August 21, 2014.
3:45pm: arrive at airport in Prague, and pass through it quickly on the way to Hlavní nádraži, main train station. 6pm: board train to Tišnov, where I am teaching. 9:15pm: be thankfully whisked off the train by my mentor, her husband, and the head English teacher. I am taken to my new home where I have the first floor flat of a three-floor house, fed heartily, and eventually pass out!
It’s now almost a week later but I think I’m still jet-lagged. Apparently, you need a day for every time zone you pass through.
I feel so incredibly lucky to be here, and I’m still processing how amazing it all is that it’s finally happening.
Tišnov is a small village of about 8400 (2016 update: it is not a village, I’m sorry for thinking so 😉. The houses are beautiful, colorful and decently sized with apple trees in many yards, and we live under two large hills, Klucanina (Kloo-tza-nee-nah) and Květnice (kvyet-nih-tseh), “flower hill.” However, ain’t no Chinese takeout or taxis roaming the streets here. There are a few cafés and restaurants. Few people speak English. I’m looking forward to this kind of life, being woken by church bells, learning to garden and cook traditional Czech food and to the solitude and being enveloped in greenery.
Another amazing thing about the Czech Republic is that $1 is roughly 20 CZK (Czech koruna or crowns), and I am constantly fainting over how cheap this and that is. On my first full day, I went grocery and toiletry shopping, and got literally everything I need for $43. In the supermarket, beers start at $.50, bottles of high-quality, locally produced wine start at $5, a bag of rice or lentils is $1.50. My hosts asked me how much ice cream (zmrzlina!) costs in NYC, and then bought me a huge cone for the equivalent of $1.
Speaking of which, my mentor’s family are amazing. They have a son (12) and daughter (9), and puppy Teři. The kids are shy, but I’m popular just because I speak English and have an iPhone. I’m like a freak show attraction for their friends, and they ask me, “Do you have slushies in the U.S.?” “Do you know Justin Bieber?!”
Then my mentor’s parents, aka my honorary Czech grandma and grandpa. Her father speaks very good English and has been introducing me to Czech alcohols: Moravian white wine; Becherovka, an herbal liquor; slivovitzer, strong plum brandy. My honorary Czech grandmother has been keeping me full all week: mushroom, onion, and vegetable soups; goulash; pork schnitzel sandwiches; various Czech pastries. PLEASE SAVE ME FROM MYSELF.
The cuisine here is hearty and rich and certainly not healthy. Many dishes have either meat or dairy and often both. However, there’s a strange mix between the appreciation and incorporation of fresh fruits and veggies- fresh, home-cooked food in general- and then meals like schnitzel sandwich, as common as American PBJ, or goulash (beef and rich sauce) with bread dumplings.
Most days, my mentor and I have coffee or tea together and chat about the differences between our cultures for a couple hours. One of which being that Czechs sit down to have a coffee, make eye contact, and are genuinely interested in what is said during the chat =) I am starting to learn some Czech too!
I have orientation in Brno (second-largest city, a 37-min train ride away) starting tomorrow and until Friday. I have updates about some travels I’ve done already, to Moravian cities Brno and Olomouc, for next posts.