Shared Joy is Twice the Joy, Shared Pain is Half the Pain

Posts tagged “czech

Getting Good at a Language is a Double Edged Sword

When I write blog posts, I write them in the moment. Usually, I have some thought that I realize would make a great start for a post, or I have some experience I really want to record. I often think of this blog as my journal or my diary, it is the way I record what is going on in my life, and I am just sharing it with everyone else in the whole wide world. The point of saying this is to remind both myself and you, my readers, that each of my blog posts exists as a snapshot of a moment. Usually, I write my posts straight into my blog. Less often, I write them as word documents and just cut and copy later. With the exception of my posts in foreign languages, I almost never edit a post before it goes up, just like I wouldn’t edit an entry in a diary.

Like everyone else, my life is a roller coasters of ups and downs. I’ve had a lot of ups this year, but as the end of my time in Prague approaches, there are a lot of downs too. I’m trying to be honest as I record what I’m feeling, even when my feelings from one day to the next are opposite. With that said, I want to share two posts I wrote in word documents in the last few days. They are, interestingly, basically contradictory. The one is full of excitement about my growing language skills, while the other expresses frustration with those same skills.


Me and Czech TV

I’ve been traveling a lot these past few weeks (Paris, Cinque Terre, and Malta all in one month) and it has been seriously great. But the result of traveling a lot is that I’ve had very little down time. Especially since we’ve been in the midst of finals, all my extra time has been spent frantically writing papers and studying for those tests.

But this weekend, I’m not going anywhere. Technically I am, but I’m just accompanying my family to grandma’s house. Which means I’ve had the time to just hang out with my family.

I’ve been cuddling with Emma and got kisses from Jachym when he got home from school today. All this kid time means I’ve also gotten to watch some cartoons. Morning cartoons, afternoon cartoons, evening cartoons. There isn’t anything fundamentally interesting about watching cartoons if you are no longer a child. Watching cartoons has actually been a bit like torture over this year, because I am stuck watching cartoons that I don’t even understand. So I stopped watching them sometime around February. I would still sometimes watch other TV shows, like Castle, in Czech because I knew the plots well enough to use them as a sort of lesson in Czech.

But then, this week, I watched some cartoons. I watched some with Emma this morning, and then some with Jachym this afternoon. And I realized at some point that I wasn’t just absentmindedly staring at the TV screen waiting for the program to be over so we could do something else, like I had been earlier in the year. This time, I was actually watching them. And understanding them. Not translating them for myself, but actually understanding them. In Czech!

Now I realize that these are TV programs for children, and so they fundamentally have easier vocabulary and lots of visual clues. But I also know that these are programs in a foreign language. And these are programs that just a few months ago I found incredibly frustrating because even if I devoted 100% attention to them, I wasn’t able to understand even half of what was going on. But now, I can sit on the couch and watch the cartoons like any other kid. I don’t understand all the words, but I catch enough to figure the rest out. I use the images as context for the sentences I don’t understand. I don’t try to translate, but let myself learn through osmosis.

Obviously, this moment of realization was exciting and, honestly, a little overwhelming and disappointing. I’m about to leave, and I finally feel like I’m getting a handle on this language. I can read stories to the kids and feel like I’m actually reading them. When something seems strange, it might be because I don’t understand the words. Or it might be that the story is actually about a biting sweater and another sweater made of spaghetti. (Kids stories can be a little … strange.)

Café Conversations

As I finish my time here in Prague, I’ve been continuing with the habit I’ve picked up here in this city filled with coffee shops. I’ve joked multiple times that there is a café on every corner, and more than once I’ve made it my goal to find a new favorite. Needless to say, I have many.

But I’m not the type of person to just go sit aimlessly in a café sipping a cappuccino. I go with friends, and we chat for hours. Or I bring my computer or my iPad or a book and I write the papers I need to write or I read.

I’ve fallen in love with the café culture here more than I ever fell in love with cafés in Boston or San Francisco, not because there are necessarily more cafés here, or a greater variety, but for some other reason I couldn’t put my finger on.

I finally figured it out.

I hate working with headphones in. Not that I can’t do it or that I find headphones uncomfortable, but just that I enjoy hearing what is going on around me. I like to hear the clink of plates or the low voices of people around me. But in the States, where all those conversations are in English, I overhear something I find interesting, and all of a sudden I am no longer focusing on what I am reading, but rather that I’m thinking about the conversation I am listening to. But here, in the Czech Republic, where everyone is speaking a foreign language, that hasn’t been a problem. Every so often there is a table speaking English, and I hear that and find the language notable, but very rarely is the conversation notable as well. So I ignore it as easily as I ignored the conversations my brother and dad would have while I was in high school.

Today, I’m sitting in a café, like always. Like always, the conversations around me are in Czech. But this time, I understand most of what is happening and I can’t focus anymore. I am listening to these conversations around me, understanding enough to want to understand it all. And it is distracting.

I finally figured it out.

I love having background noise, and as long as I couldn’t understand them, dozens of conversations could happen around me and I wouldn’t be bothered.

It feels like I have been doing my homework in the eye of a hurricane all year long. But now, the eye has moved, and the wind is blowing my papers away and I am getting wet. And it is distracting.

Perhaps this is why I never fell in love with doing work in cafés in Boston. I’ve gotten lots of distraction-free work done in Diesel, where you have to pay for internet. But that was in spite of the atmosphere, not because of it. I would go to Diesel with headphones and playlists because otherwise I’d happily sit in a corner and eavesdrop. And here, with just two papers left to write in Prague, the same thing is happening to me in Czech.

So I guess getting good at this language is a double edged sword. I was hoping to bring my love of cafés as work spaces back to Boston, but now I suspect that won’t be happening. At the same time, learning that I need my headphones in cafés here too is a little exciting, because it means that my latent language skills are growing exponentially! Just in time to go home…

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve got a good answer or come to any sort of conclusion regarding how I feel about these discoveries. But you can be sure that there will be lots more posts about leaving coming up. Consider this a warning – my blog is about to get sentimental.



Česky Čtvrtek – Byla jsem na Maltě

DSC_0050O víkendu, jsem byla na Maltě. Byl to můj poslední mezinárodní výlet tento rok. Letěla jsem ve Středu večer z Prahy na Maltu. Let trval dvě a půl hodiny. Ve Čtvrtek, jsem se potápěla. Potom jsem šla na Gozo a viděla jsem mnoho krasných míst. Četla jsem blízko moře na útecu, a spala jsem na pláži. Byl krásný den, ale potom jsem byla spálená. Pátek a Sobota taky byly dobré dny. Jela jsem na túru a jedla jsem dobré jidlo. Taky jsem fotografovala moc. V Vallettě jsem koupila káču do mojí sbíry. Taky jsem koupila a psala dopis na mojí kamáradce v Japonsku. Letěla jsem do Prahy v Sobotu večer.

V Neděli, jsem nedělala moc, protože jsem neměla moc úkolů. Ale, jela jsem do centra na večeři s mým Japonskím učitelem se střední školy. Byl to krásný čas, a doufám, že to můžu dělat ještě jednou.

10322636_10152409917932112_3354612176566452505_nOver the weekend, I went to Malta. It was my last international trip this year. I flew on Wednesday from Prague to Malta. The flight was two and a half hours. On Thursday, I went scuba diving. After, I went to Gozo and saw many beautiful places. I read near the sea on the cliffs and I slept on the beach. It was a beautiful day, and I got sunburnt. Friday and Saturday were also beautiful days. I went hiking and ate good food. I also took a lot of pictures. In Valletta I bought a top for my collection. I also bought and wrote a letter to my friend in Japan. I flew back to Prague on Saturday night.

On Sunday, I didn’t do much, because I didn’t have much homework. But, I went to the city center for dinner with my Japanese teacher from middle school. It was a great time and I hope we can do it again!

Český Čtvrtek – v Italii

S Ashten letíme z Milano do Prahy. Byli jsme od 24.4 v Italii. Na tři dny a dve noci, jsme byli v Činke Tére. A na náš poslední den a noc, jsme byli v Janov. V Činke Tére, můžete vidět krásné modré moře. Fotografovala jsme moc, ale neplavala jsem protože moře bylo moc studené. Ale, jsme obě byly ve vodě. V Pátek, jsme jely na túru mezi Monterosso a Vernazza a v Sobotu jsme ležely 4 hodiny na pláži. Počasí v Neděli bylo špatně, ale to nevadí protože jsme cestovaly z Janov do Milano a potom z Milano do Prahy. My jsme jedli opravdu nejlepší jidlo. Měli jsme mnoho mořských poldů a moje nejoblíbené jidlo byl rak. Měla jsem taky dobrý salát a píly jsme vino každy den. S každé večeři, jsme píly láhev vína.

With Ashten, I am flying from Milan to Prague. We were in Italy from the 24th of April. For three days and two nights, we were in Cinque Terre. And for our last day and night, we were in Genoa. In the Cinque Terre, you can see the beautiful blue ocean. I took lots of photos, but I didn’t swim because the ocean was very cold. But, we both walked in the water. On Friday, we hiked between Monterosso and Vernazza and on Saturday we lounged for 4 hours on the beach. The weather on Sunday was bad, but it didn’t matter because we traveled from Genoa to Milan and then from Milan to Prague. We ate truly the best food. We had a lot of seafood and my favorite thing I had was crab. I also had a really good salad and we had wine every day. With each dinner, we had a bottle of wine.

Český Čtvrtek – Eifelovka

Eifelovka je krasná. Všichni jsme viděli fotky, a viděli jsme filmy v každou film v Pařiži. Ale, pro mě, Eifelovka je dobrá protože je opravdu úžasnou techniku. Býla nejvyšší stavba pro 41 roky. Je silná, ale vypáda to křehká. Tady jsou moje fotky o Eifelovka.

The Eiffel Tower is beautiful.  We’ve all seen the pictures, we’ve all seen it featured in every single movie set in Paris. Every. single. one. And yet, what really struck me every time I walked by it, but especially as I was walking up it, is that is truly a feat of engineering. It was the tallest structure in the world when it was built, and held that position for an amazing 41 years. It is phenomenally strong and yet appears artistically fragile. Perhaps it was the white clouds on the day I really looked at the structure that made it stand out so well, or maybe the colored elevators going up the otherwise grayish black structure. Regardless, here are some pictures I took over the weekend that showcase what an amazing structure Eiffel gave to us.

elevator wheel

Český Čtvrtek – Káča

Můj tatinek jednou řikal, “všichni musí sbírat něco.” On sbíral známky v dětsví, a dnes sbírá knihy o fotbalových rozhodčích. S mojí rodinou, sbírame mince z celého světa, proto máme mince z Japonsko, z Kanad’y, České Republicky, a mnoho dalších. Ale, sbírám něco sama taky. Sbírám káči. Proč? Tady je podvika.

Když mi bylo 13 let, cestovali jsme do České Republiky s mými prarodiči. Potom jsme cestovali do Italie, ale to jenom já, můj bratr, a moji rodiče. V Praze, jsem založila moc krasnou káču v trh a moje babička ji koupila pro mě. Byla to moje vzpominka z České Republiky.

Potom, jsme cestovali do Italie vlakem a ve vlaku, můj tatinek pověděl mě o sbíraní. Když můžeme koupit něco káču v Italii, budeme. V celé Italii, jsme hledali. Hledali jsme v Římě, hledali jsme v Milaně, hledali jsme v Benátkách. Nakonec, jsme v Benátkách, viděli jeden káču v obchodě oken. Ale tento obchod byl zavřeny, a museli jsme jet vrzo ráno. Můj tatinek klepal a klepal a někdo otevřel dveře. Tato káča byla opravdu poslední káča skla v obchodě, možna v celých Benátkách. Ale koupili jsme. A měla jsem dvě káči ze dvou zemí.

Když jsem cestovala do Japonsko, koupila jsem káču tam. a Ted’, zkusím koupit káču v každé zemi. Je legrace, protože mám něco dělat všude. Musím hledat, proto mus=im zkoumat místa. Nemůžu jenot jet na proslulá místa když chci koupit káču z této země. Ale, nemůžu koupit všude, protože ěasto nemůžu hledat nebo nemůžu najít káči.

Myslím nejlepší důvod pro sbíraní je podviky. Když cestuju s někým, můžeme hledat dohromady. Je to legrace a trochu jiný než normalní cestování. V Listopadu, jsme cestovali s dvěma kamaradkamí do Turecka. Tam, jsem šly na trhy. Nemyslely jsme, že koupíme něco, protože všechno bylo velké nebo drahé. Ale, řikala jsem, když někdo bude vidět káči, prosim řekněte mi to. Asi za dvacet metrů, jsem viděla něco a křičela jsem “káěi!” Pravda, byl tučety káči. Koupila jsem jednu krásnou.

Mám dvě káči z Polska, protože jsem koupila jendu na trhu a naše výlet vůdce koupila jeden v Židovském muzeu. Je dreidel a nevím když opravdu káču, ale ona je opravdu hezká a děkovala jsem jí. Koupila jsem moji káča z Francie, z Švýcarska, a z Islandu v dětském obchodě, ale na Islandu jsem hledala jeden v kuchynském ochodu taky.

Moje kamarady někdy koupily káči pro mě v nové zemi, nebo pomohy mě s hledat někde. Nemám káči ze všech zemí kam jsem cestovala, ale mám jich mnoho. Mám káči z Japonska, ze Švýcarska, z Turecka, z Polska, z České Republiky, z Italie, z Francie, a možna ješte ale nemůžu vzponenout ted’protože jsem tady a jsou v Americe. Ale mám jednu otázku: když cestuju někam dvakrat nebo už, měla bych koupit jeden na každý výlet nebo ne?

My dad once told me, “everyone should collect something.” He collected stamps as a kid, and now he collects books about soccer referees. With my family, we collect coins from countries around the world, so we have coins from Japan, Canada, the Czech Republic, and many others. But, I also collect something myself. I collect tops. Why? Here is the story.

When I was 13 years old, we traveled to the Czech Republic with my grandparents. And then we traveled to Italy, but it was only me, my brother, and my parents. In Prague, I found a beautiful top in a market and my grandmother bought it for me. It was my souvenir from the Czech Republic.

After, we traveled to Italy by train and on the train, my dad told me about collecting. If we could find a top in Italy, we would buy it. Throughout Italy, we searched. We searched in Rome, we searched in Milan, we searched in Venice. At the end of our time in Venice, we saw one top in a shop window. But the shop was closed and we had to leave early in the morning. My dad knocked and knocked and someone opened the door. That top was truly the last glass top in the store, and maybe in all of Venice. But we bought it. And I had two tops from two countries.

When I travelled to Japan, I bought a top there. And now, I buy a top in every country I visit. It is fun, because I have something to do everywhere. I have to look, so I have to go to different places. I cannot only go to the tourist places if I want to buy a top in that country. but I can’t always buy one, because often I can’t search or I can’t find a top.

I think the best reason for collecting is the stories. If I travel with someone, we can search together. It is fun, and a bit different than normal travel. In November, I went to Turkey with two friends. There, we went to the outdoor market. We didn’t think we would buy anything, because everything was big or expensive. But I said if anyone sees tops, please let me know. From about twenty meters, I saw something and yelled “Tops!” It was true – they were dozens of tops. I bought a pretty one.

I have two tops from Poland, because I bought one at a market and our trip leaders bought one at the Jewish museum. It is a dreidel, and I don’t know if it is truly a top, but the woman is so nice and I thank her. I bought my tops in France, in Switzerland, and in Iceland from children’s stores, although I also found one in Iceland in a kitchenware store.

My friends sometimes buy me tops from new countries, or help me look for them somewhere. I don’t have tops from every country I’ve been to, but I have tops from many of them. I have tops from Japan, Switzerland, Turkey, Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy, France, and maybe more but I can’t remember because I am here and they are in America. But I have a question: If I travel somewhere twice or more, should I buy one for each trip, or not?

Český Čtvrtek – Trhy

O víkendu, jsem jela na Výtoň na největší farmářské trhy v Praze. Máme hodně trhů ve Kalifornii, a věděla jsem tento trh bude jako tenhle, s jahodami, malinami, melony. Věděla jsem, že můžu koupit ovoce a zeleninu a chleba a květiny. Je pravda – mohla jsem. Ale Pražské trhy a Kalifornské trhy jsou jiné.

Vyton Farmer's Market

V Praze můžu koupit květiny a chleba. A opravdu dobré dortíčky. A mnouho sýrů. A ryby a čerstvý džus a kávu. Když chceš, můžeš koupit ovoce nebo zeleninu, ale myslým jsou lepší ve supermarketu než na trhu. Možná trh s ovocem bude lepší v létě, ale nevím.Dorticky!

Ale, Pražské trhy jsou jiné než jenom farmářské. Má Masopustní a Vanoční a Velikonoční trhy. Tento týden je prvný týden Velikonoční trh u Anděl, a šla jsem tam. Viděla jsem tradiční Velikonoce vejce a trdelnik (jasně!) a květiny a malé cukrové ptačky.

Over the weekend, I went to Vyton for the biggest farmer’s market in Prague. We also have markets in California, and I thought this market would be the same, with strawberries, raspberries, melons. I thought I could buy fruit and vegetables and bread and flowers. It is true – I could. But the Prague markets and California markets are different.

In Prague you can buy flowers and bread. And truly amazing little cakes. And lots of cheese. And fish and fresh juice and coffee. If you want, you can buy fruit or vegetables, but I think they are better in the supermarket than in the farmer’s market. Maybe the market’s fruit will be better in the summer, but I don’t know.

But, Prague’s markets are different than only farmer’s markets. It has Masopust (Carnival) and Christmas and Easter markets. This week is the first week of the Easter market at Andel, and I went there. I saw traditional Easter eggs and trdelnik (of course!) and flowers and small sugar birds.

*For another post about markets, see this one! Also, more pictures to come, once today’s photos of the Easter markets get onto my computer…

Český Čtvrtek – Lyžovaní

Když opravdu chci být lepší v češtině, musím cvičit. Proto, budu psát můj blog v češtině každý týden. Budu psát každý čtvrtek – bude moje serie: český čtvrtek.

Jela jsem minulý víkend na Slovensko na hory protože jsem chtěla lyžovat. Jela jsem vlakem s novými kamarády, píli jsme moc na tom výletě na slovensku, a jsme lyžovali celý den ve čtvrtek, v pátek, a v sobotu. Na první dva dny, počasí bylo moc krasné. V sobotu, bylo špatné – mocný vítr a sníh. Proto, jsme čekali uvnitř a jedli jsme halušky. Halušky jsou tradniční jidlo na Slovensku a je jako Italské gnocchi. V neděli, jsme jeli domů taky vlakem. Býl to super výlet.

Myslim nebudu lyžovat tuto sezónu. To je trochu smutné protože mám ráda lyžovaní, ale tato sezóna byla dobrá. Lyžovala jsem ve pěti zemích – v České Republice, na Slovensku, ve Francii, v Rakousku, a v Neměcka. Sníh nebýl dobrý, ale lyžovaní bylo pěkné, a pohledy ve Francii a na Slovensku býly moc krásný. Doufám jednou můžu lyžovat ve Rakouských Alpách a v Italii, ale tato sezóna bzla úžasná.


If I really want to get better at Czech, I have to practice. Therefore, I will write on my blog in Czech every week. I will write on Thursdays – it will be my series: Czech Thursdays. *

Last weekend, I went to the mountains in Slovakia because I went skiing. I went by train with some new friends, we drank a lot on the trip, and skied all day on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The first two days, the weather was very beautiful. On Saturday, it was bad – strong winds and snow. Therefore, we waited inside and ate halushky. Halushky is a traditional food in Slovakia and is similar to Italian gnocchi. On Sunday, we went home, again by train. It was a great trip.

I think I won’t ski again this season. This is a little sad because I like skiing, but this season has been good. I skied in five countries – the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Austria, and Germany. The snow wasn’t good, but the skiing was nice, and the views in France and Slovakia were very beautiful. I hope someday I will be able to ski in the Austrian Alps and in Italy, but this season has been amazing.


The word for “Thursday” in Czech starts with a “č” just like the word for “Czech” in Czech. This sound is the same as the “Cz” sound at the beginning of the English word “Czech.” Basically, my title for this series – and my reason for writing on Thursdays – is entirely alliterative and completely impossible to make clear in English. Just go with it. Return