Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving? What Thanksgiving?

I really wish I were a better liar and could tell you about all the sophisticated cultural activities I’ve been engaged in since I’ve been here. How I’ve taken advantage of the theater, the symphony; perhaps I ignored Thanksgiving, but I expanded my knowledge of Czech history, art, and architecture. All in addition to making significant progress with my research. But I’m really not such a good liar, and so I have to confess what I’ve really been doing – café-hopping, text messaging, and beer drinking (in this picture with my summer school friend Betine from Norway):

But then, who decides what’s culturally important? And, honestly, I’ve been learning a lot of useful Czech phrases from texting and spending time at bars. How useful this is to my research is another question, though there is a camp of linguists that tout the benefits of doing linguistic research in bars, where you can hear how languages are “really” spoken. Well, there might be something to this.

On my way to cafés and bars, I take time to photograph monuments, such as this tribute to writer/artist Josef Čapek, brother of the more famous author Karel Čapek, who (alert! interesting Czech cultural tidbit) coined the word “robot” in his book R.U.R. ‘Rossum’s Universal Robots’ (1920). In Czech it means ‘forced labor’; it is related to the root for work or labor in other Slavic languages, e.g. rabota ‘work’ in Russian.

Now I have the problem that all of the clothes I brought - except my pajamas - reek of smoke. Cigarette and marijuana smoke, I might add, since people smoke weed pretty openly in (some) bars here. Here’s the a picture of the show at the bar/music club I went to on Thursday, or Thanksgiving (which I unpatriotically ignored ;). Although the show was like little piece of Detroit in Prague (but performed by a French group…)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Oh, Prague, you're so charming in November

I made it to Prague! This means, lucky you, that I’m back to blogging. Despite not really being ready for this trip (my research is only half-planned and my conference paper for December 5 in Regensburg is only half-written), it’s awesome** to be back. It’s also nice to use blogging as a procrastination tool. Since I’ve been back, I’ve found Czechs to be friendlier and more laid back. Maybe it’s the upcoming holiday season. Or maybe it’s the noticeable decrease in tourists contaminating the picturesque streets and cafes. Or maybe my expectations are just lower.

My big accomplishments so far have been purchasing a mobile phone (entirely in Czech) and arranging a visit to Rachael’s distant relatives (also in Czech) in a town called Chodov, ~3 hours from Prague. I’ve been exchanging e-mails with 16-year Sylva, who is the granddaughter of Rachael's grandfather's second cousin Marie. Got that? Basically, distant relatives of Rachael's family, who have kindly invited me to stay with them for a night next Tuesday. (N.B. Rachael is my friend from Grayling.)

Here's a map showing the path from Prague to Chodov for reference:

View Larger Map

Aside from getting “research” done this week, I also hope to explore Prague a little more, as it’s quite charming on the verge of winter. At this time of year signs of the holiday season randomly pop up, much like little patches of snow, in unexpected corners of the city (and sometimes in expected corners, such as stores). I’m not sure if photos can convey any of this, but I’ll post some anyway.

Proof of Christmas cheer at Náměstí Míru, not far from my pension:

Christmas kiosks and Czechs shopping, also at Náměstí Míru:

And the famous Kavárna Slavia (Café Slavia), where the great Czech intellectuals used to meet (Prague Castle is looking ominous across the river in the background)…


**This “awesome” goes out to Carolyn Gardner ;) (Cf. No More Mess)