Thursday, August 18, 2011

Final Days in the Czech Republic

July 31, 2011

I have been anxiously awaiting Katerina/family's arrival these last couple weeks.  I have been packed and living out of suitcases and cleaning and re cleaning their flat.  I want everything to be perfect for their arrival.  Finally Sunday arrived, the day of their arrival.  I got up early and cleaned once more and then Hilary picked me up and we set off for our 1.5 hour drive to the airport.
Me, Katerina, and Johanka
   Katerina's flight was on time and we eagerly awaited their faces through the airport doors.  It was very similar to a baggage claim experience.  As you see the luggage arrive, you anxiously await for your bag.  As you are waiting, everyone picks up their bag before you and you wonder if your bag got lost en route.
    There were so many people exiting and finding their waiting party but no Katerina and family.    Finally their exhausted wonderful faces appeared and they hugging commenced..  It was sooooo great seeing them.  Flashes of seeing them in D.C. for the first time went through my mind but this time instead of meeting them for the first time, I was meeting my family.
    When we got back home to Tabor, we were greeted by Michal's parents who had food prepared for us and let me tell you...NOTHING beats Czech home made food.  After settling in, Katerina and I caught up with how each other's year went and had a wonderful time actually being in each others company.  We had a wonderful couple days visiting and hanging out.

August 3-10, 2011

   Mom and Lloyd arrived on Wednesday August 3rd.  It was great to actually see each other in person and not via skype.  Katerina had a wonderful agenda for the week we had all together and we hit the road running.  Mom started the year by coming with me to the Czech Republic.  She had spent the first 10 days with me and it has come full circle to have mom back to spend my last week there.  Lloyd has never been here so it was a new experience for him.
     Wed:  we were able to unwind and relax and later that evening we had a wonderful dinner at a local pub with most of the important people  of my life there:  Hilary, Chris, Romana, Zdenek, Katerina, and Michal
Hilary, Romana, and Zdenek
Borotin Castle
     Thurs:  Mom, Katerina and I got up early because Mom was getting a tattoo by the same tattoo artist that did mine, Katerina's, and Michal's tattoo.  She was getting a fire dancer tattoo on her back neck and she was a real trooper through the process.  Katerina and I had fun playing paparazzi while she was getting it done.  Later that day we drove to a small village, Veletin, and met Katerina's father and wife at a put called "Hospudka Za Peci"  .  It has an old oven in the pub that you can sit on during the winter to stay warm.
Michal has a Czech Beer (foam) and Mom has American
Style (no foam)
Oven where you can sit on during the winter
Johanka and me
Pepa (Katerina's dad) and Michal
Katerina's dad's family and Michal's mom
    Fri:  We took a tour of the Nuclear Plant in South Bohemia and then headed to Becheyne to walk around the spa town.

St. Barbara's Church in Kutna Hora
     Sat:  Early in the morning we set off for our over night journey.  We met Eva and Lubos at Kutna Hora and explored the Bone Church and St. Barbara's.  After that we continued travelling north until we got to Zelezny Brod.  We tried to see a glass factory there but unfortunately because of the economy, many of the factories have been closed down.  We continued on to Liberec which is very close to the northern border.  We checked into our hostel and then set off for the Aquapark called:  Babylon.  Because of mom's tattoo she wasn't able to get in the water but the rest of us swam and swam and went down water slides.  It felt great acting like a kid again.  After an hour, I got out so I could keep mom company and I am glad I did because she was having some language issues with the waiter at the Mexican restaurant.  Apparently she wanted nachos and got a plate of chips.  Then she tried to ask for salsa and got some green substance.  Eventually she ordered a beer and was super excited to see me so I could help translate.
     Sun:  We drove back down south to the Jablonec nad Nisou area and found a working glass factory that you can take a tour off.  You get to see an actual working glass factory.  They work in teams and they produce about 500 pieces of glass a day.  They work for 4 days on and then 4 days off and only make about 5.00 an hour.  After the factory we drove to the Czech Paradise region and drove up to Jested.  It is a hotel on  top of a mountain.  Unfortunately the weather was HORRIBLE and we really couldn't see anything beyond the fog.  We had a cup of coffee and good conversation which is the most important thing anyway.

Lloyd, Michal, Mom, Lubos, Eva, Johana, Katerina
Glass Factor

Dinner at Chris and Hilary's
       Mon:  Monday was our final day in Tabor.  We started by having a WONDERFUL BBQ at Chris and Hilary's.  Chris BBQ'd a lamb for us and we had some great amazing home made Chris food.  For dessert he made home made Brownies (which are not a norm in the Czech Republic) and home made ice cream....I think I gained AT LEAST 5 pounds at the BBQ.  After the BBQ we met up with everyone at a local pub in the main square called MP7.  Teachers/colleagues/friends/former students came to say hello to Katerina and good-bye to me.  It was very bitter sweet.  Katerina, Hilary, Stacey, and I put on a lip syncing performance for the audience.  We were Guns and Roses. I was Axel, Kat was Slash and Hilary and Stacey were back up band members.  We sang Knocking on Heaven's Door and as nervous as I was, we did an amazing job.
Home made ice cream and brownies
Katerina "Slash"
Me "Axel"
Me and Lenka (student)
Iva and Jana:  Good Friends of  mine
Mirek and Martin:  Good Friends of Mine
Sabina, Ida, and Katka:  Colleagues and Friends
Katerina and 4D Students
         Tues:  Katerina, Lloyd, and I headed to Prague.  We spent the day exploring Prague and eventually said our sad "see you laters" to Katerina.  The time just flew by too fast and the only saving grace I have is that I know that I will be back to Tabor soon enough to see all my friends again. I also know that Katerina and I have created such an amazing bond and I am so excited to collaborate with her and do some international teaching which is what the Fulbright Program was designed for in the first place.  I am soooo excited to see what new adventures that she and I get into and all the amazing things that are yet to come for us.

         Wed:  Lloyd, Mom, and I left Prague at 7am for our 14+ hours of travelling.  After a long flight, we made it back to Seattle at around 12pm and THANKFULLY ALL my luggage arrived as well.
Kevin and Carla decorated my house to welcome me home
I am still processing all the things that I have accomplished and done this last year.  There is no way to summarize my year in one yet alone a paragraph.  All I can say at this point, is that this has been the best year of my life and a life changing opportunity.  I am the biggest advocate of the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program and I just feel sooo blessed for all the experiences that I had, the amazing new people that I have met, and the new life long friendships that I have made!!!

Some final reflection thoughts:

What I am looking forward to in the USA:
      my dogs, hands free shower, oreo cookies, English language, Mexican food, dryer (washer and dryer), watching TV on a television and not via computer, and free water and free beverage refills.

What I will miss from the Czech Republic:
     cafe's, Czech language, my friends, grading essays at the cafe's, dumplings, Czech food, walking everywhere

What I am NOT looking forward to in the USA:
     drama, bar fights, busy life styles, being exhausted after work, and my neighbor's yippee dogs

What I will NOT miss about the Czech Republic:
    not understanding the language, hanging my clothes to dry, having to go to the grocery store multiple times a week, and paying for water

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