Saturday, November 14, 2009

Love Thy Neighbor

I spent 4 hours at our neighbor's house, drinking wine and talking up a storm. They are Czech, father is Slovakian...really not much difference in culture or language from what I gather. Both the teenagers speak English, 19 year old son is amazingly fluent which he claims is from watching British and American TV all of his life. The parents say it is because he has taken English; albeit not by native speakers, in school and had an American friend from California that was here for one year on an exchange program. I'm sure it is a combination. I was somewhat embarrassed on several occasions when asked by him for information about American geography and history...when he knew more about it than I did. He challenged me to write down as many of the States names as I could in 5 minutes. Breeze right, well so I thought! I got to 40 and drew a complete blank. He helped me out with the rest, hence my embarrassment! I took my list home as a trophy or claim to shame I suppose. Now ask me to name all of the countries in the European Union, or those in Europe and I'd really struggle. I'd better study up! I also messed up on who we were fighting with and who against in the Korean War. It was all in good fun and we had a fantastic visit. I'm really glad to have my new friends and neighbors.

My dog thinks their dog is his girlfriend (she thinks he is a knucklehead) so we are going to try walking them two together this morning. I'm hoping it will go well, but have my suspicions that it will prove to be a challenge. Last week I vowed to never take Jerry Lee for a walk ever again as long as he lives. I was exhausted and humiliated when he lunged at, barked, whined, and attacked every dog, human, and bicyclist that ventured by. He was out of control and I was angry and embarrassed. I was sprayed with jeers from old ladies and families whose peaceful walk was "rocked" by his miserable antics. I'm praying that Irem, Jerry Lee's girlfriend, will be able to teach him some manners! We'll see...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Who Turned Out the Lights?

Get ready for short days and long nights. I was caught by surprise when I went to pick up my kids at 4:40 PM and it was already dark outside. I understand that in December the sun goes down at 4:15- 4:30! I thought I was going crazy when I started to get sleepy and looked at the clock that night it was only 6:30 and finaly went to bed at 7:30. My body is very tuned into day light and always has been. My mother can attest to the fact that I was always up and down with the sunrise and sunset. I've never been a "night-owl". I also have to train myself to turn on lights in the house. Again, I'm used to just opening the blinds to let the sun in...who needs LIGHTS? Well, unless I'm going to be hybernating through the winter, I guess I'm going to have to get used to artificial lighting. I feel like a jaundice baby with hyperbilirubimia (how is that for a tounge twister?)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pottery Lessons

Ceramics can be one of the most creative and fun arts. Although it may seem more intimidating to get into, once you learn the basics and get some materials it is very easy to continue and learn. Practically anything can be made in ceramics, from sculptures of people and animals, to objects such as model houses, cars, furniture. The trick to have fun while you make it and not be afraid to make mistakes and try new objects.

Me and the boys had a go of it and had a blast. Here are some of our creations which we learned to do from SCRATCH!Cups we made after throwing the clay, shaping, and painting. They are not dried or fired yet. It takes two weeks to get the finished product. I'll upload the photos then.

A local ceramic studio, Ceramic Studio Prague, offers courses from the beginner to the advanced artist. The proprietor, Ivan, is a very patient, funny, and talented person that is fluent in English, Czech, Bulgarian (native) and Serbo-Croatian.

CTIRADOVA 6 , Prague 4

Ana/Ivan (both speak English) There you will find detailed directions to the studio from just about anywhere in the city.
Please go to their web site and register for class. They will contact you with any additional information on how to get ahold of them.

Please let him know that you were recommended by me.

Good Luck and Have Fun

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Outdoor Market (AKA "Asian Market")

Many people don’t realize that the Czech Republic has a substantial Vietnamese population, in fact, the Czech Statistics Office estimated that there were 60,258 Vietnamese residing in the Czech Republic in 2008. They migrated to CZ during the Communist period, when they were invited as guest workers by the Czechoslovakian government. Migration was encouraged by the Vietnamese authorities, with the intention that the migrants would return with skills and training, but many decided to remain in the country rather than return home after the Velvet Revolution. This first generation of immigrants has traditionally made a living as vendors and hence many speak fluent Czech and run clothing shops or grocery stores within the city.

Little Hanoi
The main retail center for Prague’s Vietnamese community lies in the south of Prague. Called SAPA, after a northern Vietnamese tribe, this area offers a glimpse into an entirely different face of Prague. Sapa is a wholesale market where you can buy a lot of stuff (the majority of the items sold comes from Asia of course). Actually it’s like a town in a town.
As you enter the area, a welcoming message is inscribed in both Czech and Vietnamese. Here, you can try your hand at haggling but probably won't find the need (besides it hard to do in English) since most items are priced very cheap. An example is the winter jacket that I picked up for 1300 czk that would have cost 4000 czk in the mall. Current fashion jeans for 600czk would set you back about 1150 czk and up in town. You can get thing from seasonal items (Christmas decorations at this time of year), clothes, hand bags, men and women's suits, toys, shoes, ski suits, Asian swords...and the list can go on. If you would like to have an extraordinary experience and don’t mind traveling a bit from the town center, Sapa is definitely worth a visit.
I´m a big fan of Sapa especially because of the food market.
I like the Vietnamese groceries, where you can buy different ingredients for Asian cuisine that you cannot buy anywhere else (or they are way too expensive) – various vegetables and fruits, herbs, sauces, frozen prawns, fish, live crabs, tea, rice, tofu and much more…
Oh, and don't forget the cuisine! Besides checking the shops you should definitely eat there.
The criteria of a good place to eat are simple: eat where local people eat. Places which are oriented in one type of food are usually the strike home.
Libušská 319/126 | Praha 4
09:00 – 20:00 daily
Sapa, located in the south surround of Prague called Písnice. To get to SAPA, take the metro to Zelivskeho or Depo Hostivar, then take the 208 bus to the “Tiskarska” stop, which is only about 50 meters from the main entrance. You can park your car there if you are driving as well. Go in the main gate and park toward the back…might be a bit muddy in the parking lot if it is a rainy day

Helpful Hint
1. Bring cash, Czech Crowns only, small bills. Everything is an even number, eg.100 czk, 200 czk...rarely 230 czk for example. They talk to eachother so don't flash your cash and don't be a pushover. Word will travel fast with both.
When discussing price,
2. Have a price in mind as to how much you would have paid in the mall; if it is too much, move on. Resist the feeling that you are required to buy it just because you asked about the price.
3. Learn how to ask about the price and practice it before hand. Learn the phrases:
How much for one? "Kolik stojí jeden?" pronouced "Ko-lick Stoy yedin" or
What is the price for one? Jaká je cena za jeden? pronounced "Yawka ye sena zaw yeden?"
They will probably rattle off the price in an undistinguishable amount so ask them to, "Write it down, please." Napište to, prosím. pronounced toe, pro.see.m
4. They may have a calculator and will show you the price on that.
Remember that in CZ they demonstrate the number one with their thumb and not their index finger. They also show two with the thumb and index finger, three with thumb index, and middle finger and so on showing the back of their hand rather than the palm. Just cultural differences that my appear odd or rude to them if you do it the "American" or western way.
5. Be polite. When entering a store always say, Good day "Dobry Den" pronounced "Dough.brie Den" and when leaving say Thanks "děkuji!" Pronounced Deh.koo.yee. You or they may also reply, See you later! Na shledanou! Pronounced Nah sleh.dawn.oh

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Funny Fruit

I'd never see one of these before, but felt adventurous and decided to pick it up when they had a big display in the Albert grocery store (aka Albert Hypermarket).

It is a Honey Pomelo. The fruit is full of juice, sweet and light fragrant taste

1)Origin: Fujian Province of China
2) Colors: Light green, yellow
3) Juicy, semi-transparent and nice looking, Light sweet and sour taste
4) Round or pear shape, firm, thick-skin
5) Weight 2kg and up
6) Available from October to next February

Nutritional information:
Excellent source of vitamin C and fiber and good source of folate. Easy storage and preparation: They will keep at room temperature for several weeks or a month or more if refrigerated. Best uses: Use for juice or add sections to fruit or green saladas or fruit salads. I hear it is good with fish, but I just ate it in the morning like I would a grapefruit. It is a lot firmer than a grapefruit and is much less acidic. Very nice and a real treat if you get a chance to eat one...take it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

We wish you a Merry October, we wish you...

OMG it is going to SNOW tonight! The kids are thrilled and excited and I just want to hybernate until it is over. Well, since hybernation is out of the question; wrong spicies, I'll have to make the best of it. I'm very pleased to report that the heater in the house is toasty. It is so nice that I forget that it is 4 degrees celcius (39 F)outside during the day.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Expat Expo 2009

If your coming to Prague for an extended stay or just for a short trip don't forget to check out the upcoming Expat Expo
They expect attendance projected to exceed 5,000 families this year. You'll be able to find vendors catering to expats in banking, travel, real estate, education, health and a great deal of other fields.

There are stage events and fun activities designed for every age. If you like food, and who doesn't, international food will be available for those missing the taste of home or to try a new dish.

Holešovice Exhibition Ground
October 31st 2009
From 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Entrance fee
•Adult 100 CZK
•Child (age 6-18) 50 CZK

The evening will bring a unique Halloween Party at the Občanská Plovárna Club (adults over 25 only) . discount voucher for 1000 kc entrance fee

Stop and say hello when you see me at the Expat Expo!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Unexpected Class

This writing is about the lifestyle and unofficial class system of expat living and that it can cause a unique and unexpected culture shock at first. Here is an example. I was having trouble with the house and couldn't get any resolve from the landlord myself. Speaking to one of the other "Mums" at my kids school, she simply replied, "Well, why should you continue to suffer? Call your husband’s secretary and demand she take care of it straight away!" SECRETARY? My husband doesn't have a secretary. The look on her face was golden. This was an epiphany that I was up against more than just being an American in a foreign country, but an "average" one, one with a husband that was not an executive but rather just a WORKER. I guess you could call this Expat Snobbism (AKA Expat Class System).

Copy and paste this to your browser it is funny and says it all:

Expatriate life can be intoxicating but also come with certain expectations which can include knowing how to entertain, dressing the part, employ all the good table manners your mother taught you, and be cultural sensitivity with a truly international community. You have to learn/behave in a more savvy and experienced manner to be fully accepted - those thing and be expected to have a maid, gardener, personal trainer, and have to be invited and attend every social gathering.

Expats-to-be(certainly corporate sponsored families) will put you automatically on the social ladder and you must be prepared. That’s not just learning table etiquette but also relates to being a good guest for those out of your "class". If you want to fit into expat social circles is very often based on where that person fits into the organization or company which employs him (or her) or sent him abroad. Or not fit, as the case may be.

Like all forms of culture shock, you must strive for a period of adjustment which means acceptance of who you are and what you hope to achieve from your experience abroad. While you may not agree with social snobbery based on position, finance, or just how long one has been around, it comes with the territory. Remember that there are snobs ‘at home’ too. Likewise, there are unwritten Expat class systems.

Learn to rise above pettiness, gossip, and social cliques. This can be a tall order and you must get a thick skin. Keep focused on your goals and don't get caught up in competing socially or financially. Just be yourself and you will be accepted. Spend time with people that make you feel good and that you enjoy being around.

Finally, just as you try to put your outrage on the back burner towards the local customs that make you crazy, it’s best to do that with expat circles too. Remember that in all matters of culture, there is no right or wrong - just different. And that applies to members of an international community who make different choices in the way they choose to live abroad.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


A New Disease?
Not really, just a term I conjured up to describe the process and stages which expatriate families will likely go through when moving from their home country to their host country. Uprooting your life and moving to a new place, where things are done differently, everything is in a different language is more than just a physical adjustment, but a psychological one as well. Besides changes in weather, housing, food, and even the way people drive, there are different feelings expatriates experience, such as loneliness, homesickness, missing family and friends, difficulty relating to others and making new friends with the common response manifested in stress. I know, I've felt it; even went from a size 14 back down to a size 10 in a matter of months. Not that I'm complaining about that part, but it is a sure sign of stress. Mine showed up in weight loss and anxiety but others I have talked to have experienced true depression and a feeling of loss. It is important to recognize the signs of depression starting to set in and do thing to make yourself happy. Don't let the negatives manifest into alienation. Make sure you don't start to be left out of the normal functioning of your host society. For instance, with my children attending a new school and experiencing new pressures, I began to find myself lacking a social network, and career or personal goals. It is a fact that family-related issues have been found to be the main contributor towards expatriate failure. If the family is unhappy, the employee is not able to perform well in the new job.

How to Combat Expatriatitis:

1. Prepare yourself and your family for what to expect on international assignment, some companies offer pre-departure cultural orientation. Ours didn't so I researched on the internet.
2. Spouses without career or personal goals during the assignment can feel a loss of self-identity. BINGO! This one hit me hard...and I knew it would. In fact, I'd mentioned to anyone that would listen before I left that this was my biggest concern - my leaving work and staying home without my friends. That is why I decided to take up the blog as a form of adjustment therapy. You could even do a personal journal if you wanted it to be more private and to write down your personal thoughts you don't want to share. I guess you could consider this a non-traditional approach, but writing helps you capture (and share if in a blog) your persective on your new home, yourself and others in your new environment.
3. Be realistic about your expectations
4. Be willingness to accept the challenges of intercultural experiences
5. Seek out and enjoy social interactions
6. Have empathy for others. Don't forget the clerk that is trying to communicate with you is frustrated too. Forgive them and you'll forgive yourself more readily as well.

7. Don't move if you are unable to successfully resolve external and interpersonal conflict and are not a people person. It will be very hard to acquire these traits if you don't already possess them.
8. WRITE A JOURNAL...Did I already say that? It is very therapeutic!

Monday, October 5, 2009

A "Must-See" Hrad Karlstejn (Castle Karlstejn)

About 40 meters from Prague (40-50 minute drive)
The castle was built in 1348 - 1368 by the King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV (Also the reason the main bridge in Prague is called the "Charles" Bridge), as a place of safe-keeping for treasures and the crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire. As with most castles there comes fables and tales that are hard to tell if they are fact or fiction. Three such stories come with Hrad Karlstejn.

Feminist’s Nightmare
One such fable that women were not allowed into parts of the castle. Women roamed freely around the castle. The only place prohibited to them was one floor of the Great tower. This floor was the seat for only men, the defenders of the precious treasure.

Maid's Nightmare
Apparently one of the kings wives was a mass murderer and tortured and killed 14 house maids. Maybe she was insanely jealous?

Blind man's Dog Nightmare
One of the most popular myths of Karlstejn is the one about a blind musician. The story says that he was followed everywhere by his loyal dog and that he used to play his flute in the castle. A servant tried to poison the King by passing a poisoned goblet to the noble, who hence offered it to the musician instead of the King. The musician's dog jumped up and knocked the goblet out of the blind man's hands. The dog then drank the spilled wine and died. Okay, if the dog was smart enough to knock the poisoned wine down, why was he stupid enough to drink it? That one has a few holes in it.

Lost in Translation

This is a photo of a sign on the castle wall to one of the entrences. It is meaning to say that you can't take picutures, video or cell photos of the inside of the castle. In English it says, "Translation Prohibited"

Feeling Adventurous?

While you are in the area...stop by the Koneprusy Caves (Konepruske Jeskyne)about 10 meters drive from the castle.

Ticket for adult costs 120 CZK and for child costs 60 CZK. You can pay only
in cash, czech crowns only. Credit cards are not accepted. They have guided tours, it is not difficult at all, but there are about 500 steps in the cave. Temperature inside is 10 above to -5°C wear some jackets and good boots. There are no fixed times of guided tours - it depends on amount of visitors, but usually nobody waits here more than 1/2 hour. They will lend you a paper with basic information about the cave in English, deposit for that is 50 CZK.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Can't Get My Shoes on Straight

Ever heard of "indoor shoes" and "outdoor shoes"? Coming from the Southwest United States where shoes are optional indoors or outdoors, this concept of having TWO different pairs of shoes was strange, to say the least. This turns out to be what I believe to be both a cultural and practical phenomenon. It is expected here in the Czech Republic, as it is in my husband's Croatian family background, to remove your shoes when you enter anyone's home. So, when visiting or living in Prague, always be prepared to remove your shoes and may be offered house slippers for indoors. We did this in the US only because my husband introduced me to his tradition in his home and I adopted it as my norm. When kids came over to our house in Arizona, they automatically took off their shoes, then went upstairs and played. I didn't ask guests to remove their shoes unless they wanted to.
So, I've been pondering why is there a difference between shoes or no shoes in the house...or "indoor" versus "outdoor" shoes for that matter and came up with this:

I think there's something to the idea that there is a different conception of what is "dirty" - I think many in North America would agree that dust and soil is "clean" and human bodies are "dirty". I did not grow up in a strict no-shoes inside household. So it often doesn't occur to me to remove them. where it's pretty normal to wear shoes inside your house. I mean, you don't have to, but there's no feeling you have to take them off once you come inside. In most of the Southwest US, there are a minority of people who have a "no shoes inside" policy, usually in order to prevent bringing dirt inside (which was my motive with off-white carpet). But taboos regarding clothing run deep; I remember a childrens' activity book I had as a kid, it was probably printed in the 50s or early 60s. It had a puzzle, with a picture of an office setting, and you had to find the 20 things that were wrong in the picture. Most of them were obvious - lettering on the door was backwards, table only had three legs. I found 19 things wrong, and checked the answers for the final thing I missed - "Man wearing a hat indoors."

Of course, climate comes into it. When you live in a warm climate where everyone wore flip-flops pretty much all of the time you'll probably slip them off when indoors. Living in a cold, temperate climate one probably would track in mud/snow and would be more likely to take the shoes off and wear some type of indoor shoe or slipper.

Personally, I prefer to wear shoes inside because that makes it easy to go inside and outside. But, as they say, "When in Rome, do as the Romans."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Spiny Little Friend

I woke up at three oclock this morning and found some strange little creature at my puppy's water dish. I poked at it with a broom and it rolled up into a ball and didn't even try to get away. I then poured water on it and it scurried off. The dog was going crazy wanting to chase it and I didn't let him. Then I attacked the internet to find out what it was. We don't have anything like this in Arizona so I feel like a child discovering all of these new and wonderful things!
The hedgehog is an insectivore and eats lots of beetles and caterpillars; they particularly like, earthworms and slugs. Hedgehogs have a varied diet and will also eat small mammals, snails, millipedes, earwigs and even bees. I understand they are really wonderful to have in the garden. This helpful information is complements of the National Geographic web site on the Hedgehog

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Miločovský forest

Pitkovický Stream

Take some family time to explore the little-known nature trails around Prague. There are 15 such trails, all with well-marked footpaths and paved cycling or walking trails. Part of the Eurobed Project linking a vast artery of hiking trails, these nature preserves were formed gradually with the support of municipalities, communities and the Environment Ministry.
For descriptions and directions to other Eurobed trails, you can request a copy of the Obrazový atlas (Picture Atlas of Tourist Attractions and Educational Trails) from any agency of CzechTourism. The free, 250-page guide, translated into English and German, is an invaluable resource for active families.
If you are in to cyling, there are 113 designated routes to chose from and this is the place to go for a cycling map of Prague.,cak,pop&p=ckl_u,ckl_s,ckl_kr&

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Drive a Skoda

You could say a lot of things about the Czech people, but one thing they do very well is build a tough car called the Skoda (pronounced Sh-koh-da). Just about everyone drives one in Prague and I was given one as a rental until our company car is ordered and delivered…because apparently they don’t keep cars in stock either, ehem. Other car manufacturers build wimpy automobiles that have silly safety features like collapsible bumpers, but not the Skoda as I found out today. Gleefully driving my kids to school, I stopped in front of the school to make a left hand turn. The streets mind you are single lane in both directions so drivers whiz by would be left hand turners on the right to get past…and I do mean WHIZ by. So when I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw a car coming directly at me I momentarily expected he was going around, but to my grave surprise he was looking in his rear view mirror and didn’t even slow down and then, BANG! I don’t know how fast he was going, but it had to be at least 40 kph since the speed limit was posted and he never hit the brakes. Luckily our whole family ware our seatbelts all of the time (thanks, Mom), although people here look at you strange when you get in their car and put on a seat belt because it is an uncommon practice. By the way the kids are fine and I’m just sore in my neck and back. I get out of my car expecting to see the entire trunk caved in and his engine sitting practically in his lap which would have been the case with most other cars. But not the Skoda! With the Skoda the people take the impact and the car ends up with a scratch on the back bumper and his license plate crumpled and tossed into his back seat.
The next thing was waiting for the police. It was only 5 minutes and they drive buy. The other driver said something to them as they were driving by and I thought they would drive back around and write a report and then we would get off the road and stop making a huge traffic jam. The police never came back and about a half hour of blocking traffic while truck drivers with public laborers yelled expletives at us and I back at them in English, we then finally moved into the school parking lot. This whole time the guy is speaking to me in Czech and I’m frantically calling my husband and trying to get someone to interpret so I knew what the heck to do. In the US we aren’t supposed to move the vehicle until the police arrive to make a report. Apparently that was the case in CZ until two years ago when the law was changed to be that if the damage is not estimated to be greater than 200,000 Czech Crowns (about 10,000 USD which most cars don’t cost that much) then the police won’t make a report. They just show up to tell you to get the heck out of the way. I asked my husband’s Czech friend that showed up to help us fill out the accident report required for the rental insurance, why did they make that rule? The response was because there are so many accidents that the police don’t have time to do all of that paperwork! So, let me get this straight. They change the law to make it easier on the police? How about they enforce the speed limit or widen the roads? I know…make some left hand turn lanes! No, just make the accident victim fill out their own accident report and that will solve the problem.

Today’s lessons for living or visiting Prague:
1. Always have your seatbelt on
2. Bring your Czech translation book so you can speak with the other driver (and swear back effectively at the truckers)
3. Get your car out of the way if there are no injuries and minor damage.
4. Know the number to call for an emergency 112– most of them speak English and several other languages.
5. Take pictures of the vehicles for the accident report
6. Don’t expect a lot of sympathy or concern from people when you tell them you were in a car accident…it is common and a non-event to most.
7. Skoda’s are tough and I am not

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It Climbs, It Creeps, It Grows - Where? Who Really Knows?

Here is a little quiz for you to see just how smart you are about the forest vegetation. Having come from over 30 years living in the Arizona desert, I flunked with flying colors. You get one try. From the pictures below, which of these beautiful plants would you suggest setting up a picnic lunch next to?:

I had no idea and decided that spot number two next to a beautiful open field with wild flowers would be a great spot for the family to enjoy nature and the cool breeze. And we did...for a while; until everyone started itching, burning and getting welts on all exposed parts of their body. You guessed it - poison ivy. Well, it really was a trick question because all of these pictures are of poison ivy. It climbs up trees, creeps along just about any trail or roadside, and it comes in the lovely bush variety as well. These plants have a personal vendetta against all humans. The good news is someone happened along that explained that there is a companion plant that grows right next to it called jewelweed that when rubbed on the skin, stops the welts and burning sensation from getting any worse.
Hope you passed this test and if not, hope you learned from this valuable lesson as I certainly have :) Now everyone sing with me! Poison Iveeeeey, Poison Iveeeeey.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jerry Lee My new pal

After losing our best friend, Payson, after eight years of loyal companionship, we were blessed with this new bundle of joy, Jerry Lee. Cute, Stubborn, and a total joy to have around! He is my "pet project" as my husband would say.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

There's a Nightmare in my Closet

I was so excited when my husband told me that we were getting a 290 sq meter house (about 3000 sq ft). I walked through in awe and forgot one 'small' detail - Storage space. You'd think I'd know better. I'd been to Europe before, I knew that they didn't have walk-in closets; but did I prepare? Nooooo. For those of you new to this concept, imagine that every room in the house has four walls, windows, a door, light sockets and a light in the ceiling and nothing else.

Look around your place right now and count the number of storage closets that you the kitchen, entry way, bedrooms, hallway for linen, bathroom cupboards, kitchen cupboards, etc. and imagine they are now gone. Where would you store things? What about your pantry? Gone. So, off I go to the local Kika, a furniture store for shopping for 'wardrobes'(free-standing closets) where we spend literally 5 hours picking out what we want and need, find someone that can speak English and is willing to endure us. We sit down to finalize the sale. Expecting we would have to wait a few days for delivery, we discuss what day would be best for the delivery to take place. Without even a blink, the guy asks which day in the second week of October would be better for us. I'm certain the guy thought I was crazy when I exclaimed, "TWO MONTHS! It takes TWO months to deliver this stuff!?" No, he explained with fear in his eye, they have to make it first. Mind you this is not high-end, expensive stuff we are talking about here. I mean this is plywood and screws type furniture that you'd buy in Home Depot or the like. Okay, another wake-up call for me. My on-demand consumer expectations are keeping me on my toes here. I'm coming to that cruel realization that this country and other small European countries don’t just have warehouses full of things waiting for people to pop in and take home by the loads.

In retrospect I would have gone to IKEA in the States and bought 5 boxes of wardrobes and had them put together here in Prague. But I don't even know if IKEA in the States sell free-standing closets. Here we sit with everything neatly stacked in corners of every room; our clothes, towels, and everything else that would have gone into those neat, wonderful little storage spaces we Americans take for granted. Lesson for those of you readers moving to Prague - bring storage closets with you or order them as soon as possible.

Monday, August 10, 2009

To Pee or Not to Pee; That is the Question

Okay, culture shock number 4. I thought there was a really strange smell in front of my building when we moved in to a temporary flat in Prague 2 a month or so ago. I started putting two and two together when I came home from my daily grocery store trek and there was a homeless man camped out on the door step of our building. I couldn’t get in so I proceeded to gingerly poke at his shoe with my tip-toe as to not get to close to him. No luck. The kids were really starting to freak out, so I tried to enlist some street repair workers that were lying down cobble about 50 yards away. They just laughed at my dilemma and went back to what they were doing. “Hmmm, what next?” I pondered. Oh, yeah; my husband was inside the flat and I could just throw small stones at the window and he’ll save me. 30 minutes later and several annoyed next-door neighbor’s later I realized that I could use my cell phone to call my husband. Dah! My rescuer saved me from the smelly man, yeah. Okay, that is the end of the story, right? Well, not exactly. The man came back every day for about a week, but luckily someone else had to confront him. He was gone, and so was the stink – NOT. The smell seemed to be getting worse. It must be the construction site in front of the building with a well hidden portable potty behind the barriers, I thought. The next day I observed one of the workers go behind the barrier as I was hanging out the window staring at passersby…as we European’s do (wink) and to my surprise, he went behind the barrier to pee...on the ground! Yes, this is the Czech version of a Porta-potty. Gross, yes, but not the end. Next that day in broad daylight was a man just walking down the street and decided that the tree looked good and took a whiz right there. Holy cow! My last shock was when we were in downtown Prague sitting having coffee in the town square when a three year old was instructed by her mother to go over to the drain rail in the side of the street to relieve herself. She, without hesitation, pulled down her tighty-whities, squatted and did her business with thousands of people bearing witness.
Even in Babylonian times people understood the need for proper disposal of human wastes; but I’m not convinced that in Prague that concept is fully understood. It is quite surprising the incredible benevolence with which the Czechs tolerate urination in public places which apparently applies to young children and adult men. Some would say this tollerance is a result of the male dominated society here, while others could argue it is the pints the Czech men are downing. Naw, too complicated; they just needs new leash laws :)

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Today I had three "firsts". First time to the top of Powder Tower (Prasna Brana) that was built in 1475 under the reign of King Vladislav II Jagiello intended to contribute to the beauty of the Royal Court (King's residence). In the 17th century it was used to store gunpowder; hence the name "Powder Tower". A family of four can get in for $200 czk or around $11.00. It's an pretty nice view of the city but not much more. If you have vertigo or are claustrophobic then you will want to pass on this one. I rather enjoyed the break from walking around the Old Town. I give it a 5 out of 10.

The second thing was going to the Bohemia Bagel. Definately worth the trip for the super-sized hamburger (200 grams or just over quarter pound)with the works. They come with french fries - more than one person can eat - and small bit of coleslaw that was a bit strange for my taste for 135 czk or about $7.35. Come hungry. As my friend Barrie would say, it's a good place for some good ol' comfort food.

My most interesting experience today was catching a pickpocket on the metro with his hand in my bag. I grabbed his hand, squeezed his fingers and threw his hand out...his response was nothing more than a defiant snicker and moved on to the women next to him. Lesson here is to keep your purse zipped shut and under your arm pit the entire time on the metro and trams. NEVER put your bag down or across your chair or you and it will soon part :(

Weather Schizophrenia

It is wise to follow some good advice and bring a portable umbrella and a light jacket at all times. Sunny then rainy...rainy then sunny; you just never know. Visitors to Prague can glean information about how to pack for their trip and what times of year are best to come to this beautiful city at
We're heading to the Bohemia Bagel today for some much needed fresh air, relaxation, yummy food and cappuchino! You have to go to this place when you visit.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Odiferous Bohemians

Some (many) of the men here smell like a vat of Limburger cheese on the trams in mid-July. Deodorant and antiperspirant are apparently optional. I've had to learn to hold my breath and not make sour anyone who knows me, holding my facial expression isn't an easy feat. So, I had to research this phenomenon and strangely enough this is not only socially acceptable, but preferred by the Czech women - they like their men to smell like MEN...really stinky men (argh). In fact, the women generally look and smell like they stepped out of a beauty magazine and the men they are with look like they just got out of bed with the clothes they've been wearing for a month, unshaven and unbathed. Very confusing. Okay. I realize that I'm generalizing here but these situations seem to keep repeating themselves and I'm just pointing out my personal observations. When my husband left for work this morning, I told him that he is probably offending the women on the tram. Looking confused, and a little hurt, he asked "Why do you say that!?" To which I replied, "Your deodorant and cologne must be very offensive". We laughed; needing no further explanation.
Live and let live, I suppose.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Conversion Crazy

I've forgotten everything that I learned in elementry school about the metric system and wish I hadn't. My mind is working overtime trying to convert everything from the weather, cooking measurements , distance, speed, and don't forget money (well not exactly metric...but you get my drift). Today's tip for traveling or moving to Prague would be to make sure you bring a measuring cup/spoons with both US measurement and metric. Here's a link I used when trying to set the oven for cooking and converting my recipes
And speaking of weather, I took a glimps of what the weather in my home town is and see that it is 46 C (115 F) and it made me feel guilty about complaining of the heat on the tram today when the temperature here was 25 C (77 F). I suspect the winters in Prague should be revenge enough. Here is a link that you can get the weather in Fahrenheit or Celcius with the click of a button. Look for the icon under the weather picture labled "C/F"
Oh, and don't forget the feet to meters thing. We are trying to find a suitable place to live and really struggle with square meters to square feet...oh and the I wish I'd measured my furniture and brought my measuring tape with me so when we are looking at houses I could know for sure if my bedroom set and livingroom furniture will fit into the smaller rooms. I love the smaller living quaters (less to clean) but have American furniture which seem colosil by European standards. So, measure before you move!
Shopping is interesting trying to figure out if you are getting a good deal or paying too much. My point of reference is totally blown, but have figured out a quick way to convert US dollars to CZ crowns (kc). At present the US dollar is about 20:1 which makes things easier. Here is an example where I should have shopped around before I bought, but got too emotional instead of calculating the value of what I was buying to the price. Some Nike flip-flops were 690 kc. First divide the total amount by two (about 450) and then drop the zero. I payed about $45 for a pair of flip-flops! Probably too much...but they are Nike :)
Well, happy shopping!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Where Have All the Children Gone?

Here is a curious thougtht...where have all the children gone in Prague? Walking around the past two weeks, I've noticed that there are almost no children over the age of 5. Well, as it turns out, it is a Czech social norm for families to go to their summer homes for the duration of the summer! If they don't have a summer home, then they send their children to summer camps away from the city. They are really big on outdoor activities. Too bad my kids are the only ones to be found in a 30 mile radius (or so it seems). Parents start signing their kids up in the fall because the programs fill up fast. Thank goodness my husband planned for us to go visit his family on the Croatian coast for two weeks or I think I would lose my mind trying to entertain two 8 and 10 year old boys! Well, next summer I will know better.

I did manage to befriend another English speaking family with an 11 year old girl. I've arranged for us to see Ice Age in English located in Praha 1 not too far from our flat. Here is a link to find a movie theatre (AKA "Cinema")

Discovering Havlíčkovy Sady and Basketball Camp

We have a temporary flat in Prague 2 also referred to as Vinohrady which is within 5 minutes walking to Pragues second largest park, Havlickovy Sady. If you love the outdoors and need a quick get away, then you have to check out this site or get a 360 degree view of the park at
There are two kids playgrounds which are geared mostly for smaller children, however the playground at the top of the park at the entrance Rybalakova has a basketball court where you can either bring your own ball or ask the attendent to borrow theirs. There is a basketball camp conducted in English if your youngster wants to attend

First Week

Moving from the U.S. to Europe has proven to be both exciting and confusing. Everything seems familiar and so foreign; such a whirl wind of emotions. Visiting with the children several times over the years have made the transition for all of us much more seamless than it could have been when moving with an 8 and 10 year old. The kids are looking at the move as another vacation and not fully understanding that they are here to stay and that they will have to make new friends, go to a new school, and get used to new traditions and social norms.
An example of some differences that have popped up are:
1. People smoke everywhere; in restaurants, bathrooms, etc. They haven't yet picked up on the second hand smoke issue :)
2. They LOVE their dogs. I've seen just about every breed of purebred pooch known to man. I am a dog lover myself, but wish they would pick up their poo. There are little land mines on the sidewalks! People can even bring their dogs on public transit. Because of the close relationships people have with their dogs and bring them everywhere, the dogs are very well behaved. They patiently wait outside the shops for their owners to return without any leash and won't leave. I wouldn't believe it if I didn't see it for myself.
3. Everything is closed on the weekend. Europeans really love their personal time and make no bones about taking time off for their families and friends. I suspect the U. S. consumerism culture and economy has brought us to the point that buying stuff is more important. In this, we have something to learn from the Europeans.
4. Everyone walks everywhere. Believe it or not, I really love this about Prague. You don't really need to have a car if you live in the city because the tram, metro, or buses will take you everywhere you need to go. Short walks from each station or to your final destination is exillerating. The down side to no car is having to carry your groceries and having to shop everyother day to keep your supplies.
5. Be prepared to pay to use a public toilet (genrally 10-20 cz = .50-$1.00) in some restaurants and metro stations. One German women about 20 yrs old tried to go in without paying and the Czech attendent chased after her and refused to let her in the stall...mental note; always carry change!

Ciao for now!