Happy New Year!

Ok, maybe it won’t be so happy. I suppose we’ll find out as it unfolds… Yay for optimism.

I know I shouldn’t bother saying it, but yes, I realise it has been a while. Sorry.

Another roundup:

  • I got my new passport ($330 later, that is)
  • I got my new license ($130 later, that is)
  • The new reception is all for nothing, as we’ve been kicked out by the owners. We’re moving down the street.
  • I still haven’t been back to Juuksur.
  • Rob came to visit.
  • Suvi and Heli came to visit.
  • Emily came to visit.
  • My parents came to visit.
  • John came to visit.
  • Teo came to visit and didn’t do any magic tricks.
  • A friend from high school, let’s just call him McKinnon, came to visit.
  • Someone stole my iPod from the basement when I wasn’t here. I bought a new one. 160 gigs, woo!
  • Christmas was very quiet and boring.
  • New Year’s Eve was very loud and mental.
  • There’s still no snow but the temperature is finally sub-zero.
  • Marika and I are still together, even though I didn’t buy her a Christmas present. Old habits are hard to break.

I still haven’t learnt much more Estonian. I will have to try harder. Marika’s family gave me an Estonian/English pocket dictionary for Christmas. Subtle.

Yes, we’re moving out of Lai and down to Olevimägi. That’s right, opposite Levist Valjas. Uh oh. The building is great inside – newly renovated in fact – but probably won’t be very quiet during summer. Never mind, nothing ever is.

Our basement bar has also completely flooded with water and smells like death. Fortunately we managed to move out all the furniture just in time. Moving everything to the new building (everything that will fit) has already proven irritating but there’s not much left to take any more. Except heavy things. Like foosball tables.

At least we won’t have to carry the DVD player, since some stupid Erasmus students (I think) stole it. Idiots.

I still haven’t had a hair cut. Not for over a year-and-a-half now. I’m so wild. At least I cut off my beard every 2 weeks or so. Now for my fingernails…

We have a fourth Estonian working here now. Another young one. She’ll be remembered eternally for her New Year’s performance, but let’s not get into that on the Internet. Today there’s meant to be another girl coming to volunteer for 2 weeks. She arranged it months ago, when we thought we’d be staying in this building. I’m sure she’s going to be surprised.

In other good news: I don’t seem to have gained any winter fat. At least nothing obvious. Too bad I haven’t lost any, either.

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.

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.

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…

Galleries and CSS

I’ve spent the last 16 hours or so mucking around with my gallery‘s theme. I didn’t like the way the dev-testing theme looked which is fair enough since it’s designed for experimentation rather than aesthetics.

I think it looks rather spiffy at the moment. Nearly seamless, you might say. I’ve barely slept since I started hacking away at it last night. The individual picture pages haven’t been touched yet, so ignore their look for now.

On the hostel front, it looks like we’ll be living in the Viru rooms for at least the next 2 months. I had a feeling we’d end up in here for a while anyway so it came as no surprise when Hugo mentioned it. He’s going back to Holland on the 11th so then there’ll only be four of us looking after both these places now that Valerie’s back.  Well, Ben will be around too, I guess.

I haven’t been to the gym since Tuesday. We were meant to go today but it doesn’t look likely. Not with me feeling buggered from last night and Emily having been fast asleep on the bed for the last hour or two. Damn it, I really could use a shower and a good old scrub of the teeth. What a mess.

Today I caught up with Swedish Martin. He wanted me to see if there was any free WiFi signals that could be detected from his flat in the old town. The building is fantastic, a real Soviet style, scungy dump with dark, narrow hallways and toilets comparable to the one from Trainspotting. His room was freezing as well, I can only imagine how horrible it’d be inside during winter. He shares it with Tambet, an Estonian guy who works in Levist and plays in a relatively famous local rock band. Apparently Tambet has been living there for about seven years. Hardcore.

There were only secure wireless networks available so I was unable to help Martin out. Instead we had a beer and listened to some music while he told me some of his crazy stories. It would have been nice to kick back and relax for a few hours but I had to get back and clean the toilets.