Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I feel like Pocahontas

Public Library
Prague, Czech Republic
Tuesday, 24 June 2008
2:22 PM (CZ)/ 8:22 AM (USA)

trying to do some homework but I think it's more important to organize my thoughts. I just bit into some Wild Strawberry Orbit gum and I swear it's like childhood in a chew!! granted its no bubalicious, it's still pretty good.

So as I was walking here, a million things were zooming across the highway of my brain, ideas were honking at each other and shaking their fists; old farty thoughts were ambling along, laughing at the ones crammed in the Land of Four Lanes where King Stoplight was imposing harsh jurisdiction and all of a sudden it dawned on me that I was happy. Here I was in brightly colored clothes, warm, dry feet and surrounded by giggly tourists and a young, vibrant energy. I was excited about getting on the metro, riding it to the my stop, getting off and then journeying on foot to the library. I was thinking about what I was going to cook for family meal tomorrow night (me and another girl named Ashley are cooking for ten, and then we divide the grocery bill according to number of plates). I was thinking about my postcards that I have to send, when I was going to go to Petrin Hill, my dance class that I'll be going to in five hours...{I'll write about that tomorrow :) } So you see, basically, I had room in my brain to think these positive, progressive thoughts as I had finally shaken loose the gloomy-bad ones.

And then I figured out why the gloomy-bad ones had been there to start with. When I arrived in Prague it was rainy and cold. The temperature on average was 50 degrees and like I said, rainy. It rained a lot. My feet looked as if they were having an identity crisis and were attempting to be prunes. Also, I had to adjust to completely new ideas of what a normal day was, like you have to get ready and PACKED before you go to breakfast (which can take about an hour between sharing the shower, getting dressed, putting on make up, fixing your hair, and then having to pack food for lunch and supper so that you don't have to go out as well as your computer/books/camera as you need them that day). Here you must think ahead of schedule all the time and pre-plan. That was stressful in the beginning because of ALL the unknowns. Now that I have established several options that I know work-- taking only lunch because I'll eat supper at the hostel, packing a purse in my bookbag so that I can leave the Institute for a few hours and only have to take my camera and money versus my books, computer and food-- the chaos level has significantly lowered as it's not all so foreign, but expected and normal. It's just that here we have things spread out and you have to know which bases you'll be touching that day and plan accordingly. Also, not being able to have a cellphone to contact your friends with when you get lost is ANNOYING because you can't go anywhere by yourself with out risk of never finding them; which also leads to more preplanning so that you can meet up. Also not being able to call home whenever you would like was something hard to wean off of, not being able to access the internet in my Hostel was a big problem, and also not having even a microwave at the hostel to make oatmeal was an issue.


With that said, I have adapted and can FINALLY enjoy things I should be enjoying. Like I actually love Prague...well the CITY PRAGUE not actually Prague because as I've said a million times, the locals are beyond horrible. There is no way around it. However, the city, I really enjoy. There is a square with open air markets around every corner. There are cafes with big open windows and live music, there are festivals there are delicate chocolate shops, wine shops, cheese shops and butchers. They have flower stands with balloons. They have MILLIONS of parks and lots of lush green trees. I love the metro system and the Tram. I love being able to walk to the mall or take the metro to the larger one. I love that there are three groceries and countless open air markets near my hostel. I love all the little (and BIG) dogs that walk around. I love that FINALLY summer has arrived and I've found a little secret:

summertime is universal.

The mindset of summer is as universal as music. There are festivals, cookouts, icecream cones and live music. People have finally thrown to the wolves their black clothes and they are wearing color. The wind is so warm that it traces along your body and feels as if it were blown off of sun-warmed stones; it's intoxicating.

I also joined a gym at a special student rate AND bonus 50% because they were closing in two weeks, on June 28, for some reconstruction...I fly out of June 28, so it was perfect. I joined. That alone has helped tremendously because for me, being able to have a place to go, listen to music, work up a sweat, interact with other people, watch the TV's while I'm on the elipticle (there are NO tv's anywhere in the hostel or in the institute, which is fine with me, but it is nice to see the things with all their pretty colors from time to time :) also the one that plays MTV is great motivation because I WANT MUSCLES LIKE MADONNA! haha :) )

I just love the whole atmosphere. Then after I'm done I get to walk down Wensenslas Square to the metro...this is a lot of fun for me because people are on vacation now and I can enjoy their joy. They hand out happy vibes like flyers and believe me, I skimp on none. There are dressed up people with big white hats and red lips; there are dashing men in Italian suits and music that languidly rolls out of open windows and doors on the arms of full, satisfied customers. There are people in Hawiian shirts and flipflops, there are people in jeans and shorts. There are so many stories and lives and adventures that I almost explode confetti from my ears and start dancing like I'm at the disco. The lights, the perfumes, the decor of the resturants absolutely feed my soul.

I think that it's finally all clicking because like I said, I've learned enough to make a lifestyle, make my own decisions and am not dependent on the group. I need my alone time and now that I finally can compose a fairly decent day of events I know when I want to hang out and when I don't. And also the weather and the gym are huge. Not to mention, now that I've created my own fount of happiness, I am no longer (as) perturbed by the nasty locals because their reaction to me isn't a part of my formula for contentment; however, before I had established other things, they were my only source of local culture to enjoy, and what a joke that was!

Being here and loving the layout of the city {the local centers, squares, specialty shops, groceries, parks, etc and the fact that you can get to them easily by metro, tram or foot} has reaffirmed my love for New York, that had honestly dwindled. My impression of NYC wasn't so good when I went at Christmas, but after living in a city such as Prague and reveling in it's workings (after of course all the horrible adjustments. may it be known I will never forget how miserable that period was) I think that New York would actually be a suitable place for me to work and live for a few years. My family would only be a few hours away, I could call, get on the internet and use only one currency when traveling from state to state (versus here you change currency left and right), and all at the same time, live in the city while I was young and single, the only time you really should. For me the city is a temporary place for a person, or atleast for me and my aspirations to one day have a family and live in a much more rural area with horses and dogs.

I know God is laughing at me, with all my plans and ideas that I have, and I recognize that, so if it never quite works out to the way that I'm envisioning it (and I'm sure it wont, life isn't at all predictable) I will be fine knowing that He has so many wonderful things planned for me. And as always he is the best Travel Agent out there, ALWAYS with something better to offer compared to one of OUR most elaborate and carefully planned itineraries.

So in conclusion, I love this city and it's workings. I love the life the tourists bring here because theirs are my own, and I love being able to love. I will miss this tent-ative lifestyle as it is one made out of branches and sheets that came from my life in America. From the wreckage of my unhappiness I was able to make a few lean-tos and pin battered pictures to the walls that remind me of what I have to look forward too when I return. If I'm lucky I'll have collected a few branches and sheets from this life and be able to take them home, evolving the grand mansion I have there, keeping it updated and fresh.

Moral of the story: when ever you travel, be sure to bring your moccasins because like the Indians, you will be living in a Tee-Pee.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


This is me bouldering at the boulder bar that we went to for a friends birthday. Smartly so, I had my beer AFTER I bouldered, but some had theirs before and lets just say it's a good thing that the floor was padded, haha :)

This was a lot of fun :) OH and we went dancing afterwards. how I love to dance, aaaaaaah.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Buda + Pest = Budapest

Mellow Mood Hostel
Budapest, Hungary
Friday, 6 June 2008
12:14 PM (USA)/ 6:14 PM (H)

sitting on yet another bed in a different hostel. oh they joys of european travel :)

Last night at 9:41 twelve of us, eight girls, four boys, left Prague for Budapest. We bought tickets for a sleeper train so we got to watch the sun go down and the sun come up. It was breathtaking. The mountains and countryside are something to be awed and I've never seen so many stars. I suspect it's because out where we were, there were small towns, few lights and lots of fields.

We arrived in Budapest around 7 AM. To my dismay I figured out that they do not take czech crowns here, so I had to withdraw more money and I actually feel kind of panicky. I've never in my life seen money fly like it does here, especially when they use such large denominations. Here in Budapest, 1500 is 10 american dollars. In Prague 1500 is about 90 american dollars...big difference and keeping that straight, and your czech money from your hungarian money is REALLY fun, let me tell you.

Anyway, so far this trip has been pretty great. We had a great time on the train, even making friends with the czech countrymen in the compartment next to us :) We talked, we laughed and then....one of the boys farted.

oh. my. goodness.

First of all, let me tell you that the size of our cabin was the size of a large refridgerator box, which when we were young was huge; however, now is quite the opposite, and also extremely airless. So you can imagine how this fart affected our spaceless cabin...it basically singed our nose hairs off and caused a chain reaction of gagging.

I wont say who it was, but let it just be known that it was cruel and unusual. Peace be unto you.

So again, ANYWAY we got here and automatically I really liked the place. It's laid back, kind of crumbly, but the people, oh my goodness, the people are nice! The smiled and laughed and even helped us take pictures! We went to the castle, a house of parliament, crossed THE bridge, and looked out upon the Danube River. OH and we explored a labyrinth of caves!! The day was breezy and warm. Perfect.

So, basically, I've decided that just like with people, some have chemistry with others automatically and some never find that flame. I see, everyday, how beautiful and wonderful Prague is, and all the lovely reasons why people fall head over heals in love with the place: the architecture, the castle, the eateries, the flowers, the everything for crying out loud is perfect there. And what I'm here to say is that I can appreciate and understand other peoples love for it, but for some horrible reason, Prague isn't ready to share it's heart with mine. I don't get those butterflies that I get other places like Budapest or Cesky Krumlov. Prague and I speak different languages; however, broken our translations we are trying :)

I am loving it more and more everyday, especially in the morning when I run. I get to see the place wake up. I see people taking out their trash, talking to the shop keepers, taking their dogs for a morning walk. It's very nice. So Prague and I are coming along, it just wasn't love at first sight.

Tonight we are trying to find a cheap cheap cheap cheap cheap place to eat so tomorrow we can go to the river-beach thing. Oh and this is one of the best places in the world to get in a thermal bath so we will probably do that sometime Sunday before we leave.

Either way, things here are going good and I'm about to go take a shower...thank goodness right? haha.

Oh and just so you know, I'm rooting for Big Brown tomorrow in the Belmont Stakes, woo-hoo!! If he wins he'll be only the 12th horse in the history of racing to capture the triple crown! ahhh :) I love my horses.

Okay, until later, I'm Christin Hardy reporting live from Budapest.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sayonara teenage years! I'm twenty :)

Jana Dvmolvo Hostel
Prague, Czech Republic
Tuesday, 3 June 2008
6:12 PM (USA)/ 12:12 AM (CR)


So I have A LOT to catch y'all up on because I was originally just going to post photos of what we had done instead of talking about it AND I have some pretty funny pics; however, the internet connection is SUPER flimsy and it's just not strong enough to upload them all.

But this is what we did this past week. HAD LOTS OF FUN WOO-HOO!

Starting on Thursday, it was Katy's birthday, so we got pretty and went out...DANCING!! aaaah! We had so much fun! The club was called Duplex and we were on the top floor of a building in Wencen Clas Square. We had a blast, and danced the night away...literally. Haha, we didn't catch Tram 51 until 4 AM, when the sky was just beginning to show signs of light. Funny thing is, when we FINALLY got on, we ran into two of the guys in our program! They had accidentally not gotten off at their stop and had to ride the whole circuit again to get back where they needed to go, so it worked out :)

Four hours later, on Friday, we woke up, took showers and went to the Bee Research Institute where we got to eat fresh honey from the hive, make wax molds and watch a queen bee get artificially inseminated, which was kind of crazy, because the technology we have today is just too cool for school. What they do is inseminate a queen bee then sell her to a farmer who then uses her for his bee hive that will pollinate his crops. They maximize the usefulness of honey bees very well. As Bob (our Sustainability teacher) would say, "They are doing some powerful things here." We also got a chance to see the facilities in addition to his (the guy that owned it all) country workshop.

Honestly it was the best time I'd ever had. I had the opportunity to take some crazy pictures and overall it was just what the doctor ordered.

THEN on Saturday, it was MY TWENTIETH BIRTHDAY!! and off we went (eight girls only) to a place called Cesky Krumlov, a rural place out of Prague that had an ancient castle and really cool things to do like raft and horseback ride. We took a bus in which I had a seat but some people didn't so they had to stand in the isle meaning I had a rear end in my face for three hours. I kid you not. A derier in my face for three hours...And you know to begin with I was like, you know this is just how they do it in Europe, people are more comfortable being close, naked (you should see some of the postcards around here...on second thought,just be glad you can't). Anyway, I was humming along, enjoying my fellow human's warmth, breathing, you know, this is humanity, ahhh, loving humannnn, HEY WHAT THE CRAP IS A BUTT DOING IN MY FREAKIN FACE?? OMG I'M GOING TO NEED SOME AIR!!

Basically, the inner hippie within me was running low on happy drugs and decided to cut his hair, burn the last of his incense and throw out all his hemp clothing...or to put another way, it was a bit too raw for this chick.

Either way we finally got there and went rafting on the Vltava for three GLORIOUS hours :) It was so peaceful and relaxing...oh yeah until we spun circles because us girls couldn't paddle and floated backwards past a tour group, all the while they laughed with their GUIDE...we didn't have a guide so I thought we were doing great :)

It was just so nice, the Czech Republic is made up of temperate forests and have a lot of mountains, so certain parts of the river looked just like something from Western NC or some where in the mid-west; it was so great :)

Also there were about 5 pubs on the river banks and we would hop out of our raft, drag the thing on shore, get refreshments and keep going. It was kind of amazing!! When we got back, we had supper went to bed. Now the sleeping situation is something to explain. We had a dorm room next to a boys dorm room and they had to go through ours to get to theirs. In the middle of the night we hear, "'Ello? 'Ello girls! wake up! want to take a liquer shot? wake up!"

haha, we had these crazy people asking us did we want to drink!! We told him no thanks, but thanks and he left. Pretty simple, but the best part was in the morning we woke up and the tray of shots were just sitting on the floor in the corner, chillin' like they were born to sit there. It was like a bad dream, "OMG...that DID really happen! I wasn't dreaming!"

Anyway, it was then Sunday, they funnest day yet!! Are you ready for this?? I'm not so sure you are...WE WENT HORSEBACK RIDING!!! AAAAAAH! It was sooooo much fun! And just like on the river, our trail ride looked just like home. Mountains with evergreens, dappled light through the trees...omgoodness, it was BEAUTIFUL and so relaxing...to a certain extent because I was laughing so hard.

Let me explain. Some of the girls had never ridden before and didn't know how to stop, go, turn or keep their horse from eating every plant in reach. We didn't stay in a single file line, some horses went off roading, into ditches and trees, and one time a horse got such a clump of weeds in her mouth that she ripped a dirt clod up with it. I nearly lost it, like you had to be there with the tour guide saying in broken english, "Kiiiiiick Hiiiiim! Kiiiiiiiick Hiiiiiiiim!" (and the girls were like, I don't want to hurt my horse! and I was like, don't worry you can't...just nudge him with your heels)

So we finally got back and I tipped the little tour guide extra because I felt like she had earned it with us. After that we went to the Cesky Krumlov Castle, took a tour, and then went to the gardens and MAD DASHED to the bus station barely making our ticketed time.

SO, let me just say, I had a GREAT and SAFE birthday, in part to all of you who are praying for me :) Everything went so well and I know that without our faith and prayers lots bad things could have happened. I know bad things can still happen but, I ALSO know with out a doubt y'all back home are helping me have a fun and safe time here :)

I love you all dearly and hopefully I can get some pictures up, even if it's just a few :)

XOXO, Christin

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Zen Monks use the Internet? What?!

Jana Dvmolvo Hostel
Prague, Czech Republic
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
6:21 PM (USA)/ 12:21 AM (CR)


Aniael also told us of a Zen monk in Tibet who send her youtube videos of Barack Obama. The Zen monk liked what Obama had to say and Aniael spoke about him with reverence.

It is crazy to know that we are being closely watched from all over the world, even by Zen monks in Tibet.

Also, here is an excerpt from an article we had to read in class:

We still have all the potential for greatness, but only if we get back to work on our country. I don't know if Barack Obama can lead that, but the notion that the idealism he has inspired in so many young people doesn't matter is dead wrong. "Of course, hope alone is not enough," says Tome Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics, "but it's not trivial. It's not trivial to inspire people to want to get up and do something with someone else."

It is especially not trivial now, because millions of Americans are dying to be enlisted -- enlisted to fix education, enlisted to research renewable energy, enlisted to repair our infrastructure, enlisted to help others. Look at the kids lining up to join Teach for America. They want our country to matter again. They want it to be about building wealth and dignity-- big profits and big purposes. when we just do one, we are less than the sum of our parts. When we do both, said Shriver, "no one can touch us."

Who Will Tell the People? by NYT columnist Thomas L. Friedman

I also really liked this line too:

We are not as powerful as we used to be because over the past three decades, the Asian values of our parents' generation -- work hard, study, save, invest, live within your means -- have given way to subprime values: "You can have the American Dream -- a house -- with no money down and no payments for two years."

We must rebuild our nation. Bottom-line.

On the ex-Czech President Havel; DISCLAIMER: the post below this one is more interesting honeslty. Purely ramble for my talkative thoughts.

Jana Dvmolvo Hostel
Prague, Czech Republic
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
5:46 PM (USA)/ 11:46 PM (CR)


We watched a film on Havel, the first president of the Czech Republic, and as it turns out he is actually best friends with the Dali Llama. That might not seem significant; however, there is actually some meaty detail here.

Under Havel's presidency, Tibet was first recognized as a free nation. Havel and the Dali Llama became very good friends; however, that part was kept out of the documentary and it was Anaiel, who is half Czech and half Parisian and works at the Institute, whom informed us of the friendship. We all wondered why something so important to Havel, the president, would have been kept from the public eye?

Answer: the majority of Czech people are Agnostic or Atheist.

Under the communist regime you were punished or shunned for having a faith, and even before that, in ancient times, so many occupiers of this land forced their different religions onto the natives; therefore, they've had a rough time when it comes to religion. But honestly, what country hasn't? Either way, that is a fact, they are majorly Agnostic/Atheist and it is my belief that in order to hold the position that he held, he had to keep some personal details quiet.

My interest on the topic lies in the choice of Havel's "religion" (mind you he is not a self pronounced buddhist). This is the definition:

Buddhism has no creator god and gives a central role to the doctrine of karma. The 'four noble truths' of Buddhism state that all existence is suffering, that the cause of suffering is desire, that freedom form suffering is nirvana, and that this is attained through the 'eightfold path of ethical conduct, wisdom, and mental discipline (including meditation).

I can see perfectly why Havel would be attracted to Buddhism because it is basically a set of morals as there is no creator god. Anaiel told us that, in her opinion, that, "the new religion is money."

I don't want to call the situation dismal; however, the kids being raised today are being brought up in Agnostic/Atheist households; therefore, there probably will not be a rise in religion here in the Czech, even with a new crop of kids.

I'm not saying that religion is essential for any group of people to operate, that's not it at all, it's just that with no higher power to believe in, to center one's self around, I can now understand all the hopelessness that I saw, and see in the streets. It explains why things are they way they are here.

One of the politicians on the movie was talking about the Czech people and he was talking about how they had no morals, fought and stole constantly. The Czech people are not pansies, that's for sure.

Basically, it seems to me if they could adopt a set of morals, maybe something like our Bill of Rights or the Ten Commandments, they could begin to at least organize around something that would help direct their mentalities which is ultimately something religion does, not that that is the point, aligning what is acceptable and right is what religion does inadvertently. If you all believe in something, the mentality of the group will usually be on the same page, minus a few exceptions.

Either way, I feel that the Czech people need something to center themselves around, a way to define themselves in the cosmos because for so long they have held the identities of those who have occupied their land; they've been subject to the highest level of identity theft and there isn't much trace of it left.

Mmm-bop by Hansen :)

The Black Madonna
Prague, Czech Republic
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
2:14 PM (USA)/ 8:14 PM (CR)

just finished some awesome Belgium chocolate...mmm

Today we had a discussion in Bob's class that went really well, and it was so neat to see the dynamics of our conversation as it popcorned around the room. I don't exactly have time to explain in detail the conversation but my conclusions were this:

In the past, to try and stop communism we empowered people such as Mobutu, an African Ruler, who is now one of the most hated people in all of Africa as he is a tyrant. In the past our decisions made sense, they were just, and yes slightly self promoting as well-- that part of Africa has lots of uranium-- however, running a country sometimes will dirty your hands with greed (but in our case it was for our people not just the ruler/president. other nations are greedy and only the ruler/king gets the spoils of war, where as here in America if we are greedy, at least everyone gets a share). Anyway that is another argument.

Basically, a lot of our "mistakes" and black sheep policies aren't so, only outdated and not proper for the times. Communism isn't the threat it was, so get rid of the policies used to stop it, as now they only pose as empty, seemingly irrational laws/decisions. We need to spring clean our past actions that are still having effect today.

I believe in letting the people of their own country rule it. I've heard people say, well if we didn't go in, then some one else more horrible would take over and would be worse than if we did...

We do not know that. We are speculating too much on what IF and not enough on what IS. We are too involved in the world and we need to back off and come home.

Did you know that we are borrowing money from Singapore? We have more money out of our country than in; 80% of it in China. That's right, or at least what I've been told; either way, more is out than in and we are still borrowing.

We can talk about Darfur, we can talk about how we must go into Africa and help; however, at the end of the day we are still wrong in someone's eyes because, for example as in Iraq, we've done to much and with Rwanda and Darfur we've done to little.

Those who try to help the most and/or do the most, will receive the most criticism.

My conclusion is that we must not be so large and mighty. First of all, America is not a proxy Superman. We represent the best philosophical government possible, a democracy, however, that doesn't give us the license to save the world.

Yes, I believe in relief aid in Africa. Yes, I believe in helping stop genocide around the world; however, NO, I do not believe in going into another country and overthrowing a ruler. I don't care if that sounds negligent; America alone should NOT be doing this. The United Nations is the best idea sense breathing air because instead of having one country run around doing all the work, which gets messy because we are spread too thin, there is a collective group to well round the decisions. Also, one country can't be blamed or hailed.

Operating as a one-hit-wonder in a seven continent world is reckless and bound to fail us one day.

I believe our best option is to pull out of Iraq (obviously), and also let other countries, such as the Congo, work on their own. That way we do not get tangled in a situation in which isn't our business, but that is exactly what we have done so far, making things worse for us credibility wise and for the countries' progress we've tried to help.

America is a wonderful place, and we have done many gracious things; however, we have done some awful things as well, such as ordering military coups for our own benefit. My point is that the running of a country, as I've already said, is a dirtying affair. That is the way of things, and the goal is to be more positive than negative. No one is perfect, not that we shouldn't try.

Our best bet is to cool off for a bit and leave. Just like with people who are mentally unstable -- depression, anxiety, etc -- they must take a break for themselves to get better, in order to be of some value to others. It may feel and seem selfish; however, self healing is vital for the health of a whole.

I'm a strong believer of that.