have to say that the more I have learned this year about other peoples families, the more I love and miss my own. The friends I love are either recently married or about to tie the knot. It’s probably bad luck to boast. But just for once (before it all turns to rat shit) I’m going to revel in this rather blessed period.

Don’t worry, I’m sure it won’t be long until I’m back to my old whinging self ☺ Next week will probably see me made redundant and hit by a New York taxi or falling piano.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

An old blog I forgot to post

Ahhh London, the variety, the quaint pubs, the inordinate amount of stair cases in tube stations, the amazingly dressed people, the sweet smelling tramps, the friendly London folk who always approach strangers by asking ‘do you speak English?’ the constant rain, the Sunday Observer with ALL the supplements, the comedy shows, the concerts, the buskers, fried English breakfasts. The fact that you can buy ANYTHING, except perhaps vegetable or any other form of food that isn’t beige and fried.
I was there to assist my dear friend Will pick a suit, for whom I am best man at his wedding. And Harvey Nicks was our first and only stop. We actually worked out that London was costing him 45 quid an hour, although I suspect it was more because we didn’t factor in beer costs. We were there for 48 hours. My costs were not as much but still eye watering. I went a bit silly.

Despite (or maybe because of) the economic gloom it is unfair in England to give any tramp less than two quid. For two quid you can just about buy a Sunday newspaper to line your cardboard box with. But you probably would not be able to afford a cardboard box. On saying that though, there is a better class of tramp in London. Some of them have through bred dogs. And they drink cans of Stella, not Tenent’s Super. Now that smokers have been forced out onto the pavements of London, the city is fair game for beggars, they’ve never had it so good.

Previously, had they tried to enter a pub to harass the punters, they’d have been chucked out on their grimy ears. And we all know that in a recession, booze and fags are the only products that experience a growth in profit. So pubs appear to be booming. And beggars have fair hunting.

Oxford Street also seems to be showing little sign of being choked by crisis (because there are idiots like me spending money they can’t afford). Top Shop was barely navigable due to the swell of people, which I always thought was only reserved for the Christmas period and unlucky timing on my part. Primark (the cheap as chips fashion store that forces 8 year old kids to work in sweatshops in Thailand 12 hours a day) was positively primeval. I actually witnessed 3 incidents during which security had to be called to pull apart women who were fighting in the aisles.

Whenever I arrive in London I am always so excited. So blinded by choice. I’m so happy to finally understand 60 percent of the language spoken on the street, to understand the advertising, to switch on a TV and then switch it off again because at least I can understand how shit it is. But I have to admit… after a few days of constant rain, I always look forward to going back to a country that has a climate – rather than weather.

This has been an interesting month, I have achieved much. Firstly I took my Czech exam for my beginner’s course. I got an ‘A’ for comprehension and speaking but a ‘B’ for writing.
I started motorbike lessons. They make me scream with glee like an 8 year old girl. I am learning to ride on a 500cc bike. Gadzooks!

I also completed the Berlin 25km race last weekend. There were 9000 competitors. I came 100th in the women (and I was racing against crazy Africans), 14th in my age category. My half marathon time was 1:51. My 25km time was 2:11. Which my running friends all seemed impressed with.

Am probably going to run a 10km race in June… otherwise I’ll just get drunk and stay that way. Prague can do that to a girl.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Freek A (part 2)

When two tribes go to… err beg (it’s really bloody annoying you know)

Thank you lord for making me be born in a country with access to good support underwear.

Okay finally getting round to updating my blog on Africa. Several months late, but this is Prague and time is just a concept.
The people of Ethiopia are well known around the world as sad starving looking people with distended stomachs. It’s certainly fair to say that they have had their fair share of bad luck not helped by hapless rulers. Take for example Ras Tafarie who was crowned Emperor Haile Selassie ‘the chosen one of God’, which is a bit of a bugger of a name to try and fit on a business card.

He, apparently, lounged around enjoying fancy banquets while 200,000 peasants starved to death in the 1970’s famine. Thankfully Ras Tafarie was not a Rastafarian in the dreadlock and weed smoking sense. A good job too, having the munchies when there’s nothing left in your cupboard is too cruel to contemplate.

'gimme one bir, gimmie one bir gimmie one bir gimmie one bir.... and so on ad infinitum'

So anyway, several famines, a few occupations and the odd war or two have left a fairly fertile country not very rich. Praise be to Bob Geldof and U2 who introduced the concept of mass charity and handouts. Throughout Addis Ababa there are great tree lined boulevards. Each one hosts a luxurious villa with a swimming pool proclaiming to belong to some charity or other curing some affliction or other for the people of Ethiopia. I had no idea what some of these causes even were there were so many of them. I’m sure if you wanted to found a charity for ‘kids who dropped a marble that rolled under the settee one day that they were unable to reach without aid’ you probably could. Especially if you gave it a French name like ‘enfants ont ete incapables d’atteindre sans aide’.

The result of this is that even though they are not a poor staving country anymore, there is nothing an Ethiopian likes more than a good handout from a white person. Even though there are many aid agencies that pay good money to send children who have lost their marbles (or whatever) to school, families feel that, well, they’re just better off walking down the middle of a busy highway and begging. Okay maybe that's a bit simplistic. They are very poor. But not poor enough to warrant the amount of begging.

And if they are not begging they are trying to rip you off and charge you three times the price for something.

And it never stops. Ever. Taxi drivers are taxi drivers wherever you go, but when the hotel receptionist tries to demand 20 dollars for ordering you a taxi, you know that it has gone too far. At a small village I tried to buy a can of mango juice. The lady refused to sell me it until she had run down the street and found out how much the hostel was ripping me off for mango juice.

Children tug at your sleeve incessantly begging and demanding money on repeat loop. Their favourite trick is to follow you around pointing at things and then try to demand a ‘guides fee’. It's pretty tough to say no to people when you know they have far less than you, but it's advised not to by all the charitable organisations. In fact they say you shouldn't give them anything, not even a pen or an apple, as they'll only go and sell it. And after the 80th or 90th person feigns friendship and then demands money, you get tired of it to the point of being murderous.

One time we went to a village and 20 people mobbed our jeep before we’d even parked demanding money. We couldn’t actually get out of the car. We had to drive off. Groups of men accosted us in forests and tried to demand ‘forest entrance fee’s’ when it was clearly a public park. They are very persistent. It was only when I got so angry I was quite close to hitting one of them that they finally backed off accusing me of ‘using my power’ on them. Whatever that means. Well it was that time of month, I’d recently given up smoking and I hadn’t seen a glass of white wine for weeks. Perhaps they realised they were staring in the face of certain death.

Just your friendly neighbourhood mursi (above)

So anyway the tribes. To see the tribes you must travel far. We are talking some 20 hours of driving from the capital. You must have a driver, a guide and in some cases an armed scout. Also you must go to see the tribes early in the day before they get drunk. Tribesmen armed with Kalashnikovs who want your money drinking home brewed spirits is not always a great combination. Sometimes they kidnap your camera, sometimes they kidnap you.

Who's a pretty girl then?

We first went to Mago national park to see the Mursi tribe. I wasn’t in the best of moods having had food poisoning and spending the night before curled up in the foetal position on a filthy cold concrete floor making my acquaintance with the cockroaches. The mursi are known as the fiercest Ethiopian tribe. The women wear lip plates, this is said to be to stop white men taking them away as slaves. They would make very bad slaves. They were bastards.

They never stopped pushing, pinching and nipping. They wanted money for you to take their photos, which is fair enough. But having taken one the price would mysteriously double. It’s hard to argue with a toothless old hag brandishing a rifle. I was hot and sick and retired to the jeep where upon they surrounded it and started banging on the windows demanding money like some B rate horror movie.

The way back was beautiful. We bumped into some of the Karo tribe (see pics on part 1), who are mostly naked except for paint. Incidentally they are one of Africa’s most endangered tribes. I don’t know if it’s connected.

Our armed guard for the Mursi, didn't fancy his chances against a tribe of em.... This is a lawless land where tribes are still at war. The difference is that now they have guns rather than spears.

Our next stop was Turmi. Sort of near the Kenyan border in the malaria and tsetse hotspot. There weren’t really any roads. Accommodation was described as ‘bare bone budget at best’ This was where we encountered the cockroaches the size of hamsters. It’s also where food poisoning finally caught up with Pavel and Stefan.

The Hamer are agropastoralists. They grow tobacco, vegetables, millet and cotton and barter with it at markets. We went to a market. Some hassled us for photos but mostly they just weren’t bothered. They were quite nice. In the evening they spend everything they have made on Tej (a kind of honey wine) and get royally trashed. They must pay for the bill before they start drinking. We went to a bar after the market, which, unusually, had an electricity supply and a television on which was playing Ultimate Nonstop Wrestling. Imagine if you will, sitting in a mud hut with a group of mostly naked strangers who actually believe that the wrestling is for real. Luckily they didn’t have Kalashnikovs. But they were quite excited. One of them sold me his belt in exchange for booze.

The Hamer women have deep scars on their backs. This is because to show their love for a boy they must be whipped. The more they bleed the healthier they are purported to be and the more they love their man. Go figure.

Of course, with Pavel being the only Czech in the world with a Jamaican accent, we had to visit Shashemene, an area of Ethiopia given to the Rastafarians by Haile Selessie. The guidebook says it is known for its unfriendly treatment of foreigners. But there was supposed to be a museum so we thought we’d go and look.
The museum was closed but we were invited into the 12 tribes community centre. A sort of religious community centre. We had a beer and the Rastas got us good and stoned before trying to sell us all manner of crap polyester ‘knitted’ hats and other assorted fake junk that had been made in China. Pavel and Stefan indulged.

As we left the 12 tribes centre we found that a bunch of 12 year old kids had kidnapped our driver and our car and were now demanding money with menaces to let us out of the compound. I started getting angry again. Pavel gave them a dollar and they went away. I would have preferred to have given them a slap. And they could have kept the change. Anyway the ransom money for kidnapping experience was the only genuine Rasta thing that Pavel paid them for that day, so I suppose I should be happy for him.

We were quite happy when we got to Awasa, Ethiopias second largest city. It had white wine. And people only harassed us every 20 metres instead of every 2. But the monkeys did make a few attempts to break into my room. The UN were also based here, which meant there were decent restaurants, white wine and toilets. I was very happy. Ethiopia was great. But it was hard. I have never seen such amazing scenery in my life. But a couple of things let it down. The people and the price. I never met one genuine person who tried to help us or speak to us without demanding money. Facilities were filthy health hazards for huge amounts of money compared to other countries. But it’s an experience I will never forget and one that will soon be unrepeatable as a major highway construction connecting Addis Ababa to the south is underway. Once it is completed and this part of Ethiopia becomes more accessible, these people and their way of life will die out.

More images to be uploaded soon when I find the USB.....

Monday, April 20, 2009

Good dates, bad dates and stuff in between

I have been meaning to update my blog with pictures of Africa for some considerable time but I’ve been so bloody busy I haven’t had time to eat most evenings, let alone hook up a camera.

It all started a few weeks ago when I not only started my new job, but decided I was going to tackle this hideous noise they call the Czech language, start boxing again and train for a 25km race in Berlin on May 10th.

The new job is actually copywriting (again). Which is a few steps down from my previous position and probably a zero off the pay slip, but in this economic climate who can argue? So my days of fancy apartments with sea views and 2000 Euro frocks are well and truly over. But bizarrely I am somehow happier. I work in the middle of a gorgeous park with castle views. The people are really lovely. The work may become a little dull eventually though.

The Czech course takes up 3 nights a week for 2 hours a night. Doesn’t sound that much but it does mean that I don’t get home until 9pm. I really do wish the Czechs spoke something reasonable, like Spanish. Or at least didn’t think you were a total idiot when you got things wrong. An example of how unforgiving the Czechs can be is the word for Germany, Nemecko, which actually comes from the root word Nemy which means dumb (as in can’t speak). So they even thought their neighbours were idiots for not speaking Czech. Actually the Germans ARE idiots for not speaking Czech… I mean really, who wants to speak German? Silly language. You have to question the logic of a language in which the word Schweinefleisch is considered appetising.

Ironically by the time I learn this language I will have nobody to speak to because I will have had absolutely no social life.

On the good side though I am in bed by 10, which means I can wake up at 5.30am twice a week and go to an early morning boxing class. When I am not boxing I run at lunch times. Sometimes my colleague, the art director, joins me. He is Serbian. He hates spring because it is ‘too chaotic, with all that green shit coming from everywhere and all that bird noise’. Cheerful people upset him. He doesn’t like any sport where he has to buy equipment, and so he runs in jeans and no shirt. We make an odd couple. Sometimes we drink vodka in the office. Often we take 3 hour lunch breaks and go to an exhibition, which I am assured is legitimate and deserved creative time.

I have learned lots of useful Czech. My favourite phrases are ‘mate smutney zivot’ (you have a sad life), To je ne smysl (that is nonsense), laska je slepa (love is blind) and Bezel jsem pomala jako snek (I was running but I am slow like snail). By using these sentences in varying orders I have managed to convince at least one person in the office that I can speak Czech and that I am pretty goddamn funny.

Running goes well, touch wood, this weekend I ran 17km on a hangover. The only reason I stopped running was that I got hungry. I like to run by the river and around Vysehrad which is this beautiful old walled village that got swallowed up by the city at some point. I am discovering new places all the time. I also became a bit of a twicher, I like watching the birds. An old shoulder injury is playing up a little when I run. It usually goes away after a few yoga sessions though so I have to try and find time to fit that in this week. The only downside to all this running is that I have become so super fit that I am not finding the boxing classes even remotely challenging. My friends collapse gasping on the floor and I haven’t even worked up a sweat.

Aside from Czech and running induced solitude, I also had a sort of date this weekend, which is a bit of a result in this manless town. And that is actually no joke. I heard that there are 164 000 single women in this city… the population is only 1.2 million, which means that if you can even get a guy to say hello to you its cause for celebration. The number of single men in Prague is two. And they are both gay.

Anyway myself and my ‘sort of date’ got shamelessly drunk until 4am. He is about a gazillion feet tall and has a broken nose which I sort of have a thing for. I don’t know why, too much time around rugby players and boxers I suppose. Which beats the sort of date I had last week...

The man turned out to be shorter than me, stranger than me (yes it’s possible) was outrageously late and then made me pay for half of my meal, which sucked because he had ordered a really expensive bottle of wine. Needless to say I will not be seeing him again. Bashed up face I can handle, shortness and wine stingyness is intolerable and unforgivable.

Many more dates like that and I will have to consider going back to England where the men are drunk and tall. They’re pretty easy too. Slags. Ho hum.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Freek A (part 1)

I once quipped to a friend that Ethiopia was a bit like a porn movie. Hot, dirty and full of naked people. Of course there’s a little more to it than that.

Five times the size of Britain, Ethiopia boasts 20 mountains that peak over 4000 metres, it also includes the Danakil Depression, one of the lowest points on earth (120m below sea level), as well as over 277 mammal species, 862 different kinds of bird (the UK has 250) and a partridge in a pear tree.
Addis Ababa has some of the best pizza I have ever tasted.
Add to that some crazy war like tribesmen and some pretty stunning scenery and you have more reasons than not to pop over for a weekend. Except for one - It’s pretty bloody hardcore.

Here are just a few of the warnings from Lonely Planet about our route:
‘This is a tough slog’
‘Africa’s last great wilderness’
‘Before you go, know that travel here will be as tough as it is astounding’
‘You will bake, sweat and swear’
‘As captivating as it is uncomfortable’
‘Hostility between neighbouring tribes is high’
‘For masochists only’
‘Beware of tsetse flies and raiding ethnic groups’

Okay you get the picture. We turned up there with a smile, a zillion quids worth of camera equipment, a rather nice pair of gold lame pumps, a matching faux African print wrap around sarong, absolutely no research whatsoever and a guide book that was 3 years out of date. Oh and Stefan bought a few czech sausages with him in case we got peckish. And I must point out that he wore socks and sandals on several occasions but at least had the decency to apologise.

To save time we took an internal flight as far south as we could, and then took some pretty interesting bus journeys (8 hours in a steaming crowded bus with no toilet breaks) until we ran out of road.

Getting a bus goes like this - get to bus station before dawn. Gates open. Run like hell. First one on the bus wins. Screaming, shouting and threats are often made. At one point we actually hijacked a bus and got the driver to completely change his original destination by getting him more passengers.

We'd already been shoved off the first two buses and we weren't keen to get stuck in the town we were in. Then a gang tried to counter hijack the bus by offering more money to the driver, but we won and as we'd already wasted 2 hours getting the other passengers off the driver wasn't keen to do it again.

It's worth noting that the most up to date map of Addis Ababa was written 5 years ago, before they changed the name of every street in the city. So getting a working map of the rest of the country is damn near impossible. And even if you did, it wouldn't help. What looked like major highways in Lonely Planet, were actually dirt tracks and totally impassable when it rained.

For this reason getting around was slow going. Also it started to get expensive because you have to hire a 4WD with a driver as ferenje (foreigners) are not allowed to drive outside of Addis Ababa by themselves and sometimes its just not possible for a normal vehicle to navigate the roads, although they bloody well try. Interestingly they are mad keen on Ladas. Almost every taxi is one. I'm not sure if they brokered a deal with russia at some point ion their communist heritage.

So when we met an italian dude it seemed like a good idea to team up with him to share costs. We should have realised something was amiss when he hauled 20kg of suitcase on wheels out of the back of the minibus. Who the hell brings a suitcase on wheels to Africa?

Surprisingly he was very well travelled, and wowed us with tales of the prostitutes he had visited around the world. He was most upset with the Ethiopians as apparently they don't give head. And when he wasn't trying to hook up with prostitutes he was shouting at hotel staff, swearing at small children and screaming at waiters. He was most perturbed that there was no hot running water in the places we stayed, and especially that most of them didn't have mirrors in the bathroom so he couldn't preen. As you can imagine I loved him at first sight and secretly suspected for the whole trip that his suitcase contained the body of a hapless girl who had refused to do his bidding - because he wore the same goddamn clothes every day. What was in the case? Maybe a couple of extra pairs of huge oversized sunglasses.

But those were the days of luxury. The further south we went the more dingy the sleeping quarters, the more sporadic the water and electricity and the bigger the cockroaches. Cockroaches the size of hamsters I tell you. I remember in one place the toilet was a filthy squat concrete hole in the ground, splattered in excrement, the walls of which were literally a few sheets of corrugated iron leaning against a wooden post which offered no privacy whatsoever. When I walked in I heard this funny noise and switched my headlamp on only to see the wall and floors were a living seething mass of cockroaches. They were so huge that even light did not scare them. In fact they advanced. I could only thank my lucky stars that I got sick at the hotel before. Here is the best hotel we stayed at:

The scenery was stunning all the way. Everywhere you went you could see native tribesmen going about their business dressed as erm... well God intended. Fishing, herding oxen, washing in rivers. One of my favourite parts of the trip was a visit to lake Chamo which we crossed by boat and then went for a short hike. I saw hippos and zebras and crocodiles, wild flamingo.... totally amazing.

It takes so long to download these bloody photos, which is the reason I have delayed blogging. Next blog I'll cover the tribes. Here's some more wildlife for you.... including a small termite mound

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Qat got my toungue

If anyone had told me In 1986, when Live Aid was in full swing and I was doing a sponsored maggot race to propell Bob Geldof to knighthood, that twenty years later I'd be sitting in central Ethiopia complaining that the white wine was too sweet, I'd have thrown my Raleigh Bianca at your head.

But its funny how times change. The maggot racing, btw, was not a success. They kept sticking to the sellotape I'd used to make the race track, the smell of them made me want to puke, and I dropped a box of them on the floor causing grade 3 to be plagued by bluebottles for the next 4 months.

Yet another example of my creativity far exceeding my ability. Anyway I digress.

So Yemen was fantastic, mad, full of men chewing qat and brandishing Kalashnikovs. Barren brown mountains and maze like cities.

Qat is a green leaf, rather similar looking to privet leaves. You stick the soft bits in your mouth and chew slightly. Apparently it makes you high. I ate a bloody bushell of the stuff and failed to get even the mildest buzz. What a bunch of wusses. I presume its because they can't drink. There was no alcohol in yemen except at the sheraton hotel, where one bottle of crap cheap Turkish wine will set you back 90 dollars. A glass cost me 30, and it was foul. We did find a metal hut in the middle of a mountain pass where a man sold us a warm can of heiniken for 5 dollars though.

Qat I can only liken to tabacco. It has no significant benefit. People claim that it calms them down. They also claim that it helps them concentrate (the exact opposites - sound like smokers?). The reason they seem to want it is to relieve the discomfort felt by not having it. It also gives you some pretty nasty mouth cancers (although that is mainly attributed to the modern use of pesticides). Qat has been around for some 3000 years.

Yemen used to be a land rich in fruit, now all the land is used to grow Qat. Qat hibernates when conditions are not favourable and it takes just a drop of water and three days to get a harvestable crop.

Yemen is also one of the poorest countries in the world with a population of 20 million. It has the highest deathrate during childbirth. Its no wonder that people are dependent on this plant for a living, and to make life a little more bearable.

The Yemenese are really friendly. I spent many a fine afternoon drinking caj and chewing the qat with them. But honestly I got more effect off the caj. They tell me the qat in Ethiopia is much stronger. I will report back.

Anyway the internet connection here is too ropey to post pictures right now but I will when I can. I've been in Addis Ababa for one evening already. Tomorrow we are heading south to Arba Minch where I hope to see hippos and elephants and Lord knows what else.The beer here is good. The food is fekking fantastic and really spicey.

The wine, however, sucks. Its sweet, cheap and nasty and you can see the granules of sugar sticking to the side of the bottle. Even I can't drink it, and I can drink Czech wine.

I haven't had a fag since I got here. Pity my poor travelling companions who have had to bear the brunt of a wineless, smoke free maie. Another 3 weeks in Ethiopia, land of crap wine, and then to Kuwait, land of NO wine. Can't wait for that. No seriously we will go and camp in the desert and pavel has some home made stuff.

I probably won't be able to speak to any of you when I get back to Prague, I will have been arrested and escorted off the plane for being drunk and disorderly.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Creeping countries

You wouldn't think that Africa would be able to creep up on you... what with being so fucking huge and all. But creep it has. One minute I just had an email in my hand indicating that something might happen this year, the next I find I only have one working day to arrange travel insurance and buy a mosquito net.

Finally today, I believe, I shrugged off the shackles of Ogilvy. I hope I never have to set foot in the damn place again. They have kept me pretty busy this last week, working on some project which will never probably be realised. Just when it was almost finished, and the guys in suits were quite pleased with it, along came a new creative director and wanted to rip it to pieces and for me to write the whole thing over again. I smiled sweetly, gave him my usb stick, said 'enjoy, I'm outta here'. I have far more important things to concern myself with.

Take the serendipitous occurrence this weekend. After being harangued into going out because 'you haven't been out in Prague in ages Maie, lets have a large one' I found myself pretty much abandoned on a boat at 1am as everyone wimped out and slunk home to be with their respective partners. Luckily I am unfazed by such things and I merrily went about doing my impression of an epileptic camel on the dance floor. It was there I met the most extraordinary Czech/Slovak chap who, after we talked for nearly 6 hours solid, invited me to dinner. It's not often that something like that happens.

So tomorrow there is some running around to do. Then I have to start the task of packing. Tough because at least half of my bag will be filled with 'make your own beer powder' and czech hockey shirts that dear Pavel in dry old Kuwait has demanded.

Had a load of vaccinations today, feel a bit sick, but never mind, will wrap myself in a blanket and watch DVD's in readiness for the hectic day tomorrow. A friend from Budapest is supposed to be staying at my house for two days as of tonight... and I haven't heard hide nor hair of him today. hmmm.

Anyway, probably won't have much internet access in Ethiopia but will try and post when I can.