Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Support for Belarus

On Sunday there were rallies in Prague and Brno to support the protests going on in Belarus.  The protests going on in Minsk are against Alexander Lukashenko who has led the country for 26 years.  

He became president in 1994 when Belarus gained independence from the Soviet Union so he is the only leader that the country has ever had.  Lukashenko is known as the last dictator in Europe.


The Jošt statue in Brno now displays the Pahonia on its shield.  

The Pahonia was the official emblem of Belarus in 1918 and from 1991 to 1995.

Update:  8 October 2020, the Belarus government has pretty much shut down the embassies of Poland and Lithuania in Minsk.  The government has accused them of meddling in its internal affairs.  In solidarity, Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, and Latvia will now recall their ambassadors to Belarus.  The EU has blacklisted 40 Belarusian officials over the police crackdown on demonstrators against rigged elections.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

2019 Global Peace Index

The results of the 13th annual Global Peace Index are in. Europe maintained its position as the world's most peaceful region for the 13th year in a row.

Iceland and New Zealand kept the first two spots again.

  1. Iceland
  2. New Zealand
  3. Portugal
  4. Austria
  5. Denmark
  6. Canada
  7. Singapore
  8. Slovenia
  9. Japan
  10. Czech Republic
The USA came in at #128, out of 163 countries, behind South Africa but ahead of Saudi Arabia.  

Afghanistan and Syria swapped positions as the least peaceful countries.  The bottom five are:
159.  Iraq
160.  Yemen
161.  South Sudan
162.  Syria
163.  Afghanistan

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Czech AIDS Aid Society

On Thursday I went to the University Hospital for a free HIV test.  Česká společnost AIDS pomoc (ČSAP), the Czech AIDS Aid Society, is a non-profit organisation that was founded in 1989.  They offer free, anonymous HIV testing at several locations called "checkpoints" across the country. They also provide counselling and accommodation services for people who are HIV-positive.  All of their funding comes from subsidies and donations.  

Checkpoints for testing are in Prague, Brno, České Budějovice, Hradec Králové, Olomouc, Ostrava, Teplice, Ústi nad Orlicí, and Ústi nad Labem.

In Brno, the testing is at the hospital in the Department of Infectious Diseases.  Every Thursday from 3 to 6 pm.

There is a pre-test questionnaire that you have to take.  I went online and completed the questionnaire before I arrived.  It's not mandatory to complete it ahead of time but I thought it would be faster.  Plus online you can complete it in Czech, English, or Slovak. I was given an 8-digit code which I gave to the nurse.  With this code I have the option of getting my results online or I could come back later to pick them up in person.  

Everything was really easy.  I got there a little early so I was the first person in line and I was done in about 10 minutes.  I was told that the results would be available in 5 to 7 business days.

Well it turned out to be much faster.  I had the test on Thursday afternoon and I randomly checked today and the results were back.

In addition, they also test for syphilis and hepatitis C.

Regular testing is important and most people know their Facebook status but not their HIV status.  

Update:  As of 1 October, the Brno Checkpoint is temporarily closed due to COVID-19.  I assume that the other locations are closed as well.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Terralona

This week the Brno Observatory and Planetarium has a programme called "Z Měsíce na Zemi" which means "From the Moon to the Earth."  At the park at Kraví hora is a 10-metre (33 feet) diameter of the Earth along with Europe's largest model of the moon.

The Earth model, the Terralona, was on display from 6 - 12 July but I missed it then so I'm glad that I got to see it this time.  Seeing now is even better because the now it's next to the moon model, the Lunalon.


COVID-19 precautions are in place with social distancing, a maximum of 1000 people at any time and masks are required inside the observatory.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

2020 Pride

Due to COVID-19 there weren't Pride parades in Bratislava or Prague this year. So  definitely no dancing on a float in a toga like last year

So instead we decided to have a picnic at Kraví hora.  


We grilled out, played music, and appreciated being able to get together without having to wear masks.

For sure the most laid back, calm Pride event that I've been to.  But great fun hanging out in the park all day.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Prague Embassy COVID-19 Warning

I'm still registered in the Smart Traveler Enrolment Program (STEP) with the U.S. State Department so they know that I've living in Brno.  Yesterday the U.S. State Department sent me a travel warning for the Czech Republic.  Basically that due to COVID-19 the government thinks that I should reconsider travel to Czechland.    

The rub is that I think the COVID-19 situation is better here than it is in the USA right now.  In addition I don't need the government to book me on a repatriation flight and have my passport cancelled until the bill is sorted.  

What annoyed me was that the the webpage of the U.S. Embassy in Prague hasn't been updated since 7 April 2020.    

I shared on Instagram that the webpage was out of date.

Obdržel jsem cestovní varování COVID-19 pro Česko. Velvyslanectví Prahy webovou stránku neaktualizovalo od 7.4. Yesterday I received a #covid19 @statedept travel warning for #czechrepublic but the @usembassyprague hasn't updated it's webpage since 7 April. 😷🇺🇸🇨🇿🇪🇺

The Embassy did respond to me with the following: "Yes, this is a page from April 7.  You can see all updates of this page here: https://cz.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/security-and-travel-information/ "

While this link is updated, I don't understand what's the point of still having out of date information online?  I asked them this and showed that this link is still valid. https://cz.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information/

Let's see what the reply will be.

Update: December 2020, the Embassy never responded back.  One page on the embassy website is up to date.  But the outdated 7 April page is still up and online.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

New Hospital Turnstiles

The Masaryk Cancer Centre recently got some new high-tech turnstiles.  When you approach the turnstiles they automatically check if you have fever or whether or not you're wearing a mask.




If have a fever, and/or don't wear a mask then you don't get it.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Postal Delays

Due to COVID-19, there aren't many flights right now between the USA and Europe which means that mail between the two takes longer.

Today I received three birthday cards, two from California and one from Arizona.  The cards were mailed over seven weeks ago.  

I hope that the mail gets sorted before the U.S. elections.  I'm not going to be happy if I don't get my absentee ballot in time to vote for a new American president.

Update:  My absentee ballot didn't arrive until 4 November.  

Update:  It took about three months to receive a Christmas card from New Zealand.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Cancelled U.S. Passports

During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, flights were cancelled and people were stranded trying to get back home.  Many countries chartered repatriation flights to bring their citizens home from around the world.  Some countries provided free flights to get their citizens home and some countries billed the travellers.

The U.S. State Department arranged flights for about 100,000 Americans who were stranded at a cost of $196 million.  This was just to get people back to the USA.  People then still had to secure commercial travel to actually get home.

Now people need to pay the money back.  The problem is that it could have been handled better.  Some flights were quoted an "up to amount" and passengers had to sign promissory notes agreeing to pay whatever the final cost would be.  Some people have been waiting three months and they still don't know the final amount they need to pay.

While people are waiting to be informed of the final amounts they owe, the government has cancelled their passports.  New passports can not be issued until the debts are cleared.