Orientation Adventures

I have joined a women’s basketball team. As a formally retired athlete, getting back into shape has been a slight challenge. For the first week, all I could say was Boli me telo, which is a useful phrase given to me by my teammates that means my body hurts. However, now it is not so bad. It feels great to be back in the gym. Also it’s a good way to meet people my own age. In a small town like Nymburk, everyone knows everybody so I meet a lot of people through them. They also happen to be really cool people so it’s a win-win situation. I’m not sure if I will actually play in the games because they mostly play on weekends and I didn’t come abroad to devote most of my free time to basketball. I am seeking new experiences (although I have never had a coach give me direction in Czech). For now I will continue to practice and spend time with these amazing people.

Speaking of new experiences, I went to my first Czech house party in the countryside. My teammate’s brother was having a birthday party. Most of his friends were hockey players so at times it got pretty crazy. All in all though it was really fun and I had a good time.  The next weekend I saw many of the same people from the cottage at a party located at the hockey rink. I have a feeling that I will be attending my first hockey game sometime in the near future. The sport keeps popping up. Every time I go out I recognize more faces. I think by the end of the year I will know most people in Nymburk by sight! Everyone is extremely friendly and interested in me and why I am here. I think that is the best part about being in this town. I feel known and yet I don’t feel suffocated or limited. If I can survive Claremont, I can survive this. One thing I do like about Nymburk that reminds me of the 5Cs is that everything is close. I can get to the pubs, grocery stores, my school, and the train station in less than 10-minutes from my flat. This makes going out extremely easy!

Some of you may have heard about the alcohol prohibition that is happening in the Czech Republic. It’s pretty serious. A number of people have lost their eyesight, been hospitalized, or died. I am a little fuzzy on the details on how this happened, but I do know how it is affecting me personally. The grocery stores are not allowed to sell anything that is greater than 30% alcohol, and the pubs/clubs are not allowed to sell anything over 20%. This means that I’ve been drinking a lot of beer and Muscat (the Czech’s version of Moscato) lately. I am really glad that the government is cracking down on this and I am sure that they will have it under control soon. For now, the people who come to the Czech Republic will have to be satisfied with drinking the world-renowned Czech beer.

John Lennon Wall in Prague

For the last couple of days I have been in Prague for the second part of my orientation. This orientation was not only limited to the Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs), but also included the Fulbright scholars, researchers, and lectures who are stationed around the Czech Republic as well. For the most part, the orientation was a successful one. I think my favorite session was the Czech lessons. It’s amazing how fun learning a language is when you aren’t getting graded for it. It was a good reintroduction to a language that I studied two years ago briefly. I will be getting taking private lessons in Nymburk to help me communicate better in my town. Another great thing about this orientation was to hear about the other ETAs experiences so far. Generally speaking we are all very happy and thriving in our towns. All of our situations are different but most of us are happy with how things are going. It was also good to be uninhibited when speaking English. It felt great to use complex sentences, slang, and humor again. In addition I really enjoyed spending time with these awesome people. I know that if there is ever a time where I feel lonely or misunderstood or whatever, I can call on them. Plus the Fulbright staff and my mentor have my back too so its all good.

Me and some fellow Fulbrighters

I also had a chance to catch up with one of my oldest friends from elementary school, Larissa. She was in Prague and we met up for a night. She was staying in a hostel near the hotel I stayed in when I studied abroad. We ended up going to a few spots that I had frequented when I was here last time. It was really cool to be in Prague with her and to catch up. She also introduced me to one of her friends who will also be teaching in Prague. It’s such a small world. I think one of the great things about traveling is the people you meet along the way. Whether they are from your past or apart of your new life, or just passing through, people are what makes going abroad so special. That and food.

Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square