I feel like I am in America. I am at a coffeeshop in Smíchov called “Káva Káva Káva,” drinking a big mug of straight-up, brewed coffee (překapávaná). There is wireless internet, and they are playing a mix tape of Bryan Adams and Journey from the early 90s. The only difference is that it would have been cheaper for me to get a latté or a mocha or a cappuccino than a cup of filter coffee.
There is a big discrepancy here between a café and a coffeeshop, or “kavárna.” What we would call a “café” in the States — a place you can get a cup of coffee and sit for a few hours — would qualify as a kavárna here, although most of them serve food (soups and sandwiches), beer, and wine, as well. A Czech “café,” on the other hand, is more like a restaurant in the States, offering a full menu of food. You are expected to buy more than just a drink, and it is frowned upon if you sit and don’t order much. This is an important distinction to make, and has been a crucial realization for me in finding comfortable, chill places to hang out.
Anyway, it is raining and dreary outside. I almost slept through breakfast, but fortunately, woke up with 20 minutes to enjoy my morning vejce, syr a chléb (egg, cheese and bread), and a special Sunday treat – čokoládový dort (chocolate cake). Yes, chocolate cake for breakfast. Things like that make me love Praha.
Went to a photography exhibit with Tina at the Summer Palace of Prague Castle this morning, called “romské obrození” (Roma Rising). Roma, also known as “gypsies,” have been living in the Czech Lands for something like six centuries, but are still heavily discriminated against in the Slavic countries, especially here in the CZ. This American photographer named Chad Evans Wyatt has taken an interest in them and put together this series of portraits, along with little biographies about the Roma photographed — hometown, birthday, occupation, level of schooling completed, whether or not they feel satisfied with their current lives, what their future plans are, and what their “credo” or “motto” is. It was quite interesting to see and read about the people from extremely diverse backgrounds that were photographed, and helped me to understand their culture and identity a little bit more. There was also a short film about the plight of Roma during the Holocaust — they were persecuted in Central and Eastern Europe almost as harshly as the Jews were. The interesting thing, to me, is that they are still persecuted today, prejudices against them remain; a Roma-looking person who walks into Tesco will get poorer service than I would, or than a Czech person would. At least in my experiences in American, anti-semitism is a very touchy subject, and I have always attributed a large part of the sensitivity toward it to the fact that the Holocaust was such a horrible travesty against Jews; it made people realize that prejudice against them was real, and should stop. But these Roma people suffered in the same camps, were called out in the same way, and they are still experiencing racism today. The crimes committed during the Holocaust seem to have done nothing to make people realize that racism and racial persecution is wrong. It is very strange.
Tina and I had an adventurous night out in Praha last night. Looking back on the evening’s events, we realized it was something worthy of a first date — that was the level of awkwardness and strangeness we experienced. Tina found this ad for an Africa Benefit Show and Reggae Night at a place in Praha 7 called Cross Club — the name of the festival was “Hakuna Matata.” So, Tina was going to go to Delvita, and she put me in charge of finding out how to get to the club. However, AIFS hasn’t filled up our Fleetcard accounts yet for October, so no one has any money, and Tina couldn’t go to Delvita. So, looking at the map, I decided we could either take Tram 22 or 23 to the Metro A, transfer to the Metro C and be at the club, or take Tram 15 all the way there. We opted for the Tram, and caught it. However, the one we got on was going the wrong direction, so it dropped us off at the end of the line, and we had to wait for another one. (The funny thing about this is that I made the same mistake, with the same Tram line a few weeks ago when I tried to get to the laundromat.) There, an old Czech guy helped us look at the map and the tram schedules, and pointed us in the right direction; he didn’t speak any English, so our entire exchange consisted of Czech and charades, but we understood each other, so that was cool. Soon, another 15 came by, and we got on it. However, it had a sign on the window on which was printed the undecipherable Czech message that I have come to know means something to the effect of, “This tram isn’t going where you think it’s going.” But we got on anyway, because we were out in the middle of nowhere in Praha 6. We asked a Czech guy on the tram what the sign meant, and he said he didn’t know, either, but he looked at a map and figured out that it meant that the tram was going to go to a certain point on its normal line, then turn around and head back the other direction again. So, at this point, we got off the tram.
By this time, we just decided to take a trap to the nearest Metro stop and take the Metro to the club. But before this happened, a guy who had been on and off the trams with us asked us if we needed any help; I laughed and replied no, but I think I made him mad because he rolled his eyes and grunted and made this strange hand motion toward us and stalked to the other end of the platform. When the next tram came to take us to the Metro station, Tina ran to get on it and totally fell over these duffel bags that some guy had sitting on the platform. But she got up and we got on the tram, laughing quite heartily. So we got to the Metro station, and just as we were descending the escalator, a train was there! So we ran to catch it, only to have the doors shut just as we got to them. We waited for the next one, changed trains at Muzeum, and finally got to the stop we needed. We got out of the station and started walking in what we soon realized was the wrong direction. We finally arrived at the Cross Club about 2 hours after our first attempt to leave the Kolej.
The club was awesome, one of the more “authentic” Czech social experiences I’ve had. We paid an 80kč cover charge, and listened to an awesome Czech reggae/regatón band that sang in a mix of Czech and English. Then we went to another room that had a DJ spinning some good reggae/regatón music, and occasionally a regatón rapper would come in and sing. Apparently there is a pretty big hippie scene in Prague; this club is definitely where the dreadlocked, pierced, hippie Czech kids hang out. I felt like if we went there more often, or stayed longer, we could probably make some Czech friends. There weren’t many, if any, Americans; it was mostly hippied-out Czechs, and we had some friendly interactions with people, girls dancing near us and people putting their coats and bags with ours. Small steps. (We discussed how we would construct the phrase, “Will you be my friend?” in Czech, and decided on “Budete moje kamarad?”)
It was also really fun to dance there because everyone was just doing their own thing, looking nerdy and awkward. I would never dream of dancing at a club in the States, because I feel like my gangly moves would get me laughed out; but here, it doesn’t matter what you look like or dance like, as long as you’re having fun. It is quite liberating, really. I definitely need to find the hipster scene in San Francisco, because it has been awesome to hang out with my hipster friends from Austin and New York, and to be a pseudo-hipster here in Prague. Unfortunately, there was no hipster scene in Pittsburgh beyond the grad students that would sit at the Cage or 61C — there was definitely no dancing. By the time I leave here, I am going to have perfected my hipster slide, and I will need somewhere to show it off.
So, it was quite a fun evening, even if it started out rather adventurously. At least we got home with no problem.
Now, I am back to drinking my coffee, working on the article I’m presenting in Pavla’s class tomorrow, and studying some Czech so as not to disappoint Jiři.