Not sure what program is right for you? Click Here
CIEE

© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Study Abroad in

Back to Program Back to Blog Home

8 posts from March 2012

03/22/2012

Being in Prague

 

Danielle Desjardins, Mount Holyoke College

 

            I can't honestly say that I remember much of orientation. I remember walking around Prague, riding the trams, and being generally dizzy with excitement. We took a two week intensive course in Czech language (Dobry den!), and I remember wandering around random paths in Prague an awful lot. One day, during the first week of classes, a friend and I left the CIEE building to explore Vyserad. Explore, or wander, maybe just talk and walk and enjoy the beauty. The Gallerie Vyserad, the cemetery where many famous Czechs are buried (Dubcek!) is maybe a hundred yards from the front door of CIEE. The gates are open all day, and rows of thick cement headstones are nestled amongst vines, iron gates and low-hanging trees. Even in the frozen air of January, mute-colored flower arrangements decorate the graves, themselves slyly decorated by nature with cream-colored icicles. The path is always quiet, although in spring, when the flowers morph into brightly colored blooms, it is no longer such a beautiful secret. But then, in January, when our noses were bright red and the tips of our ears probably frostbitten, it was quiet and empty and mesmerizing. Neither my friend nor I spoke until we left the gate and began to wander down a path that would bring us over the cliff of Vyserad.   

            When sunset begins to fall over Vyserad, I swear the effect is similar to falling in love. Soft pinks and oranges float among blues, and especially grays in winter. The sky illuminates the city. Vltava, the river that runs through Prague, the colorful buildings down below and the spots of greenery, shimmer and sparkle and subtly blend into the sky. At the top of the cliff, my friend and I, we someone, and I recognized him. Maybe I had seen him around in CIEE classes, but my memory of him back home was even more clear, and I remembered standing in line at the airport in Boston. In line in front of me to check bags had been another college-age-looking kid. Dark hair, glasses, peacoat. There were so few people checking into British Airways that I had idly wondered if he was on his way to Prague too, transferring through Heathrow, arriving between 9am and 12pm to meet the CIEE staff. I didn't see him again in Boston, or on the plane, but Sean and I ran into him on the cliffs of Vyserad and introduced ourselves. The three of us ended up walking down the hill, overlooking the city as the sun continued to sink, and reached the cobblestone path that frames the movement of Vltava. We walked, talked about our majors and our families and our lives and became friends. The most wonderful thing about being in Prague is not just the beauty of the landscape or the well-run program or the thrill of successfully ordering a meal with a correct Czech accent, it's meeting the people we've met with the knowledge that these are the types of friendships that will never fade.    

03/19/2012

Zoo visit

By Emma LaChance, Oberlin College

This city is completely changed in warm weather. Sure, snow on the cobblestone streets can be breathtaking, especially at night by the National Theater, but there is a whole new level of energy one the sun comes out and the weather hits 20* C (at least, one the weekends). In the duration of one tram ride, I saw more people roller blading by the river than I have ever seen in the United States, and that includes those midwest roller-rinks with the disco balls and American Flag Art Deco. Jogging, bike riding, kayaking - you name the outdoor activity, it was probably being done today by a significant percentage of the Prague population. 

 

And I'd just settled into a routine with my winter wardrobe, too...

 

Being neither an avid bicyclist nor in possession of roller blades, I elected to spend the day at the Zoo. It lives up to the hype, let me tell you. First of all, it's HUGE. And about to be dramatically expanded - for the elephants and hippos. (I discovered the hippos are possibly the most terrifying animal I have ever seen today. Yeah, snakes give me the heebie-jeebies but they don't really look like they could smash in my entire skull at one go. Also, we saw the "small" hippo first, and I thought that was plenty large enough. Then mama showed up and completely redefined the term "behemoth." I kid you not.) They have pretty much any animal you can think of - bison, polar bears, zebras, penguins, flamingoes, vultures, sloths (but no Kristin Bell), even ants. Ants in exhibits, not just, like, ants wandering around wherever people are eating. But they have those ants too. It's several miles of paths - even a section where bats fly around your head! People can sponsor animals, which means your name goes on the plaque in front of their habitat, and I saw at least seven animals I'd like to add to the list of things I will spend money on should I ever come into a significant windfall. (Somehow I've already managed to allocate the future option price of my first screenplay without actually having written the screenplay...)

 

Which all just a very long way of saying - if you get a chance, go. Especially on a nice day when you have time to just wander for hours. Just bring a bottle of water and don't bother with the french fries, they aren't worth it.

03/15/2012

An Unforgettable Forgettable Experience

By Elizabeth Weinstein, Emory University

During orientation, the Czech buddies took us on a 45 minute-long adventure to Motol Hospital to show us where the foreigner’s department was in case of a medical emergency. That day, after spending way too long for my liking on public transportation to arrive at the hospital to spend less than 5 minutes learning where the foreigner’s department was located just to turn around and spend another 45 minutes on trams, buses, and metros, I swore I would never ever return to that building. Besides, if I actually needed emergent medical care, I am not sure I would actually get to the hospital in time to be seen by a doctor. So, I had one goal – stay healthy, and do not break any bones.

A few weeks in and I was without an illness or an injury. Until I began to suffer some severe toe pain from the cold. I did what I always do when something seems wrong, I called my dad and asked him for help. As the pain got worse and my toes got redder and more swollen, my dad finally said I needed to go to see a doctor and have them look at my feet. Of course, I refused because going to a doctor meant that I would have to return to Motol Hospital, and I explained to him that this was just not an option. So, thank goodness for the internet and WebMD.  I was able to diagnose myself, and after a few weeks my toes were back to normal, I was feeling great both because I was pain-free, and I never had to set foot in the Hospital.

Unfortunately, when I hoped for no injuries or sicknesses, I forgot to consider bloody noses. Being used to the humid, warmer weather in Atlanta and Dallas, my nose certainly did not enjoy being in the  frigid, dry environment of Prague. Just a few weeks in, I had one, and from then on it became more and more frequent. I knew there was really only one way to fix the problem – nose cauterization. I kept thinking it will warm up soon, my nose will be fixed, and maybe just maybe vaseline will do the trick. But, each time I had to stop and fix my nose, I could see the words “Motol Hospital” flashing in my mind like a big, lit up open sign.

I guess a trip to Motol was inevitable. I finally caved and decided it was time to put this nose thing behind me and go get this over with. While most people dread getting their nose cauterized because of the pain factor, I was too hung up on the fact that I had to go all the way back to Motol and deal with this situation that the pain part of it was not even on my mind.

Tuesday morning, I woke up, with no classes or any sort of obligations for that day, I packed a bag (like someone would pack an overnight bag) with everything I could possibly need while I sat at the hospital. I figured I was going to be there awhile since I had no appointment, didn’t even know how to make an appointment, and therefore I packed my readings for all my classes, my laptop, Sex and the City season 3 DVDs, my blackberry fully charged so I could play solitaire, an extra jacket, a whole box of tissues, and my programs handbook (I’ve been meaning to look it over so I thought the waiting room would be a perfect time).

The day started off pretty well as I easily found my way to the metro and then to the bus that would take me to Motol. Seeing that I had made it to the hospital with no problems or setbacks and with my sense of direction, I just knew that all would go smoothly.

When I arrived at Motol, I immediately remembered where the Czech buddies took us, and at this moment I admit that I was extremely thankful for the Orientation excursion to Motol’s Foreigner’s Department. I walked up to the entrance and pushed open the door ready to make the left down the hallway that led to the Foreigner’s Department, but when I walked inside there was no hallway and nothing looked familiar. I should have known that I was bound to get lost at some point. After trying three other entrances, I backtracked back to the bus stop and went the other way and sure enough there was the entrance. I walked inside, delighted to see a familiar area, made a left down the hallway and there it was the Foreigner’s Department and English-speaking people!

After speaking with the receptionist, I filled out a few forms with my personal information, and then I was handed a piece of paper (that had Czech all over it) and was told to go upstairs and hand this to the receptionist up there. The whole experience was still going quite well as I now had what I imagined to be an appointment, and I was delighted to discover that they do perform nasal cauterizations here.

Now, as I mentioned before, I get lost fairly easily in an English environment with English signs, so I was not surprised at all when I found myself possibly lost and absolutely confused when I reached the first floor. I walked out of the elevator to discover that there were two doors (one on the left and one on the right), both of which had the word “ambulance” written on it. I wasn’t sure which way to go or if I was even on the right floor. What I did know was that “ambulance” was spelled similarly to “ambulance” and that I did not need. So, I decided the right would be the way to go, and thank goodness it was!

On the other side of the right-side’s door, it looked like a normal waiting room area (patients sitting impatiently, nurses walking past, some sort of plant/tree, magazines, and a TV at the front). I looked and found the receptionist/check-in counter inside of a small room. I walked inside and an impatient nurse looked up at me and began speaking in Czech. Confused, I looked at her and said “mliuvim anglicky” or “I speak English.” Well, she only speaks a little English (and by that I mean none at all) so I handed her my sheet of paper, she nodded her head and pointed to the waiting room. How long was the wait? When is my appointment? Will I be able to get my nose cauterized today or just examined? I had no idea, and really no one that I could even ask. So my waiting room experience began…and if you dislike waiting rooms in America, it is only 5 million times worse when no one speaks your language, and you don’t have the slightest idea of what is going on.

So, I waited. And I waited. And I waited. And after several games of solitaire, I was still waiting. When I got too bored to even play anther solitaire game, I turned to my next source of entertainment, The Ciee Handbook. And after I pretty much read the bulk of the book under life and culture, I was still waiting. One by one, I saw people get called into the rooms on either side of the waiting area, but never was my name called. I began to get frustrated when people who had come 30 minutes after me were being seen and I was still waiting.

After a two hour wait, the room filled with anxious patients was now just me, a girlfriend waiting for her boyfriend (who was called a few minutes prior) and an old man, who had gotten up and was speaking angrily in Czech. I finally began to consider whether I had been forgotten and wanted to walk up to the nurses’ desk and ask when I would be seen or if I even had an appointment time. Unfortunately, they spoke no English so all I could do is look up at the nurses who walked past me and give them a sad, longing, “help me!” stare. But as you can imagine, that brought me no closer to an answer or a doctor. Soon, the couple had left and the older man was called, and 2 hours later, there I was alone and yet still sitting in the waiting room. At this point, all I could do was be optimistic and hopeful because there was no one left, and I had to be soon.

I did get one compassionate look, not from a nurse but from the older man. When, he walked out from his appointment to find me still sitting there in my spot below the TV, he looked over and began speaking to me in Czech. I said “English,” he said, “no” but he gave me a look showing that he understood my pain and frustration and hopefully I would be seen soon. I will never know his name, or what he was there for, or anything about him really – but we definitely shared a moment, and it felt great to have at least someone understand just how miserable and frustrated I was.

And just as he walked out, a sweet looking nurse came out from one of the rooms and read my name aloud! Honestly, nothing (whether you are in America, Czech Republic, Canada, anywhere!) is more exciting than hearing it is your turn after you have waited in uncomfortable plastic chairs for what seems like eons on end. Finally, I was going to get to see a doctor and be out of here in no time!

I walked into a small room with a patient chair in the center and a smaller chair on the side, and a young-looking doctor walked up to me introduced himself and shook my hand (all in English – I cannot even begin to explain how excited I was to not only be in the presence of a doctor but an English-speaking one). I explained to him my problem and boy was I glad to hear that he could cauterize my nose right now and I could be out of here shortly.

I got comfortable in the small chair on the side of the room, as the doctor took out a bunch of funny looking tools (all of which I prayed were not going to put up my nose), and for the first time. my first wave of fear of pain hit me. This entire time I had been so focused on the nightmare of going to the hospital I had very little time to even consider the fact that I was going to be getting a procedure done. After I had the oh-so-wonderful experience of having a metal scope stuck up my nose, the doctor said he could see the exposed blood vessel and there were no other serious problems. (I could have told him that and I really thought the metal tube up my nose was completely unnecessary). Now, all he had to do was the actual procedure.

First, he dabbed some cotton balls in this blue liquid. I was not sure how the doctor in Prague go about their business, but in Dallas, they most definitely tell you when something is about to hurt or at least explain what they are doing. So, when he put the blue-soaked cotton balls on the end of this large stick and began moving it towards my nose, I had a minor freak out and asked him what he was doing, would it hurt, and if this was the burning part. He explained that this was just like cocaine. I stared back at him in utter disbelief. He said it will numb the area and I may feel some tingling in my face and nose. He also mentioned that this was the most not painful, but uncomfortable part. Still unsure of whether this was the painful part or not, I prepared myself for the worst as cotton balls were pushed up my nose (fun times as you can imagine). After a few seconds, he finally took one out and he had me sit there while the medicine kicked in. Sure enough, I began to lose feeling in my face, nose, and even some of the medicine had gone down my throat and caused that to numb up to.

Despite being numb, I still felt pretty awake and aware of what was going on. That was, until he came back over stuck a tool up my nose and pulled out a blue-soaked cotton ball. I guess the numbing medicine works really well, because I had no idea there was a cotton ball still up there and could not even feel him take it out, so I was absolutely floored when I saw a cotton ball come out of my nose. It was like the trick people do to younger kids, when they pretend to pull a penny out of someone’s ear as if by magic, leaving the kids all surprised, giggly and asking for them to do it again. I was certainly surprised, but most definitely not giggly or asking for him to do it again. Instead of giggles, I began to feel all woozy.

From this point forward, I have a very little idea of what actually happened. I know at one point I saw metal tweezers that I think were used to actually burn the blood vessel and some yellow goop on guaze was put up my nose. Next thing I remember, was that I began sweating profusively (like soaking through my shirt), I was getting really dizzy, and my face felt all cold and clammy. All I wanted to do was lay down, close my eyes, and be back in my bed. But when, I opened them there was the doctor sitting before me asking if I was OK. Still pretty out of it, I saw him go back to his desk, type up a few notes on the computer and tell me about the recovery and care for my nose. He gave me a piece of paper and two prescriptions and told me I was done and to go to the pharmacy. So, I managed to get the dizziness somewhat under control to leave the room, get the meds, and get out of there as fast as I could.

After I got my meds from the pharmacy, I began to feel a knot in my throat. I could not figure out why I was about to start crying. My nose really didn’t hurt, I actually still had no feeling in my face, I was not upset about anything, and overall it was not a terrible terrible experience (minus the 2.5 hours in the waiting room but that wouldn’t make me cry). As I stood by the doors, holding in my sobs, in my woozy state I began to wonder what was wrong with me and made a call to the doctor, my father. I ended up speaking with my mom and luckily, I was just having a normal reaction to the anesthesia, unluckily, however, was that when it wears off it makes a person burst into tears for no apparent reason. So, here I was standing at the entrance of the hospital with cotton up my nose, a long public transportation ride away from my bed, and on the verge of a full-fledged crying attack. I needed to get out of there quick and that is when my knight in shining armor appeared on the road before me, a Yellow AAA Taxi cab. That was exactly what I needed. I did not hesitate before I ditched the 35 minute bus/metro/tram ride home for the $20 cab ride where I could cry in private.

In the cab, I tried to think of anything at all that would save me from the embarrassment of having a sob fest in the back of some guy’s cab. I finally found something that would help. As I looked down at the sheets of paper that the guy gave me I read my instructions for recovery, “Stay calm, no cleaning of the nose, no hot showers. nasal drops 4/day.”

I vaguely remembered discussing this with the doctor after the procedure, but of course I was under anesthesia and was not sure exactly what these instructions meant or for how long I was supposed to do these things. Did hot showers mean no showers at all or just washing myself with hot water? If I needed to blow my nose, could i just dab it? How many drops do I use? I was also given a cream, when do I use that?  How do I put it up there? I am not sure who’s genius idea it was to tell the patient about recovery when he/she is under anesthesia, but I guess that is how they do it here, and if you want my opinion it is uneffective and a really bad idea.

I soon had a thousand questions on what to do with my nose for the next few days and really had no way for getting any of them answered. There was one option…go back to Motol and wait to see the doctor again and then ask him exactly what to do. While I had forgotten a significant portion of my lovely date with Motol, I think one trip was unforgettable enough and made such as lasting impression on my study abroad experience that I will just have to find another way to get my questions answered.

Sparta! Praha! Sparta! Praha!

By Elizabeth Weinstein, Emory University

Since arriving to Prague, I have anxiously awaited my first Sparta hockey game. A few weeks ago, I was suffering from some serious hockey withdrawal (game recaps on DallasStars.com is just not the same as going to the game) and decided it was about time to go see a Sparta game.

I was eager to experience a non-NHL hockey game and see how the Sparta game was different/similar to any other NHL game. And everything from the size of the ice to the “ice girls” had their similarities and differences to the NHL games.

A new experience for an old fan:

Despite being a frequent hockey game-goer, I could tell this was going to be a whole new fan experience for me. This new experience began before I even got dressed. When I go to a Stars game it is pretty easy to get ready (I’ve worn the same thing since I can remember – partly because of superstition and partly because it’s also just normal fan clothing). Jeans, boots, and my Stars jersey with the sleeves rolled up three times (for good luck). But, for a Sparta game, I did not have a jersey to wear. So once I had my jeans and boots on, I struggled with what to wear on top. After deciding whether to look cute, the team’s colors, etc, I finally decided the shirt was less important than making it to the game on time and threw on a casual top.

Small Arena, overflowing spirit:

When Jessi and I got to the arena, our next challenge was to decide where to sit. The arena is similar to that of an NHL one but is much smaller and primarily one level. You have the option of sitting in center ice or behind the goal there is standing area for each team (one side for Sparta’s fan and one side for their opponents’ fans).

Tipsport Arena picture CIEE

Tipsport Arena

 

While, there were not many seats in the arena, the place was just as loud (most likely louder) than most games that I have been to (keep in mind I go to Stars games though). Almost everyone in the arena was decked out in Sparta gear, wearing jerseys, scarves, hats, t-shirts. The entire game, the fans cheered and shouted Sparta chants. The standing section on the sides seems to be where the real die-hard fans were. And several times throughout the game, they’d shout “Sparta” and the sides would respond with “Praha” — this was my favorite chant because it was the only part of the game that I was able to understand other than what was happening on the ice. With my little knowledge of the Czech language and numbers, I was able to understand when someone got a penalty how long it was for and at what time it took place and when someone scored a goal what time it happened at (it was also written on the scoreboard – but I think I could have figured it out without the visual aid).

Style of play:

At an NHL game, it is quite common to see big hits, fights, and other aggressive plays. Here, however, there were maybe a total of seven hits in the game. Instead of playing along the boards or setting up plays by the goals, there was a lot more skating and back and forth movement. I will admit that at first it was a somewhat boring game. This was partially to be expected, since it is the end of the season, Sparta is in first place and the post-season is near (so probably not the best time to go watch them play). So while the fans were still very involved in the game. For the first two periods, the players had very few shots on goal and just a few scoring chances.

Annoying fans are everywhere:

I have had my fair share of annoying fans at Stars games. There is the person that sits behind you and drops the f-bomb every five seconds and complains about every call. There is the guy that is there just to see fights and yells at the players to start something. And my personal favorite, the woman who spends the entire game talking about the hotness of each player. Well, in Prague, you can still find that one fan that will drive you nuts during a game. For Jessi and me, this was a little boy (maybe 10 years old) who sat in the row directly behind us. He had a cute, high pitched voice. And just a few minutes into the game he began cheering what I thought was “Sparta Boom! Sparta Boom! Sparta Boom, Boom, Boom!” It was cute that he was such a big fan and had so much energy and passion for his team! Well, ten minutes later when he is still saying this same cheer in his same childish voice and the cheer is actually “Sparta boo! Sparta boo! Sparta boo, boo, boo!!!” it is not so pleasant. As it turns out he was a fan for the opposing team, Zlin, and he actually did not stop cheering (or booing really) the entire 60 minutes of the game. You’d think if he went to the game with the intention of cheering at least he could make it more enjoyable for those around him by coming up with some good cheers or catchy ones or even positive ones for his own team instead of booing Sparta, but no. He had his go to Sparta boo cheer and then one another (which is extremely uncreative and just awful to listen to over and over and over again) “Zlin! Zlin! Zlin!” said really quickly and in an even higher pitched voice.

Ice girls have made their way to Europe:

In the NHL, most teams (if not all) have 20-year old girls in little spandex outfits who come out to clean the ice and perform dances on the sides. Well, in Prague they do too! Just they are a little different than those of the NHL. Here, a jacket that is zipped up all the way to the neck and a knee-length mini skirt replace the spandex pants and cropped tank tops of the ice girls in the NHL.

  Ice Girls picture CIEE

Sparta Ice Girls

 

Finals minutes can make or break a game:

Zlin did score one goal to have a 1-0 lead in the third period. With just a little under five minutes to play in the game and Sparta not looking so great for the previous 55 minutes of play, it looked like it was going to be a final score of 1-0. But, thank goodness it is a 60 minute game. A game that was pretty slow and lacking offense, Sparta finally showed up and gave me a taste of how they actually play. In those last five minutes, the puck hardly left Sparta’s offensive zone. One after another they fired close shots towards the goal, each time the fans getting antsier and antsier hoping to see the puck go past the red line. And finally, with 1:55 left in the game, on a really ugly play, a Sparta player tipped in a pass to make it 1-1!

Overtime is a stressful experience for a fan:

A win or die situation always makes a game more exciting and a win that much more thrilling, but it can also leave a fan absolutely devastated. While, I love the thrills of an overtime period, I find it to be an incredibly stressful five minutes. So, after Sparta had scored to tie the game at one and force an overtime period, I was finally getting really into the game and was anxious for the next five minutes. When the puck dropped at the start of OT, I was on my feet like the rest of the crowd, gasping at each shot on goal. Sparta continued to dominate for the majority of OT. Unfortunately, Zlin did get possesion of the puck about halfway through the five minutes and brought it down the ice to score a goal. Luckily, I am not a die-hard Sparta fan and the loss does not affect them team too much. However, the OT goal was not all bad because I thought it was the best play of the game and it’s always nice to see a great play (when it’s not against the Stars obviously).

 

Three stars of the game the Prague way:

In the NHL, at the end of the game, three players are selected as the three stars of the game. At the Sparta game, there is something quite similar to this just with a little touch of Prague culture to it. When the game ends, all the players line up on the ice and do a handshake (like at the end of the playoff series). Afterwards, they wait on the ice as the player of the game is announced. Not only does that player get to be recognized for his performance that night, but he also gets a gift, usually a pivo (beer).

So, while the team spend the next few weeks preparing for the post season, I am going to use that time to learn about the team and the players so I can be a true Sparta fan when the post-season comes.

  Jessi and Me picture CIEE

Is It 10 or 11 O’Clock? Daylight Savings Experienced on The Other Side of The Globe12

By Elizabeth Weinstein, Emory University

Daylight savings time has always been tricky for me to master and usually a pretty stressful experience. I can never remember whether I lose an hour, gain an hour, if my phone will automatically switch for me, or if I need to change it. Pretty much, I just end up confused and waking up at a time I had not intended to.

So, Last night, when Sarah announced to the apartment that tomorrow was daylight savings time (at least in America) and to not forget to set out clocks ahead an hour, I immediately began to fret. The problem was that I had a day trip to Terezin today and needed to be at the bus stop at 8:00 a.m. Therefore, I NEEDED to make sure that I was awake at 7:00 when it was actually 7:00 and not 8:00.  We knew that in America we’d lose an hour so we would need to set our clocks back there, so it must be the same here on the other side of the globe.

In the morning, I ended up waking up at the right time and making it to the stop in time for the bus. I figured that my phone had automatically changed, and I was good to go. However, throughout the day I heard several rumors about the time changes here vs. America.

Rumor #1 – it was daylight savings time back home, so it was here as well.  Why would it be any different?

Rumor #2 – it was only daylight savings time in America, they do not have that here

Rumor #3 – daylight savings time is not until next week

Rumor #4 – it was daylight savings time back home. Here, it is in a few weeks

For the rest of the day I pretty much forgot about the daylight savings rumors until later that night when I looked at my watch (on my wrist) and saw that it was 10:00. Since I had not changed my clock yet, that must have meant that it was actually 11:00. I was amazed at how long I must have spent trying to write this blog post. I knew I had gone to dinner at 8:00 and I got home at around 9:30ish, hung out for a bit, and then sat down to write this. So if it was in fact 11:00, I must have spent about an hour or so writing a few paragraphs. It was at this point that I remembered the rumors that I had heard earlier and realized that perhaps it was not daylight savings here and it was actually 10:00 (which would make much more sense). I decided now was the time to check in with my other sources.

First, the phone (which I had been using all day as my clock). I looked at my phone, and it said 10:00, just like my watch. So if my phone did not change times, that must mean it was not daylight savings here. But, then again, maybe it was, and my phone didn’t change because it has no wifi.

Next, consult with the roommates. I went to my roommates room and asked them if it was 10:00 or 11:00 and explained to them the various rumors I had heard throughout the day. Everyone sat there unsure of what time it actually was and whether or not we had a daylight savings time here last night or ever.

When in doubt, Google it! (which is exactly what we did). So throw the rumors out the door and here are the facts:

TRUE – It was daylight savings time in America

FALSE – It was daylight savings time in Prague

FALSE – There are no time changes here

FACT – Prague’s daylight savings is not until Sunday March 25.

FINAL ANSWER – it was 10:00 in Prague

A Všechno Nejlepší (Happy Birthday) Surprise for Sarah!!!

By Elizabeth Weinstein, Emory University

Last Thursday was Sarah’s 21st birthday, which meant that we needed to celebrate and she needed a cake.  Jessi and I had thought about baking her a cake for her birthday and maybe making a box mix/typical birthday cake. But Jana, who loves to cook and has many great Czech recipes, decided that if Sarah was having a birthday in Prague then she needed a Czech cake. Jana suggested that we bake her a honey cake and surprise her. So, as Sarah left to go to her birthday dinner Thursday night, Jessi, Jana and I got busy in the kitchen.

Earlier in the day, Jana had actually already started the cake by making the dough (it takes a few hours on the stove) beforehand. Luckily, Jana always has some sort of interesting dish cooking on the stove and Sarah had no idea that the brown mush was actually her birthday cake. While the stuff on the stove cooled down, we made the cream that would go in between the layers of the cake. Once the cream was ready and the dough was cooled. Jana gave us each an empty wine bottle and a slab of dough. The wine bottle was to be our rolling pin and the dough was to be made into a circle.

  Prezentace1

Jessi rolling out the dough

(For some reason I was really bad at this part. So, for each circle I made, Jana had to fix it to make it the right size and shape).

  2

Jana and Jessi hard at work - I was busy capturing the moments on camera

Once, we had rolled all the dough into these flat circles. We had to bake each one for about 5 minutes.

  3

Jana taking the cooked dough out of the oven

Now that all the pats of the honey cake were ready, it was time to assemble and decorate!

On a plate, we first put a layer of the cake, poured a few drops of rum on it, put on some of the cream, sprinkled some broken pecan pieces, and then did it again until it looked like this…

4

It was at about this point in the baking process that Sarah got home from dinner. We sat in the kitchen and debated whether to just invite her in and surprise her and let her help us or help she doesn’t notice the smell of honey and cake and all of us in the kitchen. We decided with the former, since Sarah went straight to her room to get ready for the night. Now and then she would come out to talk to us or ask us about her outfit, so I made sure to go to the entrance of the kitchen or walk out in the hallway to talk to her when I heard her coming so that she would not actually go into the kitchen.

The cake was almost ready…we just needed to grate some of the leftover cooked dough on top of the cake…

  5

Add some candles and a 21…

6

 

And now it was time to turn off the lights and invite the birthday girl in!!!! (but first, we made sure to ask Jana how to say the happy birthday song in Czech…if she was going to have a Czech birthday cake she needed us to sing happy birthday to her in Czech. Well, after we struggled to say just “happy birthday” (“všechno nejlepší”) we decided to ditch the song and just go with that.

  7

všechno nejlepší!!!!

 

And it worked! Sarah was surprised and amazed by both the cake and Jessi and me saying “happy birthday” in Czech.

8

 

After a picture with our masterpiece, we finally got to taste it and it was delicious!!!                                  

9

Dobre Chut! (bon appétit in Czech)

A True Hostel Experience: The Good, The Bad, and The Downright Ugly

By Elizabeth Weinstein, Emory University

Prior to my studies in Europe, I had the experience of staying in hostels. Between my eighth grade trip to Israel and the March of The Living trip my senior year, I had the opportunity to experience both the very nice hostels (Jerusalem eighth grade) and the incredibly awful ones (Sfat eighth grade). Since I had survived and enjoyed my stays at the various types of hostels, when coming to Europe, I had no problem with saving my money and staying in hostels when I traveled. As a matter of fact, I was in favor of it.

Well, I guess I should consider myself lucky for my previous hostel experiences. Because this past weekend I certainly had a whole new experience, or what some might refer to as a true real-world hostile (oops hostel) experience. I am not sure if it was the symphony of snores I heard throughout the night, the sketchy man with green dreadlocks and a nipple tattoo in the bed across from me, or the awful stench in the room that helped make my weekend stay at the Smart Hyde Inn in London so pleasant. As I walked down the hallway to room 94, I knew this was going to be a one-of-a-kind and hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Hallway picture CIEE
The hallway that led to Smart Hyde Inn's dreadful room 94

 

When Jessi and I arrived at our room, we knew that we had reserved to beds in a mixed 8 bed dorm room, but what we didn’t expect was that there would actually be random people staying in the room with us (in Vienna it was just our friends and we didn’t fill up the whole room so there were empty beds in the place of strangers). Jessi and I did not get to our room/hostel in London until about 11 at night. So, when we walked into our hostel room all the lights were turned off, so it was pretty dark. But, unfortunately not dark enough. There was just enough light for us to see the narrow rows of metal bunkbeds and for us to feel the stickiness of the ground with each step we took. Since we were at a hostel and needed to make our own beds with the starchy sheets that they gave us, we turned on the lights in the room so that we could find which beds were ours and make them. (Each bed had a curtain so it was hard for us to see which beds had people in them and which were empty for us to sleep in). We did so, and we found our two top bunk beds waiting for us in the first row of beds…

 

Bunk picture CIEE
Almost how I picture the beds at the Four Seasons to look

 

Now, I have never considered myself to be too high maintenance, and when I am in a situation that is just awful, I tend to find it really funny rather than disturbing or infuriating. So, when I checked into my room at the Smart Hyde Inn, I hoped I would be able to have that same mentality.

And I did. Once the lights were on and I could see Jessi’s expression and our “home,” all I could do was laugh at how ridiculous our living situation was. While I did manage to stay upbeat and laugh the rest of the weekend, it was only a few hours into my stay at the Hyde Park Inn that I decided I would never stay at such a place again.

Here is a recap of things that I did/witnessed/thought this past weekend at the Park Hyde Inn that I hope I will never either see or deal with in the future (ranked from good (and by good I mean bearable) to downright ugly):

1. Making a top bunk bed – I have not made a top bunk bed since sleep-away camp, but I remember how stressful and infuriating it was. You could never make the bed as quickly as you wanted to, and it never really felt quite right: the sheets would not be smooth or you couldnt get one side tucked in well enough, etc. This time, I faced these same problems when trying to make my bed, as well as a few additional ones that I had not expected. First, I had to work around my backpack (which was also on my bed because the floors were so sticky I did not want my backpack on them). And second, five minutes into the bed making process, a man got out from his bed to turn the lights off. This led to a 5-minute laughing attack as well as a dark room to make my bed in. It was at this point, that I gave up and put the folded sheets in one corner of the bed, laid down the comforter to cover the mattress and got fully inside my sleep sac and called it a night.

Sleep sac picture CIEE
Me and my beloved sleep sac

 

2. Sleeping in completely unsanitary beds – If you look at the picture above, notice here how no part of me is touching any part of that bed, and the sleep sac is pulled over my head so that I would not touch the pillow. Since, I wanted you all to get an idea of how I slept in my sleep sac, I had Jessi take this picture of me in the morning posing. In reality, I actually slept with the sleep sac pulled completely over my face for two reasons. One, I did not want to have my face come in contact with the bed. And two, (my main reason), I have a huge fear of waking up and having someone staring back at me. Since I was in a room with six other strangers, every time I closed my eyes to fall asleep, I kept picturing some random person sticking their head through my closed curtains. So I pulled my sleep sac over my entire face so that they could not see me.  And, if they did open my curtain, hopefully they would not stay long looking at me because there would be nothing to see.

3. Sleeping in a place full of potential thieves – I am a big fan of everything I own, and therefore, no matter how valuable it is I do not want it stolen. So during my stay at the hostel I replaced stuffed animals in my bed with a backpack, shoes, purse, cell phone, and wallet. As I mentioned before, I slept in a room with six other people, whom I had no idea what they were like, if they were thieves, nice people, or even popes. All I knew, was that they were people, and if I left my bag on the floor out in the open, any of these six people could pick it up and walk away with it while I slept. Luckily, there is a very easy solution to this. Yes, I slept with all my belongings in my bed. By this I mean, my phone and wallet in my sleep sac, and at the foot of my bed was my purse, my backpack, and even my boots. I made sure that I slept with my feet underneath my stuff at the end of the bed to ensure that if someone stuck their hands in to take it I would feel it and wake up.

Bed full picture CIEE
All my belongings are safe and sound at the foot of my bed

 

4. The continental breakfast – Jessi took the initiative and was the one that booked the hostile for us. As you can imagine, it did not take long for me to ask Jessi why she had picked this one. She gave me a few good reasons, one of which was the free continental breakfast. Jessi and I both love breakfast food, and nothing is better than free breakfast food when you are traveling. So, since the breakfast was only served from 7:30-9:30, we made sure to wake up extra early so that we could have everything before it was gone and get our free breakfast. We shortly found out why it was free and whether we came at 7:45 or 9:15, it would not have mattered because there wasn’t much for there to even be an option of there being none left. I think that it is safe to say that the Smart Hyde’s Inn continental breakfast is not what we usually would refer to as one. This version had pieces of white bread (like Ms. Bairds or something), a toaster machine, and a bowl of butter and open jelly jars to put on the toast. If that was not bad enough, everyone was using the same knife and putting it on their bread and then putting the knife back in the jar (it looked disgusting). There was also the option for instant coffee (which I did not try because I do not like coffee, but Jessi, who is a big coffee fan, said it was some of the worst coffee she’s ever had), as well as some corn flakes. Our original intention was to fill up on a huge breakfast so we would not have to eat until dinner. Unfortunately, two slices of bread just would not do the trick.

5. Captain Underpants – While Jessi and I were making our beds, someone from the bed below me got up and went to turn the lights off. Now, I was kinda curious who was sleeping below me, so I peaked out from my curtain to get glimpse of my bunk buddy. And there he was. A middle aged man wearing nothing but a short t-shirt and yellow whitey-tighties – what a sight (sidenote – this was the moment that I promised myself I would never be in this situation again, and this would be my last hostile stay). Before I even saw Captain Underpants, Jessi and I were already laughing because someone had gotten up to turn the lights out and we were still getting situated. So, once I got a glimpse of Captain Underpants my giggles transformed into a full-out laughing attack as a tried to describe to Jessi what I had witnessed. The next evening, Jessi and I came back to our rooms to change to go out that night. And there he was, standing by the bed below me, Captain Underpants. I did not recognize him at first as he was dressed in normal clothes and I wasn’t even sure if it was the guy I had seen the night before. But, I soon found out it was him when he asked Jessi and me if we were the two girls laughing the night before, we said yes and apologized (though little did he know what I was actually laughing about). As it turns out, Captain Underpants was a pretty nice guy and told us about some places to go out that night and where the fun clubs were.

6. Our other bunk buddies – When Jessi and I got to our room, everyone was asleep in their beds with the curtains closed and it was dark so we would not get to meet our new “friends” until the morning. Over the two days, I discovered that there were several other interesting characters in our room (most of whom did not speak English). Sadly, I did not get to meet/speak with any of the other roommates or even see all of them, but for the ones that I did see, I am surely glad I can so I can paint a picture of the various types of people in my room. Of course there was Jessi, and Captain Underpants. Along with them, there was the 70-something year old man (looked way older than my grandparents). I thought this was the most random of them all, but I did feel somewhat safer with this man in my room. He was sweet with white hair and mainly wore an older looking suit. I never got to talk to him, but we did share the rinky dinky sink in the room once. Lastly, there was the fairly odd couple. This man and woman were unlike most people I had met before. Not only did they not speak English, but the woman had hot pink dyed hair with dreadlocks and the man had neon green dyed hair and dreadlocks. Both had numerous tattoos and interesting piercings, including a nipple one (now that is something that you do not get to see everyday). There were a few other interesting travelers in the room who I passed once or twice, but between those guys and the ones mentioned above, it was certainly a new and very interesting experience. However, for the future I think I will stick with sharing hotel rooms with my friends instead of these lovely strangers.

7. The Bathrooms – After Jessi and I checked in and went to find our rooms, we passed a door in the hallway that had a little lady and a little man pictured on it. Yes, that would be our restroom for the next two days. Not only would I have to deal with using a public bathroom (which is one of my biggest fears), but it was also a shared male/female one. Jessi and I stared at the door debating whether or not to open it and peek inside to see what we would be dealing with. Well, we were feeling daring so we did. Now, picture a gas station’s bathroom in the middle of nowhere that is just a small hole in the wall with no air conditioning system or window of any kind, and make that ten times worse…then you can get a pretty good idea of what this bathroom looked like. To make matters worse, if you opened the door next to the restroom one, that was the shower. It took Jessi and me about half a second to decide that showering just would not be an option for the weekend. While most showers are most commonly used as a way to cleanse oneself, I feel confident saying that these ones would do just the opposite. I was disgusted just looking into one of them, if I actually went into one I doubt I actually would get cleaned. So, while it was disgusting to not shower for three days, it was actually cleaner than taking a shower.

Once we survived our stay at the Smart Hyde Inn and we were safe and sound on the airplane home, I had two main thoughts lingering in my head. The first was the dilemma of where to stay for the remainder of my time traveling in Europe. There is no way I can stay at a place like the Smart Hyde again, it was just too traumatizing. Unfortunately, I  already have reservations for a hostel in Rome, so either I will see that there are still some good hostel are there or I will shun hostels for good and stick with hotels. My other thought was why in the world did Jessi pick the Smart Hyde Inn. As I began to make notes for this blog post, I asked Jessi how did she find this place or why she picked it, what looked so good about it. Jessi shrugged and said, “I guess I wasn’t smart in picking the Smart Hyde Inn.”

03/13/2012

The Ides of March

By Emma LaChance, Oberlin College

The Ides of March are almost upon us. So I decided to, you know, write a blog post. Because what if I die in two days in some elaborately botched conspiracy? Though if people remember my name in two thousand years I'd chalk it up as a "win." It's been almost two months since orientation, and I'm definitely surprised by how quickly I've settled in. Sure, there are a few flaws in the routine that need to be worked out, but for the most part it's going great. I've been to the opera TWICE (!) and to my first professional football (soccer) game. It might surprise you which one I enjoyed more...

There are a few things I miss about the States: top sheets, for one. And for another - no, wait, that's really all I miss about the States. Though having classes 10 minutes away from your dorm is starting to feel like quite the luxury. Once you figure out which trams aren't as crowded (the trick is to get one that comes 2 minutes after the earlier one, because everyone on the platform gets on the first one, and two minutes isn't long enough for another crowd to accumulate) though it's not that bad.

This week was the One World Film Festival (Jeden Svět) - for four dollars a pop, you can go see an amazing array of documentary films relating to various areas of human rights and social justice. The scope and quality are just astonishing. Gotta love living in a city! And next week

FebioFest kicks off, with a huge variety of films. I can't wait to see some of this year's Czech films, as well as (I'll admit it) some of those art house films I missed in the States. Also, if you've never had street food at 3:30 in the morning, you have never lived.