Thursday, December 31, 2020

PF 2021

Šťastný nový rok!  

Happy New Year! 

PF 2021

What a year 2020 has been and I'm glad that it is just about over.  Here's hoping that 2021 will be much better.

2020 was supposed to be a big travel year.  I was all set with trips to 20 countries in 2020.  I started off strong and then COVID-19 came in and flipped the script.  However, I was fortunate enough to still hit 8 countries.

Since 2009, I always visit at least one new country a year.  This year it was going to be Vietnam and Cambodia.  That didn't happen so my streak came to an end.  Oh well.  The biggest disappointment was not getting to the USA this year.  I missed getting to see my parents, Steven & Michael, and make it to my nieces's high school graduation which ended up getting cancelled anyway due to COVID-19.  Hopefully I can make it over to the USA in 2021 but it all depends on how quickly the vaccine gets distributed. 

I can't believe that I don't have any travel planned right now.  By this time of the year I've normally pretty much planned out the entire year.  As of now, nothing is in the diary.  I haven't even bothered to look at the 2021 public holiday calendar to find out what long weekends we'll have next year.  Very unlike me.  

At least I'm safe and don't have COVID-19.  All of my family is safe and doing their best to keep isolated.

My biggest hope for 2021 is that I can finally sit for my language exam and citizenship test.  If I pass, and can submit my paperwork then hopefully I'll get Czech citizenship some time in 2022.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas 2020

Merry Covid Christmas!  With the lockdown there was no way for me to go to Berlin for Christmas this year.  So just like the virtual Thanksgiving, this year Christmas is on Skype.  

Der Weihnachtsmann still made an appearance to drop off a bag of presents.  Just this year it was at the fence and he didn't come inside the house.

Dinner in Berlin

Claudia's mom usually makes Buletten, traditional Berlin meatballs, on the 24th.  

So I decided on meatballs for dinner so that we'd all be on the same page.  Not as good as her's but not bad.  There was even some red and green cabbage in that care package I received so it felt more like being there.

This morning, we got up early and Skyped with our favourite Kiwi in Wellington and tonight I'll FaceTime with my family in California.

I've got to admit that Christmas was way better last year.  Hopefully 2021 will be more normal.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Carp Time

It's carp buying time.  

Pandemic or no pandemic, nothing is going to get in the way of Czechs getting carp for Christmas dinner.  Going on 12 years here and I still can't get behind fried carp and potato salad for Christmas.

I still haven't decided what I'm going to have for dinner.  Something easy for sure since it will just be me.  Like the virtual Thanksgiving, this is going to be a virtual Christmas dinner.  

Friday, December 18, 2020

BER Finally Opens

Well it finally happened.  The new Berlin Brandenburg Airport opened on 31 October 2020.  It was supposed to open back in 2011.  Six later opening dates were also missed.  So much for German engineering.

BER was supposed to be a hub for Airberlin, Germania, Germanwings, Easyjet, and Lufthansa.  Well Airberlin closed in 2017, Germania closed in 2019, and Germanwings closed in April 2020. 

There were two airports in Berlin.  Tegel (TXL) in the north and Schönefeld (SXF) in the south-east part of the city.

BER has three terminals.  Terminal 1 is the brand new terminal.  Terminal 2 was supposed to be for the low cost airlines but it's currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Terminal 5 is actually the former Schönefeld Airport which is primarily for Ryanair and some charter flights but it too is currently closed due to decreased demand due to COVID-19.

I remember that the first European protest I saw was about the airport.  The original cost was supposed to be €2,83 billion ($3.47 billion) but in the end it was around €7 billion ($8.59 billion).

Here's a short video I found out on YouTube that gives a bit of the history of Berlin's airports.

©Al Jazeera

Here's a really good 7 minute video that goes in to all of the problems and what all exactly went wrong.

©DW News

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Brno Christmas Market 2020

Despite COVID-19, Brno still has its Christmas markets but they feel sad and empty to me. 

All of the stands are social distanced.  The new restrictions prohibit drinking in public it looked like there wouldn't be any mulled wine this year.  However the government changed the rules on this one.  However, you can only get a svařak or medovina (hot honey wine) along a side street; not at the main market.

This doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.  It seems that this just encourages people to drink in a more confined space.

This will be the first time that ever that I don't get my favourite Christmas punch.

Update:  No punch in 2021 either.  The government closed the Christmas markets due to the rise in Covid cases.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

No Euro Yet

When I was deciding to make the move to Czechland many years ago, it looked like the country would change its currency from the Koruna to the Euro around 2015.  This was a selling point for me because I thought it would be a once in a lifetime experience to go through a currency switch.  Well I've been here 11,5 years and there's no outlook in sight for ever actually making the move.

When Czech Republic joined the EU in 2004 it became legally obligated to adopt the Euro once it fulfilled the necessary requirements for joining the Eurozone.  There's a lot to be gained by adopting the Euro.  Three of the four countries bordering Czechland all use the Euro.  More than 57% of the country's foreign trade is with countries using the Euro, almost one-third just with Germany.  If Czechia was on the Euro then it would be easier for businesses to conduct trade because no one would have to factor in foreign exchange rates.  

Czechs are reluctant to give up the Czech Crown because they know that while it would be better for the country overall, it means that things will become more expensive as prices get rounded up but salaries won't.  The country could join the Eurozone whenever it wanted to but every time it gets close to meeting all of the requirements it seems to purposefully flub things up so that can just keep kicking the can down the road.

The government has just said that due to economic conditions resulting from COVID-19 and this year's budget deficit that the country will not set a date yet to adopt the Euro because the prerequisites for joining will not be met.

There are 19 countries on the Euro.  When it was first introduced Denmark and the UK opted out.  Now that the UK has left the EU after Brexit, only Denmark doesn't have to make the switch.  Besides Czechland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Sweden all still need to give up their national currencies for the Euro.

Here's a short video I found on YouTube about Slovakia, from 2008, right before it was to adopt the Euro. in 2009.  It could be about Czechia today.     

©DW News

Thursday, December 10, 2020

2020 Hanukkah

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. 

Whilst I'm not Jewish I did grow up in California where there are plenty of mixed families that celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas.  

Often called Hanumas or Christmakkah

So for those that celebrate the Festival of Lights...

!!חנוכה שמח Šťastnou Chanuku!!  Happy Hanukkah!!

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Christmas Care Package Happiness

It's been a while since I received a care package so I was shocked when the postman delivered one on Friday. 

It's been a crazy year.  Given the postal delays to the USA and New Zealand I didn't even mail out Christmas cards this year.

Since I didn't really get to travel much this year my niece and nephew aren't getting their annual Christmas packages with Advent calendars.  Instead they're getting cash this year.

Germany is on full lock down now until 10 January so there's no going to Berlin for Christmas this year.  Well since Uncle Chris can't go to Berlin then Claudia and Tünde decided to send me a few things for Christmas.

I wasn't planning on even putting up a tree this year but now I kind of had to since I needed a place to put the goodies.   

So today out came the Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

2020 World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day.  The pandemic that's been going on for over 35 years. 

At the end of 2019, 76 million people have been infected with HIV/AIDS and about 33 million people have died.  Around 1,7 million people acquire the virus every year.

Over 35 years and there's still not a vaccine.

I've heard people make comparisons between the AIDS pandemic and COVID-19.  The thing to remember about HIV is that the infection is for life.  There's no cure for it.

HIV has been on the rise in Czechland for the last several years and last year the country had the world's 5th largest increase.

Hopefully once COVID-19 gets under control, then the free HIV testing centres here will be able to re-open.

While there is no vaccine, or cure, available for HIV at least there is PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis).  PrEP is a once-a-day pill that combines two antiretroviral medications that helps prevent transmission of the virus.  Again, not a vaccine because if you stop taking the pill then you can catch the virus.  

PrEP is covered by Czech health insurance and a 30-day supply of PrEP here only costs 1100 Kč ($51). In the USA, without health insurance, the cost is $1,600 - $2,000 (34 340 - 42 925 Kč) per month.