Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Can life get better in 2009?

So, here's the second grouping of my new year thoughts...

2008 wasn't too shabby! I say that as an understatement and without irony. 2008 really was pretty good. It's not that often we look backwards to make an assessment. That, and I think it's easier to see other people's progress than acknowledge our own, so be warned, this post is all about the ego-stroke... Me -  awesome. The kid - rocks like a wild woman.

Me 2008

Two biggies here - first, what was initiated in 2007 through a visit to The Bridge was more fully realized in 2008. I can't, in all honesty, say that pain is not and never will be a part of my life again, but I can, again in all honesty, say that it is no longer a predominate aspect of my ongoing experience. I am no longer existing in a world of hurt but living my life on terms of my own choosing. My head is clear and my body free. I cannot convey what this means. If you have not existed in a world ruled by chronic pain it is beyond comprehension - and if you are in existing in a state dictated by chronic pain you are also incapable of truly comprehending what it is to be free... you may think you know but the effects of pain - the mental and emotional way more than the physical - so fully permeate life that the little insight and thoughts and desires for a life with pain in manageable role, the desire for normalcy, the idea of a pain-free existence, the thoughts you may have can't fully comprehend what it is to feel free... to be yourself again... because you have to discover who you are all over again. You get to start anew. Who you are isn't who you were, but can be so much more.

The second, obviously, I moved. I tried to take advantage of my life's opportunities, the chance to live again, and fully live. On the other side of the world. And it's going well. Really well. I am in a beautiful, exciting part of the world and living a life full of potential - both realized potential, and potential still in existence - the opportunity to create and discover so much more.

So, what 2008 represents to me is a lot of personal accomplishment. Not the kind measured by societal standards, but the kind that matters.

The kid 2008

If you've seen my kid recently then any words I may have are insufficient to describe her. If you haven't seen her (or met her) well, your life is lacking for it. She seriously rocks. And rolls. She doesn't iron though. In all honesty, this has been a year of continued growth and recovery for her... the concussion stuff is pretty much in the past and her overseas invasion has helped her to become this awesome, aware, international intellectual, and insanely cool creature. Creature being a term of endearment of the highest order. She not just a teen, and girl is so diminutive for who she is, and I doubt she'd appreciate the term young woman or young lady in the sense in which I would offer it, so creature shall suffice. For now. She's awesome.

Happy New Year!!!

So this will be a little scattered, so much so that I may to break my thoughts in to a few posts here - for your benefit... my brain is a little swirly trying to put my thoughts in order. It's 6:40 am here, New Year's Day.

First - Happy New Year - thanks for reading, thanks for being a party of my life, sorry I'm not with you to tell you I appreciate you and how much you matter to me.

Second - New Year's here is CRAZY!!! I left California on the 30th and arrived here in Prague around 5:20, via Heathrow (side note - my flight actually landed early - from Heathrow!!!) I had a driver scheduled to pick me up, and we talked non-stop during the 30 minute drive to my place. He's American, raised in Southern CA, he moved to Prague 15 years ago from San Francisco. He started by giving me fair warning to keep the heck out of Wenceslas Square.... too dangerous! No, not rioting or looting or drunken debauchery, the darn fireworks. I wasn't quite sure what he was talking about and then as he was loading my suitcases he moved a large box in his trunk - a case of huge Disneyland style fireworks. In his trunk. For his family.

Apparently right now you can buy them on the street. Like they sell kelbasas and hot wine, they're selling giant bottle rockets. It's seasonal, but you can do it. And then we started driving. It wasn't even 6 pm and all over the city there were fireworks everywhere!!! Private fireworks, backyard, in the street family stuff. He told me to stay out of Wenceslaus Square cause it's packed solid, people are stumbling drunk, and still trying to set off their fireworks there - which results in numerous injuries each year - dropped fireworks, thrown fireworks, knocked over fireworks, still holding fireworks, sideways fireworks.... you get the picture.

Anyway, I had plans for the night - actually a few options but had settled on one that would give me a few hours to eat, shower, nap, and recover a bit - and was looking forward to it. Then I made it to my apartment and realized sitting on a plane for 12 hours with crying infants and not sleeping had sort of impacted my body... and I was starving and really wanting something healthy - so I set out to eat first and went for a freezing cold walk (-7 Celsius, I believe) and found every restaurant and grocery store in my area closed... and then realized just didn't have the energy to take a shower and sort threw my luggage and head back out in to the cold - and a quick nap wasn't going to work any miracles, so I sat down and looked out the window and had the most incredible view of the city and fireworks going off all over... and never left.

I started to feel a little sad, sitting in my empty apartment, video-chatting with Coral and my Mom and brother back in CA, wondering why I came back when I did (good reasons that I fully rationally understand) feeling like my friends were still out of town, knowing I had things to do, but not feeling connected to them - and then my phone started exploding - and I had to delete messages to make room for the incoming texts, and then my email came alive.... and I felt better. I forgot I knew so many people here who I truly appreciate and enjoy - not just communal language friends, good to hang out with for a drink or a laugh, but people who I would seek out, at home, to spend time with... For a moment in my my overtired crabby state I had forgotten how comfortable I am here. (Coral being in CA and my being here will be another post... best rest assured it's truly a temporary situation!)

Back to the fireworks - I was really tired and dozed but I can confidently state the fireworks went off throughout the city on a non-stop basis from at least 6:00, when I stepped outside, to well after 1:00, when I finally fell asleep for the night.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


I want to wish each and every one of you, my worldly readers, a blessed day, filled with an abundance of love and joy, warm hearts, laughing souls, and a genuine appreciation of the gifts of this life. Thank you for your presence in mine.

Merry Christmas.

Sense of Security

This past week I had to go to San Francisco for some paperwork for the visa issue. The State building is located on Golden Gate Ave - for those of you unfamiliar with the area it's not a nice one. It's sorta verging on the Tenderloin which is exactly the kind of area you want to not walk through, ever.

Anyway, I wasn't crazy about the drive and then the parking was a hassle, but when I realized where I was I was even less thrilled. I finally, after much circling, found a space to park - right at an intersection that had four police cars within a block's radius - two on each street.

In the few minutes it took for me to park, cross the street to the donut shop for change - twice - and cross the street to my car again I was more uncomfortable than I I have been the entire time I've been in Prague. Think of it like this - I am more comfortable walking by myself through a strange city with well over a million inhabitants at 2 am, in a country where I don't speak the language than I am walking three blocks in San Francisco, an area I am quite familiar with, in the middle of the day with a visible police presence. (OK, the police were already occupied, on each block, with large problems... just reinforcing my discomfort.)

My sense of security has changed. I can expect pick pockets in Prague but I am not face to face with the threatening crazed drug addicts you find on the streets here - the potential for violent crime is much much higher over here. Unlike Coca-Cola this is one instance where the new is a definitive improvement of the old.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cultural Season Indicators

Can't remember if I've written about this yet, so here it goes (again?)...

Shortly after arriving we went shoe shopping. There was an adorable pair of boots that I really, really liked. They were white. I wanted to get them, yet in the back of my mind I heard both my Grandmother and my Mom saying you don't wear white shoes after labor day. And I thought, jeez, labor days in a just about 2 days, maybe I should get something else.


One - I'm not in the US - THERE IS NO LABOR DAY
Two - I'm in the Czech Republic, you can wear whatever you want whenever you want!

The, there was a complete lack of Halloween decorations. It felt like it went from summer to fall for 2 weeks to Christmas. We skipped both Halloween and Thanksgiving, two things which happen prior to entering the Christmas season

Well, Halloween is very western and not really acknowledged here.

And Thanksgiving - yeah, same as the white shoes - wrong country.

Christmas is an interesting time. Rather the month of December is quite interesting. Here I am in the land of St. Wenceslas, and celebrating St. Nicholus - or rather, St, Mikulas - in a country without a concept of Santa Claus. There is no Santa Claus here.

Last week was St. Mikulas's time to travel with the angel and the devil and either allow the good children to receive treats and presents or the bad children to be swept off to hell. In another two weeks it will be Christmas. Children learn about Christmas in their public schools. Every classroom comes equipped with the old fashion advent wreaths. Christmas is when Baby Jesus comes over while you're eating dinner = the giant carp that's been living in the bathtub - on Christmas Eve and leaves presents for you to open during dessert.

No Santa, no jingle bells, no reindeer, not much shopping, no stockings, no Rudolph or Frosty. Charlie Brown doesn't need a tree. No Red Rider BB Gun. No Jimmy Stewart. No kidding.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Communistic Comparision

I was overwhelmed by all the religious based activity in pre-school this week, and had a conversation relayed to the Czech teacher through the other multi-lingual teacher I work with.

I was telling them about some of the big differences - we wouldn't have major celebrations in our public schools focused in Saints, wouldn't be teaching them about Baby Jesus, or building a creche, or dancing with devils, or any other number of things we've done recently. I explained how the separation of religion from government does not allow religious elements to enter in to our classrooms - and she laughed and responded in such a way that the translation wasn't necessary, however for your benefit:

That sounds just like communism!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Devil Day and the overwhelming religious aspects of an aetheist pre-school

If I tell you the full story you're going to say I partook in a Satanic ritual. Seriously. Anyone with any sort of Christian background would be horrified - Christian in the larger sense of any religion that holds Jesus to be God's son and not Christian in the sense of a singular and exclusive fundamentalist or evangelic religion.

All week long I've been working with kids on the projects assigned to me. This week was different - my words weren't apple, ten, cucumber, or blue but rather angel, devil, St. Miklaus, Baby Jesus.... and the projects were either a clay nativity scene OR devils, angels, or pope-like St. Miklaus - St. Nicholaus to you westerns... you know - Jolly Old St. Nicholaus....

The devil here is 'the devil' (but in czech) or Lucifer. He speaks a lot - and says "Blitter-lidder-lidder-lidder" but over and over and over again and really really fast!!!

Friday was the culmination of everything we'd been working on for the week - and the day I learned the devil speaks... and the day I joined in song with about 25 little devils, holding hands, dancing and singing around the fires of hell.

I kid you not.

More details when I'm more awake.

Transitory Connections - Further Adaptation Required

Something I was not expecting, and now I've got to learn how to incorporate this new dynamic in to my future relationships...

People here leave.

They do.

They come and they go, and that is, apparently, the nature of the english-speakers in a foreign land.

You think - tourists, they're tourists, of course you doofus!! No. I mean my friends.

I've made some cool connections with some people and now a number of them are leaving. My closest friend, Jane, is heading back to Canada before taking a South American vacation and then continuing on and relocating to Scotland. I am going to truly miss her. She rocks!!

And Dom - the single syllable of the name doesn't do justice to the charismatic and outrageous guy he is. Over the top in every way, I adore him as well. He just moved here a few months ago - newer than me in fact - and has since been transfered to another country. With 24 hour notice. Job well done! (too well, apparently - now he's been promoted and is revamping another location, just one without the culture, clubs, or english-language community that exists here).

And there are others... many others. There's a hole community of people I've tied in to who are couch-surfers - the come and go, gracing us for just a few days... And my local friends - mainly contract people, many of whom will be returning to England once their contract expires... within the next few months.

There are a few I've met who will be here for a while... Those who've married a Czech or are firmly entrenched in their company with no desire to change - a few of whom love it here so much they've established their lives here and have changed company to company, advancing their careers, and living as Praguers, not as English in Prague.

I didn't expect to make friends and then have to say goodbye. I've just said goodbye to all of you. This transitory stuff is rather hard - who do you reach out to? Who do you confide in? How much longer will they be around? Who will I have dinner with next weekend? New Year's Eve? Coffee? Share a joke - how can you create a history with people you've just met who won't be here for more than a few months?

Obviously I miss my friends right now. Those here and you back there. Pretty soon they'll be the same thing - those here will be back there, wherever their back there is.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

You know you're....

I just found this online about my school... and it's fairly relevant, as far as I can tell, which made me laugh.

You know you went to AAC when:

1.)You’ve witnessed the smoking garden location changed at least 3 times, and you don’t care, cuz you still smoke in front of the building.
2.)Teachers have offered to take the class out for beer instead of finishing class on time.
3.)You have come to the realization that most of Dix’s classes are essentially the same class.
4.)You have a favorite couch somewhere in the building, and have labeled it “the meeting couch”.
5.)You have gone out for drinks with people from class, and Ozuna came along.
6.)School parties combined with UNYP usually cause some sort of rivalry and gossip.
7.)You can make it from the tram to the school in under 2 minutes, despite the tourists, cuz you know how to dodge them.
8.)Coming to class an hour late doesn’t give you a bad grade, it makes you the “alpha male”.
9.)Waiting in the computer lab for 45 minutes for people to filter out or the computers to function is a normal occurrence.
10.)You didn’t know we had a student council until John started weekly announcements in his classes.
11.)You can run up and down 90 flights of stairs a day and not even think about it.
12.)A 3 hour class is no big deal.
13.)You know from experience that room 100 is too cold for most forms of human life.
14.)You aren’t quite sure who the president of the school is now…
15.)Getting wine at DobrĂ¡ Trafika before class is a pretty normal occurrence.
16.)You remember the cave, and wish it was still there.
17.)Meeting someone who has 4 mother languages is really not that uncommon.
18.) Half the people in your afternoon class stink of alcohol.
19.) You're not surprised when Dr. Dix asks the American guys who among them is circumcised.
20.) When you have studied Kant, Weber, and Marx in EVERY class.
21.) When you don't eat before Turnau's class because you know he'll perform last rites and then give everyone unlimited cookies.

Monday, December 1, 2008

another monday

I really coulda taken a pass this Monday. Class hasn't started yet but I'm ready to go home and head back to bed.

I made a point of washing my hair last night - Monday's are always the hardest day for timing for us. I don't have to work really early and Coral has the same schedule every day so we're usually both trying to use the bathroom at the same time. This way we can avoid that.

I thought ahead, had everything ready to go, and made it out of the house in time to meet my bus. The 224. It never showed up. I was there on time, yet 15 minutes after it was due it still hadn't arrived. So I had to take an alternate. The 188. And for some reason the 8 minute bus ride was closer to 30 minutes. And everyone who had been waiting for the 224, and there should have been 2 in that time frame, was now boarding the 188. Which meant we were overcrowded.

I was smashed against the pole, a woman's chair, and other humans so closely that we weren't just standing shoulder to shoulder but buttcheek to buttcheek and calf to calf. I also kept getting my head slammed in to the ticket stamping machine. And people kept trying to board well after maximum capacity.

Finally we made it to the metro, which is when I called the school to let them know I would be late. I boarded the metro and promptly zoned out, like everyone else on the train. You just listen for the name of your stops and get off when you hear it called.

Well at one point in the journey I thought we were running pretty slow - it felt like we'd made more stops than the recording indicate. But then I zoned out again and got off when my stop was called.

Unfortunately I'd been right. The recording was off, which was discovered when everyone who departed the train reached the top of the escalators... and found we were all one stop beyond where the recording indicated. So, back down the escalator and in to the next return train and then out at the next stop and then a rush to catch the tram and a short walk and here I am sitting in a freezing cold room with a slow computer, empty except for me, and the speakers don't work so I can neither watch nor listen to anything I was planning on watching and listening to today.

Bleck. There's my indulgent self-pity. Now, I'm over it.