Monday, February 23, 2009

No Petr, actually I have never heard of a tit bird...

So this post is a little dated, but I wanted to write about our day trip to Terezin and Lidice last week.

USAC took us on a little day trip to a few places about an hour outside of Prague. We went to Lidice first. After Hitler's main man Heydrich was assassinated by two Slavic men, the Nazis decided to make an example of Lidice by literally leveling it during the war. They killed most of the men in the town and shipped the women and children to prison camps. 60-something children were later gassed at the camp, and the ones who weren't were forcibly separated from their mothers and "adopted" by Germans. It was awful to see the videos of women who survived describing that day. The whole thing was really intense. I will never understand how humans could do things like this to each other. Today all that really remains of Lidice is part of a cellar where the largest and richest farm stood, and the church door and a few artifacts that were found later.

After Lidice, we went to a really picturesque town called Litomeřice. There's not much to really say about it except that it was incredibly beautiful and almost German looking. Apparently all of Czechoslovakia's German inhabitants were expelled from the country after WWII, and Litomerice had been a mostly German town, thus explaining the look. We ate at a restaurant called "At the Dragon". My meal was probably fried meatloaf and green bean soup, but I can't be sure. I couldn't read the menu and I was trying to be creative...

We went to Terezin next, which was both a prison camp and a Jewish ghetto. The ghetto had one of the best exhibits I've seen. During the war, the Nazis used Terezin as propaganda to show the world that hey, we treat people fairly, look at this wonderful "Jewish-run community" we have here. Terezin had no gas chambers or "murders" per se, but many of its inhabitants died from exhaustion, over-crowding, and poor medical care. But the truly incredible thing about Terezin was the artistic life of the people. They were allowed to paint, write music, and put on theatre productions, as long as they were in line with the Nazi ideology. Many artists drew and painted works that showed the true side of life in Terezin and hid them around the camp to be found after the war. And so many artists and actors were interred at Terezin - they had pictures and reconstructions of set and costume designs, paintings, was really inspiring and beautiful, that people would still have the heart and the drive to be creative and express themselves in the midst of such hopelessness.

We saw the prison camp after the ghetto. It was awful - imagining people locked up in tiny cells with no room to even sit down, in the freezing cold, no privacy. I can't imagine...not at all.

Anyway. Not the most joyous day, but I definitely learned a lot and I'm really glad I got to go. Life has otherwise been pretty basic around here. I think I've hit a little bit of a wall. I'm still glad to be here, but I'm really tired of it being cold and wet and having too much time on my hands and not much to fill it with. I'll figure it out soon, I'm sure.

Friday, February 13, 2009

"Ale cert to vem" indeed.

Our washing machine plays the merriest little jingle when it's finished with a rinse cycle. Such a merry jingle that I can almost forgive it for making my clothes crunchy. Actually, that's a lie. I cannot forgive it. But really, it's not the washing machine's fault, it's the stupid lack of a dryer! I understand that it saves energy to line-dry your clothes, but I am honestly willing to make a bigger carbon footprint for soft, non-crispy clothing. Maybe I'm a selfish jerk, but I don't care. I would kill a tree for a dryer right now. Anyway, enough of that, onto more important happenings.

Ah, skola. This week we started regular classes instead of just the Czech Intensive course. I'm enrolled in 4 classes, but I went to 6 this week, to check (or Czech) them out. To be honest, the only classes I really cared about were Art and Architecture and the Czech Language course. I went to my Czech Film class, where we watched the craziest movie ever made, called "Conspirators in Pleasure" or something like that. I don't really know how to explain it, other than to say it was a silent film, and involved dead roosters, bread balls, carp, and rubber gloves. Among other things.

I also tried out my Czech Politics class, which was okay but really awkward, as there are only 3 students in it. The teacher was a big fan of drawing ridiculous circles on the board and then pointing to a spot and saying, "Now, this is Hungary. What do you know about Budapest?" Ridiculous.

Tuesday I went to Art and Architecture, taught by a tiny, precious woman who took us on a field trip and showed us "The Model of Prague", which is exactly what it sounds like - a to-scale model of greater Prague. It is freaking sweet. I want one. It lights up different areas of the city and tells you what they are, and it's just really cool to see the city you're living in all spread out in front of your very eyes. Then Nick and I talked about models and I remembered the sweet model of West Tulsa at Ollie's that I could stare at forever.

After that I was back in Vyšehrad by the school so I decided to stick around for Modern Czech History, which is a much cooler class than Politics. Petr Roubal is the teacher and he's a stinking Genius - the man has a PhD from both Central European University and Cambridge. He knows so much about Prague and especially the Czech involvement in WWII. He told us the story of how a Czech man and a Slovak man, who were paratroopers in the British army, took it upon themselves to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, one of the top officers in Hitler's army. Afterward the Nazis retaliated and found the men by torturing one of their friends. They were hiding in a crypt of an Orthodox church in Prague with five other Czech men, and they had a huge standoff with the Nazis before they committed suicide rather than being captured and killed. Then Petr took us TO the crypt. It was awesome. That's yet another great thing about being here - you hear about something, then you go see it, just a tram stop and a short walk away from your school.

On Wednesday I picked MADISON! up from the airport at 9:00. We both bought phones and then came back to my apartment and crashed for awhile. I'm so excited to have her here.

Thursday she and I attempted to find an adapter for the computer, but we couldn't find a stupid hardware store anywhere. Apparently the hardware store we were looking for is actually inside a silly of us not to know? I'd decided to go to the "Alternative Cultures" class at 1:45, and I'm so glad I did, because it is possibly THE GREATEST CLASS ON EARTH. It's taught by Pavla Jonssonova, who is a former guitarist/vocalist for the Czech band Dybbuk. Here's a link for their single "Ale Cert To Vem": (watch it, it's great, Pavla's the one with the short red/orange hair). I shouldn't say former, because apparently they still play every once in awhile, which is just beyond awesome. She told us how she grew up during the Communist era and how all the youth were really jealous of and into Western culture because they couldn't get any music or popular art stuff in Czechoslovakia. Apparently the Communist regime was a lot more strict here than in other countries (other than the former Yugoslavia) and a lot of Czechs and Slovaks weren't really allowed to retain their culture. So that class is going to freaking rock and I'm taking it instead of Czech Film. I don't really have enough words to express how amazing Pavla is.

So basically now I'm in class from 9 to 12 and 1:45 to 6:15 on Tuesdays, and 1:45 to 6:15 on Thursdays. I have a four day weekend with a day off in the middle, and I'm in four awesome classes that I'm stoked about. Prague is great. Studying abroad is great. Everyone should do it. It's such a nice break from all the drama that is the University of Tulsa theatre department. I miss my friends in Tulsa, but I really don't miss the school itself. Like, at all. Sor.

This entry is too long already, so I'll discuss our visits to Lidice and Terezín later. Nashledanou to you all (incidentally, is anyone actually reading this thing?)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A short love letter

Dear Prague,

I think I'm falling in love with you. It's not quite the deep, abiding love I have for Tulsa, with its memories and lifelong friends and knowing exactly what to do on a Friday night (and non-internet streaming American Idol), but it's love nonetheless. Thank you for your beauty and history. Some of the places you have are so astonishing, they get me all emotional. Petřin Hill is beyond me. In the dead of winter there's bright green grass and evergreen tress and lovely old buildings to explore. Not to mention some of the greatest views of the city, and an escape from the noise.

I love the way you're so diverse. I realize now how foreigners might feel in America. Thank you for being so English-friendly. I'm so glad that I can grocery shop and get around the city without crying with frustration. I have to admit though, Czech is a beautiful language. It's definitely growing on me.

Lastly, thank you for the way you bring people together. I'm already a big fan of my roommates and the other students I've met. Thanks for still being a place for more adventurous (Rilo Kiley reference, sorry) students instead of just the rabble that want to study abroad to get wasted and hit on foreign boys and girls.

You are wonderful. You'll always hold a special place in my heart.

Love, Karlena