Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Only 8 More Hours

Well I'm finally on my way. I left out of LAX last night and arrived at JFK early this morning. I'm blogging from the Delta Crown Room because my CSA flight to Prague doesn't leave for another 8 hours. At least the lounge is a lot more comfortable than the general gate area.

I saw Rev. Al Sharpton in the LAX Crown Room last night. I overheard him on his mobile trying to do something at the Apollo Theater in New York for Michael Jackson. He was going on about how the family was held up in a big house and were not very communicative. Then he was on my flight to JFK - two seats away. He's not as tall as he appears to be on TV.

Anyway...I leave JFK today at 4:15 PM and get in to Prague at 6 AM. I'll have a couple of hours to clear customs before my 9 AM flight to Brno. A short 45 minutes later and I'll be in my new city. My immediate priorities are to get in to my temporary studio flat, buy an iron, open a bank account and figure out the public transportation. Stay tuned for further updates.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bon Voyage Party & Flickr

Last night my friends, Steven & Michael, threw me a Tiki-themed bon voyage party. It was a lot of fun. Good old-fashioned American fare...hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, baked beans, etc. Poor Michael slaved over the grill in +90°F. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and it was great to be able to say good-bye to so many friends and family.

I've set up a Flickr account so I can post pictures of my upcoming expat adventure in the Czech Republic. Look for the Flickr badge on the right-hand side of this blog to take a look at pictures from last night's party. It's really here now. I only have one day and a wake-up before I leave Atlanta.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Czech Government & Recent Elections

Since I'm getting ready to relocate to the Czech Republic in a couple of weeks, here's some info about the government and its recent elections. First of all, Czechoslovakia no longer exists. On January 1, 1993, "the Velvet Divorce" established the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The Czech Republic is a parliamentary democracy with three branches of government - executive, administrative and judicial. The president is elected by Parliament and serves a five-year term. The Prime Minister (PM) is appointed by the president. Václav Klaus is the current President who is the head of state. Jan Fischer is the current PM who is the head of the government and exercises supreme executive power. PM Fischer was appointed to lead a caretaker government, until elections are held in October 2009, when former PM Mirek Topolánek received a vote of no confidence in March 2009.

The legislative branch (Parliament) consists of the Chamber of Deputies (Poslanecká Sněmovna) and the Senate (Senát). Deputies are elected by popular vote to serve 4-year terms while senators are elected by popular vote to serve 6-year terms. The judicial branch consists of the Supreme Court. The chairman and deputy chairmen are appointed by the president for 10-year terms.

Elections for the Chamber of Deputies were held this week with 64% turnout. The Civic Democratic Party (ODS) won 35.58% of the vote and will have 81 of the 200 seats. The Social Democrats (ČSSD) won 32.32% for 74 seats. The Communists (KSČM) scored 12.81 percent of the vote and will have 26 seats. The Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) took 7.22% for 13 seats while the Green Party earned 6 seats with 6.29%.

NOTE:  Policy changed and Czechs now vote for President.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Countdown

It's hard to believe that everything is coming together and I'll finally be able to get this show on the road. I leave Atlanta two weeks from today for California. I'll visit my family for six days and then I'll be off to Brno.

I still have lots to do before I leave so I had better get back to work.

-Cheers!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Getting Ready to Move

The last few days have been busy but I feel as if I've made some progress. Moving definitely provides one with an opportunity to downsize. So far I have about eight bags of clothes to donate to charity. And I'm still not done.

But the best thing I did was get set up with Skype. A subscription is really cheap and so far the call quality has been great. Skype offers what it calls an "Online Number" that allows you to set up a local telephone number. Your family/friends, that don't use Skype, can call the online number and Skype routes the call to you via the Internet. Whoever calls you only has to pay for a local telephone call. And the service comes with voicemail so if you're not available then you can at least get the message. Plus, Skype will e-mail you letting you know you have a message waiting. This will make it a lot easier, and cheaper, to stay in touch with everyone back here. There is now even a Skype status indicator on the right-hand side of this blog that lets people know if I am currently signed in or not. By the way, my local California online number is (909) 509-5799. The CallerID will show up as Ontario, CA.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Temporary Living Arrangements

My temporary living situation is now sorted out. I am going to stay in a studio flat during my first month in Brno. This will give me some time to figure out the city and find a flat.

The studio should be convenient enough. It is 32 m2 (almost 345 sq feet) with a 5 m2 (~54 sq feet) balcony. Oh Dear Lord! The metric system is going to kick my butt!

The flat has a couch/pull out bed, a cooker (stove top burner) and a small refrigerator. It comes with linens, kitchen utinsels and Internet access. The bad thing is that it does not have a shower. It has a tub with a hand shower. Not ideal but I can deal for a month. But my permanent flat must have a shower!

The flat is on Božetĕchova street in Královo Pole which I think is one of the hipper neighborhoods. It is also close to IBM where I'll be working. Not sure how long it will take me to get to work every day.

But it's just a 5-minute walk to the nearest tram stop and then only a 12-minute ride to reach the center of town.

Booked for Brno

Everything has happened so quickly. I received my work permit a week ago. Two days later I had my passport back from the Czech embassy with my employment visa (green card). Now I'm trying to get everything packed up and done before I leave. I've made all of my travel plans and it's hard to believe that I leave Atlanta in 20 days.

On June 23, I have a 7:30 AM flight to Los Angeles so I can visit with my family for a week. Then it is off to the Czech Republic. My goal was to use my frequent flyer miles on Delta to cover my ticket to Europe. Fortunately, if you are a Medallion member then you have so much more flexibility when using reward miles. Now it will take me 3 days to make it over but it sounds worse than it really is. I leave LAX at 9 PM and fly directly to JFK, arriving a 6 AM. My flight on CSA (Czech Airways) isn't until 4 PM so I have 10 hours to kill at the airport. Not an ideal situation but I cashed in enough miles so that I'm flying in business class the whole trip which gives me access to the Crown Room in NY. Free Internet and cocktails for the day...could be worse. =)
Then CSA from JFK to Prague. Get in to Prague at 6:15 AM, clear customs and leave at 9 AM for Brno. 45 Minutes later and I'll be in my new city on July 1. It seems so much more real now that I have plane tickets. The best part is that by using Delta SkyMiles, the entire trip from LAX to Brno in business class is only $250. Sweet!!!