Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A view as an outsider

The other week one of Michelle's cousins came to visit. She is currently a student in Denmark studying wind energy. She had her fall break and asked if she could come to visit. She also has a blog, and I came upon her latest entry this morning. I thought I would share it with you - she has a lot of interesting insights to what she experienced and saw in her short time staying with us.

Used currently without permission (but will gain permission shortly):

(Michelle with her cousin Rachel)

Now, for my trip. I decided to go to Czech so that I could visit my cousin Michelle and her family in Brno, since I hadn’t seen her in two years! I arrived on a Saturday night at the Prague airport. My plan from Stockholm (where I had a layover) was delayed by almost two hours. We taxied twice, but it turned out that the computer systems weren’t working so we had to get a new plane. Luckily, Michelle’s husband Wes had kindly volunteered to pick me up, and waited at the airport during my delay (thanks Wes!). We then drove a little over 2 hours back to Brno. The next morning, I went with them to their church, which was quite an interesting experience! A few of the members speak English, but it was mostly in Czech. Wes gave the sermon, which was partially in Czech and partially in English. I have gotten quite used to not knowing what is going on around me, so not understanding the Czech didn’t bother me much. I could generally follow what was going on (Wes had filled me in on how it all works the day before), and the words to songs and the Bible passages were projected on the wall. Even though I didn’t understand the meaning, I could follow the written words. Czech, unlike Danish, is pretty much pronounced exactly how it looks.

Later that day, we took a trip to the largest mall in Brno, not too far from their house, which looks just like any mall in America. They have this awesome playground, too, with a cute little train that goes all around the park area. This playground had so many things that would be a lawsuit waiting to happen in the U.S. A fun game to play (in Czech, in Denmark, really anywhere) is “How many of the things around me would be cause for a lawsuit in the U.S.?” For example, they have this sort of pyramid of bars that you can climb on (kind of like a “mesh” pyramid) that is maybe two stories high. If a kid fell, they could easily seriously hurt themselves. The train, though it moves slow, was just a bench that you straddle with nothing keeping you in on either side. I would’ve loved to have something as awesome as that playground as a kid.

The next day, Michelle took me into Brno. It was a very quick and cheap train ride from their town into the city. Brno isn’t too interesting in terms of architecture or attractions, but I think it is a more authentic picture of Czech life than Prague was. Though the most authentic experience was definitely being at their house, since everyone around is Czech, and pretty much the only things in the town are a church, a soccer field, and a pub. In Brno, we saw the Cathedral, the main square, and walked around and went in some really cute shops. We stopped to get a latte macchiato and apple strudel (for less than $3) and also went to an awesome Indian buffet that was only $5.

Brno was interesting – everyone walked around expressionless. I am sort of used to this because it is pretty similar in Denmark, but it felt fundamentally different. I may have been a little tainted since Michelle had already mentioned that many Czechs are unhappy, but you could almost feel it. Walking around in Denmark, you wouldn’t think it’s the “happiest country in the world” from looking at the people (blank faces + all black clothes = happiness? yeah okay…), but after going to Czech, I definitely think the mood is different here than it is in Czech. Czech is very beautiful (Moravia is a gorgeous area), but something about it definitely felt a little depressing – something I don’t feel in Denmark, even on the dark and rainy days. Prague didn’t have this as much, but I was mostly around tourists.

On Wednesday, we visited Mikulov, an adorable little village, right near the border with Austria. I think that was about as authentic Czech as it gets, though I think there may have been some information in English and/or German at the castle there. It was cool to walk around and see the beautiful architecture, have a pastry, and enjoy the view. Definitely not a place I would go without a guide who speaks Czech! On my last day, I got to go to Michelle’s son’s soccer game, which was also really interesting. It was an away game, so we had to drive (his soccer field in their town is within walking distance). I think my favorite thing about this was the bar at the soccer field. Can you imagine parents in the U.S. drinking at their 6-year-old’s soccer game? I’m laughing out loud just thinking about it. I also found it interesting how quiet the parents were while watching. They certainly cheered and called out to their kids, but nothing like in the U.S. Again, it was that more muted and sort of depressed feel (though it may have been the weather).

No comments:

Post a Comment