In 2009, Jana Dvořáková did what many Americans dream of: traveled to her ancestral homeland to connect with the culture–and distant relatives. While away, she sent emails back home to family and friends in Minnesota.
Last week, we enjoyed the first story of this series arranged from these emails. This week, we enjoy Part 2 from her year away–an individual in a foreign city, pursuing her passion.
October 19, 2009
Family and friends,
At this moment the thing I miss most from the United States is a printer. Not just any printer, but a printer/copier/scanner. It’s the convenience of it all. Two weeks ago it was a curling iron. I searched for hours in the center of Prague for a simple $10 curling iron, because I could not find a very good selection. I finally purchased one at an electronics store near the metro station Zličín, which seemed liked traveling to the ends of the earth. It is the last station on Metro Line B going west. Once reaching this station, an additional announcement in English is made to ensure that all riders exit the metro.
I have been exploring Prague by myself. I walked through Václavské Náměsti (Wenceslas Square).
Later, I enjoyed guláš (beef stew) and bread dumplings while watching the procession of apostles at the orloj (astronomical clock) at noon. (Last week I began limiting myself to dumplings only once a week. They are so good!)
I still have a lot of exploring to do before I become acquainted with the city. I found that out, when in search of the Můstek metro station (in the city center) and trying to walk away from the orloj, I walked in a circle and ended up back near the restaurant where I had eaten lunch!
One day I met a new Czech friend in Anděl (anděl is Czech for angel). This neighborhood has had new construction and business over the last several years.
My friend and I had lunch and afterwards shopped at the Tesco (similar to Super Target) at the shopping mall.
Overall, things are going well here in the heart of Europe. We had a beautiful September and first week of October. Then it quickly turned to autumn. Last week there was snow on the cars in the morning when I left for class, but by the end of the day it was gone.
Classes are going okay. I took a placement test on the first day of registration and was placed in a “false beginners” class.
I had been taking weekly classes in St. Paul, MN for some time; therefore, I am not a complete beginner. Other classmates had also studied Czech. The first several weeks have been review, but now the Czech grammar is starting to become more difficult. My backpack is full with Czech text books.
In the first month there were eight students and most recently two students joined. Our classes are taught completely in Czech and last for four and half hours, with two breaks. My middle-aged, blonde, petite teacher has a PhD in linguistics and studied both English and French. She has a kind heart, is patient with all of us, and has had the difficult endeavor of trying to keep us all at a similar place in our learning. It has become apparent to me that all of us are at a different level and have different learning styles, I believe influenced by our countries of origin.
There are about 190 foreigners of all ages learning Czech from nearly 40 countries in this program. The largest group is approximately 50 students from Russia. The other students in my class are from Turkey, Hungary, Japan, France, Israel, Panama, South Korea, and Cyprus. English is the common language.
There is wide range of student ages. Some students are 18. Others, like me, are professionals who have worked and decided to study again. We also have students who are working professionals who are fortunate to have employers who pay for their Czech education and allow them to take class during the day.
I am one of eight Americans this semester. There is another American in my class who is married to a Czech woman and has three children. He has lived here for 15 years, if not more, and has witnessed the many changes since the Velvet Revolution in 1989. (Next month is the 20th anniversary of the revolution that started with demonstrations against the Community party.)
When not studying, I continue to explore Prague, watch Czech movies, visit with Czech family and speak with my family and friends in Minnesota by Skype. I have gotten lost again, drank hot chocolate at Starbucks, and found a laundromat with clothes dryers near Náměstí Míru (Peace Square). Oh, I also frequently read the Star Tribune and Fargo Forum online to keep updated on the events happening back home. I know the Vikings are currently undefeated. The news here (at least last week) was whether or not Czech President Klaus was going to sign the Lisbon Treaty.
The last weekend in September I visited family of my Great-Grandfather. They live near Havlíčkův Brod, another town in the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands.
My cousin (something like 4th removed), who is the same age as me, was giving me a hard time. I had explained on our way to his home from the bus station that the class was somewhat too easy. He was confused as to how I could say the class was too easy, because I didn’t understand him when he asked how my bus ride had been.
**There will be no blog next Sunday. We’ll pick up again on April 3, when Jana shares more about that which was hinted at above: The Velvet Revolution. What happened during this time? Why was it velvet?! We’ll share all about it on the 3rd. See you then!**
And If you’d like to share a travel story on The Periphery, please email me at Brandon@ThePeriphery.com. We’d love to hear all about your adventure.