Happy 11

Greetings, fans. I hope your summer/winter has been temperate. Mine has been hot and sweaty, like a towel fight in a sauna. Playing outdoor table tennis doesn’t help.

Since we last conversed I am garnishing an extra $9/week after passing yet another certification. I’m also getting a car upgrade, to a small car with 2 seats and about 100km on its odometer. I hear it even has good air conditioning. I’m thankful.

Christmas and NYE were fairly tranquil. Small lunch with a roast (I don’t like roasts) on the 25th, bucketloads of sweat with a few mixed drinks and a midnight swim on the 31st. Marika’s first day body surfing at Manly beach on the 1st. She loved it so much she’s now determined to hit the waves every day. I’m sure she would if we didn’t live so far inland in suburbia. Sydney’s beaches have shithouse public transport options to boot, so driving is the only decent option if you don’t already live nearby. Bummer.

Big Day Out is coming soon. I’ve been very lazy with my already lax exercise regime. I’m using the festival as a motivator to start doing some training again. I have no natural chest. It’s bizarre. If I don’t target it I just end up with a belly and little nipples poking out above it. Methinks that last sentence is going to generate a few hits from Google.

Today we’re meant to be visiting the Terracotta Warriors, since they’re on tour. It’s not a band. You know, those statues from China. I’m actually looking forward to it. I need a bit of culturing up. Somehow, cornflakes over the Daily Telegraph each morning doesn’t quite enhance life with regards to inspiration/perspective/reflection/education. I’m not sure if a few sculptures will either, but it can’t hurt.

If anyone’s concerned, my pokering has been going very well these last few months. I’ve worked on my game a lot and grinded my bankroll to 3x the size that it was. I’ve taken a bit of a mental break from it this last week or so, mainly due to being distracted by the shitloads of video games I bought over the Steam Christmas sales. A few treats for myself, indeed.

Marika’s visa application is underway but not yet submitted. We’ve begun the paper trail. I’m not really worried about the application itself, I’m more worried about my procrastination preventing its quick completion. We’ve made up a checklist and thankfully it’s not a very long one, so I think we’ll manage.

I don’t know why I keep putting off updates in this thing. I blame the fact that I have to actually visit my site to login and post. I tried migrating to Posterous but the import function kept timing out and their support staff didn’t respond to any of my emails. Well, fuck them. For now.

I get writer’s block just thinking of these titles

Prolonged journal-writing absences are my forte. If only I could be as consistent with other things in life.

I haven’t skipped for a while. I have been attempting to do some semi-regular weekly weights training but recently I haven’t been able to motivate myself to get out of bed and actually exercise. I still hate mornings. I do make the effort on weekends, when I feel I have more time.

Now that I’m back into the full-swing of the regular working week I’ve begun living for and looking forward to the weekend again. As always, it’s never enough time. What little of it I’ve had has been filled with either running around to things like family reunions or being housed in to avoid the horrible weather. I know it’s fascinating discussing the weather, but it has been rather insolent.

Work’s been ok. I’m pretty settled into my job now. So much so that I’m looking to learn a bit more in other areas. I sat an exam for an HP certification earlier this week and managed to grind out a pass. It wasn’t until after I’d received my results back that I discovered I’d been reading the wrong preparation material. That’s why all the reading I’d done for the previous week seemed so irrelevant in the exam. Anyway, I passed and that’s all that matters. I now make an extra $9 per week. Cop that.

The plan, now, is to do more and more of them. Not only do I get a payrise for it but it makes me feel smarter and more important. It’s also a good backup in case I don’t get past the future rounds of my other, unrelated application. I discovered I passed the first testing stage long after I’d already given up on it, assuming I’d flunked out. I’d already gone through the emotions of anger and disappointment, finally coming around to accepting my fate as a failure only to find out everything was ok and that I would have to wait another few months for the second stage. This is going to be interesting.

I would like to write more but my backside is losing blood and I need to stand up. Stay tuned.

Should I?

Hello.

I’m in Australia. We’re in Australia. After just 4 years and a month, I’m home again. Nothing much has changed except that my old friends live even further away from me now and we have a new mad cat.

The flights were ok but waiting in airports was horrible. Leaving Estonia was sad but getting out was easy, after all that stressing. 55 hours of transit was all it took until my parents picked us up. Anna-Liisa survived her journey by tagging along with us. Somehow she bought the exact same tickets we did but for half the price, 2 months later. I’m never booking early again.

The weather when we arrived was miserable and cold. Marika didn’t appreciate the contrast to Estonia’s currently sweltering summer. Mum and dad picked us up from the airport and then began the reaquaintance-with-everyone-and-everything process for the next week or so. We saw cousins and friends, I had my haircut by a professional, I applied for a job and got it almost by accident.

Originally I was meant to work on a helpdesk for this company, although I wasn’t really shown a lot of stuff and spent most of my time feeling awkward and confused because I had no work to do but no one seemed to mind nor make a big effort to direct me. Not long after that, though, I was assigned to do on-site warranty repairs.

So, I get a ute with a petrol charge card and e-tag, an iPhone with some business phone contract including 2 gigs of data transfer per month, a GPS to help me navigate around the city (which I just got funded on expenses) and I cruise around all day fixing computers. It sounds pretty laid back but actually it’s a little bit hectic. I’m still new to the role and learning all the intricacies of each machine (computers really are annoying to take apart, fix and rebuild, particularly laptops) and I’m all on my own now, so when the work piles up it really piles up.

I’m sure with a bit more time I’ll get it all under control and be faster at it when I’m more experienced. Even when I know what I’m doing things still often go wrong. It’s frustrating being stuck on one problem machine for 90-120 minutes at a time for something that should be fairly routine. I guess that’s just part of the job – factoring in delays due to stubborn machines and unforseen problems.

Sadly, Marika and I haven’t had either the time, weather or money to do more things before I was commited to employment. We visited the Koala Park and Newcastle/Marks Point. We’ve been around the city and Newtown a few times and although I still like it, it isn’t as good as I remember it, nor as cheap. Fucking city. I hope to visit Melbourne with her some time next month. Scott also wants to show me around down there and even try to introduce me to his boss in the hopes that it will help me out down the road. That would be good.

I think living as a poor bum in Estonia for so long has turned me into a bit of a penny-pincher. I find it more sensible to cook for myself these days but I don’t really have the desire to do it at the moment, since I’m still getting used to returning from work in the evening. Mum and Marika are usually taking care of that situation, anyway.

Since I’m too lazy to go jogging, we’ve taken up skipping. Actually it feels like I’m the only one doing it any more since Marika sleeps in during the morning when I’m exercising and doesn’t seem to enjoy the outdoor temperatures for exercising. Never mind. I’d attempt to do some weight training as well but unfortunately the equipment has either been sold or banished to some mysterious place known as “the lock up”. Sit-ups and push-ups it is, then. Meh.

We’ve just finished watching the first season of Treme and while I like it, I don’t find it as… engrossing as Deadwood (which we’ve also just finished watching the whole series), The Wire or even Rome. I guess it’s due to not really having a strong underlying plot (although there are lots of common and reoccuring themes), since the show is grounded more in the mundane reality of ordinary people and their own mostly unrelated stories.

I probably look like some mad HBO fanboy but I assure you that it’s not deliberate, it’s just that they’re the ones making the good shows. I must admit that it’s kind of strange seeing the same actors popping up in different shows. It’s hard to not have them typecast in my mind as the first character that I saw them play. I have the first eason of MST3K to watch, as well. That might be a challenge. I may just hop straight to season 2.

I can’t think of anything more to write at the moment. Yes, I know, I should have updated earlier and continue to do so more regularly. I was just feeling shy, ok?

Oh, I’m reading Catch-22 still and getting simultaneously worse and unluckier at poker the more I play.

Plicka plicka

Ever wondered what Rammstein are up to lately? [NSFW] Probably not. Still, I felt like sharing it.

I just got back from Tartu, again. Another week down. It’s not too bad a place to chill out and it’s going to be cheaper to rent there for 6 months than it is to rent in Tallinn for 1 month. Yep.

I’m not really sure what to write about. I haven’t done much except avoid exercise. I drove Marika’s car a little bit. It was fun to be behind the wheel again. Unfortunately I barely fit behind it, but I think I’ll manage if I ever need to pop down to the shops for… vegetables?

My hair is growing back at a slightly disturbing rate. It’s time to have it cut again in order to tidy it up. The hair on the sides of my head tends to grow up and outward, like an eagle spreading its wings. You could even compare my nose to its beak.

Currently I’m redesigning the hostel website. It’s coming along quite nicely. Unfortunately I don’t have any other web work to do. I hope to soon otherwise I’ll be poor and sad. I really should be doing more work pimping out this poker software as this month has been very lax. Perhaps I’ll grind out a few hours each day for the rest of the week. I guess I do need the money after all. Woe is me.

I like this apartment but damn it’s ripped the arse out of my wallet. :( In fact, my wallet is so empty these days that I actually carry it around again!

Ch-ch-ch-changes.

This post was inspired by palmy’s return.

I’ll give a quick summary again, as it’s been nearly 2 months (what a surprise).

Emily and I broke up in July. It was a bit messy but now it’s done. She went to Germany with her dad and I went to Berlin the week before on my own. I had a great time there, actually. I met some guys that offered me jobs and was close to accepting them until Hugo offered me a pay rise and more stuff to do here.

Sure, I’d probably make more money in Berlin doing stuff but I still love my Tallinn. I was considering even getting a proper job here for some firm like HP or Skype or something. Hostel life is still more appealing at the moment though.

Anyway, yeah. Berlin was fantastic. One of my new favourite cities. I’m definitely heading back there some time… Maybe March next year for a month or two. It’s possible to rent apartments in the city for 115 euro/month. Tempting.

We had about 14 staff in the hostel in July. More than half left. We should be getting a few more soon, hopefully. It’s been fairly hectic on the farewell party scene of late, but fun.

I went to a folk music festival in Viljandi, a town in southern Estonia. The population of the place doubles for the four days of the festival, basically. It was really good fun. I camped out in the festival grounds in a shitty little tent and it only slightly flooded, so I was satisfied. The range of music was actually quite broad, and some other guys organised after-parties in a concert hall nearby each night. I really want to go again next year.

Oh, yeah, I finally went to Tartu, as well. Twice now. The first was for another one day festival that some of us hitchhiked to, then didn’t bother going into the place. We sat outside in a playground for most of the day instead. That was probably more fun, in the end. The second time was for a university party which was fairly tame… Partly because it wasn’t very big and partly because almost everyone spoke Estonian. Which is fair enough…

Speaking of speaking Estonian, I’m learning! Finally. It took me 10 months or so but I can now count and say numbers and also the days of the week. Basics, but basics I never actually had to use before. I’m getting a few more sentences and phrases ingrained as well. It’s fun. Too bad it’s almost impossible to replicate the vowel sounds, especially with an Australian accent. Ah well.

The hostel actually has a little bar now in the basement, too. Don’t tell anyone though. It’s a secret. We’re also owners of what used to be the second hand store and baby shop underneath now, so we can knock out some walls and connect the whole hostel together. We’ll move reception and the bar into there, too. I can’t wait, because it’s going to rock.

Last night I went to some multi-band concert called Polymer. There were about 10 bands playing throughout the night but I didn’t stay for them all. The venue was basically an abandoned factory out in the suburbs which is actually meant to be condemned. There were artworks and paintings and sculptures all over the place on display and all these funky little rooms. Reminded me so much of Tacheles in Berlin. Ahh, happy times.

Alright, enough crap for now. I’ve kind of stopped uploading photos onto my website because I use Facebook more and it’s faster than this host but perhaps I’ll slap up a few selections later on.

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.

Is this experience?

I’m currently meant to be working/assisting/developing three separate websites (apart from toying around with this one). All are related in some way but they’re also for completely different people.

Establishing and configuring servers, sorting out domains, setting up software, developing, managing and building websites all feels like a hobby to me. It’s when I think about it I wonder if technically this is actually some kind of contract work, albeit on a rather informal level. The only real problem or weakness I see with myself is that I’m not a very experienced web designer and by that I mean I’m not overly familiar with CSS. I’ve been teaching myself everything else along the way though so I guess that’s not beyond my reach.

So, yeah, I suppose I’m actually getting real-world IT experience and it’s happened by accident. I’m not really making any money out of it but it’s still a service that I’m providing to clients, even if they’re clients that I know personally. Based on that I figure I’m entitled to record this on my resumé, if I ever get around to updating it.

I’m not really interested in pursuing web-design as a career but it’s hopefully all a stepping stone to greater things. I’m more inspired to try and help “problem solve”, in a consultant sense, I guess you’d say. I like knowing a bit about everything so that I can help people with all sorts of problems and know what they need to do or who they need to speak to or what they need to look at. Perhaps it’s from my interest in trivia or general knowledge.

Anyway. We’ll see.

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.

Prague.

Ok, because I’m too lazy to update my travelpod at the moment, here’s an email I just sent to work (yes, I’m still attached).

Hello all,

yes, it’s been a while. This email will be a bit shorter as I’m on the verge of being physically ill, mainly because I’m in Prague and have been savouring the $2 pints.

I hope everyone is well. I am too (apart from my current condition) and I’ve been meeting people from all over the place (as one would expect, I suppose).

In the tradition of my last email, here’s yet another run-down of my travels:

Dubrovnik: as I said, cool. Worth visiting. Nothing really of great notice apart from the old town which got shelled in the early 90s and rebuilt. I think I mentioned this before. I can’t really remember. Anyway, definitely tick it off if you consider visiting Croatia (or Hrvatska, if you want to be down with the local language).

Kolocep: an Island near Dubrovnik (or Dubbo, as I like to call it). We visited here for a day, nothing extraordinary but it was nice. I hiked for about 3 hours and took the odd photo here and there of the views. Yeah, amazing, I know.

Mljet: Nice, foresty island. Pronounced Mil-yet. I got eaten alive by ants because I slept outdoors in a campground (too proud to rent a tent). The bites have only just disappeared (after about 3 weeks, I had scary black spots on my fingers and everything). I swam in Odysseus’ cave (ask Homer) and literally nearly had a heart attack because I was terrified of the fish in the water. I then had to climb back up a cliff in wet thongs, which is impossible if anyone’s ever tried it.

Split: Goran Ivanisevich (?sp) is from here. Cool town. I liked it better than Dubrovnik. We actually stayed in an apartment owned by a guy called Goran. One day he confronted me in his tight white underwear and a singlet asking for money for the other nights that we’d be staying. It was dirt cheap, though. About $15 a night. By the way, beer is disturbingly cheap in Croatian supermarkets. They even sell their own brand (Konsume is the store, K-Plus is the brand. 2 litre plastic bottle go for about $2.50 Australian). If anyone’s even heard of Gregor of Nin (or his “famous” statue), I’ve rubbed his toe (for luck).

In Split we met a French Canadian girl (Quebec) that I’ve ended up travelling with. My group split (pardon the pun) from her when we returned from Hvar (another Croatian resort island, apparently popular with Paris Hilton [yawn]) and we went to Sibenik.

Sibenik: small but has the largest stone cathedral built without wooden support (or whatever else) in Europe. Sounds amazing but it’s really just a small church. Still, I took photos (ask me if you really care). I also scored free Internet here because no one was around to charge me (even though I looked for someone to pay) and I walked out. Yes, I’m a rebel.

Krka national park: people swim under the waterfalls (they even made it a hydroelectric plant, thanks Mr Tesla). I didn’t swim because I was too scared of the fish.

Zagreb: the capital of Croatia. No one knows that. Well, barely anyone. It’s a nice place, reminds me of Melbourne but about 4 times bigger and with 1/4 of the people. The nightlife was pretty lame (ie, Sydney’s sad, lonely clubs are basically more popular on bad nights compared to a busy night in Zagreb) but I didn’t care that much as I can’t dance and don’t really like much beyond cheap beer and good company (hi, Andrew).

Ok, this is getting a bit long. If you’ve made it this far I thank you for persisting with my writings. If you’re still interested I pity you, but for the sake of sympathy I’ll continue with my journey.

Budapest: Massive, masive city (two cities in fact, which I found strange and didn’t learn until about 2 days before I arrived). Monuments are spaced out everywhere and I bought an AWESOME Spider-Man t-shirt in a supermarket there, then started wearing it as I sat around the Danube. Apparently the night-life is really fun there but my trio failed to discover it. We still amused ourselves and I met some other Aussies, which is always nice. Most are from Melbourne though, which is always a little depressing. ;)

Krakow: Nice, nice city. I had two nights here in a really good hostel, unfortunately there were a big group of Americans staying so I didn’t bother socialising (I had early mornings anyway). I went to Auschwitz, which I thought was very… interesting. It’s very touristy now, unfortunately, so it lost (at least, I felt) a lot of impact. Still, I’m glad I went there.

Olomouc: Billed as “Prague without the tourists”, this place is about 5 hours west of Krakow by train, in the Czech Republic. I loved it here even though I only had 1 night to explore it. An Australian couple ran the hostel I stayed in and although they were somewhat inexplicably timid they still gave us some good advice, so I ticked off basically everything in town within 6 hours. One day I’d definitely like to return, though.

Prague: This is were I am now. I’m staying in an Anglo-friendly hostel called the “Clown and Bard”. Mainly it’s Canadians and Americans but it’s not so bad. ;) The Quebec girl I’ve been travelling with is leaving for Berlin tomorrow so I’m going to have a few nights alone (ahh!). It’s a nice enough city, I guess. I’ve heard so many stories about it but I certainly think there are better ones out there. I’m probably going to end up knowing it better than Paris, as I have to stay here until Wednesday as I’ve booked a flight to Helsinki that evening (for only 120 Euros!). Hopefully I don’t get quite as frequently inebriated as I have tonight.

Well, that’s about it so far. Thanks for reading. I’m sure you haven’t. If you have, you’ll probably have been given a warning for not doing enough work (I’ve heard the rule have gotten a bit strict lately, you poor folk).

As always, I’m delighted to hear from anyone that can be bothered emailing me (but no, this isn’t a desperate plea for attention, even though it may look like it). Don’t be shy! :)

Bah, I’m still dizzy from all my cheap beer. I haven’t used the spell checker on this email so if I’ve made mistakes forgive me. If I haven’t made mistakes it’s simply testament to my meticulous spelling and typing ability. Hurrah for me.

Ok, I’ll stop now, this is getting ridiculous.

All the best!
Ollie. :)