Thursday, September 30, 2010

Third country resident

So, going to the foreign police to register (what is supposed to be the "easy" part of this whole process) is entertaining, frustrating, and enlightening with a dollop of frustration! So, we first tried to go on Monday, which was unsuccessful because the laws changed. Therefore, I had to go to the foreign police in the area where I live rather than any foreign police in Prague. So, we went to the office in my area Monday afternoon. After waiting in a non-moving line for an hour, we left because the office was about to close. The plan was to return today and get it done before my 12:30 class.

So, we arrived at the office at 8:15 am to a line out the door for the area for all "Third Country Nationals" (non-EU residents) to register. We snuck in to see what was going on and the line went the entire length of the building (about 150 feet) and out the front door. So, we stood in line. After two hours, we had made it in the building but still had about 100 feet to go to be seen. By the way, this line was to talk to the information person (there is only one) to determine which number you'd be given to talk to an actual staff member about registering. That's right. This line was to get a number to wait in another line!

So, it became evident that I wasn't going to make my class, so I called the office and we were able to arrange a cover teacher for the afternoon. My fabulous guide, Jana, left to go help that teacher find the school. Thankfully, at the same time, we got to the part where there were seats, so I was able to sit in line for much of the time. I was grateful for my ipod and internet on my phone to keep me entertained (of course I forgot a book) as well as the sandwiches and water I packed. Good thing I actually thought ahead that getting food might be tough today!

Observing the people in the room was amazing. There must have been 150-200 people in the room with about 150 of us in this massive line. The rest had already been in line and were waiting to for their number to be called to go register. When those people got called, it was kind of like that "golden ticket" moment in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as they got up and walked into the secure room all proud and giddy. The rest of us were happy for this person, but as the day wore on, each time the number board beeped a new number, you could almost hear a unanimous groan in the epic line I was standing in.

I observed several verbal arguements. I'm not really sure what they were about as I couldn't hear the details nor generally understand what people were saying (there were many languages being spoken), but I assume it had something to do with someone edging in on someone elses space or not giving them the right space back when they came back from the vending machine or the bathroom. What started out as an easy going day got more and more tense as the day wore on.

Let me not forget to mention that the room got warmer and warmer as the day went out. Interestingly, as the day progressed, the front of the line got more and more smushed together. So, once you finally hit the mecca of the final bit of the line (right in front of the bathroom and vending machines), you were literally on top of other people smooshed into this tiny area just constantly shifting and angling for the best spot. Up until this point, people were generally friendly and would hold your space if you left to get a drink, etc. But once you hit this sweet spot, all bets were off and each person was in it for themselves! It was absolutely amazing and intriguing to watch!

So, now I finally hit this sweet spot at about 1:30 pm (aka: I've been standing in line for 5 hours). It was getting warm and people were pushing and talking loudly and it really got to be frustrating. I started to feel lightheaded but I had to hold on. I was so close! There were probably 30 people in front of me and I could finally see the end of the road! This is where time started to stand still and every second ticked away at a painstakingly slow pace. It was starting to be clear to me that this queue was never-ending. At 3:00 pm sharp (they close early on Thursday, because they are not open Friday) they slammed the sliding glass door shut and walked away. That's it.

As the day went on, I overheard conversations. The people a few people in front of me got there at 6:30 am (the office opens at 7:30) and they didn't get in. One guy had been there three days in a row and still hadn't gotten in. What a mess! I honestly had moments where I felt like a third-rate citizen. It was absolutely amazing to me that in this day and age and this world we live in, business is still conducted in this way. However, it is what it is. There are just too many people who need to register and not enough staff. Or at least, this is what I'm telling myself. You have to laugh, or else you'll cry! Especially on a day like today! I found a little irony in the English translation of the office we were visiting: "Alien registration for third country nationals." I have never felt more alien or third-rate than this day. I stood and sat for 7 hours in a line only to get nowhere. I didn't even get a guaranteed spot at the beginning of the line on Monday. I just have to come back and try again.

In the grand scheme of things, it really isn't that bad. But I'll be honest, it wasn't a great day. I even had moments of wondering if this was all really worth it. But then I made it home and the sun came out and I decided to go for a walk. I saw the amazing river and Prague Castle and somehow things got better. I'm still not looking forward to returning on Monday very early in the morning. but once its done, it will truly be worth it. And afterall, it makes a good story so that helps.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The elephant in the room...

So, yesterday was St. Wenceslas day and commemorates St. Wenceslas who died in 935 AD and is the Patron Saint of the Czech Republic. Yes, he is also the guy from the song "Good King Wenceslas." So, because of this holiday, everyone had the day off - yay! :) So, I decided to go to the National Museum. Now, the collections at the museum aren't overly amazing, but the architecture was amazing! Well worth the few hours I spent there for sure! There is a beautiful grand entrance/stairway with a pantheon area with beautiful paintings. I'll post pictures soon.

So, I decided to get the audio guide which I never do, but I decided to do so because there is no information in the museum. It was a great way to learn about the architecture of the building. I also wandered through the collections which included many rocks and gems, artifacts from ancient civilizations, and many stuffed animals. It was odd, but interesting. In one room, there were many artifacts around the room and a huge stuffed wooly mammoth in the middle of the room. So, I listened to the audio guide to hear more about this beast. The guide went on and on about all the artifacts and NEVER talked about the mammoth. It brought true meaning to the phrase "there's an elephant in the room no one's talking about."

After the museum, I wandered around town for a few hours. Wandering has to be one of my favorite activities here! I got some hot mulled wine and just enjoyed!

Later that evening, my friend Gillian and I went to see Swan Lake at the National Theater. It was an incredible, beautiful, and inspiring experience! We were WAY up at the top, but still had a great view and it was a true treat to even be in the building. I'm excited to go to more events there and the other amazing venues around the city. It is mind boggling to me that on a Tuesday night, I can go to an amazing performance. And even better, it's incredible affordable! Tickets for the ballet were just $5! Unbelievable!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Green card

Well another week has's crazy how time flies! First things first, I was able to go pick up my green card on Thursday. The card is neither green nor a card, but a sticker in my passport. Anyways, I had to take a bus to Jablonec, Czech Republic (basically 100 km north of Prague). A woman named Veronika picked me up and took me to the foreign police for my 9:30 appointment. The meeting actually was very simple and I got my green card and was on my way back to Prague. I spent only an hour in Jablonec! My last task is to go to the foreign police here to prove my residency here in Prague. The reason I had to go to Jablonec was that my company is based in Liberec (near Jablonec) and so you have to report to the foreign police there. Anyway, its almost done. :) And the best news is that its good for 3 years, so if I stay another year, I'll only have to go check in with the foreign police here each year to verify I have a residence.

The bus trip was nice. Here the buses have wifi and even serve a drink (drink box actually), so it wasn't all bad. The countryside was pretty. Rolling hills and fields. I look forward to going back to that area again for more than 30 minutes!

Teaching continued to go well through the week. We are still figuring out which courses will actually be taught, so we shall see how it all works out. For the most part, I teach four classes at a day usually at two to three schools in a day. The public transportation here is amazing, so it's pretty easy to get around. I am seeing much more of Prague than I imagined.

It's especially interesting to see the outer areas of Prague and the remnants of the former communist rule. The stark architecture is a drastic contrast to the beautiful center area. It is fascinating to think about this country's history, which I am exploring and learning more about each day. Just 20 years ago, communism ruled here and the physical evidence is everywhere. It is challenging and interesting to see as a new resident of Prague. I cannot even imagine what it is like for those who lived through that time. I'm sure my time here will bring more thoughts and observations about this.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I didn't mean to make you cry...

Well, two days down of teaching and so far so good! Monday morning started early - 6:45 am on my way to the metro. Those of you who know me well know that this is NOT an hour of the day that I like. But, I was up and energetic and ready to meet my new kiddos! After about a 45 minute commute (metro and bus), we arrived at the kindergarten. This week have a wonderful Czech college student, Jana, taking me around and helping me navigate Prague. She helps translate at the schools which is a true blessing when you have to get kids out of certain classes. Anyway, Monday started with three back-to-back kindergarten classes each 25 minutes long.

One of the philosophy's of WattsEnglish (my company) is to keep the kids engaged in the lesson through play, so we do a LOT of entertaining along the way. In a typical kindergarten lesson, we try to balance being active and passive. We also have to teach them basic things to keep the class in order. Things like stand up and sit down and come here and stop. It's interesting, but also really fun to mime those phrases with the kids. My first class was all boys - I think there were 5 of them, but it felt like 25! One boy was pretty wild and I struggled to keep him engaged in the class. I need to think of some ways to help keep him in line. Any teachers out there - please pass on your suggestions! He basically doesn't want to participate in anything and is rowdy (loud, talking in Czech while I'm talking, not paying attention).

After that, things got easy! My second class was great! While learning some animals, we were miming animals and got to the word spider. All of a sudden this little boy started crying and i figured out he was afraid of spiders. We weren't acting scary, but still he was scared. After a little hug and a few minutes, he was fine and playing with us all again. The third class of the day was also great - no drama to report! Also, my afternoon class was great - four sweet girls in 3rd and 4th grades. All in all, I taught about 2 hours and spent about 2 hours on the metro/tram/bus to get all these places! It's crazy, but I am getting to see much more than the center of Prague!

Today was another adventure as my guide overslept, so I made my way to the school on my own and got there minutes before she did. I had a lovely 3rd grade class which was very well behaved. Then I went to a kindergarten. My guide thought she knew where we were going, but we got lost and ended up hiking up a hill (no, I'm not exaggerating for once) for about 20 minutes only to get to the school and then find out there was a bus that would have dropped us off a block from the school! That was a 50-minute kindergarten which is rare, but we made our way through with the lesson and songs. Tomorrow, I'm back there again for another round...this time without the hike!

The afternoon was also an adventure as no students showed up to class. We did hold one class, but there were only 2 students, so we'll likely cancel that class in the future. This is an interesting week of teaching our standard demo lessons to all students (one for kindergarten and early primary school and one lesson for older primary). So, I'm getting a lot of demo practice! It's a good way to get the year started. :)

Last night I celebrated the survival of our first day of school at a beer garden and of course, we had to go have Svíčková. I'm obsessed...what can I say! ;)

I have been loving wandering around the city and exploring through the trips to all the different schools. I visit 7 schools in the week and will probably teach 3-5 levels of English. I'm also kind of enjoying getting my exercise each day simply from walking to and from schools and the physical nature of my work! I do miss running however, and I hope to be over my cold that I've had since I got here soon, so I can get back out there.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Svíčková = heaven

Wow, it feels like ages since I've written and it's only been a few days! Training went well throughout the week. We had a gathering on Tuesday night where we got to meet some of the directors and some other teachers who live and work around the Czech Republic. It was fun to meet a lot of great people!

Wednesday and Thursday turned into fun nights as well with random hang out time with my co-workers. We tested out one of the local beer gardens (just 10 minutes from my house) and met a bunch of other expat teachers as well. It's amazing to me how fairly easy it is to meet people here. I'm grateful for my fun co-workers and friends for the many fun adventures we have had and will continue to have. There's still so much to do! But, it's been a pleasure meeting new people and finding new places (and re-visiting some old places too) together.

This weekend I went to the Prague Wine Festival on one of the islands in the river. It's a beautiful park and my friends Gillian, Bryan, and I spent a few hours there wandering, tasting wonderful wine and enjoying the amazing views. At least once a day I have to pinch myself to remind myself that this is really happening! I can't believe I live here! After an afternoon of wine, we went to get our favorite Czech meal: Svíčková (prounounced: sveechkova). It is marinated beef with some kind of heavenly sauce. The beef is topped with a slice of lemon, cranberries and whipped cream. It is a bit of heaven! It is served with Czech dumplings which are made from bread. It is amazing and is one of those meals that just tastes better with a pivo (beer). It has already become my comfort food, and I've not decided yet if the fact that my favorite Svíčková (thus far) is at a great Czech restaurant just 2 blocks from my house. ;) It's a great place that is not touristy in anyway and actual Czech people eat there. I've already been there twice this week!

Today I spent the afternoon wandering around Prague and found another great beer garden in a park north of the river with an amazing view of the city. It's already getting chilly here, so beer garden time is limited! I'm glad to have found two fun places already this week!

I also spent a good part of the day preparing for the week. My schedule is pretty cool. I'll be teaching 6 different (maybe more) courses and levels of students. I have three kindergarten classes which are mostly the same. Then I teach students grades 1-5. I may have a 6th grade class, but currently there is no one signed up. I have multiple first, second, and third grade classes. So, it will be an interesting schedule. Tomorrow, I three twenty-five minute classes with kindergarten students from 8:00 -9:25 am and then a 3rd grade class at 1:30 (45 minutes). I may have two other courses after that one, but I don't know yet. For our first lesson, we have two demo lessons (depending on age) we teach so I will basically teach those two lessons several times this week. I'm sure it'll be interesting!

Monday, September 13, 2010

My first Burčák

First things first, pictures of my new apartment and neighborhood are up:

Well the move went well! I happened to move on the warmest day Prague has seen in months - it was only 72! LOL. It was fairly easy to move - only took 4 tram trips. Too bad I had to go uphill to the tram station with my full suitcases. Oh well, it was a good workout! I got settled in on Saturday and even made a trip to IKEA to get bedding and pillows. What a relief to finally feel settled in my new home! I just need something to hang on the walls, and I'll feel a bit more at home. I need to print out some pictures to hang up. :) But I have to figure out how and where to do that first! One thing I'm learning is that everything takes what feels like 10 times longer to do anything here! I'm sure that'll get easier once I know the city and the stores a bit better. For now, there's not much one can do!

I spent the rest of the weekend sleeping, unpacking and exploring my new neighborhood. Pictures of my apartment and neighborhood are on Picasa (link above). It's generally easier to post pictures there than on the blog. The one thing I don't seem to have patience for these days is technology, so I'll have to figure out how to make that easier one of these days.

Today was the first day of training. We met out front of a church to do teambuilding, and I had extreme RA training flashbacks! Although, this time instead of being the one leading the activities, I was doing them. It was especially interesting to have a group of Czech homeless people sitting near us heckling us. After just a few activities and none too embarrassing, we went to lunch at 11 am. None of us were hungry, but the schedule said we'd eat, so we did. :) After a traditional Czech lunch of soup, chicken, and czech dumplings (kind of like steamed bread - not amazing in my opinion). The rest of the food was great!

Then we went to a cafe for our training. We did more games that we can use in our classrooms and then started to talk about teaching, but we ran out of time so we'll talk more tomorrow. I still don't have many details about what I'm going to be doing, but it'll be ok.

My co-workers are pretty cool. Most of us will be teaching in Prague, but about 5 of the 13 teachers will be in other areas of CR. It's nice to make friends in those areas with free places to stay! Many of us enjoy similar things in terms of outdoor activities, so I can see some hiking adventures coming up. Most of the group are younger than me, but there are a couple of us "old folks" in our early 30s. The younger crowd is cool too, and we all went out for a drink after training to get to know each other more. It really was a fun day and a fun group!

The two teachers who are returning to Prague, told us that we had to go have some Burčák. It's a young wine that is only available for a certain time and is alleged to have health benefits. I found this article on the website (one of the expat sites in prague) with more info below. It was quite good! Pretty sweet...very drinkable!

Beware of the Burčák
By Sam Beckwith

Burčák looks and tastes a little like orange juice but trying to drink burčák as if it were a soft drink is probably ill-advised.

Burčák is partially fermented young wine, which hits the wine bars of Prague in August, slightly ahead of vinobraní, the traditional festival celebrating the new wine harvest.

The opaque, yellowy-orange liquid is surprisingly drinkable, leading the unsuspecting drinker into a false sense of security.

Because burčák is so sweet, it doesn’t really taste like an alcoholic beverage, even though the alcohol content is between 5% and 8%.

Some even claim that because it’s only partially fermented, it’s possible for burčák to carry on fermenting in the blood stream, though this is, in fact, scientifically impossible.

Either way, it can provide a little more merriness than you’ve bargained for.

Burčák production is shrouded in mystery, with each winemaker closely guarding the secrets of their own particular technique, but the basics remain the same across the country.

Burčák is derived from fermenting grape juice, known as must, shortly after the grapes have been crushed. At a point determined by the winegrower, the must is deemed worthy of consumption and a part of it is sold as burčák. The rest is allowed to mature into adult wine.

In common with most other alcoholic drinks produced in the Czech Republic, burčák is supposed to offer great health benefits. In this case, however, the drink’s proponents might actually have a point: Burčák is rich in vitamins, particularly Vitamin B, and certain essential minerals.

You’ll have to move fast to reap those benefits, however: Because of its short shelf-life, burčák can only legally be sold between the 1st August and 30th November.

While the country’s best burčák – and, indeed, the best Czech wine – is found in Moravia (the eastern half of the Czech Republic), Prague gets its share of the golden liquid.

The city’s fancier wine bars are all likely to offer burčák, but for an authentically Czech experience, we’d recommend the cavernous halls of Vinárna U Sudu.

If nothing else, U Sudu will challenge any preconceptions you have about wine being the sole domain of the sophisticate, housing seven subterranean rooms stuffed with increasingly rowdy (and suspiciously young-looking) burčák quaffers.

Na zdraví!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Where there's sun, there's rain

As I was leaving the visit to my new apartment (yes, you got it - I have a new home!), it was raining steadily while the sun was shining - gorgeous!

So, I visited three apartments today. They all had their pluses and minuses, and after much debate and consultation - thanks Susan and mom - I went with a nice apartment in Praha 2. This is the area just south of where I am currently. It is in a cute neighborhood with many little markets (can't wait to go to the butcher, fruit store, and bread shop), coffee shops and restaurants. I'll get more pictures of the apartment and a final address soon. I am signing my lease in the morning, and not to worry, this time I can stay and get the appropriate paperwork for my visa - yay!

I'm going to have four roommates. Three are guys and one is a woman (sorry, that was obvious). Anyway, they are all professionals in Prague including another English teacher, but she's moving out at the end of the month. There are two bathrooms with showers and laundry as well as a huge living room, which is very rare here. The room itself is much bigger and nicer and even a bit less expensive, so this is turning out to be for the best. In addition, the roommates seem really cool and like we could hang out for sure but that we'd also respect each other's privacy.

To show the apartment, John, the owner came and the flatmates were there and there were four of us there to view the flat. We all stood around and chatted for about 45 minutes, which I thought was really cool. I kinda felt like I was on the Prague version of Real World, because it totally felt like that first moment where everyone arrives and is getting to know each other. Here's hoping the drama level is much lower than the Real World!

After getting another offer on a different flat, I finally connected with John to secure the room. We'll meet to sign the lease and pay for the room in the morning. Moving shouldn't be too tough. There is a tram that will get me from this apartment to the new one with just a 3 block walk on either side. I should be done on Saturday. :) I was grateful to have good options on this round of house hunting, but I feel really good about this place! And ironically enough, my training on Monday starts at a church just 3 blocks from the new place - must be fate!

I have decided that going apartment hunting is a grand way to see a city! I have seen a ton these last few days! It's been a cool way to get to know the city and the surroundings. I also opened a bank account, which was surprisingly easy. There is an expat center at one of the leading banks here, and they cater to expats (duh again - sorry, i'm tired) so I was helped by a great employee Olga, and all is set for that. Another thing off the list. Now, all I have to do is move and get settled and start work. :)

At the end of my day, I wandered down to the river to look at the Prague Castle. Gorgeous!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Here are pictures from my wanderings this week. I didn't get to finish the captioning - but wanted to get them up at least. ;) I didn't go into anything, so I can basically guarantee I'll be back to all these places - and more pictures to come! :)

Time to move...already!

Well, I found out I have to move. I'm pretty bummed, because I really like this area! I'm hopeful I can find something else great in this area soon! Why am I moving so quickly, you might ask? Well, part of the registration process once you have a visa (Got approved Tuesday - yay!), is to verify your residence. This is done by having your landlord sign a form and the owner of the building stamp it. Well, here's the problem. Olga (who rented the room to me) is the leasee of the apartment. She cannot have the owner sign the paper, as it will raise her rent, and thus raise the rent for all of us. She cannot do this and said several times, she will not do it even for her boyfriend (who also lives here). So, I must move to a place that can verify my residency. I have a little time (a week) to look, and I can stay here for a month if needed. I do want to get this done as soon as I can, so I can get settled before training begins on Monday. School starts the following week, so it's going to be really busy, really quickly! I have a few good leads, so we'll see how it goes.

In addition to the fun of moving story - here are a few other random moments of the week that have made me chuckle...

Well, a few funny stories have come to mind, so I thought I'd share them. First of all, I never mentioned the trip from the airport to the hostel. So, I arrived on Sunday with a large suitcase (weighing just under 70 pounds), a large duffel bag weighing in at 50, a backpack, and a small rolly-suitcase. I was met by a great student named Tereza who said, "whoa, you have a lot of stuff!" In perfect English of course. ;) I said, well yes, I'm moving here for a year! She said, "Well, we're taking public transport, so let's go." We went out and waited for the bus and then lugged all the gear up the three steps on the bus. She then taught me how to validate my ticket for myself as well as my baggage. I like that the bags need a ticket too. About 10 minutes later, we get to the metro station. So, we lug the stuff down the bus stairs and then down about 2 flights of stairs into the station. Then, we get on the longest escalator I have seen. Seriously, it had to be three flights long! As I get on with the duffel bag on top of the large suitcase, I almost fall down the stairs because of all the weight. Thankfully Tereza was there to catch me! Then we hop on the metro and cruise to the next stop. Back up crazy long escalator and then up some stairs. At this point, I say maybe we should get a taxi? She said we were almost there, so not to worry. "We can do this," she says. I think - of course "we" can...I'm carrying all the heavy stuff! Some nice stranger helped me up the stairs and then we hopped on yet another bus and about 5 minutes later we arrived at the hostel...phew!

Grocery shopping is more like a scavenger hunt it seems. I have gone a couple of times now - its so convenient, and basically what people do here, so I mind as well get in the habit. :) Today I bought something that looked like ham - not sure if it is. I guess I'll find out when I try to eat it. I need to get more bread first, because mine spoiled. Not used to fresh bread I guess. I just bought this half-loaf on Tuesday and it started molding today (Thursday). I'll have to buy less bread more often! I also bought whole wheat pasta and sauce the other day. Well, I found the pasta one day and the sauce the next. The sauce had cut up carrots and other veggies I'm not used to in marinara, but it was good - a little sweet too. It was nice with a little cheese and pasta. Never a dull moment here!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The journey is the destination...

So, I've been in Prague for about 57 hours now (but who's counting)...and I can hardly believe it! I almost feel like I've been here for a week already! I've gotten more courageous in attempting to speak Czech. I'm still not good, but you gotta try to get there. I found that I'm remember a lot of German along the way. Some things are posted in Czech and German and in that case, I can at least recognize what I'm buying. Last night I went to the grocery store and had to make some good educated guesses as to what I was buying. Thankfully the salami and cheese turned out to be very tasty and made a good sandwich. I know, not too crazy exciting, but it was about all I was up for yesterday.

My schedule is very off, given the time change. And I've also found that I have very little appetite, which I don't seem to recall from previous overseas journeys. I have been a little bit nervous, so perhaps that's what it is. Anyways, I have been eating and even ate out today. I had a spicy goulash with pork and beef and bread. It was very tasty! I of course had to have a Czech beer - Pilsner Urquell to wash it down. Yum!

After sleeping way too late, I finally got up and got out the door around 1 pm. I showered first - not overly exciting, but I had to share the unique experience of watching the water heater burner burn while taking a shower. I have a direct line of site into the heater and can see the flames while in the tub. Kinda creepy and kinda cool.

Anyway, I explored the park near my house Karlovo namesti - St. Charles Square and then went to one of the metro stops in an effort to acquire my monthly transport pass. When I went to my company's office on Monday, one lady gave me directions to do this along with a note written in Czech to help acquire this pass. She said the workers there are really rude and refuse to speak English, but to try and get it. The other lady in the office said I should wait and go with a university student worker to help translate. The first lady quickly replied, " She is tough, she can try." So, I did! This lady also said she'd help me get the pass tomorrow if I couldn't do it, though she seemed less than thrilled with that plan. So, I was determined to get this done.

First step, get pictures taken. Sounds easy enough. I did this yesterday actually, and as is true with my new Iowa Driver's License, I look like a convict. Not good. I guess it was ok, considering there were only instructions in czech and a green oval came up on the screen. I assumed I had to get the middle of my face in the oval...but not really sure. They turned out fine and the lady accepted it today. I have three more lovely photos, two of which I need for more paperwork tomorrow with my office.

Anyway, so I stand in line for a while and as time passes, I'm getting more and more nervouse. Then I figure, what's the worst that will happen? She might yell at me in Czech, but I won't know what she is saying nor will I know anyone here, so who cares? Finally, I reach the front of the line and hand the nice lady my note and say hi in czech: Ahoj. She shows the paper to the other lady working and kinda chuckles and says something to the other woman. She asked for my passport and within about 5 minutes, I had my laminated id card and pass for this month. Can't wait to go again and get next month's version. I wonder if I'll need a note for that?

After that major accomplishment, I wandered. And I didn't get lost! Ok, so kinda cheesy reference to my blog name, but it was true. I had my trusty map and thankfully a good sense of direction and I just went. I could see a church down the way from the metro so I went there. I don't remember the name, but it was gorgeous! Then I walked down to the museum and opera house. There were signs advertising an opera and an upcoming concert. I cannot wait to go! Perhaps this weekend! Then I walked through Wenceslas Square (Very touristy area). I remembered the advice of our waitress at Little Prague in Davis, CA to be mindful of my bag. Apparently, this is an infamous area for pickpocketers.

Wenceslas Square is named for Saint Wenceslas the patron saint of Bohemia. This area is well known for political demonstrations and celebrations. I really just breezed through this area (and had lunch). I re-learned that food in the touristy areas is way expensive! But, I felt it was a treat for accomplishing my transport pass mountain and well, truth is I am a tourist this week at least. :)

After the square I walked towards the Old Town area where the old city hall is located. This is yet another tourist mecca, and there was even a Starbucks on the corner of this beautiful historic site. Don't worry, there's a picture to come soon! On my way from there, I happened upon the Jewish historic district and then to the river, which I walked along to the Charles Bridge and back home. It's amazing to me how close everything is, and how accessible to public transportation everything is too! I didn't go into any of the museums or other sites today, I just wanted to get a feel of this amazing city - my new home.

I am still in awe that I live here! I walked home and found my way without a map. It's handy that the river is just down the street. :) Back at home and I spent my evening making a simple dinner of pasta and sauce and unpacking. I only have one small area (ha, this whole room is small) left to organize. That will wait until tomorrow, as I'm going to try to get some sleep at a normal time tonight. Which is also the reason I haven't posted any pictures today. I'll get on that in the next few days...promise!

Pictures - Apartment

The front door of the building and my keys. The old key is for the front door of the apartment. When I paid my deposit, we had to go get another key made. I was thinking in my head - where the heck are we going to go to do that! Then I remembered that we're in Prague and just down the street was a key shop and here we go!

Here are few pictures of the inside of this very historic flat. It's not fancy, but it's pretty much exactly what I expected. :) I have one of the 4 rooms in the L-shaped apartment. You walk in the front door and the toilet room is immediately to the left.

Then down the long hallway is the kitchen prep area with refrigerator (on right the door at the end of the hall is the front door of apartment).

At the corner (picture to right with red chairs), is a small sitting area. You turn right down the small hallway, and my room is to the right (picture with suitcases). I have a daybed type bed a nice desk and large storage closet/wardrobe. I also have a lovely few of the courtyard (left)! My flatmates are cool. One is even an English teacher for another company. The owner, Olga, is from Russia but has lived in Prague now 10 years. The other two roommates are moving out at the end of the month. One guy is here and we've exchanged "hellos." The other woman is not here right now.

Past my room is the kitchen sink/cooking area and the shower room and the other bedrooms (picture above right). It's pretty cozy and in the heart of Prague...I couldn't be happier!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ready or Not...

So, I got a pedicure yesterday and the color I was drawn to happened to be called "Ready or Not." Seemed way too fitting not to go with now my toes are a lovely deep red, and ready or not - the time has come to move to Prague!

I am officially packed (minus a few last things to go into the bag in the morning). I'm taking roughly 150 pounds of my US life with me to Prague. I've never thought about stuff that way!

I've been talking about moving overseas for about two years now, and now it feels surreal to be doing this. I'm sure it'll take quite a bit of time for it to sink in. I am honestly nervous. I know in the end it will all work out and clearly there is no turn back now - if nothing else, I refuse to unpack those bags for a while! LOL. But, it is interesting to pack up your life and move many miles away from what you are used to. I'm fortunate to have family in Germany not too far away. I'm greatly looking forward to building stronger relationships with my family there as well as building friendships with many new people. That all being said, I will miss my family and friends here! I have been so darn lucky to have spent the last few months with the people I care about. Its those great experiences I draw upon in the emotional moments that have appeared over these past few weeks getting ready. I am truly excited, however I am also truly scared.

I can't tell you how many people - mostly random strangers I have met - who have made comments to me like "so, you're moving to a foreign country by yourself?" I just smile and say yes, I am. What I really want to say is - hell yes I am! And I'm a bit freaked out about it, so stop pointing out the fact that I'm going to be completely ALONE! Well, I know I'll never be alone, because of all my great friends and family out there. So, I guess next time someone says that to me - I'll say I'm not alone. I'm taking you all with me. :) No wonder my bags are so heavy!

I'm ready to start this adventure. I'm sure there will be posts here that will span the entire range of emotions. I'm not sure you can every truly feel "ready" for this type of thing, but I'm ready to try and give it a go! Look out I come! Ready or not!