Friday, February 7, 2014

An American In Prague

Starring...well me, I guess!

I got into Prague on February 3rd around 2 o’clock, and as we got out CEA, Cultural Experiences Abroad, was already waiting for us, which made me feel a lot better. The moment of truth came when the luggage carousel began to move, but it all worked out and I got both my suitcases. I left the baggage claim area, and found CEA representatives, took my things to a bus, and then waited…for an hour. As we took off a couple girls saw that their luggage was still on the sidewalk and hollered, “stop,” but the bus driver didn’t understand; the first of many “language mishaps”! We drove into Prague and was dropped off with no direction as to where our apartment was, but luckily I found a CEA representative, and they were able to direct me to my apartment. I met my roommates, Sam and Jesse! They’re OK I guess….just kidding they’re great, and we’ve had good times so far! Our apartment is smaller than I thought, but we’re working it all out. We have an open kitchen/family/dining room, bedroom and bathroom set-up. After settling in a bit, we headed across the street to a small pub where we had our first taste of Czech food, and I ordered my first official LEGAL beer! The food was good, really heavy and filling, but we definitely got our moneys worth. We headed back to our apartment, and I passed out!
View from the entrance to the Prague castle

 February 4th CEA played a mean trick on us and made us be up and ready to go by 9:15 for a full day of orientation. We started out by walking through the city a bit and met up wit other groups at the clock tower where we broke off into groups to get a bit of a tour of the city. Our tour guide took across the Charles Bridge and then we headed toward the castle, which sits on a hill and over looks most of Prague, it was unbelievable. What was even more exciting was how close our school was to the castle, which is where we went after. But before we started any school orientations they let us out for lunch, so the three of us went to a small French Restaurant, and I tried a Czech staple; hot wine. It was really good, partially just because it was warm and I was freezing, but more importantly because it was like a wine version of hot apple cider, which is one of my favorite drinks. After lunch, we continued with a tour of the school’s three buildings. The classrooms are mostly very small and intimate, so I guess that means no skipping class…just kidding Mom! 

 After the tour I was able to finally meet up with my one friend from Chapman, Sophie Singer, and I tagged along with her and her roommates to Tesco, Prague’s version of a Target/Costco! We had our first experience trying to grocery shop, which proved to be a bit overwhelming and very confusing. As far as packaged items, we relied heavily on the pictures printed on the outside of things. We also realized we weren’t going to find certain items at all, like my favorite Mexican Mix Shredded Cheese for quesadillas. Tesco is five stories and each story is like a different department if you will, (Groceries, clothes, linens and cookware, and so on) so we went to the top to buy sheets and blankets for our beds, but that was not successful when all the labeling was in Czezh, including the sizes!

 Well when I got home I found I had bought a duvet large enough for a queen, and a fitted sheet large enough for a full, all to fit on my tiny twin size bed! I made it work though, sort of! Well anyways, after unpacking from Tesco and meeting up with my roommates again, we decided to try and do a little more grocery shopping at a smaller, maybe less intimidating, super market down the street from us! We were able to find a lot of things easier, and I was able to find my favorite…Tortillas and slices of cheddar cheese! Oh yes! After we got back we hung out for a bit, got ready, and headed to a pub just up the street from us.

Do you remember that scene in "Inglorious Bastards" where they are in the underground pub that kind of looks like a cave, but a fun cave, well of course until everyone starts shooting each other, well anyways this pub was almost identical. It's called Usudu, and it seemed to be very small from the outside until you realized there were a number of stairways all leading to different levels and sub-levels each with more seating, more bars, and an arcade. We were advised to go all the way down to bottom of “the cave,” where we found the “Students-Studying-Abroad” headquarters. It was packed with students from all across the US as well as from across the world. We had a great night and ended up spending most of our time with a girl who was born in South Africa, lives in Hong Kong, but goes to school in DC…crazy right! We had a great time with her, and at the end of the night we all exchanged numbers with her and her roommates and briskly walked back in the cold to our apartment.

Luckily on February 5th we weren’t required to be ready to go until 11, so I got to sleep in a bit. Our tour guide took us on a neighborhood tour, so we learned about all the local things we would need to know to get by. We went over the public transportation system, which, so far, has been a lot easier than any other city I have been in, grocery shopping, and a friendly public announcement that surprised us all. The first Wednesday of every month the city checks their public speakers that were scattered throughout the city during World War 2. It sounded like there was an air-raid coming, not even joking. Our tour guide quickly explained it, although it still gave me a bit of an uneasy feeling. I felt like I was being yanked back into history with a violent reminder that this beautiful city was in the midst of all the horror and devastation. We learned, however, that Prague was very lucky and barely suffered any cosmetic or civilian loss. That’s why many of their buildings are still originals and hold the same charm and facades from years past! After the tour two other girls from Chapman who I had a met the day before, Gaby and Brittany, broke off from the group and went to look for some lunch, which we found at a very unique Tai Wok restaurant. The food was great and we were prepared for Round 2 of Tesco, the girls had also made a visit the day before. I bought some last minute things I had forgotten about my first time around. We even felt confident enough to take the tram back to our apartments at the end of our shopping! 

That night my roommates and I made the decision to go to our first club experience in Prague, well first club experience for me in general. It was absolutely insane, but not because of how rowdy and loud it was, I was expecting that, but because of how many faces were somewhat familiar. Just from the past two days I felt like I was starting to see some of the same faces, and we even ran into the girls from our night at Usudu. Luckily, I found Sophie with no problem, and Sam and I spent most of our night with her and her roommates.  Czech is very much into the techno scene, which was fun, but a little bit "silly", but overall is was a great night. Sam and I hesitantly took a cab back to our apartment, which turned out working just fine.

 February 6th, the ENTIRE day of sleep. I know I got home late from the club, around 2:45, but for some reason jet lag really hit me that day. I slept until 4:00 PM! I was so confused and I was even more confused as to why I was waking up with a sore throat. I found it funny, also, that jet lag had not really affected me yet, and so I started wondering if maybe it was maybe a third-day thing? Well turns out I was right!

By the third day, your headache is worse. Your muscles hurt. Your throat feels a little sore. You have lost your appetite, even for your favorite home-cooked food. The inability to sleep at night, even though you are very tired is disturbing and you begin to wonder why you even came here. I have known people to be so upset by the inability to sleep at night that they turned around after a couple of days and flew back home.”

Well, don’t get your hopes up, I’m not flying home! I’m perfectly fine now. I was just hoping I could sleep that night. I wasn't planning on going out, but you never know what can happen. Oh, and that was actually the first day of classes for people who have classes on Thursdays, which I luckily don’t. If you were wondering my class schedule is:

Monday: 8:15-11:00 ~ Composition
                11:30-2:15 ~ Freedom
Tuesday: 11:30-2:15 ~ Prague Art and Architecture
Wednesday: 6:45-9:15(PM) ~ Digital Photography

…and that’s it! Yes, yes, yes! I know! 4 DAY WEEKENDS! What are you surprised?  J

Today, January 7th, we headed over to the CEA headquarters to sign up for one of Prague’s most famous parties; the Dlouha Street Pub Crawl for tomorrow night! We get to go to three different pubs, and end the night at a five story club, the first story being an ice bar, you know like the ones in Las Vegas where they give you a parka to wear! The other four stories each have their own style or genre of music! I’m really looking forward to it.  But on our way there we got to pass some of Prague’s infamous tourist attractions and art installations.  Our first stop was to see some of David Cerny’s sculptures within a park. These babes can be seen climbing all over the tallest tower in the Czech Republic. It was installed in 2000, and people had positive feedback, but they couldn’t really see the babies, so the artist decided to bring a couple of them down, and drop them in the park! It was…um, interesting! David Cerny has a lot of his pieces throughout Prague, so I’m sure I’ll be seeing more. Next we found the line of yellow penguins that belong to the Prague’s central Museum Kampa. At nighttime they illuminate and you can see them from across the river. Along the way, I also began to realize the wide variety of ornate doors. They are all so unique and really give an entire building character. They definitely add charm to the overall European experience! On our way we also found part of a bridge where young couples are putting locks on the fence to represent their love and commitment to one another. These can be seen at multiple places, including a bridge near the John Lennon Wall, which we visited after printing out our tickets.
In 1988, the wall was a source of irritation for the communist regime of Gustav Husak. Young Czechs would write grievances on the wall and in a report of the time this led to a clash between hundreds of students and security police on the nearby Charles Bridge. The movement these students followed was described ironically as "Lennonism" and Czech authorities described these people variously as alcoholics, mentally deranged, sociopath, and agents of Western capitalism. The wall continuously undergoes change and the original portrait of Lennon is long lost under layers of new paint. Even when the wall was repainted by some authorities, on the second day it was again full of poems and flowers. Today, the wall represents a symbol of youth ideals such as love and peace.  After visiting the wall, we went to the nearby pub that is also named in John Lennon’s honor. After a great lunch we headed back to our neighborhood via the Charles Bridge and stopped along the way to take pictures!
Tonight we planned on going to an 80’s and 90’s club, and I was looking forward to some MC Hammer, Spicegirls, and *NSYNC, but we didn't get in! So instead Sam, a friend of his, and I went back to Usudu. I guess you can say it's somewhat becoming our "Central Perk." After we went to our favorite 24/7 Mexican fast food, Burrito Locco! Yum! Just made it back in!  Hope everyone has an awesome Friday!

1 comment:

  1. BREAT BLOG POST! Love the pictures and commentary. So happy that you seem to be adjusting and enjoying the experience so far. And thank you for explaining about the penguins. I never knew why they were there. It was a joy to SKYPE with you this morning. But before signing off, Mom has a question, "passed out" because ??????? JK. Love you, mom