Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's 2013

Happy New Year Everyone!!  I can't believe that another year has come and gone.  I swear that as I get older the time passes faster and faster.  I hope that everyone has a safe and happy new year.

I did quite a bit of traveling this year so here's a "Happy New Year!" in each of the languages used in places I visited in 2012.

Happy New Year! - English
Šťastný Nový Rok! - Czech & Slovak 
Glückliches neues Jahr! - German
Godt Nytår! - Danish
Un An Nou fericit! - Romanian & Moldovan
Gott Nytt År! - Swedish 
Ευτυχισμένο το Νέο Έτος! - Greek
¡Feliz Año Nuevo! - Spanish
Sretna Nova godina! - Croatian
Szczęśliwego nowego roku! - Polish
Srečno novo leto! - Slovenian
Sena l-ġdida kuntenti! - Maltese
Bonne Année! - French
C Новым Годом! - Russian
Buon anno! - Italian
Boldog Új Évet! - Hungarian

I wonder which languages will be on next year's list...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas Everybody

Merry Christmas Everybody!  As someone who has always been fascinated with foreign languages, I am very fortunate to work in such an international environment.

I probably have one of the most linguistically diverse teams at work.  So here's a "Merry Christmas" to everyone on my team this year in all of their languages.

Merry Christmas - English
Veselé Vánoce - Czech
Veselé Vianoce - Slovak
Crăciun fericit - Romanian & Moldovan
Buon Natale - Italian
Весела Коледа - Bulgarian
Feliz Navidad - Spanish
Feliz Natal - Portuguese
عيد ميلاد سعيد - Arabic
Gëzuar Krishtlindjet - Albanian
Joyeux Noël - French
Fröhliche Weihnachten - German
Wesołych Świąt - Polish
Среќен Божиќ - Macedonian
З Різдвом - Ukrainian
С Рождеством - Russian 
Linksmų Kalėdų - Lithuanian
Boldog karácsonyt - Hungarian
Geseënde Kersfees - Afrikaans
Срећан Божић - Serbian

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Time in Brno

PF 2013
It's starting to feel a lot like Christmas around here.  I have yet to see a white Christmas in Brno.  Luckily, it started snowing again today.  Typically all of the snow melts a couple of days before Christmas and doesn't come back until after New Year's.  

You can tell that it's Christmas time because the vendors are out selling the bathtub fish for dinner on the 24th.

Still not my favorite Czech tradition but who am I to judge?

One tradition I love is going to the Christmas market at Zelný trh for my favorite  Vánoční punč (Christmas punch).  I wait all year to be able to get one.  It is made from black tea, orange juice, lemon, cinnamon, honey and orange liqueur, topped with whipped cream.  It is so yummy!!


Veselé Vánoce a šťastný nový rok! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Cookies

Christmas cookies, vánoční cukroví, are a big part of the Christmas time tradition over here.

Czechs go crazy for them!  They are normally given out as Christmas gifts.  There are dozens and dozens of different kinds of cookies.  Czechs pride themselves on the number of different cookies they make.  I wonder just how competitive it gets.  I've been told that no self-respecting Czech housewife would make less than 10 different types.   It seems like an awful lot of work to me but they taste so good.

Friday, December 21, 2012

CZ Expat Blog Results

Yeah!!  I won the 2012 Expat Blog Award for Czech Republic.  I must thank everyone who voted for me.  Winning this award is even better than the award last year for a few different reasons.

First of all, this award was just for ČR which made it more personal.  Most of the other bloggers were all from Prague, and whilst I like Prague, it is not the only city in this country.  So I kind of feel that Brno won too. 

I liked that this contest required people to actually give feedback.  The quantity of feedback wasn't supposed to be the only deciding factor but I haven't seen any winners for other countries who also didn't happen to have the most number of votes.  Some of the feedback was very touching to read.  And while I personally know many of the people who voted, it was really neat to read the feedback from total strangers.  This blog really has taken on a life of its own.

In the award announcement, the organizers randomly choose one comment as a testimonial. 

One fan says: Christopher's Expat adventure is by far my favorite blog. I look forward to each new post. The variety of Chris' content: travel, history, holidays, architecture, professional and personal experiences, among others, always keep the blog new and exciting. Chris is so talented in taking a cultural difference and explaining it in a way that makes the reader understand that the cultural difference is not good or bad but just different. He has a true gift of showing the common humanity and humor that transcends various cultures. I am excited to read about Chris’ future adventures and to feel as if I am there with him as I read his blog. Thank you for all your post. Keep up the great work.

I love that they chose Steven's comment for this.  

There are a some really well-written expat blogs which I regularly follow and I was up against two of them for the title.  Girl in Czechland and Ricky Yates - an Anglican in Prague are both great blogs.  I've followed them for sometime now so in the spirit of good sportsmanship I did vote for each of their blogs.  I would have been proud to have finished up behind them but it does feel really good to have actually won.

The other cool thing about this contest is that now I've got a number of new blogs to follow in other countries which will be helpful as I plan future adventures.  Thanks again to everyone who voted, congrats to my fellow bloggers, and a big thank you to Expats Blog for putting this contest together.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Where Should I Go in 2013?

So far since moving to Europe in July 2009, I've been to 34 different countries.  Not a bad run if I do say so myself.  Now the question is what new places do I visit in 2013?  There are just so many places that I want to go to...Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Montenegro, Norway, Finland, UkraineHeck, somehow I still haven't even managed to make it to London yet.  Decisions, decisions.  That's where I've decided to let my readers have some input.

Originally, I thought about letting people choose where I would visit.  The only problem with that one is that I would get a whole lot of votes to go back to Atlanta and I was just there.  So instead, I've come up with five different places.  All of these places are ones that I would eventually like to get to.  Some will be easier than others.  I may do more than one of these in 2013.  Who knows?  However, I will for sure go to whichever one receives the most votes.  

Here's a little background on each in order to help you choose where to send me.

Iceland is located in the mid-Atlantic and it is the USA's closest European neighbor.  For someone who isn't the biggest fan of cold weather this one must sound a bit odd.  Glaciers and volcanoes just sound so cool.  While the best weather is in summer time, I would most likely go in March or April so that I can catch the Aurora Borealis.  The biggest drawback to Iceland, aside from the cold, is that it is even for Scandinavia, it is very expensive.

Georgia is a country between Eastern Europe and Western Asia.  Once part of the Soviet Union, it declared independence in 1991.  Georgia is home to the break away republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Both of the areas have been occupied by Russian soldiers since the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.  I don't plan on going anywhere near the break away republics but how cool would it be to go from Atlanta, Georgia to Tbilisi, Georgia?  

The United Arab Emirates is on the Persian Gulf between Oman and Saudi Arabia.  It is a federation of seven emirates.  I know many people who have gone there and everyone has enjoyed it.  Dubai is home to the Burj Khalifa which is the world's tallest building.  One of reasons for considering the UAE now is because I would really like to visit Israel.  The problem is that if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport then the UAE, and about 20 other nations, won't let you enter the country.  Therefore I have to visit the UAE first.  On the drawback side, the UAE isn't exactly gay friendly.  Homosexuality is illegal and the punishments range from jail time, fines, deportation and the death penalty.

The Baltics consist of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  At the start of WWI, all three countries gained independence from the Russian Empire.  However, all three were later annexed by the Soviet Union.  In 1991, they declared independence.  The three countries are now liberal democracies and in 2004 they joined the EU and NATO.  If I go to the Baltics then I may try fit in either Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave between Lithuania and Poland, or Belarus.      

The "Stans" are five countries in Central Asia which all used to be Soviet Republics.  Today, they are the independent republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.  Not quite sure which one (or maybe two) countries I would visit.  Uzbekistan has been on my list of places to visit since I was 16 years old.  I remember reading a magazine article about the Soviet Union and it talked about how Uzbekistan was home to camels and pineapples.  It just sounded like such an exotic part of the U.S.S.R.  Kyrgyzstan doesn't require a tourist visa which is a plus.  The other four all charge between $160 to $180 per visa and each visa will require a trip to the appropriate embassy in Prague or Vienna.

You can only vote once per computer.  I should have only allowed people to make a single choice but I didn't.  Oh well, something to remember for the next time.  So feel free to submit your vote on where I should go visit in 2013. The poll will remain open until New Year's Eve.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Nutcracker Time

Sunday night was Louskáček time at the Janáček Theater.  This has turned in to a regular Christmas tradition here in Brno with my friends.  Claudia and I went in 2009, and then joined others in 2010.  I missed last year because I was off traveling some place so I wanted to make sure that I didn't miss this year's performance.

The show was quite good but the 2009 performance was still the best. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

2012 CANZA Charity Ball

On Saturday, Natalie and I caught a train to Prague so that we could attend the annual CANZA Charity Ball.

CANZA is the Czech Australian New Zealand Association.  It's a social group in Prague that, since 2005, gives expats a chance to promote the cultures of Australia and New Zealand.  They host regular sporting, dining and charity events. 

This year's event was held at the Prague Congress Center.  There was an auction and a raffle to support Chance 4 Children which was this year's charity.  Chance 4 Children helps disabled children, as well as, those who are socially disadvantaged, institutionalized or terminally ill. 

It was a really nice evening and the food was excellent.  I've got to say that it was kind of fun being an honorary Kiwi for the night.  Nat even coached me on some Kiwi vocabulary so that I could fit in.  

We bought 2000 Kč ($100) worth of raffle tickets and ended up winning playing cards and some hand warmers.  Not exactly a bargain but it really doesn't matter since it was all for charity.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mikuláš Office Visit

Mikuláš, an angel and a devil, walk the streets every December 5th.  Candies are given to the good children and the bad ones are taken away.

Well today, Mikuláš made a visit to the office.

I think that the biggest surprise for people was seeing me as the angel.  For some reason, people figured I would be the devilGo figure...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

2012 Thanksgiving

This is my 650th blog post since I started this little adventure.  I wonder how long until I hit 1,000.

Saturday was my 4th annual Brno Thanksgiving celebration.

This year, it was a week later than normal but, since it isn't a holiday over here, it's not like anyone noticed.

I was a bit worried with only having a 7 kg (14.5 lb) turkey for 25 people but, with the ham, it worked out fine.  Not as many leftovers but on the good side, I didn't have to get up quite so early to put the bird in the oven.

With all of the farewell parties this year we had a few new people this year.  As always, it's lots of fun introducing Thanksgiving to my Europeeps.  People really seem to get a kick out of all of the typical American dishes.

One of my favorite parts of the day is when everyone goes around and says what they are most thankful for.  With three sets of newlyweds and others expecting their first children, there was obviously lots to be thankful for.

This year's Thanksgiving was a little more mellow than in past years.  Probably because about half of the people were up late last night at the Hippie Christmas party.

Special thanks goes out to Gízá who was our designated photographer.  And of course an extra big thanks to my parents and Steven & Michael for the care packages which made the day possible.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Hippie Christmas Party

On Friday night, we had our annual unit Christmas party.  This year's theme was a "Hippie Christmas" and it was a real blast.  I was impressed with how so many people went all out with the theme.
I took my final vacation day of the year on Friday in order to get ready for Thanksgiving.  And knowing that I had to get up Saturday morning to cook the turkey, I made sure not to over do it on Friday night.

About ½ of my current team
I did have a "three-peat".  I won the award for the best boss again.  It was very nice but it's really an easy thing to do when you've got such a great team of people to work with.  The award really should be for the luckiest boss because my team is awesome.

The party was held at the same bar as last year.  I was extra careful about my camera this year.