Reflections on a Rainy Day

It was a splendid rainy day in Prague. Usually, I am not fond of the rain because it has the tendency to put a damper on my plans. However, today it was perfect. I have a bit of a chest cold and thus I was not up for a truly adventurous excursion. Instead, I curled up in my sweatshirt from home and watched the rain pour down on the tile roof and cobblestone courtyard. I am grateful for the rain because it allowed me time to be introspective. I was able to gather up my thoughts and truly reflect on my experience. I appreciate time to get lost in my own mind. I am not a daydreamer by nature but I do enjoy a few moments of  bliss where my thoughts take the form of cirrus clouds drifting in and out.

Living in another country is challenging. Speaking a language other than the native country’s language is challenging.  Not being able to communicate what you want is challenging. Planning trips, dealing with new personalities, managing exploration, budgeting,  studying and balancing them all is challenging. Overall, I have been challenged immensely the past 3 weeks. Most of all, I have loved every minute of this great challenge. I am proud of myself that I managed to come here, pretty much without fear, and am as open to experiences as I am. I could have let fear rear its angry head and paralyze me.  Instead I tackled it and I am constantly pushing myself past the limits. I speak up. I am ready, ready  for the good, the bad, and the in-between. I am taking advantage of every opportunity. I am truly living life the way I always wanted to but was always afraid and unsure how to. I feel strong. I feel proud. I feel like me.

So I plead with you, to stretch your own limits. Go forth and find your own challenges to conquer. The journey is beyond belief.

Wandering the Streets of Prague

I have been in Prague for 3 weeks now. It is strange how time passes. In some moments, it feels like time is nonexistent and I am simply standing still in awe of the beauty that I see on a daily basis. Other times, I cannot believe how quickly the sun sets and rises each day and I want it so slow down.

Perhaps, my favorite thing to do in this beautiful city is to simply meander along the cobblestone streets. Sure, I love having a plan and visiting specific places and museums; however, I feel that I have perfected the skill of aimless wanderings. Many times instead of taking the Metro back from school, I decide to take the scenic route and walk. I feel so alive walking the streets, admiring the architecture, hearing the diverse languages and truly allowing myself to be an observer.  I find it fascinating to interact with all  the other tourists and learn about the various cultures. Prague  is truly an international city and it is a fascinating place to study and live.

Prague is a very inspirational place. Surrounded by the history of some of the best writers, composers, and artists, I feel the need to be constantly discovering art. It is very easy to do so because there are exhibitions on every corner and the city is filled with statues and artwork. I feel as though I am in a constant state of discovery, open to new knowledge. Tonight, I had a perfect moment while writing my first paper for my Jewish Studies class. I heard the tinkle of piano keys so I opened my windows and listened to my neighbor across the courtyard  practice. It was truly a beautiful moment and turned an ordinarily dull paper writing session into  an inspiring session where words poured across the page effortlessly.

As for how my classes are going, I never thought college would allow so many fieldtrips. In almost every class here, the professors plan fieldtrips.  It is fantastic and allows for true hands on learning. For instance, in my Jewish Studies and Holocaust class, I went to the New Jewish Cemetery which house Franz Kafka’s burial ground. Ivy was sprawled over all the gravestones and created a very mystical  and spiritual feeling.  Although, I have not seen the famous Old Jewish Cemetery yet ( this is planned as a later field trip), this cemetery was one of the most beautiful shrines to man kind that I have ever seen.

Tomorrow, I am going on a day trip to Kutna Hora which is a very important medieval town for the Czech Republic.  During the 13th century silver was found in Kutna Hora and the supply was so massive that it suppled one third of all of Europe’s silver.  The silver discovery provided great wealth to the King and made the Czech crown highly sought after by the rest of the European monarchies. Kutna Hora is also famous for the “bone church”  which was created by priests. While mining for silver, a large amount of bodies were unearthed. Because the priests viewed this burial as sacred, they didn’t want the miners to simply discard the human remains. Instead, they  took them and utilized them as decor for the church in what they thought was  the most respectful way of honoring the dead.  While there are a few other churches of this manner, in typical Czech fashion, the “bone church” is grander than the rest.

I will update soon. Happy Reading!

Czech Me Out

Okay, I apologize for the horribly cheesy pun that is the title of this post, but I could not resist. In all the tourist shops here, that phrase is printed on bags, t-shirts, sweatshirts and shorts. Because I will be resisting the temptation to buy a t-shirt in every color for my friends back home, I will simply document the phrase as the title of this post.

Today, I took my Czech Intensive Course final. I anxiously studied the night before in hopes that through the miraculous process of osmosis I would be able to memorize the hundreds of vocab words, phrases, and conjugations that I would need to know. Much to my surprise the exam went well and I was pleased with my results. My teacher, the saint that she is, graded our exams while we watched a movie so that we could relax and not fret over our grades.  My experience with the Czech class was very positive. My teacher really wanted us to do well and learn, not because it was a grade but because it would enhance our time in Prague and help us communicate with the locals. Our class appreciated her effort and patience so much that we made her a card and bought her flowers. She was overwhelmed with emotion and humbly thanked us. It was so nice to see how happy she was and I was again reminded of how nice it is to simply show individuals that you appreciate them. She also asked us if anyone would help teach her husband English. It looks like I will be helping out; I think it will be a neat experience.

The past two weeks have flown by. I feel completely comfortable with the city and know my way around fairly well. I consider myself lucky because I adjust to new places very easily and adapt quite rapidly. Sometimes I even forget that I am thousands of miles away from home, but then I hear Czech and I realize that I cannot understand them and I am quickly reminded just how far away I really am. However, the anxiety of daily transactions such as talking to the cashier at the potraviny (grocery store) has dissolved. I now feel able and confident enough to talk to the locals using my basic Czech.  The nuanced mystique has worn off and I feel like I am ready to explore the true Prague through the eyes of the people that call it home.

A couple things that I have learned in the last 2 weeks. When you travel, learn,at least the basics of the language that you are traveling in even if it is only a few words. I have observed and experienced that when you at least attempt to use the local language rather than being made fun of, the locals appreciate you making an effort. This is very true in the Czech Republic. I had experienced  a few less than friendly expressions when I only spoke in English in certain places. This is not to say that the Czech are not friendly. However, they are accustomed to tourists who come and go and do not necessarily care to delve deeper into their culture and language. The Czech are very proud people and even though English is taught in schools so that most younger people know it, the older generations speak only Czech. Because of their tumultuous history of being ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the German occupation of the former Czechoslovakia and the communist regime in the Eastern Bloc, the Czech people have had their fair share of language take-over. There have been periods where Czechs were forced to learn German or Russian. Now, the Czech people are very proud of their language and maintain it quite well despite the English language’s  attempt at a global take-over.

While there may be a time where I am exasperated at trying to communicate  and my limited Czech is getting me nowhere, I have to be calm and patient. I try to think of it in reverse, Americans are often less than patient with foreigners who do not speak English.  It is important to respect a host country’s culture and language is perhaps one of the most prominent aspect of a country’s culture. I always try to remember that I am a guest, and that if I try politely to use the words and phrases that I have learned I am showing the Czech people that I respect their hospitality.

Since I have used my phrases in restaurants and stores, the people have been overly pleasant and have even taken time out of their day to help me with some more phrases.  A little effort goes a long way.

I have a lot in store for this weekend so I will let you know how my adventures go soon.

Happy Reading! Na Shledanou! (Goodbye)

Here’s a picture that I edited for kicks.