July 2009


I am being punished for saying that I don’t do much at work.  With the amount of work I have today, I could easily be here until 11.  Luckily, I already have dinner plans at 6, so that’s too bad for the woman who just sent me 5 documents and said she needs them by the end of today, and can she send me a few more in an hour?

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I’d forgotten how long Sundays can feel when you don’t really know people wherever you are.  I have, luckily, already made some friends here, but found myself with no plans for today, despite a few halfhearted attempts to make contact.  It’s more of a restlessness than anything else–I’m not sad, just bored and wishing for company.  I know I’ve been bad at communicating with a lot of you (and this blog is a cheap way of alleviating some of that), but I appreciate so much everyone who has written back to me.  I promise, I’m going to be better about actually keeping in touch.

HPIM2087All of that aside, my friend Rosie (in an e-mail that I have yet to reply to…sorry!) pointed out that I haven’t really mentioned anything about my job.  Well, here goes.  The building I work in is around 500 years old, give or take, and is basically just a huge labyrinth.  I doubt that I’ll ever actually be able to find my way around it.  It’s very much like Prague itself, in that sense: I can find my way to my office, the kitchen, and the exit.  (Not even the main exit.  I only know how to get in and out through the back door.)

When I get to work, I usually have three or four e-mails that were sent at 3 am, asking me to have read and proofread them by an hour ago.  Most of what I do is proofreading e-mails–because the firm does a lot of international business, English is the common language, so it’s what they use most often.  After I’ve been in the office for about twenty minutes, I’ll get three to four more e-mails asking if I’ve read their original e-mails, and that I have to finish them RIGHT AWAY because they’re URGENT.   After this initial rush, I sit.  And I wait.  I read a book, I poke around on the internet, and I wait some more.  Then, someone sends me a 25 page document and says, “Can you have this done in an hour?”  Um, no.  No I can’t.  And so it goes for the rest of the day.  It’s not a bad job, though.  I can wear whatever I want, and I don’t really have a “boss.”  I can even work from home if I really want to, although I think I would be even less motivated if I ever tried that.

I actually don’t know what I’ll do if I ever have a job that requires me to wear dress clothes.  Everywhere I’ve worked–the publishing house, advertising agency, and law firm–has had no discernible dress code.  I would never go to work in jeans and a t-shirt, but I almost never wear jeans and a t-shirt, so that doesn’t really matter.

I don’t really have any stories about work yet.  No one has said or done anything particularly noteworthy, but I’m sure at some point I’ll have something to report.

HPIM2063In the meantime, here’s another picture of Aatu.

“So today in class my teacher kept talking about the dénouement , and so finally I had to ask her what she meant, and then I was like, ‘Ohhhh the de-now-ment!’ Because that’s like, how my teacher pronounced it when she taught it to me.”

If any teacher is telling you that it’s pronounced de-now-ment (how would you even get that from the spelling?), there’s a problem.

I wish that I spoke Czech.  I really do.  I’m tired already of going into stores and nodding and smiling as the cashier chats away, until the inevitable awkward moment when they say something that is clearly a question and I have to mumble, “Um…Nemluvím česky.”  Sorry, I don’t speak Czech. CIMG0727

After that, everyone is still nice to me, but it’s not quite the same.  There’s a deep-seated pride and nationalism that comes along with being Czech, and if you’re not Czech then…well, you’re just not.

I’ve been in the city for two weeks now, and I’m only just beginning to find my way around.  And really, by “find my way around” I mean “be able to get from my office to the grocery store/metro stop/falafel stand.”  Which is a lie anyway, because even though I’ve seen the falafel stand on numerous occasions, I’m incapable of finding it when I actually want to eat.  The streets here are all cobblestone, and there are still dozens of fearless Czech women who walk everywhere in heels.  I twisted my ankle this morning wearing my sandals.  You can get lost down the streets and walk in circles before you realize what you’re doing.

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The part of Prague where I live, Vinohrady, is beautiful.  The closest thing I can think of to compare it to (not in terms of looks, but in terms of atmosphere) is Lincoln Park in Chicago.  There are tons of restaurants and cafes around, and a large number of expats.  The apartment buildings are all huge and grand, with balconies and plaster embellishments on the outside.  I live directly across the street from a big park, and at the top of the hill you can see over the entire city, all the way to the castle on the other side of the river.  Every evening, the west side of the park fills up with people who just sit on the grass to watch the sun set over the city.  They read or talk or play with their dogs, but everyone is happy just to be outside.HPIM2069

My roommate has a dog, Aatu, who I use as an excuse to spend more time in the park.  He and I go for long walks so that I can get more familiar with my new neighborhood.  The thing about being here is that despite the language barrier and the sudden loss of a support system (that being college), I haven’t been lonely here yet.  Not like I was when I lived in New York, anyway.  I’m actually looking forward to being here for a year, when I thought that I would have to resign myself to it.  Despite not speaking Czech, and constantly getting lost, and accidentally buying sour cream instead of yogurt, I don’t think about the time passing here at all.  Hopefully that’s a good thing.

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