Just made pretty much the best dinner in the history of Prague. . .might have been the best dinner in the history of Megan-cooks. Eggplant, tofu, green peppers, carrots, garlic, olive oil, rice. . .I realize that I talk a lot about food in this blog. I really, really like eating, and cooking.
Tina, Laura, Megan and Bekka just left for a weekend in Berlin. Mom and Dad get here tomorrow at 8:00. It is the weekend.
Good classes on Tuesday; discussion of Kafka from Petr Bílek that made me appreciate “The Burrow” and “The Great Wall of China” more than I did upon reading them myself. Pavla took us to this shrine to the Virgin Mary at the top of Petrin Hill, near the Kolej, and we had class there, overlooking the city. She liked my paper on kitsch and a yellow submarine tattoo, but disagreed with my premise that the yellow submarine was hovno. Eh. Win some and lose some. I took myself to dinner at Country Life and ate 150kč of vegetarian, organic deliciosity, which is a lot of food at Country Life. The hot dishes are so good there, though, because they are heavy and Czech-tastic, but they have wheat pate or tofu instead of beef or ham. Can’t beat it.
We watched a really interesting documentary in Post-1989 Film Tuesday night. It was made by two FAMU students in 2004, and was one of the biggest films to come out of the CZ last year. It was called “Český sen” (“Czech Dream”). The premise was that these two guys invented a fake supermarket, did extensive advertising for it, staged this big “opening” for it, and filmed the entire process, as well as the reaction of people when they found out at the “opening” that it was fake. There was much more to it than that, but hard to describe out of context of the film. It was really, really interesting, though, and provided a good look into the culture here, the way people operate, as well as a critique of the post-communist, capitalist/consumer society, some issues surrounding joining the EU, and Czech national/self identity.
I had a really good day Wednesday. History class early, learned about Jan Hus and decided I might be a bit Hussite — all they wanted was to get back to the roots of Christianity, to avoid the ways the Church had twisted it and decontextualized it and made it modern. Quite noble, really.
Then I walked around Staré Město for a long time, eventually ending up at Ebel Cafe to read some Kafka. I walk in, a waiter with a mohawk/rattail/mullet haircut says “Dobrý den,” I respond in turn. I’m getting good at the sing-song-ey way they say it here, but I guess not good enough, because he brings me the menu in English. No big deal, I’m not offended; a girl comes to take my order and get a “long black coffee,” kind of a cross between an espresso and a brewed coffee. I’m drinking it, reading The Trial, and the waiter comes over, takes the sugar bowl to put more sugar in it, and starts babbling at me in Czech. It literally sounds like babbling to me. I don’t recognize a word, even a sound; he might as well have not been speaking the language I’ve been studying for the past 6 weeks. But I have also gotten good at the cute laugh, the “ano” and the “díky” in passing-by Czech conversations. So I did that and avoided the embarrassment of having to say, “Nemluvím Český,” or worse, speak in English. But why this contradiction of brining the English menu and then the Czech babbling? I don’t know. But I sat there for about an hour and a half, on one 50kč kava, and no one made me leave, which was nice. I forget here how much fun I have just walking around by myself, going to cafes by myself, sitting, reading, looking at things. I guess I don’t do that much here because none of my friends really like to do that much, whereas at school, that was what we did as friends. So, I need to remember how happy it makes me, how it gives me time to think and re-center and re-focus, and really enjoy this semester here.
Went to Martin Machovec’s class in the afternoon, which was enlightening as always. He read us this Egon Bondy poem from 1955 that was crazy similar to “Howl.” I stayed after class and asked him if Bondy and Ginsberg would have known each other or been familiar with each other’s work, and he went on about how they met in the 1990s in New York City, but there were no Czech translations of Beat poetry until the 1970s, and there still aren’t English translations of the Samizdat stuff. It is pretty incredible to think about the fact that these two guys were literally writing the same poetry at the same time, completely unaware that the other was doing so, unaware even of the other’s existence. If that isn’t an argument for some sort of meta-narrative of humanity, I don’t know what is.
I found out that I can take a bus from Prague to Paris and back for about $50. I can take a bus from Brussels to Prague for $20. I think I will look into these options for my break next week.
Went to Jiři’s class today, then walked through Nové Město and stopped at a cool outdoors store near Tesco. Once again, the girl working there started babbling at me in Czech, and I had no idea what she was saying, but I did the cute laugh and said “díky” and didn’t look like a fool. Then I had a great Tesco adventure — this time above the basement supermarket. I’ve been wanting to dye my hair, so I milled around the cosmetics department and found a nice mahogany color for like 80kč. Then I spent about 20 minutes in front of the shampoo/conditioner/pomade/wax/gel aisle, trying to find some kind of leave-in conditioner/styling cream. I couldn’t read much of anything on any of the labels, so I just decided on one that had hip packaging and said “krem” on the front. Then I went upstairs to get some liquid laundry detergent (instead of powder) and look for fabric softener or dryer sheets, because the dryer fried my clothes last time. I spend probably another 15 minutes there, looking at all the different detergents, finally asking a Tesco employee who pointed at one and said, “For color and white” in English. Then this mug caught my eye — it reminded me of something Grandma Marian would have had in her kitchen. It has this smiling mushroom clad in a chef’s hat, and the recipe for “houbová polévka” (mushroom soup) on the side in Czech. There is also a smiling mushroom on the inside of the cup, and little smiling mushrooms on the handle. Pretty much awesome. So I went to the AIFS office after Tesco, and asked Jana what kind of hair product I had purchased. She said the directions said to “apply a portion the size of a hazelnut” to your hair after you wash it, and not to wash it out, but to “wash your hands after using” it. Perfect.
Came home, dyed my hair (I really like it! A bit redder than I would have liked, but a nice change), and went to Laundry Kings. No hassle clothes-washing, used my new detergent and fabric softener, have a new lease on life with clean clothes.
In other news, a Czech baby smiled and laughed at me today when I waved to him at the Tram stop. Early on in life, the Czechs smile at foreigners. But it wasn’t long before his mother turned his carriage the other direction so he couldn’t see me. Something happens along the way, apparently.
After I ate my delicious stir fry tonight, I tried to go to a Bollywood movie at the Bollywood Film Festival at Kino Světozor with Brian, but by the time we got down there, it was 20 minutes in, and we didn’t want to make a scene. So we walked around a bit and ended up at Cafe Indigo in Staré Město, a place where Pavla had mentioned that Karlova students hang out. We were the only Americans there, I’d say, and we sat at a table for 20 minutes before a waiter came to us. But I had a good, cheap espresso and bábovka (vanilla cake), and the atmosphere was cool and Bohemian-ish. I’d definitely go back.
I should go to bed, so I can catch a Tram, the the Metro, then a bus at 7:00 tomorrow to go get Mom and Dad at the airport! I’m pretty much psyched out of my mind for this weekend. . .