Recap of the first two days!

15 May

Well.

It has been a long three days. So mcuh to say and really not much time! But here goes.

From the beginning:

At the airport Cam dropped me off with my roll on and a heavier than normal dufflebag.

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I didn’t realize just how heavy until Monday morning) when my arms tarted hurting on the flight. (it is currently 445 on a Tuesday in Sunny Prague,)  We met the group got checked in with a slight switcheroo…they slected a handful of us to weigh our luggage. We had to take things from our carry on and put them in our stored bag. They didn’t bother to weigh that. It was backwards from what we were expecting. In the switch up I left my phone at the check in counter, but as a friendly flight attendee noticed me and saw my situation, he came to get me from the security checkpoint so I could get my phone before the no turning back point. After that it was smooth sailing. We had a beer before the flight.Yeungling! And discussed briefly our expectations. The flight was long, I enjoyed the German and English announcements. thought of Frau and wondered where in the world that woman is.

Anywho. Flight food was meh. The veggie pasta was actually tasty, but it was due to a ridiculously high salt content. In flight films: Abduction–don’t waste your time, it’s terrible and predictable– and MI4. I think everyone had probably seen that already; I like it a lot and fell into a fitful sleep during the ending scenes.

No one really slept on the plane. We landed in Germany feeling like we’d been drinking all night (we hadn’t) and wanted nothing more than water and a nap. We found water.

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My first exchange in German purchased my electrical converter. The guy at the counter laughed at me and said “I speak English, you know.” I hope my attempt was appreciated at least!

The first thing I noticed about Germany is how structured it is. Flying in, you see the farmland, but instead of the rounded, curved, half started, half finished plots you see around home, these are all strikingly rectangular. Very precise. Clean edges. Pretty. The cities are laid out in a definite pattern. At home businesses of all sizes crop up in different designs, layouts, etc. Here they all laid out at certain angles depending on the grouping. They all face the same direction, they all maintain the same height. The correlate in an efficient and clean way with the businesses in the grouping of the next office center It liked it a lot. I was also stuck by the amount of English everywhere. I was really expecting a total immersion rather than a gradual this is Germany, but your customs are honored here, no need to change anything. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I was also struck by the pretty, thin police officer I saw in the airport. I don’t know why her attractiveness or thinness seems odd to me, but it just felt different than at home. The people and faces were all similar to me. Similar to home. Blank waiting in line, laughing with friends, listening to headphones. I could have been in any city in the world.

The flight from Germany to Prague was only an hour, but we all passed out. We missed the lunch they passed around, and landed in Prague starving. We were a bit late getting out there so we had to meet the bus to our hotel, grab the worlds quickest showers and meet in the lobby.

On the bus heading to the hotel!

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The first thing I really noticed in Prague was the weather. It was colder than Germany, and gloomy. The airport seemed a bit quiet. Not nearly as many English signs which actually made me happy. THe second thing is that there are NO SUVs. Lots of coups and hatchbacks and a few smallersized workvans. And scooters. But no big trucks. I think I saw one minivan, but it was the exception. The billboards announce the same types of things. Movies, coke, strip clubs. The traffic and signage is a bit different, but something I am sure I can puzzle out when it comes time for me to drive overseas. The main difference will be cultural expectations. The sign says they should yield. Will they actually do it? The same as here at home, just knowing the percentages of times things are likely to happen or not may differ.

ANyway. Exhausted, starved and thirsty we began our Welcome to Prague tour. I am sure the tourguide had many interesting things to say, but because of the three aforementioned items were were a bit dull on the Q and A session.

Wenceslas Square

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I personally was fighting to keep my eyes open standing on the city streets of Wenceslas square. It was pretty.

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We witnessed our first pickpocket attempt, the woman who was the intended target noticed what was up and slapped the offending hands away, not making any bigger of a scene than that Pretty impressive. It’s seen as a nuisance here and nothing more. I appreciate that.

Another bigger sight to see is the city’s destitute There are few of them to be seen, but when you do, they prostrate themselves, kneeling face on the ground with a cup or hat in front of their head. They do not look up to make eye contact with you, they do not speak, they just kneel there. It was a distrubing sight to me.

( I didn’t take this picture, I googled it. There was no way I was making someone else’s suffering a photo opportunity.)

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I wondered how the city views their poor. Are they to be pitied or are they nuisances to be dealt with like we view them in America? Being that  it considers itself a sort of 3rd way nation with a healthy welfare system and a capitalist economy, I like to think that they try to take care of the unfortunate.

We wandered. Sights everywhere. I was struck though, with the feeling that this city while on a completely  different continent was not that foreign. I’d been told the attitudes and dress would be a throwback….in watching them I really don’t see them that strangely. They wear jeans and tshirts with rude sayings, cute saying, not so much blatant sexuality as we seem to have in America,  but all shades and colors. Men wear typical workboots, sneakers, converse, Toms, cowboyboots. It’s like I’m in inman park. There are maybe a few more “off” outfits than I’d see in Atlanta. Striped brown pants and a shirt that just don’t seem to quite go, but everyone has the “I’m a college student”  vibe about them. They  don’t have easy expressions on their face if you watch them just walking down the street. And there are lots of walkers. But I see the same lost in thought expressions on Americans daily. To look at them I don’t see much difference. We are the same. It’s what is under the skin that makes a difference I suppose.  Our tour guide took us to an example of David Cerny artwork ( the pink tank) to illustrate typical Czech humor.

Definitely odd.

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We went for a bit of dinner before dinner ( hey, veggie girls gotta eat–I wasn’t sure the trip would cater too well to me.) We’d been told a big cultural difference that threw some folks for a loop was the restaurant world. The servers still sometimes adhere to a communist mentality. (I’m getting paid the same whether I take your order now or later. I’ll make it later) We went in expecting to wait a while.

It really wasn’t unreasonable. They were working on an inventory, they finished what they were doing then came to check on us. It was a little bar and the rule was no food at the bar, so those of us eating had to sit outside, But they offered blankets for the outside patrons. It must be a common thing here, because the patio was quite busy despite the chill in the air. Ok it wasn’t just a chill, it was cold! But I toughed it out. The server was nice, not overly friendly, like here at home. We made this mistake of asking “how are you” which we were told you just don’t really do unless you want to hear about 3 bad things that have happened to that person. (this goes back to the need for everyone to be the same….if it sounded like you were doing better than your neighbor or friend, no matter how small a way, you could be blacklisted so to speak) She took it in stride though and said she was fine  She had a bit of a habit of saying you’re welcome before we had a chance to say thank you–I don’t know if that was her anticipating our saying it because, clearly we were American tourists. We had on those proverbial sunvisors and fannie packs. I was totally ok with that.

They don’t offer split up checks in Czech. It’s all on one ticket, and if more than one person has to pay, expect to do some math. Our server anticipated that though and did the math for us. They run the machine at the table instead of taking it into the backroom. The machine runs American credit cards slowly though. It makes us nervous.

Dinner last night was a folklore and dance event. The troupe this year was the ring leader ( who may be the same every year) and four youth around our ages. They reminded me of our typical Drama geeks. They were theatrical and over the top with the smiling, but they had some fancy footwork. The musicians playing bass, violin and some instrument played with mallets  looking like a small open-topped piano, were really good.

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Near the end they had an audience participation segment: Sing a song that exemplifies your home nation. SOme guy from France a few tables back belted out a lively tune, and we regaled the audience with our  own “Take me out to the Ball game.” Arms linked, table swaying–it was am American moment. It made me smile.

Most of us ended the night after the bus ride back to the hotel. The trains here are similar to those in New Orleans. The hotel is typical European, the beds are small, the bathroom is pretty to look at, but non functioning in that the shower is too low to stand under. The tub floor is mostly rounded so it is hard to get a good footing without slipping and killing yourself, and thank goodness I brought a bar of soap. They have a soap dispenser in the tub like what you would find in a guest bathroom in a restaurant. Very odd to me. And there is a bidet. We think. The nozzle is facing downward like a regular sink, so we’re not too sure how that would work out. We’re treating it as a no man’s land. Just leave it alone!

This is lengthy. I’m sorry. So much to say and comment on!

In our meeting with the Civic Institute this morning it was mentioned that the Czech population is in decline. There are not enough children being born. This is actually true for most of Europe. The population is being sustained by foreigners, but as the city develops it is becoming not as attractive a place for foreigners to move to. This is one of the biggest issues making up the nations basket of issues. I appreciated his pride, passion and relatively even keel take on all things political. There were books written by Czech’s about Ronald Reagan, Clinton, American in general lining the book shelves in our meeting room.  I was actually fascinated and have wanted to discuss the relevance of what he told us today about ‘ on welfare programs promoting the birth of children, the correlation between that the lack of obvious religious propaganda and that lack of desire for young couples to have children, the overly educated people, the mess the government has made with green energy and the plan to cut out Russia from their energy needs. It will have to wait though.

Professors with Mr. Roman Joch

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The train system here is just like Marta. Except the ridiculously long escalator down is super fast and my phobia nearly stopped me from catching the train. That thing moves ridiculously quickly. The one at Mall of Georgia has nothing on this.

So far, I feel like I could be in any city in any states. I know I am not. I know it is different, but it doesn’t intimidate me at this point in time, maybe I’m just being brave.  The language barrier isn’t so bad in the city, and the people and foods are all things I recognize.

Riding the subway back home I thought, I  could live here. No reason in the world I couldn’t. My sense of home is where ever I want it to be. I think it’s because I have no roots. All the family history i have is technically someone else’s. It isn’t mine. It isn’t relevant to my genetic code. I am from nowhere. So i can be anywhere.  Because I am used to the idea of family being made of people who don’t look a thing like me, the whole world could be my family. And I am fine with that.

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I think I am going to chance taking a jaunt out to the Square. First excursion alone. Let’s see how this goes!

Attack of  the Tourists!

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