Showing posts with label Czech Republic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Czech Republic. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Touring the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas

A typical Ozark road sign
We took a scenic route
It wouldn't do to fly back to America without spending more time with my girls than just graduation weekend. I picked their brains about what we could do that was in the area because who knew when we would be back in the center of America again.

Should we go to St. Louis and see the Arch? One of them had already done it. Go to Hannibal, Missouri and celebrate Mark Twain? My girls failed to see how that would be interesting (obviously, they need to read more Twain as he's hilariously funny). Drive the river road along the Mississippi? Go see the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Salina, Kansas?
The gorgeous Ozark Mountains
on the way to Little Rock, Arkansas.
They reminded me of the Lubéron in Provence.
All they need is their own Cézanne to paint them.
Of course, then the real estate prices would quintuple.
We settled on driving down to Little Rock, Arkansas to see the Willliam Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library. All three of us love American presidential libraries because they are so evocative of the times and teach us so much about the American political experience.
Small town riverside dinner view
in Allison, Arkansas
When I first visited my youngest daughter at Mizzou her freshman year, I couchsurfed with a fun couple in Columbia, Walt and Mary. I joked then that I would be back in four years when my child graduated. I was!
Mammoth Spring
See how the water springs up out of nowhere?
My girls and I took the route Walt recommended down to Arkansas because he had suggested such outstanding local history sites during my last visit.
One of the highlights on the trip down was stopping just across the Arkansas border to see Mammoth Spring State Park with a beautiful natural spring. My girls had both loved their geology courses in college and so it was fun for them to see the water come pouring out of the ground there.
The beautiful Arkansas river trail
perfect for runners and walkers.
Eventually it will be 17 miles long.
Isn't it beautiful?
Blessed to share
American democratic heritage with my girls -
like my Mom and Dad did with me
The William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library -
First Federal building certified by the
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
(LEED) program
The next day we woke up bright and early to devote the day to the museum and library. I remember when the museum was first built, critics derided it for having the appearance of a 'double wide' mobile home. I snickered when I saw pictures of it on TV because it did sort of look like one.
Having been to it in person now, I consider that a cheap shot. President Clinton wanted the old historic railroad bridge, built in the 19th century, to represent the bridge to the 20th century. His library and museum, right next to it, represented his administration of America as a bridge to the 21st century. The metaphor works. Listening to him explain it on the audioguide, I was grateful for politicians who think in 100-year cycles rather than to the next quarter or election. Where can we find more of those?
There's that 100-year cycle again.
Diagonally across from the museum
is this magnificent old railroad station
where the University of Arkansas
Clinton School of Public Service
is housed.

Let's all say this gorgeous phrase together
from the building:
"The Choctaw Route."

Even more gorgeous,
the name of the passenger train
that did this route was:
"The Choctaw Rocket."
A glorious view of the Railroad Bridge
from "42,"
the elegant cafe in the library.

A pretend shiny dime to whomever can guess
why the cafe is named '42!'
Clinton's stump speech
What's not to like?
I was Bob Dole's Story County, Iowa campaign co-chair in one of his presidential campaigns. I admired Dole's wartime service to his country, his moderate Main Street Republican views, and his biting sense of humor. It was fun to host Elizabeth Dole for a coffee at my mother's home. That was when I was still a Republican.

Even though Gov. Bill Clinton beat Senator Dole in the presidential campaign, Bob Dole was later asked to give the Inaugural Lecture at the University of Arkansas Bill Clinton School of Public Service. I love that about American politics. I admire the stature of Bill Clinton inviting him to do so, and the equal virtue of Bob Dole accepting. As citizens, we should demand our politicians not polarize us and find the common ground.
It's easy to understand why librarians
would support Clinton.

He is a famous practitoner
of recreational reading
(reading for the fun of it).

The library showcased the books that influenced him.
One of them was "Creating a Nation of Readers."
A nation of readers can continually renew themselves.
I came around a corner
 and had my breath taken away
by this fine assemblage
of young American talent.
How can we not have hope for the future, America?

Their teacher told me they were the
"The Gentleman's Club,"
2nd and 3rd grade
from Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
Norman Rockwell, did I
"do good" with this picture?
Look at those faces!

Two future leaders
thoughtfully take in
a reproduction of the Cabinet Meeting Room.

The pace of change can seem so slow in America that I forget how much things can change in one generation. Examples from the library include: it was during the Clinton Administration that gay people were first eligible for security clearances. The introduction and benediction to Clinton's inauguration seemed so overtly Christian. America would be much more inclusive now. There were photos from the Little Rock school desegregation episode that said, "race mixing is communism." Laughable. Everything seems to get labeled communism or socialism these days. This is a long tradition of over-the-top political rhetoric.
Three stellar staff members at the museum.

The lady on the right told me
that she was halfway through a PhD
but never graduated from high school
because she was a member of the senior class
of Central High School that lost their senior year
when the Governor chose to shut the high school down
rather than integrate.

 2,914 other seniors lost their senior year as well.
Zany gifts to the Presidential family
 are always a popular exhibit at these libraries.
Hillary Clinton and a bench!
One of the things you could look up
 was the Presidential Daily Schedule
and see what the President did on any given day.
I looked up the days surrounding Vaclav Havel's State Visit.
The menu for the Czech Republic State Dinner
with President Vaclav Havel
The best description of this whole event is in
Hillary Clinton's book, "Entertaining at the White House."
While Presidents have to consider things on a level beyond the personal, one thing the Museum brings home is how the personal stories of those from foreign countries inform the President about their nations.

I know President Clinton knew far more culturally about the Czech Republic than necessary (given the 10 million population) simply because of his friendship with Vaclav Havel. Havel had taken President Clinton to the Reduta and even to Czech novelist Bohumil Rabal's favorite pub "The Golden Tiger." The pub keeps Clinton and Havel's picture on the wall.

Nelson Mandela gave the Clintons a personal tour of his prison cell at Robbins Island and described to them what it had been like there. Do Presidents still have the time to invest in that level of personal narrative in understanding a country? I hope so. The Robbins Island visit is detailed in the museum.

One thing I felt the Library and Museum couldn't do justice to was President Clinton's biggest success. His fiscal discipline resulted in the longest peacetime economic expansion in American history. That discipline unleashed a period of enormous creativity in American business. How do you exhibit fiscal restraint in a museum? Maybe the best exhibits of the output created during this time of fiscal restraint are out in the Computer History Museum in California!
President Clinton wanted his library
to echo the bones of
Trinity Library in Dublin.

My one disappointment with the library was the temporary exhibition space was devoted to promoting a corporation instead of hosting an exhibit that would teach us as citizens more about politics. I appreciate that the majority of the population loves sports, but what do the St. Louis Cardinals have to do with a presidential library? It seemed wierd that there were season ticket promotions as a sidebar to the Cardinals exhibit. Respectfully, our experience could have been that much richer with a political exhibit.
You might also like:

An Evening of Jazz at the Reduta

Entering the Land of Lincoln

What Inspires Stories?

The Springfield Race Riots of 1908

Sites outside my blog:

C-Span's coverage of Clinton's Presidential Library

William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library website

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The perfect tribute to Václav Havel : the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent

The Goddess of Democracy
from Tiananmen Square
circa 1989
Václav Havel and the Czechs inspired my 'Empty Nest Expat' adventure. I knew people who could elect a playwright as President were different in a way I couldn't define than me and my countrymen. The Czech Republic seemed like such a delightfully highbrow non-warlike society. I wanted to learn all about the Czechs by moving overseas and seeing what they were like.

To this day, I'm inspired by Václav Havel. This week, I discovered that one of the most beautiful tributes has been created to honor what he did so well: creatively dissent from the State.

Havel, for years a dissident at odds with the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia, led the challenge that eventually overthrew the regime, and consequently, he became the first President of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic.

Many credit Havel with the fact that both the Velvet Revolution resulting in the overthrow of Communism and the Velvet Divorce separating the Czechs and the Slovaks were violence-free.

The inaugural Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent will be awarded to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Saudi women’s rights advocate Manal al-Sharif, and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

I am particularly delighted that Saudi citizen Manal al-Sharif has been recognized. At a time when human beings have walked on the Moon, it seems so strange that other human beings still aren't allowed to drive a car on a particular part of our planet just because of their gender.

Showing breathtaking courage and speaking plain common sense, Manal al-Sharif posted a samizdat video of herself on Youtube driving in Saudi Arabia while she described to the camera all the different reasons a woman needs to be able to drive to fulfill her different duties. The video was swiftly removed. I was one of the 600,000-1,000,000 people who got to see it before it was gone. Awed by her courage, I also thought her reasoning was undeniable.

Manal al-Sharif is an internet security consultant in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia working for Aramco. I predict someday she'll have her own statue in her nation.

These three Havel Prize laureates will receive an artist’s representation of the “Goddess of Democracy,” the iconic statue erected by Chinese student leaders during the Tiananmen Square protests of June, 1989.

To learn more about the prize, here is the web page.

To see additional posts about Václav Havel

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My 7 Links Blog Project

Thanks to Miss Footloose (aka Karen van der Zee) I've been invited to participate in the My 7 Links project organized by Tripbase, the wonderful organization that has recognized both our blogs with Expat Blog of the Year awards.

In this post, I am sharing 7 of my old posts you might not have discovered yet, at the end I list five other bloggers I've nominated to do the same.

My Most Beautiful Post - This is from one spectacular afternoon overlooking the Vltava River in Prague with my friend Sher. If you know nothing about Prague, this will help you understand why people fall in love with it. A Springtime Stroll Around Letna Park

My Most Popular Post - I'm deeply committed to doing what I can as an individual consumer and citizen to prevent climate change.  So I decided to sell my car and live without it.  Then one day I realized I had survived just fine without it for quite awhile. Starting My Third Year Without A Car

My Most Controversial Post -Looking back, I can't say I write very controversial posts. This one might not be the kindest one I've ever written, and I did try to put the behavior I was describing into historical  context. Little Corruptions

My Most Helpful Post - The American lifestyle has a cost structure that feels unsustainable to me. In this post, I try to help Americas imagine a lower cost structure. The Czech Republic is the same size as South Carolina.  Imagine if you were able to travel around a state the size of South Carolina for $400 a year.  How the Czech Government Delighted Me As A Consumer

The Post Whose Success Surprised Me The Most - Who knew a visit to a gift shop would generate such discussion? My post The Swedish Tourist Attraction That Did Not Attract Me ended up featured on the Displaced Nation Blog where ABC News Royal Correspondent Jane Green and I debated the idea of monarchy. 

A Post I feel Didn't Get the Attention It Deserved - Is it my idea? Or my blog post? What do I need, pictures? I only received two commented on this post, and I still like my idea.  Why not give the opposite of a Nobel Prize to countries that could use, well, an intervention?
Does the World Need the Opposite of a Nobel Peace Prize?

A Post I am Most Proud Of - In 2009, I was struck how my Czech friends felt their opinions were ignored on a proposed American missile system that was slated for installation in their country.  I wrote a blog post asking President Obama to come to the Czech Republic and either sell them on it or announce it would end.

He came, gave an amazing speech, and won the Nobel Prize. And the anti-missile system moved away from the Czech Republic. What a win/win.  All because of my blog post!

I hope you're smiling here. I don't actually believe President Obama came to Prague because of my blog post. But I was contacted by the BBC to provide commentary about his speech (didn't happen due to logistics) because their producers had been reading my blog.

I do feel I showed my Czech friends, feeling their way through their new democracy, that taking action makes you feel better rather than being paralyzed.  They marveled that I felt I could effect positive change.  They didn't (which is exactly what politicians want you to think cause then you'll leave everything to them).
Dear President Obama, Please Come to the Czech Republic

I live for comments so tell me what you think!

Here are the links to five blogs I've nominated to join the project:

Adventures in the Czech Republic

Black Girl in Prague

Blogging Gelle

Ricky Yates

Senior Dogs Abroad

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Yes, the Czech Republic is really like this

Imagine, being able to find beauty like this and world class beer for under $1 a glass all in one country.  Yes, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are really like this. The girls *are* this beautiful. The guys, unfortunately, not so much. Click on my title to see the Czech and Slovakian ladies nominated for Miss Universe via Tanya at Czechmate Diary.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What Creates Compassion?

"If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it" ~Atticus Finch, "To Kill A Mockingbird"
All around the world today, bloggers are uniting to celebrate our human quality of compassion.  I love participating with other like-minded souls on a project like this because it then also becomes a celebration of the new kinds of connection that the internet makes possible. You can find other blogs on compassion by clicking on the "May 15 - Day of Compassion" badge to the right.

Compassion allows us to sublimate the feeling of "other" that we see in people and instead find out how we are alike.  To really feel compassionate, we have to do what Atticus Finch, the fictional hero of "To Kill A Mockingbird" suggested to his daughter Scout. We need to consider life from the other person's point of view.

How do we do that when the "other" is "the other?" If a group of people is unknown to us, and we fear them, we don't know any of them, we haven't talked to any of them, we will probably let fear of them grow in our mind.

I suggest the quickest way to grow compassion for others that we do not know or understand is to consume each other's literature and media.  My country would be a different place if the American people had access to Al Jazeera and could see the Arab point-of-view.  My country would be a different place if it would choose to have a more global appetite for media, and not just consume home-grown American books, TV shows, and movies. I believe we would literally be nicer.

The useful thing about consuming media of "the other" is that it is not threatening.  We can hear the opinions, emotions, feelings of those who disagree with us or see things differently without having to instantly react.

I remember when I saw the movie "Cesky Mir," a thought-provoking Czech movie describing how Czechs were working to end a possible American-installed radar system on their land.  What stunned me was not the arguments against the missile system, but the knowledge the Czechs had about how corrupting all that American money floating around would be to their tiny little democracy.  I believe Americans are so used to that wash of money over our government we can hardly see its influence anymore - it seems normal.

In the movie Cesky Mir, one old village lady asked, "how can we trust the Americans? You see the kind of crap they send to our country for our young people through their movies!" Yikes, that cut me to the quick because I knew it was true. We do create a lot of crap movies! I acknowledge and agree with her point-of-view.

Could that be the future? Citizens of one country getting citizens of another country to question how they do things through media? This could be the start of mass grass-roots diplomacy!
Maya Angelou

One area where I feel that I have a lot of compassion and where my country has grown a lot of compassion is in race relations.  That has been the work of my generation of white Americans: opening our heart to the full participation of African-Americans in American life. I have consumed untold quantities of African-American literature, music, and movies. I defy anyone to read Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" or Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" and remain compassion-less.

Ralph Ellison
This is why literature is so incredibly important and why I am so proud of my profession of librarianship.  It heals society. It strengthens our heart muscles and makes them more daring and more loving. I have scads of African-American friends because I feel comfortable with them because I am comfortable with their outlook on life (as much as one can generalize about a whole group of people) through the consumption of their media.

I can see both the good and the bad in African-American culture just as I can see the good and the bad in my Caucasian culture.  What is so healthy in my country is that we can laugh at ourselves and each other and discuss all of these things publicly. We are listening to each other and enjoying each other. I would hate to think of what my country would be like if we never choose to become more accepting of each other. I think it would be similar to this parallel, non-touching existence of Coptic Christians and Muslims that a famous Egyptian blogger describes in his blog "Rantings of a Sand Monkey" here.

In contrast to how comfortable I am with African-American culture, it was recently announced that America is now 16% Hispanic.  I have consumed hardly any Hispanic literature, hardly any Hispanic music, and hardly any Hispanic movies.  I tried to think if I had any Hispanic friends (one may call me on it later, we'll see).  I couldn't think of any. That doesn't surprise me since I have opened no window into their culture other than food.

I had never been inside a mosque until I moved to Turkey.  It has been so darn healthy for me to come form my own opinion of Muslim societies rather than stick with the image Osama Bin Laden thought I should have. The more I learn from Turks about who they are and what their culture is about, the less distance I feel between me and them.  It is impossible for a group of people to be "the other" when you can see yourself in them and feel what they are feeling.

If I could ask something of you today, gentle reader, ask yourself: "whom do I fear? Whom do I resent? Or who is invisible to me because I choose not to see them?" Then go out and find their best literature, movies, or music.  Start a relationship with an entire culture.  You may end up with wonderful friends who will enrich your life.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Checking Out the History of Dissidents: New Vaclav Havel Library to Open in 2013

A Force for Good
Vaclav Havel

Modeled after the American Presidential Libraries, the new Vaclav Havel Library will be a repository for Vaclav Havel's published works and unpublished papers. Unlike Presidential Libraries, this Library will carry the samizdat of years of repression and the official papers of years of expression.  The unique gathering of that collection makes for an interesting juxtaposition and the final triumph of Prague dissident voices from repression - to rule  - to Presidential level archives. It's a fairy tale, really.  A political fairy tale.

Click on my title to read more about the project.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Religion will be 'nearly extinct' in the Czech Republic by 2050

The Czech Republic is already the most atheist nation on Earth. Mathematicians and scientists are predicting that the Czech Republic will become even more atheist, and that by 2050, religion will have virtually died out in the Czech lands and in eight other European countries. The exact same modeling program used to predict the death of languages is being used to predict the death of belief. You can click on my title to read the article from the Prague Post.

It's hard to know if Czechs believe in anything because their sense of humor is so black.  I would often tease my Czech friends that they would be completely skeptical when their spouse said "I love you," because Czech people believe no one in authority on anything! What do Czech people believe in?!?

A nation of atheists was planted when the Catholic Pope rejected Czech requests for Mass to be delivered in native Czech instead of Latin more than 100 years ago. The Pope should have learned from the history of Saints Cyril and Methodius (two Byzantine priests from Constantinople) who translated the Bible into Slavic languages so the Czech people could learn it in their own tongue. Cyril and Methodius even created an alphabet for Slavic languages to make translation of the Bible easier.

During the Czech National Revival, if being told they couldn't worship in their own language wasn't enough to drive religion out of Czechs, later in the 20th century, the Communists then further drummed religion out of them.

When I moved to Turkey, I could feel the difference in religious belief immediately.  Maybe the most visual way of seeing it was a conservatism among people on the street.  I saw no public display of affection anywhere and of course, Muslim dress in its varied forms. I also felt my possessions were completely safe on the Istanbul streets. I felt completely safe leaving my consumer electronics not locked up at work because I was 100% sure they would not get stolen. But it was more than that.

Comparing societies, I'll quote my former President.  Bill Clinton says the United States has gotten away from being a "people-centered society & become a money-centered society." Sadly, I agree with him completely. In America, I would say you can literally feel America's predominant religion and values are "commerce," in the Czech lands the dominant religion is none, and in Turkey I would say the dominant religion is, actually, religion.

Upon my arrival, it stunned me is that I found Turkey's spirituality refreshing. After all, they practice a different religion than me!  It was refreshing because the values came from the people themselves. The values in the public square have not been overrun by corporate salesmanship that degraded all things sacred in pursuit of selling something.

My Turkish friends cite the Jesus cage match on the TV show "South Park" as evidence that we in the West hold nothing sacred.  It is completely fair criticism. I see evidence everyday that "The People" are still dictating the values here, not the corporations and the people who create for them.

When the Muslim World doesn't like something the West does, rather than rail against someone exercising their free speech (a value the West holds so deeply it could and would never give it up), they would create more thought and changed behavior with the question "is there nothing you hold sacred?" It's a question that isn't asked enough in my Western culture. 

Now what will the Czech lands do with all those spectacular baroque churches? And what will a nation without belief be like? What will Czech people hold sacred?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Prague's Anglican Minister: The Reverend Ricky Yates

Happy Good Friday readers! Today I was delighted to see my pastor in Prague, Chaplain Ricky Yates of St. Clement's Anglican Church, properly written up in the Prague Post and recognized for his work serving the English-speaking expat community in Prague.

Regular readers of my blog know how incredibly tight-knight I found the expat church community at St. Clement's and how Pastor Ricky was there for me and my friend Anna when we got in a tight spot with our visas.  I simply can't say enough about the community of people there and his leadership of us.  Click on my title to read the whole article. You can also look to the right of this post and see the link for Ricky's blog.  Best of all though, if you're in Prague, head on down to the church on a Sunday morning at 11 a.m. to tell him hello yourself.  You'll be glad you did.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Czech President Pockets A Pen

President Klaus brought home a great souvenir of his State Visit to Chile.  Click on my title to watch the video.  Five million people have already sought it out and watched it!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Czech People Overlooked Yet Again for the Nobel Peace Prize

I am sure that 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo of China is a brave and amazing person who puts mere mortals to shame. However, it made me sad this year to hear that yet another year passed without Vaclav Havel receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.  It would have been so moving for him to receive the most prestigious decoration humanity offers  - last year - when the Czech Republic was celebrating the 20-year anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.  It could have been one giant festival of appreciation between President Havel and the Czech people who helped him transform their nation.

Instead of using the prize as a carrot and a capstone for a statesman's career, it seems the Nobel committee wants to use the prize as an accelerator of change, demanding almost through recognition that winners and their governments conform to what the Nobel Committee thinks should happen.  This cheapens the prize in my opinion because it switches it from honoring the noblest and bravest among us to having a political motivation.

Last year, when Barack Obama won, I was offended, because I felt that as President he would need to make decisions that could be at odds with the Peace Prize goals.  It felt manipulative to me, as an American, that the Committee would try and influence the course of his Presidency while it happened.

My emotions conflicted, though, because I recognized that anyone who voted for Barack Obama could feel a bit of pride in the Nobel Committee's contention that no one of that particular year had done more to change the landscape than Barack Obama.  Since he had been in office such a short time, the American people could be proud that we had changed the landscape with new leadership.

I remember when I got on my half-full bus at 6 a.m.on that bleary day, I shouted out to the whole bus "how about that Peace Prize?" I was living in Madison, Wisconsin at the time where there was close to a 100% certainty that anyone on a bus in that town had voted for the President.

The Peace Prize selection glory reflects to those who followed.  No one can be a prophet without followers. Vaclav Havel was the statesman he was because the Czechs chose to follow him.  Barack Obama was elected President because the people of America chose to follow him.

Vaclav Havel's moral authority transitioned the country from Communism to freedom without violence and retribution in the Velvet Revolution and again to the stand-alone Czech Republic during the Velvet Divorce with Slovakia.  How fraught those giant changes were and how much worse they could have been!

Even in retirement, Havel's moral authority can slice through rationalizations made in the name of strategic interests. Once, meeting with an American reporter for an interview, he asked,  "Is it true Barack Obama cancelled his meeting with the Dali Lama?" (presumably to pacify China's leadership).  Havel demonstrates the courage it takes to speak truth to power when your own country's is less.

America is comng to the age where our power will be eclipsed in size by China.  Havel's success in keeping true to his values while navigating this size differential between the Czech Republic and the former Soviet Union is an example the whole world can learn from as the globe copes with China's rising, and frequently bullying, power.

One measure of a leader is how institutionalized the changes he embodied becomes;  yearly, the citizens of the Czech Republic set new attendance records at the internationally-famous "Jeden Svet (One World) Film Festival in Prague, devoted to human rights around the globe.  Czech people, having lived through totalitarianism, have a sophisticated understanding of oppression that is rarely found anywhere in the Free World. Havel, and the citizens of the Czech Republic, have something to teach all global citizens about what it is to speak truth to the larger power.

As I understand it, Liu Xiaobo and his fellow Chinese dissidents who created Charter 08, were inspired by Vaclav Havel and the Czech people who were signatories to Charter 77.  Would a science Nobel go to a scientist whose work was derivative of another's theory? Wouldn't the committee honor the original thinker of the idea? Shouldn't Vaclav Havel receive a Nobel for inspiring freedom in the Czech Republic but now also China? It seems he is becoming worthier and worthier.  Is there not time to honor that young man and not much time to honor Vaclav Havel?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Czech Women Seek Horrifying Plastic Surgery

How great can culture shock be when you become an expat?  I didn't actually hear about this in the Czech Republic, instead coming across the article in American news and opinion aggregator "The Huffington Post." Regardless, it's jaw-dropping.  We have a word for this in English: it's 'misogyny.'  But since these ladies are doing this to themselves, maybe it falls under the category of 'self-hatred' or 'body dysmorphic disorder?'  Click on my title to read the article (not suitable for work or minors).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

I'm moving to Istanbul!

Today is a blur.  A sunny, potentially relaxing day in Prague but still a blur. I'm packing up my things because today marks my last day in Prague.  I hope it's "just for now." I realized when I came here this time that my love of the Czech Republic wasn't going to be fulfilled by just coming for a couple months and doing my to-do list of sites. It's not a "if it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium kind of feeling." This is a life-long passion for a country that has only increased, not decreased with my three months here.

My 90 days in the Schengen zone is up, and I need to move somewhere out of the Czech Republic to apply for residency.  I looked at Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Burma, and Russia in addition to Istanbul. Everyone raves about Istanbul.  And I have a friend there.  It made me count up how many times I've moved to a new place without knowing a soul: eight.

I have been truly blessed with incredible friends here in Prague, especially in my church home of St. Clement's Church.  They sent me off with much love!  Well, here, my chaplain tells it well. I'll let him tell it, you can read my plan, and I'll keep packing.  And returning library books.  And dropping off thrift items.  You know what these kind of days are like!  Click on this link to read my plan. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" Under the Stars at Letní Scéna

As soon as I read that the Prague Shakespeare Festival was going to put on "Romeo and Juliet" under the stars in the medieval open-air Vyšehrad theatre called Letní Scéna, I knew I had to go! "Romeo and Juliet" is, of course, the most romantic play in the English language and Vyšehrad, overlooking the Vltava River, is one of the most romantic places in a city overflowing with romantic places. It was such an inspired idea. And ladies, you don't always need a man in tow to appreciate the romance of the setting! Romance is a state of mind.

I forgot to take a picture of my date, Black Girl in Prague, who was her usual fabulous self.  I waited to meet her at the Vyšehrad Metro Terrace.  Since I forgot to eat before I came, I slipped into the little Thai restaurant there so I would have some food in my stomach.  Who wants their hunger to interrupt the balcony scene? Not me.  I expected no greatness from any restaurant situated within a metro station.  Indeed, the opposite.  After all, the customers are in a hurry, there is graffiti everywhere outside, what could possibly be aesthetically-pleasing about the experience? I even let the waiter pick my food out because I was too lazy to make a choice myself.  OK, so I was wrong. Greatness can reside in a metro restaurant.

Kaeng pet kai, rice, and green tea
at Yam Yam Thai Restaurant.
The open-air theatre
at Vyšehrad.
Can't you picture
all the people and performances
that have taken place here
over hundreds and hundreds of years?

We were lucky to grab one of the seats with a back rest.
Can you find me in the audience?

Prague theater director
Gordon Trufitt and his wife Eva
sat across the aisle.

I used to see my Prague blogging buddy
everywhere in Prague.
This was my first time meeting
Grant Podelco and his fiancee Daisy
 with young Emma.
It was a pleasure!
Grant gave me great blogging tips during intermission.
He writes two blogs: Gusto and Grant's Prague Bike Blog.

Mercutio was played by Guy Roberts.
Guy is the Founder, President and Artistic Director
and he was sooo good in his role as Mercutio.
David Fisher played the Nurse.
You know when you watch someone act
and you can just tell how much fun their having?
David Fisher almost stole the show
with his hilariously bawdy portrayal
of Juliet's Nurse.
Wow, could he project his voice too!
Romeo and Juliet
were played by
Kendrick Ong and
Lenka Fisherová-Novaková
Juliet had wonderful enthusiasm
and Romeo was appropriately dreamy.
We had great seats for
enjoying the ensemble on stage.

I loved the sword fights!

Letní Scéna (Open Air Theatre) was perfect
for balcony scenes.
Thanks so much to Guy Roberts and his artistic company at the Prague Shakespeare Festival for putting on an enchanting evening of theater.  It can't be easy in this funding environment. I for one, appreciated the opportunity to enjoy your gifts!  Prague Shakespeare Festival will put on the play "As You Like It" May 12-22, 2011 in this same theatre next year.  I'm impressed with the ambition for next year: ten days of performances!

Related Posts:

Prague Playwriting Contest Shows Off Three Finalists

Wonderful English Language Theater in Prague

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Couchsurfing Hike to Český ráj

 Striking rock formations
dominate the forest
Who can resist an invitation to Český ráj (Czech paradise)? Not me. Just the name alone says "visit!" Last Sunday, the Bohemian hiking group on got out town for a day in paradise.
Jan Hus was a Protestant reformer
who lived 100 years before Martin Luther.
He was burned at the stake.
Memorials to him appear everywhere
in the Czech Republic.
Even deep in the forest.
Liability lawyers have not yet
discovered the Czech Republic.
Sssh...keep the secret.
Enrico from Ecuador
enjoys the climb.

A beautiful young woman from Nepal.

Chillin' at the top
of some beautiful rocks. 
Czech Paradise indeed.
The view from the forest.

Cameron, our hike organizer and leader
He's an Eagle Scout: "always prepared."

 Look who else was on the trail:
a German knight.

Coming out of the forest, we crossed this gorgeous field.
I felt like I was in the Wizard of Oz' poppy fields.
It was that magical.
The bright yellow crop is rapeseed.
It gets processed and renamed: canola oil.

Me, amidst the rapeseed.

Ana from Mexico playing.

I think I did a great job
on this photo of Natalia.
She took the majority of these photos,
except for this one.

Our goal - 14th century castle ruins

One view from the top of the tower

Half our group:
we had 22 people from all over the world.

Waiting for the bus to take us to the train
to take us back to Prague 2.5 hours away.
Our round trip tickets costs $7.50 each.
Add in a hearty Czech dinner and beer .
An entire day of hiking for $12.50.
Yep, Paradise!
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