A little bit more of Prague

The rest of last week consisted of finishing up our Czech language intensive course. It was quite intense. The weekend consisted of exploring a little more of the night life here in Prague. Saturday afternoon, I had one of my best meals yet. Pork (something) with spicy potatoes all doused in creamy mustard sauce. I wish I had taken a picture of it.

Our “official semester” started this week, I didn’t post about it until today because I didn’t feel the need until I actually had class. I was lucky enough to get Monday’s and Friday’s off, perfect for traveling.

Oh, speaking of which, I just booked my first trip….to Vienna.

Tales from Italy: ch.3 Carnevale and …classes?

Oh my goodness what a busy last few days!!
To start, my life has been suddenly consumed by making class-decisions. Honestly, at Urbino it is a difficult process (not to mention classes started today and I just redid my entire class repertoire and must now repeat the following process -_-). Unlike the New Paltz system that I’m used to -where all the classes are online alongside their times, locations, professor, and subject- Urbino is not as simple. While in all, making a schedule at New Paltz can be done within an hour or two at the computer, I have attempted to make a schedule with fewer classes at Urbino and it has taken me 3 days. To begin, classes are listed in a Vedemecum- a master course list that if you’re lucky enough (like me) to have on a CD (thank you, Frederica!) is easily accessible. If you do not have the CD, good luck trying to get through the Urbino website which, on some pages, hasn’t updated the Vademecum since 2007. Once you have the Vademecum, you have to start guessing which facolta` (category) you think your class (or classes you may be interested in) falls under. Rather than have all the classes listed together, you have to search through possible facoltas before finding a suitable class. Once you’ve found your class of choice, you are given all the information except location and class time. Here comes the even-trickier process…
Now that you’ve got your list of possible classes, you must now go on a journey to various buildings around the city hoping to find the one that houses your class’s facolta`. Once you’ve found the building (which may end up being another ordeal in itself), you go inside (which sometimes isn’t possible due to odd office hours) and you must find the class schedule, which is fortunately in the same spot (usually in the front hall on a bulletin board) in every building. Yet rather than order the classes by name followed by their time and dates, these schedules work backwards; you must now search through every day and hour hoping to come across your class. Once you have your class times and dates (which are irregular: a class may meet Tuesday at 3, Wednesday at 5, and Friday at 9am), you must now go and repeat the city-searching process for each of your other classes. If you are fortunate enough, more than one of your classes will be in the same facolta` and you can ‘kill two birds with one stone’ when you only have to visit one building and search one class schedule for more than one class.
Today, Alex and I went on this city-searching process for a class we’re going to take, “Storia dell’Arte Bizantine” (Bizantine Art History), which he needs for his Medieval minor and I for my Art Gen.Ed. credit back in NP. We went in circles from one end of the city to the other for 2 hours based on directions given to us by several people before ultimately returning to where we began only to realize that this was in fact the location, but that it is closed on Mondays and therefore prohibits us from looking at the class schedule and times. Oh my goodness was I cranky.
The other 3 classes I plan on taking were easier for me. The Italian for Foreigners class (which all foreign students must take) would be based on a placement exam I had yet to take and therefore could not know my class or its times -yet. The other two classes I planned on, ‘Filologia Romanza’ and ‘Filologia Italiana’ I chose because they sounded acceptable and relatable to my Italian Studies major; I was fortunate enough to find both on the first day of my searching.
Everything changed just a few hours ago though. Today, it dawned on me that since everything is taught in Italian, I could take any class I wanted since no matter what I took it would count towards my Italian major. So, I dropped the two Filologias and have just spent the last 2 hours starting over the entire class-searching process in the hopes of finding more interesting classes. For the first time ever, I have the liberty to take any class I want, and I almost went with 2 of the most boring ones ever! As of now, I am replacing them with (hopefully) Storia del Costume e della Moda (History of Costume and Fashion), Musica per lo Spettacolo (Music of the Show/ Theater), and/or Storia del Mimo e della Danza (History of Mime and Dance). I am ESPECIALLY fond of that last one. I mean really, a class about the history of mimes?! Does it get more liberal and cooler than that? I don’t even mind the additional searching I now need to do all over again.

On a more fun side of the last few days, I’ve been able to visit and see a lot more of the local area. On Thursday, a group of us hiked up to La Fortezza (the Fortress). The views on the way up and at the top were GORGEOUS.

After La Fortezza, I visted the duomo (Cathedral) in town. It was huge (too big for my camera from outside) and beautiful. Unfortunately it’s prohibited to take pictures on the inside, but there are pictures available here. One of the coolest parts about all of this was the amount of Italian I spoke with some of the students we hiked with (Giacomo, from Sicily and Pablo from Peru!).

Another observation I’ve made is on graduation ceremonies. When I first got here, I thought people were just celebrating Carnevale, but actually when a student finishes their last exam, they march through the city with their friends and family and wearing a crown of green leaves. The whole group sings and chants, there’s generally confetti, and sometimes a prank (a graduate was thrown in the fountain the other day).

Oddly enough, my week has also been filled with Harry Potter. Earlier this week, Alex, Laura and I watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. We then decided to go rent it in Italian so that we could practice. We watched Harry Potter e La Pietra Filosofia (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) later that week with more people, and since then I’ve even bought the book- IN ITALIAN! Did you know that they changed some of the names to assist with their meanings? For example, Dumbledore is Professor Silente, and McGonagall is McGranite. It’s hard to read for me, but it’s great practice and fun too.
Sunday, I went to Fano for Carnevale! There was a giant parade with huge ridiculous floats- they were stunning!! We all painted our faces and dressed up in costumes- we were quite the handsome group 🙂

(See my Avventure in Italia facebook album for all my pictures from Carnevale -and Italia!)
While at the parade, I was reminded of a German commercial I once watched of a family that was dancing to a horribly derogatory rap song (the message was to learn English; see it here) when I saw a float of school children dancing to the song, ‘Sexy B*****’ by David Guetta. To clarify, there is a lyric in the song that goes: “I’m trying to find the words to describe this girl, Without being disrespectful, Damn Girl, Damn Girl You’se a Sexy B****, a sexy b****, a sexy b****.” While this song is very popular and did play alongside many other hit songs, it’s not quite the song I would choose to have children dance to at a family parade…

I’ve also had the chance to meet up with the professors with whom I’ll be a teaching assistant to. At the moment, the exact schedule is pending since I don’t even know my own yet (and now it’s even worse), but it sounds like I’ll be assisting in English classes, subject classes that are taught in English, and private sessions outside the classroom with individual or small groups of students around the town (so cool!). I’m hoping this will help me make some more friends and then I can practice my Italian too! Today, I got to observe my first TA class-ordeal thingy which was a culture/business class that was taught in English. I got to talk about New York, New Paltz, and my experiences in Urbino so far. Some of the students were eager about the sessions with me outside the class, and I’m really excited!

After my TA thing, I went to go take my placement test for my Italian for Foreigners class. I think I did alright; there were some things I somewhat/ couldn’t remember, and others I didn’t even realize that I DID remember (It’s been 2 years since my last official Italian class). I’m finding out my results in the morning!

Well for now I’m off to bed. I’ve got a big day tomorrow: getting my test results, finding my new classes, getting my Permesso di Soggiorno, and maybe even going to class!

A piu` tardi!
CIAO!

Tales from Italy- ch. 2: Erasmus

To start, some things I forgot to mention in my last post:
1- the first street Alex and I decided to walk down since coming to Italy we discovered was called Via del Morte (Street of Death). What a welcome!
2- The oranges here are produced by a company called “Oraninja” and their sticker is a picture of the red ninja turtle poking a straw into an orange! I couldn’t get a good picture of the sticker I kept, so here’s a picture of their truck that I found on the internet!

Since then I’ve managed to accomplish a lot of things.
For one, I got my codice fiscale, which is basically like an Italian Social Security number. It’s like I’m a real citizen, except not at all!!
I also opened an Italian bank account. This way I can avoid all those annoying international fees and hopefully save some money in the end (Otherwise I’d be paying $5 at every ATM and have AT LEAST 3% tax on everything). The coolest part about this is that on the day that I changed my money, I’m pretty sure the currency rate changed again in my favor. I deposited $2000 dollars into my new account which, earlier this week would’ve gotten me about 1330 euros or so… but I got 1420 euros! That’s 90 more than I expected!!! So it was obviously quite a moment for me 🙂
The only difficult thing about depositing money into this account is that I have to give them cash. Withdrawing from the ATM here isn’t an option since I can only withdraw 250 euros at a time, and each transaction costs me $5 in international fees which would add up to be quite costly in the end. I also can’t write them a check (though I still don’t understand this). So in the end, I ended up putting 5 euros in (which is all I had on me at the time) and then the next day Frederica took me to her bank where I wrote her a check (her idea) for $2000 which she cashed right there for me into euros through her own account. It was very nice of her to do. After that I took my 1420 euros (^______^ still really happy about that) to the post office (which oddly enough is my bank) and put it into my new account! How cool, right? An Italian bank account!!
To explain the post office thing, I’ve learned that not all the places here work the same. For instance, the post office also works as its own bank called “Postepay.” This is where I have an account (and its extra cool because my card is bright yellow). Likewise, the Tabbachi (tobacconist) also works as a bar, and that’s also where I go to buy minutes for my phone. Strange, right?

That same day, I bought a set of stamps, so now I can send postcards!

Over the last week, it’s been the Italian Carnevale; it’s their equivalent of Mardi Gras. Last night was the big finale I guess, and everyone was dressed up in costumes and dancing outside. It reminded me a lot of halloween, but for excited adults 🙂


That night we went out dancing (where I met the Mario & Luigi couple above). The DJ there is supposedly the guy I’m supposed to talk to about joining the radio here. I really wanted to talk to him that night, but with the music so loud and my Italian not so great yet, it would’ve been a little difficult to communicate. I’ll have to keep trying though!

Yesterday, after depositing my lovely 1420 euro, I met up with Alex. We wanted to go to Voda phone again to maybe switch our plans, but we don’t actually know yet if that’s more economical for us. On our way back, Alex stopped at a winery to get a bottle opener after having realized he bought a bottle of wine, but couldn’t open it. The first winery we went to sold cavatappi (bottle openers) for 3,50 euro (<<euros switch the . and , so 3.50 is actually written as 3,50). Alex didn’t have cash so we went to the bank. We passed a different winery after the bank, and Alex tried there instead. The guy claimed to not sell bottle openers, but as we headed out, he asked if it was a bottle opener as a gift, or one just for Alex. Alex said just for himself and explained his dilemma, to which the guy replied, ‘You can’t have a bottle of wine and no bottle opener!’ So he gave Alex one for free. Gotta love Italians.
After our cavatappi gratis (free bottle opener) we passed by a store called Ars Nova Laboratorioartioianale (I have no idea what that means). Anyway, this store was EXACTLY like the Groovy Blueberry back in New Paltz. I told this to the guy at the counter and he was very excited to hear that there could be such a store like his in New York.

That afternoon, Laura and I went into town in search of something nice to wear for the evening since we planned on going out. Despite our lack of success, we did stop at Romana and had our first Italian gelatos. She had coffee-flavored and I had Nutellosa (nutella-flavored) and somthing that looked and tasted like brownie batter. MMMmmmmmm so good.

That night, we all went out with the Erasmus students (students studying abroad from Europe) and socialized. They’re a very friendly bunch and extremely helpful with adjusting. Around them, I hear a lot of German, and they said they’d teach me some German this semester outside of classes! I’m really excited. I’ve never been that fond of the sound of German, but after having been around it so much over the last few days, I’d like to start learning 🙂

Today I had planned on going to visit Rimini, a small coastal town about an hour away, to do some shopping and sight seeing since we have much better weather. In April, I’ll be heading back there for the European Ultimate Frisbee tournament!!! I can’t wait!!
However, I ended up staying here with the intention to save a bit of cash and to actually pick out classes since I’m meeting Frederica to locate them tomorrow at 11.

The better weather has allowed me to open my window. This is making me really happy since my room smells like airplane and jet fuel I guess from my luggage. I bought a lavender airfreshener the other day, but I can’t tell if it’s helping or making it more putrid. In another attempt, to my discovery, there’s actually a small vase for oil that someone left hanging from my radiator. Alex said we could make an airfreshener out of orange shavings and water. Since we couldn’t shave the orange, I just put in orange peel and water. Unfortunately now the little vase smells like vomit. Just another reason I’m so happy to have my window open today.
The weather also brought Luke, Maura, and the Spanish guy (who’s name I still can’t spell OR pronounce!) outside. They’re spending a lot of time together today since Maura goes home tomorrow. I looked out my window briefly while writing this only to find Luke scaling one of the trees outside my window and Maura and our Spanish friend throwing a soccer ball at him. It was really funny.

A piu` tardi! (Until later!)
CIAO!

Finally have a functioning kitchen.

For a good two weeks I was surviving off the breakfast provided, a small sandwich for lunch, and going out to eat.  It was not easy on the wallet, but it was good for my tummy.  For the most part, I’m o.k. with it.  Part of the reason I came the CZ was to explore the food and beverage.  Sunday was my last food adventure I am going to allow myself for a while.  Although, The Fat Koala had delicious food and pints, but the Czech Republic was the last place I expected to eat kangaroo for the first time.

All of that was good and fun but thanks to Zuzana, the dorm mother (one of the sweetest women I’ve ever met), I finally got some pots and pans to get back into the cooking habit.  I am use to a gas stove whilst I cook, but the hot plates in the kitchenette are quite difficult to prepare rice on.  There are two settings: off and dangerous, so there is no way to “simmer” a pot for 20 minutes.  Zuzanna also showed us a great gallery at the DOX over the weekend (pictures will come soon).

Tales from Italy! ch.1- THE BEGINNING

I got to Italy on Saturday February 13th. For me, it still felt like Friday, February 12th since my night consisted of about 4 hours. I had left my house at 11am, got to the airport at 1pm, took off a little late by 430, arrived in Frankfurt, Germany around 520am (1120pm to me with jet lag), and caught a flight to Bologna, Italy at 820am (120am to me). While at the gate in Germany, I sat down next to a window and got on the internet to write home. From my seat I was able to watch the sunrise. My night had virtually disappeared since by the time I would have normally gone to bed back home, I was witnessing daybreak.
After arriving in Bologna, I met with Frederica, the New Paltz-Urbino liason and it was about a 2 hour drive to school. On the way here, we passed by what seemed to be a gazillion groves. We’d pass a house and next to it was maybe an apple grove, some stores then maybe an olive grove, some open space and then another grove! It was so pretty.
When we pulled up to the school, I got a good look at it. La Universita DI Urbino “Carlo Bo” sits on a hill and looks so enchanting from afar (and at night when it gets lit up)- the big buildings look like castles (I still have to look to verify this). It’s very believable since Urbino is a really old medieval city (for instance, Alex, the other student from New Paltz, and I walked through an entry way yesterday that dated from the 14th century!). The whole campus is scattered in buildings across the city, with the dormitories just outside the city walls.

After quickly settling in, Alex and I headed back outside to the bus stop so we could get into the city center. I had to pick up a few things and we both needed cell phones. When we got off we realized that just about every direction was either up or down a steep hill. At least I know I’ll be getting some exercise 🙂
In an attempt to find a supermarket, we got lost a few times. Yet one of the great things about getting lost is you really learn your way around. I’ve been here just 2 and a half days and recognize the main areas of the city now and roughly know where to get what I’m looking for. After we had found the supermarket, we asked a lady for directions to find a store that sold towels. Turned out she was from Puerto Rico and knew English very well. She showed us a store but said it was a little expensive. Unfortunately they were the only store we’d seen all day and that she knew of that sold towels until the flea market next Saturday morning. I didn’t have much choice- it was either buy now or don’t shower for a week. I disgustingly paid 20 euro (about $25-27) for 2 thankfully very large hot pink towels.
After that, we went in search of a store that sold Voda phones (Voda is pretty much the equivalent of Verizon in the states). It was a little difficult communicating our cell phone plan with the store owner, but in the end we got what we wanted: 2 of the cheapest cell phones and the cheap pay-as-you-go plan… perfect.

We eventually made it back to the bus station where I decided to call my parents and let them know I was alive since I didn’t have internet access yet, and hadn’t contacted them since the airport in Germany. Of the 5 euros my phone came with, I used up 3 in my 3-minute international call home.
While at the station, we learned that buses don’t pull up to the curb; you have to walk up to them while they sit parked in parking spots at the station. We learned this as our shivering selves watched our bus pull away without us after we thought it had just turned on. We ended up having to wait another 10 minutes for the next one. Lesson learned.

When I got back, I learned a few handy things:
1: you need to supply your own toilet paper and bring it with you to the stall every time;
2: there are 2 outlets in our rooms and they are 3-prong outlets, not 2-prong like the rest of Italy;
3: the fuse box is across the hall in the next blocco for when you blow the fuse out in your room (I spent the first night without power before discovering this; note to self: adapter+ American 3 to 2 prong converter+ American powerstrip+ appliance(s) =BAD);
4: my room door does not lock upon closing like I thought, so I don’t have to worry about being locked out, but I still must remember my keys ALWAYS;
5: the door knobs do not spin- they have a black button on the top;
6: When the door won’t open, don’t fear that this is the end and you’re locked in a bathroom stall forever- just push the black button harder;
7: I have my own bathroom cabinet! I decided to make the journey to the other end of the bathroom and discovered that the extra room was just extra sinks and extra cabinets (including mine- yay!), not a doorway to another blocco (suite) like I thought.

After settling in, I met Alex for dinner in the mensa which is like a cafeteria. Fortunately for me, the mensa is in my dorm and I don’t have to walk far (YAY!!!). Food there is served on a line like the middle schools and high schools do back home- complete with tray. First you grab a roll (apparently Italians like their rolls stale/ hard because they leave the bags perforated), then you get pasta or soup, then a meat and/or cheese with a side of vegetables, then a fruit, juice, or yogurt, then a little plastic cup for water. To get water, students go to a cabinet full of empty glass bottles and fill them with water from a sink with filtered water. It took me 3 meals before I could get through the whole process without messing up and mixing up or missing out on part of my meal. For example, yesterday I asked for grilled potatoes and a side of what I thought was pineapple. Turned out the pineapple was just more potatoes cooked differently- I had a whole plate filled of just potatoes.

When dinner was over, I came back to my blocco in desperate need of a shower (since Friday-Saturday was really like ONE day to me). Before I got in, I heard one of my suitemates speaking perfect American English on the phone. I waited till she was done and asked where she was from. Her name is Maura and she got here last semester from California. Unfortunately she leaves Friday since she’s not staying for the rest of the year, but she introduced me later that night to her English-speaking friends Luke, Katie, and another girl who I can’t remember the name of. Luke and Katie are staying the rest of the year and speaking with all of them that night made me feel more comfortable about what I was in for over the next few months. Luke gave me some advice about learning the language: make friends with both Italians and English-speakers. Speaking with Italians really helps with fluency, but it can get frustrating after a while and at the end of the day, it’s nice to have English-speakers to return to. They also gave Alex and me a temporary internet sign-in name from a former student so we could get online until we got our own login and passwords. Getting back online and contacting friends was lovely 🙂
Around midnight I went to bed. It was then, when I was alone and in the dark (a- because it was night and b- because I blew out my fuse) that everything really hit me. I had a lot to look forward to, but homesickness really began to take over. I missed home and my family, I missed my boyfriend and getting to speak to him before bed like I usually did, I missed all my friends, I missed simple communication, I missed what I was used to, and most of all I missed English. The physical distance between my friends and family, and time before we could be together again, was so overwhelming and I had a rough night.

I slept in till noon the next day (oh, Jet lag go away!) before going in to meet Alex, Luke, Maura, Katie, the girl who’s name I can’t remember, and a student from Spain -with a name I’ll never be able to pronounce correctly- for lunch. It was nice to have made some friends. After lunch, Alex and I went back into town to get some more things we had forgotten the day before. Unfortunately for us, we picked the worst time ever to go. Not only was it Sunday and a lot of stores were closed, but between the afternoon hours of 2 and 4, just about everything is closed (and that goes for every day, not just Sundays) so we weren’t able to complete our shopping. Instead, we meandered about learning ways around. On the way we passed a cinema that’s playing Paranormal Activity. Since I already know the plot and that would make understanding the Italian dubbing easier, and since I never got to experience it in a theater, I am debating on going to see it some time this week.
My favorite part about the day was the discovery of Italian hot chocolate. About halfway through our day, with Alex sick and both of us freezing, we went into a cafe named Romana and ordered hot chocolates. To put it briefly: OMG ITALY HAS THE BEST HOT CHOCOLATE EVER AND IT PUTS OURS TO SHAME. You know when you make pudding on the stove top and you have to stir it till it thickens? Well, only stir it until its cooked about halfway. That is their hot chocolate- thick yet liquid, rich and not watery. HEAVEN. And it tastes like pudding too!!! Romana also had a beautiful gelato selection that made my mouth water, but with the freezing temperature, I had to resist my temptation. I look forward to trying their Nutella gelato in the spring 🙂

Today (Monday) Alex and I finished all of our shopping (I finally have a hair dryer!!), picked up our Tesserino (student cards), and learned what it was like to be considered incompetent foreigners. Once we had gotten our cards, we went next door to a machine where we could put money on it. The machine was very simple and you only had to press 3 buttons. We paused briefly to see how much money we each had on us to put on the card and we spoke in English to each other. This was apparently gave the lady who was watching us from behind the counter the impression that we were incapable because she started telling us we had to press “continua” (“continue”). We were both like, “uh, duh” (obviously to ourselves) and told her that we understood, but she wouldn’t stop so she came over and did it for us. Her lack of faith in our ability to understand 3 simple buttons (of which ‘continua’ is a COGNATE of ‘continue’ in English) made us start to second guess ourselves when we were going to do it right all along. It was very frustrating.

Afterwards, we went to a different grocery store that’s much closer than the first one we went to (it’s location is so wonderful now that we know it exists!) and I got a box of toilet paper (yay! I can stop using tissues!), more tissues (since mine vastly depleted in the substitution of toilet paper), and water. All together it was only 5.03 euro! This made me happy since all I had on me was a 5 euro bill. I still have over $40 that needs to be exchanged, not to mention a significant portion of the remainder of euros that I had on me went to my student card to pay for meals.

We got back early and I decided to try the Italian way of things- with an afternoon nap (part of the reason the stores are closed every day between 2 and 4). It was a wonderful idea. Why don’t we do this in America?

All in all, everything is getting better as I go. Just give everything time time time!

Hopefully my next post won’t be as long if I manage to update sooner- wish me luck!

CIAO 🙂

1st week of class

This week was the start of the manditory Czech language intensive class.  Fortunately for me, I require language courses to graduate this semester so, the 5 hours is not so grueling as would be for those who don’t.  The language is a little more difficult than I thought it would be, with 7 conjugations….for each sex, for a total of 14 in some cases!  Actually being able to use what you learned is a good source of motivation as well.  I remember when I was taking German last semester, I had little incentive to study / practice what I was learning.

When I wasn’t dragging knuckles in class this week, I was trying to explore the city more and find some things that I researched from home, one of them being a climbing gym.  This is still a mission yet to be accomplished, it is either hidden in gaggle of courtyards that are in every city block, it has shut down recently, or even moved.  Whatever, there are others and I will find one…..eventually.

Exploring Prague

The week got off to a good start with a couple mandatory trips in the surrounding area of Prague unfortunately, both were a little depressing.  The first was to a Nazi concentration camp in Terezin (about 40 minutes out of Prauge), and the second was a Communist labor camp, which was almost the same set up as the first.  The rest of the week consisted of exploring at least one local pub / restaurant every day with new friends.

The Getting Settled Hustle

Beside ridiculous baggage checks (don’t fly Cimber Air), the plane rides went smoothly with no delays as I landed Saturday. The journey to Prague took about 14 hours in total. Unfortunately, none of those hours included any sleep. It is now Monday and I’m still suffering a bit of jet-lag.

The weekend included a couple runs into town to get last minute things, and of course to have food and beverages as we all got acquainted with one another. One of the first ( and one of my favorite) cultural differences was the fact that you shot the queer eye if you order a glass of water instead of a beer with your lunch or dinner.  Did I mention it was cheaper than water?

Over 4,000 miles and more than a month later

It’s been over a month since I returned home from the Czech Republic. It’s been a rather drastic change for me and I have to say that I miss Prague a lot.

One of the first major differences I was confronted with coming home was volume. I first encountered this in Frankfurt, when I was waiting for the flight to JFK to board. The waiting area was packed and loud. Not just loud, but noisy. The majority of people on the flight were Americans returning home after a short visit to Europe. It’s a marked difference between Americans and (what I can only assume) the rest of the world. Americans are loud. Even now, I am amazed at how loud some people can be when there is no call for it.

I had gotten to the airport in Prague with entirely too much time to spare. Better safe than sorry I guess. I took pictures of the airport while I was waiting. Just bored pictures, nothing special. Something to occupy my mind while I waited for the counter for my flight to open up. I took all sorts of pictures throughout my Prague airport experience. Nothing of interest, really, and I didn’t think anything of it. Nobody cared. When the plane arrived in JFK and we all queued up in the massive customs lines, I saw a sign that made me think of my flight over to the Czech Republic as well as my flight down to Rome. The sign had to do with the added security measures that non-residents had to endure. Fingerprinting and mugshotting or something. I can’t recall exactly, and I lack a photo of it because right above the sign, but below one of the TVs showing a Giants game, was a sign yelling “No Photography” and a big picture of a camera with a big red X through it. When I flew down to Rome, I walked from the plane, straight out to the waiting area. The first person I talked to was Mike. I didn’t need to have my fingerprints or mugshot taken, and, if I wanted to, I could have taken a whole bunch of photos of Mike waiting for me. It got me thinking about what we, as a nation, are so afraid of. Here I was, returning from a former Soviet bloc country, and right away, I couldn’t take pictures. If I were Czech, I’d be booked before I could enter the country. I realize that there are justifications for these measures, and I don’t want to turn this into a political post. I’ve made it an entire semester without being political. But comparing my experiences flying into the Prague and flying into New York, I really wonder what sort of impression people get when they come in to America.

I miss smazeny syr. That fried cheese delight that (in my opinion) is best served on a bun, on a little rectangle of paper, in the middle of the night.

I’ve definitely grown from my experiences abroad, and plan on returning to Prague for some extended period of time. It’s not just that I miss the fried cheese, but I miss the city itself. All of the decent guidebooks will tell you that while Prague has a couple of big interest sights (Old Town Square, Prague Castle, Charles Bridge) the true magic and beauty of the city is found just by wandering. Prague isn’t about a single attraction. You can’t have a single photograph and say that it defines Prague. The attraction is the city itself. The experience is what makes Prague worthwhile. The tourist attractions are nice for a short visit, but I miss the side streets, the alleys, the basement bars and crowded trams. I even miss waiting for the night tram at five in the morning as the wind off of the river makes it feel like it’s only a few degrees above absolute zero. That is what makes Prague for me.

I never got to Prague Castle.