Mom managed to find the perfect melting chocolate. This, when combined with the perfect strawberries courtesy of the Farmer’s Market and the season, makes for the perfect chocolate-covered strawberries:
It starts with some beautiful strawberries, and a bowl full of melted Ghirardelli chocolate. Wash and dry the strawberries, grab the greens, dip, spin, cool, enjoy. There really isn’t anything better.
I’ve got exactly seven nights left in Europe. 7 nights in the Czech Republic. 7 nights in Prague. 7 nights in the bed I’ve been sleeping in for the last nine months, 7 nights with the family I’ve come to love, 7 nights left until this adventure is over. done. finito.
So we’re going to ignore that completely, less it makes me cry, and focus on it another day. Today is all about playtime!
I went to grandma’s house one last time over the weekend, and had good fun. We celebrated her 60th birthday, we celebrated Mother’s Day. We played on the trampoline and played soccer and played on the playground. I took a lot (A LOT) of pictures, and upon returning home realized that there were enough pictures to make a fun series of Jachym. So here you are.
This is Jachym, age 4. I love him a lot.
He has a super adorable smile,
and a super adorable focusing face.
He was SUPER adorable while playing on the playground
And yeah. Meet my second brother…
O 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.
Over 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!
When I travel, I like to randomly wander. I like finding the alleyways, the local hangouts, the dead-ends, and the spots that normal tourists never see. My trip to Malta was no different. I went off in search of the corners, and I found some amazing things.
One: the Man in Search of Herbs.
I went to visit the Dingli Cliffs, and I intentionally walked from one bus stop before the cliffs’ stop to one bus stop after it. Along the way, I went wandering down a side road, and ran across this very kind old man. He walked up to me, and started to ask me questions. At first, I was wary, because of the other experiences I’d already had in Malta. And I was definitely out on my own in this experience. But then he started talking about himself. About how in the old days, he used to come up to the cliffs with his father and there would be lots of people looking for herbs. (He pronounced this “earb-es” and it took me a while to figure out what he was talking about.) He said people would come up because “if you are old, and you have stones in your kidney, you eat this earb-es, and it goes out.” He wanted me to help him in his search, but I passed.
A bit later, as he drove away, he honked and waved at me from his truck. It wasn’t creepy, but actually super cute.
Two: the Women Behind the Door
As I was walking around Gozo, wandering through the streets among dozens of stores flowing into the streets, trying to sell me all sorts of things I don’t need, I wandered down an alleyway. About halfway down, I stopped short. This adorable woman was sitting behind a door, fingers flying and these little wooden sticks clicking. The sound reminded me instantaneously of Babi’s knitting needles. Exactly the same. I spent more than twenty minutes chatting with her and watching her make her lace. It was actually gorgeous.
And she was so nice. She told me about the trip she took to visit her daughter in Australia (her friend can drive and took her to the airport and it was amazing!) and she is very proud that she finished her education. I only wish I could have spent more time with her, because she was adorable.
Three: the Angriest Cat in the World.
This cat. Was angry. Found her at the end of another alleyway in Valletta.
AKA, My Trip to Malta
I just got back from Malta, where I experienced culture shock and reverse culture shock at the same time. But how is that possible, I hear you ask? Well…
For one, the island of Malta is a relatively recent British baby. By that, I mean, it only gained independence in 1964. As such, they drive on the wrong side of the road, and a lot of the Maltese speak British English. So that was weird. But the bigger culture shock was a result of the way Maltese treat women.
Or, I should say, stare at women.
Because I spent the better part of my weekend feeling slightly uncomfortable because of the stares I was getting in the streets. I wasn’t wearing anything particularly provocative. (This shouldn’t need to be a part of the consideration or a part of this post, but it is anyways…) There was only one point over the weekend where I felt truly nervous, when a guy literally started following me down the street. When you’re traveling alone as a young woman, you expect stuff like this, but it is still a bit scary. Especially when you travel the way I do and enjoy wandering down side streets and abandoned alleys. But I stayed alert, walked quickly, used my highly reflective sunglasses as a mirror of sorts to keep an eye on the guy, and struck up a conversation with the first people I passed so he had to move on.
In other ways, Maltese people are pretty nice. They are always willing to help if you’re asking for directions, or which bus you should be taking. But the constant staring was unnerving, and the first time all year I’ve really and truly felt like I was in a significantly different culture. (It takes a lot for me to feel out of place, because of my experiences in the completely different culture that is Japan’s.)
Reverse Culture Shock
I spent the weekend in Malta, where everyone speaks both Maltese (a strange hybrid of Arabic and Italian) and English. Let me tell you, the fact that everyone spoke English threw me off my game. I would walk up to someone to ask for help, and not know what to say. Or I would walk into a store and not know how to greet the clerks. Or sit down in a restaurant and be unsure if I should just order or also point.
In each of these situations, about two seconds later I realized I could just speak English like a normal person, but it was always a strange realization to have. I haven’t been in an English-first country for almost nine months. Technically, Malta isn’t an English-first country, but it is one of the official languages, and everyone I met spoke at least reasonable English. In fact, the two adorable old people I met were the only ones that didn’t speak perfect English. And so I realized that I went to Malta and experience pre-reverse culture shock.
Is this, I wonder, what going back to the States is going to be like? Am I going to get home and not be sure how to address people in the airport, or wonder how to tell the cab driver from the airport where to go? Am I going to think Dobry Den when I walk into a store before I think Hello? It is an interesting thought that I can’t do much about at this point, but it is also a slightly frightening thought that makes me just a bit nervous about going home.
Other Highlights from Malta
They really like this kind of window. I like them too! More significantly, though, all the buildings in Malta were made of giant bricks that reminded me a bit of the adobe bricks we made back in elementary school. Although I think they were actually limestone. Even though the buildings are all made of these bricks and often showing significant weathering, they all have pops of color – usually in the form of brightly painted doors or bay windows like these.
I liked this window too! Called the Azure Window, it can be found on the island of Gozo (the northernmost of the three islands that make up the small nation of Malta) and is gorgeous. As you can see from the photo above, the day that I went was beautiful, the sky was clear, and the hiking was fun (and easy!).
The Dingli Cliffs, on the South West side of the island, are beautiful. Just another drop-dead gorgeous natural feature on the island, the cliffs also seem to be really dangerous. If you look carefully at the center of the picture above, you can see an old white car that clearly went off the side of the cliff. This was one of about a half dozen cars I saw that had gone over the edge, probably with deadly consequences for the drivers.
I also went scuba diving, which was my first dive since I completed my PADI Open Water certification. I got certified in Monterey Bay, CA, where a good day in terms of visibility is 20 to 30 feet. In Malta (we left from the beach above) our visibility was more than 20 meters. I dove to about 15 meters for about 40 minutes. Not a particularly long or deep dive, but absolutely gorgeous. The name of the dive was Cirkewwa Arch, and it was awesome. I saw jellyfish, poisonous scorpion fish, and all sorts of really brightly colored fish weaving in and out of the grass. All told, best experience of the weekend.
So yeah, Malta is gorgeous.
Arguably the most useful phrase, Promiňte, prosím means “Excuse me, please.” So excuse me for the fact that I didn’t write anything yesterday. I’ve had a long and exhausting week, what with full days of orientation activities, and with evenings of baking and playing and, dear God, how do mothers do it? (I return to the sentiments of this post for a short moment.)
Anyway, we’re going to skip our Czech lesson for the day (unless you actually want to learn the six different forms of “to be” in Czech, and the corresponding six versions of “my name is…”). Instead, we’re going to talk about the fact that my classes are in this building, every day:
I am literally taking classes in a chapel in one of the oldest sections of Prague (Vyšehrad). One of the classrooms is known as the “Chapel room.” When I get lost, or am early enough to wherever I’m going that I get to wander around before hand, I sometimes stumble onto majestic spots like this:
The astronomical clock in Prague (in Old Town Square, or Staroměstské náměstí) is the oldest functioning astronomical clock in the world. This crazy complicated thing shows not only the positions in the sky of the sun and the moon in the zodiac, but also the day of the year and the time in Old Czech time and current local time. Maybe I’ll eventually learn to read it, but probably not.
This is also found in staroměstské náměsti, and is an old church. Don’t ask me for details, because I can’t fill you in on them at this point in time. However, I can tell you that it is Gothic (gotický), and that the Czech word for church is kostel. I learned these things on our walk today.
Today was our first day of intensive Czech, which was definitely intense. I love my professor so much – she is super energetic and has an adorable habit of referring to the entire class as “my dear.” But her energy does not change the fact that Czech is a difficult language, and that my brain basically wanted to explode at the end of our lesson. I’m excited, though, because looking through the textbook we have for the next two weeks, it seems like I’m going to learn a lot. If I can actually absorb all of the verb structures and vocabulary, I’ll be well on my way to actually being able to speak Czech. Yay!
I was able to take the tram (tramvoj) this morning without any problems at all, and didn’t even miss my metro connection. The next step is figuring out what all the signs mean in the metros so that I can actually take the correct exit and end up where I want to be, instead of two blocks away. Still, this morning, when I exited the metro, I had a good enough sense of where I was and which exit I had taken to figure out (correctly) which way to go on the first try.
Also, I get to go to school in a city this beautiful. I walk past this river (řeka) every day, and cross an old, gorgeous bridge (most) at least twice a day. I’m usually not a fan of cities, but I can’t help but love walking through history every single day.
Remember how I said Czech people supposedly never smile? Well, once again, I got a smile out of a Czech person. And on public transportation, no less. Again, I was with a group of Americans, which meant we were speaking in English. As we got off the tram, my two colleagues pressed forward, while I let an older woman go ahead of me. I motioned, and said prosím. Perhaps at my manners, perhaps at my bad pronunciation, perhaps because her leg hurt and she was actually grimacing, she smiled. We learned in class that prosím means more than just “please.” It also means you’re welcome, here you go, go ahead, and pretty much anything else. If you ever come to Prague, when in doubt, say “prosím.” Except when you’re saying “thank you.” Then say děkuji.