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Leaving on a Jet Plane

25 May

Leaving the city in twenty minutes.

This has been an absolutely amazing trip. The only thing I wish I’d had more of was sleep.

And I never managed to get to the strudel place. But I’ll find one  at home. I

can’t specify how amazing this whole experience was. I am sad to come home. back to the hum drum, the boring, the mudane day in day out. I’m happy to be coming back to Cameron, though. He’s the only thing i really missed.

going back to the same old, same old seems absolutely stifling. But I’ll do it. For now. Because I know that it isn’t everything. Two girls in my group are heading off to internships in other countries for the summer. Others have already had that experience and travel monthly with their “real jobs”. They are grad students, so I have hope.

I am so glad to know that the life i lead isn’t the end. The options are endless. The world really is only as big as a language barrier, and often not even that.

I should rest my head before this flight.

 

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Aside

Thursday is the last day

24 May

I think one of the biggest things I have learned during this particular trip is that I can get lost anywhere. Map or no map. But the cool thing is, that no matter how turned around I am, i always find someone to help me or someway back on my own. I can handle it. Lost in a city with no one around who speaks English and we fumble our way through. I guess it’s not that big a deal, but its still a confidence builder.

Today armed with my camera, a map, headphone, my chucks and ambition, I set out to see the Birth of Photography exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. It was fabulous. I still can’t get over the leave your purse in coatlocker and we’ll follow you around the museum aspect of Budapest. (is this a European thing?) But I managed to ignore them and carry on.  My initial attempt at finding the museum was fruitless, took the wrong train, ended up on the wrong side of Budapest where I got some cool pix of ground artwork…I don’t know why it was there, but some as disturbing, others cool I ignored the slightly brutish, racist drawings and left the area when I realized based on some writing that black women may not be welcome in that particular area.

Hopped on another train, took the subway and finally made it to my mecca.

Early photography was not considered an art. I guess I can see that. Then, in attempt to earn a place in the art world they made it looks like paintings, which confused photographies position even more. It was a long journey to be accepted into the Art Pantheon.

I was unable to take any pictures of the exhibit, but I did snag a post card of the leading lady.

As I didn’t post anything meaningful yesterday, I’ll briefly recap: Company meeting in the AM then free day for lunch and wandering again. This time roomie and I went to the Turkish Baths. That was aan interesting experience. They are housed in this magnificent building, the outside terrace is more like a swimming pool–you can smell the chlorine– but the inside, the water is warmer, the water is not chlorinated that we could tell, and you float a bit more with the minerals. The water is slightly yellowish green, and we are desperately hoping its just due to the minerals. I am sure it is. But we had a laugh about it. People don’t swim there. They sit. They talk, or sleep, but mostly just sit and watch. It felt like a mall hang out spot. very relaxed, very comfortable. We were silly and forgot to take towels so we dripped dried back into the communal locker room. Women and Men split of course. Typical of European Style we all changed together though. Thank goodness for eating right and working out. Although, all shapes and sizes were slipping into two pieces whether the fabric wanted them too or not, so my level of fitness may not have been relevant to anything in that place.  And one poor chap, he couldn’t keep his speedo up for the life of him. falling in the back, way to low in the front. It must have been the tourist in me that wanted to giggle.

Dinner and a very relaxed early night at a place called Instant Which I hightly recommend if you ever visit this city. Very cool, very chill, lots of nice people and artwork to see.

 

Tonight is our last night. Group dinner and partying. Not gonna lie. We’re not sleeping. I’ll have awesome pictures of the sunrise. At 4:00am.

 

Aside

Where Thursday through Saturday merge

19 May

It’s hard to keep track of days. Today is Saturday which means yesterday was Friday whicn means we had 3 hours of sleep (those who slept) and spend the day driving into Slovakia for company visits with Volkswagon and then onward to our current locale of Budapest.  Slovakia was an interesting little town. I know there was more I was going to say about it, but it escapes me. It has more conservative architecture. The lunch was the only thing that has disappointed me thus far. The comany visit was interesting. It was more a tour than an actual meeting and discussion, but VW has an amazing warehouse.

They make 5 vehicles there: VW, Saab, Audi, Skoda, and the body of the porsche.

Interesting  fact: all VW SUVs with end location US are made there too.  It’s a very green business, reminded me of ikea upon first enterance: white tile everywhere, clean, trendy.

There are so many cool robots at work in the warehouse. driverless cars pulling supplies: reminded me of Walle. I liked the tour, it just wasn’t as much information about the direction of the business, the planning,  the people as I like. But since the main decisions are made in Germany I guess that makes sense.

Our host really was just a guide, far down the corporate food chain. They did have a nifty headphone system so we could all hear him talking. That was appreciated. Since we were functioning on no sleep (we had to be up at 3:30 to leave at 4:15) it’s all a bit fuzzy. NO photos were allowed. No watches, or cell phones either. They weren’t letting anything leave that building.

We went on a tour of Bratislava. Yes. It’s coming back to me now!

The highschool kids were collecting money for their graduation/drinking fund. It’s a typical rite of passage I guess. They don’t do bake sales, they don’t do car washes. Parents don’t pay annual dues to the school.  They grab noise makers, make posters, chant and walk the streets begging for money. It was a noisy sight to behold.

After all this, we spent another 3 hours in the bus driving to Budapest. Buda and Pest really are two separate sides of the city. It reminds me of the losers everytime I think of it now. “I’m Buda. This is Pest.”  yeah. sorry, lack of sleep….

We found money, checked into our room. (working AC in this one!) and wandered. There was food, but for the life of me, I cannot remember what it was! It was good though. I’m sure of that. Then more out and abouting.

Flaming shots, a slight misunderstanding due to lack of language,( funny to be on the receiving end of the frustration and grumpiness. Learn Hungarian!) entertainment, and a declined proposal for marriage at Alterego.

I get the feeling that people of African descendants are few and far between here. I am a commodity. It makes for entertaining chatter, and this guy was fascinated with my hair. He was super friendly though. Coming to Miami for business venture soon, and is very excited. I wish him the best, wherever his travels take him.

That was yesterday.

Today was laid back, touristy. Awesome Saturday.  Siteseeing around the city, lots of pics, amazing food and about to get a nap.

I’ll update on my goings ons and  observations for today’s church visits (we crashed a wedding!) and site seeing  later this evening.

I am keeping a list of things in my phone as we wander.

One of the sweetest things I’ve see here: Men hold their children’s hands. A 12 or 13 year old boy was holding his dad’s hand and it was no big deal. I’ve seen it a handful of other times, all with older kids. It seems the concept of masculinity is different here. I’m totally digging it.

Okay a few other items of note:

Children drink from wine glasses.

Families carry their babies more often than use strollers

lunch will literally last all atfternoon.

stoplights go yellow before they turn green.

drivers do not blast music from their car windows.

no road rage.

homeless men adopt the homeless dogs so there are no real strays.

And I see what was meant about the throwback clothing. It’s not blatant, but the cartoon characters are here. The mickey and off color sayings. Misfit t-shirts and tattoos and gauged ears are more prevalent.

Off to naptime.

Oh, I got my tattoo. ❤

Thursday morning Castle and Culture

17 May

Had a castle tour this morning!

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many observations.

Most recently on the train back from our Castle visit:

the children here are provided with more organic educational tools. The toy stores are filled with bright colors and shapes….wooden carved toys, puzzels, books, interconnected items, I don’t know what they do. But they look like they would actually stimulate brain development rather than just talking at them.

That is something we do here in America that I don’t like so much. We take a passive educational stance when it comes to our youth. A video game, a tv program, a light up toy made of plastic, metal and various chemical components will teach our children everything they need to know. Maybe. But something feels shallow about it.

Here, there are constant troupes of children with their classes going on museum/gallery/concert/park trips. They use the buddy system (yay sencond grade memories!) and wear neon saftey vests. It’s quite cute.

On the train the teacher was talking to them. Using the same tone we do when having a conversation with a collegue. I had no clue what she was saying, but it wasn’t said in the pleading tone we often use with American 5 year olds. She kept a watchful eye, but let them choose their own seats–decision making skills in development. We don’t promote that until it’s honestly too late. Our decision making skills should have been developed long before college. It’s a wonder we function at all.

She was holding educational coloring material. It is more detailed and realistic than our children coloring guides. It was also of a musician and his supporting orchestra. It was a decent drawing, but I was struck by the content–a real situation– and the presentation–on an adult level.

We tend to baby things in America. Mickey Mouse and Dora and themed parties, I haven’t noticed any child wearing a character item of clothing. They dress like miniature adults. They seem to handle themselves as such also.

The only child I have heard acting out in public was a tourists kid. The natives are well behaved, seemingly bright, and thin. No obese children here either.

I’ve seen some fat men. The women in this part of town are all slim and lovely. They wear their heels on these cobblestone streets like it ain’t no thang. lol.

On an education front, they do have an Occupy Prague movement. Like Atlanta the homeless were the main long term attendees. The citizens don’t stay focused very long on any particular cause, but they did have decent support for the ACTA opposition. It was similar to our SOPA. The government is trying to control pirating and internet usage in a more efficient way, but the Czech population thinks that the internet and all its content (movies, music photos) should be free to everyone, as i understand it.

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Free afternoon for me. I am getting a tattoo.

Pre-departure Preparations

10 May

Hello Everyone!

Welcome to Studies 101!

I will try not to ramble, but I am long winded in my mind, and I really like to type. I like to learn too, so this is a dangerous format.

We are 3 days out from departure:

I have been meaning to create a thoughtful, meaningful introduction to this blog for two weeks. it has been on my to-do list at work and at home, but the free time has never come up.

The mental preparation, as well as the academic and physical preparations have been keeping me pretty busy!
Before leaving for the overseas journey, all students must participate in a courseload equivalent to that of a full term. This is a study program worth 6 credit hours, and while we will be extrememly busy while on the ground in Czech Republic, I understand the need for a structured acaemic setting as well. Our education system is based in metrics.

I felt a little underprepared initially, as this course is a mix of grad level students and undergrads. We undergrads are a bit outnumbered, and I can tell I am in the prescence of very bright people. Intimidating!

As I learned last semester in my Business Analysis course, looking at various data sets and drawing a quick, concise correlation between them is something I am only “slightly above average” in.  And I have to work for it.

This course has a lot of that

We are reading case studies about Hungary, Poland, Czech and assessing their political and economic environments during the 70s and 80s leading up to their respective revolutions. The what and why of the desire for a switch from Communism to a market ecoonomy is fascinating and something I, while not understanding it as well as I’d like at this given moment, enjoy discussing at home over dinner. Cam was always great with history, and he adds insights based in facts I have forgotten.

The academia aside, preparing for departure is probably more stressful for me than necessary. This will be the second plane ride of my life, and my first excursion out of the country. I have my passport copies ready to go, as recommended by our European hosts, I have contacted my banks, I am listing all the little things I may need for the 2 week jaunt, I have my traveler’s insurance, and I am checking the flight baggage lists for tips on packing your carry on and checked bags. (remove batteries from electric toothbrushes!) Sprint Evo unfortunately won’t work in Europe as it is on a GSM system rather than a CDMA. I don’t know what these things are, it just means your phone is only a really small computer if wifi is available. If no wifi, it’s a paperweight. No roaming charges, as no roaming can happen, but I’ll keep it in airplane mode just to be safe.

So much to know pre-departure, but as this is something those who call themselves “international citizens” deal with daily, it really isn’t that big a deal. Gotta keep things in perspective!

I am of course over the moon with excitement. I have been listening to some choice Czech phrases with  my language app, but mostly I have been brushing up on my high school German. Those two years are finally about to be put to use!

We had the privilege of speaking with Mr. George A. Novak, Honorary Consul General of Czech Republic  in class yesterday afternoon. He provided us with a personal recollection and history of the last Russian invasion during in 1968. He was able to leave with his son and fiance the day after the invasion and became and architect here in America.

He had so many stories; and his retelling some of the daily activities of youth in Czech made me begin to grasp the little differences of our peoples:

  • Opera houses, and music halls are very popular there. He said it was common for people to just stop in and listen for free to organists at church or at city hall. It isn’t something elitist, as often it is here in the States. I enjoy classical music, but the closest I usually get to it is through NPR or a school orchestra ensemble.
  • They have Name Days that are celebrated much like birthdays here. He said no one could remember birthdays, but names were easy so there was always a party at the office. We like his style!

I’ve done my own reading in preparation and learned some interesting tid bits:

  • They count differently. 1 is counted on the thumb. I witnessed this with one of our hosts during our Skype call.
  • Eye contact is important. At least business wise. If eye contact is broken and silence falls, you can be fairly certain you have said something that has upset them.
  • Drinking during meetings is seen as disrespectful
  • “No” is not something they like to say. It’s more of a beating around the bush “it might be difficult…” sort of language that indicates if something ins’t going to happen.
  • Apparently, visiting homes in the Czech is a very serious matter. It isn’t taken lightly here. No stopping by randomly after class. It’s a semi formal affair
  • weddings are just now entering into a stage of “American Grandeur” usually they are simple, at the courthouse with immediate family
  • Multilingual. This is where my German will come in handy! Mandatory education in English and an elective language of German, Spanish, others

I am compiling a list of social thing to accomplish while abroad. I am hoping it can become a sort of scavenger hunt with the group. Currently it includes things like:

  • mailing a letter
  • driving a car (this might be hard as I haven’t connected with the Hungarian coworker friend of Cameron’s as I had hoped—plus none in our group acquired the appropriate international drivers license.)
  • grocery shopping
  • library visit
  • visit a college campus
  • attend a gym (this has been a funny item that several of us have been asking about! We need our treadmills!)

If I can get others onboard with this social experiment, I think it could be fun . What things do we do daily at home that are a normal part of our culture? What can we try to do while abroad to immerse ourselves as much as possible in the cultural experience?

They left us with outdoor holiday brochures last night (the equivalent to a “visit the great outdoors” travel guides we might have at a rest stop here in Georgia) and now hiking is on my mental list of things to accomplish. But I may have trouble finding any of the others who want to brave the Jizerske mountains. ( they have ancient wooden cottages! Must see!)

The best advice I have received pre-departure:

“Take lots of pictures. But not of THINGS. Take pictures of YOU in FRONT of things.”

That advice will color this blog.

Be warned. You will see a lot of my face. 🙂