Life as usual...

Trip Start Sep 06, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Czech Republic  ,
Friday, November 10, 2006

It's been two months now since I've been here and I've encountered some strange (mostly wonderful) things. Learning the Czech language is every bit as difficult as they said it would be... and more worthwhile than I ever imagined it could be. Nothing compares to the feeling of holding a short conversation with a local. Even if it's for something as simple as asking directions, or sending mail back home. Trying to make a meaningful connection on a handful of words is nearly impossible. But the appreciation that Czechs show when you make the effort... well, it's a hard feeling to match.

There's a grocery store nearby which I stop at daily for fresh rohlik (baguettes), houska (rolls) and other essentials. Czech portions are smaller than those found in America, so (though it's a modern store) you still get a feeling of the old-world European market being a part of daily life. In this store there are several cashiers, one of them a small, older Slovakian woman. Shop exchanges are usually brief and polite (in a no-nonsense sort of way.) I've started to understand why Americans are said to smile too much; when my little cashier gave me a big smile and greeted me in English, it felt like a gift. Her English wasn't perfect but it didn't matter; I'm starting to realize what a personal thing language can be. Since that first encounter I see the little Slovakian woman a couple times a week. I always greet her in Czech and get a smile in return and a "hello, how are you?" It's one of the best parts of my week.

I live in Palmovka which is 15 minutes outside of the city center. It's known for the diversity of residents: Poles, Slovakians, Romanians, a little melting pot right in Prague. There's an interesting dynamic between the Romuve (Romanians.) Czechs seem to be afraid or disgusted by them, and they're not treated very well. But from what I've seen the gypsies don't do much to prove otherwise. There's an anger that's very real within these people... I think maybe an anger of being displaced from their own country. I feel like an outsider looking in; I'm neither bothered by or sympathetic toward these people. I'm simply observing everything around me... it has challenged my view of the world and my place in it... and though it all, I've never felt more proud of where I'm from or who I am.
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