Monday, May 25, 2009


So I'm in Ireland! And I have mixed feelings about it, to tell you the truth.

The negatives:

A of all, I miss Prague and all my USAC friends. Lots. The value of knowing a city and having a place to call home is immeasurable. I've met a lot of nice people so far, but drifting around, on my own, is not the greatest thing in the world.

B of all, getting around in Ireland without a car is kind of a drag. It's difficult to figure out, and as a result, I'm skipping several places that I wanted to see. But it's okay. I'm going to save money by spending more time in each city, and not traveling as much. So far, I've done Dublin and Kilkenny, Tuesday I'm going to Cork for 4 nights, Saturday I'm going to the Aran Islands for a night (hopefully). But as I'm looking at the tickets, I don't think I'll have enough money. I'd have to take a bus from Cork to Galway, which is 15 euros, then a transfer coach and ferry (return trip) to the Islands, which is 26 euros. Plus I'd have to have a hostel and all that, which would be about another 20 euros...Probably not going to work.

C of all, in the Czech Republic, prices are way cheaper outside of Prague. Not so in Ireland. Things are pretty much the same price outside of Dublin, which is LAME.

The positives:

It's Ireland. It is beautiful. The music is amazing. Also, being independent is fun, in it's own way.

But a lot of me just wishes I was home. Sorry if this entry is a downer - don't think I'm not having a great time in Ireland, I am, it's just been more difficult than I hoped it would be.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Life is for living

Dear USAC,

Why on EARTH would you make the program end the day after finals? That's just kind of dumb. I have way too much crap to do, and I leave in two days. Maybe you should change this, because it's all kinds of annoying. kthanxbye.

Yeah, two days. I leave in two days. I can't wrap my head around it, quite. My friend Ariel from high school is visiting me right now, which is awesome because it gives me a chance to go out and say goodbye to a bunch of things one last time. I feel kind of bad though, I've got a paper to finish and a big final to study for, so I can't give as much of my time as I'd like. I don't know when I'm going to have time to pack either HOLY CRAP I'M LEAVING! It's basically the saddest thing ever.

I keep having random moments of "crap, I'm really going to miss that" - last night, sitting in the kitchen on the windowsill, looking out at nothing in particular, BAM. "I'm really going to miss it here." Last Sunday, walking with Adriene and Casey through Staromestka, looking at all the different buildings and thinking about the boring architecture in America; shopping at Billa and saying "dobry den" to the cashier, sitting in a booth at Blind Eye and speaking Czech with a native (yes, I actually can speak enough Czech to get by! How wonderful is that?), walking to school through Vysehrad, talking to Petr Roubal about Chicago, being asked "Co jste delala o minuly vikendu?" by Lenka, the Czech teacher. I'm going to miss it all and so much more.

I feel definitely changed by this experience. Forgive me when I get home if I can't answer right away when asked about my experiences. I'm still processing and it might take awhile. Give me a little time though, and I'm sure I'll be boring you with "Oh, we did such-and-such in Prague" and you'll hate me and want me to shut up. I feel a little quieter and a little more confident all at once. I think I'm more proud of the time I've had here than of any other time in my life so far, other than Nicaragua. I feel very self-sufficient and at the same time, very well taken care of. It seems that life can be lived well in lots of parts of the world - I've seen a lot of things and met a lot of people who've confirmed that for me.

So enough with the philosophical musings. I've got a paper to write, sights to see for one last time, and things to pack. And I'm going to Ireland also. kthanxbye.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

If you call, I'll come running.

ONEMONTHonemonthonemonthonemonthonemonth one month from today I will be in America. Oh man.

I'm going to Ireland in a week. Oh man.

I came to an important realization this weekend. It is thus:

Camping is the great equalizer.

Seriously. 10 of us went camping in north Bohemia, at a place called Ĩesky Raj, which means "Bohemian Paradise". Bohemian yes, paradise...maybe.

It started off like any normal camping trip: we got a group together and bussed out about an hour and a half from Prague. We bought groceries at the Billa in Turnov, the closest town to our camp. Most grocery lists consisted of "chocolate, beans, cookies, bread, pomegranate water, wine, apples." So maybe this should have been our first indication of unpreparedness...

We took a tiny, slow-moving train to Bohemian Paradise for the low low cost of 78 kc for 10 people. Yep, 8 kc per person. Not even $.50. We walked to our campsite, got all checked in, and found our teepees. We did, in fact, stay in teepees. And I'm not sure what comes into your mind when I say "teepees", but these were legit. And the campsite said each teepee had 6 beds in them, so we were all thinking like camping cots or just a soft pallet on the ground or something. But when we pried open the flaps of our teepee, inside were wooden pallets. Like, wooden packing crates.

We all cracked up. Now we KNEW we were unprepared: none of the guys had brought blankets or pillows, and only 4 of us girls had. So we were 4 blankets and 2 pillows among 10 people. That was awesome, and really great planning on our part. This even would have been okay, except that it started raining at about 10:30 and we had to leave our campfire behind and go to the cold cold teepee and huddle for warmth. We pushed all our crate-beds together and slept like sardines under 4 blankets with wet jackets for pillows. And ate crackers and Smurf-shaped marshmallows all night long.

But honestly, it was one of the best experiences of my life. And why I say camping is an equalizer: as we sat around the fire, I had flashbacks to Colorado, almost exactly a year ago, when we huddled in "Hotel Brush" and ate chili and cookies and watermelon mixed with dust and generally ended up loving each other a lot more. The same thing happened in Bohemian Paradise, and that was great. Plus, the scenery was the "paradise" part. It was breathtakingly gorgeous - huge sandstone rock formations, forests of pine trees with sunlight trickling down to the ground, moss on every possible surface, and that incredible foresty smell that is like nothing else.

The morning after our ridiculous crate-bed night, Sarah, Allie and I ended up sleeping in this little kitchen area, passed out with our heads on our arms on picnic tables. It was so warm in there, and there were no bugs, and no crate-beds - three things which made it better than the teepee. I'm sure we got some strange looks. Then we moved our little party to the Czech version of a beach, which basically consists of a large, muddy pond with a few tons of imported sand and a volleyball net. We slept there a little bit, too. Aren't land-locked countries just precious?

It was a really good time. I wouldn't change any part of it. Now I have to go to bed - we're watching the sun rise on our last Wednesday in Prague tomorrow. Sad face.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I keep bleeding, I keep keep bleeding love.

I have officially less than two weeks left in the Czech Republic. I leave Wednesday, May 20 for the UK and Ireland, and while I was almost wishing I were going straight home, now I'm excited about that again. Still don't really know what I'm going to do there, but it'll be awesome, no matter what!

Anyway, I've been to three different places since the last time I wrote. Kutna Hora, Karlovy Vary, and MORAVIA. Now, Moravia is actually an entire region of the Czech Republic, but I'm not altogether sure of the towns we saw, because it was a guided tour and they neglected to mention where we were.

Kutna Hora: has a bone church. As in, a church decorated with the bones of 40,000 people. It's pretty much exactly like it sounds - picture a small chapel with a quaint chandelier containing each and every bone of the human body ("even the tiny ear bones"). And picture a garland of skulls and pelvises trailing across the ceiling. Yep, it was weird. And strangely underwhelming.

Kutna Hora is also famous for it's medieval silver mines, which we were lucky enough to get to tour. Usually they're not open for tours at this time of year, but some small group of EU ambassadors (!) were in the area so we got to do the tour with them. It's kind of crazy the kind of information our program director can find out. I swear that man knows everyone. The silver mines were uber-cool and creepier than the bone church. We donned white robes and shell-shaped hardhats and descended. There were all kinds of the clearest underground streams that looked like still mirrors and stalagmites and stalactites and extremely narrow passageways and plenty of opportunities to hit your head. The coolest part was definitely when the tour guide brought us into the widest part and had us all turn off our lamps. Complete and utter darkness. I don't think I've ever seen/not seen such darkness before, where there's literally no difference between having your eyes open and having them closed. Insane.

So yeah, Kutna Hora's a pretty cool town. Much cooler than Karlovy Vary, where we went a week later. It's a spa town, and it seems that spa-ing is pretty much the only cool activity available in Karlovy Vary. We took a tour of the town and sampled the "healing" mineral waters, most of which tasted like vomit or metal, take your pick, and bought cute little mineral water tasting cups, which are curved and have a straw in the handle, which is pretty freaking precious. My friends called me Karlovy Vary (or Karlsbad, the German name of the town) all day. We bought some snacks and ice cream and laid in the park for about 4 hours. No kidding. Not a lot to do in Karlovy Vary.

But the day after KV, we went on a Moravian Extravaganza! Four towns in 6 hours! The first place we went was Moravsky Krumlov, which contains half the name of my favorite Czech town, Cesky Krumlov, so I thought it would be really cool. Sadly no, but it does contain one of the most amazing art exhibits I've ever seen. Alfons Mucha, the famous Czech painter (you'd definitely know his work if you saw it, google him) took it upon himself to paint 20 canvases containing the entire history of the Slavic people. And okay, that's impressive enough, but these canvases. They are HUGE. 18 by 24 feet. Even one of them is the biggest painting I've ever seen, but there are 20. It's absolutely crazy. I could post a picture, but it doesn't really do it justice. If you ever have the chance to go to Moravsky Krumlov, be sure to check it out. Actually, I don't know why you'd go to Moravsky Krumlov except to see them...'cause there's nothing else there.

After that, we went to Milukov (I think) and had lunch and hiked up a beautiful hill. I was wearing completely inappropriate shoes (story of my life) but it was worth it. From the top you could see Austria and many, many rolling yellow fields of rapeseed, which is quickly becoming my favorite plant. I want to dance through those fields, but apparently most humans are highly allergic to unadultered rapeseed oil. So maybe I won't do that. But it won't stop me from dreaming!

We drove to another town after that and hiked around a lake this time, and saw some Turkish-influenced architecture with Arabic inscribed on the sides. Then we headed to the Moravian countryside and did a wine tasting. All in all, it was a really fun day. We spent the night at the little villa where we had dinner, and came back the next day. Great weekend. And I promptly spent the next two days holed up inside because of course it was RAINING when we came back. And it's not like at home, where it can rain and still be warm because of all the humidity in the air - no, here when it's cloudy, it's also cold. Not okay with 40 degrees during the day in May. Not cool, Prague.


1. Prague Zoo
2. See an opera
3. Watch sunrise at Charles Bridge
4. See some black light theatre
5. Brenov Monastery
6. Bohemian Paradise
7. Karaoke in Prague
8. Revisit all my favorite parks

So much to do, so little time. Then Ireland and Scotland!