Monday, September 29, 2008

WORKING AGAIN........ By, RST

So as many of you may know, I have not been working while living here in Prague. There were many reasons that we made this decision but just to recap here they are:
1. The local pay was quite low and I would earn quite little money
2. I would not get the amount of vacation days that N gets and so would have limited travel opprtunities
3. N likes having dinners made, his laundry done and a clean house :)
4. Bauer loves having me walk him each day

So, yes, I have been quite fortunate and have not worked.. HOWEVER,I finally got hired by a company called GCO- Global Conference Oreganizers. They are a Dutch based company and an old coworker of mine from NYC works there now. They finally were looking to hire some more Tour Managers and I was asked to join the team. A Tour Manager is a freelance position and from time to time they ask me to assist on a specific project/meeting/conference. They pay for my airfare, all food & beverage, hotel accomodations,and of course a nice daily pay. I got hired back in May- yet was disappointed that all summer mtgs had already been assigned and so I would need to wait for the fall.

Finally back in August, I was contacted to handle a mtg in Rome, Italy at the 5 star Hilton Cavalieri Hotel- 6 days of work...Perfect! A few days later, I was asked to work at second mtg in Vilamoura, Portugal. I basically had just scored 12 days of work- YES! September 6-11 I was to be in Rome and September 12-15 in Portugal! Perfect.



My Room at the Hilton Cavalieri.





Besides making a nice amount of money, I met some real nice coworkers, ate like a king in Rome and had a good time TALKING as much as I did for 12 days! In fact I spoke all the languages that I know, Italian, French, Portuguese, Spanish and of course English!


This fall, I have another mtg agian Portugal and I am quite excited bc the hotel is fabulous! http://vilavitahotels.com/typo3/html/index.php?id=107&L=2

This hotel is part of Leading Hotels of the World so it should be quite an amazing venue!

Who knew that I would so look forward to working again!

RST



Sunday, September 28, 2008

Movie Night



Many times I use this blog to express frustration when things in Prague are not like the US. I've complained about the food, the customer service, the shopping, etc. in the past. I realize that this isn't fair because I am living in a different country and I should embrace the differences in culture - not complain about them. I know this and understand this - but I still get pretty damn pissed when I can't get a quality hamburger. I will not apologize for this.

Anyway, for a change I'm going to talk about a service that is better in the Czech Republic than it is in the US. And, no, I'm not going to be talking about prostitution again. (not that I know anything about the service there - I just walk by a lot of brothels between home and work)

R and I didn't have much going on this weekend so we decided to see a movie on Friday night. Rather than just go to a regular theater and hang out with the common folk, we decided to go out in style: GOLD CLASS!

One of the cinemas near my apartment offers a "Gold Class" viewing experience. For twice the price of a regular ticket, you get to go to a special theater. Instead of the regular small, uncomfortable movie theater chairs, you get a nice big recliner. Instead of popcorn and JuJuBees - you can eat sushi, sandwiches or chicken fingers (or popcorn or JuJuBees). Instead of soda, you have a fully stocked bar from which to choose. And, here's the best part, you can tell the waitress to bring you a new beer every 45 minutes throughout the movie.



There are only 24 total seats in the theater and - five minutes after the lights go out - you feel like you are sitting in your living room. Only if your living room had a 200 inch plasma television screen, a state of the art sound system, waitress service and a popcorn machine.

It's a great service and one that I hopes come to New York someday. I say that while biting my lip because I had once wanted to do this. When I was at business school I took an Entrepreneurship class. The sole goal of this class was to think of an idea and write a business plan. And, wouldn't you know it, I had this EXACT SAME IDEA - to bring a luxury movie theater experience to New York. (This wasn't exactly an original idea because I had read about it in California - but still the New York angle was what I would have focused on)

Unfortunately, my team members were not nearly as excited about this idea and I was out-voted. We ended up writing a business plan about some automated parking lots that I had no interest in. I had thought about quitting the group and doing the business plan by myself, but then I realized that would require 5X the work.

Maybe the next time I go to Gold Class I should bring my notebook. If this type of service works so well in Prague, I have to believe a similar opportunity exists in New York

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Golfing in the Czech Republic

One of the best things about living in Prague - especially coming from New York - is the outdoor space scattered throughout the city. I've mentioned this many times before. We have at least 10 beautiful parks that we can take our dog to. There are plenty of biking trails just a few kilometers from the city center. And, there is even a golf course just a few tram stops from my house. Granted, it only has 9 holes, but I haven't lived this close to an easily accessible golf course in 15 years.

I've been playing golf for more years than I care to admit and have never mastered the game. Actually, it's much worse than that. I'm pretty bad. If I managed to complete a round of golf and didn't have a new nickname emerge from my performance, I considered it a success.

My excuse for being less-than-stellar at golf has been that I never practice. I would go out anywhere between 3-6 times a year and maybe hit the driving range once or twice. As soon as I built up a nice motion in my swing, I would take 4+ weeks off and lose it all.

This year, I decided to change everything. For the last 2 months, I have been going to the driving range at least once a week. I've taken about 5 golf lessons from a local club pro (he's South African, not Czech). He's changed my swing quite a bit and I'm quite happy with the results. My drives are going 50 yards longer than they used to (well, most of the time at least) and my short game is much improved. My long irons still suck but not as much as they used to.

The results have shown up on the score card as well. I've had three of the best rounds of my life since I have started these lessons. These scores still aren't great, mind you, but respectable. My playing partners are no longer questioning my chromosone count.

With my new found golf confidence, my buddy Mark and I decided to take a golf holiday weekend. At first we talked about going to Ireland or Scotland for the weekend, but the logistics didn't work out. So, we rented a car and drove out to a down on the Eastern end of the Czech Republic named Marianske Lazne. Marianske Lazne is an old spa town but they have a famous 105 year old golf course. The course was founded and supported by King Edward VII in the early 20th Century.

When I told R that I was going to a spa town for golf, she was in! She may not golf, but she can certainly spa with the best with them.

Fortunately for me, the golf experience was better than that of the spa. Golf was a good time. Weather was pretty shitty, but I was playing well. I tied for my best round ever on both Saturday and Sunday. And, I even managed to hole a shot in from 105 yards out. That doesn't happen every day - or even every year.

One of the things that R has learned is that the term "spa" in Eastern Europe is quite different than the term "spa" in New York City. In the Czech Republic, most of the spa towns can be considered medicinal spas. The rooms are sterile and bright white. They focus a whole lot more on the cleansing type of treatments more so than the relaxing treatments. So, if you're looking to suck on an Oxygen tube for 3 hours or voluntarily flush your colon, come to Prague!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Why I Love My Wife

This post is dedicated to my lovely wife. But, before we get into that, let me provide a little bit of a back story.

R and I have been married now for 6 years. During that time, I've changed quite a bit. Many, many of these changes were for the better. But not all. Most notably, I have lost all of my ability to cook.

When I was a bachelor I was far from a first rate chef, but I could take care of myself. I could rock that George Foreman grill. I made pasta on a regular basis and would even cook fish when the mood struck me.

But, once I got married, that all changed. You see, R is a better cook than me. Much better. To top it off, she actually likes to cook. Since the meals she makes are much better than anything I can produce, we both agree that it makes sense for her to take control in the kitchen. That frees me up to take care of my obligations in the marriage; such as reaching things on the top shelf and lifting heavy objects. It's a good marriage. She focuses on what she does best and I do as well.



This makes my life great 95% of the time. Raffy cooks amazing dinners and I eat them with enthusiasm. (I do help with the dishes - I'm not a Neanderthal). But it does cause a problem the other 5% of the time when R is not around.

These next two weeks happen to fall in the other 5%. R is working a consulting job that will take her to Rome this week and Portugal next week. It's great for her and not too shabby for our finances either. If we were in New York, the food situation would not be a problem. I could order in food from dozens and dozens of options - and it would be at my door within 45 minutes. But the concept of food delivery is not something that has taken off in Prague.

This brings me back to the point about why I love my wife so much. Rather than let me suffer during these next two weeks and potentially cause havoc in the kitchen, she made sure it wasn't an issue. Here's what my beautiful wife did for me:


  • The day before she left, she made enough chicken cutlets to feed a family of 12. Not only are chicken cutlets my favorite food, but they are also extremely versatile. You can put eat them with rice, make a chicken salad, cut them up and throw them in pasta or, how I like it, a chicken cutlet sandwich. Just look at all these cutlets she made me! Life's great!



  • Cooked me two dozen meatballs and put them in the freezer. She is well aware that the only dish I now know how to make is pasta. The meatballs will make all of my pasta dishes taste that much better.

  • Bought me 5 different frozen dinners that can be made in under 25 minutes. I swore off frozen dinners once I got married. But, she assured me that the frozen meals she bought were from a luxury store and taste really good. She even made one for herself last week just to be sure.




I'm sure I would love my wife just as much if she wasn't such a good cook. I'm pretty sure at least. But, I'm glad I don't have to find out.

Thanks for everything babe... Enjoy your time in Portugal and Rome!