Friday, March 19, 2010

to do... and not to do...

At the end of our first semester, my classmates and I got a week off for what they were calling "spring break", but I don't know about you, I can't call it spring break till, o I don't know... springs actually arrived :P
It started out kinda slow... almost sluggish...
Since AG is a boarding school, pretty much all of my friends go home to various areas in Moravia for the holidays, witch leaves me with little to do. Sunday I went to Brno with my host brother Tomas to see Avatar in 3D. It was pretty great although, as seems to be the trend here, it was all in Czech. I caught a surprising amount of it, just enough to keep up with the general plot, and when I got home, I read the summary on IMDB just to make sure I got it right.

Tuesday- Eva and I went went for a day of shopping in Brno, and I made plans with my friend Alice from lacrosse to go skiing the next day.
Wednesday- no such luck with skiing, i didn't approve it in time with rotary, so they had to go without me :(
Thursday, my fellow exchange student from Uhersky Brod came to Kromeriz . He arrived by bus at about 2pm and we went out for pizza at the pizzeria on the town square. That evening we went out to see "couple's retreat" at our local cinema (or kino ;)). It hadn't been dubbed, so we definitely understood it all, but it did have Czech subtitles. Kinda handy to match words to speech, so we got a little Czech help too :) Afterwards we stopped by a cafe for a drink and then headed home.
Friday- In the morning we got up early so that we could go with my host dad to work in Brno. There we caught a train to Prague, and then to Písek to spend the weekend with April, Hillary, and Kike (also exchange students). that night we just hung around and watched movies
(in English!) and talked and stuff.
Saturday morning we had a legit American breakfast with all the works! everyones parents had sent something from home, so we had chocolate chip pancakes, scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, bacon, and coffee and juice. We had the stuff for French toast, but by that point, we just weren't hungry any more! For lunch, April's host mom made us fried chicken and delicious stuffing. Then Tim, April and I went out to a tea house (caiovna) for some drinks.
Later that evening we met back up with Kike and Hillary for a luxurious American/Mexican style feast. We had legit Mexican quesadillas with rice real cheddar cheese and meat. Next on the menu was Kraft Mac N' Cheese, followed last and certainly not least by Mrs. Field's Cookies. Soooooo good :)
Next morning Tim and i got up early to catch our bus back to Brno, and then back to Kroměříž just in time to get some sleep before school the next day.
Back to school on Monday, i was joined in my class by two Canadian brothers, Josh and Aaron. They have a cousin who spent last year in Canada with them, so now they are going to spend the last half the this school year here, in the Czech Republic. the rest of the week went routinely, plus a little bit of tour guiding. Its so great to finally have someone to talk to and help out.
That Saturday the "weasel sisters" had another tournament in our neighboring town of Holisov. Except for the location, it was almost exactly like the last one: same teams, no wins, yet another ball to the face, and a none the less enjoyable time :)
Monday, went to spinning with Zuzanna and Rotary as usual. Since Chemistry was canceled on Tuesday, Josh, Aaron, Katka and I went out for lunch an Asian restaurant down the street from school. The food wasn't too bad, although the lo main noodles tasted a little different than im use too. After lunch we did some shopping in town then headed back to the AG bar to work on a environmental project for Religion class.
Wednesday, everyone who signed up, went for the orientation for volunteering at the physiatric hospital after school. everyone there seemed really nice, but i dazed out a little bit and almost fell asleep while the guy was talking to us :P I was grouped with Vendy, Misa, Jana, and we were scheduled to come the Thursday after next for out first time slot.
That Sunday was Valentines day, and since I didn't really see any card to hand out, i decided to make some heart shaped chocolate chip cookies for my class instead. I was talking to my sister in the kitchen while i was baking, and she asked me if this was something normal in America. I told her yea, not everyone gives Valentines day cards or candy, but its definitely not unusual. When i asked her the same question, she said that this was really abnormal. People usually only bring food to school when it is their birthday, and even then it was normally just for their friends.
I guess this kind of explains the strange reaction to my first batch of cookies at school earlier in the year :P
I handed them out in the last class on Friday, and they went over quite well, almost all of them were gone by the end of school. After school I went to the bar with some kids from the forth year class, and then home.
Weekends with my second host family aren't quite as eventful as they were with my first, but its actually turning out alright. With my Czech and social skills improving, i am spending a LOT more time out on the week days, so its nice to just relax, clean, and eat lunch with the family on the weekends.
Monday was spinning, but no Rotary, we had a special meeting scheduled for Thursday instead.
Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, so since AG is a Christian school, we got out of 2 class periods to go to Pana Maria church for mass. Since i'm part of the school choir, i got to help sing too.
After school Vendy Misa and Katka came over to my house to bake cookies. They had been asking me for the recipe , and since I am not too sure how to translate it into Czech, this was the next best thing. We went out and bought Lentilky (Czech M n' Ms) and used them as chocolate chips. We had a great time cooking talking and looking up music. The cookies turned out a little heavy on the butter, but otherwise good. My friends couldn't believe just how much sugar was used :P
Thursday we had our special Rotary meeting in Uhersky Hradec. They are a famously beautiful town, and are well know for their theater. We saw a production called "Emilia Galotti". It's a German Shakespeare type show, translated into Czech... I understood a good portion ofH it, enough to get the general plot. They did this really cool thing with a fish tank of water in the middle of the stage. They used different lights to set the mood of each seen, and it also had metaphorical purpose... its hard to explain... but it was really interesting :D
Friday I went to the business school ples at the Culture House with my host sister and her friends. I didn't really know anyone there, but by the end i had found some friends i'd met earlier in the year and we had a great time.
Since my friend Misa went away skiing with her family the whole next week, Katka and Vendy invited me to stay in their room for a couple nights. It was so awesome to sleep at school! (never thought i'd say that :P). We hung out in the AG bar in the evenings and in the room after the bar closed. And the best part yet... I got to sleep in! No walk to school means more sleep :)
Thursday we did our first real volunteering at the physiatric hospital. We ended up singing old traditional Czech songs with the elderly residents, and since most of them were ones that everyone knew by heart, I just stood and smiled for most of it, just enjoying the music.
Thursday was my host sisters 20th birthday, so that Saturday we went to Brno for some celebratory ice cream and shopping. We visited that wonderful gelatto place in Vankovka, and i had an ice cream pizza... mmmnam

And just like that.... Februarys gone :P

1) I'm sure I mentioned this before, maybe in my post about Halloween, but the 3D movie glasses are really nice here. No cardboard with tinted cellophane for the Czechs, no... these are fancy plastic ones with a built in anti theft alarm. If you have to get up to use the bathroom during the film, you have to turn them into the people at the doors before you can leave the theater. theres a good picture of Kristyna and i wearing them in "2 months!!!"

2)bread, i have recently been having several discussions about what is and isnt bread, and here is my consensus:if it comes in a loaf and you cut it up before you eat it-yes, its bread; but rolls, baguettes, and anything of this nature- not

3) in all churches, there is a score board like sign at the front of the church to tell which song will be sang next. it is really ironic to see an old, 17th century church with bright red glowing letters between statues

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Up to Speed :)

I always heard that blogging gets more and more difficult later in the exchange... No kidding! i have been meaning to do my January update, and now all of a sudden, I have to do February too! D:

So where did I leave off?

That first snow melted ended up as a nice layer of ice, but the Friday after New Years, it started again, for REAL this time :D It began in the morning, and didn’t stop till Sunday. We got somewhere around 3 feet!

Sunday also happened to be my 18th birthday, so in honor of the occasion, my family took me out to Octarna for a special birthday lunch.

The “how to” of Czech birthday present giving tradition:

1: All party guests assemble into a line to give you (the birthday person) a present.

2: One by one everyone steps up to shake your hand.

3: they wish you a lucky year, filled with wealth, love, and happiness, “Vsechno nejlepsi" (all the best) and/or “vesely narozininy” (Happy Birthday)

4: you exchange kisses

5: you receive your present J (presents are usually something small (eg. chocolate, candy, cosmetics, or a magazine) because everyone gives something, even little kids (and foreigners :P).

At lunch, I got some chocolate, some flowers, and body wash from my host family. After lunch, we went home, and I had some fun taking pictures in the newly fallen snow and ice. That evening I went to my second ever intercross practice, and ended the evening skyping with my mom and sister.

That Wednesday I planned a get together with my classmates. We all went to the popular bar called the pancake bar, or “Palacinkarna”. It turned out great J almost my whole class showed up, and even got me a cake! They also got me some chocolate and a Czech flag that the all had signed. We had a great time and although the kids who lived at school had to leave at 8:30, there was still enough people to hang around till a bit later. Unfortunately I forgot my camera, so the pictures are taken with a friends camera phone, so please, pardon our red eyes :-P

Friday was the AG ples (my school ball). I went early with friends to help set up and hang out. It was mostly free dancing and eating, spiced up with the occasional dance performance. There were a lot of people dressed up in traditional garb. It was really interesting to see the regional difference in outfits. Cities as close as 10 miles have significantly different outfits. Afterwards I went to the Slady music club with my friends Vendy and Tomas.

The next morning, the Weasel Sisters intercross team had their first tournament. I was super nervous… up till this point I had only been to 2 practices and only ever held a pole two or three times more than that. But it wasn’t so bad once I got into the game. We played a series of 4 games against the only other teams from the Moravia area. Statistically, we didn’t do so well… that is, we didn’t win any of the games…. But this isn’t such a new concept to me; I’m not exactly the most athletically inclined person. So I had a blast anyway J

After the tournament we all went to the Cerny Orel (black eagle) pub on the square and had a joint birthday celebration for me and another guy on the team who had a birthday near mine. There was a DELICIOUS homemade cake from my friend on the team and I got MORE chocolate! (above):D

On Monday's rotary meeting, we had a family night of bowling. not many people showed for the event, but everyone that did had a blast.

The weekend of the 22rd I spent with exchange students in Pec Pod Snezkou on the long awaited Rotary ski weekend J Tim and I met in Brno to catch a bus to Hradec Kralove, then to Trutnov and finally to Pec Pod. True to tradition, the trip didn’t go exactly as planned, but we did finally make it to the ski lodge to a warm welcome by our friends. That night we took a trip to a snow roller coaster type thing. It was great, Eli and I road down together, and I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard. I think this must have been the last coaster ever with manual breaks J right before bed, we had our 4th and final Czech test…. I have never been good at tests, but whos idea was it to have the test at midnight???

In the morning we all went our separate ways to learn to ski, snowboard or free time on the slopes. I signed up to finally learn to snowboard, and I’m so glad I did. Personally, I think it beats skiing, no question J when we all reconvened for lunch, Sara from MA showed up with a broken wrist. It was a shame that she couldn’t snow board for the rest of the day, but the doctor there said that it wasn’t bad and wouldn’t need screws. In the afternoon we finished our time on the slopes and caped off the evening with some apples to apples, bowling, and our test results… I got 38.5 out of 40! In the morning we said our goodbyes and left for our respective buses and trains home.

On monday's Rotary meeting, we went to a restaurant in the city. the cafe was showing an exibit of art painted by the wife of a Rotarian. She taught origami and painted some Japanese for us. She painted two for me, one that said "beautiful Amy" and the other that said "82". Currently they hold a place of honor on the wall in my room :)

Wednesday there was a concert at school by a band make up of kids in the school. The bands name was TEARS. They played mostly rock, but spiced things up with some ABBA and a little twist and shout. At the end i got a picture with the whole crew.

Thursday was the last day of school before semester break, and only 4 class periods long, so we didn't do much. We took a test, watched some movies, and then for the last class, we went back to our main homeroom type class for report cards. Individually, each student was called to the front of the class to receive their grades. My teacher shook their hand and discussed what marks they had gotten with the class, and sent them back to their seat.

When she called me to come to the front, I was pretty surprised. I wasn't expecting to get a report at all. Prof. Beth shook my hand and told me that I had gotten seven 1's (the best mark), one 2, two 3's, and four classes with no grades because the teachers didn't know what they were suppose to do about grades for me. I was so excited! (even though I have the sneaking suspicion that a few of them were pity grades :P). As i returned to my seat, received a hardy round of applause, whom I believe were also quite taken back by my grades :D

On Friday my friends on the lacrosse team threw a 17th birthday party for my friend Natalia. We hung out the the pancake bar and ate and relaxed. Went to Slady for a short time, but ended up back at the bar for the end of the night.

So whats the difference?

1) every day of the year has designated Czech names. and the day that your name coincides with the name of the day, you have a sort of birthday like celebration. Chocolates, presents, the works. Unfortunately Amy isn't really a Czech name :P

2) On your birthday, instead of making a wish when you blow out the candles, you make the wish when you cut the cake.

3) It turns out, my school actually PAYS its students for good grades... thats right, students get a monetary reward of up to about 50$ if their grades are above a certain percentage... I think MHS might have a thing or two to learn from AG ;)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

its the holiday season!

Sorry, I didn't take as many pictures as last time, i'll try to do better for next entry :P

The Friday after an unbelievably beautiful (and slightly terrifying) week in Italy, we drove back to Kroměříž so that I could attend my English teacher’s (formally Kristina Hamšiková) wedding at the church attached to my school. She married a German man, so the sermon was translated into both Czech and German to accommodate both sides family. Besides the fact that it was unbelievably cold inside the church, it was a beautiful ceremony. My class of 2B sang and was the band, so I actually got to be a part of the whole shebang. Then afterward we took pictures with the newlyweds and wished them luck before they left for the honeymoon.

That night, I went to my councilor’s house in Zlin so that I could go to a Christmas ball organized by his daughter/my friend Nicole. It was very nice, great decorations and a fun atmosphere.

I spent the night at the Lukovicovi house and the following morning we cleaned up the dance and went shopping, followed by an… eventful, lunch at the mall. Following lunch we drove back to Kroměříž for my first lacrosse practice. It was really cool, and I was finally glad to be doing a little physical activity. After practice they invited me to go to the Cerny Orel (a pub on the main square) for their Christmas party. By the time I got home that night I was ready to take a bath and go to bed, but when I opened the door to my bathroom, I found a kaper (Czech for carp) swimming around in my tub. Turns out, this was to be Christmas dinner J

Monday we had the Rotary Christmas dinner. One of the Rotarians is married to a professional singer from Japan, so she put on a small show before dinner, and was super. Then, we had the traditional soup, carp filet, and potato salad. Afterward, I gave out little snow men ornaments I had made, and Rotary gave me a present. It was a silver and Czech garnet bracelet for Christmas. It is B-E-A-utiful J on the off chance any of them read my blog… THANK YOU! I was also informed I would be switching to my next host family on the 29th

Tuesday there was a half day of school, half of which was videos, and the other half a Christmas party J Wednesday was the start of holiday break. So I did the rest/most of my Christmas shopping and made sweets with my host mom and sister. At night I went to the Christmas party with my scout group, there were a lot of new faces and fun things to do. As a present from the whole group, the Mafia gave me a bandana with the scout name on it. They told me it was so I wouldn’t forget them :P There was a scavenger hunt, a present exchange where everyone got random thing, and then we sent up a hot air balloon type thing for good luck for the New Year. The carp in my tub, had acquired an even larger friend :D

Thursday the 24th was the day we celebrated Christmas. In the morning we played Christmas carols, made more sweets, cleaned apples, decorated the main tree, and I made smaller trees in vases and decorated them. For lunch we had carp sushi, and then at four o’clock we went to Christmas mass at Panne Maria. After church we came home and had prepared for our feast :D we had a short reading of the Bible then had our potato salad and carp by candle light. After dinner, we all got an apple. We cut them in half, and supposedly, if there is a star in the middle, you will have luck for the coming year. So I asked what would happen if you didn’t get a star, and my mom told me that then it doesn’t mean anything :P

After apples, Ondrej lit some sparklers in the kitchen (another tradition), and then a small bell rang, meaning that baby Jesus had come with our presents. We gathered around and presents were handed out. I got some cosmetics, and some small girly things, plus a pair of garnet earrings to match the bracelet I had gotten from rotary. The rest of the night was spent watching movies and playing with presents J then, spat…

Christmas morning I skyped my family back home and opened presents I had gotten from back home.

I guess it is traditional to spend the 25th with your grandparents, so we headed off to Stramberk to spend the next two days at the Ranch with the Debef clan. We had a smaller version of Christmas, and had another present exchange. I got some lotion and MORE chocolate :P I have really enjoyed all the time I have spent with Ondrej’s family, I have my fingers crossed that they might continue to take me along to family get-togethers even after I switch families :P

The 27th was fairly laid back, we laid around most of the day, but did go to see a pretty cool are exhibits at the local museum featuring photos from the communist era. There was also a History of Kroměříž that we looked atm. My host mom showed me a necklace she had donated, that she had found in her backyard garden. In the evening we had one of Martin’s old teachers over for drinks and to look at Martins pictures from Australia. Monday was also a relaxing day. Nothing really happened except for a visit from an old family friend who now lives in England.

Tuesday was my last day living with the Eliska and Ondrej Debef, so in honor of this they took me out to lunch at the restaurant we had eaten at for their anniversary in Přerof and then we did some sigh seeing in the city. It was a really nice day, and I was sorry to have to pack up and leave that night.

Now I am living with the Hrabalovi family. I live with Jana and Zdeněk and their daughter Eva (19) and son Tomaš (17). Tomaš was the exchange student from Kroměříž to Alaska last year. So far I’m just spending some time getting use to being with a new family. New Years Eve Eva had some friends over to the house and we sat around, talked, played games, and then walked down to the main square for midnight. We lit some of our own fireworks and wished each other a “Stěsty Novy Rok” Down at the square we met Dina who was there with some of her friends and all went to Slady before calling it a night.

Yesterday we had a special new years day lunch. We had a chick-pea soup and beef fillet with potatoes. It is said that the more chick-peas that are in your soup the more luck you will have this year. We had beef because something about eating something that could fly means your luck will fly away. And as for the potatoes… well they just really like potatoes in CZ :P

This morning I woke up to snow (:D) and went swimming at the pool about a quarter mile from our house. It was very refreshing, but reminded me just how out of shape I am… hopefully I’ll get to go there more often to improve that :P I also google map’ed my commute to school. Its 1.25 miles to school… Mondays should be fun ;)

Some things familiar, some things peculiar:

1: When you give and receive gifts from under the Christmas tree, you don’t tell anyone who they are from. All presents are said to be from “Baby Jesus”.

2: If a little kid needs to use the bathroom, it is fine to take them to the nearest grassy spot and let them do it there. I have seen many parents dangling their pants less child in public areas waiting for them to do their business.

3: Fire detectors are neither mandatory, not common in homes. No matter why this is, im sure it helps that most houses are almost entirely made of stone.

what is it... 4 months now?

Alrighty, moving forward :)

The Monday after Jindrichuv Hradec, there was no school, so my family and I took a trip to Ostrava for the evening, where I hung out with my friend Brian, from Wisconsin, and they had dinner with an old friend. Afterwards, we headed out to the Ranch to spend the night at babicka's house in Stramberk. It was nothing too special, but Ondrej's parents are very nice, and not in the best of health, so we tend to go up there as much as possible. Afterwards we visited the famous Stramberk tower at the top of the city, everyone else had already seen it before, but I had a good time :P after the tower, we bought some famous ear cookies, and headed home.

The following weekend, we went to Ondrej's brother’s house. The only think anyone said previous to our departure was "do you like pig?” As it turned out, this was a weekend devoted to eating, and preparing an entire pig. after the first wave of repulsion passed, it was actually really fascinating. I had no idea that pretty much every single part of the animal was made into something. My favorite part was filling small portions of the small intestine with ground up pig to make normal sausage and blood sausage. They really did let me help with the ENTIRE process... it was so cool! (although, I’m afraid this might have helped my opinion of meat :P) unfortunately my hands were kind of dirty so I couldn't take pictures, but everyone else did, so hopefully I’ll get copies :)

i was also really surprised at how much everyone liked the dead pig. We even took pictures with it on the meat hooks, and had the kids pet it and shake its hooves!

the following friday was the final ball for my dance class, lots of fun getting dressed up and showing off what we had learned :P

The weekend after, we drove my host sister, Hanka, back home to Prague. We spent one night and one day in the city, and it was beautiful! I took pictures, but unfortunately misplaced my wallet, so I couldn't buy anything :/ we ate at a super cool Indian restaurant, saw the Christmas market, visited the horse, spent the night in Hanka's apartment, had STARBUCKS coffee the next morning (:D), visited the Jewish district and Paris street, saw a really cool guy playing a recorder with his nose, then had to head home.

That Wednesday after school, my Dina, her parents, her grandma, a church friend, my host parents, my host moms nurse, and I all fit ourselves into one 9 person van and went to Vienna for the evening to see an impressionisms art exhibit and the Vienna Christmas market. It was some spectacular art (some privately owned) that I was told may never be displayed in another exhibit.On our way out of the art exhibit some one saw a strech hummer, everyone got excited and ran to look, it was hillarious :) we had some hash brown things, roasted chestnuts, hot wine/cider and i had chocolate covered strawberries... deeeelicious! then, we piled back in the car and back to CZ.

Another beautiful city, I only wish I could have spent more than 5 hours there :P

Friday afternoon I took the train to Ostrava, where I met Brian again. His rotary club had planned a bus trip to Budapest and Bratislava and he managed to get the ok for me to come along. That night I slept at his host parents house and the next morning at 5 we boarded the big purple pokka dotted bus. It was an awesome weekend with Brain, Kate, Christmas markets, and a copious supply of Becherovka. Unfortunately, it was a very foggy weekend, but we still got to see quite a bit. Budapest was beautiful, we were taken up to Catadella (at the top of Budapest) and showed around by a true native, coincidently also a rebound :) And last but not least, I spent my first night in a European hotel, and may I say, there are some significant differences. Sunday was spent in Bratislava, it was not quite as visually appealing as Budapest was, but still had a very nice market, and even better coffee :P That evening for dinner we went to a famous goose restaurant. it was the kind of place where you could only order the meat in units of whole geese, and as a gift at the end of the meal, they gave you the bones to take home to make soup with. The food was delicious, and we enjoyed goose soup the following Wednesday.

That Friday, I had the ball for my second dance class. Afterwards, I came home, slept for a couple hours, then hopped in the car to go to Italy for a week of skiing with my parents, some other doctors' families and Dina.

Besides the fact that is turns out I didn’t know as much about skiing as I thought I did, the week was really great. The Alps were spectacular, I couldn’t believe I was ACTUALLY there...

The little town our hotel/apartment was in was having a Bethlehem exhibit throughout the whole city, so we went out to see that almost every night.

The "around the mountain" ski day I had been told so much about, was unfortunately a little beyond my capability level. So instead of circling the mountain with my family, I hung out on the bunny slopes with two women who were more the relax and have fun type :) but I still got some gorgeous pictures!

What’s new...

1: In a hotel room, before it it possible to use electricity, you must first insert your door key card to a slot by the door... without this card in place, no lights will turn on :P

2: (one people probably already know) all cars are manual , I have seen one automatic shift car, and im almost sure it was a special import.

3: TV shows don't air on the hour and half hour. Because most TV stations cut out either most or all commercials during shows, they are not a half hour or hour long. It’s fairly normal to watch a show at 15:05 or 18:50. For example Kriminalka Las Vegas (CSI Las Vegas) airs Thursday at 21:35 :P