Friday, October 30, 2009

A Carefree New Year's Eve

Welcome to World Blog Surf Day, a third carnival of shared expat experiences from around the world. When expat blog participants decided that our theme this time would be our favorite holiday or celebration traditions in our new culture, I had a seriously hard time deciding which traditions I wanted to share. Easter traditions in the Czech Republic are so foreign to American ways they will drop your mouth to the floor; Christmas is wonderfully the same and yet different than at home, but in the end, I chose New Year's Eve cause it felt like a coming out party for me as an empty nester.

Me, Naan, and Gulnara

For the first time in 20 years, I did not have the responsibility for anyone's safety on New Year's Eve other than my own. I could experience it with a light and carefree heart. If I wandered too close to fireworks, it wasn't my children's eyes, ears, and limbs at risk. If I saw people drinking too much alcohol, I didn't worry about who's eyes I was exposing to that. I was not responsible for the experience of others.

Our Czech Champagne
for the evening

was Bohemia Sect

My dear friends Gulnara and Nhan joined me at my place for the start of the evening. Gulnara, is originally from Russia and a fellow English teacher. Nhan, a mechanical engineer, is Vietnamese - American and hails from Orlando, Florida. Nhan's medical studies at Charles University had brought them to Prague and we have great fun together every time we got together.

Nhan and Gulnara
in Old Town

My Prague apartment is only 10 blocks from Old Town and about the same from Wenceslas Square. It was the perfect staging spot for a night of revelry. We headed first to Old Town Square which was packed with partygoers and music stages. Nice but too tame.

I had always heard that the fireworks on Wenceslas Square were awesome on New Year's Eve. We left Old Town Square and went over there. The energy and exuberance were fantastic. It was such a different setup than an American celebration, where "the authorities" would be in charge of the fireworks, the music, the entertainment, and the people's role would be to consume it. Here, "the people" set off the fireworks and made the fun. I was fascinated by it. You can just tell the product liability lawyers and lawsuit-happy folks have not yet arrived in the Czech Republic.

Amidst the most gloriously beautiful and expensively-located real estate, anyone who wanted to was setting off professional-quality, firework-show fireworks. Couldn't a spark land somewhere it shouldn't and start all the buildings on fire? Didn't anyone worry about harming everyone else standing around? They most assuredly did not.

It was so much fun, so loud, so exuberant, so absolutely fantastic I watched to see if Prague had made it in the worldwide coverage of great New Year's Parties around the globe. It must! Such was the shared joy of everyone there. One of the things I saw in Wenceslas Square there that night that I had never seen anywhere else, was young Asian men in the twenties, so happy and excited, they were literally skipping down the street arm in arm with each other.

With nary a product liability lawyer
in sight, a bunch of young people
joyfully light them up

Safety? We don't need no stinkin' safety.
This is w-a-y t-o-o much fun.

This will bring out the 12-year-old boy's
wonderment and joy in explosives in anyone.

(Except you, daughters #1 and #2 -
don't try this at home in America)

Wenceslas Square would often look like a
war zone as people scattered
to let the smoke clear

Sadaam sashays
down Wenceslas Square

Do the Czechs know
about Dr. Seuss's

Thing 1 and Thing 2?

Align CenterPartiers came from as far
away as the Ural Mountains

A couple of
wild and crazy guys
The end of a beautiful evening
with no worries about drunk drivers
on the way home

To enjoy another celebration in the Czech Republic, visit the next expat involved in World Blog Surf Day. Sher, the organizer of our blog carnival, describes her favorite new holiday at her blog Czech Off The Beaten Path. If you would like to see who else is involved in WBSD, and where they all hail from, here is the link list.

Let's fade out here with imagined Lionel Ritchie music....."Celebrate! Good Times, Come On!"

Around the World in 48 Parties

I have two friends in Prague who are my go-to geek girls cause they are always up on the latest gizmos, gadgets, and geekspeak. Sy, who stops and starts blogs in her sleep, and Sher, who's been blogging about dual nationality-married life in Prague for a couple years now, have been a real help to me as I blog.

Sy dreamed up the idea of World Blog Surf Day for expats to share their experiences around the world and discover each other's blogs. The idea was to pick a topic and everyone write on that topic all on the same day and link to each other. Sher has taken over organizing the last two World Blog Surf Day events and lo, and behold, this little 'ole carnival is starting to become an institution. She has it as tightly organized as Martha Stewart's silverware drawer and probably as well documented!

During the second World Blog Surf Day (all about food in one's adopted country) there were 33 bloggers. This time as we write about holidays and celebrations in our new land, she's signed up 48 bloggers around the globe. Here's the breakdown of countries represented:

Switzerland - 7 bloggers
UK, USA, and the Czech Republic - 5 bloggers each
Argentina - 4 bloggers
Canada and Turkey - 2 bloggers each
Indonesia, Bulgaria, China, Australia, Belgium all have one blogger
Plus there's one blogging network with eight bloggers from eight different countries

I'm serving as designated Twitter reporter for the event. I'll be reading each blog and tweeting about each one tomorrow under the Twitter name emptynestexpat. If you know someone who'd be interested in hearing about expat life around the globe or in a specific country, feel free to share this link list with them. Our giant wave of expat blogs is coming tomorrow - Cowabunga!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Havel Recalls Days of Revolution

The 20th anniversary of that bloodless regime change known as the Velvet Revolution occurs this year. Click on my blog post title for memories of some of the revolutionaries involved, including President Havel. This article made me realize what I don't know about the Velvet Revolution. Why did the Slovak people feel unaccommodated during this time? What happened then that fed into the Velvet Divorce between the Czechs and Slovaks later? Teach me, Central Europeans.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Welcome Wall Street Journal Readers

Welcome Wall Street Journal Readers! I was delighted to see my blog featured in "Blog Watch" by WSJ Online Editor James Willhite in the Wall Street Journal Technology Section yesterday. Thank you, James. I appreciate having the greatest business minds on the planet stop by and say hi!

For those of you who may have missed my mention, click on my title to go to the article. For those of you who want a bit more background on my adventure, here's an interview I did with Expat Blog Directory last fall here. For those of you who want to share my journey from here on out, welcome. The best part of blogging is the created community and friends I've made from undertaking this deeply fun endeavor.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Present at the Creation of a Nobel Peace Prize

"Wow." I totally understand Robert Gibbs initial reaction to the news that President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. I am proud of my President and pleased I may have been present at the creation of a Nobel Peace Prize when I went to hear him speak about the elimination of nuclear weapons at Prague Castle. Click on my title to read about the speech that day.

That's the hopeful part of my reaction to the news that my President won the award. The more skeptical part of me (yes, Czech people, you rub off on others!) says 1) this award is for 'not being George Bush', 2) this is a European attempt to influence American policy in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and 3) this is European desire to help with the President's legitimacy because they probably see American birthers and other wackos attacking him all the time (don't worry, we know they're nuts) and 4) the Nobel Committee could have done more for world peace by holding the award out like a carrot for eight years. But hey, it's not my award to give. And I"m damn proud of my President.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Sense of Community

In TEFL class one day we were discussing using obituaries as a way of sharing real texts with our students. My friends in class who weren't North American needed an explanation of what an obituary was. They must not have them in Europe for ordinary people.

"I wouldn't want my life written about in the paper," one my European friends declared. "What's the point of that? More privacy please! Besides, who cares if I die beyond my family?"

"Lots of people care," I replied. "you're part of a community. If your Dad's retired barber dies, you'd want to know. If your childhood teacher that educated 25 years of students in your town died, a lot of people in the community would want to know. People impact more than just their immediate families."

Unconvinced, my dear friends turned back to the assignment.

"See, Ian," I tsked-tsked to my Canadian flatmate, with all of the know-it-all certitude of someone who had spent two weeks in country. "This is why horrible things happen on the European continent. They don't have any sense of community."

"They don't have community?" he said with a incredulous grin. "They have universal health care."

Point taken.
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