Monday, 25 April 2016

Pressies sorted

So what do you do when you need to get presents for more than 40 cousins, uncles, aunties, second cousins, great-aunts, old workmates and former drinking buddies? A pounamu (greenstone pendant) for everyone would be cool but would use up half my travel fund, so instead I've chosen my favourite photos of the past couple of years and had them printed on A4 card. Now I just have to sign them, pop them into sleeves, and pressies are sorted... 
Oops, there goes the surprise. Oh well...

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Two weeks to go

Today my favourite travel agent, the awesome Aimee from Kaikohe, made the last arrangements and printed out my tickets. There's really no backing out now. Thank you Aimee for your patience and cunning plans! Only two weeks to go...

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

I'll drink to that

Long ago the de Graafs were grog merchants - this was their shop in the Dutch city of Leiden. Apparently the building is still standing so I'm hoping to find it. Funnily enough mum's side of the family was in the same business, so it seems I am descended from a long line of booze sellers. That could explain a few things... 

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Garden party beckons

In June I'll be returning to the school I taught at through much of the 1990s for the annual Garden Party, where prizes are awarded to the top students of the year and the kids perform skits and songs to hopefully impress their parents. This photo, of the senior girls and my old mate Roger (what is he doing there?), was taken about 1995. They've all grown up, got jobs and had kids, but the school still looks pretty much the same. Called Česko-anglické gymnasium (Anglo-Czech High School), it was one of the first private schools set up in the Czech city of České Budějovice* after the Velvet Revolution of 1989. 

* In case you were wondering, České Budějovice is pronounced CHESS-keh BOOD-yay-o-vits-eh. Something like that anyway. It's about three hours south of Prague by train. 

Friday, 15 April 2016

Double trouble

I'm also looking forward to seeing my cousins Jolande and Lidwien. Both live in Amsterdam these days where they've promised to take me out for a "koffie/lunch/hapje/borrel" (coffee/lunch/snack/drink). Maybe I'll just opt for all of those. Whatever we do, going by what I remember of the twins, it's bound to be fun... 

Friday, 8 April 2016

Ráchel, Boris and me

And here's someone else I want to catch up with (no, not Boris the inflatable tyrannosaurus rex, though he is still somewhere in the Czech Republic). Ráchel, here aged about nine, was a child genius and one of my favourite students. She may still be a genius but she is certainly no longer a child. I used to spend the odd Christmas with Ráchel, her sister Sarah and their mum Barbora, who served as a sort of surrogate family for me. Both girls now live in Prague and are globe-trotting extreme frisbee exponents but I'm sure I'll see them somewhere.
In case you were wondering, those are not Czech national costumes we're wearing. This was a Halloween dress-up, the year before an unfortunate incident involving me in a pirate costume, the Czech police, and a fine my boss somehow made go away. But that's another story...

Friday, 1 April 2016

Jěstě jedno pivo, prosím*

Another person I'm looking forward to catching up with is Simon Gill (pictured here in his natural habitat, a pub in Moravia). Originally from Liverpool, Simon taught in all sorts of curious places before he ended up in what was then the Slovak half of Czechoslovakia a couple of weeks before the Velvet Revolution of 1989. These days he lives with his wife, daughters and dog in a two-pub village in Moravia, the eastern part of the Czech Republic. Simon is extraordinarily good company and is, I believe, a world authority on the English language, traditional Czech pub culture and music recorded on New Zealand's Flying Nun label in Dunedin in the 1980s. I kid you not.

*One more beer, please