Saturday, October 31, 2009

super super quick

This is worth reading.

No time to write just yet... have to move in 2 weeks - landlord just told us he sold our flat and broke our lease... life is really hectic.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

what the heck is the violence about???

There is a different kind of violence here, a different kind of crime, but this is more focused on violence.

The first time I was exposed to domestic violence was when our former neighbor hit his mother in the face (he was well over 6 feet tall), knocking her off her feet and in to the wall. She was shorter than me. Then I saw it in my old preschool - not nearly as extreme, but still shocking for me.

Twice now I've witnessed public domestic abuse. Once was a mother who at first I thought was consoling another adult, then realized it was a teenager, and thought that her physical intimacy was not a comforting presence but rather a threatening presence. It became abundantly clear when she started striking the sobbing girl in the face, slapping her repeatedly - quickly and hard. I was in a tram and we were stopped. It was a few moments due to the loading/unloading, and then traffic. The girl must have been hit 8 times, at least.

Today it was at a metro stop. A ways down the waiting area a young woman was sitting on the footrails crying and a man crouched down in front of her. I noticed him as it was a funny position, not one of intimacy which would be warranted in her situation. Again, I realized it was more threatening (I had my headphones on and couldn't hear a thing.) He was leaning in to her, his anger was clear, the tension in his face and his mannerisms, clenched jaw, pursed lips, veins and tendons bursting out all over the place... and then he headbutted her, slamming her head back into the marble pillar behind her.

The metro came and he walked away while she wiped her eyes. I thought he walked away, rather, but he just walked around the pillar and boarded the metro with her, but then got off without her.

Both of this instances I've found shocking and horrifying and felt so helpless... my heart hurts to watch these women take this sort of treatment... and more so that it's so casual. The people thought nothing of attacking the person besides them over whom they had more power. It was such a non-thought that they did it freely in public for everyone to see.

I just wrote about the gang rapes... a horrific example of societal failure, but this sort of violence and aggression should not be culturally condoned either. Who is it that teaches their children that you hit the people you care about? Who teaches their kids that you hurt those you trust you? Why would you want to teach your children to expect to either accept or dole out physical pain? Why not teach your kids how to speak, to listen, to love, to respect, how to be happy without causing harm. Why not try to teach your children how to live in a world that is better than what is surrounding you now. Without that hope, without the idea, there will not be change.

Yea Czechoslovakian Independence Day

Yes, we live in the CZECH REPUBLIC, but today is the day that Czechoslovakia declared their independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire all those years ago... it was a time when Czechoslovakia had a top economy and was one of the areas to be... a period when they flourished and thrived, right before they were fed to Nazi Germany by the rest of the world, and then handed over, again, to appease yet another bully.

So, today is the holiday celebrating their first declaration of independence. It was successful while it lasted. And meaningful once again.

What is wrong with these men?

People ask me about the sense of safety and security here, compared to 'back home'. Richmond is not far from 'home'. While this (see the link below if you really want to, or just keep reading for the general idea which is more than enough) is going on, back in SR there is a preliminary hearing about another 15 year old girl who was was walking home, grabbed by a car of men, driven to a local school and raped and beaten. She, however, did not have to be hospitalized in critical condition for her injuries. She hid her bruises for a few days out of fear, embarassment and a sense of disgrace.

Young women - all victims of sexual violence - are victimized not only by the violence they've experienced, but again by the societal perception of the experience and questions around their acts or actions that may have "led to" or "warranted" sexual aggression.

This insanity must end. Not to say this is a cultural norm, as fortunately it's not, but for any gathering of 20 men to either participate or passively give their presence to such an atrocious act - it is a strong indication that our society is failing.

I don't have the answers, but parents must take the first steps to responsibly raise their children by lovingly teaching them integrity and respect... on so many levels that would make this world a better place.

Richmond High gang rape

SR teen gang rape - preliminary trial

stupid broken computer... introducing ASUS

Our computer broke last Friday. (Last Friday was a big day in our lives.)

Mom and Dad were kind enough to help us out, and we now have a new computer... which I am trying to get to know a bit better.

It is a PC and not a Mac. It has the right click/left click, and a totally different type of touchpad. I keep killing the touchpad.

We've had it for about 72 hours now and twice I've had a notice that I've killed the scrolling function on the touchpad. Not that I've done anything, other than scroll, it's just no longer working. I click on the option to look for an online solution, but then nothing happens. I'm tempted to take it in and ask for a new one, but... I DON'T SPEAK CZECH and while the sales clerk was helpful as could be in his limited English, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that his bit of English was suddenly a bit less once I indicate a problem.

ALSO - I have no idea how to create a secure connection with the new wireless router... my landlord gave us a new one and I need to set it up with the laptop, but again... the info is in Czech and I'm lost.

So... if you're local... a little help, please?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Friends/family - please email me your addresses!

My gmail address book is a disaster and I've lost my paper addresses, so, please, could you please send them along again. I'm trying to put a few things together, slowly, for Christmas... if you've ever received a note, postcard, email, FB message, or anything else from me, then please - this message is for you.

Monday, October 26, 2009

what the heck is she wearing?

When, please tell me, when did three inch patent-pleather boots,a matching mini pleather trench, denim printed lycra leggings, a gold lame and faux leopard print bag, and and brassy red, orange, and bleached shaggy mullet - accompanied by a teacup poodle become the height of fashion???

When - or what hell do I live in now? I've never been so grateful to be so unfashionable!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

over-qualified fast food workers & education.

I stopped off in KFC (seriously, don't judge) to get dinner the other night. I was able to greet the guy in Czech and asked, in Czech if he spoke English. The clerk was a little cocky and sorta of smirked and responded, in English, "and German, Russian, and French, too" except when he got to the French part he said it in Czech, and his co-worker burst out laughing. It was sorta funny.

But what kills me is that here are HIGHLY educated people working fast food jobs. They're not the immigrants struggling to make it who take the position out of desperation. These positions are sought after, and are competitive, and you must be able to speak various languages.

Along a similar train of thought - I was talking to someone and remarked that in my classes I feel so stupid, so ignorant, and I'm not a stupid person, but I get so lost... Today I realized, I'm not a stupid American, but I'd make a really ignorant European. Europeans know more about American history than I ever have, and more about their own than I ever will. The educational challenges here are insane compared to the complacency of the American educational system. I wish I'd brought Coral over here sooner and had been able to put her in to the European educational system rather than the American version of the Euro education. She's still getting more than she would back in the US, but not as much as her Czech counterparts.

(addendum - the competitiveness was not taken from observation, but as it has been relayed to me. When McDonalds opened for interviews there were over 800 applicants in line. The pay is better than most positions that student aged workers would receive elsewhere. There is no prestige, but as it offers good student hours and good pay there is a certain level of competition (obviously not for a career) and the workers who are employed here (Czech Republic) are disproportionately educated when compared to the worker employed in the US.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Further Thanksgiving thoughts

For me Thanksgiving means family, friends, turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, some green veggies, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. The focus on the family and friends part. It used to be a big homey sort of day, with cooking and cleaning, prepping a for guests, and football in the background (American Football - it's a big American Football day, and I used to be in the US for Thanksgiving).

I have found a place where I can get sweet potatoes, but marshmallows are a novelty here... The turkey can be ordered, but I don't know the ratio... it's so many pounds per person to calculate how large a turkey you need - I don't know how many people yet, but I know that a ratio exists. Pumpkin pie is another difficulty. I am quite concerned that I may need to make it from scratch as I know it would inedible. So suggestions for a foolproof American style pumpkin pie would be greatly appreciated.

And if someone could explain to me HOW any individual is supposed to prepare all of this in one day using one stove, one oven, and one refrigerator.... I'd REALLY appreciate THAT, too!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Anticipating Christmas

Until we moved overseas, and except for the few months my parents lived on the East Coast, I have never lived further than a few hours by car from my extended family. I've been fortunate enough to have been raised with a large, caring, and supportive extended family that had a rather active presence in my life. Same with Coral.

Now, it's mid-October, and with the exception of my daughter and my Mother, I haven't seen my family at all this year. The holidays are soon approaching.

Christmas back home involves extensive planning as traditionally there is a sit-down dinner in my parents home for the 50+ local family members... a gift exchange... Christmas carols around the fireplace in the front room... gifts early in the morning around the tree with coffee... and our personalized stockings my Mom made by hand for each one of us. There are so many cousins and nieces and nephews and growing families contained within my family that each year there is a new child to introduce to the holiday spirit... another child old enough to appreciate the excitement of unwrapping a gift, to help celebrate and hand out gifts.. each year is another gift in its own right.

This is the first year I will not be attending the greater family gathering. Even when I was married we spent Christmas with my family - either my in-laws didn't really celebrate Christmas or they held their dinner the night before (or both... not really big holiday celebrators or gift givers). Last year we flew home for the holidays and it was a wonderful yet mixed experience. Wonderful in that I got to see my family - mixed in that I had a terrible cold and barely got to see my family... and when I came back I felt disconnected to my surroundings having not been fully established when I'd left.

This year my Mom and Dad and youngest brother will be traveling to visit us. There are a few added bonuses to their journey - my brother's good friend in Canada (where he lives) is from Prague - Coral connected with her while she was visiting this summer... she will be returning to Prague for the holidays... and a dearly loved family friend will also be here from Bulgaria, visiting her parents who live in Prague... my parents will have a chance to connect with her after not having seen her for a few years - since she spent a Christmas holiday with us, in our home, in California.

We will all have a chance to connect with people whom we love, those who are special to us in a number of different ways. And I will have a chance to show my Mom and Dad where we live, what kind of life I've been able to put together over here, introduce them to a few people whose names they hear, and show them around our new home. I think we'll also have the chance to travel around just a bit, too.... maybe Vienna for a bit.

I really miss my parents. I miss working with my Dad, hearing about what is going on in the office, connecting with him over clients, being able to relate new challenges to past cases. And I miss my Mom. I miss talking to her every day, from next door - which is ridiculous, but true. I miss her 'Mom' jokes and her smile and how in her cupboards I can never find a simple snack but only incredibly healthy components that must be assembled in to something I normally wouldn't eat.

There's a fair amount of planning to do beforehand - tickets, hotels, etc... and as soon as I finish mid-terms I can't wait to get started!

and the lesson learned?

Coral relayed a story to me last night - something that happened in her classmate's home.

The family went on a week vacation and asked their neighbor to water their plants. The neighbor kindly agreed.

The first day of the vacation the neighbor stopped by, did the neighborly thing, and then stopped in the toilet to do her own thing. When she was finished the grasped the door handle to open the door, but unfortunately the handle was loose and it fell off on the other side, rendering her part of the handle useless.

She had locked herself in the bathroom on the first day of a week long holiday.

Obviously without food or water.

Left with no other options, and out of desperation, at some point she decided to kick in the bathroom door. Three days later, although weak from the lack of food, she found the last bit of strength needed to finally break through the door.

The moral of the story - if you're home alone, leave the door open. Otherwise you could die of starvation.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Why am I always sick here???

I don't know what it is, but I am sick so often... especially since we moved in June!

I caught a cold in June which by July turned in to pneumonia which lasted through August till the beginning of September, and here it is October, and I've caught, what feels like, the same cold again!

I can't speak much above a whisper, and can barely swallow, and have a cough. I HATE feeling like this!!!

I had to call in sick on Friday, tried teaching teenagers yesterday (they wrote a lot) and have had to cancel my classes today. I am also going to have to cancel all my classes tomorrow, too.

Additionally, at some point, I did something to my back, throwing it out or something, and I can't stand up straight.

I feel incredibly weak, extremely uncomfortable, and physically vulnerable - and none of those are good. But beyond that - I fell frustrated.

I need to stop catching everything that goes around!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Our 2nd Thanksgiving Overseas

As the title says, it's our second Thanksgiving here. Last year we went to our shared professor's house for dinner, but this year I want to put on a dinner... I still have to check with a few friends to see if they can host it - work on timing and such, but I think we can work it out.

There are a few obstacles and so I'm reaching out for some help:

I've never cooked a full turkey on my own - I don't know how to do it and I don't know how to gauge how big of a turkey I will need

I do not know how to make a pie crust - and the microscopic kitchens here aren't conducive for rolling out pastries

I want the sweet potato dish with pineapples and sugared nuts and little melted marshmallows on top - sweet potatoes are a bit of a novelty here but I can find them... the marshmallows I can't find (same with cranberry sauce - can't find it)

The ovens here are kooky - everything is Celsius and it jumps huge bits between the different temperature settings!

I don't have a lot of confidence when it comes to cooking new things... it takes me a few times to get it down

So - I'd appreciate some tips or advice, encouragement or discouragement... anything at all, actually. Thanks :)

Visa - approved!!!

We first applied in May 2008... there was a huge debacle (previously detailed) and we reapplied this year... FINALLY after many months and an inexplicable silence on the Los Angeles Consulate's part.... after a late night email spurred on by 3 weeks of messages without the courtesy of a return call, a bit of pain, and having been awake for 3 hours and unable to sleep at 5 am - we got a response.

They called my Mom and told her it had been approved.

Woo Hoo!

That wasn't the only wild and crazy thing to happen today... I was offered another private tutoring position by the university president - for his child. That makes 3 students through my school, 3 private students in the Russian not-in-the-mafia family, and 3 private students through an adult education school. AND that makes 3 pre-school courses I am about to let go as the hours are horrible and the pay is far less than 1/2 what the other people are offering... in fact, for some - only 1/3. AND my friend also set me up with another school on the weekends which will pay an amount that includes the digit '3' - there were just so many darn 3s I figured I should list that somewhere.