Sunday, July 3, 2016

Final Post

Last day: we had pancakes (more similar to crepes) with jam, grapes, cherries, and peaches inside and yogurt on top for breakfast. I packed up my last things and we headed out. I admired the green countryside for the last time on our drive to the airport. When we arrived, we got our boarding passes and got in line to pass to the other side into the terminal. I said my goodbyes to Wendy (who I will definately miss!! but will see in 6 days) and her mom ("my second mom"). Thank you so much again for everything :) and then we were off. We went to the gate and waited. We nearly missed our flight. If not for the intercom calling out last boarding for JFK we would have missed it. But then we were on the plane and watched movies and got complimentary foods. Now we are at the JFK airport and ready to be home in just several hours. 

Anyway, now I must answer the last question. If I was to tell someone one thing about Prague, I would tell them that Prague is the perfect combination of history and natural beauty. Although Czech Republic is a small country, these things come together to make a culture rich enough for 10 countries. 

And what should people reconsider about Prague? Well, people know about Prague for the sightseeing and tourism, but Czech Republic is not just that. I think when someone travels to Prague to tour, they don't really get to see the Czech lifestyle. But there is more to Prague than just beautiful buildings- namely, the people and the culture behind these people. Wendy and her family have been so welcoming and kind and I am so happy to have seen Prague through them.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Terezin

For breakfast we had yummy cherry cake made by Wendy's mom using the cherries from their garden. Today we went to Terezin, originally a military fortress, then jail, then concentration camp during World War 2. We toured a museum showing the history of the place. We brought Wendy's great-grandma along who worked there after the war and was familiar with the history. We then went into the area of the town called the Small Fortress. This was where many prisoners were kept. It was of course very sad. Then we drove back and had the leftover Christmas dinner along with some cheesecake which Wendy's great-grandma had made. Wendy and I then went to meet Wendy's father's family at their garden. Although all of them but 2 didn't speak English, they were all so nice. They gave us cake (I had this chocolate mousse cake and it was sooo good and some typical Czech bread items that are reminiscent of open-faced tea sandwiches). Wendy's little cousin was there and she was probably 3 and was such a cute little girl. Wendy's five year old sister was there too and she was also adorable. We ate cherries off their cherry tree and talked to Wendy's 18 year old cousin who was so kind. They were all so sweet and welcoming. Then we returned home and I packed up my stuff and now I am posting my second to last post. I still have to answer the last Sister Cities question. I would like to say thank you to all four of my viewers.

Highlights

What is my most memorable experience from my time abroad? There are so many I don't know which one to choose, but I really loved meeting the US Ambassador and exploring the embassy.

My best day? I thought a lot about this and I guess it would be our day in Vienna. It was so much fun to just look at a map and be able to decide for ourselves where we want to go and what we want to see rather than have a parent tell us where we were going. On top of that, the surprise of finding a whole amusement park and going on that amazing ride was a great way for Wendy and I to get to know each other better because we both love rollercoasters!

My worst day? There were good and bad things about everyday so it is hard to say that any one day was bad, but I guess I'd say the very first day. For no good reason except that I didn't get to spend the whole day there, and it was a very long flight with not much sleep.

Do I feel as though I grew as an individual? Definitely. I thought for sure I'd be homesick but I haven't missed my home at all, sorry parents. Being away from my family for so long was a great way for me to learn how to be more independent. I'm not saying that if Wendy left me in Prague I could find my way to anywhere, but I learned so much about public transportation and how to navigate. I got to see how people in a different country live, and now my perspective has shifted and I can see how some things, like laughter, are universal forms of communication. This has been such an amazing trip!

Phoenix

I am most excited to share with Wendy several different things in Phoenix. She's never had birthday cake ice cream or snow cones here so that is exciting. And lasertag. I'm also excited to show her my house with my dogs which she does not have.

Traveling abroad has changed my pre-departure expectations because now I know that everyone has different ways of doing things, but that doesn't make one way better than another. So the Czech lifestyle may be different from mine but it's just as great. At the same time, I thought Wendy and I would be totally different because we live on different continents and speak different native languages, but we are similar in many ways. So now I think that Wendy will really love Phoenix because she can appreciate all the things I love doing.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Karlštejn and Amerika

Wendy and I woke up bright and early as always and took the tram to Prague Castle. We stopped for "breakfast" at the place where Wendy promised was "the best ice cream in Prague." It was swirled strawberry-banana frozen yogurt. Although it may not have been the best in Prague, it was really delicious. Next we arrived at Prague Castle to explore the areas that we hadn't the day before. We went in a very old chapel located behind the giant cathedral.


Then we went to Golden Lane, which was a narrow street with a rich history. 

Now it has shops and small exhibits on it, but originally, alchemists lived there and people would get there fortunes told there and such. I would also add that the entrances to the shops and exhibits are small stone entryways and it is very difficult to see how small the entrance is when you are wearing a hat described by Vidal as "I saw your hat before I saw you." Anyway I hit my head twice on the doorway. Wendy took a nice picture of me in pain.



They also had an old jail that we got to go into. Then we headed off to meet Wendy's mom at the mall so she could drive us to Karlštejn. On our way though, there was a stand selling trdelnik with ice cream, strawberries, and bananas and Wendy told me this would be the last time that we'd be able to get trdelnik and thereby convinced me to get some. So before 10 am, I found myself having eaten some vanilla ice cream, strawberries, bananas, and an ice cream cone with these flavors, not to mention the actual trdelnik. So back to Karlštejn. This is the 2nd most important castle in Czech Republic after Prague Castle. Although it was surrounded by touristy shops, the castle was really impressive from outside.





I went on a tour of the castle and although the insides were not nearly as lavish as the castle we went to with Erica and Vidal, this castle was much older (14th century) and was built by Charles the 4th who is very important in European history and therefore the tour was centered on history rather than the actual sites to see within the castle. I saw a writing room, two rooms filled with paintings of the castle, a chapel whose wall paintings were nearly all gone, a smaller chapel whose walls were covered with jasper and thereby preserved, some rooms containing items from the times the castle has been attacked or remodeled, and finally one grand chapel. The wall of this chapel were covered in paintings of saints and stones. The ceilings were gold and Venetian and Czech glass. This room was very pretty. But alas there were no pictures allowed on this tour. 

Afterwards we had lunch near the castle and I had chicken risotto which was incredibly tasty, with mushrooms, white and green onions, spices, and more. Then we went on to Amerika. Amerika is sometimes called "the Grand Canyon of the Czech Republic, " but Wendy says that only people who have never been to the real Grand Canyon say that because this is so much smaller. We got to look over a cliff and view the canyon from above. At the bottom there was a lake which looked a lot like some oasis. It was an amazing shade of blue-green and it was very clear. the surface dazzled in the sun and although it wasn't very big, it was impressive.



Then we went back to Louny. We met Wendy's grandparents at a garden which they own. They grew cherries, blueberries, apples, strawberries, zucchini, cucumbers, and more. We were treated to some freshly picked blueberries and cherries which were delicious. Today they decided that we'd have traditional Czech food eaten on Christmas, so we went back to Wendy's home and had chicken schnitzel and potato salad made by Wendy's mom and it was amazing. I have not been hungry since like last week but I just keep eating because everything is so good. 





Thursday, June 30, 2016

Prague Castle and Paddle boating

On Thursday we met Vidal and Jarda at the metro and headed over to Prague Castle. Here is the view from the castle.


Next we went through the giant entranceway with hundreds of other tourists swarming towards the church directly next to Prague Castle. This was one of the most grand churches we've seen and we got to go inside.



Next I wanted to see the changing of the guard and we had 5 minutes to be back at the entrance. Although both Wendy and Jarda thought it only happened at 12, I figured I might as well go look so I ran off and Vidal followed me. We made it in time to see 3 soldiers walking towards the gates together and they did lots of very precise steps and arm movements all in sync and finally switched positions with the previous guards. Vidal videotaped it so go on his blog to see it.


Then we walked to the back of the castle where there were more nice buildings and gardens and viewpoints.


Afterwards we went back towards the river and saw some giants statues of babies which are apparently also featured along the sides of the TV tower in the distance. We also saw a ton of swans and baby duckies being fed.



Then we headed to the other side of the river and rented a paddleboat. We set off into the water towards Charles' Bridge. Of course Vidal and Jarda did the paddling which is why we went so slow. Anyway, there were great views and the weather was really nice and we listened to music and took pictures and fed the ducks. 


video

Then Wendy and I went to a restaurant for dinner and got baked potatoes. We then went to the National Theater and saw a popular Czech opera called The Bartered Bride. On our way we stopped to see this cool statue of a head that swivels around.


The Bartered Bride was about a woman who is in love but her father wants to marry her off to a rich man since her father in in debt. The rich man turns out to be the man she's in love with's brother so they end up tricking the fathers into letting them get married (there was English subtitles).

The theater was very beautiful.





Now that it was nighttime, Wendy showed me the view of Prague Castle and the Charles' Bridge with the lights shining on the river.



From there we headed to Wendy's uncle's house in Prague to stay the night. 




Botanic Gardens and Boat Tour

Yesterday we went to the botanic gardens. They were surprisingly small so that was a quick trip. We went with all 4 other ambassadors.




Then we went to a church and we visited it's graveyard as well, which had a ton of famous people like writers and war generals. Wendy knew who a lot of them were and told me.



And of course, coming down the steps there was another great view. 


Then we went to the mall to eat and I was again surprised by how popular McDonald's is. Vidal tried out a virtual reality machine too.

Then Wendy and I went down to then river and hopped on a boat tour that went straight under the Charles Bridge.




Next we went out to dinner with Wendy's mom and got some pizza. Then we went on to a frozen yogurt shop where I of course got salted caramel. On our way we stopped at a church to look at more architecture.



On our way home I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets.





Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"Host Family Interactions"

So my whole host family speaks great English. Although they speak in Czech to each other and so I will have no idea what is going on for several minutes, they always translate for me. They will also attempt to speak in English instead if the conversation involves me so I know what's happening.

As for food, they always try and have something I will like. We usually have classic Czech food and it has been wonderful to get to try this whole new genre of food. I've also noted that everyone always waits until everyone else is done eating to leave.

Just like in America, watching TV is a pretty common hobby and Wendy and I have watched a lot of movies so far. Wendy and her mom watch TV shows together too she says.

From living in a host family I've learned that they really want to make me feel comfortable and at home. And it's important to be gracious. Communication is also very important because they won't know how you are if you don't tell them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Around Prague

Wendy and I explored Prague today! First we went to Old Town Prague and saw the astronomical clock and the old churches.

A video of the astronomical clock on the hour.



And an old synagogue.      


A theater.   


Then we bought the fabled trdelnik ("chimney cakes:" dough wrapped around a thick rod and cooked with sugar and cinnamon) topped with ice cream or whipped cream.



We ate it by the river and saw a bunch of swans.




Then we crossed the Charles Bridge.



We attempted to find the Lennon Wall (a wall covered in graffiti dedicated to John Lennon) but instead ate lunch. 

Then we went to Wendy's dad's work. He works in media at what Wendy described as "the Czech version of MTV." We got to go into the studio and pose with some guys from TV. They were  about to premiere a music video with various young Czech artists and these people were also there.


Then we went to the mall and bought Bubbleology (boba tea) and popcorn and got on a bus to Louny. A storm came out of nowhere and so we got this awesome double rainbow and both stretched so far I couldn't get them in 1 picture.