What I have learned from Hugo

Sunday, 7 June 2009


I have now had a puppy for 10 days.  I got Hugo when he was just 8 weeks old, still very much a baby – even in dog time.  I didn’t know anything about caring for or training a puppy, but it’s amazing how fast you catch on.  My colleagues and friends have shared their wealth of puppy experience, and Boris gave me the Perfect Puppy book.  So I have learned to look after my puppy, but – more to the point – I have learned a lot about myself.

  • I do not enjoy having something (or someone) 100% dependent on me.  As much as I adore Hugo, I can’t help resenting him.  I don’t mind getting out of bed at 5am to take him outside – the sun is already up and I love mornings.  I like going for walks and I like him sleeping at my feet whilst I work.  Hugo has even come to pubs with me.  What I resent is my loss of freedom in general because I always have to consider Hugo’s needs and, most of all, that I have only managed to go to the gym once in the last 10 days.  That is not okay.
  • I will never again wonder whether my decision to not have children was the right one.  My experience with Hugo has shown me that I am not maternal.  I don’t have the requisite patience and I am a bit too self-centred, amongst many other less than attractive qualities, I am sure.  I like children and I like puppies – but that doesn’t mean that I have to have one of my own.
  • Hugo has melted my icy heart.  I seem to have regained touch with my emotions over the past 10 days, and I have been willing to show weakness and need, and to ask for help.  And a puppy is not what I need.  Back to the search for a real boyfriend…
  • Watching a puppy learn and grow is wonderful, and the speed at which Hugo is doing both is astonishing.

However, when all is said and done, I want my life back.  I want to get up at 6am and go straight to the gym.  I want to be free to go wherever and whenever I want to go and not need to wait for someone to look after my puppy.  I am sure it would be deeply rewarding to raise Hugo to become a companionable adult dog, but it’s just not for me.

I had had Hugo exactly one week when I realised I would have to consider giving him up.  I took action the next day – posting on expats.cz and starting to tell people.  I am hoping to find people that will give him the love and attention that he deserves within the next day or two.

I am glad to have had my brief puppy-raising experience and I feel my life is a little richer for Hugo having been in it.  But I really am done.


19 1/2 hours with Jono

Monday, 18 August 2008

Jono arrived at my house last night at around 10pm. We had prep to do before his doctor’s appointment at 8 this morning so we went around the corner to my local. We drank beer as we filled in the medical history questionnaire and then talked about what our Monday would entail. If only we had guessed…

The pre-ordered taxi was waiting outside my house at 7.30 and got us to the insurance doctor’s office in the hills above Smíchov right on time at 8. There had clearly been some miscommunication amongst the insurance company, the doctor and my assistant, but we managed to sort out the paperwork and in the end the doctor approved Jono for his life insurance.

We got back to my office in Smíchov just after 9. My assistant had already talked to the insurance agent and she sent us straight off to the insurance company, which was nearby, so that Jono could sign the life insurance agreement. So far, so good. Things were going smoothly and we thought we had them under control.

Jono and I stopped for breakfast at Café Savoy and then went on to see P at the bank at Náměstí Republiky. We got there at 11.15, giving us at least an hour before we would have to leave to go to the developer’s office to sign the final purchase contract for our flat. P examined the insurance documents and then had further bank documents prepared for both the insurance company and the developer. Together we looked at the amendments to our future purchase contract, which changed the actual purchase price of our flat. We went over the list of what else we still needed to do to draw down the mortgage. When we were finally done with all of that and Jono and I were free to go, P called us a taxi and I called Filip to tell him we’d be a few minutes late.

Our taxi driver was a genius and we really did arrive at the developer’s office in Podolí only a few minutes late. We sat with Filip and went over the amendments to the future purchase contract and signed those. Then we discussed the price adjustment. Then we were ready to sign the 8 originals of the final purchase contract. Suddenly Filip informed us that our signatures on 4 of them would need to be notarised, but that we could all go together to the notary down the street. But I quickly realised that I couldn’t do that because I didn’t have my passport with me. “Sorry, guys…”

Filip suggested that Jono and I take the agreements, go home for my passport, and go to a notary near my house to sign, and then he would add his notarised signatures tomorrow or the next day. So off we went. We took the tram from Podolí back to Žižkov, on the way deciding to go to the notary I know in Smíchov, which is just over the road from the insurance company. The idea being that we could finish up at the insurance company afterwards.

The notary’s office was a bit crowded, but I think we were in and out in about 30 minutes. We crossed the road to the insurance office. Our agent was no longer there so we sat down with someone else. We needed the insurance company to complete the vinkulace – the document that confirms that the bank is the beneficiary on Jono’s life insurance. The woman went through the papers we had, made some copies, asked us where we wanted the vinkulace sent, and told us it would take a month.

I challenged her. A month?!!! No one had told us it would take a month and there was no logical reason why it should take a month.

She tried to explain. They would have to send the paperwork to Brno, no one in their office was authorised to complete a vinkulace But then she admitted that there might be someone in their office in Vinohrady. I asked her to call and find out. After two or three phone calls, she determined that there was someone at that minute in their office at the ass end of Prague 3 – way out near the end of the number 9 tram line. In other words, back the way we had just come from, but farther out. Off we went.

“What if we get there and she’s not there anymore?”

We walked into the insurance company office at Chmelnice. It was quiet and kind of dark. “Dobrý den, we’re looking for Mrs Procházková.”

“I’m Mrs Procházková.” Jono and I looked at each other in hope and amazement – this might just work out after all.

We sat down and Mrs Procházková looked over our paperwork. And then suddenly, “What’s this? You just signed this agreement today? It won’t be in our system yet. I’m afraid I can’t do the vinkulace until the agreement is in the system.”

A calm and civilised discussion ensued. Mrs P advised us that if we encouraged our agent a bit, she would be able to get the life insurance agreement into the system within 7-10 days. Then once the agreement is in there, Mrs P will be happy to do the vinkulace on the spot for me. A reasonable result, we thought.

About 20 minutes after we had left Mrs P, Jono got into a taxi and I stood waving him off as he headed for the airport.

Oh, and Filip and I agreed to meet at the flat for handover this Wednesday.


Friday, 30 May 2008

I am not saying that I won’t be writing at all; it’s just that I want to explain why my posts may be few and infrequent. Bottom line: I’m busy.

I have a new job, which I officially start on 1 July. However I am already getting my feet wet and, as I am not tall, the water is lapping at my ass. I have been to Berlin for meetings and I think I am going to Warsaw for a party in a few weeks’ time. All this whilst I remain not quite discontentedly in my old job until 30 June.

I am also trying to arrange a mortgage and to keep up with some of my friends. And the weather has turned beautiful and warm, which gives me even less incentive to stay inside at my computer.

Thank you for reading my blog. I will be back…

Max is away

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

phu quoc

self-portrait in shadow

Saturday, 26 April 2008

self-portrait in shadow

Athens, Greece, October 2007

Who put the ‘fun’ in funeral?

Thursday, 17 April 2008

funeral hat

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 3 years since Jarda killed himself. I didn’t deal with his death very well, I have since realised. And last week another Jarda killed himself and everything has been stirred up.

The first Jarda had been my husband, although we had already been divorced for 6 years when he did himself in. The second Jarda was an acquaintance, a very close friend of a friend of mine, and I saw him often in our mutual friend’s pub.

Last night I had a few beers and a few bourbons with two close friends of the second Jarda. And I realised that I was still angry about the first Jarda’s suicide.

The Jarda Suicides. Another friend yesterday remarked, “Don’t name your kid Jarda.”

Amongst the scribblings in my notebook from last night’s tram ride home is a thought that because I can accept the second Jarda’s suicide, I must also accept the first Jarda’s suicide. He too must have had his reason. But much easier said than done.

Boris said something on the phone today, something that was very wise. He made me realise that it’s okay not to deal with something well on the first go, that it can take two or three or three dozen attempts before we can somehow neutralise an experience that has had such a great impact on us emotionally. And I’m not even sure what I mean by neutralise. Come to terms with it so that it no longer evokes an emotional response – anger, grief, or whatever.

Jarda’s funeral is tomorrow. I hope it’s a good one.

Stateless Max

Friday, 11 April 2008

vietnam visa

I’m not stateless, I only feel stateless. My identity has been taken, my permission to travel has been confiscated, and I am now a prisoner within the Schengen zone. Granted, only for one week, but it still feels terribly wrong.

I went to the Vietnamese embassy this morning to apply for a tourist visa. I had got information off the internet and my secretary had telephoned to confirm that information so I knew – amongst other things – that to get the visa would take one week and cost CZK 1500. What I didn’t know was that the Vietnamese would be holding onto my passport for the duration of that one week.

I was only at the embassy for about 15 minutes. I asked for a visa application form, I filled it in, and I went back to the window to wait for the little man to come back. I guess he had gone off on a cigarette break. When he came back, I tried to hand him my form, a photo, my passport and a CZK 2000 note. He rudely ordered me to glue my photo onto the form, which is when I finally noticed the glue stick on the counter. He then took everything from me, gave me CZK 500 in change, and wrote out a receipt. When he handed me the receipt, he told me to come back in a week. He then turned to put my passport and application on a table behind him.

When the little man turned again to face forward, I was still standing there and now looking at him in bewilderment.

“Come back in a week,” he repeated.

“I have to leave my passport here for the entire week?” I asked.

“You want a visa?” he shot back rudely.

“Ok, ok,” I said, and backed slowly away from the window.

And now I can’t go anywhere. I’ve got no plans to go anywhere between now and next Friday, but that’s not the point. I can’t even pick up a package from the post office. Not that I’m expecting one, but that’s not the point either. I can’t do anything at the bank and I can’t go to a notary. The point is that as a foreigner here – especially as a non-EU national – I need that stupid little US State Department issued book to do absolutely everything. And those civil servant communist motherfuckers, without a second thought, have just deprived me of my freedom for 7 whole days.