Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fulbright Thanksgiving and Prague Christmas Markets

On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when normally I would be battling the crowds of Black Friday, I was actually on a train to Prague.  Czech Fulbright hosted a Thanksgiving Dinner for the US Fulbrighters in the Czech Republic.  I have to say it was nice to actually sleep in on Black Friday and not have to deal with the claustrophobic day of shoppers.  I met up with Calan and Brock and we set off to explore the city while we were waiting to check into our hotel.  The day was beautiful, with blue skies, and frost on the ground, and the sense of Christmas all around.

All the square were setting up for the Markets on Saturday.   A lot of preparation goes into the Christmas Markets.  The main squares to visit are Old Town Square and Wencelas Square.  We don't have Christmas Markets back home in Lake Stevens, so it was great to get into the Christmas Spirit.

Old Town Square, Prague

Thanksgiving Dinner from Fulbright

After Dinner Drink.  On our walk back to the hotel around 10 pm, it started to snow heavily.  It was amazing to me, that I was in was snowing so beautifully....and I was sharing it with friends.

On Saturday the markets open.  Calan and I decided to stay in Prague for the weekend so it was nice to get up when we woke up and stroll out for some shopping.  We explored the Andel Mall and I always love seeing the Christmas lights and decorations at the mall.  It reminds me of home.

That night at 5 pm they had the Tree Lighting Ceremony.  Apparently I was not to miss out on my Black Friday claustrophobia because I got to experience it on Saturday in Prague.  There were thousands of people crowding the streets of Old Town Square to watch the Christmas lights illuminate the tree. At 5ish, they did a count down and a mini light show that ended with the fully lit Christmas  Tree.  After the ceremony, thousands of people decided to go home at the same time and I ended up losing my friends in the sea of people moving in each direction.  Thank goodness for cell phones, because we were able to text and find a
meeting spot in the markets.
    After re grouping, we browsed the markets, and tasted the local Tredelnik (which is Pillsbury Dough Boy cooked with cin. and sugar on it).  Along with the sweet treat, hot wine was in order and much enjoyed since it was FRRRRREEEEZING outside.  Word for the wise...DON'T wear jeans on a night you are going to be outside in freezing temperature. Apparently, jeans freeze and then the cold sticks to your legs and it makes you EVEN colder.  Learned that lesson for next time.....

The Old Town Square was lit up wonderfully with Christmas lights and Christmas music from Carolers from all over the region.  I loved hearing traditional Czech Christmas music and there was even some English Christmas Carols mixed in too!

Old Town Square

Wencelas Square

Thanksgiving in the Czech Republic

All week I have been teaching my classes and other classes at my school about Thanksgiving.  V2G ( kids about 11/12 years old) surprised me on Thursday with a re enactment of the first Thanksgiving Dinner.  I arrived to their class to see a HUGE table set up for Thanksgiving and students dressed as Pilgrims and Native Americans. It was soooooooo sweet!
    They put on the skit and included a Native American dance and a traditional Pilgrim dance.  Some students actually brought in food and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving lunch.  Because of me, they were learning about the Pilgrims and it was an absolute honor to witness their hard work.  I was touched that they went to all this trouble to learn a little bit about my American traditions.

Honza even made a Pumpkin Pie for the Thanksgiving celebration and I am so glad because it was the only Pumpkin Pie I had this year.  It was really good and he did a fabulous job making the pie.

The students even made toys that the Native Americans used during that time and played a game that the Pilgrims use to play.  I learned a lot from these students about my own culture and I can't wait to show my students back home.

Later that night, Ida (the third from the left) had us girls over to her house for a "real Thanksgiving Dinner."  We arrived at 7pm and everyone brought something to contribute to the dinner.  Ida made Turkey legs and mashed potatoes.  I made an American Apple Pie, Iva made an Apple Dort, and Zuzka made a raspberry pastry.   I taught my friends how to make a Mimosa, which is a traditional drink we have at my mom's on Thanksgiving.
     I was able to Skype with my actual family back home and say hi to relatives that I have not seen for awhile which was very nice.  After skyping, we all sat down for our dinner.  Just like in American, there was a lot of conversation, laughter, and learning about new traditions.  I absolutely love my Czech friends and the effort they went to so that I could still have Thanksgiving, even though I was in the Czech Republic.  Truly you can celebrate Thanksgiving anywhere, as long as you have something to be thankful for and I absolutely do.

My Thanksgiving meal

Thanksgiving dessert

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Czech Cooking Lessons

Saturday November 20,2010
Clear Beef Soup

Potato Dumplings
Golash and Dumplings

Today I had my first Czech cooking lessons.  Romana was gracious enough to have me over to her house so she could teach me how to cook some traditional Czech cuisines.  Let me preface this blog with this.....I don't know HOW to cook.  I am not a good cook and once when I was little I made cookies for my mom and I think they literally bounced when they dropped to the ground.  I will never win any awards for my cooking expertise or be a final contestant on Top Chef but I do want to learn how to cook some of all this wonderful food that I eat on a regular basis here in the Czech Republic.

all the cooking pots
Moon Countryside Cake
My cooking lesson began with learning how to make "Clear Beef Soup."  It is a simple soup and it would be very hard for me to screw it up.  After we got the soup started, we began the Bucek (Pork).  I am a little nervous to make this again on my own, but it still seems simple enough to make.  We also made potato dumplings and "Moon Countryside Cake."  Finally I learned how to make goulash (my favorite) and how to marinate chicken legs.  Maybe I will be a contestant on Top Chef after all...well....let's not get ahead of myself.

Tis the Christmas Season (at the mall)

November 17 is the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic.  It was a non-violent revolution in Czechoslovakia that saw the overthrow of the authoritarian government in 1989.  In 1990 Czechoslovakia elected their first democratic leader.  It marked the collapse of the Soviet Empire and an opening of the Berlin Wall and Czechoslovakian borders.  It is a national holiday and I was able to spend it in a American of me.  

    Romana was helping her daughter move so they offered to take me to Prague and I could spend the day at the mall while they helped Klara move.  I jumped at the chance because it is very hard for me to find any clothes that fit in Tabor (because of my height) and I knew that the malls in Prague would offer much more selection.  On the way to the mall, I was excited to learn about the Velvet Revolution and the history behind it.

    Living in a Capitalistic society (America) this time of year you are over inundated with Christmas decorations and Christmas music at the mall.  I have to admit that I actually look forward it it.  Christmas is my FAVORITE time of the year and the first store I walked into in Prague, I was blessed with Come Ole Ye Faithful in English.  It was music to my ears.

 I spent the first two hours at Chodov Centrum and then took the metro to another stop and spent 5 hours at the mall at Andel Centrum.  I loved seeing the Christmas tree and Christmas lights set up and I walked EVERYWHERE and looked at EVERYTHING.  I was able to find a great ski jacket that was normally 300 dollars on sale for 60 dollars.  Normally I spend the day after Thanksgiving shopping (tradition since I was 4 years old) but this year I will actually be teaching sooooo I just did my browsing earlier this year.  

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I believe that I live in, hands down, the MOST BEAUTIFUL city in the Czech Republic. I went for a walk today just to get outside and marvel in the beautiful architecture and to take an adventure back in time through the windy, cobblestone paths. This blog is just a photo journey through my town, there is no way that my pictures will do it justice but hopefully it will give you a visual taste of what I get to experience everyday and how lucky I am to have this amazing opportunity!

V8G Maturita Ball

Nov. 12, 2010
I went to the
V8G (my students that have been in the program for 8 years) Maturita Ball (aka Prom). I met Zuzka at school and we go to the ball around 8pm dressed in our finest. Just like t
he 4D Ball, everyone was dressed to their best and ready
to cel
ebrate their
many years
of hard work.
I felt like I was my students paparazzi because my camera was always read to capture the moments on film. On student commented to me that they liked that I took pictures of them because teachers usually don't. I can't wait to add all these pictures to my classroom back in the states where I have soo many pictures of my students.
Unlike the last ball, my good friends Zuzka and Petra were there
so I had people to talk to in English besides just my students. The students works hard to prepare the ball. At 8pm they have a parade of the students and they get individually announ
ced to come up on stage and receive a sache and a flower from their class teacher and headmaster of the school. After the announcements they have a short speech and then it is time for the teacher/student dance. I was asked to dance
by my student Ivan and in my 15 years of teaching-this was the first time I have EVER danced with a student. Ivan was a trooper and put up with my lack of dancing skills and awkward movements. After the dance, they opened it up for everyone and the dance floor got packed.

At midnight the class has their "Midnight Surprise" which was a
dancing skit of the tradition Czech music (Polka) versus the Czech Techno group. The "police" broke up the dance off and then everyone again was pulled onto the dance floor. Zuzka and I had so much fun dancing to the "Oldies But Goldies" like Greese Lightning, and Summer Lovin and we lasted until
around 12:30 am. By then many of our students were drunk and smoking and it is uncomfortable to see your underage students that way.

It was a WONDERFUL night and I loved being part of their rite of passage.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Who Would Have Thought

Who would have thought that a year ago, I would be celebrating my 35th birthday in the Czech Republic? I didn't. On my 34th birthday I had applied to the Fulbright program but I hadn't heard anything and at that point, the Czech Republic wasn't even one of my choices of places to go. Now flash forward one year, and I am living in Tabor, Czech Republic and spending time with amazing people that I didn't even know existed a year ago. It is so amazing how things work out in life. I truly believe that things happen for a reason and that you go where you are suppose to go.

I had a wonderful birthday DAY, birthday WEEK, and thanks to my new friends, a wonderful birthday WEEKEND. Calan, Brock, and Matt came from their various cities/towns/whole in the walls (sorry Calan) to come spend the weekend with me to help celebrate my birthday. All arrived Friday night and after a couple trips to the train station (which is only a 15 minute walk from my flat) all arrived safely to Tabor. We started our weekend at the BEST Indian Restaurant and then on to Havana's for great beer and dessert.
Ended up back at my flat talking and catching up til 2am and finally headed to bed. Saturday
we got up and after my attempt at making breakfast (burned the first round) we set off to
explore the town. Brock headed back to Olomouc Saturday afternoon, but not before some child's play at the local park. Apparently I am TOO old now to do a penny drop on the parallel bars but NOT too old to still have fun on a see saw.

Calan, Matt, and I set off to find Harachovka (which is a place along the river) but of course, it wouldn't be fun if it didn't turn out to be the longest walk the wrong way...just wouldn't be an adventure. We came upon the Rock Museum and just had to stop and take pictures...and we couldn't just take regular pictures, we had to see
how many different poses we could make on the rocks. Also, just the humor of setting all three of our cameras on some rock, pressing lapse time, and Calan and I racing to get into position before the 10 second delay was up was priceless as well. Poor Matt....he is such a trooper, he let Calan and I set him up in as many pics as possible.

After lunch we continued our 15 thousand step journey to the restaurant in Harachovka and enjoyed a super meal and then journey back. We ended up meeting my friend Jara at the Tea House in Tabor and again, had the best time. Jara is so fun to hang out with and he speaks
perfect English so we laughed and laughed and it
is just amazing to me, that one year ago, I didn't know any of the people I was sitting with. I don't want people to think that I don't appreciate them at home because I have some amazing family and friends back home, but I just marvel at the thought that I am exploring a new world, exploring a new me, and making wonderful connections that I would have NEVER made if I hadn't done this trip.

I am excited to see what new adventures the world has in store for me in the upcoming year and excited to see where I will be and who I will know at my next birthday.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Random Rock Republic

SO....what do three Americans do in the Czech Republic when they stumble upon the most random, ravishing, rock refuge...we climb, create and collaborate and design daring documentation.

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, in the nature of the Czech Republic....three Americans decided to go for a stroll. Little did they know that the 30 minute walk would turn into a 4 hour adventure. Along
the afternoon stride, the three Americans approached a rock museum. The long haired blonde suggested that they take some pictures. The short haired blonde suggested they strike a pose upon the rocks....the young man just did what the two blondes told him to (clever boy).

One picture turned into a "rockin" photo shoot where the three Americans entertained the Czech audience in their plot to capture brilliance in the rock art industry. If teaching doesn't work out for the three, rock portraiture may be a career path worth exploring.
Then the three continued on their valiant quest to vanquish hunger in the heart of the nature. Keeping straight on the path, the three finally happened upon a clearing where a small food cottage appeared in the distance.
Short haired blonde girl ordered hen with fungi. Long haired blonde girl ordered schnitzel, and young man did what he was told and followed suit (clever boy).
After the three replenished their caloric intake, they set off over the river, and through the woods, back to Emily's house they go. The girls knew the way, and the boy followed they, beneath the afternoon glow.