Sunday, November 30, 2008

We can only do one thing at this moment: listen

Here is an example of the high level of culture I see in the Czech Republic. Every time staff arrive to open the little cafe near me I can hear them taking down the chairs and preparing for the shift with their favorite music playing loudly in the background.

What do they listen to? The same thing: the coloratura soprano aria from Mozart's Magic Flute opera. Occasionally I hear someone's passionate singing in accompaniment with some of the easier lines leading up to the soprano voice soaring. Sometimes the accompanying singing dies off though because the music is just so beautiful it demands our complete attention.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving With New Friends

A beautiful Thanksgiving table
at Sher and Jiři's place

Sher and Jiři

Sher and me

I don't think anyone could have felt more welcomed to the Czech Republic when they arrived than I did. My blogging buddies immediately made me feel at home. Sher from Czech Off the Beaten Path invited me to join her and her husband for a magical thanksgiving at their place.

Sher cooked her turkey in a combination convection oven/microwave, something I have never seen before. I don't know what a convection oven is but I enjoyed our conversation so much I forgot to look at it and see how it works. Dinner was fabulous and so was the company. I was sent home with leftovers, a book of Czech fairytales, another of Prague legends, and yet another of Prague history.

I Miss My President!

Černý Kennedy means "Black Kennedy" in Czech

The Obamas go to the White House

My new President was so inspiring on a daily basis during the campaign that I've gone through Obama withdrawal since moving to the Czech Republic. I miss hearing his constant 'commitment to excellence' on TV. Luckily, the campaign continues to email weekly videos and recent news updates so I can hear his views direct from him.

This week the campaign sent an 11-minute video of Obama announcing his new Council of Economic Advisers. The way President-Elect Obama is using email to directly interact with his millions of supporters is unprecedented. Being overseas, I appreciate it now even more than when I was home.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Unexpected Surprise Pleasures

An open iron gate by my metro stop...
I see a sculpture inside...
I want to see it up close.

A surprise...a courtyard
I didn't anticipate or think about courtyards here
I knew they existed somewhere

A hidden restaurant

With a fountain dormant for the season

Another beautiful restaurant setting
A hidden restaurant in America wouldn't last

Yet here it charms

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is the American holiday Thanksgiving. I love the whole idea of Thanksgiving and think the idea of stopping to slow down and give thanks for the abundance around us is beautiful.

I also love that Thanksgiving is a flexible holiday. It's not just about our own families. If we are far from our families we can still create a beautiful holiday with the friends we are near. If we are able to be with our families, Americans reach out and invite the foreign exchange student or the out-of-state visitor to join them in celebration.

Today I'm grateful for:

the continued good health and constant love of my family

this amazing fantastic planet we get to explore

living in Prague, something I've looked forward to for years

the incredibly creativity of my fellow humans

that I'm not in charge and I can trust in that.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why don't Americans Eat More Cabbage?

Every plate of food I'm presented with in Prague has cabbage on it somewhere.
Sometimes the cabbage is only the garnish, but the Czechs serve cabbage in dozens of delicious ways: as shredded warm red cabbage, in tangy side salads, or fried in pancakes.

In America, I can only think of three ways I ever eat cabbage: in cole slaw, on a Reuben sandwhich, or on a brat when I visit the University of Wisconsin. It probably doesn't amount to more than 1/8th of a cabbage head per year.

I don't know why we don't eat more of it. It's cheap and healthy. I have a theory why we're cabbage-challenged, but I'd like to hear yours.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Czech Expat in America

Expats don't go only one way you know. There's a very proud Czech expatriate living in America who has a wonderful blog called Czechmate Diary: Small Bohemian Steps to World Domination. Tanja is tireless in finding Czech happenings, websites, andpeople from around the world and sharing them. I find stuff on her site that I haven't seen elsewhere. For example, the pungent story of the Bouncing Czech. I would only have read it because of Tanja!

I understand Czech culture better because she is always filtering American culture through her Czech lens and Czech culture through her new American lens. She has Czech recipes to try, a wonderful series of posts about what is better in America vs. the Czech Republic and vice versa and also guest posts from Czech-Americans with interesting stories. There's one called "Growing Up Cesky" by guest poster Jana that ran recently that was incredibly thought-provoking. I'm adding Czechmate Diary to my Czech Expat blogroll today. Link to her site through the title or through my links on the right. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ladies Who Lunch

My virtual friend
and now
new 'real' friend Sherry

When I was contemplating moving to Prague, I was especially interested in the first-hand experiences of non-Czech people who were already here. That is what makes websites like Expat Blog Directory and Expat Women so helpful. If you want to read how expats in a particular country view their experience, you can find all sorts of blogs organized by country and quite often, organized down to the city level.

One of the blogs I found was Czech Off the Beaten Path written by Sher, an expatriate who had fallen in love with a Czech and moved here in 2006 to begin married life. Sher had two children in high school when she and Jiři met. Like me, she went through the whole transition of graduating them to college and downsizing her possessions for the big move to the Czech Republic. When I started following her blog, we discovered during those six months how similar our experiences were and became "virtual" friends.

Now here I am in Prague and we were finally getting to meet!

Sher took me to her favorite penzion for lunch. Named Penzion JaS, it was a genteel non-smoking spot near Dejvické, the last stop on the green line. She made me feel so welcome! Not only did she take me to lunch, she even presented me with a bottle of Bechkerovka, the "official" herbal spirit of the Czech Republic, attributed with all sorts of healing properties. I laughed because there could be no gift more "Czech!"

We gabbed non-stop and afterwards went for a short walk in the neighborhood there and enjoyed looking at Czech houses and yards. It's great to have a new American friend so far from home!

I admire how the Czechs
can get flowers to bloom
through mid-November.
How do they do that?

Mom, this picture is for you.
I knew you would be interested
in all decoration - indoor and out

Ladies who lunch, or is it:
Bloggers who brunch!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My First Czech Adventure Was Actually Vietnamese

One of the first things I wanted to do when I came to Prague was meet the two Prague bloggers who encouraged me as I planned my move across the globe. I think I started reading Michael Caroe Andersen's blog either from finding it on Al Tischler's blog (Al is a Minnesotan who worked at Radio Free Europe for a couple years - he wrote a terrific blog about Prague before moving back to America) or when Michael's blog was chosen "Expat Blog of the Month" by Expat Blog Directory in October 2007. I have links to some of my favorite Czech expat blogs on the right margin of my blog. Reading those blogs was really helpful and motivating as I planned my move.

Michael in front of a mysterious
statue meant to ward off evil spirits

Michael, who originally hails from Denmark, has a gift for inclusion and connecting people. He invited me to join a group of his friends who were off to see SAPA, the Vietnamese community that immigrant Vietnamese have created south of Prague. SAPA is famous for it's stalls of wholesale knock-off clothing merchandise for the various Vietnamese retailers around Prague, Asian food stalls, terrific inexpensive Vietnamese restaurants, even their own Vietnamese kindergarten.

Beautiful Bok Choy

Look at those long beans!
I want to experiment with cooking them
The white blocks are fresh tofu.

Vietnamese delicacies

The best part?

Did you know that inside a chicken is a little egg production line with eggs in the making? These egg yolks taken from the inside of a chicken, before they form into full-formed eggs with shells are considered a real delicacy in countries like Vietnam and Russia because of their incredible richness. Who knew this was the best part? Not me.

There were also hundreds of fertilized duck eggs for sale in the stalls. In Vietnam, people enjoy these eggs so much people develop an opinion on when in the gestation they like to eat the egg because the fetus has developed to a certain stage by a certain day that is especially tasty. Some people like it after the tenth day, some the fifteenth, some longer. It’s all up to you.

Carp doesn't get any fresher

Frying fresh tofu

The fish in the bag were
still flopping -
Check out the knife he laid on the cardboard
for chopping off the tails and fins

Dragon fruit

Vietnamese Rice Bread

What do you see? Snakes? Bats? Octopi? Stingrays?

Our meal started with bravery. Dominic, the British organizer of our excursion, shared shots of “snakebite vodka.” I didn’t see the snake but I swear I saw a little hand in that bottle that could only have belonged to a bat! Being new to the country, I abstained. Who would want to chicken out at the last minute and spew bat juice all over one’s newest friends?


During lunch, we had one tasty Vietnamese dish after another, which we shared family style. Nickolai and his Japanese girlfriend taught me how to hold my chopsticks properly. Hold the bottom chopstick firmly. It doesn’t move. The top one is the one that does all the moving and if one grips it like a pen, it’s easy to pick things up with it.

Vietnamese and Chinese chopsticks are longer than Japanese chopsticks because it’s acceptable to reach across and pluck a choice morsel from the serving dish as you eat. No worries about Seinfeld “double dipping!” In Japan, that’s not acceptable to do. Therefore, Japanese chopsticks are shorter. By the end of the meal, my chopstick skills had evolved enough that I could pick up a solitary peanut with grace.

The people that "go"

Michael said, “You know how there are people who stay at home and people who go? These are the people that go.” Around the table we had the following nationalities represented: Danish, British, Czech, American, Dutch, Japanese, El Salvadorian, Albanian, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Turkish, and Vietnamese. Many had been expatriates in multiple places.

We ended our meal with Vietnamese coffee
brewed tableside by the individual cup.

I was touched that in a Vietnamese restaurant,
in a Czech city,
there was a bit of American inspiration
in the lobby.

Thank you, Michael and friends,
for my first Czech/Vietnamese adventure!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Civilized Life in Prague Can Now Begin For Me

Mobil phone. Check.

Three-prong electrical adapter that Amazon was going to charge me $44 to ship that a friend told me exactly where to find today for $9. It will allow me to have unlimited wireless time so I can talk to my family on Skype and also blog properly. Check!

Coffee pot! With my own coffee in the morning for the first time tomorrow a.m. Check. Or is that Czech! Har har.

Global Brands Make the First Impression

I felt the global nature of Prague first, before I felt the Czech nature of Prague. There is so much that is familiar here, especially the brands. My TV set is Daewood. The Kleenex is Kleenex. The laundry soap I'm using is Tide.

Even the “international brands” are familiar. It’s as if the “international aisle” in an American grocery store had just been expanded to many more aisles.

It really struck me when I got over here and saw all of these familiar names what an accomplishment it is to have your product for sale all over the world and to dominate one's global niche so completely. Even in the grocery store, the song the store is playing is about a guy’s girl named Delilah. The exact same song is playing back in America.

One of the upsides of familiar brands is that one is supposed to know what to expect at each encounter no matter where it happens. Right? No surprises. Take McDonald’s, for instance. I know there will be Big Macs for sale in America, coast-to-coast, every time I go into a local store. I also know there will probably be a Playland and a bathroom I’m welcome to use.

Not so in the Czech Republic! McDonald’s charges Czechs to go to the bathroom! So some poor Czech mom, juggling two rowdy children, has to dig out the coins to give her kids a bathroom break.

McDonald’s, say it ain’t so! When I ask Czechs what represents American culture to them, they always cite McDonald’s. So, McDonald’s global headquarters in Oakbrook, Illinois, you’re representing our entire nation! Please quit charging the Czechs and let them go to the bathroom for free.

Besides, I want my own experience of your brand to be the same globally as it coast-to-coast. Free the bathrooms! I respectfully ask -- is this the sense of hospitality that got you where you are today?

Monday, November 17, 2008

One Week of TEFL Classes

Teaching is one of those things that when someone describes or models the techniques involved, it sounds and looks simple enough. When one actually gets up there to do it - it's harder than it looks to remember not only content but teaching techniques, especially when I'm with a class of students who have a different mother tongue.

As TEFL instructors, we are urged to get all of our instructions down to the smallest blocks of language possible. Stand up. Discuss. Sit down. Otherwise it sounds like so much blather to the students. It's hard for them to find the instructions in the verbiage.

We taught twice in our first week and observed an experienced teacher's class as well. The Czech people taking the courses are wonderful because they encourage us as much as we encourage them.

I can tell working as a TEFL teacher is a great way to know a culture fast because everything is a potential topic. In a discussion about Czech food, the Czech students told me I need to try this really, really smelly cheese from the town of Olmouc and two kinds of dumplings known as "dumplings with hair" and "naked children." The "dumplings with hair" are laced with sauerkraut. And the other dumpling - I have no idea!

We ended our week with our first Czech lesson. The hour flew by. It was so much fun! Our teacher, who is also one of our regular instructors, put so much energy into it and I understood what she was teaching throughout the hour. TEFL lessons that we teach are supposed to involve no mother tongue whatsoever. Watching her teach us helped me understand how it feels from the beginner's seat.

Thinking back to great learning experiences I have had, I decided my goal as a TEFL teacher will be to give students the feeling I have received from ski instructors. I remember it this way: starting at zero and standing up. Each day I get a bit better. My spirit soars with that wonderful feeling of "I can do this!" and each passing day brings "I can do more!"

Done well, teaching is fostering within people increased confidence and joy as they master a skill.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

One week in Prague

Two weeks ago on this site I shared a very funny Youtube video detailing all of the unpleasant things I would experience in Prague as an expatriate.

I've been here one week!

I can report I have seen no spiders.

I have not been overpowered by anyone with B.O.
Indeed, if there are smelly Praguers out there, I haven't met them yet.

Nor have I stepped in any dog poop.

All of the smelly people with spiders and dogs in their houses must live somewhere else.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What helped you learn your second language?

This weekend I've been learning all about what makes a terrific language lesson when someone is learning a second language. That's from the book, of course. Now I'd like to hear from those who've done it. What did your language teacher do in a lesson that really helped you learn? Share with me your best memories please.

This weekend I heard a wonderful 'Czechism.' In a discussion about lack of literacy, we would say someone is unlettered. My Czech friend said, "they are unalphabetized." I love it!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Saturday night

This is what I did last night after I needed a break from my textbook. I took the metro down to Andel station and walked to the river which I was seeing for the first time. It's stunning. Even in the fog at night -- maybe especially in the fog at night.

Fireworks were going off over the river in the distance. I watched them from a tram bridge spanning the river. Beautiful touring boats plied the water underneath sharing the space with swans. Vinorady, a famous castle for Czech kings and queens was all lit up, looking spectacular.
This is the Prague I can't wait to explore!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Welcome to Prague!

Friday we had our first meeting as a class and got to know each other. There are nine of us. It's a fun group. Some people are really into language with degrees in linguistics. About half the class has a Master's degree. Some are here for fun or an adventure before they start teaching in a regular school system in the States. Some people just like this side of the world. We are American, Canadian, Czech, and Russian. The ages range from 22 to me!

We received a pile of books and our course syllabus and homework assignments. Later our guide told us, "you are going to be overwhelmed by how much work this is - don't waste time whining - just do it." He warned against past behavior he had seen in the course where some students get behind because they are our partying and just quit coming to class. They just end up living in their apartment until it's time to leave.

So I've decided "no fun allowed" for my first month here. I will really focus on the course and explore Prague afterwards. It's just one month.

After our course orientation, we were scheduled to have an orientation tour of Prague. I thought it would be like a sightseeing bus tour. It wasn't. It was an incredibly useful orientation to practicialities: this is where you get a mobile phone, this is where you can get help with your computer, here's a mall, and here's how the metro and tram work.

Our guide suggested we get to know one Metro station in particular, Meztek (sp?), because it's so huge and such a labyrinth. It's a transfer point between the yellow line (which I live on) and the red line. He said you want to know this station completely before you have to teach at 6:30 a.m. in the morning at some business you've never been to, when you're still half asleep, and you have no idea which of the 20 exits from the station you need to take to get to your class and you're running late.

He said the most common ways teachers get pick-pocketed on the metro was not due to someone bothering them during the day. Rather young teachers go out partying and fall asleep on the metro on the way home. Then the driver is waking them up at the end of the line only for the teacher to discover that his wallet and phone are gone.

I appreciated our guide because he made it clear he had our backs if we ever needed him. He was referring to young men who drink too much but it's the idea that counts. He gave everyone his phone number.

Our group then went out for our first dinner together at a pub across from our school. I don't have internet access in my apartment or I'd post the pics. We all had the famous Czech beer Pilsner Urquell. It tasted great but I'm not a beer expert. The subtleties of it's awesomeness might be wasted on me. Who knows, maybe living in the Czech Republic will turn me into a beer snob.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Denver to Chicago to Warsaw to Prague

My flight over was an absolute delight and didn't contain an ounce of hardship. It was one long interesting conversation after another. I met a gentleman who just finished a book on Japanese counterculture, a couple who were off to hike the Grand Canyon for her 50th birthday, two young professionals from Virginia who were joking about being from the fake part of Virginia (according to the McCain campaign) and happy to pay the taxes for the schools and roads of the real part of Virginia, a young Polish man who will make a fine husband for the girl he is still looking for, and a young Czech executive mother who is now my first new Czech friend.

The people of Chicago are excited that with Obama winning their chances of landing the Olympics just increased.

My flight over did not feel foreign at all because it was all Polish people. What city in the world has more Polish people second only to Warsaw? Chicago. The Warsaw terminal was brand new and spotless. Spoken Polish sounds pretty.

The Warsaw terminal was also full of young people in uniform. I had to restrain myself there because everytime I saw a young military person, my first instinct was always to "thank them for their service to our country." I kept forgetting. We don't share a country!

It finally felt foreign when we boarded the plane for Prague. We did not get on the plane through a gate terminal but took a bus out to the airfield and then boarded a prop plane in the dense fog. I was immediately struck by what a romantic picture it was. I felt like Elsa in Cascablanca! And now here I am, in Praha!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Czech Republic Here I Come!

I'm so excited to see, hear, and enjoy other points of view.

I can't wait to get there. Luckily, election exhaustion will make my 9-hour flight over the ocean a lot faster. I'll probably sleep the whole way.

Ciao for now.

It's a Beautiful Day!

I am so proud of the citizens of the United States of America with our open hearts.

Daughter #1 was #51 in line when the polls opened yesterday.

Daughter #2 arrived at her polls at 5:45 a.m. to cast her vote and was voter #9. Their first election! They were so excited to participate.

Election day yesterday, all day long, was one long spiritual moment.

I am so proud of my country!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yea! It's Election Day!

Could a democracy be more robust or exciting than America's is on this very day? This has been the most exciting, most nail-biting, most fascinating, most emotionally-exhausting election I have ever seen in my entire life. And today history is made with a new African-American president of the United States of America. I'm proud to go to a new country tomorrow, the Czech Republic, represented by such a wise and inspiring leader.

Is it just me or did this election make you cry a lot? All of the women in my family cry at a drop of a hat, and this election it seemed like it was all the time. Barack would make me cry at least twice a week as I heard him speak; watching the pride of old black people at Barack's rallies made me cry; hearing a young college woman stand up and say to John McCain in a quavering voice, "Thank you Senator, for your service to our country. I appreciate my freedom." All of it made me cry!

Probably the clip that reduced my family to tears the most is Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama when he asked us "doesn't the little 7-year-old Muslim boy have the right to dream that he too can be President of the United States?" I believe that clip will be played as often as Martin Luther King's clip asking for his children to be judged on the content of their character.

The aspect of the campaign I found most worrisome was not the racism expressed, or the judging of some parts of the country as anti-American. All of that was overwhelmed by the large number of people wanting to be unified, not divided.

I was worried by what I see as an institutionalized anti-intellectualism in the Republican party. What does it say about education levels in our country when one party constantly stokes resentment toward the educated calling them "elite?" The Republican intellectuals abandoned ship in disgust.

No one really challenged John McCain when he repeatedly derided giving $3 million to the world-class Adler Planatarium in Chicago for it's overhead projector of the night sky. Thousands and thousands of schoolchildren go to that planatarium on field trips. Don't you want to increase America's scientific literacy rating from 17th in the world to 1st, John?

No one challenged him when he derided DNA studies of grizzly bears. Don't you want grizzly bears to survive in your America, Senator McCain? I do. Let's study them.

The voters who made me most personally proud were the 2.9 million people of my home state of Iowa. The voters of this state, mostly rural and 97% white, which collectively have created two universities ranked in the top 100 globally (through taxes, I might add!) proved two things before anyone else did: 1) white people will vote for a black candidate, and 2) young people will turn out and exercise their right to vote. Iowa is where it all started for our new President. That too made me cry in hope and pride!

I told all of my friends it was going to be a landslide. We'll find out tonight!

Monday, November 3, 2008

There are no atheists in a Rocky Mountain hot tub

Recently, my sister and I were petsitting at a friend's house when my sis told me about an incident that happened to the lady of the house when she was sound asleep. The lady woke up with a start -- there was a giant crashing noise in the kitchen. When my sister's friend went into the kitchen to investigate, she found a bear with his paw deep into her bread machine pursuing that fantastic fragrance that apparently could even be smelled outside. The bear went out the same way he came in (through the kitchen window) as soon as he saw the jig was up.

Later that night, after my sis had shared that story, we went out to enjoy our friend's hot tub. The stars were drop-dead gorgeous, so gorgeous that the next night when I used the hot tub I didn't turn on any of the patio lights so I could see all of the constellations better.

All of a sudden, in the dark, an adolescent bear pads up to the edge of the hot tub, not five feet from me, and sniffs the air with curiousity. We made eye contact! You're not supposed to do that with bears! I tried to shrink as best as I could into the water. He then turned around and padded up to the window where my mom and sister were watching TV, and then came back to a higher patio ledge overlooking the hot tub. Now he could get a running start to jump on me! Fairy tales provided my imagination all of the start-up it needed. "It's all the better to eat me with!"

What was I supposed to do??? I thought of getting under the cover but could picture the headline "visitor drowns in hot tub - no one knows why." I could try and run but I knew he could outrun me. I could go under water but I'd probably have to come up for air right where his big giant teeth would be waiting for me. All I could think of was that scene in the movie "The Parent Trap" where the two twins try to submarine their future stepmother by teaching her to hit two sticks together to keep the animals away. But I didn't have any sticks!

Eventually he wandered off and I rushed into the house back to civilization. I'd had enough more than enough wildlife for one night.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Trick or Treat!

In Estes Park, it would be dangerous to have house-to-house trick-or-treating in the neighborhoods because of the wildlife. People take in their hummingbird and bird feeders at night to avoid tempting bears. Can you imagine how yummy a little kid would look to a mountain lion or coyote? So instead the entire town heads downtown for trick-or-treating from store-to-store.

I was utterly charmed by what a multi-generational, family event this was! Estes Park has a very large retired population and the retired people had some of the best costumes. I thought this guy was the most creative. He was a U.S. Department of Treasury Bailout Specialist. He gave me a billion dollars and said he only had to give out 699 more.

You couldn't have Halloween in 2008 without McCain and Palin!

Mars Attack! One of the most awesome movies of all time!

I followed these two for half a block
and could not figure out what there were.

Ketchup and Mustard!

Of course!

Elk Bugling Season

You know how there are those lists like "1,000 places you should see before you die?" I once saw a list entitled "1,000 events you should see before you die." Elk bugling season is one of those events - it is that magnificent.

Every fall, right as the aspens are at their peak, the elk of Estes Park start to mate. It's called bugling season because the big male elks "bugle" to warn other males away from their harem. To me, a bugling male going full out sounds very much like a humpback whale.

Hundreds of people come to see the elk, especially the big bulls, when they are in rut. Sometimes it just doesn't feel "right" to watch these animals during this season - like we as humans are invading paparazzi! It can make you blush.

From Wikipedia:
Adult elk usually stay in single-sex groups for most of the year. During the mating period known as the rut, mature bulls compete for the attentions of the cows and will try to defend females in their harem. Rival bulls challenge opponents by bellowing and by paralleling each other, walking back and forth. This allows potential combatants to assess the others antlers, body size and fighting prowess. If neither bull backs down, they engage in antler wrestling, and bulls sometimes sustain serious injuries. Bulls also dig holes in the ground, in which they urinate and roll their body. The urine soaks into their hair and gives them a distinct smell which attracts cows.

Dominant bulls follow groups of cows during the rut, from August into early winter. A bull will defend his harem of 20 cows or more from competing bulls and predators. Only mature bulls have large harems and breeding success peaks at about eight years of age. Bulls between two to four years and over 11 years of age rarely have harems, and spend most of the rut on the periphery of larger harems. Young and old bulls that do acquire a harem hold it later in the breeding season than do bulls in their prime. A bull with a harem rarely feeds and he may lose up to 20 percent of his body weight. Bulls that enter the rut in poor condition are less likely to make it through to the peak conception period or have the strength to survive the rigors of the oncoming winter.

Bulls have a loud vocalization consisting of screams known as bugling, which can be heard for miles. Bugling is often associated with an adaptation to open environments such as parklands, meadows, and savannas, where sound can travel great distances. Females are attracted to the males that bugle more often and have the loudest call. Bugling is most common early and late in the day and is one of the most distinctive sounds in nature, akin to the howl of the gray wolf.
The elk are not in danger or extinction and are thriving in Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding area. There are probably around 3,000 in the Estes Park area alone. I've been stopped at a traffic light and watched two bulls fighting right outside my car window. The sound of antler on antler can be heard for blocks, just like their bugles.
It's easy to see how the alpha bull loses 20% of his body weight during the rut. He is constantly moving, preventing females from wandering off, plus he's scoping out the competition.

While the bulls are bugling, the babies are braying for their mommas to feed them.

Europeans love to come to America and see the national parks in Utah, like Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. I recommend adding Rocky Mountain National Park to the itinerary if you want to see the North American wild at it's finest.
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