Friday, January 30, 2009

Mám se dobře a ty?

This week was great. I'm currently listening to Rachel's radio show, which made my heart a little happier than it already was. She totally gave me a shout-out from thousands of miles (and 6 hours) away. Completely freaking sweet.

Yesterday we went ice skating, a completely Czech Thing To Do, especially since we skated on a massive frozen pond outside. Our resident director apparently owns fifteen pairs of ice skates, of the hockey, figure skating, and speed skating varieties, which he loaned to us, since apparently "Everyone in Czech Republic already has zeir own skates, so, you can't really find any, you know, rental plazes here." Jan is amazing. Apparently he wrote a book on ice hockey and was on the news and jumped into the icy water and clawed his way out with ice picks. True story.

Skating outside is so much cooler than skating on a rink inside. I am spoiled forever. Plus it's free. FREE! I think a lot of people are going to try to buy skates (that actually fit) so we can go back again. It was so fun. And never mind the fact that it hasn't been above freezing for the past three days here. Skating warms you up anyway.

I'm getting better at Czech already, I can feel it. I'm actually remembering some of the adjectives that seemed so impossible two days ago. It seems like every language should be taught like this - two weeks of intensive learning, 5 hours a day, then a semester of more relaxed, in depth study. It makes a lot of sense. Our teacher let us leave class early today and she went out to lunch with us, where she told the waiter not to speak to us in English. The best part was when we had to pay; you could just see everyone getting nervous as the waiter came closer to them.

Last night we went to a super crowded club. A lot of it was not really my thing, but Nick and I spent a lot of time watching this tiny man with an egg shaker dancing right in front of the DJ booth. We were cracking up at how into it he was, and then he turns to us and offers Nick the egg shaker to play. Then he pulls ANOTHER ONE out of his pocket and gives it to me! So the three of us are dancing with egg shakers in front of the DJ was one of the greatest moments of my life. Dude brings enough egg shakers to share with others at a club.

This weekend I'm really hoping to see a lot more of the city. It's hard to get into a groove in a new city...I've been in the same place for so long that I pretty much know what all of my options are in Tulsa. Here, there's an entire brand new city spread out in front of me, with so much to do that I don't even know where to start. I'm going to find a cafe and Charles Bridge tomorrow, after I sleep in as long as I want. Then I will buy myself some boots, and figure out how to work the washing machine.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Czech is hard.

We started Czech classes today, but before I get into that, let fill you in on the last few days. Suffice it to say that I never knew the number 4 could be so complicated ("čtyři", the hardest word EVER). I guess I'll always be wanting 3 or 5 of things.

Anyway, I moved into my apartment Saturday! I packed up all my stuff at Andrew's and hauled it across town to Křižíkova 17, which is in a charming little area very awesomely known as "Karlín" (pronounced "Karleen"). Again, I got completely freaking lost after I got off the metro. I walked up to an old German couple and asked, "Prosim, Křižíkova?" and they asked me, "Sprechen si Deutsch?" (or however you spell that) But they were able to point me in the right direction. When I found myself at Křižíkova 53, I knew I had gone the wrong direction. Eventually I found my place.

Krizikova 17 is conveniently located between a charming little pub and a sex shop. Yes, an adult movie store, to be more precise. On the upside, I haven't seen anyone ever go in or out of the sex shop, so it doesn't seem to be that big of a deal. On the downside, it's a sex shop. Next to my apartment.

On the whole though, I really like my apartment, with all it's little quirks. The good things: it's ginormous, an apartment this size would be outrageously expensive anywhere in America; my bed is comfy; the shower stays hot through the showers of five girls; we have a fully equipped kitchen that even has a pantry; it's only 1 minute away from the "Florenc" metro stop. The bad things: the place being so large makes it quite drafty, especially at night, and there are train tracks right outside our window that make it difficult to nap during the day. But I'd say the good outweighs the bad. There's also a pretty incredible view of the city right from my window.

I also met all my fellow USAC students and my roommates. My roommate's name is Casey, and I have three flatmates, Adriane, Lisa, and Amanda. I think we should get along just fine.

Sunday morning I tried my hardest to go to the International Baptist Church, but those tricky metro stops foiled me again. It was pretty much like the last time I got lost after getting off the metro, except this time I wasn't lugging baggage behind me. I had heeled boots on instead. Which leads me to...

-Wearing heels to walk for more than an hour on cobblestone streets.

Don't ever do it. Pain and suffering ensue. I had intended to change my shoes before the orientation/walking tour, but I had walked farther out of my way than I realized when trying to find the church. So I met the group at Wenceslas Square wearing my boots. Never again. My feet still hurt. Cobblestones + heels = big trouble.

The walk around the city was nice though. We went up to our school, in an area called Vyšehrad, which is the oldest Slavic area in the city. It is completely, breathtakingly gorgeous up there. I'm excited to go to school because I get to walk through that fortress everyday. Speaking of school, I have an amazing schedule. My classes go from 3:30 to 7 on Monday, 9 to 12 and 3:30 to 5:00 on Tuesday, NONE on Wednesday, 3:30 to 7 on Thursday, and NONE on Friday. I have a weekend in the middle of the week. Huzzah!

After orientation, the program directors (Jan and Petr) showed us Tesco, which is basically K-Mart. I bought a pillow because the one that came on my bed is total crap, then my roommates and I went back to our area and embarked on the adventure that is grocery shopping in the Czech Republic. First of all, the grocery stores are called "Albert" and "Billa" and from the outside they don't really look like grocery stores. Inside, there's a whole world you never knew existed. I spent about 10 minutes in the cheese section, trying to find a non-blu, non-meat flavored cheese. The bread is in bins like produce, separated by type. You can buy hot dog bun-ish rolls, delicious croissants, whole loaves of rye (for under a dollar) and all kinds of other bread that have cheese or salami or something that resembles chocolate baked into them. It's amazing. Grocery shopping is an experience, and thankfully, a cheap one. I bought several days worth of food for under twenty dollars.

As I mentioned earlier, the language is fairly terrifying. Romance languages are so easy compared to this crazy Slavic business. It seems like a cruel joke being played on me. Our teacher wrote this sentence on the board this morning: "Třista třicet tři stríbrnych střikacek střikalo přes třista třicet tři stríbrnych střech." That is a real sentence that apparently means something to some people in the world. F'real, though. Crazy.

BUT! She had us all take a turn reading the sentence and after I read, she asked me if I'd studied Czech before. Small victories, my friends, small victories.

And now I will go make myself a delicious sandwich out of cheese that smells like bacon, the most deliciously ripe tomatoes I've ever had in January, and a meat that I'm pretty sure is turkey. Word.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Getting here

I just woke up from an 18-hour sleep/napfest. And I really feel like I could sleep for several more hours. Let me tell you all about getting here. It was kind of nuts.

The story begins at my house, 8:00 am Tuesday morning. I had an hour and a half of sleep and I wasn't done packing. This part of the story can be shortened by simply saying "hair on fire, panties up my butt" because I should have packed sooner. At least I can admit my mistakes?

We left for Dallas at 10:30ish. Everything was fine until Mom and I realized that neither of us had directions to the airport. That was all fine though, we stopped at a gas station, but then there was a freaking enormous traffic jam on the one road that leads to the airport! But Mom OFFROADED and saved the day. I kid you not. Offroaded. My mom.

At the airport, I checked in with two carry-ons and a wheely bag to check. In other words, probably too much stuff. But I don't think I'll regret much of it. We found out that my flight was delayed, and then we found out that the only restaurant outside of security was one in the hotel at the airport. It was expensive and I felt bad, but I did have some delicious sushi.

My flight left at 6:20 headed for London. I was seated in an exit row, which I thought would be great because of more leg room, but actually kind of sucks because you have to put all your stuff away and people with their crying babies like to come stand in the open area in front of you. To my right was a cowboy, whom I naturally assumed was American, until he ordered a drink. A British cowboy? I had no idea such things existed. And this dude was serious - boots, tight jeans, not one, but two cowboy hats! On my left was another British man who drank 3 gin and tonics and passed out for the rest of the flight.

Let's talk about why British airlines are better than American.
1. The flight attendants are unfailingly pleasant, and they are all either British women or Indian men. The pilots also are great. Something about being told, "Cheerio, love" when you leave the plane is just wonderful.

2. You get whatever the heck you want to drink without paying for it (as evidenced by the 3 gin and tonics man). And everyone gets wine! with their complementary 3-course meal.

3. You get served "tea" in the final hours of your flight, which is another meal. It's so wonderful. I didn't get any meals when I flew American the last time I came to Prague.

Okay, back to my story. I couldn't sleep on the flight for some reason, even though I drank some wine in the hopes that it would make me sleepy. So when I got to Heathrow, I found the first available couch and curled up with my head on my backpack and my arm wrapped around my purse. Defensive mode. Heathrow is a wonderful airport, with the aforementioned couches and really great food and shopping places. It's also insanely busy. Every time I woke up from my nap, someone new would be staring at me. They were either waiting for me to get up so they could take the couch or I was snoring or drooling or something.

I flew into Prague at about 6 pm. I collected my stuff and went to the transportation information place. I was starting to get a little freaked out about making my way across the city, so when a guy tried to talk to me I kind of blew him off. But then I realized that he wasn't a crazy bum or taxi driver, but a really nice older man offering me a 24-hour bus ticket that he wasn't going to use! It was really a Godsend, because I had 21 crowns left over from the last time I was here (which is about 1 dollar) and I would've had to wait until 7 for the Travelex to open again so I could change money. I went out and caught bus 119, which pulled up exactly as I walked out of the airport. Then we rode all the way across town to the metro station, and I caught the tram from the Devchka station to Jiriho z Podebrad stop. When I got off, I was kind of freaking out. The directions that my couchsurfing friend gave me were to go through the park, left of the church. I was directly in front of a park, but across the street was what looked like a massive church. So after much deliberation, I went through the park, up a hill, lugging my huge bag and heavy backpack. I'm sweating even though it's 30 degrees and I'm sure I look absolutely nuts. When I got to the top of the hill, I decided this couldn't be right, so I turned around and went through the "park" to the left of the church. This direction mix-up was really no fault of my friend's, because really, how do you tell someone where to go when there are 8 different streets around this church and I have no idea which was is north?

I eventually realized that this huge church might be in one of my guidebooks with a map, so I whipped out my Time-out Prague and found it - Church of the Sacred Heart, in Zizkov. The map helped a lot, but only so much as I couldn't figure out how to call the guy I was staying with. The numbers are listed like this: +420453288912. I just dialed the number, and got some crazy Czech message telling me that the number didn't exist. But I found this nice older man with two tiny dogs (one of whom I'm pretty sure was named Sammy), who didn't speak much English, and he pointed me in the direction of the street I wanted and let me use his phone! I thanked him profusely, in Czech and English, and finally found Andrew's apartment. I could have cried with relief.

Andrew explained to me how to dial the plus sign - apparently, holding down zero turns into a plus sign. I had looked all over my phone too, to try to find this plus sign nonsense; I guess I just missed it. He took me to an ATM and I got 4000 crowns (200 dollars), which he told me would probably last me about a month. We went to a pub and I had some fried cheese and two beers which cost me all of about 7 dollars. Food and drinks are freaking cheap! Hooray!

And then we came back to his apartment and I promptly passed out for 18 hours. You have to remember that I hadn't really had any good sleep (except for the London nap) for about 48 hours. And I actually wouldn't mind another 18 hour sleep right now.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I leave in about seven hours. I did the online check-in, which if you ask me, is a great invention. I got a freakin' sweet exit row seat which should make sleeping a little easier. Not that I'm worried I'll have much trouble sleeping tomorrow.

Am I packed yet? Funny you should ask.

But I've said my goodbyes, finished a show, uploaded enough music and movies onto my iPod to keep me entertained through the rest of the century, and realised that 5 months isn't really all that long. Perhaps I'm being much too blase about this whole thing. Other people seem to be a lot more concerned about my trip than I am. I'm not that worried about forgetting stuff or getting lost overseas or whatever. Maybe someone needs to light a fire under my butt.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2 weeks to go.

How on EARTH am I supposed to decide what to pack?

I'm such a loser. I remember when I helped Madison pack for Slovakia..."Do you really need seven blue shirts, Madison?" Ha. I'm sure mine will be more like, "Do you really need three shirts with animals on them?" or "Do you really need ten shirts with various thicknesses and colors of stripes?"

I honestly think what I'll miss the most (besides people, obv.) is playing music. I better meet some Czechs with guitars and pianos in their houses, or I'll be sorely out of practice when I get back. And I hope my roommate doesn't hate show tunes.