Saturday, February 13, 2010

Culture Shock

I was a little emotional over our dishwasher yesterday. At first I was thrilled because our dishwasher was washing mountains of dishes, our washing machine was washing mountains of dirty laundry, and the children were washed. Then I got frustrated because we ran out of hot water before I could take a shower. Again. Every time this happens I think about our small water heater hanging over our toilet in our flat in the Czech Republic. I think about how we had to turn the heating element off during the day so our electric bill wouldn't exceed our rent. I think about how costly our way of life here would be there. Then I think about my definition of costly.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Blog

The blog has been divided & I've decided to leave the travel dialog here, and the family/other personal posts over here. The link is where I'll keep in touch and post about home, children, artwork, and the random things I find blog-worthy on a regular basis. This one will remain reserved for travel dialog.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Please spread the word & sign this free petition. The school that hosted us in the Czech Republic is going to close. Petition

Saturday, March 14, 2009

19 is Not a Typo

Chad is abroad again. He took a class of 19 students to the Czech Republic, back to Kamenicky Senov where Thomas & I built snowmen, visited the fountain, celebrated the witch burning day, back to Novy Bor where we found fresh foods, ate fresh baked treats, visited friends & fountains, and saw St. Mikulas traverse from the church tower to the ground via zip line, back to Ceska Kamenice where we made such good friends, and of course back to Prague where the memories are so intense I can't begin to type all of them out. Nineteen students flew over to take the metro, then a bus,THE BUS, ha Kamenicky Senov, where the men will stay in our old flat, the women in the dormitory, while Chad & the other two professors will stay at a hotel. They are getting a grand glass tour & will make some incredible art. I can't wait to hear about the trip & if you couldn't tell, I'm feeling a little nostalgia. Not saying I want to return at this time of year while people still burn coal or anything, but nostalgia has occurred. I'm rather jealous that I'm not there sharing the excursions, or sharing my intricate knowlege of bus schedules or showing the students how to get the best foods in Ceska Lipa, or Decin, or the places for children to play or potty safely, or well so many things that were such a challenge last year, but alas, only important to other non Czech vegetarian mothers silly enough to move to Bohemia. Thomas misses our life in the Czech Republic, and reminds me of it quite often. Amazing how things turn out.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


One thing I'll always regret is not going out for crepes with my friend Kelly when we were younger, single, and I didn't need a babysitter to take a road-trip. She gave me her extremely comfortable couch once and we were hoping to go out for crepes the next morning to a place she knew of. Unfortunately I slept in, and I say it was unfortunate, because Kelly has excellent taste. Ever since I've had the desire to learn how to make a decent crepe, or at least something that resembles a crepe. I began last summer. Then we moved to the Czech Republic where I learned to cook on the nuclear reactor, and ate Palacinky. Tangent ahead!

The one vegetarian dish I could always order at a restaurant was fried cheese & fried potatoes. Most restaurants offered one or two of the following vegetarian options as well, and these are direct quotes translated from Czech to English by Czech menu writers...Pizza (ketchup with cheese), Mixed Vegetable (fried cauliflower or broccoli), or Omelet or Pancake. It's the translation of Omelet that still has me confused. Okay, so crepe is French, yes? France is in Europe too, just a couple countries away from the Czech Republic. Crepes are very popular in the Czech Republic, available even in fast food stands throughout Prague, they are called Palacinky. So when I ordered Omelet or Pancake in restaurants I was often served crepes. Yey, except when you expect a big fat cheesy scrambled egg & get a thin dry crepe topped with a sprinkle of tasteless cheese and fruit the mouth stops watering, the beer hangover commences. Then when you learn this and order an omelet on purpose to get a crepe the tastebuds go through another shocker to find a fat eggy mass of mushroom, scallion, and cheese coming at them. It was always a crapshoot. I couldn't even go off of the context clues, like fruit in my scrambled egg, no...I won't go into some of the grosser combinations of vegetarian fare I ingested while dining out. It's not a veggie country. Sometimes I got really excellent crepes filled with fruit, cream and chocolate sauce and sometimes I got good ole fashioned greasy spoon eggs and cheese until I learned to ignore the English translated menu & learned to look for palacinky in the Czech one. Even in Prague. I won't admit to the date that I learned this, because it was really way too long after my arrival. So my question is, can't someone in the Czech restaurant biz figure this out? I mean they serve Coke Cola, so I'm sure there's people who know enough to translate one of the countries top foods correctly into the English version, right? They don't even have to use an English word, it's French. Maybe this is my million dollar idea. I know I sound like a spoiled American brat here, but really if you were to offer an English menu, wouldn't you check in with someone who speaks English once in a while or am I off base. Are crepes called omlets and pancakes in Australia and England? I actually preferred translating the Czech menus myself, since there was always much more available that way & I learned more, but the servers HATED it when we did that. Guess we were too slow and wound up buying more beer that way... Don't even get me started on Czech customer service rituals.

So anyway on Sunday I snuck into the kitchen and made some peach/mango filled crepes on an average American stove. Not my best attempt since the nuclear reactor has evidently burnt (sorry) its impression on my cooking hand. Someday I'll be able to pull off a perfect crepe from whatever pan & stove I'm handed & maybe Kelly will be able to join me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I was given a poem about spiders once, rather off-handedly on the back of a piece of scrap paper. Poetry is wonderful, especially the unexpected kind. This particular one made a metaphor of old spiders hatching many babies as stories being spread over time, and in the end thousands of tiny spiders spread their stories through a village. Quite romantic in way, if you aren't totally paralyzed by the mere idea of an 8 legged creature. Don't even mention the time that I slept on and lived with a couch infested with Black Widows, I was born this way. Needless to say I was frustrated with the beauty of the poem, but kept it because I really wanted to overcome my squeamishness and appreciate that beauty more fully. Years went by, I lost the poem, many things changed, and I had a baby. A short time after his birth, I remembered the poem one morning while assessing the new mileage on my body in a mirror. It was a quick assessment, and a quick thought of the poem's take on age and motherhood, and then, of course, spiders. I shuddered, donned my robe, and returned to the wonder and craziness that was our new life with baby. The same night I found 3 baby spiders on my baby. Shudder. I looked in his bed and found more. I looked at the wall. There were more. Somewhere in there my mom entered the room, as she was taking care of us at the time. She found more. I may have screamed a little, but not enough to scare my baby. We looked up. There were hundreds of little spiders crawling on the ceiling over the bed I shared with my precious little baby. My mom was amazing. I remember her moving furniture, standing on the bed with a vacuum cleaner hose, and pulling a silk cloth from the ceiling that could have been filled with more spiders. She was so brave and managed to completely eradicate or scare the 100's of spiders out the window, and thus save my son & I from immanent doom. I don't remember if I slept that night or stared at the ceiling. We never figured out where they came from or where they were going, and it never happened again.

So in my excitement to leave this place, finish this adventure, and embark upon the next I'm attempting to put it all in perspective. It's hard for me to completely recognize the beauty of a place until I've left it, and over the last few moves I've tried to get over this, to be more patient, relish, and observe it's beauties while I'm in it, rather than look back. So while I was feeling particularly down the other day, longing to be home in the states again, I tried to focus on the beauty of this experience and find a metaphor I could use to describe it. The spider poem came to mind. I don't know why, I've read and loved a lot of poetry about location and identity, but no, nothing that appropriate would do for my brain. Spiders came to mind. Then I thought this experience was quite a lot like being paid a million dollars-well make that a billion or some other grand reward-to get into a bathtub full of spiders and out really quickly. That sounds awful, and our experience has been far from awful. It's been a wonderful growing experience, and we've been blessed with many opportunities and will benefit for the rest of our lives in ways I have trouble relating. That is just where the stream of consciousness went.

I guess to me, facing the challenge of a bathtub full of spiders is extremely scary, but leaving that tub would give me an amazing reward I cannot describe.
****Please do not Fed Ex me a bathtub full of spiders****
I imagine looking over the edge of the tub would be frightening, would those spiders bite? Would they crush under my weight? They're most definitely going to crawl...Then I would cringe, close my eyes, and jump in. And OUT. The out part is most important here, because spiders crawl quickly (probably their most scary talent in my opinion) and cling. I would have to shake out my hair, brush myself off, and check my shoulders. Then Joy! It would be over. I did it. I would have a billion dollars or some grand reward. But I would have to keep checking my shoulders to see what remained.

I'm thrilled to be leaving next week, but I'm a little scared. We're leaving with a huge reward, but I'll have to keep checking over my shoulders.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

He's almost 3

Prior to this photo session we had the following exchange when we moved the big chair and found a couple of old toy parts.

"How did my stuff get under here, Mommy?"
"What stuff? Oh those things. I don't know? How did they get under there, Thomas?"
"This is a problem, Mommy. A PROBLEM."

I find this hilarious, for some odd reason. Happy Weekend!