First, greetings from Choco Cafe. 🙂 I’ve ordered a choco cafe and bruschetta. Delicious.

Second, the imminent death I described a few blogs back? Don’t worry, I’m still alive, but this death is really drawn-out and is getting more and more painful. I’d forgotten that the pharmacies here make you get a prescription for Sudafed so I’m mooching off friends for a lot of my drugs. I just want to get healthy again!

A common question I get regarding life in Prague are some of the cultural differences I’ve experienced.
On a day-t0-day basis, here are some common differences I’ve noticed:

– Czech people are reserved and quiet. They talk softly on trams and metros, and consider it rude when large groups are being loud. This one is most difficult for a lot of the kids on my program, and I will admit to being loud especially at night when I’m traveling on the tram after a night out!
– Sniffing instead of blowing your nose is considered more rude – completely opposite of the USA
– When on the metro or a tram, seats are reserved for the elderly or families with children. On my way to choco Cafe today, I was seated on a full metro and an elderly couple walked on board. The young man seated next to me and myself both stood up and offered them our seats, which they took graciously.
– Nobody travels in groups bigger than 2. This is also a huge indicator of spotting Americans, and the metro police (who randomly check to see if you have your tram pass) always stop us.
– The cafe culture is huge here. Because everyone lives with their parents until they’re at least 25, everyone meets up at pubs or cafes to chat with friends. I love this aspect of Europe.
– PDA is EVERYWHERE. And it’s not considered rude.
– Eating and drinking while walking or on the metro is considered very American – and if you’re spotted eating on a metro, you’ll probably be glared at.
– Spitting on the streets is common, along with not cleaning up after your dog. Warning: EVERYONE has a dog.
– Cat calling is supposed to be really disrespectful and is majorly frowned upon. Unfortunately, my and my girlfriends have experienced this too many times to truly believe that it is that bad or rude. Ugh.
– Like everywhere else in Europe, you want the check? You ask for it. This makes a lot of sense and it’s nice not being pressured by the restaurant to leave, but can be annoying at times if you want to leave in a hurry.
– This isn’t really a cultural difference, but more of a funny tradition. If you sneeze while someone is saying something, they exclaim, “It’s true!” As in, whatever statement they were making was confirmed by the fact that you sneezed. I love this one!

I’ll update on this subject more once I discover new things.

By the way, you guys should definitely check out all my friends’ blogs. Almost all of my close friends here keep blogs, and even though we are all doing basically the same things, hearing their perspective will definitely be worth your while. If you scroll down on my blog, there’s a section called “Blog Roll” with links to Jenny, Celia, Walt, Alex, and Sarah’s blogs (Becca never updates so don’t even bother with hers bwahaha). I’m mentioned in quite a lot of them too.

p.s. On a random note, if you send me a letter or a card, let me know! The mail that I check is literally two giant cubbies completely full and disorganized, some with letters from 2008. So I’ll only sift through it if I have to, and on that note, it’d be easier if you sent me things in a colored envelope or something. Just an FYI.

currently listening to: grizzly bear, “slow life”



February 23, 2010

I realized I forgot to post about one of the most magical evenings of my life. Of course I am referring to Valentine’s Day!

My roomie Sarah Paulos and I shared a romantic evening with our favorite boys, Walt and Alex. Back in the day (I believe it was a Wednesday) when we were frolicking back from a wondrous Hofbrauhaus in Munchen, Sarah lamented the fact that this year she was worried she wouldn’t have a Valentine. Alex, the charming and gallant gentleman that he is, offered himself to her right away.

Of course I got jealous immediately, but Walt (blondes 4eva) came to my rescue and we have been competing with the other couple ever since. Clearly Walt and I are the best Valentines ever. Not only do we both like the same music, Walt wrote me a beautiful song that really embodied our great friendship exactly the night of Valentine’s Day and performed it for me on his accordion and I swear tears came to my eyes.

All Paulos got was a lousy poem. Walt, I declare ourselves winners of Valentine’s Day.
Anyway, to celebrate, Paulos and I made dinner and the boys came bringing vino, roses, and their dapper selves.

Dinner in the kolej, being cute

Anyway, Saturday was one of those gorgeous days in Prague where the sun was out and we were intent on exploring.

Paulos, Kacy, and I – after a 2:30 pm breakfast of pancakes at Bohemia Bagel, we had a late Friday night – trekked to meet our friends at the Prague Castle (Pražský Hrad). Of course, everything was closed so we couldn’t see the interior of everything, but we did get some awesome views and sights.

Me and Paulos being silly outside the castle

this is the view from the opposite side of charles bridge from the castle, and you can see my university

Then we (finally! finally!) saw the Lennon Wall.
The Lennon Wall was made in 1980s in the height of communism when rebellious youths graffiti’ed lyrics and depictions of John Lennon, a symbol of hope and freedom, onto a wall. During the day, the authorities would white wash the wall and every night it would be painted over again. Today the tradition still lives where people write messages of love, peace, and expression on the wall. I’m a huge Beatles/John Lennon fan so I’ll be haunting this site often.

Next to the Lennon Wall is a street called Velkoprevorske Namesti, where lovers traditionally padlock a lock with their initials on it. It’s really lovely!

Sunday was spent doing laundry (trust me, a three-hour affair) and getting breakfast at this awesome cafe called Cafe Louvre, where Einsten and Franz Kafka once hung out (I know this because it said it on the menu. One day it will list “SARA SLOYER” additionally to these great minds, don’t you worry).

But now? Bedtime!

currently listening to: death cab for cutie, “tiny vessels”

Culture Shock

February 21, 2010

I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I’m coping with living in a different country.

I’m happy to say that since residing in the CZ going onto my 4th week now, I’m adapting quite well. It hasn’t been very shocking (we’ve talked a lot about culture shock since we’ve been here with my program) to me at all to go from living on the West Coast of the USA to a Central European country. I credit this largely to my well-traveled past, as I’ve been to Europe many times and have experienced its culture and lifestyle before my move here this semester. I know a lot of my friends here in Prague are struggling with homesickness and possibly even minor forms of culture shock, but for the most part I’ve been doing really well and have largely been excited about experiencing EVERYTHING I can.

Of course I’m homesick in some ways, but as I go to school 1800 miles away from San Diego anyway, this is relatively normal to me, which may seem bizarre to some of you. This isn’t to say that I’m not experiencing any homesickness. I miss my family (and my puppy! I miss you, Misty!) but it’s even weirder for me in some ways, honestly, to be away from my Puget Sound friends. They’ve been my new family for almost 3 years now, some of them, and I really don’t even sleep very well when I’m not around people I feel safe with. It’s sort of random, but that’s how I can really gauge my comfort level.

I miss waking up in my house in Tacoma on Saturdays and going to the SUB at 11am with my housemates and eating waffles while watching all the hungover students exchange stories about the night before. I miss going to the Met and getting tiger chais with Laura, Marissa, Natasha, and Serwaah. I miss going to the Rosewood and Alpha Phi. This weekend was especially hard because I just became a Grandbig to the lovely Monica, and I haven’t even met her yet!

But honestly, the hardest thing is dealing with the fact that life is going on in both San Diego and Tacoma without me. My friends’ lives are changing while I’m away. I’m trying really hard to stay caught up on all the “gossip” and what’s been going on so when I come back to Tacoma in the summer, I won’t be shocked. But I still wish that I could somehow put my friends’ lives on “pause” while I’m off romping around Europe.

On a lighter note, what little things do I miss the most other than people?
Oreos, Kraft mac’n’cheese, an oven, cheeseburgers, Mexican food and California burritos (oh my godddd I miss them so much), Misty May, all my clothes that I didn’t bring with me, the Pacific Ocean, listening to NPR, restaurants and stores that stay open 24 hours, Hulu, high customer service standards, no-smoking rules (I have one pair of leggings I ONLY wear when I’m going out to clubs since they smell so awful of wet smoke), and DRIVING!!

I know that I’ve been given an amazing opportunity to study in a different country. I have an amazing program, AIFS, that supports me in nearly every way that I can imagine while I’m abroad. I’ve made some fantastic friends that I can’t possibly fathom living without once these four months are over. I’m constantly excited about exploring this city and finding new nooks and crannies every day. I’ve already fallen in love with Praha, and count living here as “home”. I’m in nearly constant contact with my family and closest friends (except Becca, but she has a legit excuse of a broken computer) thanks to my obsession with Skype. I’m determined to make the most of these 4 months, and those who know me well know that I won’t let anything hold me back.

But now it’s almost 3am, and I’m going to get into my bed in my kolej, and get a good night’s sleep, because I’m surrounded by good friends, and tomorrow I have a busy day of adventuring in Prague. 🙂

listening to:  “horchata”, vampire weekend

Deviating my from social commentary regarding the sheneanigans of me and my Euro Friends (no idea why I just labeled you guys my “Euro Friends” but I’m going with it) I’ve decided to recap two weeks ago at a different city in the Czech Republic – the state of Moravia, and specifically the city of Brno, the second largest city in the CZK.

This is one of the trips that our fantastic program, AIFS, planned for us before classes started. They believe that we should see more of the Czech Republic than Prague during our orientation time, so they plan this trip for every group that goes. However, no one really knew what to expect from this trip or from Moravia.

After a three-hour bus ride into Brno – and I really couldn’t tell you about the landscape we passed, as I’ve become exceptionally talented at passing out on coach buses, I will tell you that I saw a lot of snow-covered fields and a lot of small towns and a lot of trees – we stopped at a church (a common theme in my European adventures, much to my chagrin) called Tisnov. This was actually the most beautiful church I’ve seen since I’ve been in Europe, the interior was just ridiculously intricate and awesome.

The best part was when we went to a legit wine cellar. 65-something of AIFS Prague students boarded onto our beloved coach bus in the evening and we drove the one hour to outside of Brno to the Templar Order Restaurant in Čejkovice.
Like my new favorite wine bar in Prague, U Sudu, this Templar Order wine cellar can be described as an “underground labyrinth” of brick tunnels filled with huge HUGE barrels of wine, some dating back to 1288 (ahem).

This wasn’t just any wine cellar. The Order of the Templar created this! It was very Da Vinci Code. See?

So after exploring the wine cellar, we all ate the meal that AIFS provided us (thanks!) which was very delicious indeed, when word spread throughout the chamber we were in that the meal also included free bottles of wine. BOTTLES. As in, ONE PER PERSON.

Before it got out of hand:

While it was getting out of hand:

After it got out of hand:

This was for sure the most brilliant marketing strategy those Moravians had ever thought of. So as we are all jovially toasting (“Nastravi!”) and cheering on AIFS, the owners of the restaurant/wine cellar ask, “So, who wants to buy some really good wine at cheap prices compared to USA?”
I came back with three bottles.

The next day, we explored Moravia further and went to Austerlitz, where a Napoleonic battle had taken place. However, as it is February and Europe is having a record bad winter, there were a lot of electric/technology problems in the Austerlitz museum as we discovered when none of the educational videos worked.

We ended the trip in Moravia with going to the Gregory Mendel (father of genetics) museum, which was actually pretty fun. I ended up buying this shirt:

So worth it. They also had fun activities with giant X and Ys, pea plants, and giant peas hanging from the ceiling everywhere. Needless to say, I’m pretty sure everyone loved it.

From here, we traveled to go to famous caves of Moravian Karst.
Let me just say that I would have enjoyed the caves even more had we not had to trek about a mile in a half from our buses to the caves themselves. This wouldn’t have been bad if it were, say, May, but as it had freshly snowed the night before over a nice thick layer of ice, we AIFS students quickly realized we should have stayed inside the warmth of the bus. Everyone was slipping, and at first it was funny when my friends Alex and Walt were frolicking about, jumping into each other’s arms attempting to ice skate and do triple axels until they fell on the ice, until of course I was the next casualty. I definitely fell straight onto my bad knee, bruising it badly – it’s still nasty colors and has a huge bump on it, 2 weeks later here – and we even saw the corpse of a deer on the way.

Clearly not the highlight of the trip. But the caves themselves were insanely cool. We walked into the complex underground caves for a while, admiring all the stalactites and stalagmites, and then took a boat ride through the rest of it.

Thus ended our trip to Moravia!

currently listening to: “vanilla twilight”, owl city

21 years ago on this day, the birth of a girl who will soon be known as “Celia” occurred.

Happy 21st, Celia!

For those of you who don’t have the privilege of knowing Celia, let me describe what I’ve seen of Celia from the last 3 weeks of her 21 years that she’s been alive. I met Celia right in tow next to Jenny in London. We had met during the “Meeting AIFS students” cocktail hour the first night we arrived, and we ended up sitting next to each other during Wicked. She (along with Jenny) seemed totally nice but a little quiet (or maybe that’s just compared to my eager outgoingness) and after the next time I hung out with them I left feeling like potential future AWESOME friendship. Clearly blondes like to stick together, we’ve been hanging out a lot ever since! From Choco Cafe to the Moravian wine cellar and braids and getting matching splatterpaint leggings from H+M, Celia is a great person to have around. Hahaha and all the Czech boys LOVE her! She always gets grabbed by the Czech guys when we’re out dancing and sends us “help me” looks but usually I just keep dancing and laugh. Celia even came back Saturday night after the ’80s/’90s with bruises on her arms where all the boys tried grabbing her to dance haha.
This story reveals two very important and relevant things:
1) Czech boys are creepy.
2) Celia is a babe.

Celia is just so clever and sweet, and while most of the time she’s super quiet, she will suddenly say something outrageous and hilarious.

So –
Celia, I hope your day is as awesome as we all think YOU are and even though we have that horrible Czech class today, it will be over soon and I can’t wait to hang out with you tonight!

musings on mortality

February 15, 2010

Do not be alarmed, but I may be dying.

The excessive amount of congestion is shocking, my face is disgustingly puffy and red, and I have a fever, and still I am EXPECTED to go to Czech class?! Shouldn’t my health be more important than 4.5 hours of Czech? Shouldn’t I be encouraged to lay in bed in my Puget Sound sweats watching last week’s episode of my favorite show (the name of which I dare not speak, but Marissa and my suitemate Brittany know what I’m talking about) drinking plenty of fluids?

Before this blog post continues, if I should die, I would like to leave Emily Veling everything sparkly I own, Marissa Ryder all of my musical memorabilia, Misty all of my bite-sized socks, Walt Lengel my glow-in-the-dark stars, and my sister with the ever-important task of naming her daughter after me.
Oh, and Laura McQuay is in charge of making sure that no one I don’t like comes to my funeral.

Additionally, I made two fatal flaws (get it? FATAL flaws?) in my last post. I omitted two very very important aspects of my study abroad experience.

First, Celia pointed out that I did not mention my favorite hang-out, Choco Cafe, ONCE in my last post. Celia, this was because in nearly every single postcard/email I’ve written to friends and family, I mentioned Choco Cafe and at times spent nearly the entire length of a postcard describing the delicious chocolately espresso-y goodness of a simple cup of Choco Cafe AT Choco Cafe.

This is a Choco Cafe (and me with a Choco Cafe mustache, a common side effect):

Choco Cafe is great because not only do they have free wi-fi, but because of their cozy decor, tendency to play jazzy American music like Frank Sinatra, and the fact that now all the servers know us by face and sort of smile at us when we’re in there at least three times a week. I actually think they think that we’re just crazy Americans, but that’s okay.

The second omission is my roommate’s Valentine, Alexander Horn.

This is Alex:

(“we kick ’em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger”)

Alex Horn is an excellent human being. He’s so much MORE than a skinny Jewish kid from Texas who wears a Where’s Waldo beanie everywhere. He’s incredibly liberal and from the first night we hungout at the pub in London, where the pub was PACKED with London businessmen and a cluster of us students watching the Man U v. Man City soccer game, we bonded immediately. He also wrote his Valentine and my roommate, Sarah Paulos, an epic love poem on the bus ride back from Moravia (which was still not as good as the song that Walt wrote me and performed last night).

To update everyone further, last night we (Celia, Jenny, Sarah Paulos, Becca, Elyssa, and I) officially bought tickets to AMSTERDAM!! Ugh my wildest dreams are coming true! I’m so excited. I’ve had Peter Bjorn’s song, “Amsterdam” stuck in my head all day. We’re going Thursday, March 4 – Sunday the 7th so we’re going to see everything that my BFF Becca (shoutout, get your computer fixed so I can talk to you, lady!)  puts on her list since she studied abroad there last year. The canals are going to be frozen (which is going to blow my mind) and it’s going to be awesome.

I think we’re going to try to book Dublin (hint hint, friends!) or Greece next.

And, for those of you (aka my parents) who are all, “We sent you to Prague so you could LEARN, not HAVE FUN!” I answer with this simple snapshot of my at yet ANOTHER museum I’ve gone to –

I am involved in SO MUCH CULTURE on a daily basis!

I also need to clear one thing up before I close:
Walt Lengel is a sexy being. Walt Lengel also brought up his concerns to me late last night how the photo I chose in my last blog post did not adequately demonstrate his allure.
Is this better, Walt? It shows you being dapper AND handsome!

I think I’m going to take a coma now and sleep until tomorrow, because Celia turns 21 tomorrow and I need to be healthy again.


half of my heart’s got you

February 14, 2010

Yo yo yo.

First, happy Valentine’s Day!
I know most of you aren’t as lucky as I am to have a really sexual Valentine. Who, you may ask, has stolen my heart? Who has claimed possession of my attentions on this very momentous holiday? Who makes my world turn and gives me reason to wake up every morning?

Why, none other than my BFFizzle / muse Walt!

This is Walt:

I would also like to add that my Valentine is the best Valentine ever. Way better than certain roomates’ Valentines… my Valentine has written me a song to be performed on his own accordian. BEAT THAT!

So clearly I’ve decided late to start a blog. So rather than rehashing everything I’ve been doing in the last 3 weeks (which includes over 6 cities, like that’ll happen!) I’ll just be starting from where I am now. Additionally, I apologize for the haphazard-ness of this entry.

I am unfortunately rather sick right now. We all know that I have a superhuman immune system and every germ fears me, but somehow – SOMEHOW – I caught what every student in AIFS Prague had, which is some form of cold/cough/unnecessary nasal congestion. I call it the “Prague Plague”. And since we all know how I deal with illness, of course I have it worse than everyone else had it (except maybe Kacy, whose cough sounds like she’s smoked a pack a day for the last twenty years). But you know that I of course handle every illness with grace, and never ever complain or remind anyone of my trials or explain exactly why my face is so puffy.

But we all know that being sick will not stop me from having fun.
(this is me drinking the “free” bottle of wine they gave us in the wine cellar in Moravia)

On Friday night, we went to this epic club called Lucerna which plays 80s/90s music. All I know is that when I heard Nena singing “99 Luftballoon” I knew that this was going to be my favorite club in the entire world. Indeed, three hours, two Grease songs (it is unclear to me why the Czech people worship Grease so much, but I hear a Grease song at least once a week in restaurants here), Madonna’s “Like a Prayer”, and “I’m a Barbie Girl” later, I knew that this club is where I will be taking anyone who visits me.

Last night, pretending I was not in fact ill, we decided to go to U Sudu, an “underground labyrinth” of a wine bar, where they ingeniously serve PITCHERS OF WINE. I just don’t understand why the United States doesn’t catch on certain aspects of European culture, like that and the fact that in the basement of my kolej (dorm) there is a pub, and that pivo is in fact cheaper than water. Brilliant.

And since some of you have inquired, here is proof of my new bomb dot com friends –
Here are two wonderful girls who I am beyond pleased to introduce to you guys as my good friends here, Celia and Jenny.

Becca is hilarious and is from Texas and on the right is Paulos, my ever-awesome roommate.

We are all partners in crime and are all equally determined to experience every aspect of Czech culture (minus going to the live sex shows, we are not at all interested in that).

and I know you guys are like, “my god, all they do is party!”

FALSE. Proof that we do more:

See? We totally go on trips to museums (we’re at the Gregory Mendel, father of genetics, Museum who did all the experiments with the peas) and freeze inside and outside the many churches we visit.

Academics-wise, I’m halfway done with my godawful Czech class. It’s hard and boring. And 4.5 hours of it every day makes me want to scream. I don’t get any academic credit for it at UPS, either, so it’s frustrating. I have learned a lot like numbers and adjectives but it’s really not all that helpful except for ordering food. But my professor takes us out on field trips all the time so it’s not as bad as it was last week!

Clearly I am having a generally AMAZING time here! I love the people and places I’ve been. Exploring the city is really satisfying and it’s getting harder and harder for me to GET lost since I’m learning the city so well.

Okay, it’s starting to get dark and I need to go to Billa so Paulos and I can prepare for the extravagant Valentine’s Day dinner we are making our respective Valentines for tonight. Let me just say it is NOT EASY to make extravagant dinners on finnicky hot plates.

Also, if anyone wants to send me some Mac’n’Cheese, I’d love that. Also, send me Misty because she needs me right now. I scratch her tummy like no one else in her world.

I’ll update more soon! Keep checking back!