Swing Jumping

I was scrolling through Slevomat, a Czech website that offers discounts for clothes, restaurants, trips and everything in between. I came across a picture of people in harnesses jumping off a bridge. Intrigued, I clicked on the link that advertised swing jumping.

Swing jumping is similar to bungee jumping. The jumper’s harness is connected to a rope that is tied to a bridge. When you bungee jump the rope is tied to the same side of the bridge that you are jumping from and you fall straight down and the elastic rope causes the jumper to ‘bounce’ at the bottom. The rope is connected to the jumper’s feet and they jump headfirst and ‘land’ upside down. Swing jumping is different because the rope is connected to the opposite side of the bridge and the rope is connected to the jumper’s abdomen. So after the jump, one remains upright and swings from one side of the bridge to the next like a pendulum.

One of the companies that organizes swing jumping is called Adrenaline Space. http://www.adrenalin-space.com/ They offer one jump for 500 CZK which is generally cheaper than bungee jumping, and discounted jumps can be purchased for 350 CZK. If you are experienced and want to jump more than once it only costs 1,250 CZK to jump three times. They also say that if you throw up while jumping they’ll give you a free turn! The location for the jump is near Brno, on Stropešínský Bridge which is 25 meters high. It is very difficult to get to without a car.

Since I enjoyed a safe dose of adrenaline and had done some cliff jumping in the past, I bought two jumps and set a date two months away. One was for me and the other for my boyfriend, who had done zip-lining but no bridge jumping. He seemed way more nervous than me but that changed as time passed and it got closer to the actual jump. I began to dread the day and had to convince myself that this was a good idea.

When we arrived at the bridge, all it took was one look down for me to decide that I wasn’t jumping. My boyfriend laughed at me and said he’d jump twice. The friendly staff began to strap him into the harness and he was asking whether he could jump down the bridge head first. They told him to jump normally the first time and head first the second. They had three people jumping at the same time on the count of three.

Everyone’s smiles and excitement seemed to fade once they were told to climb onto the other side of the bridge and stand with their back towards the flowing river. They were told to push off as far as they could, jumping backwards and then grabbing onto the part of the rope closest to the harness. The group jump and countdown made it hard to hesitate and everyone jumped, screaming at first and then whooping once the rope caught and they swung above the water.

Once the swinging stopped the jumpers were slowly lowered down onto a boat. On the second jump, my boyfriend tried to jump head first but got too scared. He said it was scarier the second time and explained in fascination that he had no recollection of either of the moments where he jumped before the rope caught. He was ecstatic and said he’d probably do it again. I was excited for him but was happy with my decision not to jump. There’s a difference between excited fear and dread and no one should force themselves to do something that they don’t want to.

Full address:
Stropešínský most na Dalešické přehradě
675 55 Stropešín
GPS: 49,164410 16,076678

Advertisements

Ukraine – Life During Crisis

The crisis in Ukraine began on November 21st, when the former president, Yanukovych had refused to sign an agreement with the EU that he had been promising to sign for over a year. He wanted instead to form closer ties with Russia. Students went out to Independence Square known as Maidan, to protest. The police used violence to disperse them, which brought a lot more people out onto the streets. More and more gathered to protest, and stood there through freezing temperatures and violent conditions. They are still standing there today, until there is a new government and order in Ukraine. I applied for a grant from the Prague Freedom Foundation to go make a difference in Ukraine. In Ukraine I spoke to Olga, Irina and Eduard. Their stories were originally published on my blog, blog, http://www.olenakaguiukraine2014.wordress.com

Olga:

Olga Azzuz, a dentist at one of the field hospitals describes what happened in Kiev as “the scream of the soul of the nation.” In her opinion it is important for Ukrainians to deal with this issue by themselves, however, “if the West can help out, then they should.” She spoke coldly about Yanukovych and his people, calling them bandits. She said that they “traded their bandit clothing for suits when Yanukovych was elected and stole money from the nation.” They then put this stolen money into Western banks. “They confused their own pockets with the nation’s pocket,” she said.

At the beginning people just wanted to go talk to those in power, “but when people went to the government, their way was blocked,” which angered them. According to her there isno proof that it was the protesters who started the violence but violence did begin after almost 3 months of peaceful protesting. A lot of outrage came when the government enforced strict laws against protesting. Azzuz was particularly angry about this, saying “If we continued to live that way (following those laws) we would live as slaves in a dog house on a leash, seeing the sky only through bars.”

Before the protests even began, inflation was getting really bad; people could no longer afford food. After rent and food was taken care of, they had no extra money to spend on clothes or anything else. The gap between the poor and the rich expanded.

This revolution was a revolution of educated and intelligent people who had diplomas, who ran their own businesses, explains Azzuz, “it was the people who had something in their lives and wanted to defend it.” These protesters had no rights in the eyes of the government, and that was the problem.

The amazing thing about Maidan was that the self-organized volunteers came where they were needed. They would do whatever they were capable of to show support – cook, fight, draw, speak or pray. All the necessary ‘positions’ were filled by people who had those particular skills. The volunteers would meet and they greeted each other like family. There was a real sense of unity.

It was volunteers who did the most at the protest, but politicians were necessary too, especially to help get people out of jail. The politicians also offered the protesters organization, and helped them raise their demands. But although some politicians tried, “politicians couldn’t lead the revolution.”

Azzuz then told me that everyone at Maidan worked together to keep it clean. When it snowed, they would clear snow from the paths and use the snow to build and enforce barricades. At one point the garbage collectors refused to come to Maidan. So the protesters gathered all the trash, filled up several cars and brought the trash bags straight to the dump. They demanded that next time the trash collectors came, and they began coming regularly again.

There was a big problem with taking protesters to hospitals because the Berkut would stop ambulances and harass the injured – Azzuz’s word of choice to describe Berkut’s behavior was “sadistic”. So volunteers decided to organize their own field hospitals and used regular passenger cars to transport the injured to protect them.

A lot of the patients who were stopped by Berkut were never seen again. There was one particular patient who Azzuz treated; he had very serious injuries, broken teeth, ripped lip and broken bones in his face around his nose and eyes. He told her that a Berkut officer was beating him in the face yelling “I will rip your head off.” He was one of the patients who a random stranger took to a hospital in his car. Azzuz called hospital after hospital asking about him. He had lost his passport and they hadn’t had time to give him fresh clothes before they had to run, and she was very worried about him. After very many phone calls, she reached a nurse who told her he was recovering from surgery to reconstruct his face. She reassured her that they are taking care of getting him a new passport and had been given clothes that were donated to the hospital. Azzuz thanked her and was relieved to hear that at least his story had ended well, considering the circumstances. During those times, any good news added a little hope and pointed towards a better future.

Irina:

“We are women but we can still help, at least morally,” said Irina, who’s been working in the Cossack kitchen for three months. She is a student in Kiev and when I asked her why she came, she looked at me like it was a crazy question, “all my people are here… I live here so I’m going to stand here until the end.”

I asked her if she was scared. “Sometimes,” she said, “especially that night.” She referred to the night when Berkut stormed Maidan. But she didn’t let her fear stop her from doing what she believed was right. She found a way to help her people, like everyone else at Maidan. Politicians and their parties are often mentioned when people speak about Maidan, but they usually have a hidden (or a not so hidden) agenda, it is ordinary people like Irina who are the true heroes of Ukraine.

Eduard:

I really wanted to speak to the Afghan war veterans, who were very active at the protests. But the man who had the authority to speak for them wasn’t there yet. So Eduard Kryhov offered to tell me his story and show me one of the field hospitals.

He was in and out of Maidan since it began, alternating between spending time with his wife outside of Kiev, and living in the veteran tent. He helped out a lot at one of the medical points, and one night, they were told that Berkut was about to storm them. He was had a knee problem at the time and knew he wasn’t able to help carry injured men out to safety. Instead he grabbed a hand-grenade and walked up to where the Berkut could see him. The 64-year-old man showed them what he was holding and said, “Look at me; I have seen all there is to see, I don’t care anymore, if you come in here, we will all die together.” The Berkut did not attack the medical point; Kryhov had saved several lives with his bravery.

Kryhov took me to one of the field hospitals at Maidan, where people were still coming to get treated. One man needed stitches removed from his lip and eyebrow, he looked badly beaten. Others came to get dental work done, or to treat a fever or a sprained arm. Kryhov took me into an empty room, made me some tea, offered me bread and showed me pictures of his friends and asked me to put them online. He told me about how he used to live in Prague 9 and Brno and about his wife. He made me see what everyone meant by Maidan uniting people, when we parted ways we hugged each other like old friends.

I was very luck to meet such a wonderful and kind man. He had helped save the country not once but twice – first in Afghanistan and now at Maidan. He taught me that one person can make all the difference in the world.

Ukraine 2014 – Life During Crisis

It was volunteers who did the most at the protest, but politicians were necessary too, especially to help get people out of jail. The politicians also offered the protesters organization and helped them raise their demands. But although some politicians tried, “politicians couldn’t lead the revolution.”

The crisis in Ukraine began on November 21st, when the former president, Yanukovych had refused to sign an agreement with the EU that he had been promising to sign for over a year. He wanted instead to form closer ties with Russia. Students went out to Independence Square known as Maidan, to protest. The police used violence to disperse them, which brought a lot more people out onto the streets. More and more gathered to protest, and stood there through freezing temperatures and violent conditions. They are still standing there today until there are a new government and order in Ukraine. I applied for a grant from the Prague Freedom Foundation to go make a difference in Ukraine. In Ukraine, I spoke to Olga, Irina and Eduard. Their stories were originally published on my blog, http://www.olenakaguiukraine2014.wordress.com.

Olga:

Olga Azzuz, a dentist at one of the field hospitals describes what happened in Kiev as “the scream of the soul of the nation.” In her opinion it is important for Ukrainians to deal with this issue by themselves, however, “if the West can help out, then they should.” She spoke coldly about Yanukovych and his people, calling them bandits. She said that they “traded their bandit clothing for suits when Yanukovych was elected and stole money from the nation.” They then put this stolen money into Western banks. “They confused their own pockets with the nation’s pocket,” she said.

At the beginning people just wanted to go talk to those in power, “but when people went to the government, their way was blocked,” which angered them. According to her, there is no proof that it was the protesters who started the violence but violence did begin after almost 3 months of peaceful protesting. A lot of outrage came when the government enforced strict laws against protesting. Azzuz was particularly angry about this, saying “If we continued to live that way (following those laws) we would live as slaves in a dog house on a leash, seeing the sky only through bars.”

Before the protests even began, inflation was getting really bad; people could no longer afford food. After rent and food were taken care of, they had no extra money to spend on clothes or anything else. The gap between the poor and the rich expanded.

This revolution was a revolution of educated and intelligent people who had diplomas, who ran their own businesses, explains Azzuz, “it was the people who had something in their lives and wanted to defend it.” These protesters had no rights in the eyes of the government, and that was the problem.

The amazing thing about Maidan was that the self-organized volunteers came where they were needed. They would do whatever they were capable of to show support – cook, fight, draw, speak or pray. All the necessary ‘positions’ were filled by people who had those particular skills. The volunteers would meet and they greeted each other like family. There was a real sense of unity.

It was volunteers who did the most at the protest, but politicians were necessary too, especially to help get people out of jail. The politicians also offered the protesters organization and helped them raise their demands. But although some politicians tried, “politicians couldn’t lead the revolution.”

Azzuz then told me that everyone at Maidan worked together to keep it clean. When it snowed, they would clear snow from the paths and use the snow to build and enforce barricades. At one point the garbage collectors refused to come to Maidan. So the protesters gathered all the trash, filled up several cars and brought the trash bags straight to the dump. They demanded that next time the trash collectors came, and they began coming regularly again.

There was a big problem with taking protesters to hospitals because the Berkut would stop ambulances and harass the injured – Azzuz’s word of choice to describe Berkut’s behavior was “sadistic”. So volunteers decided to organize their own field hospitals and used regular passenger cars to transport the injured to protect them.

A lot of the patients who were stopped by Berkut were never seen again. There was one particular patient who Azzuz treated; he had very serious injuries, broken teeth, ripped lip and broken bones in his face around his nose and eyes. He told her that a Berkut officer was beating him in the face yelling “I will rip your head off.” He was one of the patients who a random stranger took to a hospital in his car. Azzuz called hospital after hospital asking about him. He had lost his passport and they hadn’t had time to give him fresh clothes before they had to run, and she was very worried about him. After very many phone calls, she reached a nurse who told her he was recovering from surgery to reconstruct his face. She reassured her that they are taking care of getting him a new passport and had been given clothes that were donated to the hospital. Azzuz thanked her and was relieved to hear that at least his story had ended well, considering the circumstances. During those times, any good news added a little hope and pointed towards a better future.

Irina:

“We are women but we can still help, at least morally,” said Irina, who’s been working in the Cossack kitchen for three months. She is a student in Kiev and when I asked her why she came, she looked at me like it was a crazy question, “all my people are here… I live here so I’m going to stand here until the end.”

I asked her if she was scared. “Sometimes,” she said, “especially that night.” She referred to the night when Berkut stormed Maidan. But she didn’t let her fear stop her from doing what she believed was right. She found a way to help her people, like everyone else at Maidan. Politicians and their parties are often mentioned when people speak about Maidan, but they usually have a hidden (or a not so hidden) agenda, it is ordinary people like Irina who are the true heroes of Ukraine.

Eduard:

I really wanted to speak to the Afghan war veterans, who were very active at the protests. But the man who had the authority to speak for them wasn’t there yet. So Eduard Kryhov offered to tell me his story and show me one of the field hospitals.

He was in and out of Maidan since it began, alternating between spending time with his wife outside of Kiev, and living in the veteran tent. He helped out a lot at one of the medical points, and one night, they were told that Berkut was about to storm them. He has had a knee problem at the time and knew he wasn’t able to help carry injured men out to safety. Instead, he grabbed a hand-grenade and walked up to where the Berkut could see him. The 64-year-old man showed them what he was holding and said, “Look at me; I have seen all there is to see, I don’t care anymore, if you come in here, we will all die together.” The Berkut did not attack the medical point; Kryhov had saved several lives with his bravery.

Kryhov took me to one of the field hospitals at Maidan, where people were still coming to get treated. One man needed stitches removed from his lip and eyebrow, he looked badly beaten. Others came to get dental work done, or to treat a fever or a sprained arm. Kryhov took me into an empty room, made me some tea, offered me bread and showed me pictures of his friends and asked me to put them online. He told me about how he used to live in Prague 9 and Brno and about his wife. He made me see what everyone meant by Maidan uniting people when we parted ways we hugged each other like old friends.

I was very lucky to meet such a wonderful and kind man. He had helped save the country not once but twice – first in Afghanistan and now at Maidan. He taught me that one person can make all the difference in the world.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

The Bumpy Road to International Love

The ever-growing cosmopolitan city of Prague is home to lots of international cuisine, culture and most of all people who truly are from all over the world. It is no surprise to encounter mix-raced children, a group of friends speaking in several languages at once, and international couples and families. Being an international couple takes a lot of work, from deciding what meal to cook, what language to speak, what day to celebrate Christmas on, or whether to celebrate it at all.

Kimberli Jo Lewis, from Rhode Island, USA met her husband in Germany. Joachim, born in Wuppertal Germany, was first introduced to Kimberli at work. Because their official first meeting Germany very brief, Kimberli considers their first meeting to be in Mallorca Spain in May 1997. As if the beach and warm weather wasn’t enough to bring two people together, the two bonded as they participated in a jeep rally together. Joachim was in lucky because “he was the only person in the event that spoke Spanish,” Kimberli says, “I actually wanted to go in (his) jeep, not because I wanted to meet him. I thought it would give us an advantage!”

After a busy few months of little contact, they ran into each other at a Christmas market. Santa must have teamed up with Cupid that December, because as the two sat down together and drank German Mulled Wine or Glüwein they realized that “it was meant to be”. Their globally scattered family and friends complicated their wedding planning and resulted in a plan to have a secret wedding in the Chapel at the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas.

Arriving at the Chapel ready for a private July wedding in 1999, Kimberli and Joachim were surprised by 35 friends and family members from the U.S. and Europe – turns out Kimberli’s best friend in California had figured it out and organized for everyone to come. “So much for keeping secrets” exclaims Kimberli. But the surprise was welcomed and the wedding was beautiful. Although she and Joachim kept a double household, Kimberli returned to Prague in 2007 and they spent most of their time here. Kimberli started and registered a business in Prague and likes it because it is “small enough to meet a lot of people, but is still a capital”.

But being an international couple is hard work – but especially after meeting at a jeep rally – there are no bumps along the road that this couple can’t handle. They juggle four languages in their household (Kimberli’s sister-in-law is Ukrainian and her stepson is half Spanish) and disagree about Christmas traditions. The family is used to coming to agreements about “food, celebrations, cultural habits and even language” explains Kimberli.

On his foreign student exchange in China, Dalibor met his wife Ann who was finishing her Masters. They met to practice English and Chinese together and didn’t imagine that a language partnership turning into something more, “it wasn’t my plan or intention” says Dalibor. Ann teases him and calls a ‘cheater’ because she doesn’t believe that her Czech husband just wanted to learn Chinese. Whatever the intention, language lessons led to love and love led to three weddings!

Dalibor’s closest family witnessed his official wedding with Ann in the Czech Republic. Then followed by a traditional Chinese wedding in Ann’s homeland. Their third and for now final wedding was back in the Czech Republic and was more traditional – many guests, music and food. As if two weddings in one country didn’t suffice, they also decided to move to Czech Republic, where Dalibor settled for Prague, which suited Ann’s needs better than his preferred choice: Brno. But Dalibor “really wanted (Ann and him) to be together” and he “took it as a new positive challenge and chance”.

Prague proved to be a great home for the international couple. Ann managed to make friends among the big expat communities and now has Chinese friends who live and work here. But it did not go without complications – Ann had a lot of visa problems and “was approached in a very cold and unwelcoming way” says Dalibor, worrying about her first impression of Prague. It took the help of a lawyer and more than 8 months to get temporarily residence, which normally takes up to 60 days.

Other challenges included differences in culture – such as the Chinese standard of the man being the “sole breadwinner… and his parents should contribute a significant a significant amount of wealth to the new couple”, says Dalibor, in whose culture gender roles are more equal. He also feels for Ann who is so far away from her family and friends. Although Skype is great, it doesn’t replace personal contact and if there is need to urgently visit her family because of a problem, it is extremely difficult if not impossible.

They also find differences in how they spend their free time and interactions between strangers. Czechs cannot imagine spending a whole night in a karaoke room singing, and the Chinese have trouble with the closed-off nature of Czechs who don’t just interact and act open with their neighbors like the Chinese do. After living in China for a year together, even Dalibor find some aspects of Czech culture frustrating. But being n international couple “is immensely enriching”, says Dalibor who has experiences “different culture, different psyche, and different ways of life”.

Anna Mazur and her husband Cyrus Skaria met in London. Anna was studying in Warsaw but decided to spend a month in London to learn English, and she met her Indian husband who was finishing his PhD at the University of London. It was love “at 2nd sight” she says smiling. She realized she was in love with him as they ate lunch together in Hyde Park on her second day in London, “I don’t know why but the whole place/situation and him seemed almost magical”. Like in every fairy tale, love led to marriage – the couple got married in India in the same location as Cyrus’s parents 35 years ago.

Moving to Prague has “changed everything in our life” explains Anna. She gave up her developing career and moved to a place they didn’t know. What was meant to be temporary has stretched into what is now two years. They left their home, family and friends and started a new life. Although Anna describes Prague as “a wonderful place” she is not sure that it is the best place for an international couple. “It looks like there are two worlds in Prague”, she says, referring to the expat circle and the “outside world”. Her husband especially struggles with the Czech language, and for Anna, who understands it a bit better still finds it her greatest issue saying, “It gives us grief sometimes”.

She doesn’t see Czechs as being very friendly, just “sad and tired”, and misses how at home, strangers would greet each other – which isn’t done in Prague. Due to his Indian origin Cyrus is often associated with the Roma and is treated with an attitude, “one lady looked at my husband then at me and then she shook her head with disapproval”. But she still thinks that Prague is a beautiful city and a good place to live, the only downside is interacting with the outside world. For her the struggles of being an international couple started with language, because she wasn’t fluent in English when they met, as well as deciding where to live and settle down, “we live in a country which is not a home country to me nor to my husband” – and they think they will have more such stops in their journey.

Wise Words from the Couples:

Kimberli believes that being part of an international couple and having an international family “is wonderful (because) it widens your perspectives and exposes you to things you might not experience otherwise”. Her secret to keeping such an international lifestyle is being “flexible and able to compromise”.

Multilingual Dalibor and Ann see overcoming challenges as “contributing positively to (their) mutual relationship,” because it requires a “special deal of commitment”. He would like to thank Ann for the three-and-a-half years they spent together – their relationship is helping him become a better man.

Anna Muzar didn’t plan on marrying a foreigner and she’s learned a lot about Indian culture, family values, life style and cuisine and sums it up as a “great experience”. She finds the diversity in their family a huge benefit and she hopes that their 3-month-old daughter will one days be multilingual, speaking Polish, English and Hindi.

The Bumpy Road to International Love in Prague

The ever-growing cosmopolitan city of Prague is home to lots of international cuisine, culture and most of all people who truly are from all over the world. It is no surprise to encounter mix-raced children, a group of friends speaking in several languages at once, and international couples and families. Being an international couple takes a lot of work, from deciding what meal to cook, what language to speak, what day to celebrate Christmas on, or whether to celebrate it at all.

The Bumpy Road to International Love was originally posted in The Bridge, a magazine belonging to the International Women’s Association of Prague.

The ever-growing cosmopolitan city of Prague is home to lots of international cuisine, culture and most of all people who truly are from all over the world. It is no surprise to encounter mix-raced children, a group of friends speaking in several languages at once, and international couples and families. Being an international couple takes a lot of work, from deciding what meal to cook, what language to speak, what day to celebrate Christmas on, or whether to celebrate it at all.

Kimberli Jo Lewis, from Rhode Island, USA met her husband in Germany. Joachim, born in Wuppertal Germany, was first introduced to Kimberli at work. Because their official first meeting Germany very brief, Kimberli considers their first meeting to be in Mallorca Spain in May 1997. As if the beach and warm weather wasn’t enough to bring two people together, the two bonded as they participated in a jeep rally together. Joachim was in lucky because “he was the only person in the event that spoke Spanish,” Kimberli says, “I actually wanted to go in (his) jeep, not because I wanted to meet him. I thought it would give us an advantage!”

After a busy few months of little contact, they ran into each other at a Christmas market. Santa must have teamed up with Cupid that December because as the two sat down together and drank German Mulled Wine or Glüwein they realized that “it was meant to be”. Their globally scattered family and friends complicated their wedding planning and resulted in a plan to have a secret wedding in the Chapel at the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas.

Arriving at the Chapel ready for a private July wedding in 1999, Kimberli and Joachim were surprised by 35 friends and family members from the U.S. and Europe – turns out Kimberli’s best friend in California had figured it out and organized for everyone to come. “So much for keeping secrets” exclaims Kimberli. But the surprise was welcomed and the wedding was beautiful. Although she and Joachim kept a double household, Kimberli returned to Prague in 2007 and they spent most of their time here. Kimberli started and registered a business in Prague and likes it because it is “small enough to meet a lot of people, but is still a capital”.

But being an international couple is hard work – but especially after meeting at a jeep rally – there are no bumps along the road that this couple can’t handle. They juggle four languages in their household (Kimberli’s sister-in-law is Ukrainian and her stepson is half Spanish) and disagree about Christmas traditions. The family is used to coming to agreements about “food, celebrations, cultural habits and even language” explains Kimberli.

On his foreign student exchange in China, Dalibor met his wife Ann who was finishing her Masters. They met to practice English and Chinese together and didn’t imagine that a language partnership turning into something more, “it wasn’t my plan or intention” says Dalibor. Ann teases him and calls a ‘cheater’ because she doesn’t believe that her Czech husband just wanted to learn Chinese. Whatever the intention, language lessons led to love and love led to three weddings!

Dalibor’s closest family witnessed his official wedding with Ann in the Czech Republic. Then followed by a traditional Chinese wedding in Ann’s homeland. Their third and for now final wedding was back in the Czech Republic and was more traditional – many guests, music and food. As if two weddings in one country didn’t suffice, they also decided to move to the Czech Republic, where Dalibor settled for Prague, which suited Ann’s needs better than his preferred choice: Brno. But Dalibor “really wanted (Ann and him) to be together” and he “took it as a new positive challenge and chance”.

Prague proved to be a great home for the international couple. Ann managed to make friends among the big expat communities and now has Chinese friends who live and work here. But it did not go without complications – Ann had a lot of visa problems and “was approached in a very cold and unwelcoming way” says Dalibor, worrying about her first impression of Prague. It took the help of a lawyer and more than 8 months to get temporary residence, which normally takes up to 60 days.

Other challenges included differences in culture – such as the Chinese standard of the man being the “sole breadwinner… and his parents should contribute a significant a significant amount of wealth to the new couple”, says Dalibor, in whose culture gender roles are more equal. He also feels for Ann who is so far away from her family and friends. Although Skype is great, it doesn’t replace personal contact and if there is need to urgently visit her family because of a problem, it is extremely difficult if not impossible.

They also find differences in how they spend their free time and interactions between strangers. Czechs cannot imagine spending a whole night in a karaoke room singing, and the Chinese have trouble with the closed-off nature of Czechs who don’t just interact and act openly with their neighbors like the Chinese do. After living in China for a year together, even Dalibor find some aspects of Czech culture frustrating. But being n international couple “is immensely enriching”, says Dalibor who has experienced “different culture, different psyche, and different ways of life”.

Anna Mazur and her husband Cyrus Skaria met in London. Anna was studying in Warsaw but decided to spend a month in London to learn English, and she met her Indian husband who was finishing his PhD at the University of London. It was love “at 2nd sight” she says smiling. She realized she was in love with him as they ate lunch together in Hyde Park on her second day in London, “I don’t know why but the whole place/situation and him seemed almost magical”. Like in every fairy tale, love led to marriage – the couple got married in India in the same location as Cyrus’s parents 35 years ago.

Moving to Prague has “changed everything in our life” explains Anna. She gave up her developing career and moved to a place they didn’t know. What was meant to be temporary has stretched into what is now two years. They left their home, family and friends and started a new life. Although Anna describes Prague as “a wonderful place” she is not sure that it is the best place for an international couple. “It looks like there are two worlds in Prague”, she says, referring to the expat circle and the “outside world”. Her husband especially struggles with the Czech language, and for Anna, who understands it a bit better still finds it her greatest issue saying, “It gives us grief sometimes”.

She doesn’t see Czechs as being very friendly, just “sad and tired”, and misses how at home, strangers would greet each other – which isn’t done in Prague. Due to his Indian origin Cyrus is often associated with the Roma and is treated with an attitude, “one lady looked at my husband then at me and then she shook her head with disapproval”. But she still thinks that Prague is a beautiful city and a good place to live, the only downside is interacting with the outside world. For her the struggles of being an international couple started with language, because she wasn’t fluent in English when they met, as well as deciding where to live and settle down, “we live in a country which is not a home country to me nor to my husband” – and they think they will have more such stops in their journey.

Wise Words from the Couples:

Kimberli believes that being part of an international couple and having an international family “is wonderful (because) it widens your perspectives and exposes you to things you might not experience otherwise”. Her secret to keeping such an international lifestyle is being “flexible and able to compromise”.

Multilingual Dalibor and Ann see overcoming challenges as “contributing positively to (their) mutual relationship,” because it requires a “special deal of commitment”. He would like to thank Ann for the three-and-a-half years they spent together – their relationship is helping him become a better man.

Anna Muzar didn’t plan on marrying a foreigner and she’s learned a lot about Indian culture, family values, life style and cuisine and sums it up as a “great experience”. She finds the diversity in their family a huge benefit and she hopes that their 3-month-old daughter will one days be multilingual, speaking Polish, English and Hindi.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

A Quick Trip to Vietnam… Without Leaving Prague

Anyone living in Prague today knows that this city is practically littered with Potravinys, Vecerkas and a variety of Vietnamese owned stores and restaurants. The Vietnamese began building a community here during the communist regime in the former Czechoslovakia: they worked in machine-building and light industries while students studied in technical fields, Czech literature, some even puppetry. There were almost 30,000 Vietnamese workers and students living here by the eighties, many of which had left after the Velvet Revolution in 1989. But they began immigrating again to either work here or improve their life or to do business and increase opportunities: by 1994 their community was almost 10,000 strong.

Today there are over 60,000 Vietnamese people living in the Czech Republic making them the 3rd biggest minority. Most of them can be found in Prague, where they started a market complex called Sapa, names after a region in northern Vietnam. Along with selling clothes, Asian fruit, vegetables, spices and traditional Vietnamese cuisine, they also hold celebrations and share aspects of their culture to the Czechs and foreign visitors. To a Vietnamese person Sapa is more than just a business, it is a place where they feel welcomed, accepted and at home.

According to an article in the Prague Post published on July 11th 2012, the Vietnamese community had increased 292% in the past 10 years. In the last two years this increase in population was mirrored by an increased in Vietnamese cuisine. There was a rise in Chinese bistros that were run by the Vietnamese who began to gradually include national Vietnamese cuisine to the otherwise Chinese menu. A lot of them also changed their names from Chinese to Vietnamese. A big part of the increase in the popularity of Vietnamese food in Prague was Viet Food Friends, a blog launched in November 2011 by Nguyen Mai Huong and Trinh Thuy Duong. At the time of their interview their blog had almost 2,000 Facebook followers.

These two Charles University students said that their motivation was to allow the Czechs an opportunity to discover the Vietnamese cuisine, and because it wasn’t easily accessible in the past. They believed that the language barrier between the Czechs and the Vietnamese was the main reason for the lack of Vietnamese cuisine in a country with such a great residing community. Both students came to Prague at a young age and were raised in a tradition Vietnamese way while attending Czech schools; although they speak Czech fluently they still feel very close to what they refer to as their “motherland”.

The most popular dishes found in the Czech Republic are pho and bun. Phở is a noodle soup, although the name phở refers to the rice noodles and not the actual soup, other ingredients include beef or chicken, bean sprouts, lime wedges, basil, mint, cilantro, onions and covered with chili or fish sauce. Bún chả is pretty much a cold version of phở and contains grilled pork sausage patties, a variety of herbs, bean sprouts, pickled veggies and nước chấm sauce which is a combination of sweet, sour, salty and spicy.

Phở and bún are the most common in the Czech Republic, but there are many other foods that are less known here but are typical in Vietnam. There are a number of other popular dishes, but the ones to keep an eye for in Prague are bahn cam or golden-fried gooey balls speckled with sesame seeds and filled with mung paste which is a sweet bean paste. Then there is banh chung, a special meal eaten during an important Vietnamese celebration Tet, this banana leaf-wrapped parcel is filled with glutinous rice packed with fatty pork and mung bean. Tet is celebrated at the previously mentioned Sapa. Finally there is cap he which is a Vietnamese coffee that is much more of a dessert than a drink. It consists of dark coffee that is sweetened by condensed milk and is mixed up with a raw egg.

Vietnamese food is influenced strongly by Chinese cuisine which makes sense because of the proximity between the countries, but also by the French. The French inspired not only Vietnamese coffee but also their many baguette dishes that are filled with traditional Vietnamese ingredients such as vegetables, herbs, spices, fish, meat and of course nước chấm sauce.

The best places in Prague to experience some of these above mentioned dishes are Pho on Slavikova 1 next to Jirocho s Podebrad park in Prague 3. Here you can sample pho, bun, fried spring-rolls and non-fried salad-rolls, but be aware that there is nowhere to sit, people come here to eat quickly and eat at standing tables or take good to go. If you are looking for a more traditional restaurant with a much higher variety of meals is Red Hot Chilli at Krizikova 123/69 in Karlin. After I finished my meal, the waitress offered me the special Vietnamese coffee that was previously mentioned. Another nice restaurant can be found in Vinohrady on Slezka 57 called Ha Noi. They also have a nice variety of dishes and incredibly cheap prices.

Interview:

“To be honest I do not feel Vietnamese at all” says Trang Dao, a second generation Vietnamese who was born and raised in the Czech Republic. “My whole life, I grew up with the habit and the culture of this country” she says when talking about going to a Czech school until the end of middle school. Her parents taught her Vietnamese culture at home but she still “feel(s) more Czech” she “could not imagine moving to Vietnam and live there”. For her Vietnam is a “completely different world”.

Flying with Germanwings – Europe Travel

When I decided to spend a few days of my summer vacation visiting my friend in Germany, I knew there were several different options for getting there: by car, bus or train. Looking for the cheapest one I stumbled upon Germanwings, a German airline offering roundtrip tickets for 1,500 CZK.

Flying with Germanwings was originally posted in The Bridge, a magazine belonging to the International Women’s Association of Prague. Travel in Europe has never been easier or cheaper!

When I decided to spend a few days of my summer vacation visiting my friend in Germany, I knew there were several different options for getting there: by car, bus or train. Looking for the cheapest one I stumbled upon Germanwings, a German airline offering roundtrip tickets for 1,500 CZK.

I didn’t believe it at first, but I took my chances filling in all the information, booking almost 3 months in advance and was surprised that with only hand luggage and no meal on board, the tickets did truly cost only 1,500, with an additional cost of 222 CZK for online paying; which was cheaper than any of the other options of getting all the way to Cologne/Bonn. The additional cost of bringing a suitcase or choosing the seats and a meal was also relatively cheap.

Expecting the worst sort of plane imaginable for the low price of the flight I was positively surprised by a very nice plane, looking just like a regular CSA plane, and I was even more surprised by a timely boarding and an on the dot arrival at the Cologne/Bonn airport. At my destination airport, I saw that Germanwings was indeed very popular in Germany and they had a whole section of the 1st terminal just for the Germanwings airline and they had planes taking off almost every 30 minutes. Although the boarding was delayed by 30 minutes on my way back to Prague, the plane just flew faster and reached Prague in 55 minutes, a whole 20 minutes less than it took to fly to Germany.

Most of the flights that Germanwings makes are around Europe, but you can also find flights to other continents, although only the ones around Europe are at such low prices. When I booked this flight, I also agreed to get emails about last minute offers that the airline had to offer. Although I have yet to book one of these flights, I am definitely very pleased with discovering them and will definitely use them in the future. Next time you have a trip in mind, I recommend that you check out Germanwings because they might offer just what you’re looking for at a much lower price than expected!

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.