Two weeks. What!?
It really does seem like months since I stepped off that plane, and if I'm being honest I don't even know where to begin in trying to recount the misadventures since. One tale in particular (which will no doubt be aired out at every family occasion from here until my funeral) involved some inevitable check-in angst, two sniggering sisters, and the exchange of a large amount of money to compensate for my inability to read a calendar. Great start, as usual.
But I arrived here in one piece, and if the wallet was a little lighter because of it then that only means I can't fall prey to overweight baggage charges, yeah? And, if anything, getting the hair-tearing out of the way in the beginning can only bode well for the rest of the trip, right? It can only go uphill from here - attitude is everything, people.
Oddly enough, turns out I'm beginning to believe my own bullshit.
I love this place. I can't exactly place why - I'd like to say there was some moment of forehead-slapping epiphany as soon as I stepped off the plane, but the truth is besides shop-signs sporting syllables I can't even fit my mouth around the place isn't all that much different from home at first glance. OK, the weather's a little different (better, if anything) and when the public transport promises an arrival every ten minutes it actually happens, but the reality of living abroad only really hit me once I arrived at Kolej Hostivar, my new home for the next three months.
We got there courtesy of Jitka, a Czech "buddy" assigned to one of the girls I'm travelling with who the rest of us naturally latched on to at the first opportunity. Hostivar had a bit of reputation, and having come up through the projects known as Plassey Student Village, I thought myself prepared.
The gulag, I jokingly dubbed it after having read some of the initial reports, but it's a phrase that's rapidly gaining steam.
After queuing in a lobby that reminded me a little too much of The Shining's Overlook Hotel we were hustled up to the counter to present our forms. The check-in was actually kind of efficient, in a way - a series of papers slapped down onto the counter for our signature (most in Czech and those in English whisked away faster than we could read) before a disembodied hand stretches out from underneath the double-glaze with a grunt, only retreating once presented with four thousand Czech crowns. Roughly 180 euro, which is cheap for a month's rent. We soon saw why.
We were given rooms on the top floor, naturally - I'm sure the lady at reception took a look at our burgeoning beer bellies and decided it'd be for our own good. I shouldn't complain - there is a lift, I'm just not all that keen to use it given that it's essentially the exact size and shape of your average coffin. Then there's the signage dotted around the hallways. My favourite by far has to be the one stuck to the fridge in the hallway: "Please lock fridge, homeless people come in at night to steal the food." In all fairness, if someone actually comes in the dead of night, slogs the eight stairwells or, even worse, actually braves the lift, I think he's earned a bit of whatever rock-solid carbohydratey goodness I have hiding on a shelf.
For all my complaining, I genuinely think the pros of living in Hostivar outweigh the cons. Yes, it's a bit grotty, far from town, and the reception staff have often had me contemplating how quickly I could head-butt my way through a double-glazed window before security got me, but there really is a lot more to it than you read in the reports.
But more on that later. I've rambled on and still have much more to say which warrants another entry soon, but for now it's getting dark outside, and I still have the long journey back to the gulag to contend with before I can settle down to whatever bowl of best-not-to-ask they're serving in the canteen at this hour.
Oh, and eight flights of stairs. What was I saying about it being all uphill from here?
Ba dum dum tish.