Grateful

Today is Thanksgiving Day in America. This is a unique holiday in that most countries don’t have such a day. For example, I’m living in the Czech Republic, where Thanksgiving is not a thing. No time off of work to have a huge feast and reflect on the things I have to be thankful for. Because I’m part of an ex-pat community, I’m experiencing a unique take on a Thanksgiving feast this Saturday. However, I know that today my loved ones back home gather together to share a meal and spend some quality time together. I know I’m missing out on some memories, and that’s difficult. I won’t get to eat any of my mom’s amazing food or help decorate my Nana’s house for Christmas or play with my nephew. I won’t get to drink wine with my siblings as we talk and laugh and reminisce. It’s not always a dream, living in another country. However, living in Prague has me reflecting on the things I’m thankful for. My list is usually short and simple, my family being the main thing I’m grateful for. This year, my list is a little different, as I’ve experienced life without a lot of the privileges and amenities we enjoy in the United States.

I’m thankful for clothes dryers, garbage disposals, dishwashers, and shower heads attached to the wall. I’m grateful for canned pumpkin, brown sugar, authentic Mexican food, being able to read labels at the grocery store, and having to go to only one grocery store. I’m thankful for supportive parents who raised me to be compassionate, independent, and kind. I’m thankful for my mom’s cooking and dinner time around a table with family. Here in Prague, I’m blessed by Do Slova (my church), UpWord English (my teaching family), and MoveToPrague (the team that has helped make it possible for me to live and work here legally). I’m thankful for sun in a climate that is usually cloudy. I’m thankful for convenient public transportation. I’m thankful for an apartment to live in and a house full of women who are easy to live with. I’m thankful for the postal service, so I can get cards and letters from home.

I could go on forever. Essentially, my life here has taught me the value of the things I took for granted back home. I’ve also learned the value of new things and new experiences. If you’ve made it to this point in the post, thank you for allowing me to share on a day that makes me long for home and family. To my family and friends back home: I’m so grateful for all of you. Be blessed this Thanksgiving, and know that I love you all from afar. To my new friends here in Prague: I’m so thankful I have you all to do life with. May you all be abundantly blessed!

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Neuschwanstein

After the heaviness of Dachau, we decided to venture out to Neuschwanstein castle, the fairy-tale castle which inspired Disney’s castle. It was a foggy day in which our train moved in and out of snow-covered Bavarian fields and misty towns. Because of the fog, we were unable to get some of the famous views of Neuschwanstein, but it was very much fairy-tale-like to watch the castle movie in and out of the fog. The inside is just as beautiful as the outside. King Ludwig II spared no expense in murals, mosaics, gold, and colored glass. The castle was built in the late 1800s but designed to mimic the medieval period. We also wandered around Hohenschwangau castle which had some pretty gardens and architecture as well. The two castles look very different from one another, but we enjoyed both.

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Above: Hohenschwangau Castle

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Above: Neuschwanstein Castle in the fog

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Above: The gorgeous view of the lake from Hohenschwangau Castle

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Above: The courtyard of Neuschwantstein Castle

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Above: The fog played in the trees and along the path to the castle. I love this photo.

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Dachau

It’s been almost a month since I’ve posted, so time for some more, yes? Shelby, Jen, and I had a long weekend due to a couple of Czech holidays, so we decided to venture to Munich and explore. Our first full day there was cold and rainy, but we went to see the Dachau concentration camp anyway. There was something almost appropriate about seeing what remains of the camp in that kind of weather. We did our own tour at our own pace, but had an audio guide to listen to the survivors’ stories. It’s difficult to blog about Dachau. It’s not a place to be celebrated, but rather mourned. The day was very sobering, and while I took some pictures to remember for myself, I choose to share only a couple here, as a place of death seems inappropriate to advertise. We stood in the room where prisoners were tortured. We stood in the gas chamber, which, though unused was still eerie, cramped, and frightening. We stood in the room where emaciated bodies were piled up to be burned. We stood in the room with the cremation ovens, where evidence of Nazi brutality was turned to ash. I really can’t do justice to how I felt wandering around the grounds, buildings, and memorials. Places like Dachau are preserved as reminders of what we can never allow to happen again.

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A Saturday Out…

Our bathroom was being gutted, so Rachel and I decided to go out for breakfast and a walk on Saturday. We started at Cafe Faux Pas, a place that does crepes really well. We split a savory crepe of egg, bacon, and camembert, then we each got a sweet crepe. Mine was, of course, chocolate and Nutella because that’s always what I go for. I loved the way they put things on top of the crepe to show you what was inside. Both were delicious.

We then trekked down to the river to go through the large farmer’s market there. We got macrons, and gingerbread, and cider. Rachel also bought earrings and a coat. There was much to see and it was crowded. To get away from the crowd and take a nice walk, we climbed the stairs to Vysehrad. The beautiful basilica of Saint Peter and Paul is nestled next to the national cemetery, which is unlike any cemetery I’ve ever seen. The sculptures and mosaics here are beautiful, and instead of slabs, there are often plots filled with flowers and plants. It was very peaceful to wander through there.

We then walked around the perimeter of the park, enjoying the views of the city and the river. It was a gorgeous day, and a group of sailboats was on the river. I photographed some ruins from around the 10th century as well as the lovely river scene.

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Lastly, my favorite photo of the day: a narrow doorway in an old wall. I just love everything about this image.

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Art with Kids

Some of you may be curious as to what I’m doing with these children I’m teaching. Four days a week, I teach them English. On Fridays, I get to really enjoy myself, teaching art in English to second and third graders. Here’s a glimpse into a typical Friday as well as some of the work my students have produced.

We began with some basic color theory and a study of Piet Mondrian. Students then completed their own Mondrian-influenced piece. Here’s an example by one of my third graders:

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Those kids really loved using their rulers. Some even tried to work in Mondrian’s technique, which was without a ruler. Either way, students made really unique pieces and enjoyed the project. I’ve also taught the third graders about background, middle ground, and foreground. They created still life pieces using oil pastels to work in a background, school supplies to draw a still life in the middle ground, and paper flowers to place in the foreground. This project was completed over a couple of hours and students did really well:

Our first Friday in October saw our class interrupted by a theater production, so creation time was very short. Kids worked in watercolor to create an autumn background. They then used marker, colored pencil, or oil pastels to draw in trees and leaves. Here is a work in progress, created by my newest student, a boy from Russia:

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And here are my beloved third graders in action:
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One of my second grade classes designed mandalas on Friday. They seemed to really enjoy this project, using our study of lines to guide them. Some were very intricate for second graders. Others added spiders to their pictures because the mandala format reminded them of webs. These kids have great imaginations and love creating art.

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Dinner in Mala Strana

A group of us ventured to Mala Strana to have a drink at a beer garden and eat dinner. Here’s a view from the beer garden:

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We ended up at Luka Lu, an amazing restaurant celebrating Italy and the Balkan nations. The restaurant is vibrant and colorful, the walls covered with photographs from the various countries the menu represents. This is the room in which we sat:

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Anyone who knows me will assume I began my meal with a fine wine, and that is exactly what I did. I settled on a glass of Vranec, a dry red house wine from Skopje, Macedonia. I should have purchased a bottle of it before I left because I liked it that much. We were served homemade bread that was soft with a chewy crust and had two cream cheese spreads with it. My main course was lamb roasted in the oldest method of Balkan meat preparation. According to my brief research, it is a common dish in northern Montenegro. The lamb is chopped into chunks and put into a clay pot along with onions, peppers, and carrots, oil, salt, and pepper. The food is covered with a domed lid and buried in hot ashes or live coal to slowly cook in its own juices for a few hours. It was so rich and comforting after the chilly autumn air. It was quite a delicious meal.

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Luka Lu is quirky to say the least. Apparently, it’s a thing somewhere in the Balkans to have a piece of furniture attached to your ceiling for luck or something. I couldn’t find any information about it. Luka Lu continues in that unique tradition, and there is always something fascinating to look at, whether it’s the walls or the ceiling.

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With excellent service, delicious food, and a unique atmosphere, we will definitely venture back to Luka Lu.

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Divoka Šarka

Last Saturday, we ventured out to this lovely park in Prague 6. It’s rocky and hilly, and you forget that you’re in a city. It was the first day of fall and there was a crisp chill in the air. It was nice to hike around and get out of our stuffy apartment.

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There are Shelby, Jen, and Rachel off in the distance…

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Church in a Bar and Brunch

Last Sunday I attended a church that I think will become my new church home. It’s called Do.Slova, and is located in Prague 1. The problem is I don’t know if I can find it again. Anyway, it meets in this old bar which has a lot of character. I just felt at home there, and not just because of few of my coworkers attend there so I actually knew some people. It’s a bilingual church, so everything is in English and in Czech, which I think is quite beautiful. They also do communion, which is really important to me. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming.

Afterward, Shelby, Jen, and I went to a place called Coffee & Waffles for brunch. We had passed it on the way to church, and we just really wanted some waffles at that point. This place offers full breakfast all day as well as a variety of waffles with all sorts of toppings, from sweet to savory. Jen’s had peanut butter sauce and Nutella, if I remember correctly. Shelby and I went for scrambled eggs and the Czech version of bacon with our waffles. This place was a sweet little find.

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Festival & Fried Dough

Jen, Shelby, and I ventured out last Saturday to find a cultural festival taking place in another neighborhood of Prague. There were a number of food stalls as well as vendors with things to buy. A couple different stages had entertainment. We walked through everything once to get a feeling for the offerings. There was American BBQ, Chinese food, Mexican, and all sorts of South American representation, like Peru and Venezuela. Guys, it smelled really good. We got Mexican food, went to the Irish pub tent for Irish beer and cider, and watched a Bulgarian children’s choir as well as a good sized Salsa dance class.

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We then wandered over to Wenceslas square. Why did we bother with a touristy, crowded area? Because the festival was lacking only in fried dough treats, we wanted something like that, and Wenceslas square has it.

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We found fried dough, everyone. It’s actually a Slovakian treat called a trdelnik chimney, and it was doughy on the inside, crispy on the outside, and covered with cinnamon-sugar. Also? You could get the cones filled with goodness like Nutella and ice cream, which is what we did. Linda, my cousin, this picture is for you! Thanks for bringing my attention to this treat.

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Just So

We stayed close to home the other day and went to a nearby coffee shop. The cute little place is called “Jen Tak”, which means “just so”. Everything was just so in here, from the sweet barista to the perfect coffee to the display case of tempting treats. We were on a mission to eat medovnik, a delicious honey cake. Jen Tak did not disappoint, and I’ll definitely be back. It was nice to find a charming little coffee shop near the apartment.

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Look at our beautiful cappuccinos! Jen’s had hearts and mine was a flower. The cappuccinos were served in the most delicate china cups and the coffee was a perfect compliment to the sweet cake.

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Finally, we had medovnik! For those who love honey, this treat is a must. The cake had rich honey flavor which was balanced by layers of cream. This is a cake I will indulge in again.

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