After my flight being cancelled for 2 ...

Trip Start Jan 30, 2003
1
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Trip End Jun 23, 2003


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Flag of Czech Republic  ,
Friday, February 14, 2003

After my flight being cancelled for 2 consecutive days and over 20 hours of travel time, I finally arrived in Prague on Feb. 1st. It is now February 14th and I am finally sitting down to write my first group e-mail. I guess that should serve as some form of foreshadowing and a testament to the incredible time that I'm having in Praha, Czech Republic. I figure instead of boring you with my daily routine and such, I'm going to break this up into different aspects of life in Prague. Feel free to read anything you think will interest you and skip anything that doesn't appeal to you. For some of you, that will mean skipping to the end of this right now. For the rest of you, I will try to provide brief anecdotes or tales to accompany each section to paint a vivid picture of the place I will be calling home for the next 4 months.

Food: It is surprising to note that most of the restaurants in Prague are Italian. I would have never expected to travel halfway across the world to a Bavarian state rich in German and Slovakian heritage and see signs sporting the word 'pizzeria' every 3 store fronts. So, for my first meal I decided to try some Prague pizza since their was rumoured to be a delicious Italian restaurant in the vicinity of our dorm. I sat down at the table with 3 of my new friends and we received menus. At that point, the menu could have been Chinese and we would have understood it just as well. I somehow managed to explain to the waitress that I wanted a vegetarian pizza and she seemed to understand which was a great sign (people over the age of 30 don't speak a word of English for the most part). We all ordered and were enjoying our first taste of Czech pivo (beer). Out of my peripheral vision, I saw the waitress approaching our table and got very excited at the prospect of eating my first meal in Prague. To my surprise and chagrin, the pizza that was placed in front of me was topped with some mysterious spinach puree and copious amounts of corn and green peas! I learned my lesson quite quickly that when travelling in a country where you don't know one word of the native language, you should bring a local bi-lingual individual with you. In all honesty, the pizza was delicious and I recommend trying it at home. My pizza almost rivalled the deer goulash that I had for dinner the other night. If you haven't had deer before, it's like beef but more tender and tasty....mmmmmm!

Weather: The temperature in Prague always seems to hover around 0 degrees, but it is absolutely bone chilling, which is a mystery to all of us here. There's no humidity in the air and there's no wind chill, but it feels as numbing as when Toronto was -25 before I left. Also, I haven't seen the sun since I arrived in Prague, it is always overcast and grey. I don't know how I haven't been stung with a bout of severe depression.

People: This is the section where I talk about the women in Prague, but I thought using the title 'people' would be a little more tactful and diplomatic. After spending one day on campus at the Prague University of Economics, it is no wonder to me why Prague has been touted as the world's newest breeding ground and hotbed for supermodels. I would perform a serious injustice by trying to describe what the women here look like. All I have to say is that if the Czech Republic falls into a deep recession, the government should consider some sort of exporting program to boost their GDP.

I should take this opportunity to introduce my roommate Eric who hails from Lyon, France and has shared many of my wonderful adventures with me, some beyond the scope of this e-mail.

After that brief preface, I will dive into another one of my stories. Eric and I have discovered a new favourite pastime in Prague and have co-conspired with another one of our friends, Carole, who adds to our legitimacy and credibility. What we do is sit down in the library directly adjacent to the entrance. We pull out our 'Elementary Czech' notebooks and repeat after Carole as she reads Czech words out loud. When we see one of the aforementioned Czech beauties, we call her over and ask for her interpretation of the pronunciation of a very easy word. As we've figured out, there's a serious positive correlation between helplessness and cuteness.

Relationships: Another interesting aspect of the Czech culture is that boyfriends and girlfriends aren't afraid to share their status in public. For example, while walking to class yesterday, I walked down the main corridor and saw a Czech guy on a bench holding what seemed to be his girlfriend across his arms while they passionately kissed. Arms flailing about, they continued their enlightening (at least to me) public display of affection as I walked by in amazement. I think there could be a business opportunity here to rent rooms out by the hour in various strategic positions in Prague, I think it would improve the experience for everyone.

Accommodations: The outside of our dorm gives off the impression that it has been through World War II and the mass turmoil that plagued Czechoslovakia under its Communist regime from 1948-1989 (good thing I have my class notes handy). The inside is a big improvement and my room is great. There is a truly eclectic mix of people in my program from places like: Colombia, Portugal, Hungary, New Zealand, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Sweden, USA, Spain, Hong Kong, Korea, and Austria. The people are all amazing!

A couple lessons to learn before travelling to Prague:
You can get all bundled up to go to school and not worry about hauling around all of your stuff because there are 2 huge coat checks in the main building at the university which struck me as odd.
If you go out with Czech people for a pre-lunch drink to warm you up, make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. When I was visiting Prague castle, there was a Chinese restaurant that was recommended to us for lunch, but it didn't open until 1:00pm. So, about 6 of us went with one of our Czech buddies to get some hot chocolate and coffee to warm us up in the interim. On the menu, I saw "hot honey wine" and I asked her if this was a signature Czech drink and if it was wroth trying. She assured me that it was delicious and insisted that I try it. The drink arrived and it was about 0.25L of beverage which looked great because I was freezing. I took a sip and almost spit it out. The contents of the glass are still a mystery to me, but unless wine is 40%, I'm not sure what it was. I quickly marvelled at how delicious it was and offered it to all of my friends at the table. How could I be so selfish and drink it all myself? I was on a completely empty stomach; needless to say, I exited the restaurant and warmly stumbled to the Chinese restaurant.
Make sure you have your communication bearings before you ask your Czech friend if she's soon the movie 'XXX'. On the plane ride over I saw the movie 'XXX' with Vin Diesel. The timing was impeccable because most of the movie was taped in downtown Prague. My Czech "buddy" (there's a buddy system here and everyone has a Czech student that helps him or her out for the first week) Dasha picked me up at the airport and in the taxi on the way to our dorm I wanted to see if she had seen the movie I was just treated to. The dialogue went something like this:
Jared: "Dasha, have you seen the movie 'XXX'?"
Dasha: (puzzled) "I don't think so."
Jared: "You know, the movie with Vin Diesel, 'XXX'"
Dasha: "No Jared, I don't think I've seen it."
Jared: (due to her unfamiliarity with the movie, I thought maybe the title was a little different in Prague, so I spelled out the letters one by one for her) "The movie is X X X."
Dasha: "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh" (Great, I thought, I managed to explain it to her, I was a master communicater!) "Sorry Jared, I'm not into that."
I had to spend the next 5 minutes trying to convince a girl that I just met that I hadn't just asked her about watching pornographic movies.

That's more than enough reading for everyone. This weekend, I'm going to a Czech cottage about 2 hours from Prague and 5 minutes from the German border. I was invited with my roommate by one of our Czech friends, Lucy, and we're going with about 12 other Czech people. It should be a blast and a great chance to get to know more Czech people. I would love to hear from those of you that haven't written me yet.

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!!!

J
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