Archive for the ‘Life in General’ Category

Prague's ugly art

Some of Prague’s unattractive side

It never ceases to disappoint me how the beauty of Prague’s multi-era architecture is marred and disfigured by graffiti. This is not art, nor is it the work of street artists. Rather, it’s mindless scratchings made by idiots with spray cans of paint. There are a number of cities and artists known around the world for high-quality, artistic street renderings. Prague is not one of them.

Lennon Wall, Prague

My dad at the Lennon Wall, December 2012

With the exception of the only officially allowed graffiti in the city — the Lennon Wall — I have yet to see a work of art emblazoned across an otherwise pristine canvas. And even said wall changes regularly and has been painted over with artless scribbles in many places.

No building and no part of the city seems immune, including government buildings, shops and private homes. Although there are some buildings (such as where I live), that take part in an anti-graffiti campaign of some sort. I’m not sure what the punishment is if caught, but it seems to work as my building is one of only a couple on the street without these ugly markings.

I feel for the property managers who regularly repaint their exterior walls to cover up the damage, only for it to be replaced almost immediately by more inane splatterings. I’m not sure if creating more attractive work would be less disheartening as technically it would still be defacing private property, but it would at least be a little less embarrassing and easier to tolerate if it were say like the works of King Robbo or Banksy.

Banksy’s 3D style, I’d say, revolutionized the world of street art. But even among the street art community there’s a debate over who is truly the king. A battle between the two became so popular that a movie was made about it in 2011. But I digress.

Graffiti in Riegrovy sady

Graffiti in Riegrovy sady

I suppose the problem is that there isn’t enough concern on the part of law making or enforcement. So my disdain should be directed at them as much as the vandals themselves, if not more. I would think for a city that earns a good chunk of its revenue from tourism, this would be a higher priority to control.

But alas, there are other things I love about this city so it’s not the end of the world. I just wish I were better able to turn a blind eye.

A view from Riegrovy sady

Jessie & Helmet in Riegrovy sady

Well now that I’ve moved over to one of Prague’s largest and most popular parks, every day is a day in the park — and I love it!

Ticking off 30 minutes with the dogs is as easy as, well, a walk in the park (sorry). On this round I finally took notice of this view overlooking the city.

An old man standing at the top appeared to be contemplating the bottom. I wondered what he saw, what he remembered as he looked down on this old, yet somewhat modern city. I wondered; was he thinking of German occupation? Russian occupation? The Velvet Revolution? Or perhaps some more happy memory of a girl he once knew whose smile lit up his heart?

I know for me, this park has worked magic in a very short period of time. I don’t have ancient memories to review as he did, but I am making new ones. And most delightfully, my sense of freedom and creativity are returning. Each day so far, I’ve come up with story ideas from my business blog and today’s much overdue post for Through Expat Eyes.

I’ve also just endured two miserable months at a company where executive management was absolutely terrible. Non-supportive, hyper-critical, and downright mean in some cases, publicly lambasting people in public forums (but never with enough balls to do it to one’s face).

For the first time in weeks I’ve been sleeping through the night and awaking with enthusiasm. I’ve eaten only veg all week, took a run on Wednesday and did a TurboFire workout today. I didn’t plan any of this really, it just sort of happened, but I hope it’s here to stay. I’d gotten quite lazy and then didn’t have time for anything other than work anyway.

While new beginnings can often be stressful, this new flat in a new location and potential for new career moves makes me happy. I’m looking forward to more.


Prague: a view in Old Town Square

Prague: a view in Old Town Square

Wow, how time flies. I cannot believe it was 1 year ago today that I hopped on a plane to Europe; having said goodbye to a good job, great friends and wonderful family. My American life whittled down and crammed into 3 apple green suitcases. I had 3 alternative plans tucked in my back pocket. Although not certain what lie ahead, my spirit knew that my life would not stay in Gothenburg. I kept hearing in my mind, “there are great things for you in Prague…” As planned, I left the USA on 29 March, arrived in Gothenburg on 30 March, then left on 26 May to come to Prague to earn my CertTESOL (English teaching) certificate.

What wasn’t exactly planned was whether I would choose Plan A, B, or C to move forward. Day-by-day the plans would jockey for primary position. Until one day, life events made the choice clear.

So after some self-reflection and 3 job offers (2 to teach and one a complete surprise to do what I did back home) here I am, living out Plan B, and enjoying every moment of it. Peeling back the layers slowly to uncover what those “great things” are.

Please bear with me as I catch up on posting. Do subscribe, share or bookmark me though because I have SO much to share with you. Prague is an amazing city. A gloriously ancient and historic place with a twist of modernity. I am enjoying getting to know the place.

I finally noticed this morning that the days are slowly getting longer. Got up for a morning bathroom run and thought it was about 9am. Nope, it was 5:33 am. The sun wasn’t shining so it wasn’t that bright, but it was light. In fact, it was like 9am on an average gray day in Göteburg.

And then this evening, at 21:45, it was still the color of dusk. I’d liken it to 20:00-20:30 during daylight savings time on the east coast of the USA. I guess my previous trips here have been too brief to notice the change. I have seen Stockholm, which is a 4-hour train ride north, dark for nearly 20 hours but that was in the dead of winter.

Silly me for not realizing that this area would also be affected by the longer (and therefore shorter-come-winter) days. So, to my friend Annie who asked me about this before I left, I apologize for thinking you were daft!

Having just read an article by Sheryl Eisenberg in This Green Life, a publication of the NRDC, I felt compelled to reply to her story. Sheryl’s introduction states that “Legs, not cars, are the human form of transportation, but we’ve lost the habit and art of walking, and with them, a piece of ourselves.” I found it so timely for me, because not only have I enjoyed rediscovering the art of walking these past few weeks, but I have also been walking with purpose and connectedness. In the event you won’t read her article, here’s the response it evoked from me.

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What a perfectly-timed piece! I just moved to Sweden three weeks ago, and one of the things I was looking forward to most was NOT having–or needing–a car. For nearly a year I’d been looking forward to getting away from the metropolis traffic I had to endure twice a day, every day to simply get to and fro work. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Even though I am fairly fit, but granted hadn’t worked out in a while, I was still surprised how just after a few days or so of walking and tramming everywhere, my body began to ache. But it was the glorious ache of natural, physical activity.

Because I don’t yet know the language, every walk is a walk of “radical intention.” I am fully in-tune with my surroundings and where I intend to go. And, perhaps mostly with where I’ve been so I know how to get back!

I’m no longer glued to a smartphone with music, email, and GPS. I am spending time with my environment, and myself. And I rather like it. But I know the day will come when I find this environment commonplace and I begin to tune out again. I don’t really look forward to that day. But for now, that day is far off and I will continue to enjoy my walks, albeit only some take place in woods, but right now, this new city is my forest.

This will be a running list of things I find odd, or a bit different about every day stuff. It’s not necessarily new stuff as I may be familiar with it from TV, movies, et al, but perhaps living with it every day now makes it seem odd. And maybe they’re not odd to you, but this is my list. Feel free to suggest additions if you have experiences. I may even find that over time they are not so odd, but perhaps it’s something I just haven’t figured out yet. In which case, I will update the list as I learn new details.

  • Bed sheets: They don’t use fitted bottom sheets here. Although I saw one used in a sitcom the other day for comedic effect, they don’t seem to be available in real life. Actually, I haven’t found any sort of bottom sheet yet. I bought some new sheet sets the other day but a “set” here consists of 1 small pillow case and 1 duvet case/cover.
  • Beds: Are basically one size, or two, depending on how you look at it. They start with a single/twin and put two together to make a double-sized bed. I haven’t seen queen or king, but that makes buying the aforementioned linens much easier because there’s only 2 sizes from which to choose. It’s hard to go wrong. Also, they don’t use separate box springs, they are built into the bottom of the mattress. And they all have the same built-in cutouts to add legs. Maybe this is an IKEA creation, but from my limited experience, it seems to be pretty universal. UPDATE 2012/04/20: OK, saw an advert for beds and they had 4 sizes listed. But I’m cynical and still want to see them in person.
  • Shoes Off: Some people do this in the States too, but I think it’s either regional (you live in Wisconsin), or cultural (non-US natives bring the practice with them). The moment you walk in the door, you take your shoes off. It took me a short while to figure out it’s because of the weather and not wanting to track dirt, ice, snow, etc. into the house and not some cultural or religious ritual. Hence, my comment that folks in the colder climes of the USA might also commonly do this.
  • Drying Rooms: Clothes dryers are limited. In lieu of dryers, they have drying rooms where you hang your clothes to be dried by forced hot air.
  • Eggs: Eggs are packaged 10 or 15 to a carton. Sometimes you can find 6, but no dozen (12) like in America. Also, large or XL is SERIOUSLY large, you can use 1/2 the usual amount.
  • Parking: You pay for car parking, even at your own apartment. This is not very cost-effective so you’d then want to rent a garage instead. However, covered bicycle parking is free and in my particular building, they have bicycle “garages” (an indoor, ground-level room) for each building. What’s cool though, when parking in-town, they have digital boards that display the number of available spots before you get there, so you can select an alternate lot, if need be.
  • Would you like a bag with that?: When shopping, you pay for the bags. Most retail stores seem to allow one small free bag with purchase but additional, or larger bags cost around 1kr each. An excellent way to encourage reuse & recycling.
  • The Switch Up: Light switches are UP when the lights are off and down when the lights are on. Give yourself a minute; you’ll realize this is backwards.
  • Week 18, when is that?: Swedes, and perhaps others in Europe, count calendar time in terms of weeks. This is mostly used when discussing a future event, or providing an ongoing schedule. An event doesn’t just happen on a certain date, it takes place in a week number such as 18 (or 10, 17, 32, etc). Even my mobile phone calendar shows the calendar by week. I don’t know if the natives or long-term residents inherently know when a week occurs but I certainly have to consult the calendar and count.
  • Push Me/Pull You: Just because a door handle is on your side, doesn’t mean you pull to open. Stores, businesses, etc. seem to have handles on both sides of their doors.
  • Can You Help Me? Yes, but not so fast. Take a number. Banks, government offices (no surprise there) and many retail stores (especially electronics it seems) use a ticketing system. At first I found it frustrating, but now, I think it’s great to not have to stand and wait in line at the bank. Instead, you sit comfortably and wait for your number to be called. Something Americans are only used to at the DMV and similar offices. And in retail stores, you don’t have to fight for attention, so it’s a good odd.