Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Thoughts From A Tiny Nation

My tremendously friendly yet deeply scary Slovenian supervisor has popped out for a meeting, so I figured I'd take a little time to update y'all on recent trials and tribulations.

I hate airports. Actually, I think I hate any place where the main objective is to get as many people through that location as quickly as is humanly possible. It seems like having that as your guiding principle leads you to stop viewing customers as people and start seeing them as items on a conveyor belt that must endlessly be kept running. Any attempt to speak, to ask for help or clarification, and you will be immediately classed as a defective part who must be dealt with severely, so as to force you back into the system, that you might piss off again as soon as possible. I heard for years that Londoners are objectionably rude, and I've had some experience of this, but looking back it occurs to me that all my negative experiences have been in train stations, tube stations, or bus stations. It may well be then that I simply suffer for having to travel to London, and thus invariably the first people I meet are of the "human beings are cattle to be herded and eventually shot" stripe. Certainly, it turns out that several of the airport staff in Newcastle are egregious dicks, too.

On a more positive note, I am delighted to find that the acrophobia I suffered from as a child has now vanished. Given the seemingly endless capacity possessed by my brain to generate new and crippling phobias apparently at random, finding out they can disappear without reason too is quite a nice thing to learn. The one thing I still can't do, though, is read on an aeroplane if I can see out of the window with my peripheral vision. Something about trying to scan lines of text whilst clouds pass beneath you causes a short-circuit in my brain.

Slovenia itself is beautiful. I spent some time observing Western Europe as I flew over it, and it pretty much just looks like home. The same networks of roads, the same patchwork of arable fields. It's not like I was expecting volcanoes and glaciers, or anything, but the lack of variation was still a little depressing.
This is just like home, I said to myself.
Then we reached the forests, huge forests that stretched to the horizon. They were broken by valleys and towns, but there was no question as to who was boss. The only things that didn't seem to be menaced by the trees were the mountains.
Fair enough, I thought, this is new.

Ljubljana looks just as nice when on the ground. Forests, hills, nice buildings, clean streets. Plus an almost unbelievable number of outrageously attractive women. The only eyesores are the ubiquitous posters for various parliamentary candidates that are spread throughout the city. I am reliably informed that the predicting the extent of the upcoming political reshuffle is very difficult, since a recent scandal has erupted over the Slovenian government buying Finnish weapons and one or other government receiving bribes for making the deal, bribes currently being held in Austrian bank accounts. It's all very confusing, apparently.

I am assured, however, that there are no upcoming wars to worry about. This may be for the best, as I am unsure as to how much faith should be invested in Finnish weaponry.

The place where I am staying is ludicrously roomy, easily the size of my flat back home, which is pretty cool considering it's only little old me living there. On the other hand, unless I can get the internet in my living room to work, I am liable to go mad with boredom. One can only read for so long on any given day without losing a grip on one's sanity, especially when so much of the work day is taken up with perusing academic papers and deciding what can be safely stolen.

That will do for now, I think. This is taking loner to type than normal since Slovenian keyboards swap around the "Z" and "Y" keys (do Czech computers do that too? I've forgotten), so my already limited skills of touch-typing have surrendered entirely.

More to come later, but I'm getting back to the maths...


Pause said...

I'm glad it's going well, SS. Did you take a camera?

SpaceSquid said...

No. I am thinking of asking Santa for one for Christmas, since the one I got from NAB is broken.

And by "broken", I mean that I've lost the cable.

Senior Spielbergo said...

It’s true that airports / train stations / bus terminal things are all designed to shove you out as quickly as possible and therefore not that pleasant. In their defence this is purely a defence mechanism created to combat the much worse situation that occurs when they fail to get people through fast enough, the people riot and attempt to kill all the staff…. Of course on my last (at least I think it was my last, not 100% sure) trip through the airport we had a fun bomb scare just before security. Half of our group were allowed to proceed through to airside where they experienced a virtually empty terminal and sat around drinking beer and watching football. The rest of us were unceremoniously dumped outside while we watched all the various members of the emergency services pile into location and then stand around for about an hour until the one guy who actually got to do something arrived. That was fun…

What was most amusing was the poor timid little member of staff who was trying to persuade people to move from one place to another and being completely ignored, who then realised she had some rather effective resources standing around not doing anything at that moment in time. Suffice to say people moved when the four firearms officers came over to vocalise the request…

Good to hear you’re still alive and not totally disabled due to phobia induced panic anyway! What manner of outrageously attractive women does Slovenia hold? Can’t imagine your usual red haired taste can be well catered for, or am I wrong?

SpaceSquid said...

I'm sure you're right, although one can of course deal with people swiftly without automatically being irritating with it.

And yes, the red-haired ladies are not well represented over here (though some have dyed their tresses that colour, and I'm not one to object), but there are a lot of women here with very dark hair, too, and that also gets high marks from me.

jamie said...

Hurrah for primeval forests and beautiful foreign women! Glad to hear from you, keep the updates coming.

Shame you've no camera, but grab hold of a disposable, I very much doubt that they cost a great deal.

And yes. Airports are the most depressing places on earth. On the other hand, everything seems so much nicer when you leave them.