Monday, March 2, 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mas krasnyho psa

Saturday was a really relaxing day. I woke up and went for a run - thanks, Aubrey... you inspired me! - and then met Ricarda at Palladium just to hang out. Ricarda's from Germany and last semester was her first experience in an English-speaking country, so she's not yet that
comfortable with her English. That being said, she normally doesn't chime in when we all go out - kind of like me in Trujillo this past time almost breaking out into a sweat trying to understand my Spanish compañeras speaking a mile a minute, haha. So, we went to Palladium to do some shopping for her sister and just talked for a long time. And then we got some gelato and talked some more.

That night we first headed over to the Czech Inn for some cheap Chinese dinner and some hanging out while we decided what to do. I've been really tired lately, so I just hung out on the couch talking to Philip, who was staying in to do some work. But eventually it was time to go to
Chapeau Rouge, my favorite place! We took a cab and had to negotiate pretty passionately before we got in. Travel Tip for anybody going to Prague: Always settle on a price BEFORE the driver starts driving, otherwise you're probably gonna get screwed! Cab #1 and Cab #2 arrived
safely at the bar, but Cab #3 was nowhere to be found. (We would later discover that the driver had turned on some porn on his mini TV and had distracted the boys, driving them all around the city. A cab ride, which should have cost 150 K? ended up costing over 300 K!!! and they
even made the driver stop about a mile away from the bar!)

I wasn't really in the mood for a beer, so while the rest of the group was at the bar, I was scanning the crowd looking for a good group of people to talk to. I noticed a girl walk right by me - she looks like Neve Campbell!! - but it probably wasn't - I mean, what would she be doing
in Prague? And then a tall black man with a goatee walked by -- OMG, the guy from Law and Order!!! I knew it was too much of a coincidence for two people who looked exactly like two famous people to not actually be the famous people. So I looked again and asked an opinion. Confirmation!

Now, I'm the kind of person that gets super excited when she sees (notice how I didn't say "meets"?) a famous person, but I also don't want them to see me freak out so I always - because it happens to me so much, haha - glance quickly at them and then ignore them the rest of
the night. As I went to walk downstairs, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

"Toalety?" Neve Campbell asked me. As it was a bit confusing to explain in a bar, I kind of guided her towards the hallway and told her which way to go. And then I added, "Wow, that's pretty awesome that you're learning Czech."

To which she replied, "Haha (she actually laughed), I don't speak Czech. That's the only word I know. I just figured you were Czech."
And I didn't have anything else to say, so I just said, "Ok. Have a good night!? And went on to enjoy the rest of my evening. And I was glad I wasn't her because as soon as she came out of the bathroom, she was swarmed by people taking her picture, or asking to take a picture with her, or just saying crazy things and eventually the whole group of famous people, their protectors, and their friends just left.

Meanwhile, I was downstairs dancing and having a great time until Max, one of Yann's friends, decided it was a good idea to act like a middle-schooler and start pulling at my hat. I don't know how many times it was yanked off my head until I finally just forgot about it and went down to the bottom floor, three levels underground. But I couldn't escape him! My hat had miraculously landed back on my head and as soon as this realization dawned on me it was snatched off
again. It was slightly ridiculous, so Kevin and I went back upstairs, hung out for a hot minute and went home around 3 am (a shabby showing for anybody in our program, but at least it wasn't before 2, right?).

Sunday morning I woke up at 10:40. Jess was supposed to be at our flat by 10:30 - which apparently she was - and we were going to walk to Sv. Tomae for mass - which was twenty minutes away. I threw on some clothes and we took off running. We were only 10 minutes late, but I'm so glad we went. I know you don't go to a mass for the pleasure of marveling at the actual architectural structure, but it was breathtaking! It was established on 1 July 1285 by King Vaclav II and oh my God! The decorations inside, just the size of the whole structure, incredible! The service was a bit difficult to understand - last week the minister was actually from England whereas this week, the priest was a Czech man speaking in English, but still, very moving. We also got a special blessing in the name of Saint Blaise of Sebaste, Armenia. He was a bishop martyr who is invoked against illnesses of the throat. So, I guess I won't have to worry about getting sick!

After church, Jess and I met up with Kevin and went back to Palladium for some desert. We talked for hours until I decided that desert wasn't enough nourishment for me and we headed home to eat.

That night we met up with Laura and her parents at Café Louvrer so they could meet us. It started out pretty awkward, when Ricarda invited me, I don't think she planned on me bringing ALL of my roommates. But I didn't know - and the more the merrier, right?

The next morning, I woke up and went for a run - this time exiting the safety of my side of the Vltava River. I ran by Sv. Tomae again and then up some huge stairs. I didn't think they were going to end! At the top, I was soooo tired that I had to stop and actually gasp for breath. And then I leisurely walked back down the hill before continuing my run home. People running outside is apparently a huge anomaly over here, so I try to run as fast as possible when I get to
the alleyways.

Then I went to the Kafka Museum with my Czech class. Outside was an amazing sculpture by my new favorite artist, David Yerný - the guy responsible for the Entropa sculpture that got everybody talking over here earlier in January. The one at the Kafka Museum, though, is of
two guys who have rotating pelvises and penises that move up and down that urinate on a map of the Czech Republic. Sounds crude, but honestly, it's sweet. When it was first unveiled, you could text in to some number and the two guys would spell out the text with their urine. Anyway, the Kafka Museum had an amazing layout. I'm so glad I read Metamorphosis (Prom?na) beforehand, just to help me understand him a little better. Definitely a place to visit if you can.

Yesterday was crazy busy compared to the total day of sleep I had on Monday. After class, Michelle and I headed straight to our internship at Civic Concepts International. We arrived probably at the worst possible time. The Internet had shut down, the hard drive had crashed,
and only one of the people there spoke fluent Czech - although the other two are pretty amazing at it for being Anglophones. Eventually we were connected via Ethernet cables and back online. We were given our set of keys, our own e-mail addresses ( -
pretty legit, huh? ? and a schedule was made. Wait a second? It's my first day, and my schedule says that I'm in the office ON MY OWN from 10:00 - 16:00 on Fridays? Really? Ok, whatev. And we started organizing some spreadsheets with contact information, working on a pictorial representation of where the students come from on a world map, and organizing the first batch of acceptance letters. About five hours later, we decided enough was enough and headed home before girls night.

This girls' night was pretty relaxing too. I think everyone is

a) recovering from the past weekend,
b) actually starting to have to do some work in this program, and
c) storing up some energy for this weekend when Michelle's friends come from NYC and Barcelona for her birthday. We ate some dinner, watched Gossip Girls, raided a pile of clothes destined for charities and headed home to get some sleep.

Today I went for another run, then to class, then to Amnesty for internship numero dos, where I finally had some work besides proofreading Czech translations into English. Wait for it - wait for
it - I organized letters by date and filed them. Followed by cleaning out the storage closet and recycling all of the out of date material. Then I sat at a computer for about 2 hours doing something - I'm not really sure? I think I need to improve my Czech so I know what I'm actually doing - and then I had to sprint to class. Tonight we're laying low too, I think?

ja te miluji - it means 'i love you'

Keeping with tradition, we didn't really leave the house on Sunday. Kevin, Jessica and I went to church in the morning. The church we were in was built in the 11th century, which was pretty apparent when I got into my pew, went to take off my jacket and realized there was no heating. In -5 Celsius weather, give me a break! We stayed huddled together for warmth for the next hour and half and when it was time to kneel, we knelt on weathered wood that surely had been replaced since the church had been built, but even though it had been worn smooth, it was also starting to splinter from the wear and tear. For receiving the Eucharist, rather than just walk up and turn back around, we entered the apse for Communion. It was actually really breathtaking, even for people who wouldn't normally go to church. Just to feel the history!

I spent the rest of the just hanging out at the house and Kevin finally cooked for us! It was the perfect meal – tomato soup and tomato, onion and grilled cheese sandwiches. Perfect after a weekend of demasiado! We had class early the next morning (11:15) so we called it a night pretty early as we had to catch up on the lack of sleep from the past couple of days. I woke up early and went for a run – Rachel, Laura and I decided to train for a half marathon in Prague in March – along the Charles Bridge. Its like when I would run along the Battery in Charleston, you just have to take a second to realize that you actually live there. It's THAT incredible! In our Czech class we learned some food vocabulary and decided to take our chances by going to a restaurant called Český kuchyně, which is actually just a cheap cafeteria-style restaurant in then city center. I told myself I would only talk in Czech to the people that worked there, thinking at the very least I could point to whatever I wanted to eat. Unfortunately, the food looked so similar from station to station that I couldn't tell which didn't have meat… so I had to pull out a phrase from week one… Jsem vegetariánska. Nejím maso… to which I was pointed to the očková polévka – Aubrey's favorite lentil soup. Laura, the other vegetarian in our group, decided to just try in English. The lady behind the counter pointed to the dishes and said potato and something unintelligible, but when Laura heard potato she figured it was a safe vegetarian bet. We sat down to eat and at the first bite her eyes snapped up in surprise. MEAT??!?!?! Ridiculous, right?

That night we went back to the Czech Inn for some Trivia where I dazzled my teammates by knowing the name of the Winnie the Poo creator's son – Christopher Robbin, the names of all seven of Snow White's dwarf friends, and who Martin Scorsese and Janis Joplin are. Beyond that, I wasn't much help…

The next day we were starving after classes but were sick of always buying chocolate bars from across the street. We wanted something else so we settled on some salsa and bagel chips (the Tobacco across the street didn't have tortilla chips). We got upstairs and opened the bagel chips, but when it came time to open the salsa we couldn't no matter how hard all three of us tried! At least it was a good excuse to talk to our neighbors, right? Michelle and I knocked on our neighbors' door – we knew there were two American girls and two English guys living there and were hoping that one of the guys could help us out. Unfortunately, no guys there, but Kacey was and she knew a trick to opening the bottle – but I can't tell you guys… it's a secret! We also met Angela and I'm so glad we did! They told us about a place that offers free sangria for ladies on Tuesday nights and just basically we lucked out with neighbors. Kacey even stopped by on Saturday. Tuesday was also the inaugural TAMily girls' night in Prague, including two of the Euromaster girls. We brought over some frozen pizzas, Antoniya brought an amazing salad, and Jess had two huge plates of caprese salad, some wine, coffee, and hot chocolate for me! Since Gossip Girls took a one week hiatus, we didn't have our traditional TV episodes to watch, but we persevered and watched Penelope instead. That's the movie where Christina Ricci's character is cursed and born with a pig nose – it also has James McAvoy in it, so of course it was an amazing movie!

Wednesday was another quiet day – or at least it was supposed to be. Jess and I finished up our corrections of the Czech translations at Amnesty International on Wednesday, so Leona gave us the rest of the week off and we go back next Wednesday. We were bored in our apartment, so we decided to meet Toby for some drinks. We all went to the same sketchy bar we went to when we met up with Ty McGee, the very strange ghost tour guide from Florida. And guess who was there when we opened the door into that cold cellar bar! Actually, don't guess… it was Ty. Sitting at a table by himself, smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer. He seemed in a surly mood, but as soon as he recognized us –it took a second – he was jumping up and talking a mile a minute. If I could imagine a door-to-door salesman, Ty would put them to shame! After freezing our asses off, we ducked out of that bar and went to Fat Boys, the same bar we went to the first time we met our Euromasters friends. We got a SMS from the Czech Inn group of boys saying they were coming down our way, so rather than retiring to the apartment, we went across the street to Chapeau Rouge for some awesome music!

I had up until that point resisted drinking, but I couldn't any longer! They had Staropramen dark on tap, what was I supposed to do??? By the time the guys got there, Michelle, Rachel, Toby and I were already tearing up the dance floor… we figured other people would decide to dance when they saw what a great time we were having. And by dancing, I mean I was doing some great moves, and when I saw great moves, I mean I was jumping up and down and flashing my spirit fingers. That's right, I brought it on – and then some! Eventually I had to go to the bathroom and you know how girls always make friends in the bathroom… well, I met this girl from Slovakia named Sonya. She pulled me to her table where her brother and boyfriend were sitting. They had moved to the Czech Republic when their father died, their mother was still in Slovakia and her brother, Dany, had moved to Manchester and was back on holiday. They were so nice! I basically ditched my Euromaster friends and talked to them to whole night. But unfortunately, day time has a nasty habit of sneaking up on you and eventually we HAD to leave.

Just to set the stage on the walk home, Rachel had given up eating food late-night last Saturday, so we should have just walked straight home. But Rachel was like, "wow, Sarah… you look hungry. I think you should eat…" I answered, "Rachel, you know I'm always up for eating. I know you gave it up last week, but I REALLY need you to come with me to get some food now… You might as well help me eat it… It'd be a great favor!" So we started walking towards a falafel restaurant when these two guys overheard us talking about gyros and said they could show us a great restaurant. Their names are Alexey and Alexandre – Alex and Alex from Russia. Alex # 1 had moved to the Czech Republic and had taught himself English. Alex # 2 didn't speak a word. We probably walked around for about 45 minutes, just chatting it up and never getting any closer to any sort of open restaurant, but after exchanging numbers – I was actually hungry by this point – we went to the falafel restaurant and then home – where Michelle was making French fries. So we ate again and went to bed around 5:30. Hey, we needed our beauty rest before our interview the next day with another internship!

Thursday morning we headed to the Jiriho Z Podebrad metro stop to meet Bill from Civic Concepts International. If you want to, skip this paragraph, I'm just going to gush about how perfect a fit this internship is for me! Basically, everyone in this program has huge dreams – be a diplomat, become a CEO for some governmental organization, work as an analyst at the Pentagon, vault through the levels at the World Bank to become one of the "important people" and here I am, masquerading as a masters student, but really only looking for a free pass to Europe and a way to meet a ton of new people. And how great that Civic Concepts was founded by a guy fresh from college who just wanted to start an NGO so that people could meet up, hang out and realize that we really can all get along! The main purpose is through two conferences a year where 300 students come to Prague and meet each other. A conservative cadet from the Citadel can meet a young girl from Mogadishu who cannot really speak English and they can make a connection. This connection could inspire them to get involved. This organization facilitates the cross-cultural exchange of ideas and it fosters international relationships… even though it's on a small scale, in my opinion, it is the way to better the world one meeting at a time. And Michelle and I are going to be organizing the IYLN so that all of the alumnus can stay connected. Just finally we have a purpose here!

That night, we headed out to Prague 2 for some cheap vegetarian cuisine. And then to a bar for some drinks with the girls. And then out. Yann's friends from Canada were in town for the weekend so it was basically obligatory to do out. We headed to Radost again for Hip Hop night and I tore up the dance floor again, but this time I was legitimately dancing. (At least I'm gonna pretend I was…) I can normally dance until around 3:30/4:00 before my knee screams at me to stop… which it did on Thursday night too, but I ignored it… I was having way too much fun! (The next day I was basically confined to my chair for most of the day, but so worth it) Around 5:30, Rachel and I decided to go. We thought we were gonna have to walk all the way home, but fortunately we found out the metro opens at 5:00, so we were saved!

Yesterday was another day of relaxation until about 22:00. We went to Red Hot and Blues for dinner, Lorrie – the owner – is also partners with Bill at Civic Concepts, where we got to listen to some amazing blues before we headed home to start the pregame session. All the Euromasters came over and even our neighbor Kacey and her friend – all I remember about him is that he's from Virginia – and two bottles of vodka, one bottle of whiskey, several Budweiser Budvors, two bottles of Božkov (which some girl on the metro had given to Jack) later, we headed to Roxy for some electronica. I stayed until about 2:30 and then made my way home … where I slept … peacefully … until 5:00 when Michelle came running in.

"Jack was arrested!!!!!!" she began before struggling to get her breath back. "Remember when we stole that pole, Sarah?" – Yes – "Well, Jack and I tried to steal another one. And we brought it on the metro with us" – You should be arrested for that – "And then the police officers grabbed him and threw him into a van… But they wouldn't take me… I don't speak čeština so I tried French but they would only speak in Czech. And I couldn't get into the van" – Thank God! – "So I ran home. I need to find a police station. I need to find out where he is!"

Internet research wasn't fruitful so she threw on her coat to run to the police station across the street from our apartment. Rachel and I tried to calm her down… what can they really do about an attempted crime, he'd probably only spend the night in jail if he really was arrested, right? And she was starting to get annoyed with us… "It's not funny" – yeah, we know… but actually, it kinda is… - "I have to find him!" – what are you really gonna do… you're wasted!

By some miracle, he called in the next couple of minutes to say he'd been released. So Michelle laughed and ran out of the apartment to meet him. And I went to bed.

Let's see if tonight can match the past couple of nights!

A woman - and her child - wait - for a bus...

*For new people to the list, my blog site is having some technical
difficulties.. or rather, I am... so bare with me and just enjoy this
past week... I'll have the old posts up again soon!*


And now...

Sunday was my Rest and Relaxation Day, Rachel and I woke up and went
for a run around the Old City. And I guess people don?t run outside in
below freezing weather because we were getting stares everywhere we
went. We crossed the Charles Bridge, BIG MISTAKE, it was like the
Cooper River Bridge Run for anybody who?s ever done that. More like a
video game trying to find the right path and avoid the hazards (also
known as tourists). After about an hour, the cold air was burning my
lungs and my knee felt a tad bit arthritic, so we headed back to the
house. Michelle and I cleaned ? sounds kind of lackluster, but
definitely a much needed respite! I did some Skyping with family and
friends, downloaded MSN to talk to my amigos en España, and after
dinner went to bed. I needed my beauty sleep before the first day of

Marta, our Czech teacher, walked into the room began spewing out a
whole mess of Czech: ?Dobrý den, Jak se máte? Jak se jmenujete? Odkud
jste? Co d?láte? Líbí se ti v Praze?? And then told us that Czech
isn?t that hard to learn. Yeah, right. But actually, there are only
three tenses in Czech ? as she said, yesterday, today and tomorrow ? so
that?s great, and once you learn the changes to the words (you decline
and conjugate every noun, verb and adjective in the sentence) and learn
the vocabulary it should be fine. I can say that I?m a vegetarian and
I don?t eat meat ? Jsem vegetariánska. Nejím maso ? and that it is
unfortunate that I do not speak Czech ? Bohu?el nemluvím ?esky. It?s
so much fun to learn and just to see if you can sound somewhat
proficient. After class, we headed to lunch at a sit down restaurant,
which I will never do again. Antoniya and I sat down, deciding to only
talk in Czech, even if we butcher it. ?Dobrý den. Jak se jmenujete?
Dám si pasta mediterranea. Prosím. T??í mé.? His name was Honza. I
ordered Mediterranean pasta. I got Mediterranean pasta ? without the
pasta. But he was too adorable to say anything, and I had already
decided to only use Czech. Maybe when it?s a little better I?ll get
pasta with my Mediterranean!

That night we headed to the Czech Inn to hang out with the Euromasters
for Trivia Night. I was on Philip, Jack and Yann?s team. The first
two sections went pretty well ? Name the famous monster from a movie,
Identify the international codes on the back of European cars ? and
then we got to Current Events (you?d think that Political Science
Masters students would get that, but how was I supposed to know how
long Boy George?s prison sentence was for handcuffing his callboy to
the bed?) and finally, Name that Tune. We got ZERO! A little after
that, Jess, Kevin and I made our way home. I can?t get too crazy ALL

The next morning, I woke up around 9:05 with class beginning at 9:30.
We ran to Just?s class, just a little late, and suffered through a
class centered on the question, ?What do YOU know about Czech
politics?? Now, this question would have been easier if we could have
talked about the new Czech Presidency for the EU? but NO!!! We had to
only talk about Czech politics and not how it fits in with the EU. So,
the class was like trying to pull teeth. Before the next class, the
some of us went to Hard Rock Café Praha to try and get a job there. We
met McGee, who works there a couple days a week to stay legal, and
found out that we needed a work permit to work in the Czech Republic.
I guess that makes sense. But we tried to talk the manager out of it,
especially since Czech signed a deal with US saying we no longer need
visas between our two countries. No dice. But McGee said he had some
under the table work for us. Check this out! Ghost tour-pub crawl
tour guides!!! We get to dress up in that scary ghost makeup stuff,
tell ghost stories about Prague (and oh yes! I already bought a Prague
Ghost Story book to read before bed) and then take the group out to the
bars. It?s only a couple days a week and we meet with him tomorrow to
see if that?ll work out. Then Jess and I went to Amnesty International
to see about an internship. The girl we met, Leona, said there were no
opportunities and when we turned to walk out in disappointment, after
thanking her of course, she told us to wait. She needed help with
correcting translations into English that her Czech translators had
done. We were to start on Wednesday!

The next class with Ivo was actually really interesting, my favorite!
People were actually participating even though we were learning new
things. He was really good at directing us in the right direction. On
an aside, I?ve never been a fan of French accents? they just don?t do
it for me. But we have a French guy in our class, Yann, who really
isn?t my type, and for some reason, when he talked, I just melted!
Please say ANYTHING to me? please! Hahaha, we hang out with Yann and
his roommates all the time, so I guess I?ll get my chance to hear him
talk again? if I?m lucky ? Speaking of hanging with the Euromasters,
we headed back to Czech Inn to watch the Presidential Inauguration of
Barack Obama. Don?t judge him, he couldn?t hear the guy as he was
being sworn in! There were several tables of Americans and everybody
was cheering and applauding! Even the foreigners at the bar were
excited! The only bad part of the whole thing was the American poet at
the end. Really America? Come on! ?A woman *pause* and her son
*pause* wait *pause* for a bus?? - ?They picked cotton *pause* and
*pause* lettuce in *pause* the fields?. You get the drift. The great
sentiment of pride in our nation was replaced by snickering. The
foreigners once again had that smug look ? stupid Americans! And we
turned out heads away from the TV and back to our beer. We hung out
for a couple more hours with some of the Euromasters and then headed

Wednesday was pretty relaxing too. We woke up late ? again! ?but
Michelle and I made it to class with seconds to spare. It was our only
class all day, from 9:30 to 11:00, but afterwards Jess and I headed to
Amnesty to start our work. Leona handed us a stack of 30 translations
to correct. I was planning on doing a little revision here, a
grammatical correction there, checking it off and reading the next.
But we had to give them an actual grade, 1-5, and mark our revisions as
G (grammatical error), S (stylistic problem), M (unclear meaning). The
first article alone took 35 minutes for 3 paragraphs! We worked for
about 2,5 hours and by that time my brain was fried! We took the
corrections to her and told her we?d be back the next day. Leona said
we had done a great job and asked us to go over the grades we had given
to the translators. It turns out she has 150 translators on staff and
once we are done, based on our grades, 75 of them will be FIRED! Talk
about a lot of pressure!

On Thursday, Jess and I had to go back to Amnesty. I was planning on
having a productive morning ? you know, gym, shower, catching up on
emails ? but I finally got through to Tyler. Talk about a small world?
a guy I met for a couple of days two years ago who lives in Hawaii and
one of my friends from high school who has never even met him ran into
him one day on vacation, they actually talked, made the connection? and
it was too random to not give him a call. It was very exciting on my
part? and so I blew working out off ? again.

I headed to Amnesty to do a little work before class and after class we
decided to walk towards Prague Castle and find some food. The open air
market was a bust and so we ended up settling on a little café and
finished with just enough time to make it to our meeting with Ty McGee.

To put this in perspective, earlier in the day Jess had been a little
paranoid and said that she hadn?t gotten a great vibe from McGee when
we met him and that she expected him to take us to one of those hole in
the wall bars where you have to go below ground (actually not that
atypical in Prague) where the only other people in there besides us
would be the employees and the smell of stale beer, cigarette and
marijuana smoke would dominate. But we had Kevin with us ? all 6 ft. 5
in. of him ? so with no fear we went to meet McGee. And he took us to
this off the main square bar. And we descended a couple of floors
down. Nobody but a few of the guys who worked there. And the smell of
horticulture filled the space. But rather than robbing us like Jess
had predicted, McGee bought us a beer and asked us about ourselves.
But to be honest, he still didn?t convince me that he was someone I
could trust.

We ended up going on a ghost tour with him and his stories came
straight out of a book. How do I know? I bought that book at the
Museum of Communism when I was there last week. So good! I read three
or four legends every night before I go to bed. It was freezing by the
time he finished and all I wanted to do was go home and curl up in my
bed, but the girls had other plans and we ended up heading over to
Ricarda, Toby and Laura?s flat on Londynská St for some pregaming. As
I was still recovering from my December and early January excesses, I
didn?t participate and so deprived of my liquid courage, we all headed
to a Hip Hop Club around the corner. For all of you guys who know my
awesome dance moves? the crowd was not disappointed. I jumped and
hopped around, I bet people even thought I choreographed my dancing!
Ha, just kidding? Philip came up to me and was like, ?Sarah, you know
you actually need to touch people when you dance with them? and jumping
is not a dance move, right?? To which I kindly replied, ?I don?t like
dancing with people much? I rather prefer my own company. It?s too
painful to make other people participate.? But we tried to dance?
together? me being 5ft 2in and him being 6ft 7in definitely presented a
challenge, but it kinda worked. After about 3 hours my knee was
killing me, so I went to sit down on the couches. Andy was there, so
we shot the breeze for a while and then he came at me with, ?So, Sarah,
how do you plan on changing the world?? I laughed nervously and said,
?I dunno, I guess I?ll try and live a good life and hope that my life
has a positive impact on somebody else?? Pretty deep, I thought?
until he told me that he was serious? what plans did I have to make the
world a better place? I knew he was just waiting for me to ask him to
tell me HIS plans, but to be honest? I didn?t care. So I just told him
that 4:00 in the morning at a dance club where he was high and drunk
was definitely NOT the place for this conversation and I would much
rather just sit back and watch people stumble around while I waited for
my knee to feel better. So he got up and moved to the other side of
our table.

I leaned back and closed my eyes, taking in a deep breath while I
relaxed for probably the first time in 5 hours. Then I heard Philip.
?What fascinates you, Sarah?? Umm? it doesn?t take much? traveling?
Romantic comedies? Books? Robert Pattinson?

?No, Sarah? I know you are much deeper than that? what fascinates you?
What is something that interests you?? Ok, fine?. I like to watch how
people act with their parents? you can almost always tell what kind of
person they are by how they interact with their parents.

Our deep and meaningful conversation was interrupted by Andy, ?Ok
Sarah, you can have a serious conversation with Philip, but not with
me? That is so typical. It always happens like that. *Explicative*!?
I looked at him and told him to grow up and stop being pathetic? if
that?s what he really thinks, don?t whine about it, because now I
DEFINITELY don?t want to talk? and I hobbled off to the dance floor to
impress the masses with my one legged Karate Kid Crane dance moves ? my
knee hadn?t had time to feel better.

Around 5:30 we decided to head back home. We crashed at Ricarda?s and
it was wonderful. A room with windows that actually have shutters,
rather than the windows I have that basically welcome the sun as soon
as it breaks the horizon.

We got home in time to clean up, eat, shower, and invite over the
Euromasters for my first legit Absinth night. Sugar cubes and
everything. Way over rated. It was disgusting? each sip had my face
contorted in horrible ways that I don?t want anybody to ever see again
? oh wait? pictures were taken? but I WILL find a way to delete them
before they make their way to facebook!

Then we headed to this other bar, not quite sure what it?s called? that
was playing ?Dub? music ? according to my French friend ? or
?Industrial? music ? as described by my American friend. Either way,
it was pretty amazing. Apparently Dub music began in London in the
Rastafarian community when they tried to make reggae more club
appropriate ? and so they added the electronica bits. It was actually
very awesome, just way too many people crammed into such a small space.
The room was really dark and there were metal doodads hanging from
the ceiling and from the walls. It looked like in the Matrix when
those metal pod things were trying to break into the ship. Like
metallic insects the size of microwaves crawling along the wall.
Pretty freaky?. So I went upstairs to talk to everybody who was still
at the table. I had a great time, I talked to people I hadn?t really
talked with much before from the program and even people that I talk to
pretty regularly, we had our own conversations. I completely lost
track of time and for the first time since I got here, I wasn?t the one
saying we should go? or at least agreeing that home was a better
alternative than staying at the club. But since I had NO clue where I
was in Prague (I think there are 10 Prague neighborhoods ? I live in
Prague 1 and I have friends in Prague 8, 2, 10 and 6 although I have no
concept of where those actually are yet) ? I headed home with the
roommates. Tomorrow I think will be a low key night.

Life at Beneditská

I looked at my wristwatch when I woke up. 12:00. Again! I haven't been able to wake up at a decent time since I got here. Maybe it's some sort of survival mechanism to deal with the blistering cold? Jess was supposed to be at our apartment in a half hour to go to our orientation. I showered and got ready as fast as I could and when Jess got here, we went for a walk to find her some passport photos and then headed to Rytirská 31 for our first meeting with the Euromasters. There were eight new faces for us!!! 1 French guy, 1 Bulgarian girl, 1 Belgian girl, 1 German girl, 1 Polish/Canadian guy, and 3 German guys… it was definitely awkward at first. The Euromasters sat on one side of the table and the TransAtlantic Masters sat on the other. I think both of us were trying to decide if the other would be fun, if they would be overachievers, or if we would stay completely out of each other's way. But after the meeting we seemed eager to make new friendships and we all headed to a bar right around the corner from our apartment. And we went straight back to elementary school, going around in a circle saying our names, where we were from, our favorite color, and one interesting fact about each of us. Sarah, America, used to be green but now it's purple, and I had a seizure in the Sahara. I think the pivo definitely helped to break the ice.

That night we went to dinner at Staročeska Krčma and it was our first adventure outside of Praha 1. We hadn't had the chance to get our metro cards yet so it took us a second to figure out even how to pay for one ticket. It turns out that you buy a ticket and walk through without even doing anything. There really is no way for them to even know that you bought a ticket. You walk through (no gates or anything), get on the metro, get off, no gates. Then we got to the restaurant and had an authentic Czech meal. My only option – pasta with a blue cheese sauce. It was actually really delicious, or maybe I was just starving! The Euromasters students came and we all chatted for hours. Charles University picked up the tab and at the end of the night, we headed back to the metro.

Remember how I said that there was really no way to prove if you'd paid for your metro ride? We got to Dejvicka metro stop and I noticed several Czech men leaning over the banister, "reading" a book or doing other things that looked "normal". It reminded of a Bourne movie or something where everyone is undercover and you don't know what people are actually doing. Michelle and I got kind of nervous and decided to shell out the extra 18 Kč. Kevin didn't. When we got off at Mustek, we were almost home free when this guy in a huge jacket came over to us, flashing a tarnished looking badge. We thought he was trying to sell us some relic from the past so we just waved him off and said, "No, we don't want. No thank you. Really, we don't want. No!" And finally we understood, he wasn't a street vendor trying to make a buck, he was saying "Ticket." Kind of sheepishly, we showed him our tickets. Then it was Kevin's turn. He tried to show the guy a used one, but he was wise to our games. Rather than paying the 18 Kč, Kevin had to pay the guy 750 Kč (roughly equal to $35! Kevin didn't have the money and so the ticket guy 'kindly' took him to the nearest Bankomat – after having relieved Kevin of his ID and other credit card. Needless to say, we learned our lesson and Kevin and I went home while Michelle and Rachel met up with our Euromaster friends.

That next morning when I walked into the kitchen, I came upon a strange scene. Michelle was sleeping on the kitchen floor with her mattress on the ground! It turns out things had gotten quite exciting the night before and Yann from France was in the other bedroom with Rachel. Just a fun night of PG making out, but still GO TAMILY!!! Once again, I woke up with barely enough time to get ready before heading to Jinonice for the Library orientation.

The library is probably the most confusing thing I've ever come across. There are two libraries, only one you can actually check books out from. You can't bring in bags, cell phones, laptops or jackets. You put all of that in a locker and then carry your notebooks around with you. We have 3 different passwords for three different things – don't even bother asking me what those passwords do. Then we went home to rest again before starting to pregame.

Circle of Death with Jim Beam is always good, right? Well, good in comparison with the Circle of Death with Absinth that Jack, Phillip, Yann and Andy brought over. After drinking until about 1:30, we headed to Roxy. Roxy is an amazing discothèque we had read about on the internet and had wanted to go to since arriving in Prague. When we GoogleMapped it, we found that it was less than 100 m from our flat! So, rather than being encumbered with huge winter jackets, we took off running to the disco where we danced until about 5:30 – on tables, on chairs, on the stage, with sketchy Czech guys that Toby had to save me from, laying across Yann and Andy while they played the drums on my stomach… crazy night! So by 5:30 my feet were killing me and I had had enough! Rachel and I skipped out and tried to go to the Cellar Bar (it has a real name, but I don't ever remember it, so I renamed it. When you go to Prague, do NOT look for Cellar Bar, it doesn't exist!) and we thought it was closed, so we went home. Michelle came walking in around 6:30 and neither of us were tired, so we talked, watched Grey's Anatomy and ate some risotto before passing out, with every intention of being productive when we woke up.

And we woke up with enough time to shower and get some groceries from Alberts before we were supposed to meet Jess at her apartment to bake a cake for Antoniya's Name Day. Of course one of those cake in a box things would be easier than making a "from scratch" cake, right? Wrong! The directions were in Czech and the numbers didn't match up with what we thought was typical in America. So we translated word by word. Teaspoon – Check! Veg – Must mean vegetable oil? 6 somethings of that oil – 2 tablespoons, right? And ,2 L of water? How many grad students does it take to figure out that ,2 L is 4/5 cup? 4!! But we were successful and the cake was ready for Antoniya's dinner.

We went home to get ready, planning on dressing up to the 9s. For those of you who don't know, Antoniya is our Bulgarian TAM student. She is probably the most extravagant person you will ever meet. She's kind of like a Russian princess, if they had those still. A different coat for every occasion, manicures and massages whenever she wants, a REAL ESTATE AGENT to find her an apartment in Prague and just an air of expensiveness. So we wanted to impress.

Just for reference, the first several days Michelle and I were here, we went out in thick leggings, jeans, 2-3 pairs of socks, 2-3 layers of shirts, sweaters, jackets, plus a winter coat, gloves, a scarf and a hat just to stay comfortable. Apparently it doesn't take that long to get acclimated because last night we were in dresses with stockings, heels and just one jacket. My nose didn't even sting with the cold. Be impressed!

We get to Antoniya's apartment she shares with Randy, her boyfriend and are greeted by amazing smells. A full Name Day dinner had been prepared – with brussels sprouts, potatoes and a Bulgarian salad for me! Everything was so nice. Cocktails followed by wine followed by champagne from Russia and Bulgarian music to set the mood. Three of the Euromasters students came over to celebrate too. It was a great night! But we had to head home before midnight when the metro stops.

Oh wait... I LIVE here!

My tale begins from the moment I left my sister in Sevilla. A little after 4:30 in the morning, armed with a steaming travel mug of hot chocolate and a fresh shower, I hopped into the taxi outside Viriato to go to the airport. My driver was very talkative and we found our common interest in futbol – very surprising in Spain – and I talked until I got to the airport. When we arrived he asked me – in Spanish – if I knew the price for the ride. I did, Fuschia had told me the night before that the most she has paid is 23 euro. So I said between 20 and 23 euro and he said quite emphatically, no! It costs 27 euro. We argued back and forth and finally I just reached into my pocket in exasperation and paid the man. Then he asked for dos besos and in my early morning state I just figured, why not? It's my last chance to do my favorite Spanish custom for a while. I went in for the kisses and then when I went to exit the taxi he asked for two more. Strange, but sure… I guess. I should have known to stop when I was ahead. Kiss number one – no problem. Kiss number two – fine, I guess. Then he stuck out his tongue and went to grab the back of my neck to lock me in for something quite untraditional. Fortunately, I'm pretty quick, especially in those types of situations, and quickly extracted myself from the car. Called him a name and turned my back to enter the airport. Where I waited for about an hour before the ClickAir counter was even open. Then I flew to Barcelona where I found out that ClickAir doesn't do transfers and I would have to recheck in.

I was kind of frustrated because the maximum weight for bags for international travel is 23 kg and I had squeaked by with 23,5 kg in Sevilla. I hadn't wanted to push my luck. So as I was toting my life around with me all I was thinking about was how to convince the person behind the counter to let me by with the 0,5 kg extra. In such a state, I didn't realize that standing right in front of me was Michelle!!! My roommate for the Czech Republic. We were supposed to meet in Barcelona, but I thought we would just see each other at the terminal. It was so great catching up with her and running into one of her friends at the terminal who was on his way to Oslava via Prague. Wow, it's a very small world, right?

We got to the airport and had to wait around for Jana Weagová, our landlady to find us. We were speaking in Spanish with Julio and I think she assumed we were Spanish from that point. To make us feel comfortable, she tried her hand at her limited Spanish. She had been to Spain a lot – Marbella, anybody – and wants to go to Mexico at some point. We took the scenic route to our apartment and had to park a bit away because of the lack of parking. By the time I did actually get to the apartment, I was sucking wind. 23,5 kg AND another 15,0 kg or so AND a purse kind of weighs you down. After relaxing for a little bit, Michelle and I went for a walk around the Old City in the -11 Celsius weather and had dinner at this tiny pizzeria.

Then we passed out. The next day we took another little walk to buy some food at the supermarket and to get a cell phone. I was under the impression that everyone in the Czech Republic spoke English. Someone needs to go to Vodafone and tell them to take some English lessons! I mean, I start off with the Ahoj! Dobryden. Mluvité anglitsky? And he shook his head. Not a big deal, I thought. How hard is it to point to a cell phone, point to a SIM card and clap my hands together to show that I want them both and that I want him to put the SIM card in? Success. Then I walked out of the store and looked at my phone again. It was in Czech! So I had to go back in, talk to Dominic with gestures and asked him to change it to English. (The next day I had to return it. Apparently when you change the language to English, the majority of it is still in Czech…)

That night, Michelle and I decided it was time to enjoy the Prague nightlife. We started by heading to a bar called Dubliners. Empty. But it was unusually early for us, so we decided to have a beer and see how things went. Two beers later and it was time to go. We were bored out of our minds. So we followed the sound of music when we left the bar and found this amazing bar! As soon as we had descended into the cellar we were surrounded by a group of Scottish guys on holiday celebrating their mate's birthday. Stephen, the first Scottish guy found out I was American and apparently was making some comments about it to his friend, so Michelle decided she'd be Spanish that night…

… and that she was on remission from cancer – to explain her short hair…

… and that her parents had died in an accident…

Everyone loved Michelle's joie de vivre and the fact that she could still be so positive when so much had gone wrong in her life. She went to the dance floor with Gaz, another of the Scottish guys, and I turned to talk with one of the Australians, Jordan. We talked all night and it was great conversation, really. I don't know about anyone else, but I have a very imaginative mind. It's very easy for me to pretend something in my head and because of this, I always run through every possible scenario. So, talking to Jordan and seeing Michelle and Gaz out of the corner of my eye, I thought… hmmm…. Maybe he'll get lucky and we'll make out tonight. (Along with many other scenarios – one being that I find out that he's not really Australian and that he only came into the bar to escape a group of Czech thugs trying to get the gloves back he stole from their friend's souvenir shop.) Then he said something that sounded kind of off for the conversation we were having. So, I said, "Wait! You have a girlfriend?!" And he was like… "I mean, yeah. How'd you know? I hope this doesn't affect anything. I don't want to waste your night."

In response, I told him to get over himself, but that I was having fun talking to him. Then I led him onto the dance floor where the four of us plus all the creepy Brazilian guys jumped around to techno until around 6:00 in the morning. We then made plans to meet up with Jordan the next day for the Real Madrid v. Mallorca game at Dubliners.

Of course, being basically españolas, Michelle and I didn't wake up until about an hour before the game. We showered and headed over to meet Jordan, who had brought along his friend, John-O. The Real Madrid game wasn't on but we stayed anyway after being guaranteed that the Barcelona game would be on at 22:00. The first thing we did was let Jordan know that Michelle was American. We watched the ManU game instead, and then we had to run to get Rachel from the train station, with the promise to return for the Barça game.

Which wasn't on. Are you kidding me?!?!?! The bartender said I didn't deserve to watch the Barcelona game because I was a Real Madrid fan, which ipso facto means that I'm fascist. I shrugged it off and went back to my table. We stayed until around one and then walked home – or rather, we ran. It was freezing!!!

The next day we did some shopping to prepare for Kevin's arrival and had a full dinner ready and on the table for when he got to the house. Did I mention there was a bottle of wine involved? And that after we finished that, we opened another? And that after that we opened a bottle of whiskey and mixed it with Fanta?

Then we went to this other bar with live music and tonight there was more than one Spanish girl. For those of you who have seen me really drunk since I went to Trujillo that first time, I always fall into Spanish. So being American just wasn't in the cards for me. The Czech guys we met were so impressed with our broken English that they kept on buying us shots of whiskey. Or maybe they just liked watching us being ridiculous. I thought the bartender and I had become friends, but Kevin informed me that the bartender was telling him to get us out of there… something about me not being allowed behind the bar. Then we got in the cab home where I thought the cab driver was amused by Michelle and I screaming at each other in Spanish, but Kevin informed me that the driver was having an anxiety attack because he couldn't understand us. Then we got home and I saw that I had a missed call from Brandon (who is, by the way, the only person from America besides my family members to call me using that awesome domestic number I sent out on facebook!). So thank you Brandon, and I'm sorry, because I think I must have called you 14 times or so that night. I saw that the next day when I checked my phone log. And I guess I talked to Aubrey too. I found that out later as well.

Basically, the next day we all agreed to not drink again until our orientation on Thursday. We went for a run today by the Charles Bridge. We did a roommate workout routine – thank you Men's Health and Kevin!! – and then we went to the Museum of Communism.

Tomorrow we meet the rest of the Euromasters students. I hope they're awesome.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lo feliz que es la vida

Have you ever wanted to stay in a place so badly while at the same time
just wanting to leave as badly? Christmas Day was exactly like that.
I woke up for the first time not quite excited to find the Christmas
Pickle or open presents. I just wanted to get that part over. Mom and
dad just wanted to make Christmas special for us, but I was still
surprised that they didn?t understand that the presents didn?t mean
anything to me. The issue was, I think, that I didn?t have anything
for them. I guess Aubrey was their present, but I had other ideas of
things they would enjoy that I just couldn?t afford to get them on top
of her plane ticket. I wanted to finish with the presents, things I
already couldn?t fit in my overstuffed luggage, and get to the
breakfast part where I could just BE with them. Our time together
passed quickly and then we were running to the airport. Saying goodbye
was very different for me this time. Normally I leave for ten days at
the least, six weeks at the most ? always with the intention of coming
home. This time, however ? and I don?t think I made this clear to
anybody ? I am in Europe trying to find out if this is the life that I
want. I want to see if there is something here for me. I struggled to
choke back tears ? because even though I am an incredibly loving
person, I am also almost perpetually happy. Crying doesn?t go well with
my light eyes and flush-prone skin. I made leave of my parents as
quickly as I was able. I had replaced by tears with agitation and I
didn?t want that to be their memory of me. I?ve always been a nervous
flier. Not nervous of the flight, more nervous of what I?m leaving
behind and if what I find in Europe will be worth leaving what I left.

The flights passed without much action. I didn?t make anybody?s
acquaintance, the food wasn?t incredibly delicious, I wasn?t
comfortable. Actually, this is quite atypical for me. I always talk
to people, I am one of the few who actually thinks that airplane food
is incredible, and I sleep like a baby.

But sooner rather than later, I arrived in Madrid and my
apprehensiveness began to get the best of me. Would I even be able to
understand my friends? Would they make fun of me for not
understanding? Would they have grown tired of a girl who always comes
around and hangs in the background until it?s time to go to Vendetta?
Would Beni and I be back on track after the hiatus last time when he
had his amigovia and his American fling? To delay things, I agreed
with Aubrey when she suggested taking the normal bus rather than the
one that takes us straight there.

I began the trip by listening to my comfort music and eventually
switched to my Spanish music as my fear got the better of me and I
sought any way possible to immerse myself, however futilely, before I
was thrown to the wolves.

Lolo picked us up from the bus station and we went back to his house.
Already ashamed at my lack of comprehension, I retreated to the safety
of my room and showered, hoping that the hot water would wash away my
nervousness. When I got back downstairs, while my latent fear was
still there, someone else was waiting on the couch. My elation at
seeing Beni on the couch quickly dissipated as I couldn?t understand a
word coming out of his mouth. (Well, I?m exaggerating. I understood,
but my ability to respond was so rusty that I was just sitting there
with a big, goofy smile on my face.) I was just happy to be there,
with my sister and people that I cared so much about.

Who am I kidding? I needed my liquid courage and so I took to guzzling
my wine as the conversation buzzed around me. Eventually, it was time
to start getting ready to go out, so we starting playing ?La Ruleta de
la Muerte? ? our version of Circle of Death. When the wine ran out, we
switched to rum, when the rum ran out, we switched to whiskey.
Needless to say, I passed an amazing night of dancing in Vendetta
followed by an excellently executed plan on Beni?s part of getting me
alone. I should have known that ?Aubrey can ride with Lolo and I?ll
take you home, too? actually means, ?But first, let me show you this
dead end? maybe we can park the car here for a little bit? see what
happens.? Not that I objected, but after Beni finally realized that my
limit and his limit were different, it was time to head home. I snuck
upstairs, hoping Aubrey wouldn?t notice my late entry and fell asleep
in exhausted contentment. The next couple of days Aubrey and I
existed like vampires haunting the night streets of Trujillo. We would
wake up around six in the evening, have a snack and return to our beds
before waking up in time to go get some cañas and go out.

Finally, we decided to change our routine a little bit and when we woke
up, we dragged ourselves out of bed and began the route to visit
friends and family. Whenever I visit my family, I am always hesitant.
Toto and Conchy are always so hard to understand. But I held my own
and after seeing Pili, Conchy and Victoria, Aubrey and I had lunch and
dinner plans for the upcoming week. Thank goodness because we were
surviving on the groceries that Maricarmen had brought over and our
cooking lacked when compared with my mother?s prowess.

My throat was screaming for respite from the smoke and alcohol so
Monday and Tuesday we kept things pretty low key. The plan was for
Lolo, Aubrey, Luis, Beni and I to drive to Cáceres for a movie one
night. Then Luis bailed. And then Beni said he?d call later. As
departure time neared, Lolo asked me what was up and I said I?d talked
to Beni ? that he was sleeping and said he?d call later. So we got
into the car, Aubrey and I both disappointed that our churris weren?t
coming along. And then we drove in the opposite direction from the
typical route to Cáceres? towards Beni?s house, WHAT? My heart skips a
beat. Is Beni coming along and my Spanish that bad that I thought
?I?ll call you later? actually meant ?See you soon?? But Beni wasn?t
there. He was at work. Disappointed again, I thought we were on our
way to the movies. Then we stopped again. I looked out the window in
dismay. We were at Beni?s work! I hid my face in shame as Beni got
out of the car and walked over to us. I wouldn?t even look at him
until we pulled away and then I gave him an embarrassed look filled
with anguish. Aubrey told me not to worry, but my night was ruined.
My whole thing with Beni is that both of us realize that we?re just
having fun. I don?t want to be the clingy girl who has people try to
con him into coming out with me. And the movie was a mierda. And
Aubrey was PMSing. So, basically, Lolo was there with one heartsick
girl and one girl mortified beyond the ability to speak. What a drag,

Then, New Years Eve arrived. My first in another country. And I was
so excited to make it an incredible night! We woke up with no time to
break our fast or to have some lunch, so on an empty stomach, we headed
to La Cumbre. I met Isa, Beni, and Marcos? dad for the first time, but
beyond that, I spent my time talking with Aubrey. Once again, it?s not
because I?m so bad at Spanish, but it?s because now they are talking at
a higher level? or maybe lower? They aren?t using the words that I
learned in school ? rather replacing them with new words that I?ve
never heard before. Essentially, I?ve been rendered a dumb mute as I
sit there and try to catch at least one in seven words that they are
saying. Needless to say, cañas in La Cumbre were a pretty pathetic way
to start the day. Fortunately, we left and headed back to La Cumbre
and to La Paseta. Isa, Aubrey and I were the first to arrive but
pretty soon the whole pandilla showed up ? this time with Luis, Villa,
and Jose Luis. And thank God! Villa and Jose always talk at my level
with me, so this time at least I could be the chatter box that I
normally am in the US. And even Luis finds talking to me humorous, so
I had another person to converse with. Happy once again, Villa, Lolo,
Aubrey and I left a little early to go visit the grandmothers. At the
first house, we drank liquor-filled chocolates and at the second house
toasted in the New Year with champagne. Since Lolo and Villa had
gotten to visit their extended families, Aubrey and I demanded that we
go to visit our families. We stop by Conchy?s first. I?m drunk, but
still quiet. Aubrey?s drunk and makes it obvious. Toto thought Aubrey
was so funny, but as my family is a lot more laid back, Aubrey quickly
excused herself to head down to 27 Gabriel y Galán. Conchy had talked
to us about the Nochevieja customs earlier ? we had known we were going
to be having dinner with a family, eating 12 grapes at midnight, and
then heading out to celebrate. What we didn?t know was that one
tradition was to wear red lingerie. I was at quite a loss, because I
didn?t have anything red or anything that resembled ?lingerie? but
Concy came to the rescue. She had bought both of us some red tangas so
we would go into the New Year with luck on our side.

Then we went home for my first authentic New Years with family. Well,
maybe not quite authentic. They had to change the menu a little to
accommodate to vegetarian Americans, but the changes were perfect! I
felt like I was at a restaurant. Appetizers were waiting on the tables
? vegetarian and meat options ? followed by unending bottles of wine,
merluza and desert. I hadn?t been eating too much during this vacation
and after HOURS of drinking cañas and copas throughout the day, I
didn?t think I could fit much in my stomach. But my eyes got the
better of me, and my stomach groaned contentedly as I shoveled desert
that in too.

After I excused myself to arreglarme and returned downstairs, it was
time to watch the ?ball drop? and we toasted with champagne. But,
there was an addition to my New Year routine. Each gong of the clock
signified one grape that I needed to consume. Fortunately, I had taken
the seeds out prior to the New Year, so it was actually pretty easy.

Soon after, Mamen, Aubrey and I headed out to see if anything was going
on yet. We went to Abadía once more to beg for last minute tickets
unsuccessfully before heading to Vendetta to begin the nightly ritual.
The only two people I knew in there, besides Adolfo and Kinito were
Barbara and Antonio. We talked for about forty-five minutes ? enough
time for me to actually question if Trujillans partied to usher in the
New Year ? and then a massive influx of people occurred.

I was having a blast dancing and talking with everybody. My glass was
never empty, and many times I had to refuse when people offered to buy
me a drink. Refuse? Yes! And I?m pretty glad I did, seeing how the
night ended for Aubrey.

Around 3 am I was talking with a group of people and decided if I was
gonna make it to the bathroom without being in dire pain waiting in
line, it would be time to go now. So I motioned to the group that I
was leaving. Beni grabbed my hand and asked me where I was going. It
was so loud I motioned again. I think he thought it meant I was going
outside ? and that I wanted him to come with me. Alright, not quite my
plan, but it was a good one so I let him lead me outside into the fresh
air. After about ten minutes of awesome besos, things started to heat
up and I had to stop. It was like 2 years ago all over again. ?No,
Beni. I can?t. The only reason I even kiss you is because it?s a lot
of fun. I don?t want to do anything more with you, because I know how
you are, especially with Americans. Sorry!? Thinking he?d be over it,
I said it was time to go back inside, but he grabbed me and pulled me
down on a bench. And wanted an explanation. It?s actually pretty
simple, I think. At the very least, if I gave in, I?d have one great
night and then it?d be up in the air if there would be a repeat. And
if we did do more, then I might actually start to believe that there is
more there than just a special friend I have when I?m there. And I
know that is not the case.

My constant begging to return to the party eventually paid off and we
went back into Vendetta in time to turn right back around to go to
Abadía. Beni had found me an entrada, given it away, bought me another
one and Aubrey had bought one for herself.

I went to the bar for a drink. Of water. And thank goodness I stuck
with water after that. Beni pulled me upstairs to the garden again, I
think to convince me of the errors in my thought pattern, and then we
went back downstairs to find Aubrey rapidly making her goodbyes before
storming out. Beni grabbed my arm, telling me that my sister had left
? heaven forbid! ALONE ? and that we needed to go after her. I start
making my goodbyes and Beni said there was no time. So he took off
running after Aubrey and I took off running after him. In the back of
my mind, I thought it was like when Dermot Mulroney ran after Cameron
Diaz and Julia Roberts ran after Dermot in My Best Friend?s Wedding,
but seeing as how that would make ME pathetic, I quickly squashed that
train of thought.

When we finally did catch up with Aubrey, she was completely out of it
and started yelling at me. Beni tried his best to understand and made
her switch to Spanish where she continued to harangue me with insults.
I just smiled. Still drunk and happy. I knew that Aubrey wasn?t mad
at me ? I had barely seen her that night. I guessed it had something
to do with Luis, but I didn?t really care. My night was going
perfectly, Aubrey was safe, and we were going home.

We got to Lolo?s and Aubrey stormed upstairs. Beni and I hit the
couch. A little too quickly, I said it was time to go upstairs. I
heard Aubrey on the phone calling me a bitch with somebody, so
definitely not going into my room. Instead, I chose to do some more
hooking up in Lolo?s second guest room. Some talking. Then some
snoring. So I had to go. I left Beni asleep in that room and crossed
the hall to where Aubrey had long since passed out.

The next morning, I heard Beni wake up and peak his head in to check on
us. I heard him downstairs talking with Lolo, and later I heard Luis
stop by. They must have been talking about Aubrey?s tantrum and
everyone wanted to know if she was feeling better. But we kept to the
house. I only left my room once, to head downstairs to a house full of
people. Within the hour, everyone had left and I went back upstairs
and back to bed. Honestly, how can someone be THAT tired?

When I woke up, it was in time to grab a shower before heading to
Cáceres with Conchy, Aubrey, and Guada. I definitely regret going!
The rebajas must have started early but it was crazy! We waited in
line at one store for nearly two hours and Guada and I waited in
another for a little over one hour. Worth it for two shirts and two
pairs of pajamas? Not to me! But I didn?t want to complain. Needless
to say, I was so tired when I got home, but sucked it up when I heard
we could go out for one drink up at El paseo. I could handle one
drink, I told myself. Just one! AND just a water! But then, the
bartender bought us one shot and Carlos bought us another. Aubrey
still wanted to go home, but I had the ganas to go out again! It?s a
little easier to talk in Spanish when Aubrey?s not there because when
I?m stumbling through my Spanish, everyone lets me struggle until I get
it out, then corrects me, but Aubrey just finishes my sentences. Don?t
misunderstand. Without Aubrey?s help, things would have been a lot
more awkward for me in Trujillo. But also, with her talking for me all
the time, I wasn?t learning anything or talking with anybody. That
night, however, I talked with Tere, Sandra and Mayte without much
effort and had a great time. It wasn?t very busy, but it was nice to
be able to talk with people. Jorge and Beni dropped me off later and I
rested up for our Christmas dinner the next day.

Our cena de navidad was a group of twenty-two people. We started off
with some cañas and then headed to Las Cigüeñas for dinner. Everyone
was dressed to impress ? even more so than New Years. I almost
regretted changing my shirt for one that was less dressy, even though I
was in heels. Javi and Jose sat across from me and Aubrey and Jorge
were next to me, so I could definitely chat it up. We started with
some wine ? alright, a LOT of wine ? and then the appetizers, most of
which Aubrey and I couldn?t eat. But the torta de casar was
incredible. I almost regretted not eating it when Aubrey brought it
back from Spain in May. I guess it?s true, the worse it smells, the
better it tastes. The waiter noticed that Aubrey and I weren?t eating
the meat, so a salad was brought out for us. Not that we needed any
more food to fill up. And then some more food ? filet mignon, steaks,
and grilled hake. Then champagne. Then desert. Then coffee. Then
copas. Right around the coffee time, Isa motioned for me to join her
at the end of the table. We talked for a little bit about her. I
don?t like to talk about me too much with her, because she?s made it
clear for the past three years that she doesn?t want her brother dating
anybody. I don?t think she cares any more because I think she realizes
that each of the girls in Beni?s life are temporary fixtures, but I
didn?t want to press my luck.

After dinner, at around 1 in the morning, we headed to Vendetta to
continue the festivities. And, I regret to say it, I feel like I was
bitten by the jealous bug. Aubrey had told me before that Ana from La
Cumbre has a habit of getting on the Trujillan girls? nerves because
she is so overly affectionate with the boys. Maybe if I hadn?t known
that fact about her, I might not have noticed ? because I?m generally
not a jealous person at all ? but, I did and jealous I was. So rather
than getting mad, I tried to focus on something else and spent the
night talking with some guys I met who were just passing through
Trujillo. This one guy, I forget his name, told me he was a medico, or
at least that?s what I thought. It turns out he?s from México and NOT
a medic, but whatever. He was my diversion. Until he asked me if I
wanted to spend the night with him. And obviously not in engaging
conversation. I said, ?how about you leave me alone until 8 am, and
then we?ll see? thinking that was a pretty obvious way of saying, ?Hmm,
how about no, asshole.? But at 8 am he was back, asking again. I said
I wanted him to leave me alone. Then, when I was really alone, I
looked around to find a companion. And of course, the first people I
saw were Beni and Ana hanging out by the bar. Since it was 8 am,
nobody really noticed that I was annoyed when I said it was time for me
to go home. Aubrey and I left the gang and we headed back home.
The next morning we woke up, visited Victoria at home and then headed
to the Ciudad de Trujillo soccer match. It was pathetic. I can?t even
write about it. Then we went to El Polo to watch the second half of
the Real Madrid v. Villareal game. I sat with Guada and Aubrey, still
ashamed of my moment of weakness the night before, unable to meet
Beni?s eyes. As soon as the game was over, I jumped out of my chair to
leave and head home. But everyone had other plans, so I talked a
little bit with Luis and Beni. Aubrey hung all over Beni, and I hung
all over Luis. Immature, I know, but a good way to still have a good
time without just standing there while he?s still having a good time

On the way out, I nonchalantly walked by his car to head to Lolo?s,
only to be yelled at by Aubrey to get in the car with Beni. He?d drive
me home. My cheeks were flushed as we began our drive to Lolo?s ?
wait, no? once again an out of the way detour to Beni?s house. He ran
inside and came back out with a present for me. A white scarf from my
first night in Trujillo this trip that a girl we had met together had
thrown at us as we were leaving the bar together. It?s great, perfect
for Prague. He said the scarf that I had been wearing in Trujillo
wouldn?t keep me warm. I had a better chance with this one.

Then we finally went back to Lolo?s house and Angel, Aubrey and Luis
were there. They played this weird card game, I think it was called
tute, where only 40 cards are used, the 8s and 9s are omitted. I was
finally starting to get it and just like that it was time for them to
leave. Luis promised to visit me in Prague in February. And as a
joke, I said he should come for Valentine?s Day. Lolo fired right
back, saying Luis should go to Sevilla for Valentine?s Day and Beni
should go to Prague to visit me. Aubrey and Luis looked at Lolo in
annoyance while Beni and I laughed awkwardly. Needless to say, the
boys took their leave a bit faster after that, much to my relief and
after dinner we went to bed.

The next day we headed to Sevilla. I needed a lot of time to recover
from Trujillo so there weren?t really any crazy shenanigans, just a lot
of walking, some eating, visiting Babylon Idiomas and going for coffee
with some of Aubrey?s friends. I also met about ten of her 17
roommates, watched a lot of Friends, a lot of episodes of Family Guy, a
lot of movies, and Aubrey using my computer. She needed to get the
most out of it before I took it with me to the Czech Republic. We did
do two traditionally Spanish things, though. We went to watch the
Cabalgata procession and I nearly had my eyes taken out by the children
hurling caramelos at us from their floats. We also bought a Roscón de
Reyes to enjoy. It?s basically a nata-filled circular cake with
sugared-fruit on top. A haba, or dried bean, and a figurine are hidden
inside the cake. Normally, it?s eaten on the eve of the Epiphany or
the morning of, but we waited so that more of the roommates would be
there. The saying goes, ?Si el haba lo encontrado, el Roscón pagarás;
mas si ello es la figura, coronado y Rey serás?? It is normally eaten
with hot chocolate, so thank goodness Joanna sent a huge supply for us
to enjoy. Tommaso found the king and Becki found the haba, but we
didn?t make her pay for it.

There was some more general relaxation before I left for Prague. I met
Michelle in the airport in Barça and we flew together to Prague. We
had to wait a few minutes for our landlady to find us and she speaks a
little Spanish! It?s so strange to be in a foreign country where the
language isn?t Spanish. Whenever I didn?t understand her or heard
Czech, my automatic reaction was to switch to Spanish. Not like that
would help, right? Our first night in Prague was relaxing. We
connected to the internet, called our homes, went for a walk around the
Old City in the -11 Celsius weather and had dinner at this tiny
pizzeria. And right now, that?s about all there is to report. Rachel
gets in tomorrow night and Kevin comes next Monday. I can?t wait for
everything to start up and to actually get to know this town!