Tuesday, June 30, 2009

so many midgets ?!?

I don't know why I keep seeing little people here... there are some short people, some average people, some very tall women, and a surprising amount of little people...

I already told you about the guy who was shaped and looked just like a little person but was actually about six feet tall - well last night I had another odd encounter.

I was walking home with a classmate when I realized there was a disturbance on the road up ahead of us. Two police officers were out of their car dealing with two very animated men and there was a large metal object in the street. As we got closer they got louder and I could make out the expression of the female officer. She had stepped away a bit and was turning her head stifling a laugh, while the male officer was up close to a dripping midget who was gesticulating wildly - the officer was making a really foul face while the man yelled at him.

As best as I could make out - somehow the large metal grate had been removed and the little guy had either fallen down the waterway (or in to the sewer) or had gotten stuck while trying to retrieve something that was down there.... there was still something down there that he wanted...

It was gross and stinky.... and his pants were soaking wet and falling down - his companion was also smelly but not dripping.

The whole thing was very, very odd.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

swine flu dominates soco

Apparently this article in my hometown paper had such a crazy statistic that it made it to the Google News homepage.

You can read it if you want, or, for a one line summary:

In my county a minimum of 98% of all cases of the flu are now the swine flu.

Being the good mother that I am I made sure to send my child in to a swine flu center... not really, there are only 25 diagnosed cases and one death in our area, but I think that's about what exists in the entire Czech Republic.

Nice job Jen.

room service?

I'm living in a new, furnished flat - sometimes it feels like I'm living in a hotel room... I went through this with our last flat too.

There are moments when I am genuinely confused, usually upon waking or when I'm late returning home, and wonder why the heck the maid didn't pick up.

Even thought I know better I am still waiting.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

another departure

The kid's leaving again. I'm not really cool with that. Her flight's Tuesday morning, pretty early. She's in the other room doing laundry right now, and just called out "I don't think I've really realized that I'm leaving." I haven't really processed it either.

There is the logical side of me that understands why she's leaving - her Dad is back in our town... not that she'll be staying with him, other than the odd night here and there, but her brother will be visiting him as well and she would really like to see her brother. I get that.

She'll also spend a good deal of time with her aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins. People she loves who love her back and who actively work to maintain a loving supportive relationship despite the distance. Her friends, she'll get time in with them.

I get all that.

But I don't really understand why it feels like she has to rather than that she wants to leave on Tuesday and be gone for the next two months... that feels more artificial to me. Forced. It's longer than either of us would choose, but is at the same time the appropriate time frame. It just feels like she's leaving her home to go spend her free time someplace that's not her home. And that while she'll be gone and enjoying herself she should also have more time here, with her Mom, her friends, her city, her home.

I hate it when she leaves. It's odd because we have grown closer and further apart at the same time. In CA we have been so much a daily part of most aspects of each other's life that she knows and is friends with all of my friends (we have 68 shared FB friends) and yet here we rarely go to the movies together, run errands together, socialize together, go shopping together... all these things we'd do together before we now do separately - which is good as she's matured and developed her own interests and aspects of her personality and is unknowingly preparing for university in two short years when we will no longer be living under the same roof... but also makes me sad a bit as she's not around as much as I've been accustomed to and I miss our shared experiences and frame of reference and her company and humor.... I miss her immediately knowing the personality and quirky aspects of whomever I am referring to... and I miss knowing each and every friend she has and their quirky personalities... And yet, despite this natural and evolving distance I'd like to think that we've also grown closer - in that we're both becoming close and closer to our authentic selves and are therefore more and more able to be present in our relationships as well as genuinely present who we are.

I am truly blessed, so incredibly fortunate to have a child who is not only a good kid, but an awesome and honorable person and a true friend. I enjoy her presence, her company, her input, her humor and am not looking forward AT ALL to her extended absence.

Maybe next year it'll be a shorter summer break, or I'll come home too. Two months is too long. And this is coming from a mother/daughter duo who were preparing for boarding school. What in the world were we thinking?!?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

prayer request for an expectant mother...

I don't often do this sort of thing in any capacity, let alone a public plea... but this morning I got an email from my sister about a family friend - a former co-worker and his wife... and it made me cry - granted, I could say I cry at the drop of a hat, but if it's actually more like the tears roll if I think the hat's going to drop. However - read on if you want and are willing/able to send some positive thoughts towards those in need... and if not, then please, just leave this alone:

Laurie is 21 weeks pregnant, she is due October 15. During a routine ultrasound, they found out they were having a little girl, the doctors also noticed a spot on the baby's neck. A follow up at the Johns Hopkins fetal assessment revealed it to be a cervical teratoma. The baby has a rare congenital tumor. Laurie is headed back to JH soon for further testing to determine exactly where the tumor is located, which will be followed by a consultation with the pediatric surgeon and a tour of the NICU where their daughter will be taken following her surgery immediately after delivery. Laurie will have to have a C-Section - they are already assembling the team that will join her in delivery - neonatolists, pediatric ENT, pediatric surgeons, and more... During delivery they will have to stop half way to intubate the baby so she can breathe as it is expected the tumor will block her airways. There is a concern as well that the tumor may grow to the point where it prevents her from swallowing the amniotic fluid - which would lead to an overflow and trigger premature labor.

This is Laurie's prayer request:

"*That the tumor does not grow any bigger - if it does it can interfere with her heart and cause in-utero heart failure because too much blood will pump from the heart to the tumor.

*That she is able to swallow the amniotic fluid like all babies in the womb. If the tumor grows and she is unable
to swallow,it would lead to preterm labor, and she would not be strong enough to survive surgery.

*That we have a safe delivery with no complications to her and me.

*That the tumor is benign.

*That they are able to care for her as soon as possible by securing the airway, removing the tumor, so she can come home with us soon.

* For peace and to be able to rest and relax. This is a super emotional time and we are scared and it is so hard to stay calm. I pray God gives us strength."

If you're ever had a child or been through a pregnancy with someone you love I am sure you remember the natural anxiety coursing through your body. This family can truly benefit from any tender thought or bit of positive energy you can put out there. I can't begin to comprehend what they are going through.

The kid's rather busy

in the lead-up to her departure the kid has a few things going on:

tomorrow - last few finals, last day of school, attend friends' graduation

next day - school party/picnic, knee football, and then slumber party

next, next day - still at slumber party, head straight to a goodbye party, then straight to a formal banquet on the river - fyi this day requires 2 separate dresses!!! one is super formal, too... someone will be taking pictures but not me as i'm not invited

the following day - she comes home and cleans as she wants to have a party here - and must pack... maybe getting her ears pierced... have to wait to see if she's sure about it this time

the last day - finish packing and any other last minute hang out things... flight is at 8 am the next morning.

my schedule -
tomorrow - work, decorate for the graduation, school
next day - work, picnic, school
next, next day - attempt to cross paths while we attend the same goodbye party
the following day - clean and prepare for a possible party
the last day - work, work and then home to hang out with my kid before we have to go to bed early as her flight is at 8 am

i think i'm forgetting some of her plans, but regardless of what may have been left off - she has a far more interesting life than i.

thoughts on summer and stuff

It just turned midnight, the kid is sleeping and I have finished editing my work for the night... I have more new assignments to work on but am taking a bit of a break.

For nothing new happening I have a fair amount to say... first - she is only here for a few more days and then has a flight back to CA... and I'm not ready for that. I actually had a daydream last night about being home during the summer, driving to Blockbuster on Yulupa and picking out movies then walking in to Whole Foods for some fresh fruit and for a fruit and movie dinner.... which is rather odd as we don't use that Blockbuster, ever, but the feeling behind it - the normalcy of our summer time evening - lots of fresh juicy berries and melon and a movie in a nice cool house late at night... that isn't something I get to be a part of this summer. No DDR competitions, no Wii marathons... no fireworks and BBQs at Emilies, no sushi or Wednesday Night Market with D, no RRBC with Jodi and BR and Scott and Mike and Becky, no Health and Harmony, no fair, no horse races, no trips to the beach, girls night at the ocean, no Grandma Julie in August, no August grandparents' birthday parties, no day trips to Calistoga or Harbin, no birthday baseball games - no Giants at all, no San Francisco for that matter... none of the things that mean summer to me. And most of all - no kid.

And that's the hardest part. She has grown so much I wish I could be there as you all become reacquainted with her. She has such a full life here and is so busy that it feels like I hardly get to see her anymore - it's a lot of conversations in passing or when one of us is half asleep - or should be sleeping....

I've started wondering if staying here for the summer might have been the wrong decision for me. To be quite honest I miss my Dad. We don't always talk a lot, but I love him a lot, and I like being around him. Obviously I miss my Mom too, but we have an email/phone tag connection and can talk to talk and feel connected and find things to talk about for an hour to two - literally. Not everyone can do that - nor would I want to do that with everyone. I miss by brother too - and he's going to be back in town for the summer. My other brother and his wife are expecting their newest child any day and their oldest is a full-fledged communicating person now, which he wasn't when we left (person yes, freely communicating, not so much)- and I am obviously missing those too. And my sister will be back and forth visiting with her little boy who is nearing 1 1/2 and growing faster than I can remember being possible.

Not quite home sick - but maybe family sick... however that doesn't look a thing like what I mean...

Second - in my writing class we've been lucky enough to go to the Prague Writers Festival... and once again I'm smitten by someone unexpected - in case you forgot, last time I went to one of these big lecture event thingys I came away with a huge crush on Gary Kasparov... this time there are two.... they shall remain unnamed for now... as you who have been there may mock me - relentlessly and rightfully so. My crushes are insignificant... they're temporary infatuations with people who have struck me as stunning in one way or another... in this case, strong bold and brave men ready and willing to speak their minds and share their thoughts and who choose to do so with grace and dignity. If you were at the events I was at you may have a clue... if you weren't there you wouldn't know who I was talking about anyway... I didn't until fairly recently (not as recent at yesterday or even last week but still relatively recently). Anyway - it's nice to once again have exposure to stunningly creative and aware people. More of what I crave, more of why I'm here.

Third - I had a blast in pre-school today and so did the kids. We played charades... or rather, they did. I gave them each cards with animals that we've been studying and then they got to act out the animal... and we'd have to guess what they were. They had a blast - and it was fun. Always nice when those two go hand in hand. We also learned the names of the playground toys and played a racing game - I'd call out the equipment and they'd run, jump, walk, skip, go backwards as fast as they could to get there - and then they could play on it until I called out the next piece of equipment and the next little instruction on how to get there... again, cute kids having fun and learning. It was a good day.

Fourth - i'm enjoying my class and wish it was longer and more in depth. really wish that.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

crash, clang, metal on metal, echoing voices

Who in God's name arranges their movers to come at 1:45 in the morning?

Apparently there is a utility elevator in the courtyard... right under our bedroom windows. These guys are talking like it's 5 in the afternoon and they're standing on opposite corners during rushhour... Coral has been gifted with sleep and obviously... I am not so lucky. Here's to hoping it stops soon. And- I'm thirsty and drank all the water - I don't like the tap water so I have to wait till the morning.


This is the second time I've moved someplace and had the refrigerator freak out on me. It froze all of our food on the lowest setting. So we tried all the settings thinking maybe we just read it wrong. No, it froze even more. So we turned it off - and oh, shocker - everything spoiled. All of our food went bad and that is a disgusting thing to have happen!

And then we turned it on again, figuring that frozen things could be defrosted.... and it's decided to work. Correctly. Yea!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

today on the tram and thoughts on mis-placed nationalism

A man climbed on, he was shaped like a midget.
As we walked towards me I realized he was almost 6 feet tall.

I've wondered about midgets before, how there is a uniformity to shape and specific features and such, regardless of ethnicity.
I was a little surprised. I've never seen one so big.

Coral told me this evening that if he was tall he wasn't a midget. I can agree that technically he may not have been a midget, but he had the shape and appearance of a midget in every aspect - except height.


Later in the day on my way home I had to sit with the knowledge that a friendly acquaintance is fiercely anti-American. Fiercely. Disgusted by us, hates the accent, can't stand having us here. Nationalism takes so many different directions. Most people view it as patriotic or something like that, but when you let the anger and wrongs of the past - those that didn't fall on your shoulders, or your Moms or Dads or Grandparents - possibly those that were even created by the ever-present propaganda machine - those issues which don't have any immediate relevancy to your life - when you let that bitterness dictate the direction of your daily encounters and determine how you assess and interact with those around it may be time to think about what kind of person you want to be. Carrying around all that animosity is not going to lead to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling future.

When I first got here it was kind of funny to hear how anti-American so many people were - not truly anti-American, but rather how frustrated or disgusted people would get when encountering the stereo-typical American tourist. "Damn American" was not an uncommon phrase... followed up quickly by, "Not you Jen, I didn't mean you." And I would laugh and actually agree cause that damn person would be one of those perpetuating that horrible idea of the fat loud obnoxious over-bearing demanding ignorant self-obsessed over-indulged typical American. It's not so funny anymore, because it's becoming more and more apparent that, at least in the school system, it's true. And outside of school, it can be too. And it's embarrassing. But I hate getting lumped in with that generalization. And it goes the other way too - why would anyone ever want to leave the US? I've heard that from so many people... how horrible it would be for us over here, how primitive everywhere else is, how slow, ignorant, rude, archaic, etc... and not just HERE, but anywhere, everywhere outside of the only 50 states worth seeing. I don't like that frame of mind either - not one I can grasp... which should be obvious considering that I'm no longer living in the US. (side note - it seems to me that anyone who, in referring to the United States of America in a casual exchange, is a native citizen and uses either United States of America or USA - rather than US or something else - is usually come from a nationalistic standpoint... just my observation - thoughts?)

And now I'm slightly less comfortable around a few people because I don't think they can see beyond labels. Too much meaning can be tied in to words. And words have only the meaning you give them.

a goodbye to the boys across the hall - and a moment of reflection

As I was waiting for Coral to return from the bank and my old landlord to arrive for the final walk-through I was standing in the open doorway to my empty flat, somewhat impatiently as he was running late and our taxi was due in 15 minutes. I had a few moments to reflect on what had taken place there during our initial 10 months in Prague. And then the door directly across the hall opened and a man stepped out.

You are already acquainted with this particular family - both here, shortly after our arrival and here, far more recently. They were kind enough to contribute to my decision to move when the time to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of our Prague 10 residence arose.

There were two guys that lived there - the monstrosity was much taller than the guy who had walked through the door. There was a mother who made an appearance very now and then, and during our last major encounter, she had a young girl with her, video taping the experience. To be quite honest I'm unsure how many people lived there as occasionally there was an old guy who'd open the door and be the one literally throwing the monstrosity across the hall... perfectly aimed to hit first my buzzer and then the door. He'd had plenty of practice.

So, I was standing there, waiting, an empty and aromatically pleasing pristine flat visible behind me, and this guy gave me a half smile and turned to lock his door. We had never talked, but as we were leaving the place forever I decided to initiate a conversation. After confirming he spoke English it made things much smoother.

I said goodbye, he asked about the new tenants, there was a bit more small talk - and then he apologized. I looked at him and he said, "I'm sorry, for, for everything, you know. Everything that happened, I'm sorry." And then he left. And I appreciated the effort, late and minor, but all the same, the acknowledgment that what had happened had been wrong.

After I went inside I had a moment when I realized - he speaks English(yes, things sometimes hit me late)! And I thought about my verbal tirades surrounding the ongoing frustration with his family - we were the only 2 occupied flats in our wing for a while and I had no qualms about expressing my extreme disgust and distaste upon discovering another unwelcome experience at their hands (the two links are just a few of our experiences). I felt bad for a moment - what if they had heard and understood - my language was far from choice, my words left no doubt to the extent of my frustration and dislike - what if I had offended them???

And then I thought - seriously Jen?? Seriously? These people smeared shit on your walls and you're worried about offending them by saying 'shit'? I would have felt bad if I had ranted to that extent and volume (NOT muttering under my breath) IF there had been anyone else around, but honestly, the physical release also led to an emotional release - when I had gotten it out vocally I also got out the anger and feelings of helplessness and increasing tension they had been a source of - and as they had been so egregious in their behavior - I decided that was something I really didn't need to beat myself up over, at all.

And I moved on.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Gratitude over the move

I know I told you guys we were moving from the outskirts in to the center... and that our new landlord changed our move-in date causing some chaos and frustration... and a situation where I didn't have any people to help out.

Well, I hope you will all understand what a truly awesome group of friends Coral has. And appreciate the efforts our new landlord went through to make things right.

Our new flat is on the 2nd floor - no lift - if you're in the US that's the 3rd floor, no elevator. We packed all our suitcases - about 8 and then filled 6 large boxes, 6 medium boxes, and bags and bags with soft smooshy stuff - clothes, blankets, etc.

Coral told me she had a few friends coming over after church - around 2:30 or so. Our landlord said he'd come by at 10:30 and take a load over as he had to meet the short-term tenants and clean. He showed up in his station-wagon and we jammed it full of the suitcases and a few other things. Then he went on his merry way.

We continued to pack and clean, pack and clean. And about 2:30 the phone rang, the kids were going to be late. So around 3 Coral escorted them from the metro to the bus, navigated our neighborhood, and in our front door. I went to greet them and was met with a clamoring, "What can we clean? What do you need us to do? How can we help?" There were 4 new teenagers eager to assist.

They jumped in and washed all the windows (if you remember - there were walls and walls of floor to ceiling windows). Then they helped finish the packing and the sweeping. The landlord showed up again so the kids hauled everything down the hall and filled the elevator - quite a few times - 3 of those times the elevator, which was prone to temperamental fits, broke. The loaded his car up again - and we were faced with at least one more car load, possibly two more trips still in the house.

That is when the Pierce family arrived - the whole family. In a big van. Four more youthful bodies, two more adults and an empty van - we filled it in record time then caravaned - with all the kids finding a spot to sit - over to the new flat. It took each person no more than 2 trips up stairs, some only went up and down once, and everything was unloaded. Everything.

Fifteen minutes later everyone was gone. It was a total whirlwind.

And that's when I took in that our landlord had carried 4 giant suitcases, fully loaded, and boxes and bags up and down the stairs, all morning, all by himself. Not an easy feat.

Those kids are awesome. And I incredibly, incredibly grateful. Coral really has some wonderful friends.

Foreign Police - my appointment is pending

Actually, my appointment is in one hour and forty minutes.

As when most things of great importance and personal vulnerability are looming overhead, I am feeling a wee bit of anxiety.

Should you need a refresher, please refer back to HERE.

Actually, as I've hired an agency and have an appointment so it shouldn't be that bad. It's just that I've not done this yet, and I owe a fine in addition to ALL the other fees, and I don't know where I'm going, and my visa is already expired although I'm OK as it was processed prior to the expiration date... but I've not had my passport for a few days now...

I get all bunched up, a giant bundle of nerves sometimes.

It will be a relief to get my passport back with the current visa in place and be registered and fully legal and all that - and then be eligible for the job I just applied for... will let you know how that turns out.


Monday, June 1, 2009

more super lame lack of documentation

I am really getting fed-up with the paperwork here. I know I've written about it before, but it's continuing to be an aggravating issue!

After having worked it out with the diretor to suspend Coral's tution while she was stuck in the US, and re-directing those funds to her visa application - and elsewhere - the accounting person has let me know the suspension isn't quite kosher with her... and has just sent me an informal statement that not only includes back-charges for the suspended fees, but also fails to credit payments made.

And no, I don't have a new signed agreement for the suspension. And no, I have no idea where, or if, I have the receipts for her cash payments.

And everything is tucked up nice and neat in these little boxes as we moved last night. The house is great, but a 50,000 crown bill is far from awesome. Incredibly far from awesome.