Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Holy Canelloni

Doesnt that Mr. Turnbull person seem like such a nice guy? The things that flow from that mouth. I'd lose that smug look if I were him cos it might make some people want to smack him in the face. Mr Abbott should start looking over his shoulder to protect his most-smug-politician position.

Apart from raving about Pan's Labyrinth, I have nothing new to say. Go see it, if you get a chance. It's worth it, even though it is brutally violent in parts and made me look away on more than one occasion (OK, 4!). Admittedly, I am of the queasy variety. Best movie I've seen in a long time.

Am afraid I'll have to dredge something from my unreliable memory for this month's post. So technically, this could have been written ages ago. No timeliness factor here.
[will now need you to imagine the screen dissolving]

"Whoo-hooo". Finally, some real use of my Malaysian passport. No visa required for Czechoslovakia. The consulate in Australia had suggested I get it when I was in Germany. Munich confirmed I needed one but was only open like 2 hours a week and seeing as I was going to be in London. Anyway, when I tried to get one, the London consulate contradicted them. "New law. You dont need one", said London. I'd just saved AUD$60!!! SIXTY buckeroos!

That Saturday, I then drove to the Czech checkpoint at Waldhaus, armed with my visa-less passport. I'll omit the "professional hitchhikers" anecdote for brevity. The guard glanced at my passport and waved me through. Heh. I spent the rest of the day and all my money at Karlovy-Vary. They shot Casino Royale here. Real pretty place.

Anyway, happy and penniless, with my haul of Bohemian crystal, I headed back to Germany. This time, the Czech guard examined my passport, scrutinising every page and then said, "Visum?". Huh? "Visum?!" Holy shit!!! What's he talking about? What visum? Instinctively, I squeaked "Sprechen Sie Inglisch?". I could feel the sweat slide down my armpits. I was alone on this trip and would not be missed at work till Monday. My visions of spending several nights in jail accompanied by snippets of Midnight Express was interrupted by the answer I least wanted to hear. "Nein, nur Deutsch." "Oder Czech.", he helpfully added with what appeared to me to be a menacing grin. [Will need you to imagine subtitles here] Eeek!! I then slowly explained (in pidgin German and in a pitch higher than what I normally use) how the London Consulate assured me I didnt need a visa and if he double checked, he'll discover I didnt need one. Thereafter, I spilled my guts, telling him about my work, my childhood, how that shoplifting incident was really all a misunderstanding. "London give incorrect information", placing his hand on his holster. My bladder contracted.

With 40 kroner left (around AUD$2, give or take), bribery was clearly out of the question and the barricades seemed pretty sturdy, even for a speedy Ford Sierra (black, 2.0L, Stuttgart plates). The other guards had that "Why dont you try it, buddy" look, whilst caressing their automatic weapons. After holding up traffic for a few more minutes, he gave up and grinned "Next time, get a visa".
Yeh, sure, next time. I snatched my passport back while thanking him profusely (and silently prayed that they not shoot me in the back as I drive away) and when he tired of this, I quickly drove off before he could change his mind. You should have seen the other cars overtake me for fear the same thing repeated itself at the German checkpoint, which it didnt. These days, I insist on getting a visa everywhere, regardless of need.

And thus ends this month's entry. Thank you for your indulgence.
Note that the Czech republic is a great place to visit. I'd revisit it in a flash. If you'd like more travel tips, give me a buzz.


M said...

oh lord, you certainly know how to liven things up don't you? ;)

Chai said...

Heh... It did not come without effort. Took me more than an hour do to this one. And I wouldnt have written it if it wasnt already the last day of Feb (had resolved to do at least 1 post per calendar month). As it was, I made it with 50 minutes to spare.

meva said...

Did your hands start shaking when you were safely back in your car? I would have been a mess!

Chai said...

Hi Meva, Let's say that Mr Hertz would not have been very happy if I had drunk water earlier, which I'd neglected to do cos of the exciting day. But after, I was just very relieved but the adrenalin was really flowing. No shaking though, just very clammy hands.

ChickyBabe said...

Glad to hear the bladder contracted... not exploded!

Jay said...

I love how government is always trying to the little guy in deep shit. Nice show.

Justine said...

hoot! That was a total hoot!

I got told a while ago Australian passport holders don't need visas for Czechia since it got EUified. But maybe different laws for different passports.

I was almost refused entry to Norway the last time I arrived here. Freaked me out, because I was on my in, with my husband, and really would have been a bit stuck if they hadn't let me go 'home'! I had submitted a visa application, then gone travelling, then come back and they just said, "Well, if you are re-entering, you need to have either a visa or 3 months in between." So we told them we'd already made an application and had travel rights, and they asked us to prove it, but we just went, "Duuuuh...". Then they said, so if you are married, why don't you have the same surname, and I got all femo on him, and said, "I have never changed my name, I don't see why I should, and I never will!"
Then my husband said, "Now do you believe we're married?" and the guy laughed and let us through.

Chai said...

cb : it's like a (little) pouch. When it contracts, the contents tries to get out.

jay : I take it that it's the same up there as well. I like your Govt more than the ones here though.

just : Hee hee... Spot the married couple, right? Good thing you werent dealing with the local immigration. Christmas Island or Nauru for you!

sarah said...

i like you! you appeal to my random side that is often left unsatisfied because some people have this weird hankering to be 'normal' yawn yawn!

Chai said...

Errr, am not sure what I may have written that would have made you come to the conclusion that I may not be normal?
But am glad you like me. I like you too.

Justine said...

Oh... yeah Australia is harshness (I feel sorry for the public servants). Its a little bit like, "Ver are your papers?" I don't know if that was a afrikaans accent or german, but same difference.

sarah said...

you think you sound normal?

;) unless you WANT to be normal (which is not a bad thing, just a boring one)... in which case i will change my opinion because i am a sheep

Chai said...

just : it's sad, the direction the current govt has steered the country.

sarah : I'm normal, your're normal, everyone's normal. Reminds me of a scene from movie 'Young Frankenstein'.

[after a brain transplant]
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Igor, would you mind telling me whose brain I did put in?
Igor: And you won't be angry?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: I will NOT be angry.
Igor: Abby someone.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Abby someone. Abby who?
Igor: Abby Normal.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Abby Normal?
Igor: I'm almost sure that was the name.

gigglewick said...

hee hee hee. Young Frankenstein.

And also: one day I must blog the delight that was my experience of customs at Heathrow.

If I can emerge from the foetal position and cease rocking for long enough, that is.

Rosanna said...

Yay! The post arrived.

Not a cool story though - I would have DIED had the same situation happened to me. And non english?

EEK. Not cool.

But, Chai Chai - good on you for getting through those nasty men with guns. I remember I was snoozing when they asked me for my passport going into the Czech Republic - and I was possibly drooling, and then I got woken up so rudely. By men in guns. In very tight pants.

I wouldn't want to relive it.

Chai said...

ggw : I watched YF recently. It hasnt dated much at all. Still v funny.
Would love to hear your travel stories.

rosanna : they werent that nasty. It was pretty tense but worked out well in the end. Pretty lucky. Dont want to think of the possible alternative endings to the story.

Steph said...

How scary! I would have turned on the waterworks and pleaded ignorance...Seems to work for me :P

Chai said...

If I had been drinking any fluids at all that day, I can guarantee you the waterworks would have happened, though probably not the waterworks you originally meant.

sarah said...

mandela just fell on my head

well, the giant ass book we have on him fell on me. again!

next time he comes to buy books from us i will berate him

Chai said...

OK... maybe not all of us are 'normal'.

Justine said...

still travelling?

Chai said...

Hi there Justine, Not travelling. The extract was from my memory. The Czech trip was from last millenium. Havent travelled since my trip to M'sia. Another entry here.

Helen said...

I like hearing stories of how people at airports or border posts are actually human. I remember landing at heathrow at 5am and getting to passport control to be interviewed by... an expat Capetonian!

Chai said...

Must seem surreal. 5am, you are so far from your homeland, and it's like you never left!

Justine said...

its nearly March... eagerly awaiting the next post... not to give you performance enxiety :)

Chai said...

Yes, just. No pressure at all.
You may want to check out this unread piece if you have nothing better to do :-).
BTW, did you click on that pic in this blog entry. It's in norwegian.

Justine said...

I'd seen that photo in the online news (in Norwegian). I wonder if maybe it was reported here and not elsewhere? FYI, here's a quick (rough) translation:

"Mye regn og et ødelagt kloakksystem skapte katastrofe i Guatemala City i dag."
Heavy rain and a ruined sewerage system created a catastrophe i G city today.

"Fredag morgen lokal tid ga bakken plutselig etter, og det åpnet det seg et gigantisk hull, som slukte flere hus og en truck. Tre personer er så langt savnet."
At Friday morning local time, the ground suddenly gave way to a gigantic hole, which took many houses and a truck. So far 3 people are missing.

"Det hundre meter dype hullet åpnet seg i en av byens fattigste og mest overbefolkede bydeler. De tre som er savnet er en 53 år gammel mann og to tenåringer, en gutt og ei jente."
The 100 metre deep hole opened in one of the city's poorest and most over-populated areas. The 3 who are missing are a 53 year old man, and 2 teenagers (a boy and a girl).

"Det ble funnet et lik nede i kloakken som omringet hullet, men det er uklart om det er et offer etter denne ulykken."
A body was found down in the sewer area surrounding the hole, but its unclear whether it belongs to a victim of the accident.

"- Huset ristet sånn at vi våknet, forteller Edward Ramirez, som bor 50 meter unna hullet, til nyhetsbyrået AP. Han fortalte at folk i området skal ha hørt rare lyder og følt risting i bakken i rundt en måned før ulykken."
The house shook in such a way that we woke, tells Edward Ramirez, who lives 50 metres from the hole, to newsagency Associated Press. He said that the people in the area heard strange sounds and felt shaking in the ground for about a month before the accident.

"Nå er både Ramirez og 1000 andre personer fra nabolaget evakuert fra hjemmene sine, og myndighetene advarer om at bakken er ekstremt ustabil. Politiet assisterte de evakuerte på vei ut av området; mange av dem bar med seg verdifulle eiendeler som TVer og kjøleskap."
Now both Ramirez and 1000 other people fra the neighbourhood are evacuated from their homes, and the government/council warn that the earth is extremely unstable. Police assisted the evacuees out of the area; many of them carrying their valuables such as TVs and fridges.

"Rundt det stinkende hullet kommer det fremdeles både bråk og skjelvinger i bakken, og myndighetene frykter at det kan utvide seg enda mer."
There is still both noise and shaking in the ground around the stinking hole, and officials are afraid it will get bigger.

"En talsmann for det lokale vannverket fortalte at kloakkledningen kollapset etter å ha blitt tettet, og at byen var klar over problemet."
A spokesman for the local waterworks said that the sewers collapsed from being blocked, and that the city knew about the problem.

"Militæret regnet med at en kontrollert eksplosjon ville rense opp rørene, men rakk ikke å fikse problemet før hele systemet kollapset. Det er også fare for at det kan åpne seg flere lignende hull i byen."
The military thought a controlled explosion would clean out the pipes, but didn't manage to fix trhe problem before the whole thing collapsed (!!!). There is danger that more such holes could open up around the city.

Justine said...

Sad, huh? This makes it sound like the pipes were blocked so the miltary came in and blew something up... but it doesn't go into any detail about that.

Chai said...

Wow... Thanks for the translation. I dont remember seeing this being covered here.
I am sure when the military blew up the hole, they went 'Ooops'.

Justine said...


Poverty makes people so vulnerable.

It rattles me everytime I think a billion of the people in the world live at that level of poverty of worse...

Miss Natalie said...

Karlovy Vary! So beautiful there... *dreams* i felt like i was living a fairy tale. Did you have any of the waffles? did you drink any of the spring water? Very expensive there for the Czech's, my aunt lives not more than a 5 minute drive and she can't afford to have coffee there :-(

Visa, there shouldn't be any issue at all. I travelled between czech and germany many times (another aunty lives near german border in the mountains above Chomotov) i even did the border dance you know czech / german czech / german czech / german geman / czech - i get excited by small things *blush*

Chai said...

Ahoj Nat. It was rather lovely. I did drink the water. Didnt like it. Was too 'tasty'. Chalky?
Waffles? Are they a specicality there? Didnt know. It was an impulse visit, so didnt do any research. ie. was driving to Bayreuth and then thought 'What the hell'.

I can imagine not being cheap for locals. I wonder if being part of the EEC has made any difference.

I really liked the Czech. Republic. Would go re-visit there in a flash. Best country to visit, after Italy.

Orhan Kahn said...

Another great picture to save!