Monday, January 18, 2010

Friday Night Dance Party - Praha 5

Ah yes, Friday night in Prague. The group and I are heading onto the metro toward Praha 5 - the Andel stop on the good 'ol yellow line to be exact. We embark on a journey to "Futurum" for some 1980s and early 90s pop music fun. You think you like the 80s? Come to Prague - Scorpions, Foreigner, in concert. 1980s music videos being projected at the very first bar - yes, the first bar - I go to in Prague. Friday night, they bump the daylights out of the tunes AND they play the music videos for all the songs. Though this is called a pub apparently with a dance floor, this is more like a club with a small pub room on the side. And boy was I more than happen to just cut a rug. The music selection - ah yes, I get to listen to "Bad", "Do You Remember the Time", "Ice, Ice Baby", "Can't Touch This", famous "Grease" songs, "Smells Like Teen Spirit", and yes....the epic moment of the night for me - "Gangsta's Paradise." Holy crap, when that came on I was loving life. I know, the song was played out. I realize Michelle Pfeifer was in the movie and it was hokey. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I love the song. I sang every damn word and danced to it and for more unintentional comedic moments I flashed up some West Coast signs on not one, but both hands. In Prague, District 5...this happened Friday night. Not that I love most of the music (though Coolio, U2, and Michael were epic for sure), but the sheer love that the locals have for this stuff just made me pump my fist so many freakin' times. We were at this place for about 4 hours. And if it were not for being in a pretty big group that was unsure of how to get back to where we were staying, I would have stayed 'till 4 minimum. The beer was cheap (25kc...or $1.35 per pint), tasty, the group of folks I was with from my program were fantastic as always, and the ladies of Prague....DY-NO-MITE. The dudes can't dance for sure, and most girls do not dance a ton better I must say. And this is no assessment of my dance moves at all for they are most likely awkward and filled with the white-man syndrome equating to no rhythm. But the ladies just have a unique look, and it is one that I enjoy very much. Even if it is just browsing, it is delightful indeed. Can I have a night like this again where I can relish in some awesome dancing to pop music? Absolutely. My next dance endeavor, to find the hip-hop club where they play Bay Area cuts from the likes of 4-tay, the Luniz, and Too Short. I think if I heard "Gettin' It" in Prague, I'd be complete. I don't know what can top that, but I'm sure I'll find out something more over the top soon enough.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Getting Out of Uncomfortable Zone

Certainly it has been a cultural experience this whole Prague trek. Not knowing the native tongue is quite nerve-wracking and gives me newfound respect (though I never really was disrespectful to be fair) for those who learn a second language like English back home. Everything from being alone in public, and even more so going into a local bar or restaurant alone, has caused me to turnaround a few times.

Being with a group of Americans and Canadians who feel the same way is so nice it is not even funny. I never thought I'd say that at the start of this trip, but the fact we can share the uncertainties of this culture together and work our way towards a comfort zone together is refreshing. Me and two other students got local Czech cell phones with the assumption that we will be here for at least a year.

Tonight, however, I basically said screw it. I am going to go out myself in my 'hood and reclaim a bit of independence. I brought my Lonely Planet book out with me on my walk through Praha 9 (my neighborhood in Prague) and found a couple restaurants. The first two, I walked in and walked out because I was not sure that one had food and the other was quite divey. I was not ready for a total dive yet, but I did find another place where I walked downstairs upon entering and I gathered myself and asked if they spoke English (in Czech of course). The bartender spoke a little, the cook spoke none. But they helped me order, I used a few Czech words myself, and ordered a grilled pork steak and grilled potato pieces with mushrooms and a tasty sour cream spread on top. It was quite good. And washed down with a Pilsner Urquell of course. I was proud of myself that I learned how to say excellent, "do you speak English", and said goodbye to a Czech person for the first time in their native tongue.

The adventure continues tomorrow. My third lesson teaching the native Czechs - this being through my course. The folks so far are generally very friendly, and my experience at the restaurant tonight made me feel better about not knowing the Czech language as long as I try a couple phrases myself in their tongue. More good tidbits later. Take care everyone.

- John

Monday, January 11, 2010

Prague (or London actually) - Day 1

Well I don't even know where to start. Do I explain the flight from SFO to London, where I got a little dusty after hugging my dad knowing I was getting on a plane without knowledge as to when I'd be back in the good 'ol USA? Luckily my dustiness subsided and I was engulfed with excitement upon walking through you know what song rang through my dome after my borderline full cavity search? Domino baby, "Getto Jam." ( ) Please watch the clip, "Here we go, here we go..." That part of the song was ringing in my head and I had that strut where I felt so fucking good about heading out and venturing to Europe. Perhaps a bit unusual, but this is what I planned on doing - head to Prague and see where the road takes me, so "here we go here we go."

But knowing there was a 2 1/2 hour delay, I chilled out for awhile and starting reading "The Book of Basketball," which Nick Homyak so kindly provided as a gift upon my departure. I had a Greek family sitting across from me who were heading to Athens via Heathrow London. The son Orpheus was a real cool guy and we started talking about San Francisco and Napa/Sonoma. His curiosity about SF made me feel blessed to have lived in such a great place as long as I had, knowing full well how so many people appreciate its beauty, the romantic elements, and sheer weather heaven.

And then of course there was the 10+ hour flight. It was a smooth ride, chillin' with the retired Jennifer to my right and Nick from the U.S. Navy to my left, who resided from Concord. Jennifer and I loved talking about the weather, Churchill, the need to stretch our legs, the economy, American tourist sites in California, New York, and the Carolinas, and of course Europe and the journey I am on. My man Nick from the Navy is based in Rome, and both of us became victims of flight cancellations in Heathrow. Nick, heading to Rome, and myself of course going to Prague, we joined each other through the epic long lines of Heathrow to re-book our flights in departures Zone E followed by Zone G. Zone G? Hotel reservations of course. Nick was a cool dude, kind of reserved but very friendly and we tagged along until we went to our respective hotel buses. Good talks about European cities to visit since he'd been to 15 countries, American football chat. Good water cooler talk. And I enjoy that for sure. And in the Zone G line is where Cathy came into play. Don't worry, no funny business...I did think about it though. I CAN'T LIE (Homyak knows this bold quote and who it comes from)!!! And we happened to stay at the same hotel...and dammit she was one friendly, woman (yes, she was 35) next door type gal from Calgary that put the k in kindness and the s in sweet. And she had a sweet, wholesome face and great hair. We both had things to take care of before the next day unfortunately, so no date.

What did I have to take care of? Well first, letting mom know I was alive because Sue would get anxious if she did not know her boy was safe and sound. You only have one mom in this world, and I am going to make damn sure I don't make her too nervous unless I can't avoid it. The TEFL people in Prague who set up a pickup at the airport? Yeah, that flight got cancelled and will be rescheduled for 7:05 the next morning. Thus, gotta let the Czech posse know the deal. Then of course, the unexpected of having TWO...yes two credit cards blocked due to "high security activity" because I tried to purchase Skype credits on a Holiday Inn network. Fucking A, it only cost me $65 in collect calls (two credit cards and the Prague folks) based on bank statement appearances because my phone line did not dial out for international call and the understaffed dudes at the Holiday Inn decided to not pick up my calls to assist in calling out for me (at my expense though of course). So many people had to check in due to flight cancellations and the understaffed folks could not pick up calls. Londoners are not prepared for snow, which may seem weird, but let me tell you....they say talking smack to the home team's fans "would not fly in Philly" if it were done in Philly. And this so called hazardous weather would not cancel flights in O'Hare. Come on London!!! Get your shit together man!!!

I'll provide more goods later, including the morning flight, Prague's airport (weird place), and the arrival in Prague. Just think of it as Rocky, Tony, and Pauly arriving to Russia in Rocky 4.

And I am serious, this is the first thing I thought when I landed on the ground. More details later. Peace out folks.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Nerves Gradually Unleashing - Prague time of Departure is 5 days.

My how close the departure date is coming. Five days. Writing those first two sentences makes me feel a bit more relaxed already. It is just insane how after all this time waiting and now it is smack in my face - only five more days until this new journey begins. I do not know what will unfold. I am currently in the most ambiguous stage of my life, unsure as to what the future holds and slowly accepting the circumstances.

Though goals change frequently, at this stage I figure I will need two years in Europe perhaps to get my fill. First of course I need to attain a job in Prague or another European city to help fulfill such aspirations. Ultimately, however, it is about taking one step at a time. "What About Bob" baby-steps as Dr. Marvin would say. First, get to Prague. Lay my bags down, sleep it off perhaps. Pray that I have a good roommate during my course. Expect the unexpected - literally. Absorb the coursework as much as possible. Make new friends, even if it is just one person. Play basketball, find a gym to play. Absorb the culture, meet locals. Immediately start inquiring about and seeking work to sustain my desire to stay longer than my 90-day tourist visa. Fight through work permit hassle/hell. Think methodically, stay even keel. It may be difficult to attain given the newness of the situation, but never forget that what does not kill you makes you stronger. I firmly believe it to be true. And always take responsibility for your own actions, be your own personal leader, and keep your humility.

The words above are what has been floating in my head the last 45 minutes. Anxious about the unknown already. Let the adventure unfold.