Saturday, February 28, 2009

TV has FINALLY infiltrated my LIFE!!!

I've avoided having cable television for years. There are very few shows we would watch with any regularity, and those we would only watch off either DVD or Netflix... online. It was a rare and wonderful treat when we would catch a first-run episode of anything. Last year we started with Ugly Betty on iTunes... that was the one concession to current programing that we made.... and Heroes aired the day after on Netflix.

The point, in the US, was to avoid the influx of commercial programming, retain some autonomy by not subjecting our minds to what the TV LAND people think is what we should watch, wear, buy, eat, and think.

It's good.

Here, however, it's different. First - I don't have an actual TV. I did in the US but we only watched movies. Here I watch movies, dvd, iTunes, and some shows online (different sites other than Netflix, the repertoire is still expanding).

And now I've come to realize I may need to get cable. I may need to go and buy a television.

YES - I live in a land where I can't understand the language, but I need a tv. Why?

Because there, apparently, is a fair amount of English language programming available, and my classes and daily conversation are chock full of pop culture references.


(and I would answer) Yes. Yes. No.

It's all about AMERICAN TELEVISION PROGRAMMING! I've never even SEEN an episode of Lost. I've just discovered Dexter. I haven't watched 24 since the second season... and it goes on and on on. Mad Men??? True Blood? Huh??The Office and 30 Rock - just discovered those too.

I need to watch up on my native television programming in order to be able to fully participate in in my in-class discussions. Do you have any idea how LAME that is?!?!?

BTW - if you own any of these or other shows that you think belong in the current pop culture lexicon, please send me a disc or two. Much gratitude!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Big "C" Day

Fat Tuesday - ok, that doesn't start with a 'C", but Carnival does.... or rather CARNEVALE as it's known here.

And so does CHANGE and CRASH and CAMERA... I can come up with more... CASH - yeah, I spent just about all I have to last me the remaining few days of the month... not desperate or anything, just poor again... and, pray tell, what did I spend it on?

That's right - a CAMERA - I've been going a little nutty without one - not as crazy as I'd go if the Computer Crashed (which it hasn't yet - more on the Crash later)... so as I've hear my Camera (Currently in California... wow, more C's) is a little kooky and not consistently Capturing and Converting pictures I figured it was time to replace it. I did.

Now you get to benefit from it :)

After I bought the camera I met up with another CSer (look!! C!!) and we went to the JZP metro, after we tried to catch the stuff at Kampa but couldn't get in to it there, and we found an awesome Carnevale celebration - free admission, food, and drink - hot wine, pasteries, and sausages!

And after the more traditional costumed revelers was an incredible fire show with this really intense tribal-violin-electronic music... this is one the very few pics that I was able to get...

So that covers a few of the "C's" of the day - the rest... I CRASHED first thing this morning - walking uphill. The weather has CHANGED and the snow has all melted as it's rained lately, and somehow I slipped and my knees found that little strip of raised CEMENT they pour to separate the sidewalk from the grass. Yes, my knees hurt. Obviously I'm fine!!

Here's me in the elevator on the way up to our flat...

That orange hat is lined with some sort of something or other - it's nice and quilted inside and keeps my head rather warm.

I'm quite happy about the camera!!

Monday, February 23, 2009

CS - Photo Salon

So, there will most likely be an increase in the couchsurfing related posts here as I seem to have found a rather diverse and interesting group of people - and various sections within the organization here.

One of the cool things (that I missed!) was a Photo Salon held a few months ago in someone's flat. It's open to anyone and everyone - if you have pictures you like you can submit them for the show. The second one is coming up this weekend. I plan on being there.

Here's the link to what has shown the first time around - some are amazing and gorgeous! Most were taken here in Prague.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Keep me clothed!!!

I am accepting donations for my wardrobe... this is the third time since I've moved here that I need to buy new pants and underwear... everything is too big. AGAIN!

Jessica Flores Foster

Last month was full of ups and downs for me. My ongoing frustration which developed into despicable contempt for the Foreign Police, the Kid being stuck in the US, my parents traveling the same day as the plane crashed in NYC, my Grandfather developed pneumonia, and I was informed a friend who had been diagnosed with cancer right after I left, right after giving birth to her first child, was given a few weeks to live. I had a hard few days there... stuff here was a little out of hand, too.

But my situation doesn't even register on the Richter, while Jessica's was off the charts. Mortality, an infant, and a wedding.

She and her boyfriend married 2 weeks ago in a hastily arranged ceremony - they didn't know how long she had... she almost wasn't able to attend her own wedding due to her health. She passed away this week. On Thursday.

She was two years older than me.

I know many of you knew her much better than I did, and loved her dearly, and deservedly so.

My heart, my love, my prayers go out to you and her family, Jeremey and little Elias.

Couchsurfing - Orchids, Fraktal... and more!

Yesterday I went to another couchsurfing event... we went to some Botanical Gardens to look at orchids.

It started with one guy posting that's what he was doing and opening it up to whomever wanted to join. I think there were about 15 people who showed up. We gathered at a metro stop, took a bus, to the gardens, then hiked up to an overlook above the vineyards where we had a great snowball fight -

The we toured the greenhouse which was hot and humid and full of beautiful flowers... it was really like a little oasis from the dreary gray skies and endless snow... artificial but fully appreciated! A friend from Brazil said it was just like home, very authentic. I think we all appreciated the warmth and beauty.

Then we tried took a bus back towards the center - where a group of us carried on to find some food. This is another CSer on the bus back in to town - she's taken her shoes and socks off ever so briefly during the ride - and me at Fraktal, laughing, preparing to eat the best burger I've had in Prague so far!

Afterwards we ended up at the ringleader's flat for a night of talking, a few beers, and roasting marshmallows in the fireplace - he's also American and has quite considerately kept a stock of marshmallows and a roasting fork for his non-American visitors... it was pretty cool, sharing that with people who've only seen it in movies.

And about midnight, the remaining few went over to Akropolis for some dancing before heading home.

Prague Plague & the Man Flu

So I've had recurring bouts with the Prague Plague, and while I've been down and out during those times.... lung infection, unable to breath, etc... it pales in comparison to the Man Flu, which has stricken one of my friends here.... he tried to explain it but his fingers were too weak to type, his throat to sore to speak, his head to muddled to formulate coherent thought, so instead he sent me a link... which I generously share with you!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

More on that cheek kissing thing...

I thought I had it all worked out... that cheek kissing thing... like how many times, how soon after meeting do you start kissing... all of that...

Apparently there's another wrench - I have recently discovered that most people naturally gravitate to one side first and then the other - RIGHT and then LEFT... BUT then I met a group of Italians - and they all went LEFT then RIGHT - and we collided trying to kiss... they were all male and it was both comical and embarrassing.

So, now I'm wondering - do I need to take in to consideration not just the customs but also national origins when trying to figure out not just how soon or how many times to kiss - but which way to go.

International Intrigue

The US missle defense system - to be located just outside Prague and in Poland - is sure having some major political impact... all over the world!!


Who woulda thunk it? The Kremlin? Manipulating smaller nations for their political gain? In this day and age?

Seriously... is anyone shocked???

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Riding the rails when you're wretched.... not wonderful!

I noticed, late Sunday evening, my throat was a bit sore and I was quite tired. I thought...hmmm, I might be getting a cold... and then forgot about it.

Yesterday, Monday, I started my day off as usual - school, then school, then tutoring, then school (yes, school was listed three times as there are three schools in three locations).

I recently became aware that there is a tram stop literally at the door to the cafe where I tutor - just tucked behind a curve in the building. I decided to take the alternate tram.

That is where things went wrong. I shouldn't have tried thinking or deciding, I was already too tired.

I started off by forgetting to get on the metro and trying to take a connecting tram. I got on to the wrong tram (let's count these as mistakes #1 and 2).

I got off a spot where there were a number of trams coming through, knowing I could get to where I need to be in order to get to where I wanted to go. Wenceslas Square, a major tourist area and busy tram exchange.

I was hungry and walked around the corner to where I thought I could get a sandwich - no sandwiches so I got a kelbasa - it cost me 50 crowns... and I paid it, ate 3 bites and tossed it. Normally they cost about 20. I got mustard all over my face, my scarf, hands, and jacket. They don't believe in napkins here. (stupid moves 1, 2, and 3 - paying that much, not eating it, and making a mess).

I cleaned up as best I could and walked back to the tram stop to review the schedules. Upon closer review I realized I could take the #6 tram from where I was - and that would drop me at the door. Yea!

So a couple of trams pulled up, I saw #6, walked to the back carriage and got on. It was crowded, I was tired, I sat up, closed my eyes and listened for my stop.
(this would be tram mistakes 3 and 4 for those counting).

I fell asleep - mistake 5.

I woke up to realize I was not on tram #6 as I thought and needed to be, but rather tram #3 - and I was well outside of Prague proper, surrounded by snow capped mountains, the river, and no buildings. I sat there through another stop, trying to figure out what happened (mistake 6).

I got off and found the tram stop in the opposite direction - waited, got on, and made my way back in to town.

I think I forgot to mention - it's snowing this entire time and I can feel my cold getting worse. And my gloves where totally inadequate, my hat kept slipping off my head, and my chapstick missing. It was freezing and windy. I was standing in it for a very, very long time waiting for a tram to find us out there in the middle of nowhere.

On the right tram to get me back in to town I fell asleep again (as nothing bad happened as a result, this is merely stupid move #4). I got off and found tram #6 which was the tram I had originally been searching for... over an hour earlier. I got on it. And fell asleep, again (and again, merely a stupid move, #5, I woke up in time to get off).

I showed up 30 minutes late for the lesson, exhausted, bedraggled, cold, shivery, hungry - I usually get there 45 minutes early and eat before I teach - and ordered hot chocolate. It was hot, I was freezing - it was covered in whipped cream, and I took a big sip - and burnt my throat. (yes, another stupid move)

I was really, really ready to be in bed, but had 3 more hours to teaching and talking before I could even give sleep some serious consideration.

For books, school, students, locked doors, and life - I ended up running up the stairs to the classroom 4 times last night... that means I run UP almost 30 flights of stairs yesterday... the running down would be another nearly 30, but that's not such a big deal.

And that was last night.

I have fully developed - regained? - the Prague Plague, as it's referred to here. And it BITES!!! Thank goodness for Cold-RX.

Monday, February 16, 2009

For those of you wondering what I look like...

Not because you don't know, but I did just get a haircut.. and everyone keeps asking if I colored my hair darker - which I didn't! - and I recently discovered both M.A.C. AND Sephora in the nearest I thought you might be curious...

Here I am this past Saturday at a great dinner hosted by one of the Swedish diplomats in town - a kind and generous man :)

More details and more photos as I start feeling better. I'm tired and catching a cold. This led to a serious of funny mishaps today, and if you remind me I'll tell you about them another time... and when it is that time, you will laugh quite heartily, as will I.

For now - rest, recovery, and rejuvenation.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The meaning of Jen


Yes, that is what Jen translates to. Only. Only it's pronounced like 'yen'.

I'm quite often changed to Jenny (with the 'J' sound coming through like an American J) or to Jennifera - the taxi company consistently call me Mrs. Jennifera.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

So embarrassed...

I was in my first class the other day... and was so freakin mortified to be American! You hopefully won't hear that from me often, but this time it totally applies.

I was in my class with a disproportionate number of exchange students and then masters students.... Sub-Cultures - Music, Literature, and Film.... The teacher was reviewing the syllabus when there was a cacophony of complaints...

"You mean we have to write EIGHT PAGES??" "We need to use these research DATABASIS?" "I don't even have INTERNET in my HOUSE!" "That is so much WORK!" "I'm not even getting credit for this and this is SO DEMANDING!:

And on and on and on... it was unreal! The whining and complaining were relentless - and the teacher, who is very cool and way too nice, said, if you're not getting credit then it won't matter if you fail...

And the response, "Well, it's not like I came over here to sit in a class and FAIL it!"

And I wanted to turn around and say "JARGHH!! SHUT UP!! You came here to go to school, it's not a vacation. They don't have a separate curriculum and grading scale for exchange students... you're here to work in a different culture so do it - and no internet in your home? Most of the students are from central or eastern Europe and many don't have a COMPUTER in the home so suck it up!!"

I did say the last part.

I was embarrassed to be associated with them. Urgh.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A stern and unexpected talking to.

I had my morning class today - the one with the outspoke older woman - a successful scientist and a seemingly strong woman. She's a bio-chemistry professor, or something like that, in her late 60's I believe. I've written about her before. She likes to talk.

Today the conversation was more personal - not just life views and opinions and such but she asked me about my relationships. I answered by telling her I don't have a boyfriend. I don't. I have lots of friends here but not anyone I am involved with. She told me that's not normal. A woman needs a man. You need someone to go to the movies or the theater with. I stated I have many single male friends and we do those sorts of things - go out dancing, to parties, and events. We're friends.

She let me know that is not enough. She told me about her life - she was a young widowed mother and remarried in her 40s. We briefly touched on some past relationships, shared some poor choices we've made, I talked about the men I've met here and how they're different than what I'm used to - way more direct, more demanding, charming yet selfish... and then she reinforced for me how different sexual companions are thought of over here - there are so many people I know who have sexual relationships with married men, and it's acceptable. Men and women - and it's not great, like it's not advertised, but it's not frowned upon either.

Then she brought up health issues (we'd been talking about cancer and other ills). Her husbands (a double widow) both died of cancer, as did her mother and an aunt. She talked about stress being the root of cancer - she believes it is some sort of event or psychological trauma which causes the disruption in the normal cells that leads to cancer. That, and other things, but that, stress, is one of the big ones for her.

And from there she got very serious and let me know I need to find a man, imperfect is ok, selfish is fine if we don't life together, he doesn't need to be a boyfriend, he can be married, whatever... but I need to find a man cause I need a healthy sex life so I won't get cancer.

That puts a whole new spin on things. :-)

Monday, February 9, 2009

My cynical romance.... drink, drugs, debauchery...

OK, ok, ok. So maybe it's not my romance, but rather my current perspective on romance ( see the post immediately below and you'll have an idea for my current state of mind).

But there are things I've noticed here and I'm trying to develop my thoughts... bear with me - or not... you can stop reading now if you want... really, you might want to...

As I have mentioned before, this is a very transitory place. I've met so many people who come here for a short period of time, and jump in - drink, drugs, debauchery - and then move on... or stick around... and are still living the Vegas life (minus the gambling and the showgirls)...

Connections are tenuous. Depth may be superficial. I'd say skin deep, but for many that's as far as they want to get... and they don't want you any more involved in their own life either. You have exposure to more personas than personalities. Gratification is paramount.

It's hard to filter out the wheat from the shaft. It's hard to trust your own judgement when those around you are so eager to engage - and you too are striving to connect. At times I see many lonely people carrying on and connecting with other lonely people, yet no one acknowledging their truth... and those connections are as false and empty as their protestations of joy and bliss... and it disgusts me and makes me sad.

The sadness stems from observing how many people are out there, lonely and searching for others like themselves... how many people are seeking something more... how many are out of touch with their inner being... how lonely that must be not knowing yourself as your first and foremost friend. People are running and running but just aren't running fast enough to really get away from themselves...

Disgust only comes when I can recognize that shallow attempt at a self-serving existence actually comes with some self-awareness... and, for a few, is a fully conscious, cognizant choice.

I've met so many people - some wonderful, yet obviously, some not... and every now and then (this being a then) I take a look around at those for whom my emotions verge upon contempt - and wonder - am I too engaging in that shallow world? do I also deny myself for the illusion of acceptance, replace the idea of belonging with actual belonging, supplant my self-worth with a perceived 'social value'?

And then I take a look around again, and realize that I hold my awareness dearly. That I love genuinely and am loved so in return. That while I may talk and dance and stay out late and at times try to avoid the empty mommy spot inside, I am aware of who I am and what I am and genuinely engage the authentic me with those around me...

And that is being me to the best of my ability at this exact moment in time.

The cynicism stems from those who respond to who I am - either boys much, much younger than me... or men more age appropriate who are stuck in that - this is temporary life, if not for me then for you... and so the opportunity for a genuine connection is nearly gone before an acquaintance has moved in to a friendship.

And then I look at my married friends here and realize, the cynicism stems not only from the men I've encountered, but also the bad mood I'm in... there are expats here who have met and connected and are happily married. Not that that's what I aspire to (relax family, it's NOT) but just knowing that some people move beyond the short term state of mind (referring not only to relationship but also to location) and find a way to connect is refreshing and has just gone some ways to restoring my faith in humanity.

I need to go to sleep. And yes, I know this emptiness is not isolated to Prague - people hurt and are shallow and superficial the world over. I'm just tired and it's bugging me. That's it.


I am overwhelmed and exhausted. Not to say I"m miserable, but I will say I just was crying, no more like sobbing, for about two minutes. I got it all out.

I need a few things to change... needed one thing to change about a month ago.

First - I need Coral to come back. I am not as grounded without my kid. I tend to go out too much, stay out too late, and not know when to call it a night. So, I don't get enough sleep and am not often home.

Second - I need to know my Grandfather is all right. Apparently he has pneumonia and was in and out of the hospital. I heard about if after he was released. I don't know if it was that no one thought to tell me or that no one wanted to tell me and have me stress out over here as there's nothing, absolutely nothing I can do.

Third - I just had an email about a friend - more like a friend's friend that I know and have affection for but have never really had the chance to spend really quality one on one time with... she had a baby a recently and was just diagnosed with a rapidly progressing form of cancer.... there was an article about her in the local paper recently - she is dying and was trying to get married before it happens. She's managed to do it, but barely - the dress and tuxedoes were donated, the food was prepared, and she was hospitalized and then released for the ceremony which was nearly ruined by a car accident.

I am overtired and sad, in physical pain, and feeling isolated from the people who I care about the most. Can anyone think of a worse combination? I guess PMS would be the kicker. Thank God for small favors.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Where else could you meet.... all in one place...?

I've recently been party to a few conversations with similar themes... the wonders and the variety of the people you meet here in Prague.

Before I get much in to that, I'm going to explain a bit how I've had to develop relationships here... by seriously stepping beyond my comfort zone and really extending myself, way more than I have ever even approached in my life in the US.

First - online networking - there are a few different sites you can find to connect you with the local expat community. EXPATS.CZ is one of the main ones... there are other social networks to which I have also subscribed - MEETinPRAGUE, couchsurfing, Internations... various FaceBook groups... and others.

Through these online groups I have been able to participate in numerous in-person events - parties, book exchanges, music, dancing, pub crawls, networking events, and more... and at these events I've met tons and tons of people. So many I leave overwhelmed and unable to sort the names and faces...

So... that's one avenue for finding friends here...

And in this week I've had conversations with:

A closed captionist,
A conductor
A behavioral specialist,
A composer,
A photographer (a few)
Numerous DJs,
A few writers
Quite a few musicians,
Several lawyers,
A doctor,
A translator,
A guy who does the dubbed voices for English language movies,
A bodybuilder,
TONS of IT people,
A number of masters and doctoral students - only one other American, the other all European - none in my program
A man who avoided the Iranian draft,
A seismologist who studies the ocean floor for oil
A geologist who does sort of the same thing - these two don't know each other,
A Romanian AP reporter living in Prague,
Quite a few professors,
Published authors,
Any number of people who work in customer service,
A few diplomats,
Quite a few english teachers (how trite and American!)
And a few very young retirees.

There are more, but my brain has stopped functioning. This shall suffice for now. These are the ones I don't interact with on a daily basis... I'll get to my friends another day...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Czech castration

Maybe THIS is the reason why we don't hear about rapes and other sexually violent crimes over here.

Wow! Talk about a deterrent!!!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

And We Now Resume our Broadcast

It is amazing (a much overused word in my vocabulary) how ingrained we are with programming.... commercials, cartoons, jingles from childhood have stuck with me for life!

Perfect example... although I may have already written on this (I supposed I should review my own writing and this blog at some point):

Late nite food fest with a new friend... chicken gyros - the food was really dry and we were talking about getting chicken here - how hard it is to find something moist and juicy and the limited options...

He, American, said, "Oh my God, I know it's bad and all, it's terrible, but I was at Kentucky Fried Chicken and it was perfect, they got it down, man. All juicy and moist. It was (family friend edit here ) awesome! Kentucky Fried Chicken, you know, they do chicken right!" and then he paused (he's a bit of a talker so the pause is noteworthy :-) ) and I sorta giggled.

His words were earnest and true, and I couldn't agree with him more.... BUT -

That's the KFC jingle from decades in the past - come on now, sing it with me -

Kentucky Fried Chicken.... they do chicken right!

Neither of us live in the US, that hasn't played for years (they turned in to KFC a while back in an attempt to remove the Fried connection) and yet, we, of similar age, have that stupid jingle stuck in our heads... and in a moment of earnest desperation that is what we turned to.

Truth. Chicken. The American Way.

Meeting People

This it the first time in my life I've had to really focus, truly make a concerted effort, to meet people. There are stages where you might be more attention to that - after a break-up or a move or some other life alteration... but here, you really need to make the effort.

And while you may flounder at first you'll soon find it's not hard to meet people... meeting people you like and connect with is difficult the world over, but at least you can meet and interact with people here on a fairly regular basis.

IF YOU STEP OUTSIDE - literally, get the heck out of your house! and get out of yourself, too!!!

There are tremendous advantages to living in the digital age... I can't imagine moving around like this even just a few decades back! Here you find your expat site, your Meet-In site, your Internations, your Facebook groups, your CouchSurfing meetings, your school site, your .... whatever your interests are you can find a social group addressing them on-line.

And then you go. Get out. Be uncomfortable for a few minutes, shake some hands, kiss a few cheeks, laugh a bit when you feel hollow inside and soon enough you'll be laugh and embracing and feeling genuine joy along with the actions.

I've met more people here than I can count... and people find me on facebook often - we met at such and such... you were with so and so. And even though at the moment I met them I was drowning in social overload I can recall who they are, who you are, and am grateful for the effort and continued contact and know I've met one more person I look forward to running in to the next time I'm at an event... a friendly face, a funny story, someone witty or wise...

And I'm grateful.. Or, I'm great-full... they both work cause it make you feel pretty darn good to realize... gosh darn it, people like me :)

FP and CA

Yes, I know, I do enjoy using acronyms. They make me feel very special and educated. :P

SO, I'm stuck in California. I have been for about a month, and I don't know when I'll be able to come back. Hopefully soon. We're still waiting on the Foreign Police (FP) to do their job, and approve my visa. But, you never know, they may deny it. I mean, all of my felonies must make it pretty hard for them to decide what they want to do. No matter what, if my visa STILL hasn't been approved by March 16th, I can go back because of that whole three month thing. That's the only thing that's keeping me from TOTALLY freaking out right now.

For now, I'm staying with my grandparents and trying to keep up with schoolwork with the computer. I can't life without a computer right now. That would be horrible. Thank god for technology! So, I guess that we'll just see how this goes. Wish me luck!

OK, so don't freak out family...

With a heading like that I should clear a few things up right away - no, I'm not pregnant, and no I'm not married, and no, I haven't been arrested nor have I any reason why I should be... ok?

So, back to the don't freak out part....

Last night I hosted my very first couchsurfer. That's right, I had a complete stranger come in to my home and stay the night. It wasn't as random and unstructured as it may look, it was through the couchsurfer organziation... there is a level of oversight and accountability... like eBay but dealing with people and personalities and stuff.

Anyway, after many requests and missed connections I finally had my first surfer. His name was George. (Yes Mom, a him.)

Not that I remembered that... for some reason I had entered it in my phone as Charles. So, when I went to meet him at the metro I thought he was the guy I was looking for and I asked, "Hey, are you Charles?" to which he logically replied, "No." It took a while before we actually realized we were looking for each other.

Cool guy.... a bit younger, really smart - getting his masters from Johns Hopkins - their campus in Italy, degree in International Relations with a focus on Russia... heading towards a career with the State Department.

We went to dinner with friends after drinks at the Red Room. Mellow night and then in the morning he came with me to the tram stop by my school and I gave him a ton of directions and advice and sent him on his way - released in to the wilds of Prague to roam as he will, never to return again.

Seriously though, he's not coming back here. He's meeting up with his friend today and they're staying in a hostel.

So, why a post about something so non-monumental?

Why not??

A few points of interest - one, at Namesti Miru the escalator broke while we were on it. An incredibly abrupt and rather jarring experience that I don't recommend.

Two - there was an accident this morning which made me really really late for work - the busses never came so we had to walk to a different stop and go backwards, back to Skalk and then pass through my metro terminal on my way to work... not a big deal but it was my second day in my new position with a tremendous amount of oversight... quite nerve wracking.

Third - even thought it was only one night and totally mellow, I had a certain sense of accomplishment. I had been hesitant to open my home (with good reason) and didn't for many, many people, but decided to do it for this one person and am glad I did. This sort of opportunity to stay in a house makes traveling realistic for so many... and I'm glad I was able to help out and have everyone be happy.

I now will feel a bit more comfortable when I take my first couchsurfing journey - cause I'm planning to in the next few months. I can't afford hotels and hostels all over Europe, but I can find people I'm comfortable with who I am connected to within my network of friends... and go stay in their homes for a day or two.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The cheek kissing thing

The whole cheek kissing thing is very confusing for me. For some reason I was thinking about it just an instant ago and so decided to write it out.

First - I don't kiss Americans. No, it's not because they're American but it is at the same time - it feels artificial to me... not part of our culture. So unless, and there are very few, you're a friend, a true friend, who has lived here a while and is now more European than American I won't kiss your cheeks - unless we're in a group of people and I kiss everyone else too.

Second - how many times??? It's taken me forever to come up with an answer for that! I have friends from so many cultures and it seems to fluctuate - some people kiss once, most twice, and yet a few plant three on me when I go. I can't keep track! So the answer is this - I kiss everyone, everyone I kiss, twice.

When to kiss and when to shake? That's hard too. I've got it down sorta like this (while it's set in type it's not set in stone): when I meet you I will shake - sometimes, depending on how we're meeting I will get kissed too which usually catches me by surprise so I end up offering a cheek without returning a kiss; when I leave, depending on the dynamic - formal or business then I will shake, through friends or acquaintences yet we've had no or very little interaction I will shake - and occasionally get kissed and so return the kiss as well; anyone I spent time with, connected with, and really enjoyed talking to - it's a kiss.

The exception to the intro shake is when I meet my friends' families... they tend to give and receive kisses upon introduction.

It's been nearly 6 months and I'm finally getting a grasp on the kiss-shake thing. I really need to increase my learning curve.