Tuesday, May 30, 2006

So Little to Report

Yet why am I so slow and lazy about writing anything?

May has flown by. It started off with a little job for the local UN office. I heard through the coconut telegraph that they were looking for a pricing agent. That is someone to gather price information around Bratislava so that they, in New York, can determine The Cost of Living here in Bratislava and adjust salaries accordingly. Several sources named me as Perfect for the Job, perhaps because provisioning is what I seem to spend most of my time doing (that and taxiing people around the city).

But first back up to The Stupidest Thing I Agreed to in 2006, which was to cohost the Women’s Club Fashion Show. I know, I know. These things always bite me in the ass. But Wendy, who was prez after I was, said she would if I would and Wendy is fun. I was seduced by the idea of getting to wear something cool and funky, hanging out with Wendy and mocking club members, all while inventing incredible standup material that would be so clever and glib that only the Native Speakers would even get it. I’d be like Zorro, with my rapier tongue.

I learned about this in January, I think. It was to be on May 12. A Friday. Long about the end of April I get a call from the nice UN folks saying that I have been selected for an interview and could I meet with the nice woman from NYC tomorrow? Sure. I have mentally already spent the money (I’m jonesing for an eye lift, but the Spouse just ignores me, yet indulges my addiction to America’s/Britain's/Australia's Next Top Model, Project Catwalk/Runway, and Extreme Makeover), so I guess I’d best find out about the actual job. The Nice Woman from NYC asks about my Slovak skills, I confess they are limited, and leave, relieved, that I am not the person for this job, which, frankly, is beginning to sound like a pain.

Imagine my horror, later in the afternoon, when the Nice Woman from NYC calls, thrilled, to offer me the job. Oh, and by the way, it starts tomorrow. You have two weeks. Here is a list of 300+ items we want you to price, as well as about ten car models. Ready, set, GO!

So the Fashion Show is really bad timing all of a sudden. The clothes I get assigned are okay, but knitwear and, frankly, WARM to wear when one is nervous about speaking in public and under lots of lights. The good part was that we had our lines cut dramatically on the afternoon of the event. The bad news is that no one bothered to show us how to work the microphones and just shoved us out on the stage when our time came. There we stood, while the audience coughed, rattled their programs, and blinked politely at us until the Real Host, a professional presenter from one of the local TV stations, bounded out of stage, her microphone working, and asked “Do you need some help?” Yes, but I should have asked you to SLAP me back in January when I agreed to this humiliation.

But we survived and it’s over and no one remembered a word we said. Except for the really bad part which was that Baboo's class had a Mother's Day spectacle on that very day and the same time. Really hit home what a dumb idea hosting this silly thing was. The first (and hopefully last ) time I have had to miss a Kid Show.

To erase that bad memory, I enclose some previously published correspondence regarding one day on the Pricing Agent job:
Today I did automotive . . . cars and oil changes and tune ups. Batteries and spark plugs. All fun when you don't speak Slovak. I had to get some car prices, too and the Volvo guy was helpful (actually, all the Volvo guys were in Sweden and this was the Landrover guy from next door). But the first VW guy I spoke to didn't speak English so he summoned a colleague. My conversation with him went like this:

Me: Excuse me, but do you speak English?
Him: No. Sorry. Deutch?
Me: No. Sorry. Espanol? (I ALWAYS say this and they always laugh because OF COURSE no one does)

But this time his eyes light up, and he calls Colleague, and I understand enough Slovak to realize he is saying "There's a lady here who speaks Spanish." I'm saying "English is better!" but along comes Manager aka Colleague, and he has spend time in Venezuela working with the Slovak embassy there and he is DELIGHTED to speak Spanish and insists we do the whole thing in Spanish. Argh. I bumbled around a lot, but the more we did it the better I got and at least I think I understood him and thank God he has a South American accent because those I can understand SO much better.

That was interesting.

I finished and got paid and bought something that will improve the quality of life for all of us: a clothes dryer. For the first time since 1999 (well, since I have been without a housekeeper, which is more like 2003), I am caught up on laundry! Although, I must confess, that having been spoiled by ironed clothing, clothes from the dryer look just a little bit . . . unkempt. There. I said it. But I’m not ironing undershirts any more!

Then, in even better news, I scored tickets to see the Stones in Brno. Actually, it was my Mother’s Day treat from my darling, wonderful husband. The truth is that I somehow discovered they were playing less than an hour from here and since the Spouse was in Paris for work, I spent the equivalent of cheap seat tickets text messaging him about how I was sure I would be changed on a molecular level if only I could be present while Mick and the boys play Start Me Up. Hoping Keith feels better soon. I have always said I need to see them before he dies, and I was getting a little worried there after the tree incident.

The Spouse already saw them once, years ago in Detroit, with Santana as the opening act, and still he fell asleep. (He has also slept through Lou Reed.) I have interrogated him about what exactly was it he was smoking that night in Detroit, but he insists he was genuinely tired and bored. I’m sure he’ll be a fun date, nonetheless. I’ll be so busy dancing on my seat (yes, I bought real seats. I’m too old to reenact Who concerts), I won’t notice him gently snoring. I have been brushing up on Stones Lyrics I Never Fully Knew so I can sing along with my fellow Brnites.

Skittles lost her second tooth. The new ones are all giant and jammed in there and can surely only be rectified by lots of expensive orthodontia. Baboo still remains toothless front and center. She lost those two teeth back in the fall, and while they are hovering below the surface and have been confirmed as actual teeth by an Actual Dentist, we are wondering what the hell is taking them so long. Perhaps, unlike Skittles’ teeth, they realize that we need to save up a bit more to pay for that expensive orthodontia.

In other news, Baboo went to Green Week (camping with her class in the Tatras) last week. I have been told to remind you that this is French school, so it was Classe Verte, for a solid week. If she's not dreaming in French yet, she sure should be.

She was very apprehensive about it, but had a ball. It was sort of Camping Lite, as they stayed in a hotel, but as this was a Slovak hotel in the Tatras, it was BYO towels. Unfortunately, she lost her disposable camera, so we have no visual record to share. Her buddy/love interest, PA, also lost his in the sandbox, but remembered and retrieved it. The sandbox? At a hotel?

Here is a lovely picture of my two lovely girls:

Today my whole day got turned upside down. No real harm, just annoying.

It started at breakfast when Skittles said, "I have an itchy neck." Sure enough, she had a HUGE red, raised spot. My first thought was GOITER!? but then I decided it was some sort of bug bite. I put some bug bite gel on it and sent her off to school. Dropped off husband at work. Went to gym. Was in middle of workout when the nice girl from the reception desk found me and said I had to call my husband URGENTLY (I keep my phone in the locker as it's not usually necessary).

I called, and he said Skittles’ teacher was concerned about her neck. With visions of it worsening, we both rush to the school (me forgoing the shower I was planning to take after the workout which I never finished). The bite looked unchanged from breakfast to us, but, ok, we'll get it checked. If she had a new problem like this and Teacher had said nothing, we decided we would have been pissed.

But I have no pediatrician here. I just bumble around when these things arise. Fortunately, we ran into PA's mom (not sure why she was at school, but she is PTA prez). PA's mom called her ped (who she saw last night as PA's brother sprained an ankle). Nice woman, this ped, who speaks only French and Slovak, but she'll see us at 12:15.

So I drop off the Spouse back at his office and take Skittles back to the mall because I was supposed to firm up birthday party details after gym (Baboo turns 8 on Tuesday. Her party will be at http://www.aulandia.sk/). Go to grocery store. Now it is 11:00. So back to Spouse's office to collect him for appointment.

Long story short: ped says "It's a bug bite." She said to take an antihistamine (which I have but had not yet given her) and wrote an Rx for some topical cream, but it takes time to mix up the order, so I can't get that until tomorrow. It is supposed to smell really bad. Looks like a zinc oxide mélange from what she wrote out. I’m dying to experience the bad smell. (Update: Picked it up this afternoon. It does smell. And it cost 20 crowns which is 67 cents. But the bite is already mostly gone now.)

Thursday the girls and I are off to experience Copenhagen. The Spouse was slated to come with us, but work has been crazy this month (all of which means job security and is good, but this is unfortunate timing). So I will report next week. We have been warned away from the Little Mermaid (it's boring, I'm told), but I am eager to check out the Viking Ship Museum.

The rest of the summer sounds like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: in June there is Copenhagen, the Stones in Brno, a fancy dinner party on the 10th and another on the 23rd. Ohio for the first three weeks of July. Then home for a week of laundry (with my new DRYER!) before the annual pilgrimage to Spain where each year I can speak less and less Spanish.

But now I must run as the dryer buzzer has just rung and I know Australia's Next Top Model starts in a minute.


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