"What do you like most in the Czech Republic?" asked one student.
I love walking around the city streets looking at the beautiful buildings, I told him, each one different with towers, faces, little details, and walking along the river at night. Czechs are not outgoing or easy to get to know, but I have had a rare opportunity with my students to pull aside the curtains and peek into their daily lives, hopes, dreams, and fears as we discuss a myriad of topics in class week after week.
Later my mind picked up that thread again and mused about what I will leave behind. The music, both classical and surprisingly good jazz. The simplicity and hominess of the villages. The sense of Europe as a community - the nations coming together as partners in many ways, yet fiercely proud of their cultural differences. Discovering the art of puppetry and the wonderfully carved and molded characters I met, many of who represented Czech folk, famous or fictional.
I won't miss running round the transportation systems for almost as many hours a week as I spend in classrooms. Or the colorless sky that makes me feel like I'm walking through an old black and white film. I have made some good friends among the foreign teachers who I hope to keep in touch with, but most of all, I will miss the frequent companionship of my henna-haired Czech friend with the infectious smile, her secular spirituality, and her playful way of looking at life.
Recent day trips around the Czech Republic included watching craftspeople at work at the Beroun ceramics festival; the stately castle, long town square, and the unusual contemporary art of Josef Vachal at Litomysl; the castle on a hill and stone wall encircling the village of Tabor (an older trip that got missed from last fall); Krivoklat castle (my camera malfunctioned that day so no photos), its disturbing prison cells with instruments of torture and a starving chamber; and the City of Prague Museum's then and now comparison of 100 year old watercolors of Prague neighborhoods, some of which no longer exist, with photographs newly taken at those sites.
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