úterý, dubna 17, 2007

This will be a long one

So this post is shaping up to be a long one. Be prepared.

Family Stuff
So I don't know how many people knew what was happening with my last family, but things were not going well. After a huge misunderstanding between school and myself regarding a class trip I was not able to go on, things blew up with my family. Apparently they had been unhappy for a long time, but hadn't said anything, and this incident brought out that they didn't believe me, that I was uncommunicative, that I was rude, that I wouldn't teach them English, as the main things. This was a huge suprise for me. I admit things weren't perfect, but I had no idea that they were this unhappy. My host mother became really hard to live with. She is the type of person who is rather nice, until things don't go her way, and then you have major problems. And I got caught in this net. All of my attempts to smooth things over and appease them seemed to just make things worse. AFS got involved, which I'm not really sure helped. When talking to me, it seemed that they were siding with the family, but they said they were just putting up another argument.

This whole time got me really down, added to the already hard experience I was having, especially in school. I was pretty ready to say that I had tried enough, and wanted to come home for about 2 weeks. Lately though, after talking to AFS USA and my parents, I have decided to keep trying. I am currently staying with a temporary host family for one week, but after that I have no idea what is happening. It is a big possiblity that I may have to change schools/towns again, which really scares me, especially the school part. School has by far been the hardest part of this exchange. Despite my efforts to be friendly and talkative and happy in school, I have not made any czech friends, and going to school everyday has become really hard. I keep trying every day, because who knows, maybe something will happen, but it is really hard. And starting a new school worries me just because it is really hard for me to go into a place where I know no one, and have to make my own way around, and introduce myself, as I have had in my past two schools.

I still don't know what is happening on that front, but I will let you all know once I do. The things that are really keeping me here are my exchanger friends, a trip I am planning with some people to Croatia, and a trip with my parents (real) for the last two weeks of the program.

This whole experience has been different and harder than I expected it to be, and there are times when I am truly ready to throw in the towel, not because I want to give up, but because it is hard on the pysche, and sometimes I feel like my time would be better spent doing other things. It looks like I will be staying for the duration of the program, if things work out, but I still don't know.

Trip to Poland
So last weekend was another AFS weekend. I love these weekends, and they really help me get through the rest of the stuff here. This one was a trip to Poland (well, day trip, while staying in the Czech Republic).

We got there Thrusday night, and basically just went to the place we were staying, in a village near Český Těšin, right on the Czech-Polish border. Friday in the morning we went to the school of the student (Henrique from Brasil) who lives in ČT. Bascially we had a presentation about AFS and our countries. This was the first time I felt like I could really speak fast czech, which was really cool.

This trip was only 14 people, 3 from Bohemia, because the Thais need visas to leave the country, and for one day, it was a lot. From Bohemia there were Jason (Hong Kong), Yukari (Japan) and Izabella (Brasil). It was cool to spend time with them because we haven't really seen them since the first orientation. I spent a lot of time with Jason and Yukari (plus my normal "group", well, I guess that is everyone), and got to know them a lot better. They are really cool, and I am definitely going to keep in touch.

Friday afternoon we went on foot to Poland, which is actually a lot harder than it sounds with a group of 15 people from like 8 different countries. Everytime we went across the border (there or back), we had to wait an hour, for who knows what reason. During this time we went to the travel free shop and bought candy and just messed around. Once we were actually in Poland (Cieszyn), we went to this tower thing, where you could see the whole city (Polish and czech). Then we just went around Cieszyn and then crossed the border again. Then we went for ice cream, and then back for dinner.

Saturday was the main day in Poland. We left our hostel at 5 Am on a charter bus and drove 3.5 hours (with the 1 hour border wait) to Ausschwitz. This was interesting. Many of the other students don't learn much about the Holocaust, or anything that happened during it. For me, it was a strange experience. Ausschwitz looks... so normal. Grass, semi-nice buildings, pathways. It was hard for me to imagine what went on there. It is when they show you a video and pictures and you see the people and destruction it did to them. And when you hear the numbers. 1.5 million people died in Ausschwitz (at least). Only 400,000 were every recorded, meaning the rest died right away when the got there. When the camp was liberated, only like 7,000 were there and alive. And not all of these survived very long because they were so emaciated and malnourished. It is amazing what happened to these people and that it was done BY PEOPLE. Only 600 children survived Ausschwitz, mostly twins because the doctors did experiments on them, and often killed them to do autopsies. It was the same with men and women who were often used for sterilization experiments and then killed for autopsies. We also went to Birkenau, but we didn't spend very long there. The conditions there (building-wise) were worse than at Ausschwitz, mainly I suppose because the building were open to the winters, where as the others were made of brick, if that is any consolation. Ausschwitz housed around 16,000 people at one time whereas Birkenau had 100,000. Treated like animals, and then sent to die.

The saying above the gate at Ausschwitz, Arbeit Macht Frei, is sad, ironic and just shows the lack of interest on the part of the Germans/Nazis. Work led these people to their death, for the most part, but rarely did they have a say.

Most of the other students don't learn much about the Holocaust, but I feel like now they know something, and that is better than nothing. There were a couple people who were really interested, and really saddened by this, and I felt like I too got to teach them about it, and the terror it brought. Even if only some of them will remember, it is more than the world had before, and more people who can stop it from happenening again.

After that we went to Krakow. It is a beautiful city. There is a big river running down it, with grass on both sides, and because the weather was so nice, there were lots of people out. We wandered around the city for about 3 hours, and it is just beautiful. It too is a tourist city, but mostly for other Poles, or people from surrounding countries. It apparently has the 2nd biggest square in Europe (or maybe just middle-europe).

After this we went to a salt mine, which was interesting. It isn't in use any more, but this mine is really interesting because there are dozens of chapels and stuff built in for the miners, because Poland is such a catholic country. They are really beautiful churches, and all carved out of the salt. And there are lots of statues made out of salt as well. Very interesting.

pondělí, dubna 09, 2007

Spring Holidays (jarý svatky)

So this past week has encompassed 2 spring holidays: Passover, and Easter. I'll start with Passover.

No one here knows anything about Judaism, let alone Passover. I didn't explain it to many people, but basically just that there is no bread, flour etc. Trying to keep kosher in this country is freakin' hard. Life here revolves around bread and pork and oil. So pretty much my kosher involved just not eating bread or pork. The other stuff is just too hard to avoid while trying, well, to eat anything at all. I did have the matzoh though, found in Prague at a little cafe after asking at one of the synagogue gift shops. The box, in 6 languages, says that it is good for weight-reduction diets and when you have a stomach ulcer. Hmmm....

Easter. Strange czech holiday. Czechs are not religious people. I think it is one of the least religious countries in the world. But they have some strange traditions. Namely, boys/men go around knocking on doors, and when the women/girls answer, they get hit with pussywillow sticks, and the men say some like rhyme or something. They then (the boys) get rewarded with chocolate, eggs, or for the older ones, alcohol. I managed to avoid most of them, other than from my little host brothers and their 4 friends, 3 of whom I have never met before. The other thing that sometimes happens is that the girls get buckets of water dumped on them. Such fun. That didn't happen either, thank god, but my friend maria got dumped in the bathtub three times.

I also have some new pictures on picasaweb.google.com/beccaintheczechrepublic. Check them out.

pondělí, dubna 02, 2007

Rowing in the Spring

So I figure that this deserves its own post, though I just wrote a long one. This one is about rowing. My first time on the water in approx. 10 months. Long time, but so good. I had some crazy problems getting the boat down to the water due to time lapse and various language problems, but we made it in the end.

It was my first time in a double and i have realized that balance is so much easier to learn in a double. I feel sort of bad for the girl with me, but I think it'll get better.

It was just so good to be on the water on a nice spring day.


So, my trip to Praha is now over, and so now I will write about it. Sorry for the choppy English. I am really starting to have major problems. It's really strange. I will not use the right case of a verb or something, and it's definitely different.

So anyway. Praha.

Friday I went on a bus to Prague (2.5 hours) in the morning with 3 other exchangers from around Brno. We all met up at the bus station in Prague at like noon, and after some wondering where the Spanish guy was, we all were there, and then headed to our hostel. This time we were actually in the city, which was really nice. Only like 20 minutes tram ride from the center. The place we stayed was a bit strange, like a gymnasium/hotel thing, but it was nice. And cheap by Prague standards (especially since it is the start of tourist season)...

About the tourists. I guess because the weather is really nice and it is spring, the tourists come. Like my first time in Prague, this was one where hearing czech is unusual on the street. There are SO MANY Italians in Prague. I guess (or so someone told me...) because Italians like culture, and it is cheaper for them to come to Prague? There are also lots of Germans, Asians (a variety of countries) and a fair share of Americans. The Thais even ran into some Thai tourists.

Anyway, Friday, I had to go to the AFS office to have a pointless conversation with an AFS person which I had already had twice on the phone, and countless times on email. I would have rather gone to the Dali exhibit with Maria and Marta, but I had to miss that to go here. Friday night was Chinese night, in an actual Chinese restaurant, run by actual Chinese people (very unsual here; lots of stuff parades as Asian food, but it rarely is real). It was really good, and I improved my chopstick skills with a bit of help from the kids from Hong Kong. Friday night we also went to Febio Fest, an international music and film festival. We went to a (bad) concert from Romania until midnight, when I went with some people to a movie from the Netherlands. It was the saddest and most moving movie I have ever seen. It is about a Jewish woman in the Netherlands during WWII and what she has to do to survive. It is called "Black Book". I would recommend it to anyone, but I really warn you, it is incredibly sad.

It was really interesting to talk to the kids I went with (from Iceland, Turkey and Hong Kong) afterwards, because they don't know much about the Holocaust and WWII. I am finding that a lot of the world is ignorant to Judaism and what has happened to Jews.

After getting back to our hostel at 4 am, we went to bed, seeing as we had to be somewhere at 10. After a fitful night of sleep, because of a strange dream about having to hide identities and get information on random trams, I got like 3 hours of sleep. Normal for these things, but it didn't hit me too much.

Saturday we went to Prague Castle (though most people, including myself, didn't want to because we had already been there), but we had to stay as a group because the AFS volunteer we were with decided we had to. She was nice, but far too "ghaadkf". We also went to a mirror house and the fenicular. Afterwards we had some free time, and I went for Turkish food and to a vintage store with some other people. Then we went to a "modern" theatre. I hated it. I really did. It was like a film background and then strange modern dancers. It was horrible. Not my type of thing. I fell asleep, I believe. After this, though we were all planning on going to a disco, I decided to go back to the hostel with some other girls because of the lack of sleep the night before, and we just talked for a couple hours, and then went to bed "early".

Sunday morning, I woke up early (8) and went by myself for a bagel. The only place to get a bagel in this country is in this one store in Prague, and I really wanted one. And I have to say it was worth it for a half an hour tram ride each way. Just for a bagel. But it's more than just bread, as some others described it. It is life. Sunday also we went to the Czech Cubism Museum, which was pretty cool, and then we all just hung out until our respective modes of transportation left.

I really like Prague. It is a wonderful city with so many different things to do. Unlike Brno, when you go out of the center, it is still exciting, with many things to see. It has so much history, and great architecture, but it is a modern city. Though there are many tourists, that just means that it really is an international city. I would like to see more czech there, but I think that will come in the future. If I were ever to live again in the Czech Republic, I think the only place I would live would be in Prague.