Monday, February 3, 2014

First Lesson of Brno....

For future reference, yes, buses return to their station of origination.....eventually.

Today started slightly later than I normally wake (7am) followed by a breakfast of granola and yogurt and coffee.  Benedikt went with me to the train station to see me off (much appreciated!).  The two-hour train ride was nice, although the post-Solviet cityscapes had an "industrial expressionist" charm to them; I can now see why people listen to dub step and industrial metal artists (not really, I actually thought some of these places looked like crap).

On the train I had an extended conversation with a very friendly woman who was preoccupied with her work for the first 20 minutes of the trip.  She remained very quiet at first, but took a lunch break and asked me where I was from.  I am glad she did ask because it was a very interesting conversation.  Her name was Octavia and she was born in East Germany during the cold war (duh, I guess East Germany didn't exist after the cold war).  She managed to get out of GDR after the wall fell and moved West to find a job.  At first no-one would employ her as they suspected she was a spy, but managed to work as a housekeeper and saved up to start her own business, which she ran for 15 years.  She then left her own company to work for a minting firm based in Idaho.  It was fun to listen to her comparisons of Idaho and Vienna: biking impractical, no one in Idaho knows the geography of Europe.  A more interesting piece is how she spoke of how so many in the USA live sheltered lives and don't realize how their social support structures allow them to live in such relative luxury.  Indeed, I could identify; I would not have the same opportunities to work this internship, attend college, and even drive my car had it not been for the support of my family and friends who were willing to provide assistance.  From there the conversation went to the merits of welfare (lets not get too deep into that, this blog isn't about politics).  Another wonderful observation she provided was how so many in the USA own businesses; this was due to their "pioneer" spirit.  At the Brno stop we said goodbye and how we both enjoyed each others perspectives (she continued to Berlin).

Exit...exit...where was the exit.  Oh, go down then up, then up again.  Makes sense right?  Hired a cab to take me to the Masaryk University dorms.  I showed the address I printed out to the driver and pointed to it on the map.  The driver looked like Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs and had an absence of facial expression, much like I read about what to expect.  Still, in my mind he could have shot 6 people this morning and still have gone to the cafe to get a coffee before our paths crossed.  He apparently had never driven anyone there but managed to find it with only one wrong turn near the end.  150czk for a couple miles =$7.43usd.  Not a bad price compared to places like San Diego.  I shook his hand.  I don't know why, I just did.  He didn't know why either but shook back.

Here's my room.  Not exactly the lap of luxury,
but it will do fine.
Then I met Mr. Fogada.  More like Fogada.....uh.....I've got nothing.  He was a very nice person, and thorough.  He showed me all the rooms and made sure I knew how to close the doors tightly, had me fill out my contact information, and gave me the keys to my room.  He is drawing up a contract for me to sign and pay the first months rent this week.  Mr. Fogoda even helped me find a bus to the lawyers office and printed instructions without even me asking for them.  Which brings me to the bus system.....

Living in Kansas most of my life I have only once rode the bus.  This was as a Boy Scout to earn a badge when I was in 4th grade.  Since then I avoid buses as there is no need for them in Wichita.  This means that my only real knowledge about buses were that they stopped at places and cost money.  Where does the bus go after I get off the stop?  How do I know which direction they are going?  I managed to get to he lawyers office just fine on the #84 bus, only a 15 minute ride, nice.  Returning however was more problematic.  I got back onto the #84 bus without thinking and only after sitting down and looking at the GPS did I realize that it was probably going to encircle the city.  There was an equal chance (in my mind) of it turning around and following the same route between the lawyers office and the bus transfer station.....I was naive.  Each stop I looked at the map on my phone and thought "oh, it'll take the next right and go back."  Nope.  On the bright side I saw a great deal of Brno and now I know.  I'll get better as I go.

Open faced cold cut sandwiches and, no not
 Bud.  Its Budvar Budweiser.
At the Lawyers office, I was convinced to let the lawyers take my passport to Bratislava for me.  The convincing factor was that they gave me a document saying that someone has my passport in case I'm stopped.  I also had to go get more passport photos taken as, apparently the lawyer did not ask for enough 2 months ago.  His assistant for immigration cases was a very friendly young woman named Zuzana.  She took me to get the photos at a grocery store a short walk away.  While waiting for the photo processing, she agreed to help me shop for some needed groceries.  Most of the packaged products were labeled in English and Czech, however it was nice when I ordered some cold cuts and cheese.  Very good bread also.  I will have to learn how to order these items in Czech, although I do know they speak in terms of fractions of a kilogram as opposed to grams.

That's all for now.  Tomorrow I am going to stop by Honeywell and maybe see downtown Brno (if I can figure out how to get there.  I will also need to find a SIM card and a bank.

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