Red wine and whiskey

Livijus took me out yesterday afternoon to see this awesome little wine bar, although it’s more like a cozy, quaint little attic above someone’s apartment. There were couches and candles and curtains and knick knacks scattered around everywhere on creaky wooden floors with old varnished furniture dotted around the place. Fantastic. Of course, there was already a stuffed kangaroo mounted on the mantle piece, but that’s hardly surprising.

We chugged through some tasty Chilean merlot, a few crackers and a handful of olives. I haven’t had red wine for a while, so it was nice to experience the warm feeling of mirth that seeps in the more you drink. Two bottles of it meant we were ready to cuddle anything.

Nearly two hours after we arrived it was announced that there would be some Estonian actor doing an intimate one man show with the audience. Basically he was telling stories, or something. I couldn’t understand a word of it and it lasted for nearly three hours. Needless to say, I took two naps in my chair. I have to thank the wine for that ability.

We finally escaped the building when the actor had finished his performance and had made a bee-line for the three girls that had been watching his show in order to talk to them. I followed Livijus outside the old town to the Traveller’s Pub. A really nice, traditional style pub with that right kind of vibe about it that makes me want to sit there all day. Unfortunately it’s in a crap spot for travellers, so it’s mostly Estonians in there. After a double whiskey, an interesting salad and a lot of yakking, we headed back through Viru Keskus and the Sokos hotel lobby (the doors to get outside of Viru Keskus were locked) and met up with John and Ewan in Nimeta for a couple of beers. Two drinks later we made our way back to go to bed.

Even though that was at 2am (and I’d started at 5pm), it still felt like an early night. Talk about conditioning.

Getting by

Waiting for people to come and pick up their bags has to be my pet peeve with this place. A close second is waiting for people to arrive.

Sure, I should just get someone to come down and hang around while I go off and do things. It’s not hard, I know. I would have if I wasn’t already still here around the time these people are meant to be back, so now I’m just going to wait.

Actually, I just want to have a fucking shower. I can’t though because I won’t hear the door bell go off and no one will be able to let them in. I should give people a different set of keys for them to get back inside and pick up their bags. Normally I just let them take their room keys and drop them off after they return, but these guys left them here. Great. They’re only 90 minutes late and there’s meant to be people coming here directly at 7pm. It’s 4:21pm now.

Today’s lowlight so far? Scrubbing a steamy, sloppy, post alcohol turd off the inside of the toilet bowl. At least I didn’t have to unblock it by hand. My other major dilemma for today is that it appears one of the pillow slips has gone missing. That’s not only odd, it’s annoying. Fuck it, I won’t have to care in a little over a week.

I’m also meant to be meeting up with Livijus today to work out what’s happening with his website. Basically he just needs to pay for a web host and domain and I can do the rest. I’m sure he’ll have other things to say, though.

At the end of the month I’m getting out of here for a while. I’m going to meet up with Emily in Finland for a bit, then we’ll go travelling together until mid June. That’s the plan, at least. We’re working things out, which is good. Em’s been staying at Heli’s parent’s place this last week but apparently she’s heading to Savonlinna again for the weekend. Happy times.

I have to pull my finger out and sort out my driver’s license and apply for some jobs in the UK. Finland’s not on the cards at the moment as it’s looking too difficult and frustrating to arrange visas, look for jobs and find a reasonably priced apartment in Helsinki. Maybe next year. We’ll see.

I’m even feeling like getting my hair cut. What’s happening here? Am I winding down my hippy behaviour? Am I tiring of my bohemian, hedonistic lifestyle? Am I already at the age where I want to cash in to a proper career path and start considering bank loans and first mortgages? Crikey.

Well, maybe just for a little while. There’s still plenty of other countries I’d like to see for now and I really want to hit up Russia on my way home, whenever that may be.

Woohoo, these people have picked up their bags. Finally, a chance to shower.

Something I can never have

I just found out I missed Nine Inch Nails playing in Helsinki by ONE FUCKING NIGHT.

JESUS.

Talk about adding to a shitty week.

On a related note, the as-of-yet-unreleased album, Year Zero, is awesome. As is the viral marketing campaign (although Trent doesn’t think of it that way, more of an alternate reality game) that goes along with it.

Let’s all bop along to Capital G. Just not at the FUCKING GIG IN HELSINKI, AOEWHUFAE.

I guess I at least got to see them in 2005, although it was sitting down. :(

Fuck Easter

Isn’t it meant to be a holiday or something? Christ knows.

Yes, I said that intentionally.

I already wrote about my Friday morning in my previous entry. I got up early to check out even more bastards who were going to Helsinki on the 8am boat then succeeded in getting the laundry back in order. I had to sacrifice my bed for a Japanese guy named Shutaro (I think) who really wanted to stay with us even though we were overbooked.

Shutaro was desperate to do some shopping and get a belt. Adamant, you might say. He also shared with me that he’d never been backpacking before and this was his first trip to Europe. This meant he had plenty of questions about the best ways to protect your wallet and passport when you’re travelling. I gave him all the hot tips I could.

The afternoon was spent hanging around Lai street, mainly. We had to lurk around waiting for 7 people to arrive for Viru. By the time they arrived at around 12 all of the staff were reasonably intoxicated. I gulped down my second double gin and tonic while waiting for their credit card transaction to clear then led the posse of Aussies down to their beds only to drag them out of the building and take them to Juuksur.

The evening became more and more hazy with people disappearing and scattering off throughout the night. Eventually I ended up in Levist with a very sleepy Valerie who’d only just gotten back from Riga that afternoon and some Scottish girl called Lisa who I think was staying on Uus street, but I’m not sure. We finally dragged Val off the table that had become her bed around 6am before stopping for a smoke at Lai street. Lisa wasn’t sure where her hostel was and I was going home to Viru. I couldn’t be bothered working out where she was going or giving directions so I ended up throwing a mattress on the floor of the common room in the hostel and letting her crash there while. I had to sleep on the tiny green couch because Shutaro was curled up like a foetus on my bed.

Unfortunately, sleeping on that couch gives me head spins when I’ve been drinking. I don’t know why but it always happens. I had to drag myself up and towards a sink so that I could force myself to vomit in order to paradoxically settle my stomach and head. It worked.

After a solid and refreshing 2 hours of slumber I was awoken by guests wondering where they could get some breakfast. Being the professional I am, I rolled over on the couch and gave them a recommendation and full directions, even managing a smile. They left and I dozed off for another 5 minutes before starting my day.

Fortunately, the morning was rather uneventful. Too uneventful. I was unable to leave the building or even take a proper nap as I had to make up a few different rooms and then wait for a guest who was arriving directly at 1pm. Or so she said. By 6pm she’d arrived and I was finally given the chance to go outside. I chose food and company over sleep, although I did end up with Valerie again and this time her friend Emer who was visiting. We ran amok all over town. Kinda.

Apparently I have a great smile and some Estonian kid wants to get a photograph of it. Flattering to hear but it’s not really what you want to be stuck with at 5am in Levist. I survived the ordeal and the three of us ended up in Old Club, of course. Poor old Val was finding her eyelids unbearably heavy and kept nodding off in the corner. Somehow I was on a second wind and felt fine. Emer was somewhere in between.

The big tough bouncer of the bar kept poking Val to get her to wake up. On the third strike he practically assaulted her, grabbing her by the harm (although it may as well have been her hair) and ripping her out of the seat and kicking her out the door. It was simultaneously one of the scariest, bizarre and hilarious things I’ve ever seen. We were too shocked to react. It was a good sign to wind down the night, so I walked back through some really cool morning snow that was falling. Before bed I had to clean vomit off of a toilet so that it’d be nice for all the guests to shit into in the morning. I got to sleep after 7:30.

Hoping to get at least 3 hours sleep proved to be a pipe dream. Shutaro kept waking me up asking me various questions before departing into the big wild world. I managed to get by on auto pilot until around midday when Ewan, one of our new volunteers, brought some guests down and then we left for McDonald’s to get some grub. I picked the shortest queue and lined up. Our cashier was about as green as you can get and continually balled up everything he did, even dropping my Big Tasty as he was putting it into a takeaway bag, meaning he had to ring up a new one. 40 minutes later we headed off to Lai street to enjoy our greasy McSludge.

The heavy food and lack of sleep combined to make me fade out of consciously at any given moment. Again, late guests were keeping me from getting any rest. They arrived two hours late at 5pm. Not too bad, really. I escorted them to their rooms in Viru and was greeted by a guest and her buddy who was some random prick from another hostel who’d helped himself to our Internet and kitchen. Normally I’d go off at people like that but our guest had a special type of booking that we’re trying to get good reviews for, so I let it slide. How’s that for fair? Money talks, I guess.

Stumbling around checking the kids into their room wasn’t so difficult, or unbearable. What really made it fun was to be made aware that the second toilet here was blocked. Completely. There’s already one that I can’t unblock because I’m too retarded and so now we were basically done for. With determination and grit, I wrapped my hand in a plastic bag and managed to get myself elbow deep in the bowl and wrist deep in the S-bend. After a bit of poking and rummaging around we were again flushing with great success.

I tidied up a little and then hopped onto my bed for a nap. Within minutes two of the Aussie girls started bickering with each other. I walked out to see what was going on and one was locked inside her room because the mechanism has decided to break while the other was standing in the hallway wearing nothing but a towel and surrounded by confused American kids who didn’t know what to do. Using a spare key solved the problem and I then had to wait for the girls to get dressed and calm down before experimenting with the lock and teaching them how to use it for now until we get it fixed. No worries.

Finally, I lay down to take a 2 hour siesta. Within 40 minutes someone was knocking on my door. The kids who’d arrived late had snapped their key off inside the lock of the door. Yep. These locks are designed and installed so that you can’t actually open them with credit cards or even unscrew them from outside the room. Normally I’d have just gotten a professional to come in or something but it was 8pm on Easter Sunday and on top of that I don’t know what the Estonian word for locksmith is.

We tried getting the broken piece of the key out with tweezers but to no avail. We even experimented with a bit of brute force and probably would have succeeded, except that the door itself and door frame would have been completely destroyed if we’d kept trying. Thankfully, there’s a frosted window between that room and another one which we managed to somewhat open. Unfortunately, while we were in the middle of rearranging beds and breaking through windows and walls, the four young students from Hong Kong came back and caught us red handed making a mess in their room. They weren’t upset, just very confused and startled. Their reactions were even worse when I told them I couldn’t give them change in Euros.

The guy staying in the room with the broken lock was rather lanky and lean so he slipped through the crack between the window and the wall and unlocked the door from the inside. He was Spanish and couldn’t speak a word of English but he knew what he was doing when he unscrewed the lock on the door and literally took it apart, tumblers and all before recombining it and putting the lock back together in the door. He even left a spare part out. Nice.

I’d given up napping so I planned to quickly use the toilet before hopping into the shower. Someone else took the advantage and locked themselves inside the bathroom for an hour so I was stuck plodding around waiting to clean myself. When I’d finally started washing and enjoying the lovely warmth my phone rang from inside my jeans. I stood in the cold air, naked and with water pooling around me and answered. John had arrived.

If I was smart, I would have stayed in that night and slept. I was too fed up with my day though to surrender like that, so I went out for a few drinks in Nimeta and Molly Malone’s. We stayed watching the cricket until Australia won and ended up going back to Lai street for some food, since no one was fucking serving. John whipped up a bit of Irish tapas and I was back here in bed by 2:30am. An early one.

Now, I’ve already gotten up at 7am and 8am and then 9am today for brief stints. Everyone’s arrived, I just have to tidy up some rooms. Oh and the laundry.

Emily’s coming back here this afternoon. The ferry should have left Helsinki about 20 minutes ago. On top of all the other crap I’ve gone through this weekend, it all got magnified because we’ve broken up.

Hairy times

I’m coping pretty well looking after this place on my own. The delicate balance of the bed sheets system got toppled over when some uninitiated took charge for a day and a half, but I’m restoring equilibrium.

Yesterday I went out on a splurge and bought myself a little mini headset, cheap webcam (which uses 300 MB of disk space to install its drivers, thanks to Logitech), PC/PS2 compatible game pad and a mouse pad. I’m pretty decked out now, in a real backpacker sense… :/

The light bulb in my bedroom has gone on the blink. It’s either the light bulb or the little clicker that lights it. This building used to be an office before they converted it into a hostel so it’s full of those big bright lightsaber type bulbs. When they’re all turned on it’s like sitting in a 7-11. Anyway, my one’s on the fritz which is ironic since it’d be really good lighting for this webcam. Instead I’ve had to turn on a crappy little lamp in one corner of the room. This is the result:

redknob long hair

So there we have it. That image looks a great deal better because I touched up all the lighting in Picasa. It’s such a handy program for that kind of crap.

I need to take a shower, I smell like a sweaty man that hasn’t showered in too long. A sweaty man with wild hair. I should get a job in the circus.

Sleep's better than rampaging

Another night in Levist Valjas and a good few beers on a nearly empty stomach sounded great last night. Too bad this little baby hadn’t had enough nap time over the last week as hitting the sack at 3:30am with the intention of arising at 6:45am was an utter failure. Fortunately I was forward-thinking enough to have people checked out or half-checked out before I slept in until 10am.

Feeling like a zombie wasn’t the greatest start to the day and neither was developing a grinding headache at my first conscious moment. I’ve missed this. Sort of.

I spent most of the morning and early afternoon in various MSN conversations with my plethora of friends. In fact I was so enraptured by their digital companionship I nearly forgot to put away my butter before it melted. Six slices of toast was basically the highlight of my day.

The lowlight was yet another blocked toilet. Well, nearly blocked. It took a bit of hoping, praying and flushing but it worked itself out in the end. Now I just have to hope I can successfully fix the other one. My handyman skills are sorely lacking. In fact they’re simply absent.

One of the kids who stayed here showed me a cool little gadget for your camera. Basically, Eye-Fi is a 1 gigabyte memory card with wireless capability that automagically uploads your photos for you whenever your camera is turned on and it can access a wireless Internet zone. Within a minute of two of taking a picture it appeared on his Flickr page. Neat! Can’t wait for more funky things like this to pop up in the market. Geek heaven, here we come.

Need a rampage

I’m getting a bit of cabin fever lately. Been locked up inside this building for too long these last few days. Mainly from my own laziness and lack of inspiration to walk outside.

Today though I haven’t got much choice. Flat out cleaning. Making beds, doing laundry, folding laundry, vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing toilets, unblocking toilets, taking out garbage, cleaning mirrors, dusting. It’s not hard work per se, just takes a lot of time to do every room. Yep, every room. Everyone checked out today. There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of trying to make a bed before the next guest arrives. It’s this fast-paced lifestyle that keeps me staying here.

Things are so fast paced that neither Em nor I spotted someone swiping my nice headphones when they were in our room and now someone’s stolen the sign to the hostel from inside the locked gate. Great success. I suppose that’s karma paying me back for stealing all those bottles of mustard and pepper shakers from various restaurants over the last few months. It’s not really fair, since I stole them for communal use rather than personal gain. Not that you can gain much from a sign that has our address written on it.

Emily’s gone to Finland for a few days to get her Eesti visa and to catch up with Heli. Thanks to the Suomi train system she’s probably going to come back with two mortgages after paying for the train tickets to Savonlinna, Helsinki, Lahti and back. Not to mention the visa application fee. I hope the Finnish people prosper from the generous tax subsidies her financial injection into the economy will bring about. It’s not cheap keeping trains looking and smelling so nice.

Someone left half a hip flask of whiskey here in the hostel for free. I’ve been eying it off. So far I’m winning. Now I just need to eye off this tumbler glass and then combine the two in a direct assault on my face. Ok, maybe not my face but the most suitable orifice on it.

To be honest I’d rather be drinking my delicious O’boy but milk isn’t here and whiskey is. Mmm.

Thursday roundup

That’s right, another randomly timed summary of my world’s events. Are you ready to feel the rush?

Good. Let’s get to it then.

Firstly, hostel related: Viru’s looking rather spic and span, all the rooms are beautifully colour-coordinated, clean and inviting. The sun’s shining brightly through the windows all day long and keeping the place warmer than it should be thanks to the combination of solar radiation and central heating.

The king of the couch is back on his throne, everyone’s checked out for the day and that laundry’s hanging up to dry. Tomorrow we’re getting more guests and it should be a piece of pie.

Nightlife: I can’t recall if I mentioned going out on Monday night. Well, I did. In the manner of all true good nights out it started somewhat spontaneously. Some cheap beer and a half dozen foosball games in the hostel with John kept me occupied for an hour or so and then we went out with Val and Ben while poor old Emily slept on the couch for night shift.

Levist was on the agenda, as always. We stayed there until it closed at around 3am, meeting and greeting some drunk and blind drunk locals. I received the privilege of listening to a 30-something bitterly intoxicated Estonian regale me with his tales of learning kick boxing after being beaten up by Russians and having a tooth knocked out, at least that’s what I think he was saying, since I could barely understand him. He also tried to channel with me telepathically or something by sending out energy from his palm to mine. It reminded me of the guy that tried to hypnotise me then collapsed on the floor and passed out. I’ve gotta keep away from these hippies.

Some girl that lived in a monastery (seriously) also joined up with us for the night. We headed for The Old Club of course, as it was late and it was Monday and we had no other option. As expected, by that hour we were speaking nothing but bullshit. Money got wasted on pissy flaming B52 shots, twice, to no effect. I just couldn’t get decently inebriated. It could have been due to the quantity of food I’d eaten for dinner that dear Emily cooked for me. Probably.

Around 5:30am the slightly toothless Estonian arrived in the bar with, of all people, a recurring hostel guest: Portuguese Miguel. Things felt tense for a few moments as we’d told Toothless that we were going home and we’d had a slightly awkward relationship with Miguel of late so we weren’t sure what to do. We did the normal thing, a pleasant acknowledgment and a civil nod of the head. They were in a group with some others and sat somewhere else and we didn’t have to move. We were happy until 6:30am when we left and wandered home.

Plans: Em and I are going to Vilnius on Monday or Sunday. We’re going to be down there for a few days. Em’s adamant that we have to be somewhere else for our 1 year and I’m too scared to argue. Hopefully Simone will have some free time to show us around, local style. Em wants to check out some little forest cottage that Livijus told us about as well, so if time permits that’d be really nice, too.

Miscellaneous: I read this earlier today. It made me laugh.

Cracking Hollywood’s code.

The system designed to protect next-generation DVDs from pirates has been cracked. Even the hackers are surprised at how easy it was…

Life goes on

Then there were three. Three staff that is, although technically Valerie is back today with her friend. I still don’t know how long she’s staying. Meh. Whatever. So yeah, Hector left earlier this morning. Steffi left yesterday afternoon. Bring back Hans, I say.

I’m going to start looking for work in the UK again soon, I think. I’m not really sure how far ahead of time I need to start applying for jobs to secure one and have it lined up for when we arrive. I’d definitely like to have a guaranteed income from day 1 though even if it’s a shitty job or shitty pay, simply for peace of mind.

Makes me wonder if I need to or if it’s worth bothering with all these quickstart type things or just doing it in person when I get there or even doing it another way online. God knows. I’ll work something out.

Livijus wants me to create a website advertising his apartments for him. It should be easy enough, provided I can get some good photos of the place. Working out the best web host for what he wants and getting the domain set up will be more effort than making the page, I think.

I’m going to start being a little bit more specific with the categories that I assign to my posts from now on. I suppose a few different tags can’t hurt and it probably makes flicking through things a little bit more interesting. Maybe.

No vote for me

I’m not going to be voting in the next Federal election back home. I just have to fill out some form and fax it back to the Australian Electoral Comission. I’ve never sent a fax before. I hope it looks pretty.

So, the gym’s still good. I haven’t been able to go as often this week due to work and other distractions. It’s only going to get even harder to find the time soon as there’ll only be three of us working here within the next week or so. Hopefully Emily and I will be able to at least go separately whenever we find the time. I’m considering taking up morning sessions, as in 9AM to 11AM. I’m generally awake at that time so it shouldn’t be a problem, particularly when the hostel is also quiet during those hours.

Yep, three staff members for two buildings. We’re going to need more volunteers soon. Anyone feel like visiting?

Going away for our one year anniversary is sounding like a difficult achievement. With a bit of luck though we should manage. Either that or just delay it. I don’t know. I’ve got a feeling Em won’t be too impressed regardless.

Stupid head cold has come back to piss me off. I couldn’t even breathe when I tried to go to sleep last night. Fascinating, I know.

Speaking of fascinating, geez it was good seeing Ireland thrash England in the Six Nations last night. The local Irish were dancing whilst the local English could do nothing more than shrug their shoulders in embarassment. After the match we caught most of a groovy little gig in one of our favourite underground bars by a young Swedish band that was touring Tallinn for one show. They played a very catchy, up-tempo cover of Oasis’ Wonderwall that really impressed me.

The band actually stayed in the hostel that night. That happens a lot. We’re cool like that.

We had a little bash for Hector on Friday night. He’s one of the staff members leaving soon. I’ll put some pictures up later when I can be bothered and share them with you all. :) The sangria was good.