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. 

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.

Monday, June 27, 2016

More blogging...

I have to name a food dish I absolutely loved and would like to experience at home. I don't know. It's all been so good... the dumplings I had last night with the strawberry cream sauce was very good. I liked the sweet cool strawberries with the warm, soft dumplings. And the pancakes were good too. They were so different from how I usually eat them. They were sort of like thick crepes. They were eaten with blackberry spread and strawberries, then rolled up like a taco and spread on top was yogurt. I liked that there are so many different ways to experience the same thing.

Have I tried anything "out of the ordinary"? Yes. Almost everything I've eaten is in that category for me. Czech food is nothing like what I usually eat. It is much heavier (as everyone says). The strawberries and dumplings were definitely out of the ordinary, and so was every other Czech meal I've had. They are all oriented around sauce. A lot of sauce; not just condiments like ketchup, but sauce on top of everything, like how people eat gravy. 

And what is my perception of food abroad? I haven't tried anything yet that I don't like. I eat what Wendy eats because there's not much I don't like. And being open to trying it all like I've been has really made me curious about different flavors and cuisines. 

Lastly, what does Wendy think of American food? I think she likes Czech food better.

"Meeting the Mayor"

So today we "met the mayor." Basically, we all (youth ambassadors and the teacher) met at the subway station and then walked over to city hall. There we were invited in by a lady (this is where the confusion begins; I do not know what her job was at all) who brought us up a staircase. We walked down a long hallway which I thought would hold the mayor's office at the end. We walked into an office and shook hands with a man and a woman. We all sat down and the woman who led us in introduced the other woman as the vice senator of schools. They asked us about our favorite sites in Prague so far and what has surprised us about Prague. Then the lady who didn't speak English, the one who worked with schools, gave us presents (mugs and journals that say "wow Prague"). Then she left and the teacher mentioned that she thought the older man who I didn't know who he was but assumed he was the mayor lived in Phoenix. So she asked him and he started talking. He talked about how he left Prague because of the communist regime and had been arrested twice for protesting. He said he was now visiting Prague because he was retired. That's when I realized he probably wasn't the mayor. Then the lady who escorted us in and had been translating for the vice senator of schools came in and said there was a meeting in there soon and we had to leave. So we got up and she escorted us out and pointed to the mayor's office as we left. Then she stood on the steps and talked to the Czech ambassadors and teacher and asked who would do the presentation on Wednesday. I tried (hopelessly) to figure out what presentation but this lady left and no one knew what she was talking about. So we did not meet that mayor. I'm not so sure who we met. But we went to city hall. I think.

Anyway then we went to get pizza and we walked across Charles' Bridge and despite the tourism it was beautiful.

Then we went to the US Embassy. I expected a large, nice building. But instead, there was a small entrance guarded by police. They had us show IDs and checked us off a list of visitors and then we waited. They then had us walk in in pairs of two spaced out by a few minutes. We went through metal detectors and our bags did as well. There were multiple police and we had to give away our IDs and get badges that said "visitor" in their place. Then we waited again, in a small room next to the metal detectors. Next, an escort brought us upstairs with several other people and the room opened into a lovely hallway and staircase with large windows and white walls with portraits of past ambassadors and presidents. They asked us to leave our phones outside as we were led into the ambassador's office. I'm a bit scared to describe the office because there were signs that said "classified space" but it was very nice. The ambassador came out and he can be described as no less than (in Erica's words:) "vibrant." He first recounted how he ended up having so many guests. We were somehow all friends of friends or family: a girl whose aunt is his friend, a mother and daughter whose husband/father is his friend, 4 recent high school grads one of whose sibling knows him, a volleyball player whose friend knows him, and Erica (plus us) whose grandma knew his mom. He told us about how his family left during the communist regime and showed us some old pictures. Then he asked us about ourselves and he really was super kind and welcoming. He told us about his job as an ambassador and led us into the gardens of the embassy. They were incredibly fancy with tons of flowers and fruit trees. The apricots and cherries were ripe and he had us all try them since they have no pesticides and they were sooooooo yummy. We went up to a small building built a few hundred years ago (redone since then however) and there was a great view. We all took pictures and Erica gave him a picture from her grandma of her and the ambassador's mom together and Erica was so proud because it nearly made him cry. After eating more fruit and taking more pictures (they gave us our phones back after we left his office, although we couldn't take pictures of the outside of the building from the embassy gardens), we went on our way and returned home. All in all, the embassy was awesome and Mr. Schapiro was very friendly and welcoming. 


We got home and had some tasty dessert. I don't know what it was but it was kind of like vanilla bean cakes/wafer-type dessert with cream and chocolate. Wendy had tiramisu. Wendy's mom is an amazing cook and it is very impressive. For dinner we had more knedliky with a meat (again, not sure what it was but it tasted like everything bagels) and red cabbage sauerkraut. Another traditional Czech meal. So unlike anything I've ever had. You should try it, it's good. 

Sunday :o

Yesterday Wendy, her mom and I drove down to a glass making company. We got to see all these historical glass art pieces and learn about glass making techniques like the traditional Czech crystal.


 We also got to make our own glass creations!


It was very cool but scary because of how hot the glass was and how quickly you must manipulate the glass before it becomes too cold and firm.

Then we went to lunch and had very typical Czech food. Wendy and I split a chicken schnitzel dish and a pork dish with knedliky (thick dumplingesque bread slices) and a heavy sauce that really can't be described. It was just very tasty. Then, since we were in a really dense and green forest part of the country, we went mushroom picking. Wendy's mom actually makes soup out of the mushrooms if they are good, but I really just wanted an excuse to walk around in the forest.


Then we drove home and Wendy and I painted and watched movies. We had another typical Czech meal for dinner: dumplings with strawberry sauce.