Friday, February 26, 2010

Starbucks brings a little more Americana than just their coffee

I have been here for going on two years now. I've shopped at upteen different places, stores, cafes.... and today, at Starbucks, a place I wouldn't say I frequent but do stop at from time to time, the barista called out "Grande Chai Latte" and handed it over. I said "Diky" (thanks) and for the first time, anywhere, ever, he said... "Hezky den!" and smiled.

Have a nice day indeed!!!

friendly appreciation

Recently I sent a message to a friend - a classmate I hadn't seen in a few months, who'd been gone for a bit and had recently returned. We, and another classmate or two, used to share our breaks together, grab a lunch, or sit and talk over a beer when our schedules allowed. I missed our semi-regular interaction and wanted to say I was looking forward to renewing it... The message I got back was both touching and a little confusing... bittersweet I guess.

He knew I'd had some changes and an increasingly busy schedule, and hadn't wanted to bother me by making any sort of demand on my time, but was really grateful for my contact and would come by for lunch a day or two later. To some, specifically some American friends, this may sound somewhat sarcastic or facetious or something, but knowing this person it was a genuine reflection of his state of being.

We've since had a great talk and made further plans for another lunch with some more classmates, and I'm happy to have renewed that connection.

Here's the part that was a bit confusing and made me a little sad. This is a person whom I have a rather decent feel for, and for whom I have a lot of affection. He's not a super close friend, but someone with whom it's easy to talk and laugh with, and who genuinely listens... and those are nice to find. I don't know if it's our different social acclimatization or what, but somehow, somewhere along the road, my appreciation for his friendship failed to convey that he was not a bother. I don't know why, and I don't know how, but somehow I need to work on that...


Monday I had a class and was sitting next to a younger student I recognized but don't know. We ended up chatting together while we waited for the tram. Mine got there and I boarded and took one of the numerous available seats. A moment or two later I realized that he had also boarded the same tram but had opted to stand at the back. At the next stop he sat down and a man sat in front of him. The stop after that the man left and I moved over and took his sit - and started talking to him again. I don't know, I was just in a non-stop talking mood and he was my unfortunate victim.

And victim he was. I had already noticed that he was rather shy, so I tried to politely draw him out but willingly carried the conversation (nothing was going to shut me up or slow me down). He talked a little bit, and we got started talking about family and visiting and where we're from. After a few moments, in reference to one of my comments, he asked who I lived with.... I told him, my daughter, and he asked her age... I told him, and then had to repeat it as he thought he hadn't understood. He was a bit surprised and mentioned that he thought I looked like one of the students (which I am, but I knew what he meant... agewise) and I laughed and continued talking... and he immediately relaxed - visually physically relaxed, he opened up, and even laughed a bit and an easy even flow to our conversation began.

It took me only a few moments to realize what had been the hindrance to our conversation - the poor kid had thought that I was really, aggressively coming on to him, when really, I was just making conversation.

Friday, February 19, 2010

sometimes, moms are right :)

Last night, as she was pulling back her blankets, getting ready for bed, my kid stopped what she was doing, and stood still for a moment with a somewhat disgruntled expression and a handful of her comforter, and said, "You know, Mom, as much as I hate to admit it, ever since that foot massage my headaches have been a lot better."

We were not talking about foot massages or headaches at the time. It was a little late night personal reflection moment and the truth came out.

She will be going back, again, soon, to get her feet poked with a stick. This time, she goes knowingly, if a bit begrudgingly, and we'll see if she is able to maintain, or even improve upon the improvement she's had. She doesn't like the shoulder massage at the end, so she can skip it or she can ask that they be a little gentler. Hopefully this time she'll relax a bit, as it won't be all new, and even, maybe enjoy the odd moment or two.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

what are we doing here?!?

The weather is miserable, snow on the ground and in the air. Cigarette smoke thicker than fog. Unapproachable peoples begrudgingly toss your silverware and come just short of throwing your food in your lap - and this is considered service. Connections leave, are made anew and then they leave too. And then this....

The HAPPIEST Cities in the US

Today, everyone from #5 is writing and posting pictures about spring. Apparently spring has sprung. It's warm, flowers are blooming, little green shoots are poking through cracks in the asphalt, people are pulling out their capris and flip-flops and short sleeves are making a necessary appearance.

Last night I changed out of my work clothes and into my sweats, t-shirt, sweatshirt, long wool coat and thick Columbia winter boots to walk around the corner for a massage. I passed on the scar only because I knew I was getting an oil massage and didn't want to risk getting it dirty.

I wouldn't necessarily say I'm homesick, but I'd definitely say I'm sick of this weather and, yes, a little jealous. And, it may sound odd as up to this point I've talked only about the weather, but it makes me miss the people I'd be spending pleasant weather with... BBQs and farmers markets, driving cross town with the windows down, the beach, just sitting on the back porch at Em's (who's moved since I was there last and now, I hope, has a new back porch) with some food and drink and excellent company. Walking down 4th Street - which has lost some iconic shops in the past year... I miss the people the most.

For so, oh so many reasons, I hope to make it back there pretty soon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

don't poke her foot with a stick

We're still waiting for a new doctor to see Coral, and her head isn't getting any better. I've been trying to think of alternative ways to help reduce her headaches and thought I came up with one - till I remembered that Coral has it in her head that she hates massages. Then I remembered the Thai massage place around the corner does a foot massage targeted at the points connected to your head and the rest of your body.

Today Coral and I were both feeling pretty lousy. I decided, spur of the moment, to get us both massages. Coral was less than thrilled. I got an oil massage (quite different than any other oil massage I've ever received) and she got the foot massage.

They poke your foot with a stick to stimulate the points - I know this cause I've done it and it's crazy cool. Coral knew this cause I told her. She didn't like it. I asked why and she said it was too hard... yet we shared a room and not once did she mention to the lady that it was too hard. Coral disliked it so much she's now considering my first proposal, acupuncture. She really dislikes needles but apparently she really, really dislikes having her foot poked with a stick. I happen to think it hurt because it was stimulating the areas that need some attention, and helping her headaches... and yes, a little bit cause it's a freakin stick they're poking you with... that will rarely, ever, be comfortable.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fencing... and maturing

Coral and I found the fencing school today... we sat in and watched a lesson to get a feel for it. At first it was rather daunting, lots of people running around in an obvious order but completely undecipherable to our English-only minds, but then the mass broke down in to groups based on skill and things started to look manageable. It reminded me of beginning the violin - not a lot going on but learning the perfect form which requires physical correction and lots and lots of repetition.

The teachers don't speak English, but one of the adult students did and came and gave us a brief overview shortly after we arrived. Midway through the group practices she came back and let us know a young boy was a native English speaker who also doesn't speak Czech... as he was doing pretty well it was nice to know. After the group practice it was interesting to see the one on one workouts... from absolute beginners in t-shirts and leggings and without a foil, to the more advanced students in the full body suits, masks, and electronic training set up - they were sparring for points on the far side of the gym.

About three quarters of the way through I asked Coral what she thought of it. Her response? "I don't think I'm going to like it all the time, but, I think it will be good for me." She goes back on Wednesday.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

delivery options

It just kills me that you can order vodka and cigarettes along with your pizza. Actually, far more than just vodka, depending where you're ordering from, you can have a wide selection of alcohol to choose from to accompany your dinner. And this is just from the restaurants. There are alcohol delivery stores that offer even more.

Oh yes, last night I finally found the restaurant with the taps in the the table. Good food too. And yes, everyone gets a mug and there are four taps in the middle of the table. You pay only for what you pour.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

who doesn't have an accent, raise your hand!

Today I saw a listing for an English teacher... they wanted some one from England or Ireland or somewhere over on those islands... the add clearly stated - NO ACCENT.

whuh type a whuh?

It's not often I call an American call center, but every now and then I have to...

I usually have important mail stuff sent to my state-side address and then it can be dealt with immediately if need be... scanned, sent on, whatever, but eyes get to it in a timely fashion.

Today I had to take the plunge. For a shocking start to the call, instead of being rerouted to India I was greeted with a southern accent... some real whitebread charm. All I wanted was to change my address, and before starting the process, I stated, "What you have is my US mailing address, but I want to know if you can send it to me overseas... I'm not in the US." The response, "Not a problem."

So I proceed to give him my address, spelling it out, street name first, then the house number, city, country, zip... and when I ask to confirm it, he says, "Huh??? Whuh type a address is this?!?" And I said, "It's in the Czech Republic... in Europe... I'm not in the US." There was a pause.

"Ah don think Ah kin dooo this." I can't capture the tone here, but it was one that, in person, would have start off with 'Ma'am' and an arched eyebrow, if he hadn't already been completely kerflummoxed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

pause and reflect

In a recent statement, Minister Kocáb called for tolerance and sympathy toward the squatters’ cause. “Criminalising the lifestyle of alternative communities shows a failure to think about the meaning of those other cultures. A mature society requires that kind of self-reflection,” Kocáb said, warning that dismissal and distrust of unconventional lifestyles is part of the slippery slope leading to bigotry. “And that’s something we should be watching out for,” he said


I've recognized rather recently how much I appreciate walking. It's more than just a utilitarian movement, it's a life affirming activity. Seriously.

I find myself feeling my body as I move - not really my whole body but rather specific points, really focused on the hips down. The weather isn't really conducive to this walking awareness right now, but I'll try to explain anyway...

When your leg swings free it's freeing... you know your foot will connect, heel first, then roll and your momentum carries forward and you repeat, right leg, left leg, right leg, left. You don't need to think, you don't need to focus, you're just free to be... You can feel the movement deep in you hip and buttocks, and then in your thighs, the back of your thighs, feel the sensation in your knees as they bend and straighten, but then you may skip to the impact of your heel and the gentle flow as your foot rolls along the ground, pressing on your toes as your rise up. You breathe in and out, your arms swing freely and you move across the earth, a part of it for a moment. You can be fully in your body, experiencing the movement in the muscles across your shoulders, down your back, straightening your spine, aligning your body and being inside of it, feeling it function in that moment in time.

A few years ago, on a few different levels, this wasn't really possible for me... maybe that's why right now I am so appreciative of the sensation of walking - walking with an inner awareness. It's not something I can do all the time, or even at will, it's just sometimes that happens. I'll be outside, walking somewhere, and then realize... I'm walking and it feels good and I feel good - and even if I don't feel good - I can feel that I don't feel good, which means that I'm feeling, and that I'm aware of my feelings and my body - and that is good.

the kid and the foil

The kid may need a foil fairly soon... she's decided to start fencing. We found a club here and will check it out next week.

unclear on your concept

The kid was relaying some thoughts/feeling/etc about her health class... she's discouraged that the teacher is focused on calorie counting, fat intake, and stuff like that, as she feels it's to a degree beyond what teen girls need reinforced... that there is value in nutritional awareness but that it's too much of a focal point... that and the teacher mispronounces words and noone understands what she's talking about... however, NOT the point here!

The topic was eating disorders and the girls were talking about who and how to talk about eating disorders... it was suggested by one teacher and reinforced by another that they not talk to boys about any eating disorder concerns as it's too emotionally intimate.

I can think of plenty of reasons for girls not to talk about boys about deeply personal mental/emotional/eating disorders - most based around the fact that high school boys just don't know how to deal with problems they can't fix combined with the fact that they don't really know how to talk to girls - but if there were a boy and a girl who were such close friends that the girl wanted his advice or input surround her concerns regarding her friend or her own potential eating disorder, well, I for one wouldn't discourage her from turning to someone she felt close with and whom she believed would be willing and able to be present, listen, and appropriately respond.

I'm not sure why the label "too emotionally intimate" is applied to this topic, but I feel it's a disservice - girls are constantly having reinforced unrealistic body-images and ideals and if they are struggling I just don't see the sense in discouraging them from confiding or reaching out to friends. I don't think, if the concern is that this emotional intimacy would lead to sexual intimacy that a 16 year old guy is going to hear "I stick my finger down my throat every day after lunch cause I hate myself" and be turned on. Especially not with these kids.

I really hope this type of guidance is given a bit more consideration before the next group of kids comes through.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

sick and nostalgic and college options

I am still sick - and due to my unhappy lungs I'm not really spending much time out of the house... therefore there is very little to report here. It's kind of bites being, or at least, feeling, cooped up - and for some reason it's made me a bit... let's say nostalgic. Not homesick, not sad, but more like missing moments and not just moments and people but potential for moments... being here means that I'm not developing relationships back there with people who matter to me. I'm not growing myself in my home environment - and the longer I'm here I find the more often I refer to California as "home" but the less it feels like home to me.

But it's about more than me - and this has been bugging me a bit more, lately. I'm a Mom (if you didn't already know that then you should probably reconsider why you're still reading my personal disclosures). My kid is nearing the end of secondary school and giving considerable thought as to her college options. Our home base right now is here, in Europe, but this is not our home. It may seem rather obvious to you, but I've only recently realized that by taking her over here I've deprived her of the hometown high school experience. Sure, she's gaining a lot more by virtue of being here, but she will not have the same connection to our hometown as her peers - she won't have those high school friends to hang out with during her college breaks. She won't have that same appeal to move back to our old area and be close to family. I don't know where I'll be just then, but I'm slowly realizing that by moving here I've broken the cohesion. I don't know if her our extended family and her father's family will be enough for our old community to still feel like home to her - I do know that she prefers the city structure to our town, and for that I don't blame her.

At this point, we're talking about viewing some colleges she's interested over the summer. She's interested in the UC system and we should check out some state schools too. I'm hoping to find a fit in the North Bay so that she can continue to develop a dynamic that will further cement her affiliation with our hometown - not so that she's rooted there, but so she's able to explore her home-base again and reconnect with friends and family.