čtvrtek, května 31, 2007

Trip Continued

So the next part of the trip involved Zagreb, Croatia.

We came here pretty much because you have to stop here on the way from Ljubljana to Split, and decided, hey, we may as well see what the city has to offer.

In our inexperienced opinions, that would be not much. Zagreb reminded me of Brno, in the boring communist era architecture and the lack of interesting things to do, even after a bit of searching.

We wandered the 4 ish blocks to öur hostel, after having passed it a couple of times because the only sign is the name on the doorbell. It was like a little apartment with one room given over to 4 bunk beds. After putting our stuff down, we met back up with the 2 Americans we had taken the train with from Ljubljana and set out to explore Zagreb. We ended up in the main square, which had a crafts market, which is quite common in this part of the world.

We then proceeded to get ice cream and wander through the streets of what I presume to be northern Zagreb. There are some cool little alley looking streets but the exploration didn´t yield much. We found a place to eat dinner, which an insanely cool waitress who ended up speaking a bit of Portuguese, much to Maria´s delight.

After this we headed out for the night, found that going out in Zagreb is insanely expensive, and that everything except a tacky jazz club closes at midnight, so we headed home in the rain after making a late night tourist stop to the cathedral.

And then the next morning we each headed our separate ways to explore a bit more before meeting at the train station at 1030 for our train to Split.

středa, května 16, 2007

Trip to the Balkans: Part 1

So I write to you all from Ljubljana, Slovenia, a small but very beatiful city. We arrived here after a long 9.5 hour train ride from Brno/Czech Republic and a train ride through Austria.

When we first got off the train, we were like, wow this is an ugly city and were talking about how we could figure out how to leave early. But once we got to the hostel, took off our backpacks and went to walk around, it turned out to be a beautiful city.

There are only 300,000 inhabitants, and it is definitely a small city, but it is the same size as Brno, but much prettier and more things to do. There is a river running down the center of town, which is great in a new city, because it is always, hey we don't know where we are, just walk to the river.

The downside is that right now it is the rainy season, so it has been sporadically raining throughout the day.

Yesterday after the train ride, we were all dead tired because we left at 4 am (Jason from Prague at 1 am) and had to change trains 3 times, one unexpectedly because otherwise we would have ended up in budapest instead of vienna. We changed again in villach, in austria and then onto Ljubljana. The cool thing about the trains were that in the compartments, you can pull the seats out and it creates a sort of bed with the seats covering the entire thing. It is a rather good way to travel long distances with like 4 people. And people definitely won´t interrupt you looking for an empty seat. Just not enough room for more.

Our first day in Ljubljana was spent wandering around looking for a supermarket. They don´t really exist there though, just small convienence stores. At one point we asked someone and they didn´t know what a supermarket was! That was suprising to us because they do exist in Czech, and we thought that Ljubljana, because of the Euro, would be more "Europeanized" than Czech. We ended up looking around for the cheapest place to eat because our hostel didn´t have a kitchen, and we ended up eating in a "cheap" (Ljlubljana is a rather expensive place) Mexican restaurant, which was rather good.

The next day, we just walked around Ljubljana, attempting to go to a few museums, but the ones that we were interested in were closed. We went to the markets, fruit and crafts and just got to see Ljubljana. We tried to find this Roman wall from a long time ago (I don't know when) but we ended up just walking right by it. It was just a wall. Like 6 feet high with grass growing on top. Nothing special really. We found a really cool shop with some Lomography stuff, as well as other strange stuff. It was cool.

Our last day in Ljubljana we went up to the Castle, where we ended up meeting a guy from Florida. We went with him and a girl from our hostel from Pennsylvania to Ljubljana.

Summary: Ljubljana is great, though probably a better place to live than visit for an extended period of time. It seems to have a sort of funky (small) underculture, but there are a lot of families and cafes and stuff.

The other parts of the trip will be updated shortly, but I thought some of you might appreciate a new entry.

pondělí, května 14, 2007


or in other words, Croatia.

I am off bright and early tomorrow morning (4 am) with 3 friends (maria, marta, jason) to ljubljana, zagreb, split and hvar. And I am rather excited.

We started planning this trip as a theoretical possibility probably 2 months ago, maybe more. At the time, it seemed so far away. So close to the end and a wind down. Now it is here, and it is hard to believe.

With around 50 days left, time is flying by. My parents (hopefully) are coming on the 25th of June, 2 days after Cristian leaves. We will (I think; mom is planning everything) go around the Czech Republic, and then maybe also to Budapest, Bratislava and Ausschwitz.

I truly have to say that I am ready to be home. This year has been great, and I have friends I will hopefully be able to visit from around the world, but on the czech side of things, it has been tough. I am on my 4th family, one woman who I am not sure if I will connect with, but is offering me a place to stay none the less, and my 2nd school. School has been the toughest thing of them all. For whatever reason, whether it be me or some other reason, I have had a really hard time connecting with czech teenagers. I like the country, the language and everything, and after spending 5 days last weekend in Prague, I have decided that well I may not want to live as a czech person, I wouldn´t so much mind living in Czech. Who knows if it will happen, but it is a possibility open to me.

One thing I worry about for next year is how to keep up my czech. I like the language, even if the grammar is insanely difficult, but I don´t want to lose it. I have bought some czech books and cds, and I know I have some friends (mostly in Brasil) I can write to in czech, but I worry about losing my speaking ability. If any of you happen to know a czech speaker, let me know!

As this year comes to a close, I am trying to keep travelling to see my friends, and speak czech. I am now starting to think in czech a bit, though the grammar makes that a bit tough. But I like it. I have currently read 1.5 books in czech, the first being Kroníka ohlašene smrt, or chronicles of a death foretold, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, quíte good, but a bit of a tough read for a first book. The one I am currently seeing is rather interesting. It is called Jak Jsem Viděl Ameriku, or how I saw america, written my a czech (oslovakian) who travelled around the US for 5 months right after Communism fell.

I have been trying to go to rowing, but things there are just ramping up as my schedule does too. As opposed to how it is in the US, with sports coming to a close around May, here stuff is just starting. I just found out that my rowing club is going to some European competition next weekend, but I can´t go seeing as I will be in Croatia. And after that I have only about 3 more weeks.

It is amazing to think at the beginning how the 3 months I was here seemed so long, and yet so short. This year seems to have flown by, with preparations ramping up for the next. I am so glad I took a year to see how others live, but am definitely ready to get on with my own life.

I definitely feel that perhaps this wasn´t the best program or time for me to come, but that cannot be changed. As such, I am just happy that I have learned a lot about others, and about myself.

In the next couple months, I start thinking about the future: college, mostly. Where, what, when, how. All the nuts and bolts about where I will be the 4 years after.

pátek, května 04, 2007

CU in Czech Republic

So yesterday my PE teacher showed up to class wearing a CU T-shirt. I was just a bit more than suprised. I didn´t ask her how she got it, but it was quite the suprise.

The other strange thing yesterday was big groups of people walking through Brno, wearing costumes and yelling. It was strange.

And finally, there was some type of firefighter band playing in the square yesterday. I thought of you, Hannah.

středa, května 02, 2007

A Bike Trip near Břeclav

So the same start...sorry for the 2 weeks between posts.

I have a new family (one woman, named Doris), but it is looking as though they are not sure whether or not it will be permanent. She lives in a "flat" in the upstairs of a house, and her parents live below. They are really not open to the idea of someone else living in the house, even if not with them. That remains to be seen. This is in Brno, and so I have been at the same school, and I think I will be for the rest of the year. There isn't too much of it left, and would make absolutely no sense to change when all the tests are coming up and the days will soon be shortened. Doris is right now in Egypt for 2 weeks, and so I am staying again with Eva, the volunteer I stayed with for almost a month in November/December. She and her parents are great.

We have finally planned our big trip. I am going with Maria (Brasil), Marta (Iceland) and Jason (Hong Kong) on our 9 day trip. We are doing 2 nights in Ljubljana, 1 in Zagreb and 5 in/near Split. During the time in Split we will probably head out for a night to an island in the vicinity. I am really excited. The planning was a huge pain, with not knowing who was coming or when we were going, but now it is all starting to work out. The next piece of business is to get the train passes, and book the hostels. We are going from May 15th to May 24th. After that, if all works out as planned, Mom and Dad will come a month later.

This past weekend was another AFS weekend. I am so glad to be in AFS Morava because we have so many activities together. In Bohemia, they have just had the required camps (3 per year) and that is all, while we get together at least once a month. This weekend was a biking weekend near Břeclav. It was the longest camp we have had, encompassing at least part of 5 days, because yesterday (Tuesday) was the 1st of Mai, and a "left-over" holiday from Comunism. It is the "den prace" or the day of work, and from what I was told, when everyone, schools, businesses etc. were required to turn out and celebrate the work and stuff. They still do it as just a day off because people say, well, work is good to have, so why not celebrate it? It is also the day for the Neo-nazi's to come out and protest. The numbers are relatively small though. In Brno, there were something like 1,000 police for 400 neo-nazis, and they didn't cause too big a rucus. I'm not sure what it was like elsewhere.

Saturday and Sunday were biking days. This is an interesting experience with a group of 20 teenagers with different biking abilities. There was one girl who didn't know how to ride a bike (it is a bit beyond me why she came...), and thus didn't come with us on our rides.

Saturday we went in the morning to go rent all the bikes for people who needed them and then we set out. The morning we spent together, culminating for lunch in a town called Valtice. Trying to find a place for 24 people to eat is quite a task. We did find a typical czech fast food place (all fried and/or cooked in oil), but it was fine. The afternoon we split up into two groups for the way back. One for the shorter, faster, easier way consisted mostly of the thai girls, and the other was the ones for the hilly longer way. The leader of my group (harder, hillier) was Diego's host dad. He rides everyday, does spinning etc., meaning is quite the biker. Fast, and not phased by hills. Unlike the rest of us. Our path took us through wine country (lots and lots of vineyards...), and up some pretty big hills. One hill we had to go down was seriously like aroller coaster. And you all know how much I hate roller coasters. My speed on that one was recorded as 45 km per hour. Not bad on a bike... We had 10 people in our group, and took about 3 hours to do 25 km because out of the 10 bikes, about 4 got grounded. We came back to the place we were staying with I think 5 people. That day we biked 50 km. Something else I did on Saturday was play Mah Jong!! In about December the kids from Hong Kong were suprised to learn that I knew how to play, and started to try and figure out how to get a set. One of the girls' moms apparently sent her a travel mah jong set, and thus I set out to learn how to play Chinese mah jong. Granted, we didn't get into everything, but it is rather more simple than ours. If anyone is wondering where atomic comes from, it is from Chinese mah jong. The point is to find 4 sets of 3 and a pair. The hardest part of this all for me was the chinese characters. because they can obviously read them. I had my little cheat sheet for the cracks, dragons and winds. It was really fun. They play with friends, much like we do cribbage. Maybe now we have a new game.... Tana, still remember?

I think for hte first time of any AFS camp, we all actually got a decent amount of sleep. Maybe because this camp was longer, maybe because we were all dead tired from biking, but for whatever reason we did. This was evident in the fact that no one wanted to go out Saturday night. That is amazing.

Sunday was our second bike day. My legs weren't sore, or at least not until we actually got on the bike. That is when you start to feel it. This day was 45 km. The start was a lot hillier. To the point where, god I can't go on. But I made it up some hills I thought I wouldn't, so that was an accomplishment. Right before lunch we went down this HUGE hill. Like 2 km, twisting and turning. It was incredibly windy that day and some of these turns I felt like I would be blown off the road! At the end I ended up with a flat tire though, and had to wait for Diego's host dad to come change it. Note: if ever going on long rides, learn how to change tires!! After this though, it was only like another 3 km to the place for lunch, but it seemed impossible! Most of the B group from the day before joined the A group, because the A group went by train! After lunch some of us headed up to this monument thing on top of a big hill in Mikulov, right near Austria. Both days we rode along the Austrian border. The ride back was fun, despite the boli nohy (hurting legs), because it was more like mountain biking stuff (rocks etc.), though I was a little worried becuse I was using a road bike, but Diego's host dad, who I borrowed it from, had one too, and was doing the same stuff, so it was good. Sunday night after everyone stopped ocmplaing about the legs, we went to the house of the host family of Richy, who lives in Breclav, to their wine cellar to try some of the wine. We weren't there very long because there wasn't exactly enough room for 24 people, but it was good. Sunday was another early night, due to the tiredness.

Monday wasn't bikes, but instead a výlet (day trip) to Lednice. There is a castle/villa from the Lichtenstien family. We got a tour of the villa, and then went out to the minaret that is on the grounds. It is pretty, but was another really windy day. In the afternoon we went to a horse place to ride horses, but this consisted of 2 horses and being led around a ring, mostly because a lot of people had never been on a horse before. Monday night I played cards with Jason and Summer (HK) and Hector (paraguay). It was funny because Hector and I started a verbal fighting match in Chinese (with the help of Jason and Summer). I have learned some practical and not so practical chinese, and decided that the only words I will ever remember how to write in chinese characters are 1, 2, 3 and son of a bitch. Not because of necessity, just because of simplicity. My vocabulary now consists of the numbers up to 999 (e.g. yat, yee, sam, say, um, lo, tsa, ba, gao, tsap; 1-10), my name is Becca (no giu Becca), he/she is/isn't (kai hai/m hai), you are/aren't (lay hai/m hai), I am/am not (no hai/m hai), thank you (to say), and various swear words. I like Cantonese, and have decided learning Chinese may not be a bad thing, but perhaps Mandarin might be a tad bit more useful seeing as it is what htey speak on the mainland.