GHOTCZ #4: Czech Lessons

You know that episode of 30 Rock where they suspect that Tracy Jordan is illiterate? And he plays into it, wailing melodramatically, “I can’t reeead, Liz Lemon! My shameful secret is out. Now you know why I’m always running into the ladies bathroom. I can’t read! I sign my name with an X! I once tried to make mashed potatoes with laundry detergent! I think I voted for Nader! Nader!” For some reason this was the image in my head whenever confronted with the initial inscrutability of Czech text. Which was every day. Signs. Sentences. Menus. Magazines. And let’s not even get started on understanding the spoken language. I’m a lousy auditory processor in any language, so deciphering speech has been doubly difficult. Which I guess makes me the Helen Keller of learning Czech.

P, however found a great Czech language teacher, Jana Slavikova (Czech for Foreigners in Prague). Not only is she exceedingly patient with our gruesome, slow-death mangling of her language, she’s a great teacher and friend. And Czech is a really fascinating, if profoundly complex, language, so it’s stimulating learning it with her. P and I are making slow progress, but it’s progress nonetheless. And without Jana, I wouldn’t have met some other very cool women that I’m now friendly with as well.


GHOTCZ#5: Nov 17 1989/2009

For those of you a little shaky on European history, 1989 marked the beginning of the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe,  including such dramatic events as the destruction of the Berlin Wall, and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. On Nov 17, 1989, thousands of Czechs took to the streets in a peaceful protest that was the beginning of a string of political actions and events that led to the demise of the Communist era. We walked with the reenactment/anniversary parade, and it was unbelievably, unexpectedly moving. Participants were for the most part, incredibly quiet and mellow: none of the hollering, sequins and bombast that would probably accompany an equivalent American commemoration. Czechs are so low-key in general, it felt only fitting that their protests would be so…velvety. Somehow, this made the occasion all the more emotional.


GHOTCZ#6: Spartákiáda on YouTube

The continuation of my enthusiasm for large masses of people up to interesting antics! In an utterly different context!
Those of you who know of my profound obsession with the Cebu Prisoners (aka the Dancing Inmates) in the Philippines will appreciate my new-found obsession with vintage footage of the epic “Spartakiada” performances at Strahov Stadium, here in Prague. These mass gymnastics displays were held every 5 years during the Communist era.

Google or Youtube the term “Spartakiada” if you want more: this one’s my current favorite. It’s not just the little white shorts I like: formally, there’s also something about all of this playing out on a dirt field the color of skin, as opposed to the green-ness of grass or Astroturf.  (It does, however, feel more like it should be the opening ceremonies for the next SF Pride, as opposed to a celebration of Czech youth and vigor. But then, I’m a San Francisco native, so I was indoctrinated a little differently).

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