Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Farewell Boat Cruise...and a little surprise

Hello all. Because today is everyone's last day of school and the program is ending tomorrow, today was the farewell boat cruise put on by USAC. It was absolutely wonderful. We all got together at about 4:00 right by the river and got on a boat reserved just for our group. The professors, our USAC leaders, and everyone from sessions 1 and 2 were there and we had a blast. The food and drinks were free and boy were they good- I got my fill of fruits AND vegetables. I was such a happy girl. We took photos upon photos (I only took a few so I will fill you in with the rest later). It was bittersweet, of course, as it was, in essence, our goodbye. But we were not done with our day yet! A bunch of us then headed to get on the paddle boats on the Vltava river. There were 8 of us so we rented two 4 people boats and had a blast, watching the sunset while floating around. So beautiful. We then went to a beer garden near the amazing and huge metronome- it was such a neat place! It was like the other beer garden I have been to except bigger and filled with even more people. I got a hot chocolate (it was sub-par and hot as LAVA) and we all enjoyed each other's company so much, filling the time with the game "Never Have I Ever" and telling really embarrassing stories. I laughed so hard it hurt. Wonderful. I couldn't have asked for a better day. Tomorrow is our very last day together so it is packed with plans, just like today was. Until then, love to all!

To shake things up a little, I am going to do something I have been wanting to do in one of these posts for a while now- tell you about all the little things here in Prague (and Europe in general) that I have noticed as strange, wonderful, amusing, or completely off the wall. I hope you enjoy!

1) Many (and by many I mean the majority of) men here wear something we as a group have taken to calling "manpris." What are these, you ask? Picture a pair of women's capri pants. Got it? Okay. Now put them on a man. Yes- this happens everywhere! I first noticed a pair on one of the professors who came on the 5-day tour with us and I sort of just thought his pants were too short- perhaps he was really ready for a flood. Nope! Not the case. Men here just do it. All the time. Everywhere. I would like to say I am used to the idea by now but I simply am not. It is so strange to my little American eyes.

2) Bathrooms. Cost. Money. I cannot get over this- the one and ONLY time I have paid for a bathroom here was an accident. I walked in to a bathroom in the mall and was abruptly stopped by a grumpy woman who shot her hand under my nose and looked at me like I was a thief. I then saw the sign on the bathroom door- 5 Crowns (25 cents). With a sigh, I knew it was too late to turn back so I gave in and used this bathroom that had no toilet paper and a sink that hardly worked. Ugh. Never again, my friends.

3) The showers here are very small. They have a sort of half moon shape to them and they close around you by pulling two doors toward each other in the half circle that is the shower and shutting them magnetically. I'll just tell you that shaving is no simple task.

4) The parks in Prague are something I will never fully get used to- they are all huge, filled with grass, flowers, benches, and endless paths that go anywhere you could image. Maybe even Narnia. I would not be surprised. I have loved every moment spent in a park- they are where I would spend my alone time just drinking in the city and the people around me. If magic is real, it is in these parks.

5) Dryers simply don't exist here- you use a washing machine to wash your clothes (one that takes about an hour and a half and is called a "timesaver") and then you air dry them. Smart, really!

6) Everywhere I have been in Europe has been the same when it comes to driving; people drive as if, how do I explain it, as if there is an emergency WHEREVER they are going. Crossing any crosswalk has been a terrifying experience. Every time.

7) Everyone here drives a manual car- even the bus drivers. I love it. In addition, they are all small and good on gas; it, too, is fantastic. I saw a hummer the other day and did a double take- it was so out of place.

8) Every single store, mini markets (or potraviny in Czech) included, have bread and pastries sitting out for sale. The smell is amazing- I want to buy everything there. The only problem is I have no idea what anything is. So adventurous Janna steps forth and says, "Hopefully this one will be a good choice" as she randomly grabs whatever looks most delicious. For the most part, that tactic has worked out well.

8) Overall, people here are very brusque and quick to scowl- the smile I tend to have constantly plastered to my face does not fit very well here. The most random people have surprised me, though, including the wonderful elderly lately who gave me a candy at the bus stop the other day when I gave her my seat. (Yep, taking candy from a stranger.)

9) Instead of mayonnaise, butter is put on sandwiches. I no longer know which is more gross while still being oddly delicious.

10) Anywhere that music is being played (which is pretty much everywhere) it is being sung in English or is just simply a well-known American song. While I walked through Ikea, I was almost tricked into being back home. (On the way to Ikea, I danced and sang on the bus because a song I know and love came on. Embarrassing? Ha. No way.)

I could go on like this forever. Hopefully I will make plans to see many of you when I get home and we can talk about even more if you are interested. I have absolutely loved living here- it has been filled with fun, the occasional challenge, and and a huge amount of growth on my part. (Emotionally, not physically!) I will be back here someday.
So here I am on the balcony that is only accessible via our window. Weird, yeah? I looked over and there was a spider. spider face.
The amazing dinner I had on the boat cruise. mmmm I want it again.

Taken while boating- I love this place.

The view from the beer garden