D?©calage Horaire

Our first full day in Prague was spent in a state of mild to moderate delirium. After we finally arrived at the hotel on the evening of the 18th, R. and I found some food, drank a couple of beers, wandered briefly through the Christmas market in the Starom?¨stsk?© n?°m?¨st??, and tumbled into bed around 10.30 pm, expecting to remain unconscious until at least 7 am. Instead, we both woke up around 2 am, and not in a temporary sort of way. So about 2.30 am, we got up, pulled out our laptops, found power outlets, and sat down to see what would happen if we tried to do a bit of work.

For my part, I dug out my previously seized-up iPod, was pleased to see that it had finally run its battery out and shut itself off, and hooked it up to my computer. After a couple of moments of recharging (in which the screen dimly read “very low battery… please wait”), it rebooted, and the computer found it, and all appeared to be normal. I haven’t tried to play that video file again yet, but will soon, just to see if I can recreate the crash.

In any case, we sat around tinkering until about 4 am, and then decided to try sleeping again–and wound up sleeping like the dead until about 8 am. We got dressed, had a fabulous breakfast, and went to work–R. working on his novel, and me writing my annual professional activities report and putting together the last post.

This held us until about 1 pm, after which we headed out to wander around some and find some lunch. And thus began the next phase of the day: the desperate struggle to stay awake until 9 pm, which we considered the first acceptable moment at which we could go to sleep. R. suffered most in the early afternoon, and then seemed to snap back around 4 pm. My struggle began just as his let up, and continued through the evening.

Honestly, I’m not sure what we did after lunch. I seem to recall some more wandering around, making our way out to the Charles bridge, looking around for internet cafes or coffee houses with wi-fi. They’re much less plentiful than they were when we were here in 2003; I suspect that the comparative ease of obtaining broadband access at home is killing off public internet services. Indeed, our hotel, which in 2003 only had one computer in the business center and one in the club lounge wired for net access (and pretty creaky net access at that) now has wired internet access in every guest room and wireless in most public spaces. Of course, they’re charging about $30 per day for that access, which is way more than we wanted to spend; thus the hunt for the public facilities. (We finally wound up cutting a deal with the hotel’s manager for a package of several days of service at a bit of a discount, which is how this managed to get posted.)

At some point mid-afternoon, we wandered back to the hotel, showered and dressed, went down to the hotel bar for a beer (about the point at which R. began springing back to life and I began working really, really hard not to fall off my barstool), and then headed out in search of dinner. R. guided us along, wandering in a different direction than our usual well-trodden path toward the Starom?¨stsk?© n?°m?¨st??, and we began looking at menus along the way. I was far too delirious to judge, by this point, and so found myself looking only at prices. The Czechs are still using the kroner, and will do so until 2010, apparently, and so we’ve had to expend a bit of brain activity on thinking through price conversions. Finally, we just settled on a rough average of 20 kroner to the dollar, and let it go at that. So as we’re looking at menus, all I could think was, well, at this one, the numbers are all three digits and the average first digit is a 5, meaning that we’re looking at mains in the $18-20 range. When we found a place that had average first digits of 2, I suggested we give it a shot.

And the meal turned out to be amazing–I had a mixed grill that was just to die for, with a side of potato pancakes, and R. had a grilled sirloin that was just lovely. And the beer was both big and cheap. At some point during the meal, I looked at R. and said “this restaurant is really good. We need to figure out where it is.” He only looked at me oddly for a second, to his eternal credit.

By the time we were finished eating, I figured it was about 8 pm, and that we only had another hour of misery before we could fall into bed. Unfortunately, it was actually only 6 pm, so we wandered into the square to see what was going on in the Christmas market. And I’m happy as can be that we did, because what we found on the small stage at the edge of the market was a Christmas dance recital, in which small Czech girls ranging in age from 4 to perhaps 12 performed a series of dances ranging from the cute and bouncy to the unnervingly pre-teen erotic. All of them, though, were utterly unself-conscious, just having fun and not worrying at all about whether they missed a step, and the whole thing–the girls, the picture-taking parents, the other folks standing around watching in the cold–was utterly, utterly charming. As tired as I was, I was even more happy not to have missed it, and in fact got enough of a charge out of it as to wake up enough to make it to 9 pm.

We did crash at 9, though–and promptly woke up at 11, after what my body was convinced was a nice afternoon nap. This, unfortunately, has been the pattern ever since–I wake up after about three or four hours of sleep, and the only chance of getting back to sleep involves drugs. Today, I woke up at 3, lay in bed until 4, and finally just gave up. It’s now 6 am here, and I’m likely to crash sometime in the next few hours, but I’m hoping that if I tough it out, I might be able to sleep through the night tonight.

And I keep hoping for the possibility of more little dancing Czech kids. That’s worth staying awake for.

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