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01 August 2005

i'd brought the blood back

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it was [right at THIS moment] that i remembered something i should have remembered long before: i'm a professional.

that's right, ladies and gentlemen, at this point in my life i'm a professional traveler. resilient and determined, prepared for the extraordinary, unlike the ordinary, i'm unstoppable. UN. STOP. PA. BLE. i have an army behind me ready to overrun the system and [right at THIS moment] there was a system which needed to be overrun. i'd encountered a problem which would require me to call upon the full and complete capabilities of the global reconnaissance organization; to mobilize the massive resources of our minds, to unleash the technological terrors of our security network, to reveal one of the secret weapons of our vast arsenal. where was i? ah, yes. i looked left and then right and then calmly reached down into my pants.

more on that later.

today i'd be the first in my family to make it back to the motherland, the czech republic, to the mother city, luhacovice, where my great grandmother grew up before she moved to the united states. we would be travelling by bus with three transfers: cesky krumlov -> ceske budejovice -> brno -> luhacovice. the first bus departed cesky krumlov at 0750. we got up early and were out of the hostel by 0715; we wanted to leave the requisite 'forgotten location of the bus stop', 'rolling suitcase cobblestone combo', and 'any additional potential problem' time. as we walked and rolled, we remembered the path and arrived at the bus stop with enough time to catch the earlier 0735 bus to ceske budejovice. 'dva for ceske bude...' and before i could finish saying the name of our first destination, the driver had handed me the tickets. thank you, sir. we were on our way.

after a short layover in ceske budejovice, we boarded the bus to brno, tickets in hand (we had been able to buy the bus tickets for this leg of our journey in cesky krumlov). this would be the longest of the three bus rides, a 4.5 hour journey eastward across the country, through the countryside on winding, twisting and turning roads. lakes and trees. the country was very beautiful but less than an hour after departing ceske budejovice, sarah and i were both ready for a nice smooth straight highway. i usually don't get sick in moving vehicles but during this ride i was feeling very nauseated. sarah wasn't feeling great herself; i remember looking over at her and seeing her sitting up in her seat and focusing on the horizon in front of the bus (apparently one of the ways to calm motion sickness). we had several conversations during which she talked facing forward. we were both happy when the bus pulled into brno at around 1330.

struggling with the language barrier, it took us about a half hour to locate the ticket office at the brno station. with two tickets in hand for the bus departing one and a half hours later to take us to our final destination, we walked across the street to a small mall where we discovered we had a problem. interesting situation really, and a little embarrassing. sarah and i had both let our checking accounts fall to zero, failing to remember to transfer funds from our savings accounts (inaccessible by atms) to the checking accounts [this was a repeat of the situation i'd had in galway, ireland, three months before]. together, with very little cash, there was no way to perform the transfer without a computer connected to the internet. had we really had an emergency, we had our credit cards and i was carrying enough funds in other currency to see us through any situation, but what we really needed now were some czech crowns. while sarah stood guard over our bags, i sent out global recon scouts to determine if there was an internet cafe in the mall. '[static] negative, sir.' we walked back to the bus station and boarded our bus for luhacovice. contingency plans: if we couldn't locate an open internet cafe in luhacovice, i'd contacat a global recon associate in the states and ask them to perform the internet transfer for me. we're well connected.

nearing the end of the two hour bus ride; we weren't exactly sure where to get off the bus. we didn't have a list of stops with us and we didn't know what luhacovice looked like. we knew we were scheduled to arrive at 1748, but the bus could easily be running fast or slow. at each stop, i tried to capture a clear picture of the list of stops, but was unsuccessful. we watched for signs and finally saw one; we were close. on our left, some 70's era apartment buildings. i felt a little disappointed. the bus stopped and i ran up to the driver with my ticket. using the international language known as gesturese, i asked him if this was our stop. no, one more. the bus drove on, passing the apartment buildings, into a smaller and much more delightful little area of town... a left turn... and we had arrived. we stepped off.

one hundred years later, i'd brought the blood back.

we looked around and got right down to business. i dispatched scouts to locate an internet cafe and our pension. they returned from the opposite direction twenty minutes later.

'report.'

'pension ruza located; seven minute walk. an outdoor internet terminal was located, but it's out of service and most likely won't be operational until tomorrow morning when staff return at 0900. we tried two atms to determine if funds could be withdrawn from a savings account; negative.'

'nice work, gentlemen.'

sarah and i proceeded to the pension along a path near a small stream and arrived shortly after. we walked through the door and a smiling woman began speaking to us in czech. from her tone and gestures, she knew exactly who we were and had been expecting us. she led us straight to our room on the bottom floor (a very clean and nice room) and explained the door locks and told us what time breakfast was in the morning. some additional gestures told us to get settled in the room and then come out later to pay and give her our personal information. hmm. yes... payment. that might be a problem. the guidebook had listed the price of the rooms in this pension as 1000kc a night, roughly 40 usd, but i've discovered that the guidebook is usually off by about 10% (in the bad way). we didn't have the czech currency to cover the price.

we emerged from the room about twenty minutes later, ready to tell the woman that we needed to withdraw funds from the atm, but she was gone. good. that gave us some time. we went out to find a phone to call back to the states to have someone transfer the money for us. ha. yes... a phone. and you're going to call... how? right. we didn't have a calling card and i hadn't yet purchased a sim card for my treo. calling cards were sold at the tobacco stores and the two tobacco stores that we located were closed. we assumed any other tobacco stores we'd be able to find would be closed as well. reverse the charges? we went back over to the phone to see if we could navigate the system. it was [right at THIS moment] that i remembered something i should have remembered long before: i'm a professional.

that's right, ladies and gentlemen, at this point in my life i'm a professional traveler. resilient and determined, prepared for the extraordinary, unlike the ordinary, i'm unstoppable. UN. STOP. PA. BLE. i have an army behind me ready to overrun the system and [right at THIS moment] there was a system which needed to be overrun. i'd encountered a problem which would require me to call upon the full and complete capabilities of the global reconnaissance organization; to mobilize the massive resources of our minds, to unleash the technological terrors of our security network, to reveal one of the secret weapons of our vast arsenal. where was i? ah, yes. i looked left and then right and then calmly reached down into my pants... and pulled out my money belt and withdrew two crisp 1000kc notes. our money problems were gone. as always, i had reserve funds in my money belt. i couldn't believe i'd forgotten about them. the way out is through.

and not one cloud in the sky as our problems melted from our minds and we walked the luhacovice streets for the next several hours until darkness with smiles wider than wide. i was _so_ excited and the moment was unforgettable. similar to when i visited cahans church in monaghan, ireland, and wished my grandmother and family were able to be there with me, it was now that i wished my other grandmother and famliy were able to be here with sarah and me. the little town was beautiful and i imagined my great grandmother running through the streets. i so wished i had brought all of the postcards with me, but i hadn't wanted them to get damaged. i did have with me several photocopies of the postcards, but only one had a picture of buildings in luhacovice. tomorrow sarah and i would first search through the main cemetary to see if we could locate any family gravestones and then we would seek out the buildings in the postcard. ice cream and sugar wafers. sarah and i walked back to the pension holding hands beneath the street lights. this was a gigantic day.

underneath it all
we feel so small
the heavens fall
but still we crawl
: the way out is through, nine inch nails

posted by paul on Mon 01 Aug 2005 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)

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