Rodina = Family, Houba = Mushroom
Today was my first Saturday in the Czech Republic, and also my first day without anything scheduled by CIEE on my behalf. There were lots of things I could have done with other CIEE students in the city, but my family and I went on a drive into the countryside. We only drove for about an hour, but it was truly amazing how rural it got.
Our first stop was a cemetery in Chateau Laný, which is where TG Masaryk was buried. He was the Czech President between the two world wars (Nov 1918 to Dec 1935), and is considered one of the biggest and most important Czechs in history.
While his grave was clearly important – fenced off with perfectly mown grass, it was the other graves that I found interesting. As you can see here, the vast majority of the graves were family graves, not individual graves. Rodina was my first new word of the day. (Okay, that’s probably not true, but it was the first word of the day that I remember now, at bedtime.)
I didn’t know that rodina would be a particularly important word of the day, but it turned out that it was. As the day progressed, both Jachym and Emma (at different times) asked questions about the makeup of the family. Emma wanted to know if I was her sister, and Jachym asked if we were a family. Of course, these conversations happened in Czech, so I only understood a word here or there and what Anna or Filip translated for me, but I think the answer to both was “if you want.” I know they had an exchange student earlier (this summer, last year? I dunno…), but I also know he was only here for 10 days. I get the sense that he didn’t really try to learn Czech or even really interact with the family all that much.
It’s an interesting and confusing question for me as well – where do I fit in? I certainly want to feel like this is my family, since I’m living with them for at least 3.5 months (maybe even 8+!). I have only been here for five days, and I know their morning routine and their bedtime routine and even Jachym’s favorite shoes. I know where most of the dishes go in the kitchen, and I’ve helped make dinner.
But we all know that I will eventually disappear. I won’t be living with the kids until they grow up and move out. If I am a part of this family, what does that change about my family back in the States? It’s a complicated question for all involved, and I don’t think there is necessarily just one right answer. I am looking forward to seeing how my relationships here evolve, especially as I start to speak more Czech, and letting what happens happen, so to say.
Wow. That got really philosophical, when my original intention was to summarize the events of the day… oops.
After TG Masaryk’s grave, we went to Hrad Křivoklát, which is one of the oldest castles in the Czech Republic. It was originally constructed by Wenceslas I (of Good King Wenceslas fame), and also housed our favorite Czech king, Charles IV (he’s the one that everything here is named after – Charles Bridge, Charles University…). I’m sure Hrad Křivoklát has a fascinating history, as it was quite a gorgeous castle, but I’m not really sure because the tour we had was in Czech. There was a huge library with very old globes, which I really liked, and we got to climb up to the tip top of the tower, which was pretty awesome. Again, this is only ~45 minutes outside of central Prague.
On our way out of the castle, we stopped for a late lunch, which turned into an early dinner. Even though CIEE orientation sessions have told me to be prepared for a long wait for food, apparently they forgot to tell the Czechs. With two hungry kids, Anna and Filip were not excited about the 1hr+ wait between when we ordered and when we got our food. Nonetheless, it was pretty good. I ordered trout, and got the entire fish on my plate. I didn’t mind, really, but I couldn’t help but laugh. What is it with me and whole fish in foreign countries?
Anyway, after lunch, we went to a goat farm, which sells milk and cheese from the goats they raise. Unsurprisingly, the kids really enjoyed feeding the goats grasses, and Jachym took the job with the focus and determination only 3-yr-olds can muster.
Finally, we stopped in the woods on our way back to hunt for mushrooms. Babi used to take us mushroom hunting in Tahoe, and it was great fun. There were lots of mushrooms, and we got to make all sorts of meals with them. But she was always disappointed by the number of mushrooms, which I understand after my Czech mushroom hunt. And by hunt, I mean glance. Because you could go to the forest, aimlessly wander around, and be standing on top of a mushroom. No joke, they were everywhere. We only picked a few kinds – the ones Anna and Filip were sure were edible, but we talked to a couple of ladies living in the building when we got back and discovered that pretty much all of them were edible species. Even though we picked maybe one out of twenty to thirty mushrooms that we saw, we still filled an entire bag in under an hour. I can’t wait to go back the next time it rains and pick some more.
While we were out on our mushroom walk, I learned a few more words and a bit of grammar. Mushroom is houba, and mushrooms (pl) is houby. To pick is sbírat, and forest is les. The words themselves are not so bad, but the conjugations are difficult. I can see why Czech is considered a hard language to learn.
- I am picking mushrooms in the forest. – Sbíram houby v lese.
- We are picking mushrooms in the forest. – Sbírame houby v lese.
- We were picking mushrooms in the forest. – Sbírale sme houby v lese.
When we got home and were talking about the mushrooms we picked with the ladies that actually know something about mushrooms, Filip asked me what we had been doing. I definitely used the second sentence (present tense), but I got pretty close to the right sentence. At least I think I did. Anna didn’t correct me (she is really good about correcting my pronunciation and tenses), and the women both seemed to understand. Even though it is definitely out of my comfort zone to use a language I know so little of, I hope they continue encouraging me to use Czech with adults they know in addition to practicing with them and the kids.
Anyway, today was my first unofficial grammar lesson, and I start my official lessons on Monday. Can’t wait!
Also, I have written down over 100 new Czech words (that doesn’t include the ones I have heard and repeated without writing down), and I remember about half of them so far. And to think I was afraid I wouldn’t have a good story and a good word to use each day for a blog post!