krásný for youuu

It’s been almost 2 weeks since I left the US, and I’m adjusting to Brno pretty well. It was a little hard at first: it took a while to decompress from all the overwhelming insanity that accompanied my departure, and to adjust to a new culture and language.

Brno is fantastic, but not nearly as international as Prague, which is mostly good, a little bad. The good is that it’s utterly gorgeous but not touristy at all, and it retains its Moravian regional authenticity and Czech language. Bad in that because of the lack of other languages, I’m definitely struggling much more to get around, understand, and communicate. I needed to buy some hair conditioner the other day, and it took easily 20 minutes of staring at bottles, trying to find just one consistent descriptor that I could decipher. Oy.

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Brno in the distance: view from Villa Tugendhat, considered to be Mies Van Der Rohe’s private residence masterpiece

It’s definitely motivating me to learn Czech faster, but as it’s a language with very little in common with neighboring ones I’m more familiar with (Spanish, French, Italian, German), I really can’t intuit the words or pronunciation easily at all. (A copy of David Sedaris’ “Me Talk Pretty One Day” would be very handy right now. I’m not even at the point with my Czech-learning foibles that Sedaris describes his French-learning foibles as “talking like an evil baby” yet: I’m still sub-larval. Lots of nouns and pointing: very few coherent phrases or full sentences.)

Younger Czechs tend to speak a bit more English which is much appreciated, but in somewhat limited supply. Culturally, Czechs are polite but reserved in casual conversation: little of that exuberant, goofy “hey, I can’t speak much English but I’ll just mangle the language and chat you up anyway” gregariousness that you find in, say, Italy or the Philippines. I appreciate the personal space here greatly, but feel a bit more isolated because of it. Plus I’m reminded that I’m also surprisingly shy with new languages/cultures, so I’m not my usual gregarious self, either.

The weather here wasn’t too accommodating at first (hence the overcast skies and the heavy coat I’m wearing in the previous post), but this week has returned to real, glorious summer sunshine and warmth. The city is really coming alive for me now: I’m a little confounded as to why it’s not more of a tourist destination. It’s incredibly lovely and mellow. And Erik’s place, where we’re staying, has a fantastic deck, with a phenomenal view.
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City, church spire, cooling tower, smoke stacks, rainbows: gotta love it.

I’ve also begun running outdoors again, which makes me feel so much better. And it is connecting me to this city in the most marvelous way: having spent the past year on a treadmill at the Oakland YMCA was great, but, well, it was running on a treadmill at the Oakland YMCA.

I begin with a warm-up hustle down Masarykova, the street where we’re staying, then charge up the cobblestone paths that lead up to St Peter and Paul, the 12th century Gothic cathedral on Petrov hill (where I was in my previous post’s pic). After huffing and puffing my way up there (who knew that Brno had San Francisco-grade steep hills?), and getting fully warmed up, I go for a nice long sprint back down and along Husova or Pellicova (streets just go by a single name: there’s no “avenue” or “boulevard” appended) to the base of the next hill, to the park surrounding Å pillberk, the 13th century castle-fortress-prison-museum.  There’s an amazing series of up and down paths, both dirt and cobblestone, meandering around the park, leading up to yet another spectacular panoramic view. After tearing around there for awhile, I trot back into town, through Zelný Trh, the old cabbage market which is one of Brno’s two main squares, and then back to the apartment. The Czech word for beautiful is “krásný”, which is easy to remember because A, it makes me think of KQED/NPR’s Michael Krasny, and B, hella stuff is hella krásný here.

One of the stores that carries a modest selection of books in English has a copy of Haruki Murakami’s new book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, which I think I’ll be picking up shortly. It might be about the perfect read for me right now. While I’m not as fixated on Murakami as I was a few years back, I still gravitate towards the weird logic that governs his fiction: I’ve read little of his nonfiction, though, so this seems like a timely book to start with. Exercise in general, and running around outdoors specifically, provides such clarity and comfort: having spent many years as a card-carrying member of the Sedentary And Proud club, I think I got the memo on the benefits of exercise a little late in the game.  It’s harder to go stir-crazy when you’ve just exhausted/invigorated yourself.

There’s definitely been some stir-crazy-ness here, too: true, I haven’t been here very long, but I’m itching to feel a bit more purposefulness here. I didn’t move halfway around the world to be a couch potato on holiday. It’s likely to be a little longer than I’d thought before we move to Prague and have a place of our own (and I have a proper studio of some sort). I’m grateful for the soft landing and the lack of pressure for a change, but I’m itching to make my time as an artist here productive. Still, I’ve had the enormous luxury of time to focus on putting together applications for other arts opps  here in Europe, so I really can’t complain. And it’s summer, so perhaps that is as it should be: soon enough the weather’s going to get drearier, and that’s when it will be much easier to justify staying indoors and making work again.

More soon: expect sporadic posts for a bit longer, as my wireless access is still a bit spotty.
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Night view of St Peter and Paul Cathedral, from Å pillberk

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