Postcard from Abroad: Hello from Prague
Greetings from Praha. While you enjoy a delicious Spa bagel, I thought I’d tell you a little about life in the Czech Republic. Life in Prague is, quite plainly stated, the Simple Life.
In general, there are many similarities among the central European countries, but in my opinion, the people of Prague are unique. The Czechs endured years of German occupation during World War II and were part of the Soviet communist bloc until the 1989 Velvet Revolution. They suffered through years of religious, political, economic, and social constraint. I constantly find myself wondering: are the Czechs just happy to finally be free?
Most Czechs don’t splurge, don’t dress in designer clothes, and don’t eat at fancy restaurants. In fact, they often skip meals if they don’t have the time to sit down, relax and enjoy their traditional svíÄková (beef and dumplings) or their smaÅ¾ený sýr (mozzarella sticks in squares). Meals revolve around friends and healthy conversation, which is something that tourists and American students should learn to appreciate. Czechs walk out the door each morning, have a beer and greet the day. Iâ€ˆwonder if this positivity is due to the fact that in October’s municipal elections they were allowed to vote for any political party?
On a typical day in Prague, I walk with my roommates to the CIEE study center, which is about 20 minutes away from my apartment. There are 80 students on my program, and we are all required to take Czech language. I would dare say that Czech is the hardest language any of us have encountered; the word four is ÄtyÅ™i and the word Thursday is ÄŒtvrtek. Our other classes consist of a mix of European history, politics and economics during which our teachers often go on 74-minute tangents about where they were on November 17, 1989, when Prague’s communist regime finally collapsed. After class, we venture to markets or shops and walk around the beautiful city.
Many of us abroad have joined a gym where the classes are called “Booty Express” and the speakers shout “WE CREATE SHAPES” after every song. But even that isn’t the strangest part of the Czech gym experience. Women in Prague don’t show their legs above the knee, so in the non-air-conditioned cardio deck, women are exercising in full spandex pants. (Has anyone else realized these pants are the only reason guys go to yoga classes? Well, this explains why guys here go to the cardio deck.) I usually avoid telling people that I play lacrosse because my Czech roommate once told me that lacrosse here is the equivalent of fencing in America.
At night we hit the pubs or bars and enjoy $1.00 beers. After all, Budvar is the original Budweiser and is brewed in the Czech Republic. After our time at the pubs, we’ll go to a club and dance the night and morning away to some Euro-techno-I’m-dizzy-listening-to-this-music (refer to StudlyHall.com for several appropriate examples). We wake up the next morning, learn how to conjugate one and a half new verbs, and do it all again.
Needless to say, life doesn’t get any better. Living in Prague has allowed me to appreciate all of the freedoms I have been given, and it has also introduced me to new ones. In eight short weeks, the Czechs have taught me to slow down, take in life and enjoy every single moment rather than look forward to what is next. Think about how you’re going to spend today, Colby, and maybe you, too, should relax and have a beer.