Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Karma is a bitch

Just because I was bitching about good parenting, Karma reached out and zapped my children.

We came home to discover Freaky floating belly up in the fishbowl. Not moving a gill. Tentative tapping and prodding inspired him to attempt swimming... upside down and sideways.

A quick google proved productive:
Swim Bladder- Swim or air bladder problems sometimes occur in freshwater fish.
When the bladder is effected, the fish will experience equilibrium problems.

"Symptoms:
The fish has problems swimming correctly. Check.
They may appear to be standing on their head, or floating to the surface and struggling to go down to the bottom, or possibly even have problems removing themselves from the bottom. Check.
At the later stages of the disease, the fish could lose its balance and swim upside down. Yup... check.

Treatment:
There is no specific treatment for this dilemma [Awesome]; however, you can try isolating the fish to a quarantine tank in shallow water (this provides relief for the fish). Add one teaspoon of salt per gallon of water. Some individuals will feed thawed out frozen peas and this purges the fish's system and has been noted to help many fish."

Why am I sharing all of this information? Because after my rant about pampering to children's needs, I now find myself defrosting (and SHELLING) bloody frozen peas for my pet fish. Giving my goldfish the golden diet. The five-star treatment. Oh, and it's also quarantined in medicated water. I also - shock, horror - find myself negotiating, begging, pleading with the friggin' thing... "Come on Freaky... that's it. Bum topside... come on... you can do it. Nooooo, keep pumping those gills... don't die on me!"

I still maintain its being a hypochondriac, but Mills was pretty concerned about it so for peace I shall pander to its every need.

Next time, we're starting with plastic plants.

Monday, July 30, 2007

For godsake

I don't have children. There are two reasons for this... 1) I do not live in a house with suitable dungeon facilities 2) I would more likely eat any offspring than nurture them to maturity (to quote a friend).

Maternal, I am not. As I've mentioned before, I don't squeal when I see baby clothes. In fact (I was thinking about this during the umpteenth baby shower that I've had to attend in the last few weeks at work), I think my reaction is closer to that of a homophobic straight man stuck in the middle of a gay pride celebration.

...Get me out, get me out, get me out... just nod and smile, nod and smile... get me out, get me out...

So I will be the first to admit that I know very little about parenting. This is by choice. I block out conversations that involve pooping, puking, baby food and diapers (unless we're reminiscing about some of the more revolting stories to come out of varsity days).

But I do know one thing for sure... this woman is wrong.

I don't have children, but last time I checked, they're not likely to understand Machiavellian social mores debate...

"No Tristan, Mommy said you can't have the nice lady's hand bag."
"Why?"
"Because you're still counting your age in months and the bag belongs to her."
"Why."
"First, allow me to validate your feelings... I know you like the bag. But the way society works is that she paid for the bag, the bag is therefore hers. We need to look at this from a pragmatic point of view, sweetie..."

Or, alternatively, a swift smack to the back of the hands to get the message across that pawing other people's possessions is not cool.

Scenario Two:

Unrestrained toddler sets off at pace towards busy intersection. Old-school parent grabs child's hand, smacks child on diapered bum, enforcing the instruction that road + cars = danger.

Unrestrained toddler sets off at pace towards busy intersection. New-age parent trots along next to child, expressing their heart-felt reasons for why child should not set foot on the road, but at the same time reinforcing their support in any decision that the child chooses to take. Three-year-old meets eighteen-wheeler truck = messy.

But hey, what do I know.... the only children I choose to care for are two fat goldfish. I would smack them for swimming in their own poo, but I don't like the way they wriggle when I catch them.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Blogger's Block

As I was cycling home this afternoon, I pondered about what to put on my blog for tomorrow. Blogger's block. I've got nothing.

I could blog about my quarterlife crisis of receiving far too many invites to weddings/hen parties/baby showers. Boring.
I could blog about the ongoing domestic Mills and I have regarding laundry. Yawn.
Of course, there's always global warming...

While I was contemplating my complete lack of ranting material, it started to rain. Again, yawn. The Dutchies show no sign of discomfort in drizzle. Only foreigners make a dash to shelter. I cycled on.

It rained a little harder. Big deal. It's Sunday, I'm okay with looking shit.
As if determined to destroy my complacency, it rained harder.

At this stage I was about 2km from home and in an open patch of road - no shelter in sight. I cycled on as my jeans, jacket, scarf and bag got drenched. (Please try not to dwell on the fact that I was wearing a scarf in summer. Awesome weather - for penguins maybe) I was now completely wet. Not standing-next-to-a-puddle-and-getting-splashed-wet, but picked-up-and-thrown-headfirst-into-the-pool-complete-with-handbag, cellphone and sunglasses-squeezing-water-out-of-your-shoes...wet.

I cycled on - largely because I knew it wasn't possible to get any more saturated, but also because I didn't have an option of going indoors. "Um, excuse me... do you mind if I stand here and drip on your greeting cards until the weather clears? Dank je wel."

Previous experience had taught me that if I stopped and dismounted, the saddle would get wet - which would result in an uncomfortable, chaffing ride when I got back on. (Now there's a sentence I certainly didn't think I would be typing. Ever). At that stage my ass was the last remaining battalion in the war against demin soddenness. I clung onto my dry spot and kept peddling.

It will come as no surprise to learn that by the time I reached my door, it had stopped raining. Completely.

The moral of the story?

If I was REALLY Dutch I would've had a paraplu (brolly) on me and I would've cycled, unperturbed, holding the umbrella in one hand - with my other hand in my pocket, whistling casually.






Oh look at that... I found something to type about after all.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ignoramuses? Ignorami? Idioots.

I like talking. Hah - how redundant is that statement? Not only that, I like talking with big words. Long, polysyllabic words. Supercilious, lugubrious, gargantuan... I love them.

At work we are split up into teams. I'm in a team with two twits - a British guy and a Scot. Lovely fellows. Not big on extensive vocab though. They think I'm taking the piss when I say things like 'telephonic' and 'conglomerate'.

They try to convince me that these words don't exist. Telephonic, I can borderline accept. Most people would just say 'telephone', even if the context is wrong. Fine. But conglomerate? Seriously... native English-speaking (with degrees in BUSINESS) men, and they don't know what a conglomerate is?

Call me condescending, but the idea is simply asinine. They've been speaking the language for the last 25 years. Get a dictionary already. Sorry, was that word too long? Dic-tion-ary.

Omigod, don't even get me started on words they do understand... Dic... I said dic. How funny is that? Nuts. Balls. Cock... tail.

It's like working with Beavis and Butthead. Reference to anything with a vague genitalia connotation is met with snorts and guffaws. Fortunately, I also vocalise quite clearly in shorter, four-letter words. So we can communicate... All I have to do is lobotomise my vocabulary and say things like, "penis".

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wait for November..

Got up this morning, laughed at the first-world mud island struggling with third-world disasters of flood and drought at the same time, got dressed, did my hair (sort of) and left for work.

Stepped out of front door to discover it was drizzling. So what else is new?

Got 50m down the road to bus stop, just as it started raining properly. But it's still good. I'm no sugar lump, I won't melt. And I didn't waste too much time on my hair, so I didn't really care about the ringlets and tendrils framing my forehead.

10minutes later, got to Central Station, learnt that the next tram would only be arriving in 15 minutes. Okay, that's a bit off-pissing.

By then, the wind had picked up to 30mph and was driving the rain (and a few unlucky brollies) horizontally past me. I had also decided to wear a skirt, because it actually wasn't that cold. Just wet and now... fucking windy.

By that stage, my hair had gone past mild tendrils to fully-certified gorgon status. Medusa's snakes lashed from my head, snapping acrimoniously at fellow commuters. Struggling to stay on one spot (eventually wedging myself against the tram shelter), I watched people trying to cycle in a straight line.

Crammed on to the tram, tried to pull my head-snakes back into something vaguely resembling a hairstyle, buffetted my way into the office looking flustered to say the least - and was greeted by a smiling co-worker... "You think this is bad? Wait for November!"

Awesome.

And in other news,

Someone promised free drinks if I linked this to my blog. Go on, take a look-see.
Fortunately, she didn't put a time frame on the free-drinks offer.... I prefer jagerbombs to tequila. Cheers, dahling!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Dutchiness

Sticking to our Dutch integration game plan, Mills and I decided to visit the Gemeente Museum this weekend. Gemeente = municipal (basically).

The first exhibition (outside the museum ticketing office) is an interesting skeleton of a large whale, which washed up on Dutch shores about half a century ago. The 12m carcasse got our attention and we decided to see what else the local authorities had to offer in terms of historical education.

Big mistake.
Huge.

Eight euros later, we found ourselves wandering randomly in and out of art exhibitions such as: "Vases with spouts: Three centuries of Splendour" and "Consummate Chrome and avant-garde furniture".

We strolled through the exhibitions in disbelief, gawking at rusty wire-framed office furniture from the 70s. Seriously? THIS is cause to be proud? Because my family has a garage full of it back in Pretoria... we could ship it over for you, at a cost of course.

Then there was the talented exhibition of a local textile artist. Yes, this woman created art out of zippers and knitting. I got told off for standing too close to an exhibit.

Forgive me, but anything with press studs is just asking to be pulled apart.

The best thing is that the locals love it. They admire the works. They exhale with adoration. They soak it up. I guess it might be worth it if you've actually grew up in the country, but through the eyes of expats... um, no.

Aside from wasting our money on useless museums (eight euros... to look at furniture that I used to clamber over in my grandmother's backyard), Mills and I have been perfecting the art of cycling on one bike. Of course, when I say 'we' and 'cycling', I mean Mills cycling and me sitting like a princess.

I've finally learnt the balance, and Mills is much better at not swerving across the road every time I hop on board. Sitting sidesaddle on the back of the bike is like being a baby on the back of an African mama. My vision is completely one directional. Which is why it came as a rude surprise when I lost my knee cap to a sneaky pole on the way home on Saturday night.

Merrily chatting away, Mills forgot about the matching set of patellas jutting out behind him and took the corner a little too tightly (for my comfort anyway). I literally had no idea what hit me, just that my leg felt like it was now 3m behind the rest of my body.

Eina.

Not that it's going to stop me sitting on the back of the bike... As far as I'm concerned, if somebody else is prepared to ship me around, I'm prepared to take the knocks. I've got another knee. It's all good.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Vervoer

I'm going to start getting superstitious about catching the bus all the way to work. The other day, I decided to go by bus and got stuck behind yet another cyclist who had been knocked down. It was also on a bridge which left no option for getting off the bus. It seems that every time I decide to catch the bus to work, a cyclist gets taken on en route. Does anyone else remember the Friends episode where Phoebe refuses to go to the dentist because she's afraid of killing someone...?

Anyway. Public transport. Or as I've come to know it now... 'vervoer'.

Earlier this week I was running to catch the tram. I don't know why I was running, because I know there'll be another tram in three or four minutes. But I missed that tram by seconds, because as I was running, my bag flew off my shoulder and I lost one shoe.

It really is quite ridiculous. Commuting reduces adults to childhood. I've seen very elegantly dressed business women kick at bus doors when the vehicle pulled off before they could get on. People take off across train stations to catch their transport on time. People shove and eye ball each other suspiciously, afraid that someone else might get on the train/bus/tram before them.

I know, because I'm one of them.

Still, the all-time favourite must be the day I got my head stuck between the turnstyle gates in London. While swiping through, I dropped my oyster card. Trying to save time (and terrified to lose my place in the cattle queue), I whipped around and tried to catch it before the gates closed.

Too late. The gates slammed shut on my temples. Fortunately, they don't close when they're obstructed, but they do bounce nicely. A few times.

At least public transport is never dull. Not for me anyway.
Of course, I could always take a bike to work...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Reflection

It's stupid, but I carry a Harry Potter card around in my wallet - the hologram gimmick is one of my most sentimental possessions.

You see, one of my friends used to own that card. Christened The Real Slim Shady after a bad peroxiding, he claimed that the card held his magic mojo and he insisted on carrying it on him when he went out. If he came right, it was thanks to Harry Potter magic. It must have worked because even I fell prey to the Potter magic for a spell.

Slim was in digs with Mills, Corporate Whore and The Tarka Kid. I adored the whole lot.

After he had packed up and shipped out of Grahamstown for the last time, I happened to wander into Slim's empty room. There was one thing lying on the floor... the Harry Potter card. I picked it up and pocketed it, with the intention of rehashing old times and mocking him about it when we next met up.

As it was, I forgot about it too. Varsity finished and friends flitted all over the world. Some people stayed in touch, others floated away. Slim was one of the ones that stayed in touch. We were both in Joburg while our long-distance partners were in Grahamstown and Cape Town, so we became a pairing of convenience. He would accompany me to work functions and I got to chill on fishing weekends at Dullstroom - provided I dropped the guys off at the dams with a cooler of beer and picked them up again at the end of the day. (I was banned from fishing after hooking my own shorts and knotting 'unknottable' reels.)

We were the backup plan - IF we grew old, ugly, single and lonely, we would keep each other company.

Then, three years ago, The Real Slim died in a plane crash. It goes without saying that I was shattered. So were a lot of other people. Slim was an dork - a loveable geek with no calf muscles who couldn't keep his eyes open when he was drunk. Everyone adored him - even when he was being an idiot.

A few months later, packing up to go move to London, I found the Harry Potter card tucked away in between my Rhodes memories. That card has gone everywhere with me since then. It's been to London, around Europe, to SA and back to Europe. It even recently found it's way to Croatia. It's stupid and sentimental and maybe one day I'll let it go.

Maybe. One day.
But not yet.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Gay Pareeee


On a group excursion to celebrate Jimbo's birthday, we set off for Paris at 6am on the dot. We got lost twenty minutes later.
The trip from Amsterdam through Belgium and down to Paris should take 5 hours. This is only if you actually know where you're going in the first place and only if you don't decide to drive through Paris on Bastille Day... Turns out that the storming of the Bastille and the whole French Revolution was kind of a big thing to the Parisians.

Mills and I were also travelling with the most conscientious of drivers. If the speed limit was 110km/h, he was doing 108km/h. True, safe driving is good driving but kind of frustrating when you're supposed to be travelling in convoy and the others aren't interested in slowing down. When it came to changing lanes, he was also very conscientious about checking his blind spots and then swerving as fast as possible into the next lane. Sitting in the backseat I was being flung around like a ragdoll on a rollercoaster ride. My seatbelt was responding accordingly and kept choking me with each jerky movement.

Trying to get through Paris on Bastille Day is like trying to cut through Joburg on the 94.7 cycle race. On the upside, we managed to drive past the Charles de Gaulle, Moulin Rouge, the Louvre, the zoo AND Gare d'Austerlitz. For those not familiar with Paris (I wasn't until we drove it for a few hours): that's like driving from Joburg-International-O.R.-Thambo airport via Joburg Zoo, Gold Reef City, Monte Casino and Newtown, just to get to Sandton City (Except for with more people and parades filling the streets).


We would miss a turn and then find ourselves stuck in one way traffic with no option but to keep going straight for kilometres on end. Eventually the other two cars in our convoy (who had reached Paris a good forty minutes ahead of us) gave up on trying to cut through Paris and simply parked where they could find parking and walked the rest of the way to our hotel. We didn't have this option as we found ourselves in yet another string of one-way traffic, with no choice but to follow the road into an underground tunnel. We had no idea where we were going to pop out.

... surfacing like blind mole rats, the slowest car in the group suddenly popped out on the south side of the Seine, in the Latin quarter, about 2km from our hotel. And... oh look! Underground parking, practically under our hotel. How nice.

In a reconstruction of the tortoise and the hare, we checked into our rooms, unpacked, freshened up and found a good spot on a terrace where we could point and laugh at the rest of our sweaty companions as they arrived.



We spent the rest of the day arbly ambling around the city, stopping to take pictures and sample some wine. We established that the main Bastille Day celebration is a spectacular firework display along the river Seine, in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower. Not having a clue where the fireworks were actually launched from, we made our way to the river and managed to find the worst place to watch - but we did get to hear a lot of explosions. I'm sure it looked lovely to people who could see through the trees and buildings.



It was a long way to drive for one night, but so worth it - even if we couldn't see the fireworks too well. After a good Bastille Day party, we got off to a slow start on Sunday and did more of the same arb ambling.


5pm rolled around and we headed back to our car (handily parked undercover, while the others made the trek, praying that their illegally parked vehicles would still be in one piece) and Mills and I began our speed-conscious journey home - complete with boa constrictor seatbelt - to the tunes of the Greatest Hits of Bollywood. Awesome.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The life of a neurotic spastic

I hate things touching my ears. Grillerig just thinking about it. Hate the sound that anything makes when it comes near or touches my outer ear. I can't wear ear plugs; I could never let a doctor put the probey-light thingie in my ear during medicals. I also do not find getting my hair washed at the hairdressers relaxing... ESPECIALLY when they fish the shampoo foam out with their fingers, or spray the water directly into my ear. My toes curl up as I try not to cry or scream out loud. I don't like it, but my mother finds it amusing to watch.

There is a point to this introduction.

Now let me set the scene. Today I wore my new black schoenen. Beautiful - and not bought from the dodgy stalker salesman. They're the first heels that I've invested in this year. I smaak 'em stukkend. Because I was wearing my new pretty shoes, I had also made an effort for work today. I looked hot.

On top of that, I had been presented with a bottle of champagne for a successful first month at work and making a placement within that first month.

Right.

So I was waiting at the bus stop, looking hot, clutching my bottle of champagne with pride, when suddenly... "bbbbzzzzzzzzbbb".

A flying ant had found its way into my earhole. Much squealing, flapping and flailing of arms (which involved gently smacking the champagne bottle on the bus stop), I managed to hook the offending insect out. I get a twitch just thinking about it now.

Urgh, yuck, gross. Then I noticed ALL the flying ants around me - and a few more in my hair. Once something finds its way into my hair, its generally chosen its method of death. Nothing finds its way out my hair. Seriously. I've lost office stationery in there. Which means that getting the crawling critters out of my hair was not easy. Shaking and flicking the head only further entraps them.

So now picture it - me, on the verge of tears and wanting to puke, whimpering like a hungry puppy and twitching like a spastic. So much for looking hot, neh?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bij winkelen

Today I was all set to blog about paella. Yes, rice and seafood. But then I went shopping.

Every other day of the week shops close at 6pm or earlier. Thursday nights are shopping nights in the Netherlands.

My first horror was trying on a pair of pants and realising that I had to get a bigger size. I couldn't even get the first size over my ass. This is not a situation that any girl wants to find herself in. And it's a situation that happens far too often. Fatassalitis: defn. The swelling of the tush.

On to the (second) shoe store. These are the shoes that I've been eyeing out since my arrival in February. They are imported from Paris. They are soft, they are stylish, they are beautiful. I've tried them on, I've sized them and budgeted. But I did this all months ago. Now I've finally got the paycheck to make my planning worth while.

I walked into the high street shop and smiled at the attendent. He returned the smile and said something to me in Dutch. I gave him my practised speech:

"Ik ben Zuid Afrikaanse, dus moet je langzamer spreken alstublieft..."

"I know that," the 40-year-old Indian salesman replied.

This stumped me. I switched to English in shock.

"Um, I'm sorry... you already know that I'm South African?"

Yes, he remembered me from all those months ago and recognised my accent. Um, okay. I don't remember him. Weird, but okay.

So, how was I enjoying The Hague? Am I working now? General friendly salesman chatting...

Him: So where about do you live?
Me: Um.. The Hague... area... ish.
Him: And did you move here with your children?
Me: Haha... No, no children. Shoes... let's talk shoes! Can I please try these in a size 37?
[Salesman disappears to find my shoes. Another couple walks into the shop. I pray to allah that I've finished with my freak conversation for the day]

Him: Here you go. Having no children makes it so much easier.
Me: Um, yes. No children makes it easier to move countries.
Him: And it makes it easier to ask someone out.

Oh jesus.

Him: Because then you know they won't need to organise a babysitter.
Me: Hah. Um. Ah. Ik ben samenwonen. I'm living with my boyfriend.
Him: Pity. Is it serious?
Me: Well, I moved countries for him so I'm sticking with that decision. I'm pretty committed. Thanks for asking.
Him: Because I've seen you walking past here a few times and I've always thought how peaceful and calm you looked.
Me: Okay, well... thanks. Stalker. I'll have to think about those shoes... and about ever walking down this street again. Totziens!

I left that shop at a canter.

Pity, I really do like those shoes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Trstenik back to Split

...Part 3 the Final Installment.

After walking the streets of Dubrovnik in search of an elusive Samsung battery charger part, Mills and I eventually concluded that the salesman had lied to us. Samsung is NOT widely available globally. Every camera shop had Olympus, Sony and Canon. Of course, we would’ve made our lives so much easier by not misplacing the actual battery part in the first place – but that’s another story entirely.

The camera went flat and I was forced to either commit each place to memory (which meant I was actually paying attention instead of snapping away like a happy Jappy), or I stole other people’s cameras… some may be in for a surprise when they view their pics.

It was also around this time of the week that the Pirates of the Adriatic started to come into play… slowly but surely we were ‘procuring’ more lilos from the surrounding boats each night. Whether or not this had anything to do with the fact that our boat had the largest number of Africans on it is not up for discussion. Stopping at every new spot to swim, we’d happily wave at our fellow travellers while they stood on their boats, hands on hips, trying to figure out whether they had a legal standing on international waters.

Our next stop after Dubrovnik was Trstenik. This was another remote island with a grand total of 3 restaurants playing host to our armada of boats. This was also the island where I had my first taste of lobster. First I got to see the poor critter flailing its feelers like an orchestra conductor as the restaurateur prodded it to prove just how fresh it was… but we didn’t let that put us off.

Goddamn, that is some good pink flesh. I only got half a mouthful because technically it was Corporate Whore’s meal and technically he was paying a bucketload for it. And technically, I wouldn’t have shared either.

The next day, our captain pulled over for yet another splash around in the tranquil waters. While lowering the ladder (a vital part of my swimming process), he managed to drop it into the ocean. Whoops.

Despite Always assuring us a few days earlier that he couldn’t swim (he refused to swim each time we stopped), he was quick to dive in after the fast-sinking ladder – but to no avail. Much to our amusement, even the captain had to take a dip in an attempt to retrieve the heavy ladder. A few hours – and a few ingenuity awards – later, we had our ladder back and I was able to delicately place my tush in the middle of a floating tube for yet another granny paddle.

Korcula:

More old buildings, more cocktails in the sun, more good seafood. It was indeed a tough holiday. Our waiter for the evening fancied himself as a bit of a David Copperfield. This resulted in Koekie number 2 getting her hand slammed into a pile of squishy butter and me being left sitting with a glass of wine balancing on top of my hands and a teaspoon in my mouth.

Hvar:

As you might have noticed, each island is getting less and less said about it… the memories are fading already! Hvar was the place of pizza, more cocktails, getting lost in the dark on a dingy forest trail and waiting in an empty club until 2am.

It was also the island where I bumped into an old Rhodes mate. We really are all over the place. He’s living in London, has quit his job and is now travelling through Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro for the next month and a half. Of all the 926 islands off Croatia, he found the group of Rhodents sailing the Dalmatian coast. Bizarre.

Our second last night was the night of retaliation. At 6am, I was woken to hear a bunch of loud Australian baboons clambering all over our boat. The sheep-lovers had launched a surprise attack and stolen all our lilos. Every last one – including the arm bands and Eel boy’s waterpolo ball. They left us with no floatation devices. How was I supposed to swim in those conditions??

We tried to swap our only two Australians on the boat in return for some of the lilos, but the bandits weren’t interested. And they could outrun us, because we were the chugboat of the group. Damn convicts.

Back to Split and Diocletian’s Palace to celebrate the Munchkin’s 21st (she turned 21 on the 7th of the 7th 2007. 7x7x7 = 21. Get it?) Our evening of cocktails ended at an unenthusiastic Christian concert. We think.

To sum it up:

Sun
Swimming
Shopping
Speedos and nudity (viewing, not doing)
Cocktails
Seafood
Good company

Good holiday.


Appendix:

Pic1: random Croatian flag
Pic2: Trstenik by moonlight
Pic3: Lobster - after squealing and before being devoured
Pic4: Korcula
Pic5: Hvar at sunset
Pic6: One of the many swan dives

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Makarska to Dubrovnik

Croatia... Part 2:






It’s already becoming a bit of a blur.

Our first night was spent in the coastal town of Makarska. The girls in the group headed straight for the markets (this was to become a trend in our stay), and the boys trawled behind reluctantly.

I opted for a large plate of mussels, which I ploughed through with relish… until one of our fellow travellers stopped past our table to point out that she had also had mussels and did mine look okay, because hers didn’t – but she ate them anyway. Dodgy mussels are not something to mess around with – as Lizzie was soon to learn. Seasickness, food poisoning and a hangover are not fun.

After tasting some of the local drinks of choice (couldn’t tell you the name, but when in Croatia just ask for the Petrol mixed with Diesel Fumes), we hit the local diksco – The Cave Bar. Situated in a cave (duh), this bar/dance floor is literally a hole cut into the Adriatic coastline. Quite a surreal experience dancing to old-time remixed classics, being watched by curious fish below. Hmmm, were we watching the fish or were they watching us?

Another surreal experience was watching Michael Flatley the Older take to the dance floor. Seventy in the shade, complete with open-collared shirt and gold chain, this dude was showing no signs of hip replacements. In fact, he showed no signs of knee joints. Bouncing all over the place, he was flicking his legs out in elaborate dance moves that left Corporate Whore looking like bewildered three-year-old at the circus.
Back to the boat. At 7am we were woken up by the choking fumes of petrol as the boat set ‘sail’ through the Peljesac Penisula and on to the isolated island of Mljet.

More stopping to swim in beautiful turquoise waters. When I say ‘swim’, I of course mean, ‘paddling around on a floating tube/crocodile/shark-shaped lilo’. Of course.

I made the mistake of trying to swim to a sand bank with the other more ambitious swimmers only once. On the way back, swimming against the current, without my trusty floatation aid and with a thunderstorm threatening over head, I decided to face facts: Water baby, I am not.
While others were jumping off the top of the boat, I was delicately lowering my tush off the ladder hanging from the boat, directly into or onto a floatation device. I would then kick my legs and splash my hands a little bit, maybe put my head under the water once. Consider me, swum. I stuck to documenting the shark-bait frolicking in the water.

Mljet:

Hot. The weather, not necessarily us. Seeing as we were now anchored in a bay, where I could see and possibly touch the bottom, even I was enticed into the water. “Hey, guys… you can stand here!” I shouted with enthusiasm as I put my foot down on what I thought was a rock. Crunch. It turned out to be a spiky sea urchin.

Closer investigation showed that most of the wall and floor was dotted with these critters… which helped to explain the allocated swimming area (which we were not swimming in, of course). They itch and there’s nothing you can do about it, other than wait for the broken spikes to work their way out of your body. Bastards.

On to Dubrovnik:

More heat. Goddamn, it was hot. I spent a large part of our time on the boat trying to find any available piece of shade (while at the same time avoiding the cramped and increasingly smelly cabins below deck). When shade wasn’t to be found, I created a sarong tee-pee, occasionally popping my head out to look at yet another remote island floating in yet more beautiful ocean.

On land, the old city of Dubrovnik is exquisite. It turns out that the city used to be made up of a coastal town of Croats and an island of Greeks, separated by a narrow sea strait. Over time, the strait gathered more and more silt, until eventually the locals filled it in, paved it over and built a wall around the whole lot – combining the two groups and resulting in the widest street within the city.

Dubrovnik was the city that introduced me to Cuttlefish Risotto. On a whim and out of curiosity, I decided to try this foreign dish – and was served a plate that looked like it had been fished directly out of an oil slick.

It turns out that Cuttlefish risotto, or Black Squid risotto, is so called because one of the main ingredients is the squid’s ink. You know that black cloud of gunge you see spurting out of the startled octopus on National Geographic documentaries? Yup. That.

It was surprisingly good, once I got over the fact that my gums, teeth, tongue and internal organs were being washed in midnight black dye. (Incidentally, what goes in black also exits black…)

Stopping for nothing but ice cream, picture opportunities and sea food, we eventually found our way back to the boat and crashed into bed sun-drained and exhausted.

Still to come: Trstenik, Korcula, Hvar and Split.



Appendix:
Pic1: Eel/Monkey Boy chilling on the boat in Mljet
Pic2: Sunset on Makarska
Pic3: The Cave Bar Diksco
Pic4: One of the many islands that I didn't swim to..
Pic5: Sea urchins. Spiky.
Pic6: Dubrovnik - Croats to the left; Greeks to the right
Pic7: Dubrovnik wall

Monday, July 09, 2007

Croatia... Part 1


It’s going to be a long one.

After queuing in queues that should only be found on the subcontinent, we arrived safely in Vienna where our connecting was delayed. A few hours later we popped over the Koziak mountains and were greeted by the turquoise waters of the Adriatic in front of Split. Bee-yatch-iful.

Desperate to lose the jeans and jackets, we searched for our hostel (booked a month earlier in preparation for our one dry night on land before boarding). We were greeted by a very friendly, but completely surprised, manager who informed me that he had no such booking for 6 people for the night. Indignantly, I slapped my printed email confirmation on the table between us. With patience and politeness, he pointed out that I had booked for 29 July, not 29 June.

Oh.

Um.

Well, then.

I pictured how kindly my friends would take to sleeping on the beach, or a bench, for a night.

Fortunately, Martin (everyone in Croatia seems to be called Martin or something similar) was the most patient man and within minutes of telephonic negotiation with other hostels, we were on our way up yet another steep hill to find our impromptu accommodation for the night. This turned out to be a privately owned flat, which was rented out to desperate tourists. Literally, the place still had washing in the machine and leftovers in the fridge. Our costs were 30 Croatian kuna more than first anticipated, but what’s an extra €4,25 in the big scheme of things?

That sorted, Mills and I decided to expose our pasty white skin and had our first dip in the Adriatic. We noticed that most people were playing ball games in the water – and soon realised why. Swimming in swells gets pretty boring after a while. If there aren’t waves, you’ve got to bring your own entertainment to the sea.

By evening we had been joined by the rest of our group and had a couple of drinks while strolling around the retirement home of Diocletian. Built just 17 centuries ago, Diocletian’s Palace was initially meant to be a home for the then-abdicating Roman emperor of the day. The architecture varies from Roman ruins, to medieval, to modern. The overall affect was something similar to Monte Casino. We had to remind ourselves that the washing hanging out of the windows was actually someone’s laundry – not just a backdrop against a painted ceiling of clouds and stars. People live in these buildings.

The next morning I was up early to hit the markets lining the streets against the walls of the palace. By 9am, I had invested in a new pair of slops, a sun dress, a sarong and a few packets of fruit. Bargain, bargain… Cheap, cheap. It was hard to tear away and remind myself that I would be in the country for another week. I would advise going to Croatia just for the shopping… forget the coastline.

That day we boarded the boat Mihovil – our home for the next 6 nights. Our crew consisted of ‘El Capitan’ Martin, ‘Always’ Martin (waiter/overall crewmember), ‘The captain’s son’ (we never did get his name), ‘Chef’ (who also shall remain nameless) and ten-year-old Carlo (also captain’s son – otherwise known as The Eel and/or Monkey Boy).

We were introduced to our respective bunks, quickly decided that we would be spending as little time as possible below deck, and we set sail into very choppy waters. Sitting in front of the captain’s bridge we clung to the railing and stumbled around the deck trying to find our sealegs, no doubt giving the captain endless entertainment.

Ours was one of several boats cruising the same route from Split to Dubrovnik and back. Setting out in a modern day armada we soon realised that we were on the chugboat of the lot as other boats drew level with us and cruised past with ease. Not that we were in a rush to get anywhere, of course. But the other boats contained Kiwis and Aussies, and lord knows we hate losing to them. At anything.

Our waiter, Martin, became a favourite with his catch phrase…

Martin, can I have another bottle of water?
“Always…”
Hey Martin, we need another four pints of O┼żujsko!
“Always!”
Um, Always… we appear to have run out of loo paper in the toilet…
“Always.”

I also established that I was (yet again) one of many ‘Koekies’. This time there were two South African Koekies and two Kiwi Koekies on our boat. I cursed my parents again for their lack of originality and swore to name my children Pontius the Third and Bikinibottom.

Sticking with the topic of bottoms… we were about to get more than our fair share of nudity and topless bathing, as well as a lot of speedos. Banana-hammocks aplenty, especially in the 40-years-and-older category. Not just a plain speedo, but bright orange, tiger-print pieces, proudly putting their pinky-sized cocktail wieners on display. So unnecessary. But there is just too much to write in one post. Well, too much to be read. Still to come: Markaska; Mljet; Dubrovnik; Trstenik; Korcula and Hvar. Stay tuned folks.





Appendix:


Pic1 - Diocletian Palace by day, from the market looking in


Pic2 - Diocletian Palace by night


Pic3 - Always and Chef pushing off from Split

Pic4 - Leaving Split

Pic5 - Poenani


Pic6 - The local Borat