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12 posts categorized "Culture"

01/10/2018

FALL 2017 ISSUE III

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Film Studies and Global Architecture and Design semester activities

It might seem that film and architecture are only remotely connected, however, the same cannot be said about students of CIEE Film Studies program, and students of CIEE Global Architecture and Design. Since the very beginning of the program, students have been invited to attend extra-curricular activities that would help them to understand to the Czech culture.

One group of the organized events have been Cultural Workshops. Through these three workshops, students were able to learn how to observe and interpret a new culture and apply this knowledge to the Czech traditions. Furthermore, they have been learning about Czech historical figures and also how to market their experience abroad.

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Students were observing their personal development through the “Czech-in session”, during which they have set their goals and expectations, reviewed them and in the end of the semester evaluated their growth for themselves.

Fun activities included visiting a home hockey game of Sparta, ice-skating, screening of the Czech movies, laser-tagging or events organized by flat buddies. Those have been for example visits of Czech museums, cooking lessons or escape games.

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Extra-curricular activities organized for these two programs are inseparable part of the stay of students. The aim is to help to students to immerse in the Czech culture and feel like home.

Fall 2017 ISSUE II

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TRIP TO SOUTH BOHEMIA

In order to get away from a daily rush in Prague, students of CIEE Film Studies have left Prague in October for one weekend. They spent the whole weekend in South Bohemia, visiting historic town Pisek and castle Zvikov.

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The main reason for going to Pisek was International Student Film Festival which is happening each year and attracts attention of not only student from the Czech Republic but the whole world. CIEE students had a chance to attend several blocks of festival films and also meet students from a local film academy (Filmova Akademie Miroslava Ondricka).

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Diving deeper into the South Bohemian culture, students have visited a traditional and famous restaurant U Reineru that has been founded in 19th century and represent the local food.

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On Sunday, before returning back to Prague, our little travelers have visited a castle Zvikov, its nature and also Zvikov’s brewery. This visit helped students to understand better the history of the Czech Republic and also the important of the cold beverage in the Czech culture. Overall trip broaden horizons of students and showed them life outside of Prague.

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10/10/2017

Fall 2017 ISSUE I

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A FRESH START IN PRAGUE!

The last August Monday has started the exciting one-semester-ride for students of the Film Studies and Global Architecture and Design Programs. Coming from great distances, all students were greeted at the airport, accommodated and the first week full of activities could commence! Although each program had its own Orientation week, some of the parts were interconnected between the two programs so that students could get to know each other.

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Besides the usual information on academics, student life and living in Prague, our students were also invited to the Welcome Get Together in the center of Prague. During this event, they had the opportunity to get to know each other better and hear the welcome speecch from the Center Director Jana Čemusová.

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Another fun activity was the weekend trip to the Karlštejn Castle for participants of both programs. A part of this weekend activity was a visit of the historic castle of Karlštejn, which is an important element in Czech history. In addition to that, our students could also taste the authentic Czech food and later on participate in the first Czech-in session in order to set their goals for the semester.

04/06/2017

Spring 2017, Issue I

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Discovering the Czech Republic

Film Studies students not only spend their time in Prague, but also outside of it. During this semester, CIEE organized two academic trips and students had the opportunity to discover places such as Karlštejn, Český Krumlov or Písek.

On one of the Saturdays, Film Studies students together with the Program Coordinator visited the Karlštejn Castle. Located only thirty minutes away from Prague, the Karlštejn gothic Castle is a great part of Czech history as it served as the place for safekeeping the Imperial Regalia. Students had to climb up the hill in order to visit the castle and its surroundings. Even despite the cold weather and the fog, everyone has enjoyed the trip!


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Another trip took place in the middle of March when students travelled to South Bohemia. Besides the historical tour, the visit of the Seidel Photo Studio Museum or the mirror labyrinth, students also had the chance to visit One World Film Festival (human rights film festival). What did students think about the trip?

"For most of our time in the Czech Republic, we stay within the beautiful confines of Prague. That is why, when we travelled to Cesky Krumlov, I felt incredibly happy to explore other regions of the Czech Republic. These were places that we wouldn't have otherwise seen."

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"I loved exploring the city of Cesky Krumlov. We toured and explored the Krumlov Castle, as well as the St. Vitus church.  Musicians played Bohemian melodies on the bridges. Spring was just around the corner, so we even saw the infamous bears, Kateřina and Vok, strolling about the castle’s moat. The coats-of-arms of the lords of Rosenberg, bearing the sign of the five-petalled rose, embellished the sides of the buildings around us."

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"On the second day, we even went to the Seidel Photo Studio Museum. There, we developed our own pictures, and got the chance to recreate an early 20th century photograph of our whole group! There was also an international documentary film festival happening in the town. There, we loved not only watching the films, but afterwards skyping the director! The live-music event at the cinema’s cafe also was a beautiful end to the day. The atmosphere, the people, the food, the history and the sights made this trip one of the best I ever experienced“ wrote Anna, a student from the Film Studies Program.

09/24/2015

Funny and Interesting Things

by Corey Palermo, Rice University - CIEE FAMU Film Studies Production track

 September 8, 2015

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I’ve been surprised by the sights in Prague more than a few times during my stay thus far. The least significant of them being the very unusual image of Nicholas Cage’s head attached to a goat body (“koza” means “goat”) found nearby the Lennon wall. This post is dedicated to a few interesting tidbits. Please remember that the following are based on my experiences here, as I perceived them. Not all of my perceptions nor my generalizations are necessarily accurate, and they are limited to Prague.

  1. Customer service in Czech Republic need not be all smiles and pleasant interactions. In fact, it’s more common to be greeted rather brusquely or even coldly as disgruntled store clerks and deli counter workers slog through their work day.
  2. Not one person has said anything to me to get me to move out of their way. The phrases for “excuse me” or “may I pass” are readily available, but even moms with their baby strollers have quietly waited behind me, expecting me to eventually notice their intentions and move out of the way. Otherwise, people just lightly shove each other instead of politely communicating.
  3. Beggars are often seen kneeling on the ground, head bowed, holding out a baseball cap for change. Most of the time they do not speak or even look up.
  4. Behavior by men that would be interpreted as sexual harassment in the States is often interpreted here as “normal” flirtation. Several of my female classmates have been somewhat awkwardly touched or even “grabbed” by men interested in them. Somewhat contradictorily, a bright smile and direct eye contact is more than enough to indicate to a man or woman that you are interested. One need not stoop to vulgar and invasive physical contact.
  5. Medical School here is pretty much tuition-free and lasts 6 years. There is no “bachelor’s degree” required for Medical School here. The whole program, theory through to clinical work, is 6 years long, and culminates with a state exam to receive your (master’s) degree in medicine. If a student decides to leave medical school to pursue something else, they leave with no degree–not even a bachelor’s.
  6. The diet here is very heavy on fatty meats, sauces, dumplings, and breads. Despite this diet, there aren’t too many obese people. My Slovak flat buddy Bara claims this is due to smaller portion sizes compared to the U.S., combined with a lot more walking.
  7. Czechs are generally impressed and grateful when I try to speak their language. Generally they know it’s a difficult language and do their best to communicate, rather than getting annoyed or insulting. I think this is different from the U.S., where we often insult foreigners for speaking English poorly relative to a native English speaker.
  8. Segways are incredibly annoying and I dislike them. So many segway tours. So. Many.
  9. The river going right through Prague is called Vltava (“vultahva”) by Czechs, and they generally don’t like the name “Moldau” for it. The Moldau is the Vltava’s anglicized name.
  10. Food and beer are cheap, but clothes are very expensive, comparable to Western European prices.
  11. There’s pretty significant air pollution in Prague, and one can see a cloud of smog hovering over Petrin hill pretty clearly. Contact lenses can be kind of a hassle because of the smog.
  12. There are many little independent cinemas here, screening both new and old films and often serving food and alcohol.

That’s all for this post! Cau!

04/26/2015

INSERT SARAH MCLACHLAN SONG HERE

by Emmy Weiner (Kenyon College)

April 5th, 2015

 

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Preterminal nostalgia has begun. This phrase (which I coined. And doesn’t actually make sense with an exact definition.) perfectly describes how I’ve been starting to feel recently. I know that technically there’s still a lot of time left…but I keep finding myself looking back fondly on this abroad experience as if it’s already over. As hard as I try to look forward to what’s still to come, it definitely makes me sad to know that my time here is dwindling. So, it’s time to make the most of these next six weeks.

It is here that I would like to give my sincerest apologies to all (both?) of my loyal blog followers (shout out: Hi, Mom and Dad!). Apparently I overestimated my blog posting abilities…which would explain why I’ve only posted two things while I’ve been here. Oops. So I think for the rest of this post, I’ll just give you some brief descriptions of notable things that have happened in the past month.

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We spent an entire day at the Hafan Animation Studios and animated a (very bizarre) movie about a man and his love affair with a horse. It was about as deep and emotionally riveting as a thirteen second movie about beastiality could be.

 

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I spent a weekend in Italy. The food was amazing (how are Italians not fat?), and Venice and Florence are both beautiful cities. We rented a car to drive from Venice to Florence and began our journey by driving for two hours…the complete wrong way. We learned that north and south are, apparently, not interchangeable directions. Who knew?

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In case you didn’t know (by the way, I have no idea who I’m talking to when I say “you.” For all I know, these blog posts are actually just being addressed to my parents.), I was an extra in House of Cards, season three (top left of this picture!). My debut was sensational, and I’m now constantly being harassed by Hollywood executives in response to my incredible talent of, what I like to call, “standing in the background for less than a second.”

I visited Ireland. Dublin is pretty cool, but I was actually a bigger fan of the Cliffs of Moher and Irish countryside, which is really as green and awesome as it looks in movies. It was also very nice to spend some time in an English-speaking location.

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I travelled to London (and spent a day in Paris with my family. And it was amazing. All six of us have such big personalities, and I honestly can’t think of a point in that trip when I wasn’t entertained. I’m still convinced that someone should make a reality show about us just interacting. That show could probably be at least as popular as my blog. Zach, Jake, and I learned that our southern accents were convincing enough to make random British people believe that we were from Texas.

I had about eight hours of turnaround time between my family trip and our program trip to Brno. We went to a clowning workshop and a wine tasting, which were both really fun. We also watched a movie about Pedophiles. That was less fun.

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And my last trip explanation: I went to Český Krumlov…a little town in the Czech countryside, and it was awesome. I went with three DoPs (Directors of Production. AKA camera guys), so fortunately, that meant I got to spend a lot of time modeling (and/or standing in front of a camera awkwardly). We were also reminded of the importance of turning off your car lights.

Our program went to the “Invisible Exhibition,” a really cool interactive museum where we were guided around for an hour in complete darkness. I’m already a pretty jumpy person when I have all of my senses…so hearing a lot of sudden noises without having my sight took some getting used to. And I may or may not have screamed in my tour guide’s face multiple times.

Final fun fact: Yesterday, I saw a man walking around with a mountain lion on a leash. I kid you not. Apparently it’s not an uncommon thing here, and the locals were confused by our confusion.

And that’s all I have for you. Tomorrow (AKA Easter Monday) is the day when the boys are supposed to whip the girls of Prague (something about fertility…?), so wish me luck!

02/11/2015

CZECHING IN

by Emmy Weiner (Kenyon College)

January 25, 2015

I have found my soul mate. In the form of a country. Soul country? Country mate? Whatever…it’s here.IMG_3811

To be perfectly honest, I did very little research about Prague and general Czech customs before I got here. I was originally planning on going to London, but after dropping my double major, it made sense to come to Prague and take classes at FAMU (By the way…no idea if that’s an acronym. I feel like there aren’t enough letters in there for it to stand for “Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts,” but I feel relatively confident in saying that the “F” stands for “film”). So I headed to Prague, kind of ready to wing it. And what I’ve learned over the past few days has made me realize how in synch I am with the culture here. They hate loud noise. They hate small talk. They’re incredibly sarcastic. They wear dark clothes. Most importantly: THERE ARE SO MANY CZECH PUNS.

Ok, I have two things to clarify. 1. I realize that the above included some serious generalizations. I can’t be sure, but if I had to guess, I’d say that Czechs are also (probably) unique snowflakes of human beings. 2. I am not using this blog to superficially rave about the “extraordinary,” “eye-opening,” or otherwise “indescribable” (I hate that word. A. It promotes laziness in writing. B. The word “indescribable” is, in itself, a description.) experience. Although I’m currently in the “honeymoon phase” of the lovely culture shock chart the CIEE staff showed us, life here is obviously not perfect, and I will do my best to avoid creating a shallow highlight reel of social media.

And, after that fun rant, here are some actual updates on my life here. After struggling with the six hour time difference and having a few nights of truly miserable sleep, I have finally gained the ability to sleep for an entire night like a normal human being. It’s very exciting. My program consists of fourteen film students (only four of us are screenwriters), and we’ve all reverted to the freshmen mob mentality. It’s fun to hang out as a group, but we’ve gotten our fair share of weird looks when we walk around in a pack of fourteen loud Americans. We explore and eat all of our meals together (and in case anyone was wondering…The Czech Republic is not the most vegetarian-friendly country) and do school-related things, too. Last week was filled with intensive orientation, and now we’re moving on to two weeks of intensive Czech. It’s definitely an interesting language, but I suck at it. BUT I can say “hi,” “bye,” “please,” “thank you,” “coffee,” “wine,” and “beer.” So I’m pretty much all set. I know you can tell you’re truly fluent in a language when you dream in it, but I’ve had a few dreams in Czech accents, and I’m pretty sure that’s like the same thing (right???).

Ok, I’m done now. Sorry…brevity is not my specialty. Na shledanou for now!

03/27/2014

Bytes of Bohemia

By Griff Jones, Whitman College

January 21, 2014: En Route

I’m currently sitting in the Chicago airport, two hours away from my first solo international flight to Frankfurt.  I’ve never been to Europe, but later today that won’t be true.  Until May 16th I’ll be studying and making film in Prague, and then I’ll be taking a two week trip around Europe.  So at 4 a.m. my time, 11 a.m. their time, I’ll be landing in my new home.

I hope to use this blog as a venue for friends and family to keep up to date with what I’m doing, but also to ruminate upon and digest my experiences.  I’ll be getting a look at a culture I have little familiarity with and visiting places that I expect will broaden my horizons, so I’m sure there will be plenty to write about!  The program I’m in is a film production intensive at FAMU, the oldest film school in Europe.  The first two weeks I’ll be learning Czech, then take eight weeks of classes on everything and anything to do with making movies, and then end the semester with six weeks spent making a movie with one or two fellow classmates.

The first thing I realized despite the nerves and excitement as I sat in Springfield’s airport earlier, was that I don’t really miss anyone.  I don’t mean this maliciously, of course, I just wonder if the nature of missing loved ones or friends has changed these days.  I said goodbye to my parents, but I’ll be sending them an email or wifi text in a couple of days.  My friends back home are all reachable even though they’re an ocean away.  I understand that I should miss them, but when I can still talk to them and know I’ll be seeing them in a few months, it takes the weightiness of their absence away.  I’m reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a classic Czech novel, and Milan Kundera opens the book by arguing the merits of heaviness and lightness as opposite ways of viewing the world.  If I understand correctly, heaviness lends importance to any given situation as an event that is unrepeatable and therefore worthwhile; lightness makes life less serious, as everything will happen as it will and life goes on.  I’m not certain which perspective I subscribe to or prefer, but I think that relationships are made lighter with the connections that the modern world provides us.  Yes, I miss my friends and family, but I know I’ll see them again in a few months, and if I really miss them, I’m not separated from them really.  I wonder how much harder it was to miss a loved one, how much heavier parting and absence was, before the internet.  Which is so strange to think about: never having lived without the internet I feel so young and naive!

So, while you can reach me in any number of ways with the wonderful internet, I plan to live presently for this experience.  So I’ll probably avoid social media and excessive communication back home.  Prague, here and now (there and tomorrow, rather), is an important, once in a lifetime opportunity.  I’m excited to live heavily.

I’ll also be quite embarrassed if I’m misinterpreting Kundera!

 

January 26, 2014

It’s our first day off today, and we’re fully taking advantage of being lazy in my apartment.  Today is my fifth day in Prague… I think?  It feels like way longer, honestly.  It’s been an amazing week; the city is incredible and we’re getting more familiar with our area daily, and the people I’m with are wonderful.  I live with two guys, one is my roommate and the other has a single, and we live in a pretty nice apartment on the fourth floor of an incredibly central building.  As in the most touristy sites in the city are literally a ten minute walk and our school is five minutes away.  We cross the street to get to the national theater and are a block away from the river.  It’s crazy how lucky we are to be here.  There’s no end to the bars and restaurants and cafes in our neighborhood, and we’re discovering just how close and easy everywhere else is to get to via trams and metro.  It’s a totally new experience for me; the only other city I’ve lived in now was LA.  Which is completely different, as cities and culture goes.  No surprise there, though..

The people in my group are awesome.  Unfortunately, I’ve only met twelve of them, as the last three won’t be arriving until February due to visa issues.  When I heard that, while I sympathize because that’s awful, I definitely counted my blessings for getting here without any issues.  The number of people who warned me about lost baggage made me almost more than half expect to not have my suitcase waiting for me here.  But I’m here without a hitch!  

The first few days were spent familiarizing ourselves with the general plan for the semester and cultural studies, as well as some basic language.  We had two walking tours to the places that we need to be able to get to, and yesterday had a tour of the Hrad, the main castle from an energetic Czech woman who was a fount of local knowledge.  She even pointed us to the location of a headless ghost that’s supposed to appear at midnight, so there may be an excursion there at some point…  The castle itself, as well as St. Vitus Cathedral, were incredibly beautiful.  St. Vitus is the first cathedral I’ve ever been in, actually.  I acknowledge that I myself am a tourist, but the amount of tourists there detracted from any semblance of spirituality there, in my opinion.  Regardless it was beautiful and I plan to return before too long.  

The cultural differences are somewhat striking for me.  The Czechs LOVE their beers, which I can appreciate myself, but there is also a lot of smoking here.  I’ve resigned myself to the fact that all of my clothes are going to smell like cigarettes at the end of the semester, unfortunately.  

So today, after almost a week of exploring the city and seeing the sites, we’re finally getting some downtime.  Naturally, we’re going to go explore the city some more!  But slowly.  We were out until 3:30 a.m. last night, experiencing some of the Prague nightlife, and it was so much fun.  

This week we start our full time Czech classes, and it’s going to be really nice to be better equipped to communicate with people.  Czech is hard to pronounce though.  Our street, V jirchářích, is pronounced “veer-ha-jeek,” and we’re still struggling with it sometimes, but luckily it’s supposed to be one of the more difficult things we’ll have to pronounce.  Oh, also, the other Whitties are joining us in Prague tomorrow, so it’ll be really great to see them!

I just can’t believe how little time we’ve been here.  I’m so, so excited for the rest of the semester knowing that this incredible week was only a tiny scratch at the surface and there’s so much more to do and experience.  And with such incredible people.  I can’t emphasize that enough.  

02/20/2014

16 REASONS WHY PORTLAND AND PRAGUE ARE BASICALLY THE SAME CITY

by Michelle Polacinski, Binghamton University

CIEE Film Studies - Screenwriting track

February 9th, 2014

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Portland and Prague: two of my favorite cities that are completely different besides a few unique similarities. Despite having an 8-hour time difference, speaking a different language, and having completely different histories and culture, Portland and Prague have a few unique similarities that are not common in other cities.

1) Dogs

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 An ad for a formal wear line for dogs.

 Citizens of Portland, Oregon, USA and Prague, Czech Republic are both very obsessed with dogs. They dress their dogs in outfits, allow them in stores and restaurants, train them well, love them like their own children, and generally treat them like human beings. Prague dogs are usually unleashed and Prague is home to about 80,000 registered dogs. I couldn’t find the number for Portland, but I promise that it’s a lot especially since they’re the #1 City for Dogs in the USA and they have a social network for dogs.

2) Smoking

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A “smoking kills” ad in Prague… but let’s be real. Nobody here cares.

Although both Portlandians and Praguers try their best to stay healthy, they both indulge in the same extremely unhealthy habit: smoking cigarettes. Cigarettes are everywhere and it’s nearly impossible to avoid second-hand smoke or smelling like cigarettes. Although Portland does not allow smoking indoors (as far as I know), you can smoke just about anywhere in Prague.

3) Architecture

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The National Theater

Portland and Prague use a mixture of historical and modern architecture, creating an interesting dynamic throughout the cityscape. Prague still has many original buildings, the Prague Castle, and The National Theater. Portland still has the Shanghai Tunnels underneath the city, which you can take a “ghost tour” through.

4) Style

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Me sporting steam punk goggles at a local Portland costume shop

Hipsters are everywhere, first of all. Although Portland’s style focuses more on thrifted items and Prague is a bit more fancy, both have a similar rugged style in fashion.

5) Starting with the Letter “P”

Prague. Portland. C’mon, people. They’re basically the same freakin’ city.

6) Asian Influence

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Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland

Prague has been strongly influenced by the Vietnamese with their Vietnamese markets and stores with supposedly, the best produce in Prague. Portland, on the other hand is strongly influenced by mostly the Chinese and also Japanese cultures. Portland has the Shanghai Tunnels, Lan Su Chinese Garden, and great sushi, among other things, influenced by immigrant ship captains from Shanghai and other parts of Asia.

7) Known for Their Beer

Prague is located in Bohemia, the part of the Czech Republic known for its beer and the beer is freaking delicious. Portland is also known for its beer although I have never tried it, since I wasn’t of drinking age when I visited.

8) Environmentally Conscious/Friendly

Portland and Prague are both very much into leaving the smallest carbon footprint possible. In fact, Portland is known as the most environmentally conscious major city in the US. Prague has recycling bins everywhere and our landlady even took the time to remind us about our environmental impact.

9) Nice People

When asking for directions, ordering out, or anything else, the people are wonderfully helpful and kind. Although Portlandians are much friendlier and outgoing, Praguers are very sweet once you get to know them despite their shyness.

10) Lots of White People

Portland is actually the whitest major city in the USA and most of the racially ambiguous or minority race in Prague are tourists. In fact, you can count on it that there’s a 90% chance someone of a different race is a tourist.

11) Not Super Religious

Neither Portland nor Prague is big on religion. Prague is slightly more so, but whatever.

12) Beer at the Movies

You can drink beer at the movies in both Prague and Portland!

13) Art (Sculpture and Graffiti)

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The TV Tower in Prague with the famous “alien babies” climbing it.

Although Portland is known for its music and Prague known for film, both cities revel in their art and both have unique sculptures and graffiti throughout both cities.

14) A River Runs Through Them

Hey, it’s a similarity.

15) Good Transportation

Prague and Portland utilize trams and streetcars above ground to get around the city. They generally have pretty good transportation compared to a lot of cities.

16) Obsessed With the 90’s

Portland is what the world would look like if the culture and times of the 1990’s stayed exactly the same. Prague just likes to play 90’s music in EVERY SINGLE BAR.

The Dream of the 90′s is Alive in Portland

Positives That Portland and Prague Don’t Share

Portland

+Healthy, Amazing Food

+Biking

+Outdoorsy People

+Mountains

+Clear Air

+No Taxes (Besides Income Tax)

 

Prague

+Cool Language

+Amazing Clubs

+Honey Cake

+Cheap Beer

+Hot People (Sorry Portland)

 

 

Spring 2014 - Day 1: FIRST IMPRESSION

by Michelle Polacinski, Binghamton University

CIEE Film Studies - Screenwriting track

January 23rd

Hello. I made it. I am alive – so far. I woke up in the middle of the night of sleeping through my jetlag <3 and now I can’t go back to sleep. Yayyyyyy -_- So here I am and this is what happened on my first day.

So the plane rides were cool, partly because I watched Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 on the flight (it was pretty good, adorable, but not as good as the first one) and also because I used British Airways which means that everyone had an awesome British accent. On my flight, they served me food I surprisingly wasn’t allergic to and complimentary South African red wine. I also had an entire row to myself probably because a lot of people didn’t show up or couldn’t make a connection flight due to the snow storm. Even still I could not sleep on that plane. Speaking of the snowstorm, I thought we were all going to die on that plane. Boston was a windy, blizzard-y, cold wonderland that I fantasized would resolve in plane crashes. I thought this until I saw all the flight attendants smiling and the pilot explained that they were spraying chemicals onto the plane to keep snow from accumulating.

After a few miserable flights and meeting a nice girl named Charlotte from Rhode Island in a vacant Heathrow, I finally arrived, exchanged my money, and painfully made my way through an airport of people who basically only spoke Czech. No worries yet. I found my CIEE staff people and we made our way to our awesome apartments. These apartments are super large by New York City standards. Heck, they’re really nice by Binghamton standards too. Our doors are made out of carved wood. We have orange toilet paper that is orange scented. As it turns out, toilet paper in the Czech Republic is colorful and scented. I actually could not find white toilet paper in Tesco, the scary grocery store we went to (more on that later). U.S., step up your TP game.

Since I could not sleep on the plane at all, my brain felt like shattered glass. I was nauseous and I figured it would be best to take just an hour-long nap. Hopefully, this wouldn’t screw up my sleeping schedule. I don’t think it did, but then again, it’s 3:30AM and I can’t sleep. After my nap, we went to this lovely bar/restaurant about two blocks away from the apartment where I had this amazing garlic walnut pasta and the local beer, which, as it turns out, is cheaper than water at CZK50.000, which, in the U.S., is about $2.50. 100 Czech korunas are about $5 USD and that’s how I’ve been thinking about conversions so far. It’s so hard, having to do math all the time. I was never good at math. I need to use freaking math to figure out the temperature (Celsius to Fahrenheit), money conversion (Czech korunas to US dollars), and the time (military to NORMAL). Ughhhhh mathhhhh. So that’s one thing I dislike so far about living here. However, I think that once I adjust, I won’t have to think about conversions and I will just understand what the temp/time/money is automatically. Like when you finally figure out how to speak Spanish and it just flows from your mouth naturally.

(Damn, I’m craving some of that pasta now.)

However, unlike Spanish or English, I cannot speak Czech at all. In fact, I would feel way more comfortable living in France and not knowing the language than Czech because it is soooo hard. After my intensive Czech classes these next two weeks, I hope I’ll be a little less stressed, but for now, it’s a nightmare. Here are the Czech words I’ve learned so far:

ahoj – hello

ciao – hello/bye

cukr – sugar

pivo – beer

na zdraví – cheers

víno – wine

voda – water (which totally sounds like vodka…so I need to watch out with that)

slunečnice – sunflower

I also learned that if I use the English -> Czech translation app on my phone, it automatically says, “Did you mean …” and adds an exclamation point to the end of every word. Seriously. Try it on the Google Translate app. Google is excited that I’m in Prague.

Now, back to the scary grocery store experience. So after we ate dinner, Bara, our flat buddy, showed us Tesco – this grocery store filled with bustling Czechs. In fact, we were pretty sure it was grocery shopping rush hour when we went because there were SO MANY PEOPLE. Usually, I’m super pumped about grocery stores. In fact, I straight up black out when I enter a good health food store for the first time and buy everything new, strange, and organic. Here, even though everything was new and strange, not much was organic, but the U.S. is still worse in that department, so I won’t even go there.

It was chaos.

People bumped into us, muttering in Czech and seemingly flying off to a different section of groceries as if the world was ending and this was the last supply of food left on earth. It was a madhouse and most stuff was labeled in Czech, obviously. I bought a grapefruit, some eggs, bananas, honey (all honey is raw and organic in Prague – I bought honey that came from a forest oooooh), baking soda (which does not come in bulk like it does in the U.S.), and some healthy granola or whatever. Once it came time to pay, we went to a self-checkout area in order to avoid having to talk to someone at the register. I decided to pay with my credit card since I figured it would be easier than cash and my debit card has a 3% conversion fee. I had to dip my card into this machine, kind of like dipping a metro card in the NYC buses. Then this error came on the screen and an employee who spoke little English came up to me, first speaking in Czech and then after realizing I was a tiny American afraid of the beeping machine, tried to explain what was wrong in English. She kept asking me for my pin. Woman, this is a credit card, I tried to explain to her. Eventually, she punched some buttons and a receipt came out even though the machine was still beeping and blinking what I assumed were angry Czech words. She pointed to part of the receipt and I figured that’s where I sign it, so I signed the receipt and she looked at my card for what I assumed was a signature. The back of my credit card says “See ID” on it instead of a signature to prevent identity theft. I thought it was a good idea, but in this particular situation, it was not. I took out my ID and pointed at the signature on it. She laughed at me, whether it was because the photo on my license is ridiculous or just because I was being ridiculous, I was not sure, but it made me feel really bad. She mumbled something, said “pin” and walked away. Bara then came up to me and told me that in the Czech Republic, they have to give a pin. She pointed to a card slidey machine on a different machine that looked just like the ones in the U.S. and said I should have used that one. As it turns out, the machine I used only accepts debit cards . . . I think.

Anyway, that experience killed my spirits a bit – especially when I couldn’t find any sulfate-free and paraben-free shampoo or conditioner in the same store. I knew I should have brought more from the States, but I didn’t think it would be too hard to find some. Blah. Alas.

Prague is a beautiful, old, historic city. Bara explained that the Czech Republic used to be a part of so many other countries including Russia, Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia (obviously). The buildings are a mixture of very old and very modern styles. There’s also a lot of graffiti everywhere (artistic and spray paint), but it’s actually quite beautiful. I’ll take pictures of some of it later. Dogs are everywhere and they are allowed everywhere – even in restaurants. It’s awesome. Smoking is also allowed everywhere and EVERYONE smokes – well except all of us Americans. I’m afraid one or many of us will crack and start smoking cigarettes, but we shall see.

Ugh. Goodnight/Good morning from a still exhausted Michelle.

(Sorry, no pictures yet!)