This isn't winter

I don’t think it’s even hit -20°C here yet. Not without the wind at least and even then I’m not sure. I’m too lazy to check the weather websites to be certain.

Sure, we’re getting a bit of snow now and then. It might snow for about 2-3 days with temperatures in the negative teens but then the next day the sun comes out and everything warms up, turning all the snow into dirty brown slush that just makes everything wet.

I did, however, nearly freeze my toes off when I went out with some folks (including Hugo’s dad) to have a look at Paldiski. We didn’t get to check everything out but since I thought I was going to have to surgically remove my smaller toes I didn’t really mind.

It was a pretty interesting day. I took plenty of photos if anyone wants to take a peep. Unfortunately most of the ugly old buildings that the place is known for have been torn down now as its begun being redeveloped.

Emily got her hair cut quite short. Looks pretty cool. I think mine might even be longer now. Well, not quite. I still have nasty, skanky roots.

Happy birthday to me

Yep, 24. Thanks.

It’s good to be alive. I’m not sure about being older, though. Well, I guess 24 isn’t so bad. I’m approaching the age now where people start taking you more seriously and don’t consider you the bad kind of “young adult”. I hope.

There was no party. There never is. We did have cake, though. Pizza too. I went out with some kids from the hostel the night before and it turned into a quasi-birthday celebration after midnight, then Hugo came around on the Saturday for a beer and the aforementioned pizza and cake.

I’ve been plowing through my salad sandwiches with Emily these last two weeks. Quite nice. Especially with mayonnaise and mustard. We were planning on joining the local gym this week to really kick up our “healthy lifestyle” binge but we’ve been too lazy.

I have to admit, I really miss going to the gym. I really miss exercise, basically. True, I haven’t actually lifted any weights for about 7 years. Since high school, in fact. I enjoyed it a lot at the time though. Still, I’d give it all up for a new season and team of action ball.

Hostel life is continually surprising. Just when you think it’s a really boring period a weirdo will check in or something else will happen. It’s always got you on your toes. Emily’s enjoying it as well and she’s still doing some networking with the locals in an attempt to get work somewhere.

Snow’s still falling. Gradually. My fingers nearly freeze off every time I go outside because my gloves are crap so I don’t bother wearing them. It’s only a few more weeks of coldness though so I should be able to cope. I’ve gotten this far.

I have to think of a place to go for Valentine’s day, or for our anniversary. Choices, choices.

Tallinn trapped

Yep. I’m back.

Got my visa. Emily and the boys never made it to Riga. They barely even made it out of the hostel. Lazy buggers.

So, I’m here until July. Well, I’m allowed to be here until July. That’s not a bad shake. Maybe we’ll leave earlier, I dunno. Don’t really care at the moment because it just feels so nice to be back in my chilled out little place.

Rob’s gone, the German bastard. We have some new kids volunteering here for a while now. It won’t be long until Hans leaves as well. I’ll miss his warm hugs.

There’s still no fucking snow. It’s ridiculous. I don’t really mind that much though because it makes it easier to get around outside. Speaking of which, I still have to pick up my clothes from the post office. That should be tedious enough to last me a few hours if I ever get around to it.

Typing on this laptop keyboard fucking rocks. I feel like I’m burning it up. Sick.

Hi Heli.

Still in Funland

Emily and I are still here in Finland. Still in Lahti, in fact. Unsurprisingly, palmy and Dylan came back for New Years and have been staying mainly at Heli’s, although they were meant to stay with Krista’s parents.

It’s been fun having all these little bastards around. The party on the 31st was good. It was some dress up party so I went as a genie again. Inspiring, I know.

The party was some weird old house on the side of a railroad. I had no idea where we were but it seemed pretty cool. I can’t remember much from the night apart from running around being silly and dancing for a couple of hours. There was even a band playing earlier in the night but I was too lazy to check them out properly.

When we got back home, palmy and I tried to stay up all night. We ended up getting bored around 7:30am or something and crashed. I woke up with a hangover and with 3 other people in my bed. Too bad that doesn’t happen more often.

Yesterday was Emily’s birthday, the big 19. What started as a quiet affair ended up reasonably well. Heli’s folks made a nice big meal the day before for her even though it was Seija’s birthday, then Em spoilt us all by taking everyone out to dinner the following night.

After din-dins we had a mini round of King Cup and then hit up Rock and Molly Malone’s. Em needed a bit of convincing to come out as she wasn’t feeling 100% but I think the cold air did her good.

The other bastards went off to Onnelas later on but didn’t get in, so the night was effectively over, for me at least, by 4am.

Tomorrow we’re all leaving Lahti, bound for Helsinki and Tallinn. I’m going to stay at Suski’s and try to get my Eesti visa. Hope it doesn’t take too long.

Lapknob

I bought my first laptop today! Well, Emily bought it for me because I don’t have enough money in the one account to have paid for it. No, I’m not broke, I just have my finances scattered.

So, this is my new little friend:

Intel Core 2 Duo 1,66GHz processor
1536MB 533MHz DDR2 RAM
100GB 5400RPM HDD
nVIDIA GeForce Go7300 256MB with 15.4″ display
CD-R/CD-RW 24x/4x
DVD-R/DVD-RW/DVD-DL 8x/4x/2.4x

Not godly, but goodly.

Now I don’t need any other friends. Hurrah!

Sup, Suomi?

It’s good to be back in Finland. I forgot how expensive it was. I always feel like a real tightarse wherever I’m paying Euros.

So, I caught up with palmy and Dylan again and they even brought Heli down to Tallinn with them. That was fun.

Emily’s been having a good time in the hostel, too. She even does a little bit of work, thank goodness. She likes Finland, too. I think.

Back to the present, though. We tried to get the working holiday visa in Helsinki but the silly bitch at the embassy didn’t even know what I was talking about. I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a real hassle to get back into the country if I want to stay for a long time legally.

It even seems mandatory to get travel insurance, for God’s sake. Bah. Either way, I have to get back in there because all my possessions are there and I’m meant to have more mail arriving from Benecke, too. I hope it fucking shows up.

For now though, I’m just going to try and enjoy Christmas and probably New Years now, as we’ll be kind of stuck unless I just go back to Estonia like a ferry ninja and overstay my 90 days. I could probably get away with it but I’d prefer to be legal. We’ll see.

Integrated, finally

Well, I did it. I managed to migrate my WordPress blog onto Drupal.

Now I have a reason to visit this site apart from clicking on my other links and perhaps listening to some embedded music.

Now you have a reason to visit, too.

Yep, still in Tallinn. I’m in the private rooms today instead of in the dorms. That’s why I’ve been enteretaining myself with my site instead of doing any work. Speaking of which, it could be time to scrub the toilets.

Emily arrives tomorrow. :O

I should brush my teeth.

Tossing coins

So, apparently I’m employed here now. I don’t get a lot, but I’m getting enough to help me get by much more comfortably.

The problem now is trying to get myself an Estonian visa. Yes, to stay. Apparently I can visit the Australian embassy in Helsinki to try and get either a working holiday or residence visa. Christ knows. I’ll work it out when Em gets over here.

That’s right! Emily’s soon to be on her way. Thursday is E-Day. Things are going to be much more interesting around here, and life is going to be a lot more challenging. Only in regards to having to worry about the fates of two people instead of just my own. Oh, I’m so grown up.

So, I’m thinking about buying a laptop, too. A good one. Yep. Great news.

My last dilemma is what I’m doing for New Year’s. I could stay in Finland but they need me here to work but it depends if I get my visa back fast enough. So much to think about.

So little to worry about. Probably.

Alone in Paris

Bienvenue!

I can’t speak French, I can only copy what I see.

Compared to Incheon International, Charles de Gaulle is miniscule. Customs don’t even bother comparing your face to your passport photo, let alone stamp you into the country. They don’t even bother with declarations. I guess anything goes if you’ve got a history this long.

I had to repack my bags after I grabbed it off the carousel (yes, it arrived) so that I could attach the daypack, transforming my luggage into one massive, cumbersome, bulky travelpack breaking my back and an overstuffed green manbag hanging off to my side, the nylon strap digging into my neck.

I had no idea how to get a train ticket into Paris, I just knew where I wanted to go. In typical French style, the ticket vending machines at the international airport are French-only and accept only European credit cards. I found this out after I’d queued up and bravely attempted to purchase one.

Fortunately for me a middle-aged Englishman stood behind me in the line and ended up buying the ticket for me so that I didn’t have to queue in the other ticket line with ticket staff. He then took me down to the platform and caught the train into town together. We spoke about the packaging industry, rugby and university. Not something you’d expect as your first encounter in Paris.

I finally reached Gare du Nord and hopped off the train, confident I could somehow find my way to my hotel. Somehow, I managed to locate it without getting too lost or collapsing under my backpack. I checked in and took the 1m² elevator up to the fifth floor, found my room and gratefully dumped my bag onto the bed.

The bulkiness of my luggage had not only irritated me but it had made me concerned that I’d brought too much. I immediately unpacked my clothes and re-arranged everything I’d brought with me until I was satisfied that my new system was not only more efficient, it was going to be more comfortable as well.

I was forced to run a bath in my en suite as there was no way to attach the showerhead to the wall. I pondered for a while as I soaked in the steaming broth of my own filth as to what the hell I was going to do with myself this first week. Somewhat scared and in need of reassurance (and with the desire to let people know I’d made it safely), I rang dad and Emily and spoke to both of them for a little while. I ended up surrending to fatigue and fear of the unknown by curling up under my bedsheet and falling asleep.

By 8am the following morning I’d already bathed, eaten my supplied breakfast of croissants, bread and coffee and was out the door. I figured I’d go exploring incognito so I left my bag and camera in my room, only taking ,y wallet, phone, passport and a map.

It took me about 30 minutes walk directly south to reach the Seine and I followed it west until I wandered around the Louvre – it’s enourmous. I’m going to try and get inside on Monday as I heard the tickets are half-price then. Continuing my exploration, I sat for a moment at a fountain then kept walking until I crossed through the busy intersections surrounding the Place de la Concorde. I kept going all the way up the Champs-Elysees for kilometres until I hit the Arc de Triomphe and the terrifying round-a-bout circling it.

After taking my shoe off and adjusting my sock whilst sitting under the Arc, I casually followed my feet towards the Eiffel tower. There’s an abundance of streets and roads named after dead US politicians just opposite the tower, something I found out considering I was practically underneath one of France’s (and Europe’s) most famous landmark.

Before I checked out more of the magnificent, metallic monstrosity, I skipped down to the banks of the Seine and stuck my hand into the water for nostalgia’s sake. I walked back up from the artificial shore and admired the construction of the monument and the monumental queues winding underneath it. I touched the north-western buttress (if that’s what you call it) before I walked through the Champ de Mars and all the way back towards Notre Dame.

I gave in to exhaustion before I reached the hunchback’s residence and ended up dragging myself back to my hotel room for a 4 hour nap. When I woke I again ventured south to Cafe Oz, an Australian themed pub that was overcrowded and lacked seating. I drank my €6,50 pint of some mystery Aussie beer the barmaid thought I’d ordered and left.

I stopped by the Hotel de Ville and noticed some workers erecting an outdoor screen for what I assume will screen rugby matches for the local competition. It was still daylight at 8:30pm, so I walked around Notre Dame and continued into the Latin Quarter until I found the student restaurants and bars near the Sorbonne which aren’t any cheaper.

There are no cafes here, only restaurants and bars. It’s not cheap either and I’m being quite miserly. I walked all the way back from the Quartier and sat on the rock wall 2 feet above the waters of the Seine for a while to rest my weary legs. Eventually I made it back to my hotel room and collapsed into a hot bath in an attempt to numb the aches and pains I’d acquired from walking probably 30km or more during the day.

Take off!

Off I go to Europe, first stop Incheon, Korea!

Mum, dad, palmy, Ross, Becky and Emily all braved the early morning and airport parking fees to see me off. Thanks kids, I’ll miss you all.

P.S. thanks for the presents.