Wednesday, December 15, 2010

snow pig visa - day 2

It's snowing like crazy. You know those Christmas lights that look a bit like icicles but they're chaser lights - the light goes down pretty slowly and it's pretty to look at? Well, that's what it looks like outside, but it's pretty quick and amazing to look at.

However, we were supposed to get about a foot of snow last night (I think it was less) and expect another foot of snow today, which at this point seems more than reasonable and at this rate I'm quite worried about our ability to fly tomorrow.

Flying - yes, that leads directly to visas - cause we need them to travel... Here's the catch-up for you - back in June I contacted a woman to renew our visas. She processed mine but didn't get to the Kid's in time (that was partially my fault). By July she had everything she needed to submit a new visa app. In August I gave her duplicative information and copies... at the end of September she chose to actually deliver the application - but she filled it out in such a way that it wasn't a student visa but a family visa and would require a new visa to be issued this year... I didn't know she had done that and had asked her to process it for the longest time period. Then the whole holding the passport debacle and after that silence... she stopped responding to my request for an update and information.

I contacted the embassy last week to find out what was going on. They called her Monday and she called me to let me know the visa was ready. She also said we had to immediately apply for a visa, before we left, or we would miss the renewal period. We met her late Monday night with the Kid's passport - she went to Slovakia and got the visa. She delivered it to me last night and verbally informed me the visa was good through May - I sighed a great sigh of relief as it lifted the pressure of having to spend our last day here at the foreign police.

Then I went upstairs and checked the visa and discovered she was wrong - it expires on the 31st. We went to the local foreign police office today and waited with a new agent. When it was our turn they refused to help us and instead sent us to another location. That took hours. They, the Kid and the agent, are now at the other location. With the length of the line and the speed they're moving at the Kid does not believe that her visa will be processed today. Which means that we now must apply for a brand new visa. All over again. Again.

BTW - I saw that giant boar again today. Walking wearing a harness but not a leash. It almost knocked it's handler down when I approached as he tried to come over and sniff me... scared the HECK out of me - those crazy little tusks and the enormous body! It could seriously rend me limb from limb and eat me in less than 10 minutes. The handler just reached down and yanked on the harness and managed to redirect the boar long enough for me to pass intact.

Crazy day.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

honk honk beep beep oink oink

I walked out of my house today and in to a snow storm. It was pretty beautiful and peaceful and I was in my a little tuned out when I suddenly realized my brain was taking a double take as I hit the icy corner. Diagonally across the street from were two women, each holding a leash. One had a tiny little dog and one had a giant pig. That's not quite right...

The woman had a big ol' boar on a leash. It had tucks. It was huge and hairy and ugly as heck - and scary looking too. I have no idea where that creature lives but I got to wondering if that was going to be her Christmas dinner - they do that here occasionally. Slaughter a pig in the bag yard and then cook it up.

Traffic stopped. I stopped. They had stopped for the creatures to pee, and then everything started up again.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

going choral

Today was the Christmas performance at the Kid's school. The upper level put on 3 short plays and the lower levels sang some songs, as did the school choir.

It was a really nice event - the little kids were adorable, the older kids sounded great and the plays were super cute. I baked a few loaves of banana bread in the morning for the reception afterwards. All in all in was a great day.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

a little shift in weather perspective

I asked the Kid to check the forecast for me today... she called out "It's supposed to be 34... no, wait, 32F!" My response? It took me a moment to convert it to C, the format used in this country, but once that half second evaporated... "Oh my gosh, that's so warm!" Considering it's been in the -20s C lately, yes, zero is quite warm.

Monday, December 6, 2010


One knee length white down winter coat
One passport in a fancy shmancy passport case

Please return both to the kid as soon as possible. The little monkey is freezing her tootsies off and is supposed to fly next week.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Our BBQ and the snow

We moved last Wednesday - it was dark when we got to the new place but I know for a fact there wasn't any snow on the ground.

By Sunday our BBQ looked like this:

And then it started snowing for real... here's the view early yesterday morning.

It was -21 last night and it snowed some more. It was too cold this morning to take another picture. I'll post one again if it's ever buried, but I think some people will come dig it out of the snow and use it for a snow day BBQ before that happens.

Hope you're warm.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

All you need is love

We don't have internet at our new flat just yet... and it's snowing like CRAZY! Over the Thanksgiving weekend my parents celebrated an anniversary... this is in their honor - filmed at the main train station here in Prague.

Not typically Czech.

(and I don't think dropping trou is typical of most flash mobs, either)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

medical disparity

I know the cost of healthcare here is much lower than in the US, but I didn't realize the US was so out of whack with every other nation in the world. It's the equivalent of $3 USD to see a doctor - if they charge a translation fee the grand total is $10 USD. In the US costs me $100 USD.

Check out a much more thorough breakdown HERE.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

last vinohrady sunday

This morning some friends came over and dismantled and then took possession of a few wardrobes and another piece of furniture. Some was ours, some was our former landlord's (last year, not the one that's about to become our former) -he didn't want it back so asked us to get rid of it and we found new happy homes for everything we no longer need.

Then tea at Cafe Louvre. Apparently the Kid had never been there before and she enjoyed her hot chocolate with ice cream, the company and the place in general... and the fact that our presence there was a direct precursor to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I.

Enjoyed the movie, can't wait for Part II. Will have to read the book again. We both cried. That shoulda been a given.

I didn't expect it to last 3 hours, but with the intermission it did. It was late when we got home, and since most of our stuff was packed, and the frig rather low, I ordered in Indian, we watched Castle and now she's asleep. She's happy, we're both looking forward to the new flat, we both enjoyed today and now we get to start a short work/school week.

I'm going to miss being so close to so many friends. It was nice to feel like I'd gotten a handle on my neighborhood. And this is quite a convenient location to so many aspects of our life. We're moving from the green line to the red, our new area doesn't have as many trams running through, and I don't know where anything is.... however I just found out that I have 3 friends in that district and am now only a short tram ride from another person who is slowly becoming a better and better friend. In some ways I feel like I didn't fully take advantage of this area - like there is more I could have or should have done while I was here and that by moving I'm leaving behind some missed opportunity - in one sense, I am leaving behind a very specific opportunity, but in the big picture that little pang is a bunch of nonsense. I'm not leaving the darn city, just moving to a new neighborhood - and Prague is small. We'll be here for a while longer (provided we don't get hit with any further visa issues or held up by the TSA... but that's a whole other issue).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Homeless Outreach

So, my mother wanted me to post about this after a rather short conversation and story-telling of my night.

I went to this Homeless Outreach, an event every three weeks that stems from my friends' Youth Group. We go around and pass out food and clothing to homeless men on the streets, and they pass out little cards that explain their Christian faith and how they can find out more. I generally pass on that part, as I'm not Christian, but I think it's important to help the homeless.

We had gone around for about an hour in the rain, trying to find homeless people, and had a rather unpleasant experience with one man, who was somewhat drunk, yelling in the face of one of our group members. We gave him some food, is somewhat hesitantly, and moved on quickly. We later ran into another group doing the same thing (we had split up at the beginning into about six groups to cover more ground) and stayed for a while at a train station that had a lot of homeless people hiding from the cold. One of the men was more friendly than usual, singing "Hallelujah" and later pulling out his harmonica to play a bit when he saw my friend's guitar. The most touching moment was when he, while speaking rapid Czech I couldn't understand, placed his fist over his heart, and then placed it over my friend's. It was a simple gesture, and I don't know what he said, but that simple gentleness in his face was most definitely worth walking in the rain for two hours and dealing with some drunk people. Most definitely.

-The Kid

Thursday, November 18, 2010

a little bit of statistics

I hate being reduced to a number... even more so when the number is attached to an article such as this.

I've been to the hospital for my lungs more than three times in less than 3 years and maintain on 3 types of steroids. I think maybe when all those numbers jump to 4 it will be time to re-evaluate.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

a little truth about moving

If you know me then you probably don't know this as a bit of personal truth as my life in no way reflects this...

I hate moving.

Hate it. And yet I do it a lot... you all might engage in an annual spring-cleaning, for me, us, it's more like the annual relocation. While never usually going far (other than the one over-seas trip and college, everything else has been pretty limited to within a few hours of my hometown) we just keep moving and moving and moving. I'm probably the most nomadic yet least venturesome person I know.

And here I sit on Freedom and Democracy Day, a national holiday, completely boxed in with stuff - all the stuff we've either packed in our numerous suitcases or collected over the past few years... The Kid is off at a slumber party and baking day (raising money for her senior trip... the only thing that can get her in and out of the oven) and I'm amazed at how much we've got and have never used or have used up and kept... Too much. And now I have to move it all into a box, again. We're not going far... across the river and a jot north on the map... but we're going. The day before Thanksgiving (another national holiday, just not in this country... but we're celebrating it nonetheless).

Once we get there it will be glorious. Truly. The place is beautiful - more spacious, more refined, in one of those up and coming renovated artsy areas full of parks and farmers markets and such... nice terrace, plenty of space to BBQ and the kid has the option of a little cat should she decide to make that commitment... I'm looking forward to it - this is going to be our last move in Prague. Our landlord lives in another country and has kept this as income property until she returns to her homeland in the very distant future so we don't need to worry about her selling it out from underneath us without notice, everything is in perfect working order and the building is a co-op with an on-call handyman so I don't expect problems with the structure or appliances or the other tenants, the location is convenient to transport, and things should be smooth. If I should move again in this country it would only be conceivable to me, at this point, that either it would be because the Kid had returned to the US and I no longer need the space - or because we both move AWAY.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

end of the day

Everyone enjoys the end of their work day. The time changed here a few weeks ago and now the end of my work day is dark. Really dark. I'm usually in a rush when I'm leaving but the other night I caught in inkling of something as I was having a quick conversation in the crowds surround the Charles Bridge. Just a whiff of something on the air, I knew there was more to it but didn't have the time to find out what it was... tonight I took that extra moment and was duly rewarded.

When I leave the medieval building I spend my days in I pick my way down a cobblestone street , pass a few restaurants, a number of tourists and artists and artisans, their tools and wares packed on to handy little wheely carts I've never seen outside of this city - we all pass through the edges of the low-level lamp light... very old European setting. Approaching the first corner the brisk air carries tones of music... sometimes a jazz club down the alley but for the past few evenings it's been the accordion player milling about the end of the bridge. I turn the corner towards the trams and am followed by the sounds of the accordion and the occasional bits if song the player bursts in to - when I get to the tram stop I stop and wait. I looked up tonight, not something I always do as it's been raining off and on lately, and the church next to me was beautiful, the moon was out and I realized for the umpteenth time I was standing in the shadow of the castle - little bits of St Vitus peeking through at the corners of the buildings at the base of the hill.

Sometimes, sitting on the tram I look out over the Vltava and catch the reflection of the river-side lights and clubs and the moon in the water... sometimes it's so quiet and peaceful. Sometimes it's just perfect lovely to sit and be quiet and absorb the world.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

how many things can break in one weekend?

So I've had a few trips to the doctor and minor surgical procedure this week and a lot of frustration about my health. At one point in the doctor's office, discussing what's not right, my eyes welled up with tears. She thought I was upset about my physical well-being, and I was, but that wasn't the half of it.

This weekend was ridiculous. While my body was getting worse our house fell apart around us.

It started with the water heater - lately it had become less and less reliable. This past week it got so bad I lost track of how many times I had to push the stupid button to try to trigger the water heater to kick in - I know I reached 28 and then hit it a few more times that day... On Friday a repair man came to replace the broken shower pole - he also let me know there was a leak in the shower and asked me not to bathe and he'd be back on Tuesday. I said - not happening.

Then on Saturday the regular heat stopped working - and it's been below freezing. It became as sporadic as the water heater.

Sunday the electricity started to freak out. Fuses blew and wouldn't reset. I spent a great deal of time before figuring out the washing machine was broken and affecting the electricity. If the machine was one, or if you turned it on, the fuse would blow. I had clothes in the machine half way through the cycle.

So - Monday started with - a broken water heater, a broken heating system, a leaking shower, faulty electricity and a broken washing machine - which was immediately followed by an emergency trip to the doctor and then the surgeon. Yes, it was overwhelming. No, I didn't explain all that to my doctor. And now - all household issues have been fixed. It took a few days but they're done. I'm just waiting for my body to get on the same page.

Monday, October 25, 2010

another day with doctors

The damn steroids that I need to breathe have reduced my immunity. Now I have a secondary infection, completely unrelated to my lungs… it shouldn’t have happened but it did because, as I’ve been warned today, I can catch anything/everything right now. Spent the morning first at the doctor’s office, then with a surgeon.

Tomorrow will start with blood work – they’re concerned that I do in fact seem to be catching everything - it's not just an abstract possibility it's happening - and it happens whether I'm on steroids or not.. I can’t keep up this ongoing cycle of antibiotics (I've had my 3rd round prescribed today in less than a month)… it’s killing my body (at least that’s how I feel at the moment). Tomorrow after the blood work I'll go back to the doctor and then back to the surgeon. I am so tired. Emotionally, mentally, physically. I am so tired right now.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I don't understand the doctor system here or why everyone I know gets weird illnesses and infections at, what to me is, an alarming rate. I do know that I'm one of those people who do, though, and it's really impacting the quality of my life.

The multitude of steriods I have to take for my lungs has weakened my immune system and now I have a secondary infection, again. This keeps happening - I get sick - a cold in my lungs - then asthma and bronchitis, and as I start to get better a predatory condition sets in. As I get better from that then the asthma/bronchial thing sets in again. I'm a little concerned as this isn't a good pattern. I happen to catch colds, it's nothing new, I have and do - but here it's taken to a whole other level and it's more than just a cold... and it's starting to feel relentless.

How can I boost my immune system? I'm eating wholesome homemade meals, taking vitamins, started swimming again (when I'm well enough), don't smoke, etc. I don't understand either what I'm doing wrong or what I'm not doing right, but I really need something to change. I hate feeling rundown and tired... and I'm easily overwhelmed with the thought of doctors, hospitals and medication. I would really appreciate some advice - either little things I can do or which doctor/hospital I should consult.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

shower series

I just walked past the bathroom and the Kid called out - the door was open so I turned to her but she wasn't in the little 2 feet of floor space... no, she was fully dressed, in her slippers, holding a desk lamp and her camera taking pictures of water drops in the bathroom. The Kid's shower series will be (primarily) the water drop images she'll be editing this week - I think she has a study of the new shower pole and soap dish combo as well as a loofa or two... don't forget to ask her for them.

The Kid's luck getting lost

The Kid had a meeting yesterday with the family of a little girl I used to teach - they contacted me aw while ago asking if I was available for private lessons for the family. I'm not, so I referred heras a teacher for their daughter and another woman for the parents. Yesterday she went to their home for the first time.

Apparently she got lost (don't stress out, it happens frequently, even to natives, it's just part of finding your way).

While she was lost she had interactions with a non-English speaking Czech woman, an English speaking Czech woman, and in between those two a French speaking Czech man... my American daughter and the French man didn't have a shared language and where both asking for something from the other. He approached her and asked about a dog that had recently passed by without an owner, indicating that he had one - she thought he was looking for his lost dog. She was turning in circles trying to read the map and the street names on the corner. He couldn't help her with directions and he wasn't looking for his dog. He was telling her had a dog. He was asking her for money for "food, home, park" the three English words she could identifyin addition to the dog. I guess they stood there for a bit talking to each other in mismatched tongues before they figured out the other couldn't offer anything of benefit to their individual situations and so individually went on their way.

She kept laughing while telling me this - and was actually proud of the first Czech interaction as she requested her directions so perfectly the woman didn't realize she didn't speak Czech... until she couldn't fully follow her answer. Not that the journey would have been easier if she did understand the answer as I don't think she knows how to read a map.


little amendment - she wanted me to clarify a few things... She fully understood the direction the Czech woman gave her. The need for further directions stemmed from the fact that the directions the woman gave her were wrong. Also, she knows how to read a map. I can't attest to the first, but the second I planning on having her prove in the next month or two when we head out of town for a long weekend.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

october 21

It's started snowing. Apparently winter was a little anxious to get here. Last year was the coldest on record in decades (centuries possibly). This year it's supposed to be even colder. It sure wasn't snowing at this time last year! I think we need to reevaluate our wardrobes. Again.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

my final parent-teacher conference

This is the very last parent-teacher conference of my parenting adventure. Way to end it on a high note, Kid!

Every teacher was full of accolades - the only negative thing they had to say was that she'd been sick and missed class... and then they elaborated to say that it's not just a hassle having her turn in work late or miss a lecture but that she's a very vocal member of the classroom and has a unique view she's not afraid to assert and so her presence is extremely valuable.

It's always nice to hear other people appreciate your child and offer up a different perspective. I happen to think she's pretty cool, most people I know think the same thing. Actually, side note, somehow we both managed to be invited to the same Halloween party, separately, this year. Usually, it's like hey, you come and she can come too - or she should come and bring her Mom if she wants... but this year it was directed at each of us, separately.

Anyway, back to today - one of her teacher's commented that she's got an ability to assert her views, back them up with startling insight, then listen to divergent views and either absorb a bit or address why they don't impact her opinion. I'm relaying this because, as he mentioned, it's not every adult that knows how to truly listen and he was impressed... and so am I.

I'm not too fond of these "last ever" milestones. I enjoy being a Mom. I'll still be a Mom, but it'll be a different phase. I don't know for sure which country he Kid'll be in next year - not too sure which country I'll be in, although I think it's fairly safe to assume it'll be this one - and even though in most respects she's an adult right now, I'm not too comfortable when I think about the upcoming changes, and not really having as involved a role in her life as I have... which is funny, actually, as I'm not "overly" involved parent right now - I've raised a kid I trust and respect and who has an ingrained sense of responsibility (regarding homework, not housework) and she is pretty free to do what she wants when and how - she's not given me reason to doubt her honesty or question her freedom or level of autonomy, rather she continues to earn my trust and respect. I do occasionally say "no" or veto an idea or point out other issues that may impact her ideas, but not too often. I don't arrange her schedule or dictate her plans, I'm not a fussy Mom, always in her space, rummaging through her things, questioning her friends... so losing the few "Mom" things I do have isn't easy. Marking off these last ever parenting events with my one and only isn't all that much fun. I'm happy for her, she's growing up and has become and will continue to become this amazingly awesome talented beautiful being, but it's making me a little sad inside, going through these final phases.

Maybe I should get a dog and start puppy school so I have some sort of continue parenting experience I can participate in.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

baking - banana bread and beyond

Last week I really wanted banana bread and I had a bunch of old bananas so I made some. We ate it all. I was supposed to go to a pot-luck and I had more bananas so I made more - I didn't go and so we ate that too.

I haven't made banana bread in many, many years but I love it. I'd forgotten how quick and easy it is.

This weekend I wanted more. But something a little different. I don't know why but lately my tastebuds have been craving something rather elusive - I don't know what I want but there's something out there that, in theory, will fill the mouthwatering craving I'm experiencing.

So, we experimented. Yesterday we started with the basic banana bread recipe (Joy of Cooking - see below) and then, instead of nuts, added some grated orange peel and cranberries. That was pretty good. After that I made regular banana bread too.

Last night we walked down the street to hear a friend play some music and brought part of each loaf for the friend who was meeting us there. So, today one loaf was gone when we woke and the other was gone shortly thereafter as it was our breakfast.

This evening I experimented some more - sweet potato bread. It's fresh out of the oven, butter-melting warm and rather tasty.

Here's how I made it:

Start with the same Joy of Cooking banana bread recipe but scratch the banana, instead you need one soft-baked sweet potato. You'll also need some cinnamon and brown sugar. I left out the nuts but the next time I might try it with some pecans.

When making the flour mixture I added about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. It's a rough estimate as I had about 1/8 teaspoon but then threw in a few more shakes right before adding it to the butter mixture.

When creating the butter mixture I added about 1/8 cup of brown sugar. I also increased the butter by a little bit, something I tend to do anyway but you don't have to. The exact amount of butter is really hard for me to determine as it's not sold in American style cubes with the marker on the paper indicating tablespoons and 1/4 cup - it's in grams so lately I've had to literally measure it all out... it's time consuming, difficult if the butter is hard, and wasteful as so much sticks to the measuring unit so I've made some rough estimates. Pretty soon I'll get a scale and do the conversion - that should make it a little easier. You're most likely using the American system or have a scale. (I really should have a scale already but I cook stuff so rarely I really haven't need one yet... I'll get there.)

Instead of banana, add in one cup of smooshy sweet potato. For us, that was one sweet potato but obviously it will depend on the size of your potato. I had three on hand.

Bake as normal but make sure you check it at about 50 minutes. Again, I'm using a Celsius oven and it doesn't have a clear marker for the converted temperature so it's not exact, but I found that just under 170C for 50 minutes is perfect... if you've got a Fahrenheit oven then no worries, just follow the directions.

Let it cool a bit, dump it out of the pan, cut off a chunk and take a bite. Hopefully it'll taste as good as ours - if not, blame it on me... maybe I forgot something :)

Joy of Cooking

1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
5 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup mashed, very ripe bananas (2)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 6-cup loaf pan. (I don't have a 6-cup loaf pan, I have no idea what size it is, but it's not the same as my American bread loaf pan... just use a bread loaf and don't worry about it.)

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until lightened in color and texture, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the flour mixture until blended and the consistency of brown sugar. Gradually beat in the two eggs. Fold in the banana and walnuts (if using) until just combined.

Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold and allow to cool completely on the rack.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

a ray of light and hopefully a future with a peaceful shower

I've been feeling a little overwhelmed lately by (see below) and today while talking about the repairs about to take place in our flat I had a breakthrough. Actually, a revelation. Let me start at the beginning...

Our water heater doesn't like working. Sometimes we have hot water, sometimes we don't. Quite often we have to restart the pilot light - sometimes a few times before it actually takes. I've figured out that you can decrease the number of attempts you need to get it to "take" if you have the water running. Once the heat turns on again if you keep the water running it doesn't usually go out - but once the water turns off you'll probably have to restart it. I've had it happen that the water was hot and running and then suddenly the pilot light died in the middle of the dishes so I had to restart it - twice before it took and would start to heat the water again. Fortunately that hasn't happened in the shower yet.

The "shower" here is a shower head on a long hose which attaches to the faucet. The shower head fits in a slot supported by a pole attached to the wall. The pole system for the showerhead is broken - the bracket pieces that attach to the wall are broken on the inside yet it balances the pole if you place it just right and will support the shower head. I've been asking to have it replaced for a while - it's been that way for months. I don't have the technical skills or the tools to drill in to the tile, etc...

Our shower is a rectangle smaller than your hall closet. I can stand in the middle, rotate at the waist, and with my hands below my waist I can touch all four sides with my elbows. Think about the size there.

So - this is how my mornings have been. Get up, maybe eat something, turn on the shower. Go to get in the shower and realize it's cold. Go to the kitchen and hit the pilot light - repeat get in shower, cold, kitchen pilot light up to three times before success is found.

Once in the shower try not to move - if you bump the shower hose it hits the pole and knocks it against the loose bracket - the nozzle, pole and bracket all come tumbling down - down on your head, back, legs, feet and most importantly right on top of the faucet. The force of the falling hardware turns the water off.

Now, the fun part - by the time everything has fallen down, been replaced and the water is turned back on the pilot light has gone out again.

You have to exit the tiny shower, warm steamy bathroom and pad through the hall and across the bare kitchen floor in an uninsulated (or archiacally insulated) building (it's been zero Celsius lately - quite cold in the flat!) and start the whole process over again - while soaking wet.

I mentioned this morning ritual to a friend recently and she said something about with such a difficult morning the rest of the day doesn't stand a chance - getting off on the wrongest foot possible, stuff like that... and I realized she may have a bit of a point - when I'm feeling overwhelmed just trying to get in the shower my outlook probably isn't so cheery for the rest of the day.

Fortunately - hopefully - after many repeated requests both the shower and the hot water heater are scheduled to be repaired next week - it's not till Friday, but I'm just thankful there's finally a date on the calendar!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

brown paper blues

On my way home the other day I stopped at Tesco. To be honest, I was on the way back from the doctor trying to stock up on fruits and veggies for the next few days as I knew I'd be at home resting... I wasn't feeling top notch.

BUT - I was no where near as bad as this guy I encountered in the shop. He was tall and gaunt, tight-lipped and grimacing and looked miserable. He was so stiff and tight and intense looking - he was a black hole of gloom in doom the midst of Tesco's overly bright fluorescents and shiny displays... I took a quick look down at the sole object he was trying to purchase and then my empathy just skyrocketed.

He was holding a single roll of toilet paper. Not the Charmin-y softness (Charmin TP doesn't exist here), not even the cottony Kleenex (Kleenex TP does exist here). This poor guy had the roll from hell - it was made from that dark brown rough hand-towel paper you used to find in school bathrooms back in the 70s. You can still find dark-brown rough hand-towel paper in school bathrooms, but it's not nearly as rough as what existed back in the day. For some reason there's a company that distribute TP here that believes that paper should be revived and used not on your hands but elsewhere. That poor man could have bought a 4-pack and purchase something not intended to remove the top 3 layers of skin. Instead I looked at him and knew his discomfort was not to be abated, only transformed.

augmenting with augmentin

So, I entered a new phase with my perma-cold last week and had to go back to the Dr. She started me on some antibiotic and some other stuff, blah blah blah. I went back a few days later and she wasn't happy with the lack of progress, so she told me she wanted me to try another antibiotic... Last time she had me on two antibiotics at the same time so I wasn't suprised when she told she wanted to "start augmenting." We talked a bit about other stuff and then reviewed all the changes she'd made to everything - the new stuff and then augmenting. I like to review my understanding with doctors, especially when not dealing with a native or near-native speaker, so I gave back a recap of my understanding... "Increase this, change that and then take this new antibiotic along with the old one... right?"

"No, just the augmenting."

That didn't make any sense whatsoever. So she wrote it out... Augmentin. The name of the new antibiotic was Augmentin. I wasn't to augment anything - I was to stop my old stuff and take Augmentin instead.

Friday, October 8, 2010

little setbacks

This was supposed to be a turning point... I got a raise, increased my hours and started teaching - money should be flowing in right now.... and then a few things hit-

The stupid ransom I had to pay for our passports - that took up most of the rent... to put it in perspective - most everyone I know pays less in rent than what I just paid to get back our passports!

Trip to the hospital for the kid - not covered by insurance at this point (even if it had been, we didn't have our passports so it wouldn't have been accepted)

I got another respiratory infection. I've been told to stay home for 10 days - that means no pay for 3 days then half rate... which puts me at less than what I was making before! Every single stupid cold I get goes straight in to my lungs and then asthma kicks in to overdrive and I'm wheezing and gasping and coughing and hating life.

And now the school has given 24 hours notice of funds due for a multi-day retreat - in the past it's been a discounted price but this year it's the full cost - and the full cost is inflated from the past few years... urgh.

SATs. Even though she may stay here for college she's still got to take the tests.

And now I have to get the Kid another new insurance policy as the one we've had for her isn't right for the new visa laws. You have to prepay for the full year.

I'm sitting here trying to figure out how to make ends meet till the end of the month - and today's only the 8th. I've been home for 3 days now and instead of getting better my stupid cold is entrenched in my upper respiratory track - and am feeling rather frustrated with the progress of October. I have my next class on Tuesday and my book and guide are sitting in my desk at work - I'm home and have plenty of time to prepare, but no materials to do it with.

The Kid's starting to feel better, finally, at least. And despite the notice on the door our rent won't be going up.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

some nice news

Here's link to a heartwarming article. It's not often pleasant things make the news - and to me THIS ARTICLE ranks up right up there with really nice surprises... a bit of validation and some recognition and appreciation.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dude brought a sword!

Here's a rather unusual glimpse in to some very rare street violence. It happened in Vinohrady, on Vinohradska... that's our part of town.

In case you didn't pick up on it - the taxi drivers here are meat-head idiots... and people are really in to LARP.

Tuesday Sept 5

Apparently I've caught whatever the kid's got. Big ole bummer. She gets to stay home for days and I've had to go to work. This is a busy week for me... the start of the new term for all of our new students, papers due, writing to review, and today was my first day teaching at a university. I'm sure you're shocked, after having followed my writing, that I could be teaching university, but wonder of wonders, I am. And as nervous as I was, as underprepared as I felt having devoted my weekend to mommy stuff rather than class-prep, and as sick as I am - well things weren't too bad. One student, on the way out the door, even said he loves stuff like I just gave him - challenging thought provoking questions that require genuine work and reflection. Right on - or maybe write on... it's a writing assignment after all. :)


(apparently I forgot about tuesday - all day i thought it was wednesday. at the end of the day i found out i was wrong. even with the day wrong i managed to take care of all my tuesday obligations. woo hoo me!)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

not strep - Motol Hospital rocked!

The Kid's most likely just got a virus of some sort and will be home till at least Wednesday.

The trip to the hospital was easy - since she's a child they didn't require anything from her... no ID, no address, nothing. I think it cost a bit more than my check-up did but that's probably due to her having to be seen in pediatrics. They were fast and efficient in the foreigner's department, and then we got lost in the pediatric wing. We asked a nurse for the area and she didn't speak English but really went out of her way to be helpful - she pantomimed, asking us if we wanted the sleeping children (she put her hands together and layed her head down on them as if they were a pillow and closed her eyes) or if we wanted the doktora. I answered the doktora and she walked us up the stairs to the correct department and waved us goodbye.

Even the doctor was quite sweet and helpful. I understood pastilky and we all said you suck on it like candy, yet she wanted to be perfect and so got online to translate - the translation is lozenge, by the way. The Kid was satisfied with the care and thought the doctor was really nice and quite earnest in her desire to be as helpful as possible.

All in all, for being quite miserable and sick, it was a good experience and I'm grateful she had one when she's feeling so awful.

hospital without ID?

We still don't have our passports. It's Saturday. The Kid appears to have strep throat so I've spent my morning calling hospitals. Technically she's still a child so she can only be seen in a children's department. Most of them are closed. I think I've found one - we're on our way... waiting for the taxi. Hope they'll let her in without her national ID. Please send her a get well email. Thanks.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Our passports are being held ransom


I hired what I was told a reputable company to process the Kid's visa... apparently the person who referred me was wrong. I provided all the information, signed the forms and handed over our passports for the Embassy's review. It was submitted - but more than 2 months after I engaged them to do the job... unnecessary delays which are going to result in Schengen issues, again.

The day the application was submitted I got an email stating that we needed to pay 200%+ what I'd been quoted and that once we pay we'll get our passports back.. and if I wanted an accounting of the charges there would be an further increase - the "discounted" rate would disappear plus they'd charge VAT, which apparently they hadn't done yet. Obviously the visa hasn't been issued yet, that's the final product of their work and it hasn't happened but payment in full is still required - and then some!

I don't have it. I won't for a while. Even then I don't really have it. I have more than enough to cover what I'd been told was the original price, but not enough for this. The money is a major issue, but still a minor issue in the big picture - I am so sick and tired of this kind of crap. I forget and trust people upon their word - they didn't create a contract so I didn't sign one, which means I don't have the original price in writing. I'm tired of non-Czechs being targeted like this. I hate feeling stupid. And I hate being broke.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

the last one

Tonight I attended the last back to school night of my parental career. My kid is a senior and will graduate in the spring, so there aren't any more out there on the horizon for me. With that perspective, it's so bittersweet.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Joy of Cooking

Could someone please send me one or bring me one? Please??? I forgot to get one, AGAIN!

More immediately - could you please send me the banana bread recipe? I've done google search but I'm not finding the recipe available to me out of this book, without my having to join some site or something... I just want some banana bread!


I found the recipe :) but I still want the book... if you can send me one please let me know the costs and I'll send you the money :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hike to Tocnik

I don't have the correct accent marks in the name of the castle, but it was a gorgeous, glorious 8km hike up a mountain to the ruins of a castle. (The castle had a bear and some goats living in the moat and a ton of historical re-enactors milling about, throwing fake fights and arguments and other interactions... we discovered them out in the middle of the forest in their historical camps and such - one got lost and started asking us if we'd seen his friends in English.)

It was a big CS event and the organizer, the same awesome guy who threw my birthday party, rented an old restored '65 Skoda bus. There were a ton of people - it was a much larger venture than expected, but it all worked out well... lost children, poisonous mushrooms, crazy hippies, wild deer, lots of cowbell, rabid ankle-biters, severe asthma - nothing in the world could stop us :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 - this day, this year

I think the events of nine years ago are firmly embedded in the memories of all American past a certain age. I know, even living on the west coast, the fear and confusion I woke up to that morning, watching the planes crash, the smoky skies and not understanding what was happening. It was a tragic day and the impact reached beyond the boundaries of the US. It brought to light the extent to which militant fundamentalists were willing to go and showed the world that the US was vulnerable. The way the world functioned changed.

I don't think we've learned the right lessons. I don't think we're doing what we should - too many people have become self-righteous in their religion and intolerant of other views. Rather than opening minds and eyes people now are too quick to label,assume, lump and dismiss - the whole debacle about the Sufi mosque in New York is one example. I wish people would take a look at what Sufism is and then try to continue lumping that in with radical Muslims. You can't dismiss a major branch of religion due to a militant division - Christianity would have been vilified and set for eradication centuries ago if that world had adopted today's approach.

The crazy Koran burning minister in Florida seems to have struck a note with certain American sympathies. I don't understand. Why live your life trying to offend others and work against peace and harmony? Why flame the fires of the radical few and alienate the peaceful majority? Why increase the global risk to Americans, not just the troops, but to tourists, students, over-seas workers, military families and even domestically?

I'm a little angry today. I'm a little angry not only at the people who caused 9/11 to become an infamous day in American history but also at those Americans who choose to remain ignorant - the ones who still say Saddam attacked us, that Iraq was about 9/11, that Obama is Muslim, that burning the Koran is justified because radicals in the Middle East can burn the Bible. I'm angry that in what is supposed to be the land of opportunity, the best of the best, the melting pot where we have freedom of religion and accept all - that the people who choose to remain ignorant are given the privilege and attention of the press and spew their hatred and lies to one and all. I'm angry that they choose to remain ignorant.

And I'm worried. Today people I love will be getting on planes - a lot of people I care about will be getting on planes today, flying both to and from the US. The increased risk to their safety due to the ignorance and hatred of an American preacher is completely unnecessary. I don't expect there to be an incident - but Interpol has already identified 188 additional areas of increased threats. I'm angry that we continue to live in fear. Something needs to change.

ringtone flashbacks and a cultural divide

People may joke around here that styles and music and such are a few decades behind... mullets, rat tales, manic panic colors, stuff like that.... but yesterday I once again heard the American version of the Ducktales theme song as a ringtone (yes, there is a Czech version)... and then Huey Lewis chimed in on someone else's phone with the Power of Love.

The I went to a CS dinner - huge gathering and people had little stickie name-tags... not really full name tags but little mini labels sized stickers. A Belgian friend named Bert had Bert - FOE on it... I, and a few other friends happen to know that FOE stands for Friend of Ernie - Sesame Street - get it?

Well, here's where you can see the curtain's cultural divide. French, Dutch, Spanish, Austrian and some German friends understood once Sesame Street was mentioned BUT Czech, Slovak, Romanian, and Polish ones asked, "What the hell is Sesame Street?!?"

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Zoo September 2010

Prague has the best zoo. Seriously love that place. The Kid and I spent another afternoon there - and for about the cost of a movie and snacks we each bought an annual pass. If you're coming you should come visit with us!

Click on the photo to see the rest of today's pictures (luckily for you my battery died!)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Photo Contest...again.

This is the photo for the contest mentioned below, for you all to see. :)
The link to vote is, and the picture you want is "View From Vysehrad". Thank you so much for the help. :)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

photo contest

Hey! You wanna be super cool and help my kid in a photo contest? Well click RIGHT HERE and then like her pic. It's a good one even :) Taken up from Vysehrad Castle looking down on the Vltava River. Please... do it now. It may get us back to the US for a bit :-D

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

language lesson

Yesterday I had a Czech lesson... I've not progressed very far and so the content of my lesson may be rather simplistic, BUT... both my teacher and I had cause to laugh.

I was trying to formulate a question - trying to ask about her coffee.

The words I chose would translate in to English as "How is your coffee?" with the how being the literal translation for "how". My teacher looked at my with confusion and said, "I know what you're trying to say but you must use another word."

I tried it again.

She then proceeded to tell me "You can't say 'How is your coffee?' you must say 'What is your coffee like?' 'How is your coffee?' is a nonsense."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Radio Prague - local life stuff

Check it out - Santa-Spiderman and selfish drunks... the "magazine" section from Radio Prague.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

my coast

We're landlocked. Knowing the ocean is so far away is not comfortable... I don't know why, but I don't like it. I don't know anyone here, actually, who was raised in a coastal area that is comfortable without easy access to the ocean.

So, while we were back there, the kid and I spent some time at the beach... Here we are and here's where we're from.


The drive to the ocean.

The little town of Bodega Bay - right next to the little town of Bodega. Alfred Hitchcock used these settings for his classic film The Birds.

one of my purest pleasures

Some women like purses. Some spend hours picking out the right shade of lipstick, nail polish or foundation. Some collect shoes. Some people have other little indulgent pleasures they engage in every now and then, a little ashamed at how much they've dished out for something that others don't necessarily understand - there is more value in the item placed by the owner than it is worth to the every man.

For me that little pleasure would be books. Bookstores, antique books, old cracked leather-bound books, aged papers with tobacco smoke infused in the ink, uncreased bindings with pages so fresh you get papercuts as you thumb through... books.

Today I read that the average American household buys 7 books a year. There must be some illiterate homes cause I have got to offset a few homes... we can quite easily buy 7 books per visit. In the past month, nearly 3 weeks of vacation, but still, I've read over 10 books... 10 books that I didn't have 6 weeks ago. With my new e-reader and the joys of free access via google books to all the out of copyright stuff... I've got a lot more reading to do!!

Sometimes I wish I were one of those women infatuated with fashion, sporting a strong sense of style. Sometimes I wish I knew what would be stunning on me, where to shop and how to piece random things together... or I wish that I had more patience for accessories and accessorizing and products... too many bottles and jars and pastes and tubes and colors and appliances for me to fully be comfortable navigating through a thorough makeup session. Sometimes I wish all of that, but not often. I'm usually quite content avoiding all of that and having more time to read.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dusty Dreams

Ever since I arrived back in the Czech Republic, my mother has had me cleaning. Three days.

While frustrating, there is a small shred of logic behind it. While we were both gone, a span of about three weeks altogether, a construction guy came and replaced some messed up tiles in our little foyer/hallway thingy. In preparation, my mom cleaned the house, and closed all of the doors, isolating pathways for dust. Of course, these efforts were thwarted by the construction guy opening all of the doors she had closed. This meant that when we came home, the entire house was coated in a somewhat thick layer of dust. Which my mom is allergic to.

So, the past three days have consisted of How I Met Your Mother playing in the background while I sweep, mop, and dust like crazy. Which, I will admit, has not been an entire triumph. I'm not a cleaning enthusiast, and tend to overlook things my mom obsesses over.

For once, I look forward to school starting. :)

ketchup ;)

I had a great time back in the US. It was wonderful and thanks to you who helped make it that way, and sorry to those who I didn't get to see... despite my best planning life happens and I totally ran out of time! (stupid dentist, stupid doctor, stupid jet lag - it got me on both directions)

This is just to let you all know we're home and safe and exhausted. The Kid and I both caught colds during our last few days and it carried over to the flight so it's take a while for the two of us to recover and catch up... it's 2:15 am so obviously I'm not fully acclimated yet.

Other than not feeling well the flight was good - a fair amount of moderate turbulence but it was ok on the way to London. Dealing with Heathrow however was another matter. Let me provide a little assistance. When you tell a teenager, "please be ready, we have 2 hours to make it through Heathrow and will need all that time to do it - have your stuff together" etc... You should understand that does not automatically translate to - know where your passport is, as I discovered.

We hit the entrance for the passport check [the misadventures in Heathrow have been removed upon request] and had a peaceful flight to Prague.

While we were gone our landlord had the broken tiles and the carpet she'd had laid down to cover them replaced. Yay! But the workers must have opened every door in the flat and failed to lay down drop cloths anywhere so everything, absolutely everything greeted us with a thick layer of super find tile dust. Every crevice nook and cranny... it's even clogged the nozzle in my hairspray, the vents in my hairdryer and coated the cooking utensils and every book in the living room. Every single thing we one has to be picked up and cleaned - it made it in to the cupboards where there was a crack between the doors. Oh dust allergy - you are quite literally making me weep.

I have a lot to say, thoughts and reflections on our trip, etc... but this is it for now. The Kid is supposed to have written something, but she hasn't yet - at least hadn't when I started writing this. I think you should ask to read her poem about the couch... it's been featured on a writing site she's a member of.

Hope you're all wonderful!!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

July 28th

There has been some misleading silence on my part. I am sure the Kid will agree.

Wednesday was her birthday. She believed I was spending it with a full day of work and then we'd be having a video chat during her birthday party.

She was wrong.

I spent it in the air. PRG to LHR to SFO to be exact about it. And her first bite of her birthday burger coincided with my walking through the front door.

I think she just about died. Literally. She started crying and hopped up to hug me and tried to talk all with food in her mouth, which of course led to the inevitable choking. We worked through it.

She's now 17 and still alive.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Woo Hoo!!! some birthday bliss

This was the sunset on my birthday. Following this glorious sunset was a full moon and Roman candle style fireworks. Lucky coincidences :)

This was probably the nicest birthday I've ever experienced. It started Sunday with a group of friends at Fraktal - great burgers, even better company - and then I watched Inception with a few other friends. Monday began with an early morning talk with both my mother and my daughter, an enjoyable lunch with some co-workers, an early departure from work for a pedicure and massage, and then an incredible BBQ gathering hosted by my friend - that's where we watched the sunset, the fireworks and the moon rise.

Today I was super productive - 2 loads of laundry, mopped, dishes, a meeting with my landlord, a trip to the bank to get things sorted (and 2 tutorials while I was there), and work - all before 12:30... and at work my boss greeted me with a belated birthday celebration. We opened a gift from our students - 20 year old Armenian cognac. The cognac is older than this country. And to top it off - my Adobe Acrobat, which I've been waiting for for 2 months, was finally installed!

This has been an excellent week, and it's only mid-day Tuesday. :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

what's obvious to friends...

Today I went out for a pre-birthday celebration with some good people I don't see quite enough of. I really enjoy them and for some reason they seem to enjoy me too... While out we talked a bit about some of the stuff in my previous post.

I stated that if I left my job then I'd also have to leave school... and if I leave school there's really no reason for me being here, and how I'm then faced with the question, "What am I doing here?" They acknowledged that if I leave the job then leaving school would follow as it's really the same thing, but hen didn't follow me to the question. They said, well if you leave your job and you leave school then you just get another job - cause what you're doing here is living here. You can do anything, but you live here.

not much new... it's just blerg - skip it if you want

I've had so much going on lately, but not much new. I'm still a bit unsettled about the whole work thing and my direction here - and that's caused a bit of overdue self-reflection... along the lines of WTF am I doing here? I've been asking myself that a lot lately as I sit on the tram on my way to a job where I feel like I'm being stifled and not able to be as fully effective as I could/should be for any number of reasons. I had high hopes that would change but it hasn't and I am at a loss as to how to fix it. Time I suppose, but it's not necessarily time I want to invest on a hope...

It's more than that. It's the lack of direction, the lack of focus and my current inability to identify what drives me. It's like I'm completely lacking my motivation and haven't figured out how to turn on my inner drive. It's not the happiest of places to be.

In fact, I've been feeling in such a rut and so overwhelmed with work/school/health stuff that I've seriously questioned my continued existence in this country. Sometimes things just seem a little too foreign still, and it's not a language thing, it's more like inter-personal behavior and a cultural thing. Other times I just feel too sensitive to deal with what's going on... it's too blunt, too harsh, too flippant, too indifferent. Too much.

And then I think about what I have here that's positive and lovely - primarily, my friends. They're valued and treasured for so many reasons more than what you'd normally value and treasure your friends for if we're talking about people in and from your country of origin. Hard to describe but there's a different sense of unity within an expat community - even if we're all from different places we're incredibly united by both language and circumstances. I look to them for strength and advice in situations that my back-home friends couldn't understand. We're part of a smaller community within this large city and it's insular and tight-knit and I love them.

I'm continually growing and developing new relationships and dynamics and exploring new avenues, but it's all without structure and so sometimes things feel so flash in the pan and empty at times... it's crap. It's that lame-ass ennui. But it's not cause I'm trying to fight it - it's being discontent with the discontent, I'm not embracing it, but I'm feeling overwhelmed and a little lost and trying to figure out how to get over it.

I'm used to something different. I feel the need for a change, but I'm acknowledging, now, that change isn't one that needs to be external circumstances. It's me. I need to fix it myself, find my passion, re-connect with what feeds me, incorporate it on a stronger level, and then figure out if where I'm at, physically, is what's right for me or not... and if not then address the question - where is?

Friday, July 2, 2010

An International Nailing

Last night was my first venture in to a "nail bar". I'd heard reference to it before but hadn't been there... I went to a raucous dinner event with friends and late in the realized I was tired, out of money and should really head home when I was informed that we were all moving to this mythical magical place - the nail bar.

So I did the logical thing and followed.

(It was actually quite close to my flat so not any sort of major detour or anything - less than a 10 minute walk home, door to door.)

So, you may ask, what is a nail bar? I did, having never heard of one before. A nail bar is a bar, and in the center of the bar is a giant stump - a section of a big log standing on its end, about 4 feet or so high. You approach the bartender and you ask for nails for all the participants and a hammer. Then you find your sweet spot in the stump and tap the nail in to the notch on the side of the hammer and wait for the game to begin.

The idea behind the game is this - you flip the hammer over so the end facing down is the narrow end you use to pry stuff up with, you place it on the wood and you get a one movement swing, from wood to nail, to try to hit the nail with the narrow end and hammer it down flush to the wood. You get one swing only and then pass it along counter-clockwise. Then the next person takes one swing and so on. You must get the nail flush - if you can fit a fingernail underneath you're not done. The last person - or people - left with nails still standing have to buy drinks for all the winners. That's it. It's also a lot harder than it sounds.

I watched a full game, and a lot of frustration, and finally want home to sleep - all and all, it was a good night.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

thankfully not a typical tuesday

Yesterday was not awesome. If you're my FBF you already saw that. The day started with my being rushed in to work while receiving SMSs chastising me for things unknown. I ran out of the house with a mildly wrinkled dress, no stockings (that comes in to play), no moisturizer and somewhat damp hair.

It was hot and humid. My feet got sticky and pinched in my shoes, my hair didn't dry, I stepped and jammed my foot between some big street cobblestones and hurt my ankle, and then I got to work... where I promptly poured boiling water all over my hand. I hadn't even logged on to my computer yet - nor had I found out why I was in "big trouble".

Turns out the problems that were thrown out as problems weren't the actual problems, but there were other real problems that needed to be dealt with. I left about 10pm last night.

It started again this morning - after having spent yesterday observing resistance today I got to try to be the ringleader for a large, and at times, contentious gathering of roughly 20 or so lawyers... legal minds with divergent opinions yet on tight schedule.

That's done with now. We've all disbursed for another six months to a year. Yea.

The repercussions still need to be dealt with, but they haven't all hit yet. Forthcoming. Oh joy.

So, hours after that's all done I board a tram with a colleague and then stop for some groceries. I get back on with my bags and sit and open my book. I am accuately aware of the business man who positioned himself right against me despite the fact that there were empty seats and aisle space. Then I felt like he kept looking at me, either down my dress or in my bag... couldn't figure it out - possibly reading over my shoulder but that wasn't entirely it. So I ignored him and kept reading. At IP he started talking to me - interrupting me by putting his finger on the page and asking a question - that's when I knew he wasn't reading - he asked me about my English language novel in Czech. I answered in English and he kept asking me questions - we sorta chatted a bit, but not much as I wasn't very interested in the conversation, language skills were there but not great, he kinda creeped me out and I was trying to get ready to get off at the next stop.

He was standing between me and the door, and sure enough when I move to leave he does too - and then he stands outside and waits for me. I needed to cross the street and he does too - the trams were a mess and coming through on both directions non-stop but I walked between the two to find an opening - he followed. I say goodbye and he said he wanted to invite me for an ice... but I have my groceries... I walk in front of the church and he does too - then I stop and ask him if he lives in the area, and he says no, but would I like to have a talk sometime. I told him I thought maybe an introduction would be appropriate - he didn't understand so I initiated it. Then I went home.

"A" for effort, but he was certainly looking down my dress and then followed me off the tram.... giant red flashing neon letters spelling out CREEPER with sirens and a spot light wouldn't be more obvious.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The next nine days of my life

This next week is the week I've been focused on for a year. I have meetings and a review and an evaluation of the program and it's a bit of a big deal. I've not really been looking forward to it, to be quite honest. It will be happening, and I'll do a fine job - can't be any more prepared than I am now - and then it will be over.

The rest of the nine days will be quite busy as well - it'll start with implementing any changes that are necessary after the meetings, trying to immediately resolve any open issues and waiting for the reports and feedback... and then this.

Open it, scroll it, read it closely and salivate.

Next weekend there's a long holiday - that's where I'll be.

Friday, June 25, 2010

United Islands

I love that there is a free 3 day music festival in the city, all over the islands. I'll be going for a walk, stopping at an island for some music, watching some football and then headed back to the islands for some music.

Here's the link to the festival if you're interested :United Islands

Thursday, June 24, 2010

the wide wide world in my living room

Couchsurfing. I do it during the summer. I don't surf, I host. Organized couchsurfing, don't expect me to take in any random stranger on my doorstep, forget it.

Anyway, it's couchsurfing time again. It starts tonight and continues through the weekend. It'll probably resume after next week, but not sure as I may be away for a bit. The biggest benefits of CS are that it helps to keep me busy and social and ensures I have a clean flat. :)

If you happen to be a couchsurfer and are thinking about heading this way it's more than likely that I can't host you, but I can recommend you make it to Czechsurfing 2010. I'm helping with that again this year (in another very limited capacity) but can promise you it'll be awesome!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

pretty blah

Yesterday the Kid flew back to CA. Lucky you.

I saw a pigeon that had been smooshed on the tram tracks on my way to work. Only noteworthy because I was surprised that it was the first time I'd seen a smooshed pigeon on the tram tracks... with the number of pigeons and the number of trams you'd think there'd be a lot more.

I am home from school today with another fever and asthma symptoms, again. It is a bit disheartening, actually. I'm going back to bed now.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

that was scary

it's sunday afternoon... we're packing the Kid up for her trip back to the US. there was a knock on the door. let me interject - i'm still in my pajamas - neither of us have showered, it's a lazy homey day. She offered to answer the door until i looked out and saw it was the police.

there were 3 officers at the door - and none of them spoke english. my first thoughts - she had a visa - it expired while were in london and its questionable as to whether or not she should have stayed out of the country for 90 days rather than be admitted back in immediately - which jumped to my second thought - she isn't registered at this address, so even if she were in violation how would they know she was here? which led to my NEXT thought - I'm not even registered at this address! what the heck? how did they find us and what did we do wrong?!?

nothing, apparently. they were looking for an elderly woman. we established she's not here and she's not across the hall so they continued up the stairs.

have i ever mentioned the police officers wear black paramilitary type jumpsuits? it's rather imposing.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

step one is done

I have successfully led my first full day of Internal Board meetings. Part of me wants to soak in a tub (which I don't actually have) and part of me wants to hide under a rock.

Now to finish up the rest of the reports and other requirements (step two) and finalize preparations for the External Board meetings.

In the midst of all of that I also have to fit in time with the Kid - you lucky CA people will have her to yourselves starting next week.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

for some beautiful images and a story about beer...

Brazilian for an evening :D

I had to work pretty late tonight, and was really bummed as first, I have things to take care of and I treasure my time, and second, I wanted to watch some of the World Cup.

Turns out the city threw a giant screen up in the middle of old town square - close to the clock, where they have all the stands during the holiday markets... my friend, a Brazilian, and his band - all Brazilian - organized a huge, monstrously large gathering - and they played throughout the game. I swear the break was like a taste of Carnival.

And Brazil won, just in case you've been living in football/soccer-free zone... the square was full of people dancing, whistles blowing, drums banging - I managed to get beer both in my shoe and in my eye - not my own beer btw.

It was great - really looking forward to Sunday when Brazil plays again!

this isn't how it's supposed to be!

The day started right - my kid and I continued our Parcheesi tournament (I continued to lose) and I still managed to get to school early.

Then it went wrong. My big meeting that I needed a day to prepare for, all day tomorrow, in fact, got moved up many, many hours. I had to leave to teach rather than stick around and prepare.

Then I found out today is my last day with my student for a few months - she nearly cried when she realized it (she's ten but geez, I sure did feel loved!)Yet after her near tears I had to rush back to school... it's now 8:30 pm (20:30 for you Euro people) and I'm just now getting ready to leave - but I have to be back in about 12 hours.

This is not how it's supposed to be going!!!

Monday, June 14, 2010


Last night the Kid asked me to cut her hair - it was a bit more like a trim, but shorter and choppier than it was originally... this morning she asked me to dye it a bright, bright deep red. Done and done.

Tonight I had dinner with some CS friends while the Kid was at the movies with her friends - she joined me late in the evening. There were a few people there she knew and one or two who were new to me also. Across the table was my friend and this other guy I hadn't met before. We had all been talking, for quite a while, planning the September event, when she showed up. I introduced her to everyone, one by one,

"This is my daughter."

The guy I didn't know, sitting next to my friend, looked at me and said, "Sister."

I smiled, "Daughter."

I think he thought maybe there was a language miscommunication or something, which is kind of funny as I was speaking my native language and he wasn't - but understandable all the same - he looked me in the eyes and said, "Don't you mean sister?"

"No, she's my daughter."

He turned to our mutual friend, "Is she really her daughter?"

Hi laughed and nodded, "Daughter."

And the poor guy looked back and forth like we were all messing with him.

The Kid thought it was pretty funny - I guess he brought it up again when I wasn't paying attention.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup - division in our home

For this match I decided to root for Australia cause they speak English - the Kid is going for Germany cause an Australian peed on her shoes.

This is how I make all my important decisions.

I'm rethinking my decision as I like Germany's uniforms better.

We're watching the broadcast in Czech. It's a good thing we both know soccer/football well.


She has to reconsider as she liked the variety of blue on Australia's uniforms, but, finally, even though she "hates" the sound of German, she's still sitting here rooting for Germany and booing Australia in Czech. My international girl.

forty minutes in

I really wish Germany would play the ball rather than play with the ball! And if the Australian goalie comes out of the goal one more time I will probably have a heart attack. The Kid can attest to the effect it is having upon me.

Friday, June 11, 2010

umm, it's hot here.

Prague - hottest it's been in 97 years

Oh, and don't forget about the humidity!

We went fan shopping last night. Bought one, and yet I think we'll be going fan shopping again, fairly soon.

Big difference between here and California - it doesn't cool down at night. You can't open the windows for a nice cool breeze while you sleep. You get hot stagnant mosquito filled air instead. I'm counting this one as a live and learn experience.

Monday, June 7, 2010

reading around the world.

This past year my monkey has been to 8 countries... I've been to three of them with her - the one we're in right now plus 2 others. In all of those countries I've seen something rather familiar...

in the middle of a labyrinth.

outside an incredible palace in Vienna.

inside the National Portrait Gallery, London.

I don't think I have any of her reading here in Prague, as it's so normal and commonplace to see her hair halo-ing The Name of the Wind rather than her face, it doesn't strike me to take a picture. I know she read everywhere else she's been, but I wasn't there to take a picture - if you have one, send it and I'll throw it up here on the The kid reads around the world page.

----- funny side note - the bag she has in each photo is the same, it's just reversible. that's been her go to bag for a while now, but i think she's found a new one - you may see it soon, she calls it "Mushroom". You will love the mushroom.

Prague Writers' Festival

Last night was the gala opening thing, today the writers start speaking - this will be my second year in attendance, the second time I opted to take a creative writing course that studies the various authors in depth - their history, political activism (when relevant) writing styles and evolution - prior to attending their sessions. Last year was great. I really enjoyed the conversations, learned so much about the amazing people presented and was exposed to so many new writers I really enjoyed.

Hopefully this year will be just as good. Here's the schedule.

I'm most looking forward to Ian Banks - unfortunately I missed the signing yesterday, but it's ok... I"m more interested in his words than in his handwriting.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

the kid's choir

The kid's school has a few dances each year... the cool thing about them is that they're open to all the students, K-12, and the parents - it's great to see so everyone interacting and out their dancing - the families are for the most party close and you'll see any number of Moms and teachers out there shaking it up on the dance floor with their kids and students.

Today was the last dance of the year - a 50s themed sock hop. The really special thing about this was that most of the music, not all but quite a large percentage, was provided by the students - some just groups of students who had practiced and practiced in preparation, others by the choir students who had really worked hard organizing the various parts and harmonies. My kid is a member of her school's choir.

I wish I had a functioning camera so I could have taken photos for you, but she was beautiful! Maybe I'll be able to get a few from someone else that was there - if so I'll make sure to post them here.

These events are also really nice for me to have a chance to meet a few other parents - I'm not involved in the religous aspects of the school so we don't have any of the church or mission stuff to chat about or bond over - and we don't cross paths in an other aspect of life, either... sometimes when prepping for stuff like this I feel like the odd man out - but once I show up I am reminded that while we may differ drastically politically and religiously we're all connected in wanting the best of our kids and in being present and making our best efforts to ensure their happiness. It's nice to see the other adults my monkey interacts with regularly, and witness how much they care for her too. None of you need to worry about her - she is really well loved, the world over.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

things about my fingers - don't make me text

I used to play the piano but I don't anymore. Each hand types at a different speed - I often hit the wrong key, or usually, keys out of order, even though I know how to spell. I capitalize as little as possible - it hurts my little finger which makes my whole hand hurt. I hate texting, or SMSing, whatever you want to call it - trying to manipulate in that little space is like a mini hell. I can't open jars or bottles or grip anything very hard. It's happened, last summer when my kid was gone, that I've had something and couldn't open it, couldn't ever get hold of a neighbor to open it, and then it went bad and then I had to throw it out - that's a feeling of frustration and helplessness. Sometimes they don't like moving at all, sometimes I can't feel them, sometimes it's like pins and needles, amplified by 1,000 and only in very specific spots. Sometimes I find I'm biting my fingertips trying to get at the pain, but not too often, fortunately. I don't write with a pen/pencil very often as they can be hard to control - when I do I prefer a gel pen over anything else. I'm no good with a screwdriver - the motion will have me in tears a few hours later.

On the flip side - I can hold a brush, toothbrush, and hairdryer. I can button and unbutton, tie my shoes and fasten hooks. I can grasp and use my keys. I can pull a zipper open and close. I can type, slowly and patiently. I can use a fork and knive, handle pots and pans, pick up a DVD and carry groceries. I can pick up coins when I count change. There was a point when I couldn't do any of this. All the "I cans" definitely outweight the "I can'ts" even if there are more of the negative than the positive. I CAN isn't a given for me, it's growth, it's a triumph, a genuine personal success - and I can keep growing, triumping and uncovering more personal successes. I can live a life without the overhanging dreariness of "can't" - not to say that can't doesn't have its moments, but it's not the choirmaster for this song.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gatwick - to, there and from - June 2, 2010

We had a 6:30 pm flight out of Gatwick this evening, so we arranged for a 3:15 taxi. We spent a good portion of our morning walking, sightseeing and visiting the National Portrait Gallery with Mom. It was lovely. And yet, as we strolled through one of the parks along the Thames, full of pigeons and workmen in the coveralls and hard hats sitting in the sun eating lunch, I was suddenly and harshly disillusioned. Who in the world says English policemen don't carry guns? Maybe they don't carry handguns, but they sure as heck carry machine guns!!!

Back to the taxi... We were packed ready and departed on time. The Kid and I both fell asleep and when we arrived at Gatwick, after a quoted half hour drive, it was nearly 5:00! We rushed inside, discovered we were in the wrong terminal, caught the bus to the right one and then found ourselves at the end of a tremendously long line. (The bus was stopped en route by a police inspection team on the road - we weren't searched or anything, but the multitude of officers were spread out with cars blocking the street, creating a bit of an obstacle course - and they were each armed with machine guns, too.)

As we made our way round and round the colored tape of the EasyJet queue I spotted a slew of policemen walking backwards through the line. There were maybe 8, maybe more, and they were all carrying machine guns too. All but one - he had the dog's lead. We were all ordered to place our hand-luggage on the ground next to our check-in luggage and step aside to let the drug dog do his job. The Kid was a bit worried that the dog would stop at her bag as she had food inside it - and I tried telling her the dog was highly trained and wouldn't do anything to the food... when the dog showed up he was more interested in the people and playing than the food so she had a bit of a laugh over the "highly trained" drug dog.

Meanwhile - there was an EasyJet rep calling for people on various flights. Right before the drug dog got to us I thought I heard him call for Prague. I was torn as I really wanted to get in to the right line - our departure time and the end of the check-in time were both rapidly approaching, but I didn't want to bolt the line as the drug inspectors approached - thought that would look too suspicious. So, after the doggie went on his way I tracked down the rep, and yes, he moved us to to a shorter, much much shorter line - even in this much shorter line - 4 people in front of us - we only had 8 minutes left when we got to the counter before they closed the check-in period for our flight.

We managed, made it through security, found our gate and got on our plane.

Our rather uneventful flight was quite nice - a bit of turbulence, a disorganized couple who boarded late and then asked everyone to rearrange their seats so they could sit together (EasyJet is like SouthWest - no assigned seating). A decent cheese pizza and lots of hangman. It really wasn't the flight that had been my concern for the day - it was knowing that we were going to have to face immigration.

The Kid's visa expired while we were gone. She is entitled to 90 days in the Schengen Zone - however, someone explained to me rather recently that the laws had changed and it's no longer a matter of passing over to a non-Schengen area, such as England, and then passing back in, that people with visas that expire are required to remain outside of Schengen for 90 days before they can start their 90 days (you are entitled to 90 days out of every 180, 90 in and 90 out.) She has only been out for one full day, this being the second of June and her visa expiring May 31st. I had prepared copies of her visa application, her school documentation, our lease, her tickets back to the US - everything I could think of should there be a problem at immigration... This is what happened:

She said "Dobry vecer." I believe he responded in kind. He scanned her passport, looked at her photo, skipped to an empty spot, stamped it, handed it back and they each said goodbye. Then it was my turn. I hadn't heard any of their conversation, she told me later, and had been so nervous I forgot to greet him - he scanned my passport, looked at my photo, skipped to an empty spot, handed it back and we each said goodbye. (I can say it, but I can't spell goodbye in Czech.)

We then walked down the airport to collect our luggage, then out and through the sliding doors to the street.

No questions, no landing cards, no "what is your purpose?" or "where are you staying?", no chance to declare any goods, no one to ask questions of, no nothing.

And now, at midnight, she is sound asleep in her bed, safely tucked away, back home in her (temporarily) adopted country. And knowing that, I can go to bed, rest and relax. We will still have to satisfy the Czech government all over again in order to get her visa, but we can do that... we've done it before, we can do it again. For now - for the next few weeks, things are as right as they can be. I'm happy, tired, grateful for my Mom, my kid, and the rest of my family, warmed by the London sun (honestly now - of those of you who've been to London, how many can say that???), and actually looking forward to work tomorrow. This week has been so full I can't say it was relaxing like a week on a beach, but the experiences and the company were more than most people can hope for. Rejuvenating would be a good work. Inspiring would be another. Gratitude invoking also works if you're willing to allow me more than just one word. And now - I'm off to sleep.

Peace out.


No wait!!! I forgot about the disorganized couple! We took the bus to Dejvicka to catch the metro home... Our suitcase (she is a champ!) weighed 23 kilos - she insisted on doing it herself. A kind man helped her on the bus and she handled the rest. When we got to Dejvicka, the same couple that had everyone rearrange their seats broke the escalator. It was kinda of funny, and at the same time I was really grateful not to be their travel companions - if this is how the started their vacation off - last ones on the plane, holding up departure, forcing new seats, breaking the escalator - I would like to be a fly on the wall to see how it ends up!

As for us - she carried our huge suitcase up the stairs to our flat (3rd floor European, 4th floor American style... not counting the stairs to get in to the building proper). That girl rocks!