Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Family in Praha

Sunday, last Sunday mind you, not two days ago, was spent just wandering around the city. My family and I walked around Praha, relaxed, drank some coffee and just enjoyed being outside on the streets. Anna had been trying to find a shirt for her boyfriend, which never happened, but the rest of the family was very relaxed. They were grand visitors; since they have lived here before, I didn’t really need to give them a grand tour of Praha, and instead brought them to some of my more favorite destinations. (Well, in hindsight, we didn’t make many of the places I wanted to bring them, but I hope it was a very relaxing week). Anna was looking for some boots as well, but it turned out I was the lucky one and my mom bought me a new pair of shoes. It is nice to have parents.
Monday I had class in the morning, and after some Czech, I met Anna and mom outside of the Rudolfinum (the grand concert hall that houses the Czech Philharmonic) for lunch, but Anna was feeling sick, so they had to head to the doctors. She had this disgusting mono like buildup in her throat, and looked pretty awful. In my culture course, we headed to an ‘alternative’ art gallery, and met some very interesting Czechs doing some very interesting art. One artist focused on gender role reversal, she had painted a Pieta replacing Jesus with a female figure, while another artist had done a lot of work on how different kinds of light affect various visuals: very interesting. I had to skip out early to meet my mom and siter, and when they came back from the doctor they tried to convince me that Anna was getting deported back to the United States because of it, but they are pretty poor liars. Afterward we headed to a bar and all got some coffee, but we realized how silly we must have looked. It was a very Czech restaurant, and we were the only foreigners, and Czechs wouldn’t drink a coffee during a short break. We should have been drinking beer with the rest of the crowd, but either way, it was a good chance to see some authentic Czech culture (rare in the center). Afterward, I brought them to the new Palladium mall, but Anna was feeling really sick. Instead of dragging her around the place, mom and I went off by herself, and she bought me a new must-needed jacket for Christmas. It is getting cold here, and I have been buying some new winter clothes... Afterward, we met Milena and John to go out for dinner at a restaurant much loved by the Czechs. The food was delicious, and it was great to be eating with my family again (which always brings the pleasure of sharing every dish with one another... even if Anna was dying of mono). Little sister decided to sleep over, mainly so she could call her boyfriend, and after she met some of my comrades at the kolej we went to bed.
Tuesday morning is Jan’s class, and my parents decided to sit in. I was a little bored, Jan tends to repeat himself A LOT, but my mom and step-dad enjoyed the lecture. He is probably the coolest part of the program, and I am learning a lot in his class, I just wish he had a better memory so I wouldn’t have to hear the Faustian story every lesson...
After class I brought Anna and mom to Little Hanoi to find some souvenirs for the people back home. We ate at a little Italian restaurant, and enjoyed looking at everything that was offered. It is so strange how they will approach you and will barter with you until you feel so guilty that you have to buy it. I sometimes wonder how cheap the items cost for them, because the deals can be really good. Mom bought something like 3 scarves, she is crazy, while Anna settled for just one and a bag, and I got five pairs of socks. Fun time. Afterward, we headed to the bus station to buy tickets for a day-trip to Dresden. Unfortunately, it didn’t look feasible, so instead we decided to go to Karlovy Vary for a day, and I had to run to get to my political science class. On my way I picked up Timothy Ash’s “The Magic Lantern” and if you want an interesting read about the democratic revolutions in 1989, I highly recommend it. But don’t buy it in Prague; it was 20 bucks here, and I assume only about 10 in the states. Clothes, books and cars seem to be the only items that break the rule that life is cheaper in Prague. Life is great!
After political science, the four of us headed to the Palladium to go out for dinner. On the fourth floor of this gigantic, new mall there is a high-class food court. Anna had been looking for an Indian restaurant, and we all agreed to it. The meal was fantastic, and it was great to have Indian food again. I hadn’t found a good place until now, so maybe I’ll visit it again...
Wednesday we woke up rather early, after struggling to wake up Anna, and headed to Karlovy Vary. This small town in Northwestern Bohemia is known for its spas, but we had no idea it would be so visually appealing. Mom said it looked like Disneyland, and it was, but much brighter. There were a lot of Russians and Germans in this city as well, and people travel from all around the world to help cure their terminal illnesses. We drank the water from the wells, which was a little disgusting, but supposedly helped the body, and went searching for a massage. We found a place, but only I ended up getting a massage because Anna didn’t want to go to a male masseuse and we didn’t find a female in time. The city was just fantastic to walk around in, and I am glad I fit it in before returning to the states. I also had an interesting interaction with a worker at McDonalds when I asked for mlĂ©ko, or milk. While it is normally pronounced with a long “a” like in bay, she didn’t understand me until a coworker pronounced with an “e” like in bleak. I asked my profesorka the next day about it, and she said there are such dialectical differences throughout the Czech Republic. It is crazy that such a small country can have such differences, past the point of comprehension, while I think most English-speaking people understand every English dialect (except maybe the Scots).
Thursday I had Czech class, and then met my Anna and mom at Bohemian Bagel. We had this huge plan that we would go to the Kafka Museum, build marionettes, and then go to Prague Castle. However, we only managed to get to the Kafka Museum. Sometimes it can be so tiring to fit in too much, so it was fine either way. Plus, Anna was able to fit in all of her homework, and we were able to enjoy our walk up through Prague castle. We headed to Maly Buddha for the second time, one of my favorite restaurants here, and I think my fam liked it as well, and then parted ways. I had to rest and then pick up my friends flying in from Paris at the airport, while they went out to dinner with a friend. At the airport, I think I found one of the happiest places in the world. Standing outside the gate, waiting for my friends, I watched as other people met up with their family, and the great amount of love that filled the airport. I feel that if I was ever depressed, I could sit at the airport and just watch everyone reunite with the ones they love. Of course, I made my own scene with the arrival of my great friend from Boston College Kathleen, and was extremely excited to see my friends here in Prague. I brought them to my place (they are grunging it up a little this weekend) and was so delighted to see them, that we got lost en route. The airport is kind of a ridiculous distance from the city, and only accessible by bus, so we were a little tired, and after a rest decided to go out to the Chateau so they could see the town at night. It was a blast, but after a long night, we went to bed.
No sooner did I close my eyes before I had to wake up again Friday morning, as I had promised to meet my mom at 11 in Old Town Square. I breakfasted alone, and finally woke up Kathleen, Ellen, and their friend, and my new friend, Petra. We headed down to OTS and waited at the Astronomical Clock for my mom and sister as well as a group of girls from Belgium. One of my great friends, Lauren, has a cousin who is studying in Brussels, and we had become friends in Minnesota. It was great to see Allison, and I told her I would be glad to give her a tour of the town. I brought everyone around from OTS, to the Municipal House, around to Wenceslas Square, to the upside-down horse in Lucerna, quick stop at Paneria, around to the National Theater, where they bought ballet tickets, across Charles Bridge, and then up to Prague Castle. At this point, Allison and her friends headed off, but I bumped into an old friend from freshmen year near the castle: Martha Pitt. She is studying in Rome, and just happened to be in Prague at the exact same spot as me this weekend. Crazy how life works...
We didn’t tour the castle, but instead decided to go out for dinner. I told them of a nice place that I wanted to try, but it was a lot further than I had thought, so they ended up complaining about the walk, and when we finally arrived, they refused us (they needed reservations). Luckily there was a Italian restaurant next door, and we all gorged on cheese and bread and yummyness. Afterward, the group split up as the girls went to take a nap, while my sister, my mom, and I headed to the Rudolfinum for a concert. We arrived before John, for once, and got in at the last moment. The concert was Dvorak’s Cello Concerto and a tone-poem by Richard Strauss. Even though I was physically completely beat, the music was fantastic, and I doubt I will forget this concert anytime soon. Afterward, the girls from Paris and I headed out to see the town, and our night was probably one of the most laughable and happy nights of Prague. Hopefully, we can have such nights in Paris!
The next morning I woke up and met my sister and my mom to tour Prague Castle (FINALLY!). It was a lot of fun, but they really should have more stuff up in English. We couldn’t find where to buy the audio guides, but we had a great time wondering around anyways, and looking at the beautiful St. Vittus Cathedral. This was my first time visiting the Castle complex, and I enjoyed it greatly. Afterward, we headed back to my room. I was getting a little sick of eating out, so I offered to cook while my sister and my mom rested. After our quick bite to eat, the ladies went off to explore, while I headed off to a movie with my friends John and Dan. The movie was disappointing, but afterward I headed to Martin’s, one of John’s old PhD students, to meet with the family and have some dinner. This was the last night of my family’s visit, and I was glad it was very low key and casual. They looked a little sad when I left, but I will see them in a little more than a month, so there is nothing too sad about the occasion...
The girls and I met all of my dorm friends at Cross Club and danced the night away.

It was a great blast, but really ruined the girls idea of getting up early to see some more of Prague before their flight home. After bidding the girls farewell, I went back to bed and slept until 4 pm: bliss. I had been so sleep-deprived, and it is nice to be back on schedule. The rest of Sunday was about studying for my mid-term on Monday, homework, and visiting my friend Jiri for our Czech-English tandem after another poor film. (If you have any good film recommendations, let me know!) It had been a while, and I think my Czech had suffered, but it was good to refresh what I have learned in my language classes.
Monday morning and I was back to being in Prague, without external influences, and it was grand. Language class was refreshing, the mid-term wasn’t too difficult in my culture class, and we watched a very interesting movie on the punk movement in the United States and Great Britain. Afterward, I went out to buy some more clothes for the winter (it is getting colder everyday) and headed back to the room to get started on “Darkness at Noon”, a novel we are reading for history class. So far, the book is fantastic, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about the Stalinist regime from a literary perspective.
Last night, my friends Dan, Matt and John came over and we watched a fantastic movie about an Israeli and a Palestinian who fall in love, despite the obvious societal pressures. It was called Bubble, and I have been recommending it to everyone I have seen since last night. Early this morning I woke up to start laundry, and am still working on it. That is right, it takes about 8 hours for laundry. My goodness, I guess we are caught up to the present, and I can go check on that horrible dryer and see if my clothes are ready.

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