Showing posts from January, 2011

won't take no for an answer

If you are a polite person in Czech culture, you are relentlessly negative.

Example: a friend invites you to his or her home. At the door, you take off your shoes (an essential habit that respects the cleanliness of the home as opposed to the dirty streets outside). What will you host say? "Oh, no, don't bother! It's fine to keep your shoes on!" But if you know how to interpret this correctly, you will take off your shoes, regardless of how many times the host says, "No, not necessary!"

Another example:
Your host asks you if you want something to drink. You must first say "no, no, no." Then the host starts naming drinks: tea, coffee, water, maybe beer or wine. Again you say no. Then again the host repeats the list, and now you can say "yes, I'd love a cup of tea."
Last example: my husband's aunt Dobromila, who lived in Prague all her life, was a frequent guest in my husband's home. On New Year's Eve every year she was part …

Romantic Prague

One of the many romantic aspects of life here is that my husband and I do so many things together. We don't have a car, or a huge shopping center nearby, so shopping is a small-scale enjoyable event.

Example: we need a printer cartridge. So we will walk to the little shop where we bought the HP Photosmart printer. When we bought the printer, we could have gone to a big electronics store by tram or Metro, but instead we walked to this shop, which I located on-line. The owner was very accommodating and professional, and we felt good about buying from him rather than from a big impersonal store, probably owned by Germans, Austrians, Dutch or Americans. We bought local.

So now we'll walk back to the shop and buy the printer cartridge. It's about an 8-block walk. The kicker is that we'll then have lunch at a nearby pivnice, a restaurant that serves a particular beer on tap along with basic comfort food like smazeny syr--fried cheese--more delicious than it sounds-- and Czech…


Yesterday we had lunch with some friends and ended up talking about American politics; one topic was that the unnatural fear that Americans have of socialism seems odd in Europe.

When I still taught Junior English at a very conservative, right-wing Evangelical Christian high school in Florida, I once heard a student tell a friend that Democrats were Socialists. She wasn't being insulting--she really thought that all Democrats are Socialists. Right then and there I made a curriculum unit called "Ism"s, which examined conservatism, liberalism, fascism, communism, environmentalism, Democrat-ism, Republican-ism, Libertarianism, isolationism,  and socialism, among others.

This unit was quite popular with my more intellectual students, who could see both the contradictions and the surprising similarities among these ideologies.

Then came the Sarah Palin era, where once again the Democrats were all Socialists. This blatant disregard for political theory and history still amazes …

a matter of perspective

Two comments on perspective:
1. I just went shopping on Francouzska ulice, a busy street. On the sidewalk, which was partly blocked by delivery people, window washers, and so on, a woman was talking into her cell phone. She was holding a little dog. Her little daughter walked in front of me out of a doorway, causing me to stop, the person behind me to stop, and so on. The little girl stood there--mama paid no attention, just talked into phone. I finally got around her. A nuisance! Then 20 minutes later I saw a woman with a cute little dog and little girl walking on the other side of the street. Aw..sweet! But it was the same woman...
2. When I come out of the apartment house, which opens right on to the street, I look to be sure that no one is passing the door at that moment. But when I pass other people's doors, they charge out without looking. They're so rude! Except when I am in a hurry and I charge out my door without looking...

It just depends on your perspective.

Jiri Dienstbier, Czech politician and friend, dies

Yesterday (January 8) Jarda's friend Jiri Dienstbier died. Here's what Jarda said about Jiri: "I have just learned about the departure of my friend and military buddy Jiri Dienstbier, Czech Senator who served as the first Minister of Foreign Affairs of Czechoslovakia, right after the collapse of communism here." Dienstbier was a journalist and politicain who was involved firsthand in the collapse of communism and the building of the new Czechoslovakia in the early 1990's.

Vrchlabi for New Year's

Our cousin Kaja and his girlfriend Jana invited us for the New Year holidays to the Giant Mountains (KRKONOŠE). We had a fabulous time! We stayed in a pension and made day trips to the gateway town of  Vrchlabi;, to ŠPINDLERŮV MLÝN, the big ski area; to Janské Lázně, a gorgeous hot mineral spa surrounded by ski slopes; and to the historical town of Jičín.

Silvestr, New Year's Eve, was spent with the owners of our pension. They told us how they restored the house from a ruin. It had been a pub, a Youth Center under communism, a library and so on. After WWII, the Czechs expelled the Sudeten Deutsch (people of German heritage living in the Czech border areas--Hiltler annexed the Sudetenland after he annexed Austria, in 1938) as a kind of "balancing the scales of justice" for the damage done by Hitler's occupation of Czechoslovakia from 1939-1945. The Sudetenland was empty and many towns became desolate ghost-towns. Our hosts bought the big old house (from the 1880's)…