Cultural Connections Project 1: Two Travel Writing Pieces
Experience-Based Travel Writing Piece:
(post your piece to group travel blog and also place a copy here; you are encouraged to include media--photos, video clips)
Paddling through Prague:
When I first signed up to paddle board through Prague I did not know what to expect for a guide and definitely did not expect to have a stranger, from China, who does not know how to swim, to be joining us. After arriving, I met Finbar. He is a 21 year old Czech native, with Irish ancestry (hints the name Finbar). He teaches English to adults here in Prague but also knows some French and Swedish language as well. I noticed he spoke extremely proper for the English language. I loved it! We got to know each other a bit and that is when Nancy arrived. Nancy is a young girl from China. I could tell she was more shy and possibly even nervous. That is when I learned she was here alone and never learned to swim. I just thought about how brave this girl is! After going through the standard training instructions for paddle boarding we began our adventure!
I was first to go in the water as I am pretty experienced with water activities. The water was extremely cold but the conditions were calm. We had restaurant boats around us, party boatings trolling past us, and a beautiful, old rock fort, Vyšehrad, watching us. After all getting in, after giving the other's proper time to gain their balance and confidence to stand-up, we began our tour down the Vltava River. Finbar told us a lot about Cubism (something I knew very little about). Finbar is about to start school in the fall for architecture so he was excited to teach me about it. Although it is a form of architecture that is inspired by Picasso, it wasn't my favorite to look at. As we moved down river, we learned about the change in architecture and how it flowed with the Vltava from Cubism to French inspired roofs, to something as modern as the Dancing House. Finbar taught us that the American's accidentally bombed Prague during WW2 which is what made space for the Dancing House to actually be built. We had a quick snack on the boards before heading back up the river. Throughout the tour, Finbar progressed from a foreign tour guide to a friend. We raced our boards, we compared architectural preference (he prefers cubism, I prefer fancy "fairy-tale-like" Germany and French inspired buildings), and common teaching methods.
After the paddle board adventure, we ending our tour with a celebratory Pilsner (obviously when in Prague!). There, I was able to learn more about Nancy. She told me how she never learned to swim because of where she comes from in China. She told me about her twin sister who lives in Paris. She told me about her last 2 years spent in Germany and why she prefers Prague over Germany (she thinks it is prettier here). It made me think about how it is so much easier for some people to leave their home and families for long periods of time... something I would never be able to do. Nancy plans on coming back with her sister but learning to swim before she does!
The goodbyes with Finbar came with a great realization. He asked me many questions about my home, Raleigh, NC. I was able to tell him how the name "Raleigh" comes from Sir Walter Raleigh. I was able to tell him about the Native Americans that were here first... but that was it. I felt almost a sense of shame that I knew so little about my homes history but he knew so much of his home's! The Czech people are so proud of their history and are sure to understand it and know it- something not as common where I come from. However, after this experience, I have decided I want to be able to tell people about my home's history wherever I go in the world!
Site-Based Travel Writing Piece:
(post your piece to group travel blog and also place a copy here); you are encouraged to include media--photos, video clips)
Kinsky Garden and Petrìn Park:
Although there are many beautiful and memorable sites throughout Prague, there has been only one to hold a meaningful place in my heart. I had been enjoying Prague immensely but I had spent a previous week in the busy streets of Paris and I was longing for a sense of peace that only nature can bring. I finally found it when our e-bike tour entered Petrìn Park. Before riding through, our guide stopped us and made it a point to ask us to take in the tranquility of the park as the Czech's do. No need to talk but instead, just soak it all in. I knew when he said that, the change in pace I had longed for was finally coming.
We made it to the first viewpoint. A place that was indeed quiet, it gave a panoramic view of Prague. There were a few Czech people walking their dogs off leashes, mom's pushing their children in strollers, and surprisingly very minimal tourists. It reminded me a bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina- a place I hold dearly in my heart. After some photos and time to observe the beauty of Prague from a distant view, we continued. We strolled through a winding narrow street with a cool breeze of relief from the trees that canopied the path. NATURE! I was at complete peace being away from the hustle and bustle of city streets. That's when we approached Prague's Eiffel Tower... what quickly became my personal gateway to peace.
At the top of this park, behind Prague's beautiful Eiffel Tower, sat the Kinsky Garden. Filled with red, pink, and white roses, poppies, and some sort of purple and blue wildflowers, it was a place not made just for tourist and a source of profit for the Czech economy. This was a place to regain energy. A place that reflects how the Czech people value beauty not only in their historical architecture but also in land and nature as well. So many cities can easily get caught up in building, paving, innovating; however, this is where I fell in love with Prague. It is what I will go home and tell my family and friends about. I can use it to explain that Prague isn't just a city for touring and shopping and eating but there are also places to go and sit and soak up nature and peace and quiet.
Cultural Connections Project 2: Scripted Duologue (Plotagon Animation)
Cultural Collections Project 1: Mapping Cultural Themes (Clio)
In this building was the based The Jewish Primary School in the years 1920-1942. Most of the children, teachers, and museum personnel perished during the war. Inside of the building now, you can see a picture of the class in 1942, just before the school was closed due to Nazi Oppression. It is a good depiction of the lives of young Jewish children before horrow began. Each name of the 37 students and 2 teachers are listed, along with their story. Of the 39 total, only 10 lived to see the end of the Second World War, while 26 are known to have been murdered. The names and story of each of the 37 students and 2 teachers is also posted on the wall. The information given inside is valid as of November 2014.
Cultural Collections Project 2: Curating Cultural Themes (Padlet)
Cultural Collections Project 3: Neighborhood Analysis (Weebly Slide Show)
The neighborhood I visited was in Prague 7, Letna. It was a very quiet neighborhood. As we walked the cobblestone streets, the unspoken norm to whisper fell upon us. I noticed many restaurants and businesses were closed. I noticed moms holding the hands of children but no words were being shared between the two.
We ate lunch at a small bar/restaurant. We sat at a lovely natural wood table and were served tap water in a carafe (a tabletop item I am now used to in Europe). Today was "Meatless Monday" which I found to be intriguing since Prague is known for its heavy meat and potato diet. However, it stood true to its common diet- hold the meat but keep the potato! There were only 4 options to choose from. I chose the Potato Gnocchi with sour cabbage and something green on top. It was definitely a foreign food to me. The gnocchi was good but quite heavy, the "sour cabbage" was a lot like sour krout, and the green stuff was pushed to the side as it did not suit my taste buds well.
After lunch we walked the streets. Above us, an intricate web of tram lines. I found it quite humorous that there were so any lines, so many trams passing; yet, there were not crowds of people as there were in the Old Town. We saw a variation of pets- I would say it was a bit strange to see a ferret on a leash and a man walking down the road holding a cat- but I am the foreigner here so what do I know! This could also be why I found it strange to see a small boy drop his pants and take a whizz on the sidewalk but again... I am the foreigner here!
The homes were all apartment complexes, as I have seen through most of Prague. I did not see a single house but the apartments were still darling to look at in their many pastel colors. I did not see any schools around despite the many children I saw walking the streets with their families. What I did see though, a beautiful church in the center of the district. I was drawn to it by its size, its castle-like appearance, and the tragically, realistic, gold statue that portrayed Jesus Christ on the cross. I decided to go in. Although phones were prohibited, as I saw from the sign upon entering, I switched mine to silent and snapped a few photos. It was incredibly beautiful, historic, and peaceful- I had to get photos to remember it. Inside, I was able to understand what religion means to this neighborhood. Two men were inside, both praying. One in the pews and one in front of a mesmerizing corner which contained a statue of the Virgin Mary inside of the wall. The alter was large, beautiful, and well kept. There was a peaceful presence in that church that could be felt.
Overall, the neighborhood Letna was quiet, colorful, and not far from the Old Town. I was pleased that a quick tram ride took me to a less-touristy, part of Prague!
Cultural Collections Project 4: Museum Artifact Analysis (Voicethread)
Cultural Reflections Project 1: Czech Education System, "The Last Word" Discussion
After reading about the Czech education system I found many interesting (in what I believe to be) pros to their system, as well as cons. What stuck with me the most was that about 86% of children in Prague attend preschool. This is preschool that is paid for by the government and is a school that not only prepares kids to learn academic content but also prepares them socially. For example, the preschool that kids in Czech all have access to and are guaranteed the year before entering elementary school consists of activities focused on development of personalities, social habits, communication skills, and hygienic habits through games and physical activities. I believe if we did this in the USA our literacy rate (86%) would be closer to what Czech's is (99%). This is because the lower socio-economic families in the US simply cannot afford a quality preschool for their child. This later creates problems for the child when entering Kindergarten because they are already starting off with a disadvantage to their peers who attended preschool. Not only can this be the cause of behavior issues, it can create social issues through their difficulty working with others, it creates exhaustion on Kindergarten teachers that must constantly try to level the playing field, and overall continues the cycle of black and hispanic students performing below-average in school. If the US adopted the same concept on funding preschool for all students, at least for the year before entering Kindergarten, our entire education system would flourish.
Cultural Reflections Project 2: Cultural Writing
Cultural Reflections Project 3: Czech Film Review
Milada was a slow to start and later intriguing film. It included the harsh reality of a democratic female politician in Czech during the Nazi occupation. I found it to be a bit drawn out and easy to doze off into distractions at certain points of the movie. The timeline throughout the movie was challenging to keep up with; however, the film was trying to capture Milada’s homelife as well as her consequences due to her views and beliefs on human rights. The film did a good job including ways her resistance to the German occupation not only affected her, but her daughter and husband as well. Although she was a woman with a family, she did not let fear stop her from exercising the resistance movement . I enjoyed viewing the personality of a strong-willed woman that was not afraid to stand up to the German occupation in Czechoslovakia and withstood not only verbal abuse but even physical abuse. The torture that she endured was not easy to watch; she endured imprisonment and even a concentration camp. In a world today, where human rights has become a renewed topic of discussion, I was proud to see a woman so strong-willed against such a cruel government full of men.
Cultural Reflections Project 4: Czech Book Review
The Unbearable Lightness of Being is about the main character, Tomas’s, philosophy of life which is portrayed through his relationship with women; particularly two main women, Tereza and Sabina. Tomas is a surgeon living in Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic). His outlook on life is one that is considered “light” rather than “heavy”. He does not see sex as reason to attach yourself to a person, he has a hard time loving people, and would rather find importance through his career, at least at first. Because of this “light” outlook on life, he finds himself having sexual relations with several women throughout the books yet finds that he actually does loves only one. The women also portray ways of living "light" vs "heavy". Sabina is more like Tomas, experiencing life more lightly, as a promiscuous artist. Tereza, who Tomas discovers he actually loves, serves as the idea of "heavy". She brings commitment and finds importance in the oppression occurring in Czech at that time.
I found myself disliking this book due to the personality and life choices of the main characters. I am a relationship seeking human. I enjoy connecting with people, loving people. My mind often wandered away from the philosophical point of view of the book and rather to the upsetting disjointing love story point of view. I feel the author’s choice to portray this philosophy of “living lightly” could have been portrayed in ways other than through these characters. However, there were several quotes that left me reflecting on my own outlook on life. The author makes to consider the importance of having only one life to live and therefore never knowing if you do it “right” or “wrong” so it's best to just live lightly and accept mistakes you make… or are they even mistakes if our life is not a rough draft but a constant final copy?
My overall determination: I am glad I read this book but would not find myself choosing to read it again. Read this book to consider a new outlook on life. Do not read this book in hopes of a respectable love story (which this hopeless romantic wanted).