October 21, 2013
I’m not the journaling type, so it has taken me a while to build the motivation to write this journal. I have a lot to say, and I have been saying it, but much of it has not been written or typed. That’s partly because after I stepped off that plane, Florida didn’t exist anymore. The last time I took a vacation by myself was never, so not talking to, or having to worry about the people in my life back in Florida was relieving. Anyway, on the flight, I sat next to absolutely no one that spoke English, (although the man in front of me looked like Daniel Craig’s stunt double). Rotary really is recognized everywhere, though, because on my connection flight to N.Y.’s JFK airport, I sat next to a Venezuelan man whose daughter went to Canada a few years prior. With RYE? No. With some other program that was for profit, and cost a considerable amount more. This man was outraged when he learned that my parents were not, in fact, “doctors or lawyers” (#QuotesfromDougLobel), and yet I sat on the plane with both classy dress and demeanor (bonus point: RYE blazer!).
My first encounter with a Czech person was during my incredible six-hour layover in New York. The woman that I sat across from probably spent a good five minutes staring at my passport before introducing herself. Customarily, I picked up here burgundy passport and flipped through it, also. Honestly, even with a small amount of practice, I couldn’t understand much of what she said outside of her name and where she was from. Hearing your host country’s language from a live person for the first time is really shocking; you thought you knew how something was pronounced, but are dumbfounded when you realize the truth: that you are an exchange student, and you are not ready for this. In reality, though, nobody is, and they don’t need to be.
That’s because your host parents aren’t going to expect you to speak their language fresh off the plane. I felt motivated when I had finally arrived on Saturday morning, because I frantically searched for an American face in Prague airport to guide me through customs. It was obvious he didn’t know what he was doing either, but this was strangely comforting, because at least we could both look stupid together. I’m slightly jealous that other students going to different countries got an epic welcoming with their entire host club, but truly, there is nothing initially exciting about meeting your parents or club president after a 17+ hour journey.
Now to summarize what I’ve been doing for the past two months. The first day, it was still early in Czech time, so I took a three hour nap, drank a energy drink, and hit the road skating. No, not running, because that’s too American. Most people here either rollerblade or cycle. It was interesting to skate net to a river and mountains, albeit a slightly uncoordinated adventure given my inexperience with rollerblading. The first time I fell was when I saw the sign for the refreshments stand; five different types of beer, three types of wine, and a litany of hard liquors. Oh, and of course there were malinou limonáda (raspberry soda) and water. Despite being ten crowns more expensive, my host brother and I drank the soda. I didn’t taste any lemonade, though; he laughed at my ignorance; it wasn’t until the next day that I understood why: all sodas are called limonáda, but this is also the word for lemonade, so I am still confused on whether or not lemonade soda would be limonádou limonáda.
Probably the first three days that I was here it rained. The brother was going back to university in Germany soon, so he was trying to quickly show me important parts of the city. He failed epically, but I was satisfied with the fluffy cinnamon delight of trdelník. Really, it was fluffier on the inside, but there was no inside, because it was like a wristband of cinnamon. Whatever, you can look it up; I think it’s harder to describe.
If my memory serves me correctly (in retrospect, I really should’ve vlogged, because excitement and memory retention don’t mix) the second weekend I was here, we stayed at a cottage in the middle of…somewhere. Oddly enough, I’m writing this journal from that same cottage more than a month later, and I still have no idea where it is, except that it is very close to Česky Krumlov and Český Budějovice (shout out to Emily Weiss and Sᴓren Jacobson! :D). I met up with Emily on my way home last time to look around Česky Krumlov’s very old building and talk about life in general.
The following Monday, I walked into a post-communist (understandably still styled similarly) high school, better known as gymnasium, in full Florida attire: khakis, boat shoes, and a mint green polo. It was risky, but proved to be a good choice, because I met every girl in the class that day, and now can call almost all of them by name. I like the kids in my class; most of them are controlled balls of chaos. They get into trouble after school, but never actually get into trouble. Of course, it would be foolish to deny myself this important social connection, so I do hang out with them.
And so, during the subsequent few weeks, I have been on a week-long school cycling trip (tip: cycling pants!!), to a fee museum night in Prague, to two or three Rotary meetings, a district orientation in Strečno, Slovakia (6 hour train), and three or so Czech lessons at a Rotarian’s house. I don’t have much to say about Strečno, as this was the first really intimately boring experience I had had outside of school. We saw a castle, and took some killer pictures with the exchange students, but it was disappointing because we expected a little more freedom. As for my language progress henceforth, it has improved better than most I’ve talked to, but it is nothing to clap at. I still smile awkwardly at policemen and girls when they ask me things. I think this is some sort of natural defense mechanism I use to let people know I can’t understand them, and instead of offending them with my atrocious accent, let them bask in American charm (stupidity).
Although there have been a few tradeoffs and limitations, they have been more than worth it for what I’ve received. I’ve been having quite a splendid time here, and both I and Bob White, my country coordinator, are sorry that you received a lessor country (almost as bad as utter rejection).
Anyway, I’m on Facebook, but I’d prefer posts to my wall or something, because I have limited time to talk (that exchange life is busy!).
Lastly, and truly, děkujeme, Rotary. Tohle rok bude krásný protože z vy.