Week Twenty-One: Blind Exhibition

This week nothing too out of the ordinary occurred. Tuesday, I filmed my “Day in the Life” video. It felt so unnatural to carry a camera around with me, but I wanted to share with you what my everyday looks like. If you have a chance, you can watch the video (if you haven’t) on my Youtube channel. I have a link to my channel Friday, I had the opportunity to go to Prague on a school trip to a Blind Exhibition. I went with the youngest class in our school, and it was a great day! We went to the exhibition and we got to spend one hour in the dark. In small groups, we went into a dark room. It was created so that you wouldn’t be able to see anything, not even some shadows. We had a guide that spoke English. We found out that she also speaks Spanish! She did the tour completely in English because Maeve, Nick, and I were in the group. We went to several rooms in a “house” in the dark. We had small tasks like finding the fridge or just feeling for other objects. We had to hold onto the wall and have our other hand in front of us. After the house, we went out to the street. It was very difficult because the ground was so uneven and we didn’t really have any idea where we were. There were some small shops on the side and we had to guess what they were. One was a vegetable/fruit stand. The other was something like an information center. After, we had the challenge of crossing the street. There was a car that we were able to feel and if you touched it in honked very loudly. In this exhibition we could hear the sounds of the street and it felt very realistic. At this part, it was actually very eye-opening to experience being blind at an intersection. Afterwards, we went outside and we were in a forest. In the forest, it was slightly cooler and we could hear the sounds of birds and other animals. There was also a stream with real water. Our task was to find the bridge and then cross it. After crossing the bridge, we arrived to a pub. In the pub, our tour guide offered to make us some drinks. She could get us Fanta or Cola, Hot Chocolate, Energy Drinks, and Coffee. Nick and I both ordered Hot Chocolate and it was very good. We then had some time to ask our guide questions. She was born blind and has been working at this location for maybe seven years. She studied Czech Literature in University and can speak three languages. I was very impressed with her patience because we had to travel through the exhibition very very slowly. Also, it was frustrating because it was easy to get lost! I noticed that when I couldn’t see anything, I could hear and feel a lot better. The ground felt uneven in many places, which was something I hadn’t noticed before. We also learned to follow certain sounds to where we needed to be. It was truly a mind opening experience! Of course, I couldn’t begin to understand the daily struggles of being blind, but it was a very interesting experience for me. I certainly learned a lot!

 

In other aspects of my life, I have organized everything for University next year. Although I had planned to go to McGill, I had to defer for a year to come on exchange. I recently received confirmation that my deferral was completed and I have acceptance for Fall 2018! My Mom has also helped me to get a place to live next year. We found a very nice place that is close to the campus, and I am looking forward to it! I’m very glad that I have everything for University figured out and completed.

 

I’m sorry for the lack of content this week. I hope the next week will be more interesting and I will have more to say!

 

-Cass

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Week Twenty: A Look Into Rakovník (Part II)

During this past week, nothing too interesting has happened since school has just started up again. I only have two more weeks living in my current host family. I will be moving to Rynholec to live with my second and final family. While I am still living here, I thought it would be a good idea to complete my series of “A Look Into Rakovnik”. On Week Ten, I did my first blog post like this. Yesterday, my host brother and I went on a two hour walk to take some more photos of the town. It was certainly a great adventure, and sometimes I forgot to take photos… but I hope you will enjoy seeing some places in my new home. In this post, I took some photos of places that I haven’t really been to, yesterday was a great exploring adventure! For some more photos, you can check out my “Week Ten” post to see the main attractions of Rakovnik.

Enjoy!

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These photos are taken a few streets above where I live. There is a great walking/cycling/running path that goes into a forest. There is also a view of Rakovnik (that I couldn’t capture because the sun was shining directly facing us) and a dog park!

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Next, we headed downtown towards another path that goes right beside a small creek. This creek runs through Rakovnik. The other half of the creek is featured in my first blog post.

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Hospital helicopter landing patch.

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There are many areas for sport.

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In this town there is a school focusing on Trades such as Electrical work, Mechanics, and more as well as Engineering, IT,  and other Computer Sciences.

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In this part of town, we continued to go uphill to show you some of the streets and buildings. I currently live on the opposite side of this part of Rakovnik.

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We then returned to the square and headed home.

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This completes the journey!! Unfortunately some of the photos turned out really dark, so I apologize if you can’t see everything! Although I didn’t take photos of absolutely everything, this completes the series for now.

I hope you enjoyed…

Until next time!

-Cass

Week Nineteen: Harrachov and New Years!

I’m writing this post on December 31st, which means that it is New Year’s Eve… and tomorrow we will be in 2018! After New Years, we will go back to school on January 3rd. Definitely a shorter holiday than we’re used to in Canada! During this holiday, my host family planned a three-day trip for us to go to the mountain. We went to Harrachov—a small town that is approximately two hours away from where I live. Here, there is a ski resort and great cross-country skiing trails. It is also a very popular destination to go skiing for people from Germany and Poland. Currently in Rakovnik, there is no snow and the temperature is fairly high; therefore, the idea was to be around some snow and explore Harrachov and the surrounding area!

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On the first day, we left the house around 9:30 in the morning. We then stopped to get some lunch then continued to a small village: Malá Skála. This is a very small yet beautiful village with a river flowing through it. Where we stopped, there is a very popular pizzeria, pub, and café. We parked then began to hike up to the top of a steep rock that overlooked the highway, river, and village. It was very beautiful and the weather was perfect for our hike. Afterwards, we wanted to see a very popular castle that is in that area, but unfortunately it was closed for the winter season. This didn’t stop us! We then walked for maybe 1.5 km to Frýdštejn castle. This castle was built in the first half of the 14th century and is the main attraction of the village. We returned from our journey (a snowless one I should mention) and continued our drive to Harrachov. As we continued upwards, we observed a lot more snow around us. We arrived to the town and to our hotel. Because dinner started at 6 pm, we decided to go for a short walk around the town. The entire town looked similar to any ski resort that we have in Canada… There were people walking with their ski and snowboard gear and children sledding everywhere. It really felt like home for me to be around this atmosphere. There was a lot of snow, but it was really wet. We ate dinner then went to bed. On the second day, we were woken up to the sound of rain. Because of this, we decided to save our walk for the second half of the day. In the morning, we went to a glass museum and glass factory. I learned that the Czech Republic is very famous for its glass production and in fact, this is one of their biggest exports. We started by going to the museum and looking at beautiful glass art. It was truly amazing to think about how someone could blow and create glass of such beautiful colours and with such intricate designs. Afterwards, we had a tour of an actual factory with workers. We got to see up close how the glass was made. At this time, people were creating wine glasses. They do this all day in a team of 5-6 people. It was very hot in the factory and I was surprised to see that none of the workers were wearing any sort of protective shoes or glasses! After this, we went for lunch and prepared for our walk. The weather had certainly improved and there was just a light snow. We began our walk and it was on a cross-country ski trail. It was really nice and we had snow-fights on the way up! We walked to a waterfall and it was so beautiful. My host mom told me that she has seen this waterfall when it has been completely frozen! We proceeded to walk another two kilometers up, next to the river. On the way back, my host brother and I took turns pulling each other on the sled downhill! On the last day, we had to prepare to leave in the morning. We then went on another walk through Harrachov and we stopped to watch some skiiers go off very large jumps. Overall, the trip was a really great time for me and it felt nice to see some snow again!

 

 

Since we are going into the New Year, I’ve reflected on 2017. This year has definitely been one of the hardest years that I’ve had, but also one of the best! I’ve travelled to many different places, graduated high school, and started my exchange year in the Czech Republic. I’m so grateful for all of the experiences I’ve had, and I have definitely seen myself grow and change! Although I’ve had so many great experiences, it has been one of the most stressful years. Finishing high school early, stressing about school way too much, working, applying for a second passport (my mom can tell you all about that…), university applications, learning Czech… I won’t get into more stressful times. But if you know me, you would know that I was very high-paced this year. Although this is true, there have been some of the best times. Travelling to Mexico, Ecuador, Arizona, and finally here to the Czech Republic. I can’t believe all of the experiences I’ve had. I think that each one has allowed me to grow and has really prepared me for the future. I really feel like I made an impact on my school with a lot of the events that I organized and programs I started. I also feel like on a global level, I had the chance to make a difference. I can’t wait to see what the rest of my exchange year adventures will be and I know for sure that I’m stepping into 2018 with a positive mindset and hope! I wish all of you a Happy New Year!

 

-Cass

Week Eighteen: Veselé Vánoce! Merry Christmas!

It’s hard to believe that my next post will be in the New Year! Time really has flown! Since I just celebrated Christmas here in the Czech Republic, I thought I’d let you know about my experience. There are a lot of Christmas traditions here in the Czech Republic, and as in any country, not every family will celebrate each one. Therefore, I can only really speak about my experience in my host family!

 

There are several differences between Christmas in North America and the Czech Republic. For example, it is celebrated on the 24th instead of the 25th. There is no such thing as Santa Clause here, but instead, Baby Jesus or Ježíšek. For dinner, families will eat Karp. Before Christmas, on the square of each town, there will be people selling Karp in big tubs. It is common in many families to keep the Karp in their bathtub then kill them to eat on Christmas. This didn’t happen in my family, but I can imagine how surprised I would have been by walking in to the bathroom and seeing a fish!

 

Christmas Day: I woke up early because I thought that we would be exchanging gifts in the morning. When I went downstairs, I was informed that we open the gifts in the night after dinner! In the morning, we decorated the tree. This year, there was a plastic tree, which was my first plastic tree ever! We just put up ornaments and lights and some tinsel. In my family, all of our ornaments have something like sentimental value. They often have a story behind them or were a gift from someone. Here, they were just ornaments that look nice, but they were just from the store, with no story. Regardless, the tree still looked very beautiful (although lacking the smell) and I was very happy. It was a surprise for me that there was no tree until Christmas or in the case of some families, they will put up the tree on Christmas Eve. During the rest of the day, we just hung out and watched some Czech fairy tales and ate Christmas sweets. Afterwards, my host dad and host brother and I went on a walk in the forest to this sandy hill. We walked a very steep hill then we ran back to the car. Afterwards, we all cleaned up and got ready for dinner. For dinner, there was potato salad, which had ham, pickles, egg, onion, peppers, and potatoes in it. Then there was Karp as well. Before sitting down at the table, we said cheers and wished each other health. Then everyone shook hands and sat down to eat. It is common in this meal that no one leaves the table until everyone is done. The entire time, Kuba wanted to go faster because it was almost time for presents! It was a very nice meal and we were all very full. We then did a typical Czech tradition. We got a big bucket of water. We also had some chestnuts with the insides carved out with some candles inside. We set the candles on fire then put the chestnuts into the water. It is said that if your chestnut goes to one side then you will stay at home, and if it is at the other side, then you will travel! Afterwards, it was time for Ježíšek to come. My host dad, Kuba, and I went outside to do sparklers while my host mom stayed inside. We did an entire thing of sparklers outside and watched some people try to set off fireworks. It was very fun and not so cold. Afterwards, we went inside and after hearing the screams of my host brother… I knew that Ježíšek had come!! The presents were all spread out under the tree and we all took the piles of our presents. As usual, I loved watching everyone open my presents. My host brother often leaves a few presents for the next day so that he is the only one that has a present! Afterwards, we all just sat around and talked for a bit! Overall it was a very nice day.

 

I was expecting to feel a lot more sad during the holiday season. It is true that in Canada, Christmas is really over the top. For example, the stores are playing Christmas music and selling everything that is Christmas related. Here, the stores had practically nothing and barely any Christmas decorations. Also, there were no lights outside the houses. Another big thing was that there was no snow. Of course, where I am living it is a bit warmer, but it just didn’t feel the same! Although there were many differences, I truly enjoyed seeing and experiencing Christmas traditions in another culture.

 

I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I wish you all health and happiness for the coming year and to enjoy your time with your family and friends! Thank you for reading!

 

-Cass

 

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Week Seventeen: Let’s Get Political!

I have always had a great interest in politics. In Canada, I had tried to stay educated about my country’s government and political situation as well as politics around the world. Although this is true, in my final year of highschool, I didn’t really try as hard as I should have. Before coming to the Czech Republic, I went to Arizona for the Me to We program “Advanced Leadership Training”. Here, I learned a lot of important lessons. Staying out of politics and remaining uneducated is privilege in action. My wealth, race, abilities, and gender, allows me to live a life in which I will most likely not be a target of bigotry, attacks, deportation, or genocide. To summarize, my privilege allows me to live in a non-political existence. There are so many people who don’t want to fight because their life and safety are not at stake. It is hard and exhausting to bring up issues of oppression. I have spent a lot of my life trying to see the best in the world, but it is a harsh reality that there are so many injustices in it. After visiting the wall between Mexico and Arizona, after seeing the lives of over sixty migrants determined in front of my eyes, after standing in the exact spot where an innocent teenager was shot by border patrol for being in the wrong spot at the wrong time…my views really changed. To those people who find politics annoying and just want everyone to be peaceful and nice, it is important to recognize a few things. There are people in the world literally fighting for their lives and for their safety. You might not see it, but that’s what privilege does. After Arizona, I had an even bigger interest in social justice and what I could do to make a change. Therefore, as the year goes on, I hope that I will carry through the project I planned while I was in Arizona. I will also continue to stay educated on what is happening in the world, even if it is tiring and difficult sometimes!

 

I arrived to the Czech Republic and didn’t know a lot about their political system. In this post, I would like to just outline how the government functions and the political system. It is very important to understand the systems in the country you are living in! The Czech Republic has a very complicated history. As in many other countries of central and eastern Europe, the political system in Czechoslovakia was affected by the Soviet-style Communist regime. In democratic development, there are three branches of power necessary. These are executive, legislative, and judicial. During this regime, the system of power was distorted and these three branches were substituted by unified Communist power. For forty years, it ruled all social and political life with the help of oppressive institutions. The Communist Party became the only autonomous political entity after February 1948. There were some parties allowed to “exist” within the “National Front” but of course these parties didn’t have any power. Their purpose was to create an image that Czechoslovakia was a democratic state. After November 1989, there was a downfall of the Communist regime. The country was then faced with the task of continuing its pre-Communist traditions and building a democratic political system.

 

There are many constitutional institutions that exist. There is a President that is elected for a term of five years. Currently, the President is Miloš Zeman from the Party of Civic Rights. He has been in power since March 8 2013. The President is the head of state. He is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. He has limited power, but has the right to veto any bill already passed by Parliament except constitutional bills. There is the Prime Minister Andrej Babiš from ANO 2011. He has been in power since December 6 2017. He is the head of government and has considerable powers. He may set the agenda for most foreign and domestic policies. He may also mobilize the parliamentary majority and choose governmental ministers. Parliament consists of two chambers, which are the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. All bills valid in the territory of the Czech Republic are passed here. Important international treaties are also expressed. The Chamber of Deputies is made of 200 deputies elected for a term of four years. The Senate is made of 81 senators elected for six-term years. The Senate may not be dissolved, whereas the President may dissolve the Chamber of Deputies.

 

Here is a photo that will outline the political system.

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The system is described as a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic. This means that it is a unitary state with a republican form of government. It is dependent upon the confidence of parliament. It is multi-party system. The two largest parties were Czech Social Democratic Party and Civic Democratic Party since 1993. In early 2014, ANO 2011 rose which weakened the major parties. The system supports a variety of parties. The spectrum has the Communist Party on the far left and various nationalistic parties on the far right. The system is said to produce very weak governments and there is constant talk about changing it. An example of a problem is that 15% of the electorates support the Communist Party, but all the other parties shun this party. Something interesting that I learned was that in March 2006, the Czech Republic became the first former communist country in Europe to legalize same-sex partnerships.

 

I won’t go into too many more details, but I hope that you might have been able to learn a little bit about the government and political system here in the Czech Republic. I am still learning, and still asking questions!
If you are an exchange student reading this, I would recommend to stay educated the rest of the year. One of the main purposes of being on a Rotary Youth Exchange is to promote world peace. We are ambassadors of our countries and it is so important to know what is going on in the world around you. This year is tough, and so busy… learning a new language and making new friends and trying to understand a new culture. Indeed, it might seem like there isn’t any time. Just don’t forget why you are here, and don’t forget about the world around you. Take at least ten minutes every day to read the news and see what is happening! I would like to thank Maeve because she shared with me a very cool site. This is a newsletter that contains easy-to-read information about what is happening in the world. It sends you emails every day and you can take the time to read about anything you would like! Sign up for it!

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Anyways, I know that this blog may have been intense at the beginning, but I do hope that you could take something away from it. Next week, I will write about my recent adventures and a little bit more about the holiday season here!

 

All the best,

-Cass

Week Sixteen: Christmas Markets, St. Nicholas, and Exchange Students!

During the holiday seasons, Christmas markets are very popular in the Czech Republic and of course in other countries. In most of the towns there are squares. In the past, these squares were mainly used for markets. This year, I’ve had the opportunity to go to several. I really love the spirit and the sense of community in these markets. Last weekend on Sunday, Nic and I went to our first Rotary fundraiser with our club. We were selling hot wine at the market in Beroun to fundraise for our Eurotour. We arrived on Saturday and we started making the wine Sunday morning. We also made some hot punch for the children. My Rotary counsellor Lucie works at a hotel so we got to use the kitchen there. We essentially put red wine into a very large pot on the stove. Then, we added a lot of spices and sugar. We also put some oranges in it. As for the child punch, it was the same. It was added to a separate bowl and we added some sugar, apples, and oranges. We then went to the square to set up our station. We had a tent and a banner with our Rotary club name. We prepared everything then started the sale around 3 pm. It was really great because Nic and I were able to speak Czech to each customer. It was very simple and only cost them 30 crowns for the drink. Throughout the night it got very very busy, and our stand was very popular. We were very successful, and it was a very fun evening.

 

As we are continuously approaching Christmas, I’m getting to see more and more of this countries traditions and celebrations. Of course, there are many differences, and I’ll most likely write about them in the next two weeks. This week, I experienced one of my biggest culture shocks since I’ve arrived here. On Tuesday, it was St.Nicholas day. In the Czech Republic, each day has a different name of a different saint. This is why name days are celebrated here. Traditionally, this tradition fell on the night of December 5th. In larger cities, you can often run into people dressed as St.Nicholas, Angels (representing good) and Devils (representing evil). You could compare St. Nicholas to dressing like Santa. He has the beard, but he is wearing a very tall hat… sometimes with a cross. Then, he wears a long cloak with white long sleeves. The cloak may be red or dark red with a cross. Then, he is holding a long stick with a spiral at the top or maybe not. All of these characters will walk the streets and ask the kids if they were good or not in the past year. The children will probably be asked to sing a song or recite a poem. If they do this, they will be rewarded with sweets or candy. If not, they are ‘bad’ kids and will be taken away by the Devil’s in sacks and taken to hell. They would also receive coal. In small towns or villages, these characters will visit people’s homes. I have heard that if the children are bad, the devils will take the children into their sacks and move them to another street and leave them there! It is apparently a good incentive to be good throughout the year. The costumes are extremely elaborate and well done… therefore causing fear in the little children. This is a very scary day for children and they will usually perform their songs and poems very well for the angels. At our school and other schools in my town, it has also become a tradition for during the day of the 6th. The three oldest classes in my school got to be dressed as the three characters. They did a very good job… in fact, some people weren’t even recognizable. During this day, they had full permission to go around the school and create chaos. I had been told a little bit about it, but I didn’t think it would be as intense as it was. During my first two classes, nothing happened and I didn’t run into any of these characters. I constantly heard loud screaming in the distance, but nothing happened to me. By the end of the second class I had, I was walking around the school and noticing that pretty much everyone had red and black drawn all over their faces. In the third class that I went to, everyone also had these drawings. The class told me that the devils had come to their class. They came in and drew all over the students faces in paint, lipstick, or other markers. It was just lines and other dashes or just covering the entire face. Additionally, this class had been tied together with zip-ties and left there! My friend had a red scratched up wrist from the zip-ties and it sounded horrible. Other people had been tied up outside the classes by the devils or thrown into other classes. The devils will come into the class (very abruptly) and call out a select number of people and they must do an impossible task. If they fail, they must do something. Another example was taking shots of an unknown liquid (of course non-alcoholic). I thought that I had escaped, because I had made it past my third class without any harm. Unfortunately, in my third class, I realized that none of my classmates had the drawings on their faces. It meant that we were next. I was getting ready to do my presentation (some homework) when there was extremely loud knocking and screaming at the door. A class entered and they just ran around leaving coal everywhere and drawing on people’s faces. No one really moved or cared they just sat there! I was so scared because the characters were actually terrifying! I was at the front of the class so somehow they didn’t really draw on me the first time. (This changed because my classmates realized that I didn’t get caught so they took their facepaint and put it on me lol). One of my classmates had to take off his shirt and pants and was drawn all over. Then he was taken away and I have no clue what happened. I don’t think that they did this to everyone (I don’t know if that would be allowed…) but he is a good friend with the class. They also hid his clothes so by the end of the day he couldn’t find his pants. Then another class came after and once again they banged super hard and loud on the door until they were let in. At this time, people were called up to name some very hard plant in Czech. I was also called up and I was so scared. They wanted me to do Czech tongue twisters. I failed of course so then they took me in a bag outside the class. They simply put me in front of the other students. They tied up the other two to the radiators outside the class with the zip-ties. They didn’t do it to me, and I just returned to the class. The classrooms were all in a mess and one of the doors was even broken downstairs. It was just such a different tradition and I don’t think anything like it would ever be allowed in Canada!!! During the evening, you could see a lot of younger children with the same face paint on. At the square, there was also a little Christmas concert and some activities for children. Everyone had these light up devil ears on and it was really cool.

 

On Wednesday, I got to go on a school trip to Dresden, Germany. I had flown to Germany, but I’d never actually been there. I didn’t know that I was going to go on the trip until the day before. Since it was only for one day, everything was alright. The trip was with the 05 class, some people from the oldest classes, and some people from C2. Maeve also came! We took a very nice bus and drove approximately three hours there. We went to see some large square that included very beautiful and old buildings. I’ll include some photos. We then went to a hygiene museum. We got some free time here. This museum was full of different medical and informational exhibits. It ranged from dermatology, to racism, to different perfumes, to optics… there were so many interesting things. It was neat because there were some English explanations, so I was able to learn a lot. Afterwards, we went to the Dresden Christmas market, where we got to spend a lot of time. Maeve and I went in and looked around. It was such a beautiful market. There were a lot of traditional German foods being sold at the stands, jewellery, and most popularly-hot wine. This was the same type of wine that I sold last Sunday at a fundraiser with my Rotary club. There was a Ferris wheel and a merry-go-round. It was very well decorated and it was just overall beautiful and fun! After maybe an hour and a half, we decided to get some lunch and we ate some pork in a box with salad. We surprisingly didn’t run into any students, but we found out that they just went to a different mall to shop at a store called Primark. We went in for a bit, but didn’t find anything. It was a really cool experience, and I really enjoyed Dresden!

 

Finally, I just returned from Christmas Prague. This was the first only Czech inbounds meeting. We arrived to Prague and went to the hotel where we were staying. It was really really great to see the other exchange students again. The first thing we did after arrival was going to get some dinner. Afterwards, we had our language test. This was around eight o’clock when it started. I was very nervous (as I always am with tests). This would be our second language test written in this country but before coming we had to complete three online tests. We were all scared because there are so many aspects to a language and we weren’t too sure what would be on the test. We were told that we would have an hour to complete the test. We started and it wasn’t too bad at first. We had to first fill in questions when we knew the answer. Then we had to fill in sentences using the verb to be. Then the same with the verb to have, maybe about ten questions. Then, we had to match adjectives with a noun. Afterwards, we had to translate sentences from Czech to English. Then match some questions with the answers. The hardest part in my opinion was turning singular sentences into plural. We had to do five of them. I did the worst on this part. After, we had to read a text and answer questions about it, then write ten sentences about our best day in the Czech Republic. It was three pages and I thought that an hour would be good so I could check my work. Unfortunately, they cut our time short to about twenty minutes. It was very very frustrating for me. After this, we had oral testing!!! We had to stand up in front of every exchange student, the district president (Mr. Barak) and other Rotex. I decided to go first to get it over with. We had to introduce ourselves then we were asked 3-4 questions. Mine were simple, but I tried to make my answers as elaborate as I could. Everyone had different levels of Czech, but some people couldn’t introduce themselves. I found out I received a one on the oral test, so I am glad with how my Czech is so far. On the written test, I got the third highest mark of everyone with a 70/78. The second place got 72/78. It was definitely due to very small mistakes that I would’ve been able to fix had I more time. Nic also got a very high score with 68/78 which meant that we both got some of the top marks. I was very proud of us!!

The rest of the weekend was actually nice. We got to go sightseeing around Prague. We saw the castle (which I had already seen), Charles Bridge, and the John Lennon wall (which was actually new to me). We got to go shopping for a few hours at the Palladium and I completed all my Christmas shopping. We then went to the Christmas market in Old Town Square, but it was awful. There was a nice tree and nice stands, but the amount of people was ridiculous. My friend Claudia and I just ended up getting a bubble waffle then sitting at the meeting spot. You couldn’t walk anywhere, and we just wanted to be able to breathe again! Regardless, it was a nice evening. When we got back, we ate dinner then went back to the hotel. We had a brief meeting about traveling forms then we had our Christmas eve. We did our Secret Santa and sang the song we had to learn. Today, we had to say goodbye to the Australian exchange students who are leaving in the next month, so that was sad. It was a good time, and a nice time to see the Christmas Prague!

 

 

Weeks Fourteen and Fifteen: Cookies and Puzzles

I must apologize for not posting a blog last week. As last week wasn’t too eventful, I figured that it would be more interesting if I combined these two weeks. There still isn’t any snow in Rakovnik, which is an odd feeling! I’m not sure if there will be much snow as we continue through the winter, but it doesn’t really feel like winter without the snow! I’ve seen multiple videos and pictures of exchange students in other cities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia who are seeing snow for the first time. I think I will be just as excited! It also hasn’t gotten too cold here. It is a bit chilly outside, in the mornings the lowest temperature might be -1.

Last week was American thanksgiving. As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, Maeve is an American Fulbright teaching at the Gymnazium. She’s also one of my bestfriends! Last weekend, there were some other Fulbright’s that went to Maeve’s place to celebrate thanksgiving. Afterwards, there were two that stayed at her house. She invited me to go over and do some baking with them. It was such an amazing night. The other two women were very nice and so fun to be around. Maeve’s younger host brother (I believe he is ten or eleven) also joined us and helped. We listened to Christmas music, danced around, and baked pie and snickerdoodles. Maeve also made some baked mac and cheese for dinner and it was amazing. I haven’t eaten mac and cheese since before I came here! It was a very wholesome night and was a nice taste of home. I will do a whole separate blog on the holiday season in the Czech Republic later, but it was nice to have a little bit of time doing something I would do at home.

Also last weekend, I woke up in the morning and solved a thirty-piece puzzle of a kitten with Kuba. It was a lot of fun! Then, we had the marvellous idea to try and solve a 1000 piece puzzle of the Eiffel tower. Kuba told me “Ugh this is going to take so long! Like two hours!” Let’s just say… we spent seven hours on Sunday trying to separate the pieces and creating the border. It still isn’t done, but we’re actually almost there! Doing puzzles is becoming an addiction in our house now. After school, my host dad, Kuba and I will sit for hours trying to solve the puzzle. I came home very late last night to find my host dad still working on it! I even went to the store to buy another one… We just have the sky to do, which will be challenging because it’s all blue! After I write this blog, I will most likely continue on the puzzle!!

Throughout the past two weeks, I’ve been doing a presentation on Canada (in English). Here in the Czech Republic, the graduating class must be able to speak about Canada in English for about three minutes. It is one of their topics that they must speak about. I went to the Technology/Engineering school (which was pretty much all boys… maybe only 10 girls attend this school) and did maybe six presentations. I did the presentation for some of the younger classes who were interested as well. In the presentation I just talk about History, Politics, Geography, Cultural Values, and something about hockey and winter sports. I’ve received a lot of good questions after my presentation as well! It was also a good opportunity to meet more people. After my presentation, I had some people from the other school reach out to me and ask more questions.

I’ve also passed some important milestones! As of November 21, I have been here for three months. Also, I passed my 100 days on the 29th. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for that long… the time has certainly gone by quickly, just like I knew it would! Therefore, I’m continuing to make the most of every day and take it all in!

 

Week Thirteen: What are Teenagers Wearing in the Czech Republic?

Hello and welcome back to my blog!

Before coming on exchange to Europe, I heard many stories from past exchange students with their experiences with adapting to the “European fashion style”. In Canada and America, (in schools without uniform requirements) it is common for students to show up to school in sweatpants, sweatshirts, and sandals. It’s also very common to find at least one or two students who have come to school wearing their PJ’s. (Of course, not everyone is dressing like this… but it is completely acceptable). Here, I’ve observed that the style is very different. I wouldn’t dream of wearing my oversized baggy sweaters that I used to wear in Canada to school here… it just isn’t really acceptable. Therefore, this week, I decided to focus my blog on what teenagers are actually wearing in the Czech Republic; I thought it might be neat to give you a visual. This week, I asked a lot of my friends if I could take pictures of their outfits. I will mainly be focusing on male fashion this week, and female fashion in a later blog. Of course, there are different styles depending on the different person, but I hope you will enjoy the set I’ve put together!

All photos were taken by myself and Maeve Duffy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Special thanks to all my friends that let me take pictures of them 🙂

Tomáš Vondříček, Petr Šťástka, Filip Dolanský, Jonáš Doleček, Adam Fingerhut, Simon Mikusik, Víťa Steidl, Vojta Pivoňka, Gianni Renc, Tomáš Krieger, Petr Hink Jr., David Nachtigal, Michal Ryvola

 

 

Week Twelve: Aida

This week, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the national theatre in Prague. I went with Nic, Petra (my YEO), and Lucie (my counsellor). Petra had worked very hard to organize tickets and the entire evening, and it was such a wonderful night! We went to see Aida, an opera by Giuseppe Verdi. It was a new experience for me, because I’d never seen a live opera. When we arrived, we were in our own private booth. We could see both the orchestra and the stage. There was so much art everywhere and it was just a very beautiful place. I will attach some photos so that you can see. Although the opera was in Italian, there were both Czech and English subtitles shown on a little screen. At some points, the subtitles just stopped working for some reason… but we ended up understanding what it was about. There were four acts and it was set in Egypt. It was about an enslaved Ethiopian princess—Aida—enslaved by the Egyptians. The Egyptian military commander Radames fell in love with Aida and was struggling with his loyalty to the Pharaoh. It was complicated, but very interesting! After we finished at the opera, we went to Café Savoy. It was really delicious food and I had the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had!!

The rest of the week, I’ve been studying more and more Czech. I’ve also been working on a presentation about Canadian Residential Schools. Maeve runs an English conversation class for the 08 and C4 classes (oldest class in the school) and I attend one period on Mondays. The class has been working on doing presentations about all the topics for their graduation. Canadian Residential Schools are not a topic, but very important to talk about as well.

In this season, more and more people are getting sick. Luckily (knock on wood) I haven’t gotten any kind of sickness. I’ve noticed here, that when someone is on antibiotics, they will often miss weeks of school. In Canada, we may only miss a few days if we have a cold. Here, they will stay home for a very large amount of time. Even if the illness is contagious, they will stay home while they’re on antibiotics even if they will feel fine. I can’t imagine missing weeks of school at a time!

Here are some photos of what I’ve been up to this week!

Week Eleven: Halloween, Castle ruins, and Lakes!

This past week was Halloween! In North America, we take Halloween pretty seriously… so it was definitely a different experience here in the Czech Republic. I’m used to people spending a lot of time decorating their houses and the outside of their houses for trick or treaters. Grocery stores selling mass amounts of candy, pumpkin patches, haunted houses, Halloween music, fireworks, costumes, and school Halloween activities (even in high school). Here, Halloween isn’t really celebrated at all. On Friday the 27th, I did attend a costume party with my friends that was organized by the city of Rakovnik. There were some very impressive costumes there. I was simply dressed as Canada… I had a Canadian sweater, Canada hat, and my Canadian flag I tied around my shoulders. On Halloween day (Tuesday) there were some students that had very simple costumes on. Nic and I dressed up as each other’s countries… I was wearing a sweater from Bolivia and the Bolivian flag. That night, I went with my younger host brother to the tower in Rakovnik. It was open just for Halloween. It’s just a big tower that you can go inside and walk up stairs to the top where there is a view of the city. Inside, at every floor, there were people dressed up as ghosts and some scary music playing. After this, I went with him to another school where there were some Halloween activities for children. He went from classroom to classroom to complete some tasks and get stamps on a piece of paper. If he completed everything, he would get a prize. Rather than trick-or-treating, there were these activities for young children. In Rakovnik, I observed that going from door to door is not as easy as it is in Canada. All the houses have a fence outside with a gate, and it isn’t too acceptable to just enter without invitation.

This weekend, my host family brought me on a short trip to some castle ruins and a lake just 20 km outside of Rakovnik. We went to Hrad Týřov then to Skryjská Jezírka. It was a very nice walk with beautiful nature! It was very cold and foggy, but there was no wind! From now on, the weather isn’t looking too great, so for most families, it would be the last day to go outside on a longer walk. This being said, it was actually fairly busy! I will show some photos of the trip.

(I fell down so many times because there were rocks hidden under the leaves… lol)

Finally, I would just like to write a little bit on the Czech language… to give you just a quick look at what I’m studying. As a foreigner, I can still be understood when I use the basic form of the words, but I hope to be able to speak correctly as time goes on. Czech declension is very complex… it is a system in which nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and numerals must be modified. There are seven different cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, vocative, locative, and instrumental. This means that one word can have 14 different forms. Also, there are three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. The masculine nouns are separated between masculine animate and masculine inanimate. I’m learning so much more about the English language as I study another language, it is quite interesting. Although Czech is a very complex and complicated language, I am enjoying learning it. It makes more and more sense to me every day!