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!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Our last day in London

Today was the final full day of our visit here... tomorrow we catch a flight back to Prague - hopefully she will be allowed to re-enter the country and finish out her school year... Hopefully.

We got in a full day of shopping at Harrod's, followed by a very rainy walk around Leicester Square and back down Charing Cross Road in pursuit of some antiquarian bookdealers. The Kid and I made our way back to Foyles, and on a spur of the moment impulse we caught a showing of The Mousetrap - the longest running play in London - it's been continuous since 1958 or something. I grew up loving Agatha Christie and as a teenager think I read every book she wrote so appreciated the performance quite a bit.

I almost forgot to mention our lunch - a huge affair at the Georgian Restaurant in Harrod's. We had the lunch buffet. It was overwhelming and delicious. It's now 10:30 pm and not a single one of us is hungry yet! After that sumptuous meal I can't imagine anything that could follow it up - think I'll have to wait till breakfast when it's a new day.

Yesterday we had another excellent mean - can't remember if I mentioned it already, so just in case I didn't - if you ever have a chance to try GBK - OMG GO!!! It was the best burger I've ever had. We each ordered something entirely different and we all declared it to be the best burger we've ever had. GBK stands for Gourmet Burger Kitchen, and it truly, truly is.

I'm tired. The beds here are awesome. Even with her kicking me and elbowing me in the head my sleep has been good. I've been waking up tired, but I think it's cause I'm getting a taste of a "good night's sleep" and left wanting more... haven't even started catching up! This just reinforces for me how much I need a good bed - one that has some support to it and isn't just a filler mattress purchased for a short-term rental apartment that the owner never even sits on to check out. This summer, this is one of my objectives. A new bed. I mentioned it to friends about a month ago, as they were headed out the door to Ikea to purchase their own bed and get off the futon they'd been sleeping on... And they got quite a comfortable bed at a fairly reasonable price (reasonable in US terms, not necessarily "reasonable" in Czech, but not bad either) and so I'm looking forward to repeating the experience. Soon I hope.

I started to write this as my FB status, but realized this is probably a more fitting spot, one where you can all read it...

little less then 24 hours left in this city, and then back to Prague. My Mom is awesome, I love her and am so grateful for this trip, the shared experiences and the chance to see her, meet her friends, and witness her beautiful heart.

It's all true. She's wonderful.