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10 posts categorized "Excursion"

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.

12/01/2016

FALL 2016, ISSUE II (FILM STUDIES)

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Greetings from Praha!

The second half of the CIEE Film Studies semester at FAMU has started and while our students are busy with developing their screenplays before the pitch (Screenwriting track) and shooting their 16mm feature film projects (Production track), we are back with some updates on their academic trips in Fall 2016.

Screenwriting track's Intensive Czech & Bonding trip

 

As a part of their Intensive Beginning Czech Language course, our Screenwriting track enrollees had a unique opportunity of joining their Czech teacher for a trip to Bohemia (as we mentioned in our first semester newsletter). During their 5 days in the beautiful nature of Stráž nad Nežárkou, they did not only spend 3 hours each day intensively learning Czech, but also bonding with each other and immersing themselves into the local culture (among others by spending time with their peers from Charles University) and the Czech concept of "turistika" (tourism)... they also got their own hands-on production experience! You can enjoy the results here:

Courtesy of Luděk Brouček (CIEE Czech professor), Adam Turkel, Clayton Davis, Joey Lieberman, Max Nelson, Liam Driscoll, and Melissa Heineman.

Academic overnight trip to Bohemia (Písek and Zvíkov)

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For the weekend of October 21-23, Film Studies Resident Director Ivana Skenderija planned an overnight trip to Písek and Zvíkov. The first two days were focused on the academic aspect while day 3 was dedicated to immersion. Since 1996, this beautiful bohemian town with second oldest stone bridge in Central Europe, has been hosting an International Student Film Festival (MFSF) annually and we had the pleasure of attending the 16th round. CIEE's Global Architecture and Design Program Coordinator (Film Studies interim) Olga Pexídrová was born in Písek, so she provided a guided tour of the city (including and old power plant which gave the city public lighting as early as in 1888!). We tasted local dishes and met with local film students (who joined us for dinner and showed our students around). We also visited FAMO film school, so students had a chance to compare the differences between two major film schools in the Czech Republic. Of course that the students were also given a fair share of free time to be able to explore independently. On Sunday, we continued with a short hike to the beautiful castle of Zvíkov with mysterious Hliza tower (connected with many myths and legends). Students took some amazing pictures inside the castle as well as in the gorgeous park/forrest surrounding it. The trip was ended by a guided tour of a small brewery in Zvíkov - the founder and current owner showed us around and students appreciated his passion. 

10/28/2015

Moravia

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

October 18, 2015

From the bottom of the gorge/canyon.

This past weekend we traveled to Moravia, first to Zlín, and then to Uherské Hradiště, where we stayed in an excellent hotel. The highlights of the trip were many, so I am forced to summarize. In Zlín, we learned a bit about Tomáš Baťa, who turned a $320 inheritance from his mother into an international manufacturing company with a strict moral code to take care of its workers. Some referred to him as the Henry Ford of Europe, and rightly so. His methods for shoe production reduced the cost of high quality shoes in Czechoslovakia and the surrounding regions drastically. As an employer, he took care of his own with very high moral and ethical standards. For example, when he learned that his employees had to walk multiple hours from home to the factory every day, twice a day, he decided to build inexpensive, subsidized housing for his employees. When people regarded him as charitable, he would disagree, stating instead that it made economic sense to allow the entire population (not just his employees) to profit from economic growth as much as possible. In his mind, hours were always too long, and wages always too low. It was his responsibility to remedy that. An interesting factoid about Baťa is that he was the first to introduce the “99” to the end of a price-tag. He understood that “199” looks intuitively better than “200.”

In Zlín we also learned a bit about multiple forms of animation, including two forms of 2D animation, pixel animation, and puppet stop motion animation.

20151010-20151010-IMG_4107Digital 2D Animation20151010-20151010-IMG_4167Traditional Cel 2D Animation

I found pixel animation particularly interesting. It involves using live actors as your subjects, and taking photos of them stop-motion style to produce interesting or impossible results. For example, you could have two people sitting on the floor with their arms raised to imaginary steering wheels, and have them move an inch at a time forward with each picture, creating the illusion that their bodies are “driving” across the floor.

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My favorite part of the trip was the trip to the Punkva Caves. The caves themselves were stunningly beautiful, and millions of years old.

20151011-20151011-IMG_4329 Punkva Pic Punkva Caves

The tour ended with an underground boat ride, which was amazing! Albeit a little dangerous…lots of rocks.

20151011-20151011-IMG_4390Underground Boat Ride!!!!

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There is so much more to Moravia than I’ve just written, but you’ll have to take my word on that. Thanks for reading!

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!

11/18/2014

Písek Hike

During the weekend of October 17th-19th, 2014, CIEE Film Studies program spent a weekend in Bohemia on an excursion. On Friday, we had a guided tour of the city of Písek followed by a tour of Písek film schools. Local students joined us for dinner and the Opening ceremony of the 14th International Student Film Festival Písek 2014 ended the day. Saturday was dedicated to film projections and on Sunday, students got some fresh air while hiking, geocaching and mushroom picking in Kašperské mountains. Enjoy a video that Aaron Barnett from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington shared with us:

 

 

05/06/2014

The Travelogue

By Griff Jones, Whitman College

April 15, 2014

With the semester wrapping up much more quickly than anticipated, I feel as though now is a good point to catch up with the going-ons of the past month and a half or so.  It has been a long while since I wrote for this blog.  In all likelihood, this will be my final post, but there may be one more to wrap up my experience this semester.  This one, however, will be a doozy, and I hope to cover the events since my last post.  Due to the scope, then, I apologize that depth may not be a priority, and a travelogue is what follows.

A month and a half ago, we pitched our films, which was a very nerve-wracking and frustrating experience (positive feedback isn’t a huge thing here, unfortunately) that led to a few weeks of work on our scripts.  Ultimately, after a lot of revisions and uncertainty, we arrived at a final product we like, and are about to actually film it.  Making a movie is a lot of work, and we’ve been incrementally working towards this production period the whole semester.  At the moment, we have a script, a storyboard, a technical screenplay, actors, and a crew, and we film next week.  Our film, due to our location, will be shot overnight two nights in a row, from 10pm to 8am.  Other films are shooting now – one is done, one starts tomorrow, and then there’s one more before we shoot.  At the end of all five groups production, the film is developed and transferred to a digital format which we then edit to a final product.  That is then sound-mixed and color corrected, and we premiere it on the final day of our program.  The day after the premiere, I leave for a trip to Rome, the Alps, and then Paris before coming home for one day and going to Jackson, WY, for a summer internship.  Life will be hectic, to say the least.  But it’s fun work, and keeps me excited!  

Anyways.  After the pitch, the rest of the weekend was spent at Hafan Animation Studio, which I was originally a bit unenthusiastic about. I generally enjoy the mandatory activities, but we have had a LOT of them, so I thought I was ready to be done. Actually though, this turned out to be the coolest. We split into two groups and went on different days, and then each of those groups split in half again. So Adam, Andie, Michelle, and I spent the first half of the day animating three puppets to create the first part of the short film our group made. It was so fun, and very informative about how difficult, detailed, and tedious old school frame by frame animation is. The attention to minutiae that animators have is insane, seriously. But, for 3 hours, it was awesome! The studio felt like an art studio and had a very bohemian vibe about it. The second half of the day we made facades with a window in them to get a feel for how the sets are made. It was basically an arts and crafts project; we sawed, painted, glued, and made some pretty cool looking “buildings.” It was seriously enjoyable. 

Krakow and Auschwitz

The following weekend, Adam, Michelle, Dominic and I went on the CIEE trip to Krakow and Auschwitz.  We met at midnight for the bus ride, which provided a fitful night of sleep before arriving loopy and dazed at Auschwitz.  The whole town had a sense of gloom to it, due partly to the cloudy weather and the sites we knew lay ahead.  We had breakfast at a youth hostel, and then sleep-deprived yet sober, we went to the former concentration camp.  Auschwitz is a collection of brick barracks, and each of the barracks had been converted into a museum.  The topics, while horrifying, were hard to comprehend in their entirety due to the sheer scale of the atrocities that occurred.  I can hardly fathom death as it is at my age, and the numbers killed there were difficult to morph to concrete, relatable concepts in my head.  The rooms full of human hair and shoes were telling in that regard, though, and difficult to witness.  After Auschwitz we traveled to Birkenau, which was even harder to believe.  It is huge.  The remains of the wooden barracks are marked by the still-standing chimneys that sprawl across a huge field.  Again, it was hard to fully fathom.  I appreciate having seen it and been present where such a world-defining event occurred, but being there didn’t get me any closer to understanding the events, I think, than reading about it had.  I don’t know what 1,000 people look like enclosed in a small barracks, only that I should be appalled by it.  It’s hard to relate to, essentially.  It was a very sobering experience – one I likely will not repeat, but I’m glad I did it.  I feel like it’s something everyone should do if possible.  

After a slightly detoxing bus ride nap, we arrived in Krakow later that afternoon.  That city…  It’s beautiful, and compact, and fun.  I really liked it, partly because it had a very college-y vibe.  And rightly so; a large portion of its population are students.  We explored the square, went on a brief walk around, and then took a break before going to an incredible sushi restaurant for dinner.  The restaurant was as hole-in-the-wall as I’ve ever been to, and we just told them what we wanted to pay and they made us whatever they wanted.  It was the best sushi I’ve had.  We then took a cab to the Kazimierz, or Jewish District, of town (which really wasn’t that far, but we were with a girl with a cast on her foot).  We bar hopped a bit and then went home, but it was really cool to experience some of the nightlife.  The next day was entirely in Krakow, and we had a tour of the castle and cathedral.  The cathedral in the main square in town has an altar totally plated in gold – it was gorgeous.  I had pierogies for lunch and dinner, because they were that delicious.  And we also went to the Oscar Schindler Factory, which is now a museum about Nazi-occupied Krakow.  That night I joined a group of people from the trip and went back to the Kazimierz.

The next day we went to the Salt Mines of Poland.  I did not have high hopes for this, as my main desire to go on the trip was to see Auschwitz.  I was blown away, though.  The Salt Mines were a functioning business for over 1,000 years, and only shut down large-scale production in the ‘90s.  In a two hour tour, we went through the top three levels.  Underneath lay at least ten more levels, all man-made.  This is after we went down something like 60 flights of stairs from the surface just to get to the first level.  The scale is just mind boggling!  And the air down there was incredible – they treat asthma down there in a hospital (still to this day!) and I could see why.  It felt balmy, but not humid, due to the salt in the air.  There were altars all over the place carved out of the salt, and the largest underground chapel in the world is there.  In that chapel, there are tons of lifelike sculptures and even a fresco of the Last Supper carved out of salt.  It was a blast – I had no expectations going in and it was one of the coolest places I’ve been to in Europe.  The scale and history of such a place is just so awe-inspiring.  

Tourist in Prague

The next weekend I took as an opportunity to explore Prague some more, and be a tourist here.  I went to the Mucha Museum, where Alfons Mucha’s prints are displayed.  I love his art, and going there inspired me to go see the Slav Epic, his magnum opus, displayed elsewhere in the city.  So the next day I went to the National Gallery and saw it.  The Slav Epic consists of twenty massive paintings, each the size of a two story wall, I would say.  They tell different stories from the history of the Slav people throughout Europe, and are just jaw-dropping.  The rest of the museum was meh, though…  I ran into a Whittie there, however!  It’s a small world.  I then went to DOX, the museum of contemporary art, which was also just okay.  But I was glad to explore the city some more and seek out new things I had yet to see.  

Vienna

The next week, Shannon came to town and we went to a few more places in Prague that I hadn’t been to, such as a museum by the castle.  We went together to Vienna that weekend, which is an incredibly gorgeous city.  I don’t know why, but German speaking countries are incredibly appealing to me.  I think just the slightly more American culture and laid back, bike riding demeanor of the people there makes them more relatable to me.  The Inner Stadt, where the Hapsburg Palaces are in Vienna, is one of the most gorgeous areas of any city I’ve ever seen.  On Sunday we went to the art gallery housed in one of them, which was a great gallery (partly because of the space it was in, no doubt).  It was also just fun walking around the city, which is very cosmopolitan, yet when you look up you realize that the buildings that house what is now a mall were originally homes to nobility and royalty.  The architecture was incredible there.  We also went to the Hapsburgs’ summer palace, not far from our hostel, and did a tour of it.  It was crazy how massive and ostentatious it was, but the crowds made it a less than ideal experience.  But seeing the splendor of that palace was worth dealing with them.  We then went to the zoo, in the massive park behind the summer palace.  On our way, we ran into another Whittie, who turned out to be the first of two from that weekend (another was staying in our hostel, and we met up and chatted on Sunday morning briefly).  That was crazy!  Anyway, the weather was gorgeous, so going to the zoo was a great choice.  The Vienna zoo is supposedly the best zoo in Europe (or self-advertised as such), and I would believe it!  It was really cool, and a fun break from cultural/historical Europe.  I would almost definitely visit Vienna again, along with Berlin.  

Olomouc and Uherske Hradiste

Then, now three weekends ago, our last weekend of travel arrived.  As part of our program, we went to Olomouc and another small Czech town, Uherske Hradiste, in Moravia (the Eastern region of the Czech Republic).  In Olomouc, we did a walking tour and then did a green-screen exercise with some students at the college there.  It was a quaint town, but quite pretty, and our hosts were very welcoming.  In Uherske Hradiste, we went to a museum about slivovice, or plum brandy that’s traditionally illegally distilled as moonshine.  We then went and had a slivovice tasting with a local family.  It was actually my first time welcomed into a Czech home, and they were very friendly and had a lovely house with a courtyard where they fed us delicious pastries and snacks during the tasting.  Afterwards, we walked around the town a bit and rested back at the lovely hotel we stayed at.  We had an amazing dinner off the beaten path, which was just one of MANY delicious meals we had that weekend.  To neglect mentioning the meals we ate would be criminal.  We had three course meals almost every day, and they were SO good.  We ate a ton, and all of it was amazing.  Go CIEE!  Later that night we had a private wine tasting with a man who made his own wines.  That was really fun too, and took place in his personal cellar where we spent a couple hours learning about wine and eating yet more tasty snacks.  On Sunday we went to a cave, where we went on a walking tour that transitions into a boat tour.  That was my second subterranean adventure of the semester, and while not quite as grandiose as the Salt Mines, it was super fun and very pretty.  Plus being in nature was a nice change of pace.  That weekend was in generally very relaxing, and a nice respite from the business of our workload.  

Fresh Eyes

Unfortunately, however, the next weekend I was laid out with what the doctor first thought was strep, but turned out to be mono.  So, that was a bummer, and sucked quite a bit.  But, I’m better now thanks to modern medicine, and when I reemerged from my sick, TV-obsessed cocoon, it had become spring in Prague!  So, with fresh eyes I’ve been re-experiencing the city.  It truly is gorgeous, and a very manageable city to live in.  I’ve dealt a bit with culture shock throughout the semester, however, and have discovered I just don’t like urban living a ton.  Add in the smoke that’s rampant here, destroying my asthmatic lungs, and I’ve had some times I haven’t wanted to be here.  But, newly healthy and with a rejuvenated perspective, I’m working on enjoying my final month here in Prague.  I’ll never live here, I think I can say extremely definitively, but I’ll definitely visit again.  I won’t close any doors in my life, but I think that extends to all of Europe as well.  Everything seems quite packed together, and the wide open spaces I’m used to and love from the American West don’t really exist in the same way here.  Which is fine, and I’m very excited to explore more of the urban centers in Europe throughout my life, as well as the Alps, but I think this may be my most extended stay on the continent.  But I’ll never say never! 

My classes are over now, except for four electives that I attend sparingly due to the demands of the production period. And now with nothing to do but make final arrangements for my shoot next week and crew on other shoots, it’s going to be interesting to study and work for my other classes’ finals.  But I’m going to try and be productive with my time and get in some final bits of exploration of the city.  

Anyway, with my travels over until after the program, there’s little to write about other than day to day activities.  Granted, those are going to get pretty interesting with the addition of making a movie of this level of quality.  So I hope to write one or two final wrap up posts about the moviemaking process and maybe my travels at the end, but my track record has been pretty pathetic with maintaining the blog.  Regardless, I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about my semester’s adventures to this point!  Thanks for reading!

03/27/2014

PLAYING CATCH-UP, OR, THE RESULT OF FOUR HOURS OF TYPING ON AN IPHONE

By Griff Jones, Whitman College

February 23, 2014

I’ll try and keep this short, but I realize I haven’t given too many updates about Prague recently. In fact, for quite a while… I apologize, and I hope to be a bit more on top of it in the future!

Man, this is going back far, but I want to talk about it: about three weeks ago now we had a guided tour of a smaller town an hour and a half outside of Prague called Kutna Hora. While there we walked around it’s ancient medieval streets, visited a cathedral, and went to a place called the Sedlec Ossuary, otherwise known as the bone church. It has tens of thousands of humans represented in their femurs and skulls, all artfully arranged in a macabre yet hauntingly beautiful way. I actually touched a human skull. You’d think there would be some weight, some depth to such an action, but it was primarily cold. That’s not entirely honest; it was pretty eerie and felt somehow taboo. But it was also so irresistibly compelling. There aren’t many, if any, other opportunities to do that in life. God I sound creepy right now. But I think it has something to do with abjection; we’re simultaneously repulsed and attracted by things that are so deeply engrained as wrong, supposedly. I don’t find that to be true with most things, but maybe that’s what was at work when I decided to touch it. Also, when I say touch, I literally just put my finger on it for a split second. So nothing creepy. Anyway, moving on!

The timeline is so muddled from being so busy, but at some point, me, Andie, and John went on a night adventure to Petrin Tower, the Eiffel Tower replica on top of Petrin Hill. We ended up walking down through the park since the view of Prague at night was so exquisite. Another night we went to the ballet Swan Lake at the National theater, Narodni Divadlo. It was my first professional ballet. I can certainly acknowledge and appreciate talet and skill, which I did, but I think ballet may take some getting used to. But it was fun to dress up with everyone!

Gosh, sorry this is such an abbreviated version. A couple weekends ago we went hiking at Sarka preserve, at the very end of one of the tram lines. It was a really beautiful hilly, wooded area, with large exposed rock outcrops. It was so ridiculously rejuvenating to go hiking and breathe some fresh wilderness air. I needed that after so much city life. I love city life, but it’s not for me in the long run, I can tell you that now. At least big cities far from the outdoors. But it’s so nice being here right now and truly getting to experience it for the first time.

We also got out of the city a bit last weekend. We went to the outskirts for a tour of Barrandov Film Studios with the program. The film Amadeus was shot there, as well as on location in Prague. We got to tour their costume department in addition to seeing the sound stages and some behind the scenes buildings as well, such as the film developing lab where our own films will be developed at the end of the program. There was also an entire outdoor set for St Peters Square in Rome for the European version of the Borgias. It was actually so crazy impressive and looked and felt so real. It was a very cool experience, but having been to the Warner Bros studio tour this summer it was sort of hard to compare having seen such a top notch rich studio. Barrandov is very clearly leftover from Soviet Rule, with big, imposing modernist buildings. It felt very serious.

The next day was the best cultural experience to date. We went to Masopust, the Czech pre-lent celebration equivalent to Carneval or Mardi Gras, in a village just outside the city. It felt so medieval, with people in crazy, elaborate, quirky costumes milling about. There were beers, sausages, potato pancakes, and so much other mouthwatering food being made all over the square. There were so many dogs (tangent time! Czech dogs are said to be more like people than most dogs, and they are by far the smartest, best behaved animals I’ve ever encountered. Teachers bring their dogs to class, dogs walk unleashed everywhere, and they never ever misbehave. It’s incredible and I have no idea how they do it.). I was there with some of my group, our Czech buddy (who, like many, is actually Slovakian) and his new girlfriend, who he met through our group actually, and the girls who she’s the buddy for, also in CIEE, though in the journalism program. Sorry, that was the worst sentence I’ve ever written probably. I’m keeping it though. Anyways, a few of us bought masks to fit in better and get a souvenir. There were performances, and then, all of the sudden, the entire place started emptying out. Part of the celebration is actually moving from village to village as one huge mass, where everyone gets to be part of the parade. It was just unbelievably cool to be a part of. It was so authentically Czech, and the atmosphere was impossible to describe besides maybe joyous. Everyone was just enjoying themselves, and there was a lot of drinking going on. Perhaps the most memorable part though was when a girl whose costume somehow made her appear to be riding an ostrich quite convincingly approached us (no, I was not drinking heavily, it was a weird and very well done costume.). She came up to us, and in Czech-accented English said: “Since yesterday was Valentine’s Day, you should give a heart to someone!” She opened her hand and there was an actual heart in it, though what creature it belonged to I couldn’t say. Then: “Or maybe you would like a bigger one! It’s good luck!” Out of her costume came a plastic cup that, sure enough, had a slightly larger but no less real heart. Needless to say, we did not accept her offer and she galavanted off on her ostrich. It’s going to be hard to beat the feeling and authenticity of Masopust, honestly, but it made me even more excited to explore Czech culture. That said, Berlin made me realize how much touristy stuff we’ve yet to do in Prague. I haven’t even been to a museum yet! That’s absolutely going to change soon. I know I can’t do everything, but I can sure try to do as much as possible! Obviously I’m still taking care of myself, but my motto while here has become “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I don’t want to waste a moment.

Speaking of sleep, I sure don’t get a lot on weekends! Don’t worry, my concerned adult readers, I’m not going crazy! But I have had a couple noteworthy adventures, particularly one night when I ended up with a group of young adults from Vienna and went to the 5-Story Club, “the largest club in Central Europe!” While the experience was surreal, hilarious, and thoroughly entertaining, the club wasn’t great and I left after only a short visit. Another night I wound up in a club that’s in a boat on the Vltava, appropriately named Boat Club. It was much more authentic and local, and the river at night was very peaceful and beautiful. I do love adventures.

Classes are also going incredibly well. We’ve had two weeks now, and I love them all. The core classes are very practical and engaging, and provide an excellent supplement to my education at Whitman. The electives are really fun. In Script Analysis, we watch a movie one week and the next watch it again with the teacher’s commentary, and he’s super funny and insightful. Plus we get to watch some awesome, classic movies, and a fair amount of Czech movies! I haven’t had a Realm of Montage class yet as they’ve both been cancelled, which is a bit unnerving, but our professor is also our editing professor, whose class is one of the better core classes. Honestly though, most of the classes feel like carbon copies; editing, directing, screenwriting.. We basically just watch short movies and clips and analyze them in a pretty general way that doesn’t seem to apply super directly to the specific discipline being taught. They’re all fun, but it’s not always the most applicable lesson to what we’re going to end up doing. Sound also follows that format, but our professor is absolutely hilarious and on point, and is an excellent teacher. He doesn’t have a problem with specificity like the other classes. Plus he plays awesome clips… Acting is sort of hit or miss, and we’ve done some really good and not so good exercises with it. Our film language teacher is quite roundabout, but actually an incredible storyteller. Cinematography is pure information, and lots of it. Screenwriting is actually pretty great, and our professor is really really cool. We’re working on our stories now, and we pitch them this Friday to the school’s faculty. I’m in a group co-directing with my friend Beth, and my friend Katie is the director of photography. We’re working very well together thus far, and we’re really excited about our idea! I won’t give away what our story is, but if it passes the pitch, I’ll give a hint. Oh, and the final class I’m taking is Introduction to Producing, which is a super practical, business and creative approach to producing. Sounds kind of boring by that description.. But actually, after one class I think it’s already my favorite. The prof is HILARIOUS yet deadpan, teaches really straightforwardly, and is constantly throwing in life advice to his lessons. Also, he gave us a scenario where his “best way” to approach a situation ended up dancing on the tables drunk. So he’s pretty cool. Oh, and also really professional and experienced! People have actually used his final project, an entire plan for a movie that can be real or fake, to procure funding for (documentary) projects they wanted to make and made them. So that’s actually really really exciting that it’s so real-world and practical. It’s going to be invaluable I think. Oh, also, he told us totally seriously that you need to account for bribes for shooting in third world countries but can’t put it in the budget, otherwise you can’t get anything done. So that was an interesting tidbit!

In my free time I’ve been running up Petrin and going to the gym (rarely, let’s be honest..), and watching a lot of movies to attempt to better participate in conversations with my friends, who are all so much better versed in directors and movies of all sorts than I. So I’ve seen three Coen Brothers films since I’ve been here, as well as Nymphomaniac, the new (and my first) Lars Von Trier movie. It was very thought provoking, and no doubt provided tons of deep conversation (not that I’ll ever talk to anyone not my own age about it, given the nature it’s title suggests..). Which I really do enjoy participating in, so it’s actually pretty nice to have this peer pressure push to finally watch all the movies I know I should watch. I’m going to try and watch all the best picture nominees in the next few weeks, though I’m really not that far off already. There’s so much to do! Life is busy! Life is great!

I’ve also realized why people love Prague, I think! I mean, it’s cheap and easy to get around, yes, but why do people think it’s the most beautiful city in Europe? My hypothesis is that it’s because it’s totally medieval. Until my trip to Berlin I had no point of comparison, but I see now: if most European cities are like Berlin in this regard, then they don’t have so entirely ancient buildings and streets. Prague is seriously almost all that way, so it really does feel so old and authentic. Which it is, as it was largely untouched in the war. I guess I knew that, but only with a point of comparison did I fully comprehend what made it so much prettier (arguably). Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m generalizing, or maybe that should have been obvious all along, but that’s just a recent insight I had while in the “medieval” part of Berlin. I guess further exploration of European cities will yield more explanations. (For some reason that seriously pulled me out of the here and now just now and I had a huge “Whoa. I’m in Europe for the first time ever. This is amazing and hard to believe” moment…)

Well, I think that brings us up to date!