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.