Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Highlights of Vienna & Masters of Public Transport

"Thomas, what would you like to eat for dinner tonight? We can have anything you want since you've been such a good boy on our trip. We will go to a restaurant!"

"A big mountain."

"Um, okay...a big mountain of what?"

"A big mountain of rice. With salt."

"Okay, you can have some rice, anything else?"

"A big mountain of rice and salt with a little bit of treat(chocolate) on top."

We found this hilarious. Maybe we were just tired. Our trip to Vienna was productive and we were well taken care of by a wonderful friend who put us up in the Pension Schweizer near Vienna's center. We travelled by train and saw some lovely parts of the Czech Republic, and were showed around Vienna by our friend. He is a historian, and so once again fortune came our way, since he really brought the city's history alive for us.

We are back in Senov to do laundry and pack for the next trip, the mid-year Fulbright meeting in Brno. We are not sure how we will travel. I am inclined to take the trains, as they are much easier on my equilibrium, comfortable, and fun for Thomas. Chad would like to take a bus from Prague with the rest of the group (living in Prague). We have a day to decide. The buses are reasonably priced, fairly accessible, and only a little slower than driving a car. The trains, on average seem to take one hour longer, but only cost between 50-100Kc/3-6$ more per journey. We usually buy the tickets at the station right before we travel, since the windows are open from 5am to 10pm. We think that we've discovered a strange phenomenon. Euro rail passes do not work in the Czech Republic on the local trains or the trains between Prague & Vienna (Praha & Wein), but many of the Czech ticket sights sell Eurorail passes. We had looked into this online, but were too confused, lazy, & cheap to pursue any even though we plan to use the trains fairly regularly. Lucky we procrastinated on this since we overheard a heated discussion between a train conductor & Euro rail pass holder, who had to buy her ticket from the conductor en-route because he said the passes are not valid in the CZ. Many of the online sights offering ticket reservation assistance overcharge, as well. It takes a little time, but the sight provides all the information & links one needs to travel Czech railways (and buses) or (, if you can read/translate Czech). We usually transfer through Praha, hl nadrazi (main train station), but all of the stations we've been to in Prague & Vienna have been connected either through Metro or 5 minute train transfers.

"Thomas, you are the a train traveling master, you've behaved so nicely on this trip!"

"Tommy is train master conductor!"

Friday, January 25, 2008


The ears seem to be healing, and Thomas is back to himself. We call the mean look, baby pterodactyl. Can you guess the sound that inspired that name? Lastly, I saw this piece of handiwork in the kitchen last night. No idea when he decided to fix our heater or how he figured out the application for this tool, and I'm afraid to ask. He completely refuses to use this tool to help stabilize the toy wooden bolts on his tool-bench. So why am I afraid to ask him why he prefers to use his tools on our appliances, how he learned to do it, or when on earth did he turn our refrigerator up to freeze our tomatoes solid this week? He will tell me. In great detail.

To Decin with friends

This is Thomas's friend Madelaine. They play at the baby center together. She speaks the toddler version of English, Czech, and French. Thomas speaks the toddler version of English, Spanish, and Czech. They communicate very well. She pokes him with sticks, shares her treats, and he gives her kisses and hugs that knock her down. Her mother speaks English, French, Czech, and Zen. She is keeping me sane, or at least keeping my grammar from deteriorating as I bumble through the days in broken (very broken) Czech & toddler.

A Sunny Day

Sunday, January 20, 2008


I fell asleep before sip two of the beer(s) mentioned below, and awoke to a bright and smiling Thomas and Chad bearing a filled prescription.  Thomas was in a great mood after the specialist we saw in Prague performed a Myringotomy in both of his ears. I've spoken with several Czech people about this procedure, and it seems the preferred way to handle ear infections.  Unfortunately they do smaller procedures to children without anesthetic.  There are issues regarding anesthetic, but holding a screaming child down while a doctor performs a painful procedure is horrid.  I have faith in the extent of Czech medical research & practice-especially since they are quicker to prescribe a natural remedy to attack the root of a problem, rather than medicate a symptom as they do in the states-but I don't like the way they've handled my son at every visit so far.  We endured a 3rd myringotomy in Novy Bor at our follow up visit in the same style.  The doctor asked us to return the next day, and I did not.  I had no idea what they were going to do and no way of communicating clearly.  I think two holes in the ear drum are enough for it to drain, and do not want to return to a situation where I must physically restrain Thomas while a doctor hurts him.  I think this practice needs to change.  It shows no respect to children and no respect for their developmental stages.  Maybe I'm wrong, maybe they've figured out the best way to avoid medications, complications, etc.  It just doesn't feel right.  I believe that the least invasive methods are the best, especially for ears.   So anyway, we've been trying to keep him stress free, dairy free, and happy, putting antibiotic drops in his ears, feeding him antibiotic in his soy "desserts,"  dusting like maniacs, humidifying the air, and pumping him full of echinacia vitamin C gummy bears.  I've looked for calendula oil, and wonder if anyone knows a reliable brand I can order online?  I assume calendula oil would be the best type to drop in his ears, as there is broken skin in there right now.   I would really appreciate advice about any of this.  

Monday, January 14, 2008

MONDAY's still happen

Well, a 4:50am cab ride, 3 hour train ride to Prague, a walk to the embassy, then ministry, mini grocer (all located up an icy cobblestone hill, like a mile long, done with overnight baggage) translator, mall-what trip is complete without a trip to the mall?-for more passport size photos and espresso, search for accommodation-we tried to hostel it, but it cost $20 less than our hotel choice, and the hostel had no private toilet or breakfast and smelled of sweaty teenagers-nap-time, grocery store-then surprise-wild search for an English speaking urgent care for Thomas's emerging ear infections, several attempts at the public transport, a doctor visit, another wild attempt at public transport, a visit to an ear nose and throat specialist (is this still the same sentence?), diagnosis of a middle ear infection in both ears, prescriptions, a successful public transport ride to a closed lekarna (pharmacy), another trip to the grocery store for a fruit popsicle for the little trouper, a visit for Afghan take-away dinner way past bedtime, a bath, stories, and now several beers.  Na zdravi!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Homesickness remedy

Thank you for the care-packages over Christmas.  As you can see from the photo's, it was a rather quiet weekend.  Actually, we were crazy busy keeping a mysteriously feverish/flu-like Thomas happy, and researching and preparing our documents for our Visa applications.  I won't bore you with the details, hey what could be more exciting than pictures of boxed mac'n cheese from a family lucky enough to live in Europe for a good stint?  Really the details of our situation are tedious, not so dire, just a huge time drain, and leave me thanking the Schengen agreement in my most sarcastic tone.


Given Chad's complete and utter distaste for ketchup and my feelings about natural food, we said that we would NEVER use ketchup to attract Thomas to his food.  You can read between the lines.  I am consoling myself with the fact that at least this variety is made of tomatoes and vinegar (check your Heinz bottle, I dare you) and Thomas still likes tofu, Indian fare, broccoli, cauliflower, and anything wrapped in a burrito.   

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Once in a Lifetime

I mentioned my parent's visit, and must elaborate just a little since it really was such a lovely visit. It was wonderful to have their company and feel so special in their presence over the Christmas holiday. I just don't have enough words to relate how much we really appreciated them, the memories we created, & our time together so I'll focus on the humorous parts. We bumbled around Prague together freezing our noses, fingers, and toes trying to generously appeal to everyone's desires and needs while not missing any sights one just "HAS TO SEE" while in the jewel of Europe. We survived the metro (thank you Mom, it is an acrophobic's nightmare), the 2 1/2 hour bus to Senov, our flat in Senov, and the motion sickness express bus (no express about it) back to Prague. Through it all my folks kept Chad and I from killing anyone, including each other, or beating our child in the process. Just kidding there, Thomas was extremely patient, quite a little man. I didn't realize just how much of one until the moment when Chad & I were about to succeed in bludgeoning each other over the decision about which direction to take our folks though the old square. With perfect timing and inflection Thomas yelled "Jesus Christ!"

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ceska Kamenice

We walk through the church grounds to reach the baby center play-group. Yes, Thomas is eating in yet another photo.   Got to hand it to him, if he's not eating while tied up, well you see this picture taken in Prague next to a Nativity Scene.  Just try to keep him still...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

From Point A to Point B

I'm really sorry about the lack of blog updates, I miss everyone so much and feel so bad about the fact that it took so long to get internet service installed in our flat, but we tried everything we could to get it sooner. Unfortunately we couldn't even throw money at the problem, and believe me, we tried. According to one resident of Kamenicky Senov, this isn't a town people do business with. It's just too insignificant. I don't really understand though, because after traveling up, down, over, and across this country, I've not seen many towns as quaint and lovely as ours. Yes, our town is rural, everything closes for a 3 hour lunch (and there's not much to close), there aren't many foreigners here, we're an oddity, this was part of the Sudentenland, the majority of people here were once employed by glass factories now defunct, and the art and culture community once so vibrant has sought more capitalistic centers since the early nineties. But, people are investing. Homes are being restored, public lands are being renovated, and artists are hard at work everywhere I look. Unfortunately, there is a gray cloud over this place and many of its residents. People refer to it as a sort of ghetto, but that's just not accurate. The weather is foggy, cold, and miserable most of the time up here, but there's something else social or psychological I don't understand that weighs on everyone's shoulders. I don't know if this is common for other rural areas in this country, and maybe it's a result the oppressive political history people have lived through. It's a mystery that will require fluent Czech, and thus many more years of study on my part.
I am sorry there aren't more grantees studying the countryside right now, as I'm really curious about this. Quite a few are living in Prague and the other major cities. Like any other city, there is a huge difference between Prague, CZ and the rest of the country, and due to the generosity of our friends we were able to enjoy Prague for the holidays. Quite a treat, topped with a wonderful visit from my parents. They were real troopers, through the jet lag, winter flu, and their first European trip. I will have to post pictures when the connection is faster, argh. We were in the heart of downtown, right near Narodni Trida, able to walk the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, several cathedrals, see the astronomical clock, Frantiskanska Zahrada, the Christmas markets, Wenceslas Square, bumble around the Jewish Quarter, eat at a vegetarian restaurant, and so much more. It was overwhelming, and a memory I will always cherish. Homecoming was welcome if bittersweet.

What have we been up to in our little town and what did we return to? I was just discussing this with the other family here through Fulbright, with children, living outside of Prague. It is nice to know there is another family muddling through the language, politics, and customs we are unfamiliar with in the states. They are living in an economically depressed area that sounds a bit more accessible than ours, but they have two daughters. I can't imagine the cabin fever they experience. We are rely on public transport to keep us from re-enacting "The Shining", and will not purchase a car, it's just too expensive to drive. Luckily, the buses run everywhere regularly through rain, snow, hail, falling frogs... BUT we've done a bit of work to figure out the system, and I'm quite proud of us. When we moved here we were given a bus schedule and told which stop on the schedule was closest to us. I hate to admit this, but bus schedules scared the crap out of me in the states. If the SAT's had a bus schedule portion, I totally would have gone to college to study art, oh yeah. Anyway, the schedules here list the bus stop names, route #'s, and the times. Well it just so happens that the bus stops aren't named for streets, intersections, or addresses, and when you arrive at them, they aren't labeled with their names, and the buses don't pick up at the same places they drop off. Sometimes the stops are directly across from one another, sometimes they are around the corner, and sometimes they just don't stop there going in one direction or the other. We figured that if we got on a bus and travelled to a stop we could return to that stop and eventually get picked up. HA! Joke was on us that day. I've since learned that the stops are usually named for landmarks and use common descriptors like namesti (town center), nadrazi (station), the edge of town, or major factories that may or may not still exist. What fun, you say if you've managed to read this far. No really, it's not so bad, actually it's really cool to explore new places, just a bit intimidating when trying to keep Thomas warm and happy while doing so.

Keeping Thomas happy now includes weekly trips to Ceska Kamenice, we finally figured out that bus route which led us to another family with a 2 year old who speak English (yippee!). The Mother introduced me to a children's center (playgroup for 2-3 year olds) open 3 days per week. Thomas loves it, although he's much more interested in the array of toys than the other children or the organized activities, which I'm fine with. He's social when he feels like it, and I'm blown away with his understanding of the language, since he not only repeats words in Czech, but has been associating the English translation since October. Chad does pretty well with the language, since he communicates with people at school. I deal with nouns and verbs, limited numbers, and days of the week, and a couple of niceties. Don't ask me about conjugation. The nouns and verbs can change with prefixes, suffixes, and floating consonants that denote prepositions. I try, but sometimes it comes down to pointing, miming, and grunting.

The vegetarian food situation has improved greatly. Thank you to the awesome care-packages from loved ones, and the Christmas booty from my folks. I've found several sources for tofu, vegetables, spices, and some natural foods, but stores are not always stocked well. I grocery shop in different towns almost every day to keep us stocked with fresh milk, eggs, cheese, fruit, and vegetables. We’re healthy enough, as revealed in the picture I've posted of Thomas with a mouth full of green marzipan frog, because you just have to have a mouth full of neon green marzipan once in your life. If you missed out on this so far, go ahead and live vicariously through him. He loves to share.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Snih is Snow

Thomas loves snow.