Jaza's World Trip

Eccentric encounters

The smoking Finns

No, they're not an ageing 80s Euro-trash punk-rock band. They're just three guys from the cold and Nokia-abundant nation of Finland, who are staying here at the Kabul hostel with me. I bumped into the Finnish boys down in the bar this evening, and I ended up chatting and playing pool with them for half the night, over several glasses of the hostel's very cheap beer. The boys are very friendly — but much to my discomfort, they chain-smoke like you wouldn't believe, and as such being around them for too long can pose something of a respiratory challenge.

Miguel the Mexican

Miguel is a white-skinned, gringo-looking bloke from Cuidad Juarez — that most infamous of north Mexican cities — which lies on the border with Texas. Miguel speaks perfect English, and he's been living and working in the Netherlands for the past few years. He's another one of the many great people who's staying here in Madrid, at Cat's, to celebrate the New Year: this evening, he partied well into the morning, and didn't go home until the sun was up.

Emmanuelle from New Caledonia

I can't say I've met many New Caledonians on this trip. In fact, Emmanuelle is the first; and probably the last, too. Emmanuelle is a beautiful girl from this tropical French-colony island, that lies roughly 1,200km east of Australia's Queensland coast, and about which I know very little. Her mother currently lives in Melbourne, and she's lived in various places in Australia for several years of her life. At the moment, she's living and working in Brussels, Belgium. She's staying here at Cat's for the New Year, and this evening she partied with the best of us.

Dan, Matt and Kenny

These three buddies are good blokes, and they're all staying here at Cat's to celebrate the New Year, madrileño-style. Dan and Matt are both Aussie boys, who are of Italian heritage, and who have been living and working in Italy for the past few months. They also both have Spanish girlfriends, who they've come over here to visit. Kenny's a friend of Dan and Matt, who hasn't got a Spanish girlfriend, and who isn't an Italian Aussie — actually, he's a Brit of Spanish heritage. Complicated little groups they've got themselves into around here, don't you think? Anyway, we all had a blast this evening for el Año Nuevo ("the New Year").

The Zaragoza wogs

The Zaragoza wogs are a funny group of three, all of whom are here in Madrid, and staying in my room at Cat's: a German guy; his Ukrainian girlfriend; and the girlfriend's friend, another girl from Latvia. The two girls have been living in Zaragoza for several months, where they're studying on exchange; the boyfriend is just here on vacation for the New Year. The three of them have a complicated language arrangement: the couple prefer to talk to each other in German; the two girls converse privately in Russian (or in their half-decent Spanish); and all three can understand each other in English. This evening, I went out with the wogs for a late kebab dinner, where they serve excellent baklava.

Collin the Scot

Collin is a Scotsman who's been living in Spain for the past 3 years, where he works as a high-school English teacher. I met Collin on my flight to Madrid this morning, while sitting in the departure lounge during the delay. Collin says that he flies with Ryanair all the time, but he admits: "I hate them, they're absolute bastards... I just can't stop booking flights with them, 'cause they're so damn cheap!" Good to have some company, amidst the never-ending delays and the chaotic scene that was this morning's flight.

The new Snowbunnys crew

Kitzbühel's slopes were packed today; and this evening, Snowbunnys was a lot busier as well. Seems that I really did sneak this ski trip in, just before the rush: because as of now, The Rush™ has officially arrived. We had a number of new arrivals in the hostel last night, and even more tonight. Apparently, still more guests are due in tomorrow — and the hostel is going to be 100% booked out over the weekend.

Jake and Mitch

Jake and Mitch are two Aussie brothers, one of whom has been to Kitzbühel before (and who just can't get enough of it), and who seems to know everyone in town. These two are absolute champions: they're utter bogan knobheads, and they're fond of getting wasted well beyond the limits of regular mortals; but they're also ridiculously friendly. They rocked up to Snowbunnys this evening, where they'll be staying for a few weeks, while they try their hand at snowboarding up on the mountain. At least, they might try some snowboarding — assuming that they can make it up the mountain, which is only possible on the rare occasion that their après-ski sessions finish before the sun rises.

Margaret the nuclear girl

Margaret's an American woman who's currently living in sunny California, and who works as an engineer in her nation's nuclear power plants. Pretty full-on job, eh? I watch The Simpsons, so I know exactly how gruelling and high-pressure an occupation that can be (mmmm... donuts :P). Margaret's staying here in Kitzbühel — at Snowbunnys — for a few days; and like the rest of us, she's here to carve up the slopes with some skiing, Austrian-style.

Nikolas and Viktor

Nikolas and Viktor are two blonde-haired, blue-eyed boys from Gothenburg, Sweden's second-largest city. The two of them are positively nuts about skiing: one of them has worked as an instructor before (for an entire season), and the other was formerly involved in competition-level skiing races; they've both skied for as long as they can remember. They're currently studying engineering at university, back home in Sweden; and they're here in Kitzbühel for what they call "a very short season", a mere three weeks. I met them at Snowbunnys this week; and when I had the courage, I did on occasion go up the mountain with them, and attempt to keep up as they tackled every insane slope they could find.