Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Home, sweet home.

Getting up at 4am on 3 hours of sleep is pretty amazing, but even more amazing is that I'm still awake right now, about 24 hours later.

But anyway, I arrived safely!! Absolutely no problems, even with my broken suitcase. I definitely recommend AAA Taxi service to anyone traveling in Prague. They were punctual, good drivers, and very polite.

I was pretty sad as my flight took off to leave for Milan this morning, and I did cry like a sap (big surprise). But by the time I overheard a local with a wicked accent explaining "The Curse" to two Alitalia flight attendants on my flight to Boston, I was excited to return home. I caught myself saying dobre den and prosim to the people at Logan-- awesome.

Time for reality to kick in. My cell phone is turned back on, so call away :)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

When one door closes...

Today is my last day in Prague. I take a cab tomorrow at 4:45am to the airport, and my flight leaves at 7:20am. I return to Boston at 1:15pm.

I spent yesterday souvenier shopping and wandering around Charles Bridge.

Chris had the awesome idea of having all of us take a boat ride on the Vltava River, and for 200k ($10), it seemed like a deal. The trip was about an hour long, and it felt SO good to be on the water, even if it was small water :) I really felt like I've seen just about everything here that I wanted to see, so it was nice to see Prague from the river's point of view.

Tonight, the Emerson stragglers are all going to see Svankmajer's FAUST (another film one of our FAMU professors starred in) at the outdoor theatre on Strelecky ("Shooter's") Island, in the middle of the Vltava River. You can read more about the summer screenings here:
The film will be a great way to say goodbye and pay homage to Prague, FAMU, and Czech culture. By the time we get back tonight, hopefully we'll all be wiped out so we can get a partial night of sleep!

I might also try to get over to the planetarium at Petrin Hill, and of course, take some last minute photos. Besides that, I don't have anything to crazy planned for the day, except for getting some last minute gifts and attempting to cram everything in my already-stuffed suitcase. The handle on it broke on the way back from Karlovy Vary, so it can't really be wheeled anymore. I tied a ribbon around the handle... it's going to be interesting to see how I get it out of here at 4:45am without waking the building and throwing out my back. Really, though, if I can just get it to the Prague airport, that's all I need to worry about. Ryan can carry it when I get back to Boston ;)

What I'll miss the most:
The city, the buildings, the locals, Petrin Hill, Ladronka Park, Mala Strana, Letna Park, seeing the Castle everyday, FAMU, Narodni Divadlo, the river, the Tram, the cheap beer, Tesco, all the dogs, the sunsets, the weather, the amazing tap water, clean air, Kinder Joy chocolates, wafers, and hazelnut yogurt.

What I won't miss so much:
Cold showers, no AC, cigarette smoke everywhere, lack of wireless Internet, meat-laden dishes (I swear I'll be veg when I go home!), pickpocketers, and crowded streets (though we have plenty of them back home!).

I have so much to do when I get back to Boston, that I'm hoping I'll be too busy to get sad over not living here anymore. When I return on Monday, I plan on attending the memorial services for Mr. Butch, the unofficial icon of Allston, who was killed last week in a scooter accident. Mr. Butch was a definitely perk of living in my area, and he served as part of Allstonian's daily routines-- you either saw him in the morning, or at night when you were coming home. He always hung out on the corner of Comm and Harvard Ave., sometimes playing guitar, sometimes just yelling at people in general. He shouted at me a few times, but sadly, we never had any direct interaction. The last time I saw him was right before I left for Prague-- some Sox fan was buying him a beer at Marty's Liquors. You can read more about Mr. Butch here-- yes, he has his own Wikipedia page:

At the end of the week, I'm picking up some hours at the ELC, teaching English to a group of 14-17 year-old international students. I hope some of them are Czech! That would be so much fun.

I also have to go see Sicko immediately! And purchase Interpol's newest album. I have a doctor's appointment on Thursday (eeeek!), and I have to schedule a dentist appointment. I also need to schedule hours at the DPL in an attempt to pay off some of the debt this trip has put me in! On Saturday, somehow I plan to get to NYC to the beer garden in Astoria, to visit with G and Sean (who leaves for a year-long trip to Japan), and to reunite with Mel, Zach, and Dan.

I have two internships to help with for the rest of the summer, as well as a christening video for my cousin, a final cut of An Inch Without Asphalt to submit before the screening, help shoot some footage in Maine for a surfing documentary, and I definitely need to get cracking on Hallelujah the Hill's rockumentary. They've just returned from an East Coast tour, and are quickly rising to indie stardom. They're album, Collective Psychosis Begone, was released just a few days before I left, and it's been receiving rave reviews since. You can read about it on Pitchfork Media (where they scored a 7.0!!): http://pitchforkmedia.com/article/record_review/43739-collective-psychosis-begone.

Being as pale as I am this summer, I have to get to the beach. I have a trip to the Cape for my/Ryan's birthday, and Hog Island for the following week. And, I need to run!! Lots!! And lose the Pilsner pudge!

My mom is visiting in August, and hopefully I can get some friends up as well, and somehow get to Stamford for a day or two, with a stop to Stratford to visit my gram.

Somewhere along the lines, I have to write the Czech Film History paper-- eeeek! I'll wait until just before school starts on that one :)

Finally, I have to start planning for my master's project, Happy Hunting, my documentary about happiness. I have created a blog for the film, but haven't had the time to post any footage, so the site is still under construction for now. Many of you might have already received my email survey about happiness-- thanks so much for your feedback. I'll be sure to send the site to everyone once it's up and running.

I really don't know how I'll get everything done this summer.

I'm really going to miss this place.

I just want to thank all of you for visiting this blog, and for your encouraging comments, emails, and phone calls. An even greater thanks to my roommate here, Leah, who was so extremely generous in lending me her laptop night after night, so I could create this blog. She was also played a huge part in helping me get adjusted here, and always provided emotional (and chocolate!) support.

Although I've been pretty wordy in this entire blog, I find it really hard to come up with the words to express how much I love this place, and how appreciative I am for the history and culture that gives this city its vibrant life. The Czechs whom I met were more than kind, and always extremely helpful to this "stupid American girl" :) I am so happy and proud of myself for taking this trip and finally getting to explore another country, even though it took me a quarter century. Though the door here is closing for now, I hope that this journey will open endless doors to other adventures in my life, with a return Prague included.

Na shledanou, Praha! Dekuji vam.

Bittersweet days

Wednesday was probably one of the most challenging days for our class, as we headed out to Terezin, which was established as a fortress in the 18th century, but used during World War II as an internment camp. Needless to say, many of those who lived there did not go on to other concentration camps. I didn't take many photos, and the ones I did take I don't really feel I should post. We were all silent during the guided tour, which included about a mile-long walk in darkness in an underground tunnel. We also watched a short documentary which included original Nazi propaganda about Terezin, which was made to resemble a "fun camp" for the Jews and other prisoners for when members of the Red Cross and other officials visited. We were in one of the bunkers (about 20 of us), and we were told that at one point, it housed 600 men, with only two toilets... it was just unbelievable. From there we visited an art gallery in one of the bunkers, and then walked over to the museum, which is where I really lost it. Being in the bunkers and walking around the camp, it's almost mindblowing to wrap your head around the idea that this is wear thousands of innocent people perished. To me, the hardest things to see are the small, personal things that characterized each victim. They had a collection of small toys and dolls that the prisoners would make for each other to keep spirits lifted. One man had hand-carved a tiny, beautiful chess set. A young girl had drawn a picture that was a pictoral timeline of her life. To the left was a drawing of a baby drawn in a cradle. In the middle was a drawing of a young girl, wearing the Star of David on her jacket, sad in camp. On the right was a picture of a young woman, dressed well, and walking through a city with a baby stroller. The picture was titled "Past, Present, and Future."

We silently boarded the bus, and just when we thought the day was behind, the bus took us to the crematorium. Some of us stayed onboard as the rest of us sullenly made our way over. I'm not going to describe what I saw, because I'd rather not, and also because I just don't think I could put it into words. As we left and walked back towards the bus, the sky opened up and it started to rain.

I think Rudolph, our beloved FAMU field trip guide, realized how awful we were all feeling, and he announced that although the morning was "depressive," the afternoon would be "much more pleasant." I honestly didn't think that I would be pulled out of my slump, but we arrived to a small restaurant in the next town over (a favorite of Rudolph's), and we were greeted with a welcoming staff and a feast already laid out for us. Rudolph even went out of his way to ensure that the vegetarians would be able to eat lots as well. For the meat-lovers (yes, unfortunately this included me), he gave us "Tough Guy" soup, which contained pickles and pork in a spicy broth. Next, some of us had duck (NOT me!), beef, or the "Farmer's Delight"-- pork with stewed spinach, dumplings, potato dumplings, and red cabbage. It was awesome. And of course, the beer flowed endlessly.

Then Rudolph announced "Next, we go for ice cream," and we left the restaurant to get some of the best (and cheapest!) ice cream that I've had yet (tiramisu and pistachio!).

From there, Rudolph sent us into a restaurant/pub, which had been converted out of a cavern from the 1300s. We walked futher and further down into the caverns, for what seemed like a journey to the center of the earth. We saw giant albino spiders, who had never seen the light of day, and ancient fossils. The ceilings were covered in water droplets, since we were under a well, and that was kinda spooky. I just tried to focus on taking pictures so my claustophobia wouldn't kick in (I don't even like parking garages for fear of suffocation and being crushed to death).

When we got back to the surface, Rudolph announced, "And now, we finish up the day with wine tasting," and brought us to a winery. I just have to say right now, that had I been about 40 years older, I would have married Rudolph on Wednesday. He's just simply amazing.

That night, Chris and I planned to go for a run, and Mike, our cross country/track star of the group, finally joined us. He had been pent up with so much energy that he took off like a jackrabbit, and was literally jumping off the sides of buildings. By the time we got to Ladronka Park, he was thrilled about the different playground equipment that is throughout the park, and he and Chris climbed on jungle gyms and acted like goons. Once we arrived to the bowling alley/rollerblade rental/bar/restaurant place, we all got on the small playground there and acted like 5 year-olds. It was so much fun to go on a swing (I haven't done that in years), but we ended up getting kicked off by the owner of the restaurant, who told us the playground was for "small children," not 20-something children :) Regardless, we still had a blast.

On Thursday morning, we had our final project screenings. Everyone did a really awesome job, and I laughed harder than I did in a long time. Mike and Aaron's film was the crowd's favorite, because they had our whole class as the cast. The film, entitled "PS Billy" for "Pee-Stain Billy," perfectly depicts a drunken high school/college party, and how childhood stigmas stay latched on to people for years. I think it was definitely a crowd pleaser among the FAMU faculty as well.

After class, I went shopping and bought a $5 polka dot dress, and a ring, which cost a little more than $5. The ring is set in 14K white gold, and the stone was the prettiest color of seafoam green that I've ever seen. I thought it was my birthstone at first, but I was told it was moldevite (not actually made from mold, but from a meteor that struck the Czech Republic 15 million years ago, and is said to be completely gone in the next 10 years or so-- thanks, Wikipedia!). I decided to get it for myself as a 26th (eeeeeek!!!!!) birthday gift, and also as a lovely piece of Prague. I met up with some of our class, and with Justin, a University of Pittsburgh student who lives in our dorm and who I am trying to brainwash to go to Emerson for grad school. A group of us headed to the Museum of Communism (such a tourist trap, but really a fun time).

From there we headed back to the dorm, and we all got dressed up and went to FAMU one last time for a farewell dinner at Cafe Slavia. Unfortunately, drinks were free, and I had just a tad too much vino (we're still trying to remember if it was 4 or 5 glasses). I am able to recall how the intoxication grew progressively worse, only from the wacky photos I insisted on taking, or posing for. Luckily, I was able to walk up to receive my certificate of completion from the FAMU faculty, and then thought it was best to head home when the "I lovvvvve Praaaaaague... I love evvvvvvverybody!!" comments began.

Aaron, Jasmine, and I headed back to the dorm (the tram ride is still a little hazy), and we met up with Justin, who got dragged through the Petrin Hill tour.

We then all met up to re-watch our video projects (FAMU put them on DVDs for us), and by the end of the night, I'm pretty sure that Justin was terrified of Emerson students, as well as Jan Svankmajer.

Yesterday I woke up with a nice little headache (I deserved it!), and Chris and I headed out to the Prague Zoo, which we've been wanting to see since we first got here. We got a little lost on the way, and arrived about 2 hours later than planned (which included taking the tram in the complete opposite direction for about 30 minutes). It was SO worth it, though, because when we got there, we were greeted with an endless mountain of animals. I must have seen more birds yesterday than in my entire life (and duckies everywhere!!!!!). Bald eagles, flamingos, a bird that looked like he was made out of bananas, hawks, a big fat white goose, and a plethora of tropical and rare birds. There were polar bears, chimps, tigers, elephants, zebras, ocelots, mongooses, goats, ponies, and even a domestic dog. But my absolute favorite were the giraffes, because I had never seen one in real life. They were SO adorable, and so peaceful, too. Poor Chris had to endure 5 hours (yes, we were really there for 5 hours) of me talking in my high-octave, squealy "I-just-saw-a-puppy" voice, but he was a good sport about it. The only thing I didn't enjoy were the bats, which were allowed to flap right over your head (I screamed bloody murder, and gave Chris a pretty bad scare!). We took about a combined total of 400 pictures at the zoo. It was really the largest, most impressive zoo I have ever seen, and we certainly got our money's worth (70k, just $3.50!). Chris and I were so excited to be there, but also bummed that we don't have a zoo back home that could compare to Prague's zoo.

From the zoo, we planned to meet up with the rest of the group, and headed over to a cinema near Wenceslas Square, which was one of the cleanest theatres I've ever seen. The chairs looked like they were taken out of a car or coach bus, so they were much more comfortable than back in the States. Plus, the tickets were only 99K (about $5). I got popcorn that was "cheese and bacon" flavored-- I know, but I had to try it once. The group saw Tarantino's DEATH PROOF, but I'm a dork and saw FACTORY GIRL, because I've wanted to see it since last year. It was shot well (the film quality simulated the grainy film of the 60s), and Sienna Miller was great, but some of the other acting was pretty rotten, and I left with more questions about Edie Sedgwick than I had when I went it, which I felt could have been easily answered in the film. I finally took the Metro home, which was actually pretty nice, and as easy as the T in Boston.

Today is supposed to reach about 90 degrees, so I'm finally sucking it up and going souvenier shopping, and then hopefully taking a boat tour down the Vltava River. It will be a nice way to say goodbye to the city. I hope to get in one more run at Petrin Hill, but it will have to be when the sun sets. It's going to be a bittersweet run, to say the least.

Happy Weekend :)