Thursday, July 06, 2006

Prague-- First Impressions

I arrived early Saturday morning to my dorm, Masarykova kolej. It's rumored by the students that the building once housed the secret police during the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. I believe this, since I can easily find my room when I take the stairs up five flights to the fifth floor, but I get lost for 20 minutes when I take the elevator. The hallways form a terror-inducing maze when one is in a hurry to use the bathroom after being out to dinner. I now take the stairs exclusively. When I arrived, I felt fortunate that I had followed many of the suggestions from the "One Bag" Web site. Not that I only brought one bag, but that I did pack light. Much lighter than I ever have for a one week vacation and I'm here for a month.

Now that we've been here for six days, things have settled down. We were all panicked during the first two days, when we found out that a fellow student's laptop was stolen, and then two more were stolen later in the week. Imagine coming here to write for a month and having your laptop stolen in the first few days. Each time I leave the room now, I lock my computer up in a drawer. We were even told to make sure we lock our rooms from the inside when we go to sleep, even though our suites have locks on the outside, because in past years thieves have stolen computers from people's rooms while they were sleeping.

My room is above a courtyard, which sits near the dorm pub. The first few days I had problems with noise coming up from below. Drunken laughter would erupt every five minutes or so and the anticipation of it kept me awake the first few nights, although I suspect the excitement and time change also contributed to my insomnia. I've been sleeping fine, since I made my way to Tesco, the department store to buy a small fan.

Our classes are in Charles University, which sits on one side of Jan Palach Square.

We meet for writing class M, W, and F mornings and Czech language class on T, Th. Everyone I've met is enthusiastic about the workshops and the language class. Our Czech instructor Hana is animated and adorable. We eat out three meals a day together and we always seem to have so much to talk about. It's thrilling to speak with people who have common frames of reference. Everyone has read Kafka and Kundera and together we share our amazement at how much of our experience seems to come right from a Kafka novel. He wasn't using his imagination as much as I thought he was. Certain things that we attempt to do seem to have absurd obstacles, for example, today we were at St. Vitus and I wanted to take pictures inside. When I walked in with my camera, the guard told me that I had to purchase a license (ticket) in order to take photographs. So, I walked back into the lobby to the ticket window and no one was there. I motioned to the guard and he looked inside the window and said. They'll be there in a few minutes. By this time a queue had formed behind me and no one behind me seemed to be concerned that we were waiting at an empty window.

I've posted photos that I've taken the last few days on a separate site. You can view them here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your photos are great. I'm impressed. Are you just naturally good at everything? I'll bet you're a good cook too! Greta